Most people may have three 4x4s over the years and never roll one. Kevin Garrett, an electronics engineer and avid off-road explorer living in the Pacific Northwest, has had his classic Bronco for 18 years, rolled it once, and has completely rebuilt it three times.
The latest winter rebuild of his Viper Red ’75 Ranger model Bronco centered around dumping the 351 Windsor Mustang motor for something that would provide a lot more kick when he’s running the big sand dunes along Oregon’s central coast: a 427 stroker. That goal was readily accomplished when he ordered a custom-built aluminum-block 427 built by Tom Woods at Ford Strokers in Carol Stream, Illinois.
The builder says the 351 Dart stroker cranks out 550hp and 600 lbs.-ft. of torque at the crank when it left their shop. Kevin had the intake ported by Tom Woods before installing a FAST EFI system and dual computers – one for the fuel injection and one for the ignition to eliminate the distributor. The immaculate engine bay also contains an Accusump remote oil system to keep the engine primed on cold starts and prevent starvation while rock crawling.
Kevin made sure this latest iteration of his Bronco would endure the big stroker’s torque, too. It has a built C4 automatic ahead of a STaK three-speed transfer case worked by Northwest Fab Works’ shifters. That combo and the 4.56 gearing helps move all that torque to Yukon Zip Lockers in both the’79 Bronco Dana 44 up front and the Ruffstuff rear assembly that houses a Yukon Gear & Axle’s 9-inch.
With the power side of the build handled, Kevin turned to Robert Warke at CBM Designs in Gladstone, Oregon, to get the suspension dialed in. “He’s ‘The Bronco Whisper’ when it comes to suspensions,” says Kevin. “The way Robert designed the track and ladder bars makes it handle great and provides about 18 inches of suspension travel without wheel hop or binding.”
They also added onboard air for the lockers and airing up tires after a long day of rock crawling or ripping dunes, along with a number of other features that make this classic bobtail a force to reckon with no matter where it shows up.
Kevin’s Bronco has come a long way since it rolled out of the factory some 42 years ago. So has the owner. “I didn’t know much about 4x4s when I bought my Bronco 18 years ago,” Kevin said. “I rolled it early on and blew up the engine. Since that time I’ve learned how to weld, fabricate, use a mill, swap engines, rebuild differentials and paint. It’s just part of owning a Bronco.”
Is this the end of the rebuilding bug now that a four-two-seven resides under the hood? Hardly. “Every couple years I just get the bug to tear it down over the winter and do something else to it. Last winter my goal was going big on the engine and suspension. I’m thinking next winter might be the time to supercharge it.”