If you’ve ever been on our fourwheeler.com website, then you know that we occasionally ask questions of the editors on various topics. What’s the best trail you’ve ever been on? What are best parts for this or that kind of build?; and so on. One of those questions was: What are the worst 4x4’s ever built?
One vehicle that came up on everyone’s list was the Ford Bronco II.
Much like Chevy did with downsizing the full-sized Blazer into the S10 Blazer (more successfully, we may add), the Bronco II was an attempt by Ford to build a smaller version of their iconic, full-sized Bronco. It wasn’t a hit. From its weird dimensions to it anemic engine to suspension that barely took small potholes in stride, the Bronco II was just not a good vehicle in nearly any respect. When the Suzuki Samurai is looked upon more favorably, that’s a bad sign.
So what possessed Bobby Quarnstrom to build one? And to not just slightly improve it, but to make his 1986 model into a full-bore 4x4 off road rig that he regularly takes on hard core, off-road trips to Baja? He literally bought it for $180, that’s why. Actually, he bought two of them for $180. That was all the money he had on him after a race one day.
“I was driving home from competing in an off-road desert race, loaded up with our 1400 Ford Ranger race truck, along with a tired chase crew,” said Quarnstrom. “I saw two Bronco II 4wd trucks that were getting loaded onto a long trailer from a scrap company.” Knowing the Bronco II’s were actual junk, he says he still thought to himself; “I can make something of this.”
He got them back to his shop, Solo Motorsports Inc., and took the best parts of each and began to build one. He scrapped the second Bronco once he had what he wanted. Which wasn’t much, the B-II’s were heading to the scrap yard for a reason.
Quarnstrom knows a few things about building Fords. His shop was at the forefront of killer Rangers, and has moved into late model full size Fords and Toyota’s, has owned the little B-II for a long time, and uses the rig for his annual Baja fun run (he and some buddies do the peninsula every year). That’s not a place where you want to be driving a vehicle that isn’t up to the challenge.
And amazingly, this one is. Quarnstrom used the stock ford frame, but he added a full roll cage to it. Then he installed a Dana 35 front end using 4-inch wider Solo Motorsports I-beams and the Dana front disc brakes. The 4-inch per side wider beams are important to the overall package, as the stock II was way to narrow for its height and even now fits into the tightest sections with ease.
Quarnstrom topped the front end off with a pair of King shocks per side. The King’s in question are 2.5 coil overs & 3-Tube Bypass units that are accompanied with a set of King 2.0 Shorty Bump Stops.
King shocks are also used out back, as 14-inch long, 3-Tube By Pass units connect the 8.8 Ford Explorer rearend to the full cage. The 8.8 has been equipped with a Detroit Locker and 4:56 gears, and Driveshaft Specialties of Azusa, CA. did the driveshaft work. A set of Outlaw II 15x7-inch wheel were powder-coated red to match the body color and equipped with 35-inch BFGoodrich KR Baja T/A tires.
Those are big tires, and since horsepower was something the stock B-II was sorely lacking, Quarnstrom swapped in a 4.0-liter out of a 2005 Ford Explorer. For reliability’s sake, the inside of the V6 is stock, but a K&N air cleaner has been installed.
The exhaust needed some fabbing though, so Solo Motorsports built custom fender wheel-well headers that actually run outside the frame. A fan-equipped CBR trans cooler keeps the C4 automatic transmission cool and happy even in the hottest Mexico temps.
A set of 4-inch wider Fiberwerx fiberglass front and rear fenders gives the BFG’s somewhere to go while the red paint job ensures that everyone know the B-II is around. A Rigid Industries LED light bar fronts the Solo Motorsports roof rack, and it was of course Solo who built the front and rear bumpers.
There wasn’t much room inside a stock B-II, but with the full cage, PRP seats and other items, the inside of this Ford is tight. A flat Schroeder steering wheel helps some, and the Art Carr floor shifter tucks in between the seats well, but the Lowrance GPS is just waiting to bash someone’s left knee.
The dash is stock, but Auto Meter gauges replace the idiot lights, and though the stock stereo plays tunes, a 110-watt Kenwood race radio system, complete with intercom and headsets, is the frequency of choice when on the trail. Quarnstrom credits Mike’s Upholstery for being a big help with the interior.
As with any vehicle, there will be some champions of that vehicle, and for those who have always liked these Broncos, this one should be held as the standard bearer. Others will take a look at this truck and think, “Cool; but why?” Admittedly, we’re in that second camp.
Quarnstrom and his crew at Solo Motorsports will be taking their annual Baja trip. We plan to be along for that ride, so we’ll be able to get a close look at this little Bronco in action. Stay tuned.
Made from two vehicles, this Ford Bronco II is one of a kind.
Made for the wide-open spaces, this heavily modified Bronco II is built to take on Baja.
The Solo Motorsports I-beams are 4-inches wider than stock, and hold the Dana 35 securely in place. A pair per side of King shocks and a King bumpstop ensures that no rut will be too deep, no rock too tall.
Outlaw II 15x7-inch wheel were powder-coated red to match the body color and equipped with 35-inch BFGoodrich KR Baja T/A tires.
Fiberwerx front and rear fenders gives room for the tires while the rear bumper connects solidly to the interior cage.
Another view of the front end shows the minimalist Solo front bumper and valance.
A Rigid LED light bar sits out front of the roof rack.
With not much room to spare, the rear compartment has been equipped with as much as can be wedged in.
A set of PRP racing seats have replaced the stock seats.
Being flat, the four-spoked Schroeder steering wheel helps in giving Quarnstrom as much room as possible in the cramped interior space.
An Art Carr shifter sits on a custom aluminum pedestal.
Not a pretty sight, but with its full cage the Ford’s interior is up to the task of serious off-roading.
The Lowrance Baja 480C is a racing staple.
Hiding behind the Auto Meter gauge cluster is the Kenwood communications system.
Headphones for the Kenwood unit also filter in tunes from the stereo system.
A 4-liter from a Ford Explorer has been transplanted into the B-II. It features a K&N air cleaner and custom Solo Motorsports headers.