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Our Bronco Project Drags On

Posted in News: Project Vehicles on October 2, 2019
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So I'm not sure if I can plagiarize myself or not. Probably should be alright, but hey, in this day and age you never know. Why am I worried? Well, I'm pretty sure what I'm about to write about this Bronco project is the same thing I've written about other big vehicle projects, because the pattern fits. Since I don't plan on suing myself for plagiarism, and I'm not sure who else would sue me, here goes: There comes a time when every big vehicle project hits the Project Vehicle Doldrums (PVDs).

What are the PVDs, you ask? It's an analogy to a time at sea, the doldrums, when a sailing vessel sits idle because there's just no wind. Before the advent of internal combustion engines, no wind meant that even the fastest wind-powered boat could be stuck at sea at roughly the same place for weeks, if not months. So the parallel to this Bronco project seems to be valid, but some things are getting done—it's just next to impossible to tell that it's happening.

Although this project is reinvigorated now that the drivetrain is about 95 percent in place (it lacks some yokes and driveshafts), it's definitely still in the Project Vehicle Doldrums. That's because there are literally hundreds of little (some tiny) projects that have to happen. I have to keep moving forward on the project so it will eventually get "done." That includes installing a screw here, a bolt there, headlight buckets and clips, bulbs, and more. The fuel tank and fuel tank skidplate from Wild Horses Offroad need a home, or we could also install the new Fiberglass Highlander hood, also from Wild Horses. Several things have to happen before we can do other things that should be relatively simple, making them, and the order of operations, more complicated.

One very nice item that we've had for a while now (because we'd planned on incorporating it into the build earlier) is this Wild Horses Highlander Fiberglass Hood Deluxe (PN 5810). To us, there's just something right about a white fiberglass hood on an Early Bronco. But installing the hood is only part of what needs to happen before the hood is functional. Once all the accessories are installed we can go back and paint the hood to match if that's the way the wind takes us. For now let's just install it.

I have seats for the Bronco, front and rear from Mastercraft. Sounds nice, right? But I'd like the seats to mount to the roll cage, for what should be obvious reasons. Now, I could build a roll cage, but truth be told I have the old one that came out of the Bronco, and while it may not be exactly what I would build today, it is pretty well built. Also, it's free because I already have it, and literally fits the Bronco (as well as figuratively fits the retro feel). Still, the roll cage needs to be cleaned up first, it's got some surface rust, and then I'd like to test the seat mounts and get seatbelt tabs installed. Then it has to be painted.

But wait, before the cage can be installed I need to reinstall the dash, which sounds easy, right? Hold on. First, the dash needs to be cleaned up, have multiple small (and not so small) holes fixed, rust and old paint stripped, and so on. My point really is that there is a ton to do, and doing things in the wrong order may cause more work and cost more time. I'd like to get out of the PVDs as soon as possible, so I am going to try to do things without adding extra steps. Back to work.

The first step to installing the hood is to install the stainless hinges, which either come as an individual part or can be combined with hydraulic hood lifts, which Wild Horses' punnily calls Shocks N the Hood, and hoodpins (more on those in a minute). The hood comes with instructions so you can reuse your factory hood hinges or Wild Horses stainless hinges. First, measure and mark for the six holes that will hold the hinges to the hood.
To keep the hood closed, we will install Wild Horses' Billet Aluminum Hood Pin Kit, Black Anodize (PN 5894). This is a new part and a definite upgrade over the fully polyurethane hoodpin kits we've used before. The billet aluminum ring accepts either the black or red polyurethane inserts. The ring bolts to the fiberglass hood, holding everything steady. The inserts absorb movement and vibration of the hood and allow for the slight misalignment of the hood to the hoodpins.
Before installing the hoodpin kit you will want to make sure the hood and fenders are adjusted for a final fit (checking the body lines and adjusting with shims). We had to shim the hood forward a touch using two sets of Wild Horses stainless steel hood shims (three each, PN 5855). After installing the hoodpins into the Bronco's radiator core support as described in the Wild Horses instructions, we had to drill the hood. To mark the spot to drill a 1/4-inch pilot hole in each side of the hood, we used a dab of red grease.
With the 1/4-inch pilot holes drilled we then switched to a 1 3/8-inch hole saw. Carefully and slowly drill through the fiberglass hood. The Highlander hood as well as the other fiberglass hoods from Wild Horses have an area of hoodpin mounting support built right into the hood. This area is extra-thick to help deal with the stresses of hoodpins.
Just to give you an idea of how well built these Deluxe Hoods from Wild Horses are, here is the cookie we cut out of the hood. It's darn near 3/4 inch thick at this reinforced part of the two-piece molded hoods.
Here's the final installed product. You can slip a little bit of hose over the hoodpin to set the hood height and adjust the hoodpin up and down to set the tightness of the hood against the pin. The billet aluminum part of the hoodpin looks much better than the old-school one-piece polyurethane hoodpin isolators, which tend to deform as soon as the bolts are tight.
We also installed Wild Horses Shox N the Hood, Black (PN 5801) to hold the Highlander hood up when we need it there. This makes carrying that old broomstick hood prop not necessary. We plan on tying the lower part of the hood bracket to some crossbars that will span from the cowl to the radiator core support. Without that, these brackets would certainly bend and eventually tear the sheetmetal fenders. Again, installation is easy with the supplied instructions.
Since we are on a roll with Wild Horses 4x4 and enjoy the company's punny product names, allow us to introduce the M1A1 Stainless Tank with in-tank High Pressure Pump and Skid Plate. The tank fits with common amounts of body lift (up to 3 inches), which is good because we need to adjust our body height slightly for transmission and transfer case clearance. The tank, named after one of the U.S. Army's potent armored tanks, holds 22-23 gallons of fuel and comes with an integrated high-pressure fuel pump that will fuel our BluePrint 306 Bronco Edition engine via the Holley Sniper FI system. The tank also comes with a custom-built ISSPRO sending unit for reliable fuel level readings.
The fuel pump requires a little assembly and comes with a well-thought-out fuel sump that should keep the Bronco running for as long as possible between fuel-ups. There are several steps to installing the fuel pump and sending unit to the tank that must be done before the tank is installed in the Bronco. We'll have to wait for final installation once we have the body position fixed.
One thing that makes us wonder what the Bronco engineers were thinking when they designed our 1969 Bronco and others built between 1968 and 1977 is the windshield. It uses a huge piano hinge, and that's fine, but it's spot-welded to the cowl and windshield frame. That's silly because windshield frames (at least in our opinion) should be easy to remove. Randy from Driven 4x4 in Phoenix is a wealth of knowledge, and he not only got us a good used windshield frame (ours was all rusted and cracked) but also suggested a cool way to make the windshield bolt on, and thus removable like it is on the later early Broncos. The trick is to drill for and add some 1/4-inch riv-nuts and 1/4-20 pan-head bolts.
Here's the piano hinge partially installed on our cowl. This is our original piano hinge, which was in great shape despite the amount of rust in the windshield frame and cowl, so we will reuse it. A lower windshield frame seal (Wild Horses PN 9040) will help take up the space between the two sides of the hinge when the windshield is up. This will help seal out rain and give space for the pan-head bolt heads.
Having a local shop like Driven 4x4 during a project like this is a huge help. We can't count the times Randy has given us free advice and told us where to get the best specific part for the job. When we told him our windshield frame was junk, he said a good original frame is the best replacement and he had a few good used frames in stock. This one isn't perfect, but a date with the media blaster and the rain gutters from our original frame and some paint and it will be as good as new.

Sources

Driven 4x4 Parts
http://drivenautoparts.com/
Wild Horses 4x4
Stockton, CA
209-400-7200
http://www.wildhorses4x4.com

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