Click for Coverage
  • JP Magazine
  • Dirt Sports + Off-Road
  • 4-Wheel & Off-Road
  • Four Wheeler

The Big Five-Oh: Fans Celebrate 50 Years Of The Ford Bronco

Posted in Features on October 19, 2016 Comment (0)
Share this

Bronco fanatics don’t need much encouragement to celebrate their shared passion, but with 2016 being the 50th anniversary for that four-wheeling legend, they had extra incentive. There were celebratory events occurring all over the country, and one we were able to attend happened in Townsend, Tennessee. It was Bronco Driver’s Bronco Super Celebration, and not too surprisingly, this anniversary set an attendance record of 512 Broncos for the event, which has a decade-long history. They came from 40 states and Canada, the farthest from California.

The breakdown included a very high percentage of early Broncos, ’66-’77, but every era was represented. Some very historic Broncos were there as well, including Bill Stroppe’s Balloon Chase Bronco and the earliest surviving Bronco, the 36th one built in August 1965. The record was broken for the most Bronco Roadsters in one place. Those puppies are ultra rare with only 5,000 built in three years of production. The display of Broncos weren’t all in vintage trim. Broncos of all eras make a great basis for a buildup, and folks got to see every level of buildup, from restomods to wild trail machines, racers, and customs.

If the field of Broncos on display wasn’t energetic enough, event ramrod Tom Broberg set up a dizzying array of outside activities for each day of the five-day event. There were countryside tours, with a different one each day and some on dirt. None were anywhere near being difficult wheeling, but they all featured drop-dead gorgeous scenery and wildlife (including bears) with a lot of Smoky Mountain history tossed in. One of the highlight runs was to the ghost town of Elkmont.

One of the big events was a trip to James Duff Inc. "Duffy" is a founding father in the Bronco aftermarket and somewhere near a thousand people made the trip to nearby Knoxville for a facility tour and to break bread with the Duff family. Of course, Duffy and crew were on the event grounds with a magnificent display of hardware. Speaking of wares, if you are a company with a Bronco-based inventory, you were at this event. A swap meet area held lots of used gear and between the new and the old, we saw stuff for Broncos we didn't know existed.

The 2017 Bronco Super Celebration is on track for April 19-22, again at the Tally Ho Inn, Townsend, Tennessee. More info on the event can be found here. If the Bronco is your favorite ride (or even if it isn’t), head on over to the Bronco Super Celebration, partner!

Tim Hulick (second from left) is a Bronco U13 Roadster fanatic. He gathered the U13s together for a group shot and then whipped out this original dealer sign for them to lust over. It was made during the promotion of the Bronco in late 1965 and may be the only fully intact one left in the world. With him are some of the other proud U-13 owners at the event. Hulick runs the Bronco U13 website dedicated to the Roadsters (roadsteru13.com) and has a Bronco collection of his own.
The show was a little light on later-year Broncos, but that just left Bob LaFata’s ’96 Eddie Bauer to stand out even more. It’s a bone stock, EFI 5.8L-powered machine that’s in great original condition and highlights that last year the Bronco name was used for a production vehicle. The Moonlight Blue with Light Saddle accents still looks great.
It wasn't all restored classics and wheeling rigs. We didn’t get to talk to the owner of this ’74 Bronco that looks set up for drag racing but has been built to a very high show standard. The spec chart listed a blown Dart 351W engine bored and stroked to 427ci, with Hillborn injection. It's been dyno tested to 597 rwhp on pump gas. The 427 is backed up by a Tremec TKO 600 five-speed trans and a Moser 9-inch rearend with 4.11:1 ratio gears and a Eaton Detroit Locker.
Jimmy Golden’s ’67 is one of a small number of military-spec Broncos built that year. There were few modifications specified, among them the lamp guards you see here. Jimmy’s is remarkably unaltered from original and still carries a military data plate. It was delivered in March 1967 and uses the standard 170ci six. The government ordered very few Broncos, but it isn't known why.
Jack Niederkorn’s ’74 Bronco with the Ranger package was pretty much the top of the line that year. He had this one since 1987, and it currently has only 68k miles. It's almost totally original, with just a few spot repairs on the Medium Orange Yellow Paint. Besides the Ranger package, it was ordered with the 302 automatic, power steering, AM radio, auxiliary fuel tank, body side moldings, and G7815B mud-and-snows with white sidewalls. Jack also has an award-winning ’71 Stroppe Bronco.
JAB, right? Just another Bronco. Not so fast! This happens to be the earliest remaining production-line Bronco and was the 36th unit to roll off the line in early August 1965. It’s a U15 Station Wagon that owner John Spurlock has been slowly documenting and getting replacement period parts to bring it back to ’66 trim. Unfortunately, the rear fenders were cut, and that's a difficult fix.
The Bronco Roadster, Model U13, was built from 1966 into 1968. It was a slow seller and only 5,000 are listed in the production books. Ice cold then ... red hot now! They are exceedingly rare today. They featured a fiberglass door insert and a soft top and doors, which you had to order separately. Not quite all the Roadsters at the event made it to this group shot, but the Bronco Super Celebration had the most Roadsters that have been in one place since the ’60s. The copper-colored one with doors is, or was, a Roadster but later had doors added. The Roadsters had a special U13 serial number prefix. U-14 was for the halfcab and U15 the wagon.
At least 512 Broncos were jam-packed into the display area at the Tally Ho Inn. The first layer, which would be to the left and out of the pic, had most of the vendors, with the Early Broncos next and they generally transitioned to the later years to the rear (right upper of this pic). It was safe to say there was one of every type of Bronco.
Chris Robinson of GCM Racing (gcmracing.ca), one of the premier manufacturers and retailers of scale-model RC trucks, presents Suzi Duff with a working RC model of her personal Bronco. James Duff Inc. has licensed GCM to produce Duff Broncos.
Wheeling radio controlled 4x4 scale models is all the rage. They have electric motors that look like real engines, real transmissions and transfer cases, real axles with ring-and-pinions, real suspensions—everything. If you didn’t look too hard at the main pic, you'd think it was a guy in a really bad suit, but look at the other pic to see the whole GCM Racing display.
One of the primo scenic drives was the 35-mile Cades Cove loop in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If you want an in-depth picture of what life was like in the Smoky Mountains, before and after settlers moved in, this will do it for you. This is the Tipton homestead, built in 1870 by Civil War veteran Colonel Hamp Tipton. It was built on ground that was settled by his ancestors around the time of the American Revolution.
The hardest-core wheeling was done at the RC course. Scott Helton and son Brody run one of GCM Racing’s loaner cars around the course. It was not a cakewalk course and proved to be a popular spot at the Super Celebration.
OK, you have to be a Bronco geek to appreciate this, but as a group of guys were sitting around talking about how few buildsheets are still found with vintage Broncos, Bobby Tennell, proud owner of an all original Acadian Blue ’66 Sports Utility Bronco, realized he had never looked. The gang got together and pulled his Bronco’s seat. Lo-and-behold, there was a buildsheet between the springs and the pad. As if it were a lost chapter from the Bible, the crumbling paper was removed from between the padding and the springs. Then came the “waitaminit” moment. The VIN listed was not Bobby's Bronco. There is no clear explanation for this. Either the wrong tag got into this Bronco at the factory or the seat was changed out. Given it was a one-owner Bronco prior to Bobby and there was no evidence of the seat having been replaced in the last 49 years, all that was left was speculation. The word is going out in the classic Bronco community and hopefully the buildsheet will eventually reunite with its Bronco.
Rocker Ted Nugent is well known to the Bronco community and remains an ardent Ford Bronco fan, having owned several of all types. Pat Butler did a Nugent tribute Bronco along the lines on one of the rocker’s zebra-striped rigs.
Evidently, Nugent approves of Pat Butler's tribute. Dated 2012, here is a battered, arrow-shot guitar that is displayed with the Bronco.
A Cherry ’77 Bronco in every sense of the word, and it’s little brother. What happens when you have a rusted-out ’77 Bronco, a pile of cherry, oak and ash wood, and too much time on your hands? A ’74 year old master woodworker, who is known simply as “Jack,” built the body in eight months. The same fella has built at least eight other similar rigs on chassis that range from Opel wagons to Jeeps and Ford Rangers. Owners Ron and Deb Ervin said Jack acquired his skills doing new model body mockups for one of the Big Three in Detroit.
Salute the Centurion! For a few years in the ’80s, ’90s, and to about ’00, Centurion Vehicles did four-door conversions on F-150 (the C-150) and F-350 (C-350) chassis. This is a C-350. They were sold through Ford and so had to meet some stringent criteria. To that end, they used Ford components, which included a Bronco rear section and fiberglass roof attached to a crew cab body. The C-350 needed a wheelbase stretch to 140 inches to make it all work. Whatever engines were available during the time the Centurions were built could be ordered, including diesels.
The Bronco hobby is BIG and so an extensive array of restoration parts are available. To that end, Dennis Carpenter (dennis-carpenter.com), the well-known Ford restoration parts specialist, offers complete Ford-licensed ’68-’76 bodies, as well as many other parts, many made from the original tooling. The ’66 and ’67 bodies were different, though they can be used on those years of chassis. They do not reproduce the ’77 bodies with the fuel filler doors.
Everyone has seen the Four Wheel Campers pop-up campers. As a brand, they were around as the Bronco debuted, but some of the first of their innovative pop-up units were designed to fit the first Bronco. They came two ways, either as a slide-in for a halfcab Bronco or one that was more permanently attached and replaced the top. This is one of those. They were built to fit all the popular SWB 4x4s of the day and had a decal specially denoting each.
Some still debate whether a Bronco II is a “real” Bronco or not. We’ll leave that debate for the campfire and show you a very well preserved, one-family Bronco II. Owned by John Shanna, it’s a very rare 4x2 model. Whoops, now we are really in trouble—first calling a Bronco II a Bronco and then mentioning it's a 4x2. Sorry, it’s just too rare not to show.
Thomas Kincer of Krawlers Edge (krawlersedge.com) showed us around his T2 custom Bronco chassis, and it was magnificent. It incorporates a lot of tech and allows for a wide variety of engine and gearbox installations, and a wide variety of axle and suspension choices. Thomas’ early Bronco restoration knowledge was impeccable as well, and this is also a part of his business.

Sources

Dennis Carpenter Ford Restoration Parts
800-476-9653
www.dennis-carpenter.com
Bronco Roadster U13
roadsteru13.com
GCM Racing
gcmracing.ca

Comments

Connect With Us

Newsletter Sign Up

Subscribe to the Magazine

Browse Articles By Vehicle

See Results