For those of you not old enough to have experienced everyday car life in the 1960s, it was the day of the full-service gas station. You pulled up for gas and not only got your tank filled by a crew-cutted kid in a uniform, but also your front and rear glass were made spotless (often your mirrors and headlights as well). Plus, you got an underhood check and many times your tire pressures were updated. You didn’t lift a finger except to proffer the $5 needed to fill your tank with “the good stuff.”
Seems like there was a “Marty” at every gas station—a trustworthy guy with a red rag in his pocket who seemed to know it all and could fix anything on four wheels. If the pump-jockey saw a bad fan belt, Marty usually had time to slip on a new one for you. All the corner gas stations had service bays and that’s where you went to get maintenance work and most small repairs done. The station owner was often at his desk in the office and loved to chew the fat with his customer as they waited, tell tales of his World War II exploits and listen to some of yours. It was a friendly, slower-paced time with much more human interaction.
When the Ford Bronco debuted for 1966, it helped speed the light four-wheel drive market evolution from primarily commercial to recreational. The 4x4 evolved into something that could be driven daily as a combination second car and recreational vehicle, but that didn’t end their commercial use. The Ford Bronco pickup made a great service truck for the typical corner station, especially in rural areas or snow country. It was compact but could unstick that Ford Galaxy in the snowbank with ease. It was burly enough to mount a light wrecker for bringing Marty the no-starts from the nearby neighborhoods. It had a big enough bed to make parts runs or haul the station trash. It was civilized enough to schlep customers home when they dropped their cars off. You could hang a snowplow on it and keep the station lot clear, and maybe earn a few extra bucks by plowing parking lots at night. The Bronco was a horse that could earn its keep in a variety of ways!
The Bronco you see here was built to celebrate the good old days of the neighborhood full-service gas station and one specific station in Bentleyville, Pennsylvania. In 1925, young Kenyon Nicholl opened what was at the time one of only four dedicated gas stations in Washington County, Pennsylvania. In those early days, drivers often bought their gas from a local hardware or general store, but Amoco was the company that innovated the drive through gas station. Kenyon jumped onto that bandwagon and stayed there for more than 50 years. That station finally closed in 1977 and Kenyon passed away in 1987 but it’s hard to find an old family in that small town with some member that didn’t work for Nicholls at some point. In his honor, Don and Drew Peroni built a tribute Bronco not only for Kenyon, but also for all those all-but-forgotten corner gas station operators from back in the day.
If you are wondering why a guy named Peroni is so involved with the Nicholl family, it’s because he married into it. Don married Kenyon’s daughter Luanne, who spent a fair bit of her youth in that station. Now she can relive those years by driving the service Bronco Don built for her. To answer the inevitable question, no, Kenyon never had a Bronco service truck, but this Harbor Blue halfcab represents what it might have looked like if he did. Don and his son Drew run a small Bronco restoration business out of Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, as well as making reproduction Bronco striping and decal kits. They are working word of mouth and staying low profile, but this restoration highlights their talents. You can track them down at the Classic Broncos forum (www.classicbroncos.com) using “Broncitis.”
The 1966–77 Ford Bronco was a trendsetter and is one of the most coveted of all the collectible 4x4s. For many years, they were primarily a buildup gig—and a fantastic one—but now uncut Broncos are being restored to factory configuration. Few of them are restored to commercial splendor, making the Peroni Bronco even more fantastic to behold. It was shot at the annual Bronco Super Celebration that takes place in Townsend, Tennessee, usually in April (www.broncodriver.com/index.php/events/bronco-super-celebration).
The Details: 1967 Bronco U14 Sports/Utility PickupOwner: Luanne Peroni
Estimated value: $65,000
Engine: 289ci V8, 2-barrel
Power (hp): 200 @ 4,400 (gross)
Torque (lb-ft): 282 @ 2,400
Bore & stroke (in): 4.00 x 2.87
Comp. ratio: 9.3:1
Transmission: 3-speed, Ford, column shift
Transfer case: Dana 20, Ford spec.
Front axle: Dana 30
Rear axle: Ford 9-inch, 2,780 lbs rating
Axle ratio: 4.11:1 (std. 3.50:1
Wheelbase (in): 93
GVW (lbs): 3,900
Curb weight (lbs): 3,285
Fuel capacity (gal): 14.5
Min. grd. clearance (in): 8.50
Approach angle (deg): 46
Departure angle (deg): 31.4