Author: Craig Perronne Photos: Boyd Jaynes
It is not exactly a secret that we at Dirt Sports are big fans of the early Bronco. Editor In Chief Craig Perronne owns one and founder of Dirt Sports and Group Publisher Jim Ryan has one as well. In fact, our trusted photographer Boyd Jaynes, who takes these very images, successfully campaigns a vintage Bronco in the NORRA Mexican 1000. Built from 1966-1977, the classic Ford Bronco has a long and rich history in Baja racing with the early Stroppe-built ones enjoying great success and ultimately leading to the creation of the ultimate Bronco: Big Oly. Of course, we are not alone in our love for the original early Broncos. Popular since their inception, they continue to be and have built an almost cult-like following. Among the legion of admirers for the classic Bronco is John Cole. While he has been desert racing for most of his life and ridden with the best drivers in our sport in all kinds of exotic machinery, there was something about the classic steed that has an undeniable hold on him. “I was always watching Wide World of Sports as a kid and saw Parnelli Jones racing Broncos and was always intrigued by it. I have been racing for over 30 years now, but it never failed: I would be in the middle of a race and spot a Bronco and would have to drop everything and go check it out,” explains John. The lure of the early Bronco was something that never really left John, so when he looked for a basis for his latest build, his choice was an easy one. Originally John searched for a Bronco with some historical significance, but couldn’t find one. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise though, freeing John to build the Bronco he had always wanted instead of worrying about carefully restoring one. “I originally thought, why not take a vintage racer and put modern-day parts on it. Of course, I had to go buy a Stroppe, but I really couldn’t cut one up. Instead I bought a beat up Bronco off some farmer,” shares John. After three years of hard work, the result is this absolutely beautiful Bronco that, like a resto-modded hot rod, blends new technology with old while maintaining the originality of the early Bronco. “It is kind of like a street rod, but it is still a functional Bronco. It has a license plate on it so I can go to a barbeque or pool party and then drive it out to the desert and race it around,” notes John. While we might have a bias, anyone can appreciate the amazing amount of detail, time, thought and quality that went into building this great example of one of the classic icons of our sport. For showing us that old can still be made beautiful, it was an easy choice for this month’s Masterpiece In Metal.
The front suspension stays true to the original Bronco design but brings it into the modern age via the use of Fox 2.0 coilovers and 2.0 bypass shocks, both with 12 inches of stroke. Weldtec Designs built the shock hoop and radius arms that help the setup cycle 14 inches of wheel travel. TLR Fabrication made custom radius brackets with rod ends that are also plated and lowered for additional caster. Also found up front is a Dana 44 that was equipped with a locking differential, stock brakes and Warn hubs. The entire underside of the body was painted with three coats of PPG paint followed by four coats of clear for plenty of protection from rocks and chips.
While a more modern interpretation of a classic Bronco, Cole didn’t want to stray radically from the original design so kept with the tried-and-true leaf spring setup. However, more wheel travel was desired so TLR Fabrication built new relocated spring hangers to fit a longer Deaver spring. TLR also built the custom plates that allow the Fox 2.5 bypass shock to mount directly on top of the spring. A stout Currie F9 rear axle housing adds a modern touch and provides a massive strength upgrade over the original 9-inch. Other modern parts include the Wilwood four-piston calipers squeezing 12-inch rotors.
The dash was powdercoated by Powder1, and custom carbon fiber panels house the smattering of Auto Meter gauges along with the Kenwood race radio and assorted switches. A Weldtec Designs-built center console houses the Art Carr shifter, cup holders and a cell phone cubby. Just in view are the MasterCraft Safety heated seats with adjustable lumbar fitted with MasterCraft harnesses. Details that might go unnoticed are the marine-grade boat carpeting that covers an abundance of sound-deadening Dynamat on a double-layered floor. The doors were also labor intensive with Don Belchamber gutting them of their windows and frames along with shaving the handles. Custom panels were then rolled by hand to fill them. The custom center console also holds a remote control for the Kenwood radio that rests in a custom storage box in the rear of the Bronco keeping it out of the dirt and sight.
Those with a keen eye and knowledge of classic Broncos might be able to spot the four inches of extra width that was built into the bottom of the windshield frame to mimic the metal strip that the windshield-less race Broncos used to run for an extra spot to plug sponsors. Other details include flush-mounted turn signals along with old-school KC HiLites lights that are actually HIDs. The headlights are trick LED units from Wild Horses 4x4 and Baja Designs LEDs are also found in the wing.
The overall goal was to be a modern interpretation of the early Broncos first raced by such legends as Parnelli Jones, Al Unser and James Garner. To keep to that it is as low as possible, riding on 33-inch BFGoodrich Mud T/A KM2s on narrowed original U.S. Mag wheels that were beadlocked by OMF and drilled out for 5/8-inch wheel studs. To mimic the original Ford Racing colors of the era, Braun Mollenhauer laid down four coats of 2013 Ford Cobra red and white along with eight coats of clear. Of course, before that even took place, a huge amount of bodywork was performed by Don Belchamber to smooth out the rough shape of the donor Bronco body. In homage to Big Oly and to add a ton of further flair, Cole employed long-time metal artisan Larry Storck to build the extremely bitchin’ aluminum wing.
POWERTRAIN Engine: 5.0L Ford Cobra V8 BUILDER: Raymond Jimenez MAX Horsepower: 400 horsepower MAX Torque: N/A
MODIFICATIONS Ported heads, MSD ignition, JBA headers, Crower cam, forged pistons INDUCTION: Holley 770 cfm carburetor, Edelbrock Performer intake, K&N air filter TRANSMISSION: Modified C4 built by Valley Trans
SUSPENSION Front: Solid axle with Weldtec Designs radius arms and shock hoops, Fox 2.0 coilovers and 2.0 bypass shocks, 14 inches of wheel travel REAR: Deaver leaf springs, Weitzel Motorsports shock mounts, relocated TLR fabrication spring mounts and shackles, Fox 2.5 bypass shocks, 16 inches of wheel travel COOLING: Ron Davis radiator with Spal fan, Taberbuilt shroud PLUMBING: Elite using Aeroquip WIRING: Evan Sickels BRAKES: Front: Ford stock calipers and cross-drilled rotors Rear: Wildwood four-piston calipers and 12-inch rotors WHEELS/TIRES WHEELS: Narrowed US Mags with OMF beadlocks TIRES: BFGoodrich 33x12.50R15 Mud Terrain KM2
BODYWORK: Don Belchamber
PAINT: PPG acrylic by Braun Mollenhauer INTERIOR: MasterCraft Safety seats and harnesses, Auto Meter gauges, Art Carr shift, Kenwood race radio, Weldtec Designs center console, Dynamat sound deadening CHASSIS: Weitzel Motorsports DIMENSIONS: Wheelbase: 93 inches Overall Length: 172 inches Overall Height: 72 inches Track Width: 61 inches Overall Weight: N/A