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Bronco Body Armor Buyer's Guide

Posted in Product Reviews on April 20, 2016
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Photographers: Courtesy of the manufactures

Although it’s been 20 years since the last Broncos rolled out off Ford’s Wayne, Michigan, assembly plant, the passion for Ford’s SUVs is still going strong among the off-road crowd. The classic bobtail, built from 1966-1977, is by far the most popular for both restoration and customization. But there’s also a fast-growing interest with the full-size versions as well.

Off-road enthusiasts are quickly realizing 1980-1996 Broncos can be purchased dirt cheap, making them prime candidates to turn into awesome four-wheel-drives with minimal investment. The reason: Unlike their first-gen counterpart, there’s an abundance of suspension, body, interior and drivetrain parts because the last three generations of Broncos shared those components with the F-150.

One of the primary areas of customizing either bobtail or full-size usually entails focusing on body protection: Protecting the body of the Bronco and the bodies of those who are along for the ride. We’re talking bumpers and roll cages. Specialty items that are essential to off-road safety, especially for the fist generation bobtails.

Custom Bumpers Aftermarket bumpers not only lessen the chances of caving in fenders and other body panels, custom bumpers also afford increased approach and departure angles and often allow for a convenient mounting location for a front-mounted winch and auxiliary lights.

Today’s Bronco bumper offerings come in a multitude of shapes, sizes, materials and strengths. They have different ways of gusseting for both lateral and frontal impact; some are one-piece, others three; some use one thickness of metal throughout, others combine several different gauges of metal. Some use pipe, some use plate. Some combine both.

Bumper finishes also vary. Some come painted or powder-coated. Some come bare steel, leaving the finish up to the end user, which is nice because if you want to color-match bumper to the Bronco or plate it, there’s no need in wasting money on a coating that’s going to be removed or covered over.

Aftermarket rear bumpers provide not only a significant upgrade in rear body protection, they also serve as sturdier mount for the spare tire, a Hi-Lift jack and fuel/water carriers. A custom rear bumper also allows for easy placement of auxiliary lights, steps, whips and antennas.

Whether tube-style or heavy-duty plate, steel or aluminum, aftermarket bumpers make a dramatic change in a Bronco’s looks regardless of the generation while providing multiple benefits along the way.

Rollcages While the selection of aftermarket bumpers has a lot to do with cosmetic appeal and price, roll cages, on the other hand, should be selected primarily for the level of safety they provide – not just how cool they look or the cost.

Roll-overs do happen. So you don’t want to skimp on something that is going to keep occupants safe in the off-chance the driver makes a big error in judgment while running fast in the desert, trail riding, or having fun on some sand dune complex.

A quality roll bar system should be designed to distribute the load of the vehicle evenly across the cage’s multiple supports. For a roll cage to provide true roll-over protection for the occupants is has to have both strong side- and top-loading support, and it should be anchored to the vehicle’s frame, not just bolted to the floor’s thin sheetmetal.

If in doubt, check with the roll cage manufacturer on their design and mounting before purchase. After all, there’s little benefit installing a roll cage heavy on looks and light on real protection.

Bobtail or full-size, upgrading the bumpers and installing a roll cage take any Bronco to the next level. They are practical, functional upgrades worth the investment for anyone who plans on using their rig on and off-road, as daily driver and dirt sports.

Body Armor Showcase

Full-size Broncos make great off-road trail vehicles because of their short wheelbase. Having a front winch bumper adds to that functionality even on ones that are basically stock.

This second-generation 1979 Bronco, Off-Road’s own Project Deepwoods, sported a custom-built double-tube winch bumper with brush guards as front body armor.

Aftermarket bumpers for full-size Broncos, such as this one from Buckstop, not only provide an ideal platform to mount lights, they oft times improve approach and departure angles, which can be a great benefit during off-road exploration.

Cabs of full-size Broncos provide good roll-over protection for the front seat occupants, but the removable fiberglass isn’t quite as effective. Installing a custom cage, such as this one from All 4 Fun Off Road, during the early stage of your restoration/rebuild will provide that added safety factor

This Bronco’s roll cage is custom fabricated from the same tube used in racecars. Note the diagonal design of cage top, which increases side-impact support in the event of a roll-over. The cage design also allows the factory ‘glass top to be used when needed.

A roll cage’s integrity is dependent on both the design of the cage and how it is attached. This owner’s custom built one is a good example of how both should be done. Note the wide footprint of the cage mounting base across the floor, the octagonal cage design, and the corner “L” braces that all work in concert to provide maximum occupant protection.

Oregon-based All 4 Fun Off Road, aka B&B Auto Fab, offers custom-built Bronco roll cages for all models from 1966-1996. All are built from 2” .120 wall mild-steel tubing, fit hardtop or soft top, and are available as ready-to-install or in weld-it-yourself kit form. Cages clear stock windshield wiper motors/glove box door. Models include basic four-point, six-point full-length cages, or full-custom including “tall man” roll cages for Bobtails.

Oklahoma-based Bailie Bilt Custom Family Cages fit ‘66-‘77 Broncos and are built for maximum strength and lightest weight, using 2” OD .120 wall REW or thicker tubing. The design provides a low center of gravity and protection for those sitting in the rear passenger seat. Bailie Bilt also offers half-cab, sport and standard family cage designs. Each cage build offers the choice of some customization based on harness/seatbelt choices.

Bailie Built fabricates custom bumpers to fit ‘66-‘77 Broncos (shown is the Power Series designed to accommodate the WARN® PowerPlant™ HP or HD winch). Each bumper is built as a three-piece winch-ready product with full box construction from carbon steelplate. The sides (or ends) bolt on for replacement. The design provides low profile and high approach angle capability as well as some side-impact protection.

Texas-based B.C. Broncos has taken roll-cage building to a high level with actual public testing to show their strength and occupant protection. The main part of the B.C. Bronco cage uses the body-mount bolts to attach them to the frame of ’66-’77 Bobtails without welding or drilling holes. Cage design clears e-brake and glovebox while maximizing driver/passenger legroom. Front cage support is removable so it’s complete open when not off-roading. Both sport (4-point) and family-style (6-point) cages are available, painted and unpainted.

B.C. Broncos six-point family-style cage uses the body-mount bolts to attach t directly to the frame of ’66-’77 Bobtails without welding or drilling holes. Cage design clears e-brake and glovebox while maximizing driver/passenger legroom. Front cage support is removable so it’s complete open when not off-roading. It’s offered painted and unpainted, with a multitude of custom options including windshield heights.

Oregon-based Buckstop Truckware is a custom builder of heavy-duty front bumpers for a wide range of vehicles including F-150-based Broncos. TrailReady offers an Extreme-Duty bumper with clean, aggressive looks designed for people who are going to put it to the test. They are tight fitting to the body yet engineered to hold the biggest winches at 16,500lbs. Bumpers are offered in three styles with full grill and headlight protection, modified “pre-runner” style, or the base bumper without any tubing. Built-in lighting is available for four lamps in round or rectangular LED shapes.

Arizona’s Iron Bull ’92-’96 Bronco Bumpers are made from “deer splitting” 3/16-inch plate steel coated with heavy-duty bedliner material. They can be ordered in a number of different configurations, with or without heavy-wall 2” tubular grille guards. Winch mount is the standard 4.5x10-inch pattern, or you can choose the 12” light bar mount or the eco boost plate at no extra charge. D rings are welded inside and out to hang shackles from and it will have 4, 5” light hole buckets with a tab so you can install extra lights.

Tennessee-based James Duff has been offering bumper selections for classic Broncos for almost 50 years. They’ve got the ’66-‘77 bases covered from Pre-Runner Tube styles all the way to Winch Plate Bumpers. They’ve recently added etched logos on the 1/2” end plates and a light bar hoop option to their existing plate bumpers. Coming soon are two more additions to the lineup: a smooth no-winch style for the street rigs and a hidden-winch version for those who want a clean look but still want the capabilities of up to a 9K-rated winch.

James Duff offers classic Bobtail Bronco owners heavy-duty rear bumpers with options for tire & jack carrier, can carrier and cooler rack- all modular so you can add them as you want. Duff’s design features a low-profile clean-looking cam latch that doesn’t hang down to snag rocks, and a brass oilite hinge with drop pin so it doesn’t get away from you in off-camber spots. All are fabricated in house in Tennessee from combinations of 3/16” and 1/4” plate for strength in all the important spots.

Rocky Roads’ Legend four-point roll cage is a duplicate of one they designed for a customer several years back that has become very popular. It utilizes the Legend family roll cage design using heavy-wall tube, but left the front portion off for those who want retractable front/rear seat belts, but have no need for the front cage part. Ships welded and metal bare, with the option of powder-coating.

When it comes time to protect both front and rear occupants of Classic Broncos, Rocky Roads’ six-point Legend family roll cage is an ideal choice. It is designed with your family's safety in mind so front and rear retractable seat belts can be used. The Legend family-style roll cage comes welded and unfinished, with the option of having it painted or powder-coated. Roll cage padding and wrapping are also options on all cages.

For nearly 25 years, California-based Rocky Roads, LLC has been restoring and building the ’66-‘77 Broncos, along with fabricating sleek, sturdy front bumpers. The winch-ready Legend front bumper, made using ¼” plate steel, is built with both style and purpose in mind. Made with 1/4" plated steel. Its winch mount system fits Warn and similar low-profile, planetary-style winches up to 12,000-pound capacity. They can be ordered with or without pushbar.

Function with form. Rocky Roads’ Rock Solid rear bumper for ’66-’77 Broncos incorporates a tire carried fabricated from 2" x 3" x 3/16" wall rectangular tube. The hinge uses 2 5/8" permanently lubricated heim joints to swing the tire rack. This insures a smooth operation and easy hinge to maintain. Included in this rugged tire rack is a cam latch system. This ¼: plate steel bumper will provide many years of rattle-free use and rear protection for any classic ’66-’76 Bobtail. It even comes with a built-in 2 1/4" receiver hitch.

Solo Motorsports, a California-based company known for premium pre-runner Bronco suspensions, also offers a Pre-Fabricated Front Bumper for 1992-1996 Ford Broncos. All tubes are laser cut and CNC bent. The main tube is 2” OD and has a radius bend to closely contour the front sheet metal for a clean look. This bumper is finished off with an 3/16″ aluminum skid plate and a ¼” ABS plastic valance with aluminum body spacers. A radius pusher bar can be added to complement the overall look.

This race-quality weld-it-yourself Pre-runner Cage from Solo Motorsports is custom designed for ’92-’96 Broncos and features 1.75″ DOM with Roof Webbing and 1.25″ Corner Gussets. Notching of the side of the dash along the factory A-pillar is required, and the cage sits on frame pontoons that locate on factory frame holes for easy assembly starting point. All tubes are pre-bent and pre-notched for a perfect fit.

Oregon-based Toms Bronco Parts has been supplying parts for Broncos almost since day one. TBP’s Impact Series Bumper for the ’66-’77 models is the most popular winch-ready bumper. It’s made from 1/4" thick steel for an ultra-strong, clean design, and accepts most winches up to 9,500lbs including the Warn 8274. Rear Impact Bumpers are available with a combination of racks for tire, gas cans and coolers. Pre-runner tube-style bumpers and interior bar cages are also available.

Wild Horses Motorsports’ Family cage is an eight-point model with dual inside and dual outside supports from the front hoop to the main hoop. The California-based company then adds an additional hoop with dual outside supports in the rear. WH cages are made from 2 3/8" O.D. 3/16" wall steel, welded and ready for you to paint/powder-coat and bolt in. All cages fit under the hard or soft tops and allow room to get to the e-brake, driver-side dash controls and glove box.

The Wild Horses Motorsports’ San Felipe Bar has the classic look and comes in bare steel. It's completely bolt-in (welding is optional) and fits under the ’66-’77 stock hardtop. We've taken the 2" .120 wall HREW tubing and swedged one side of the main hoop. This swedged section fits like a glove right into the other side of the bar. A special nut and bolt to hold the two sections together. Roll bar ships in four pieces. A weld-in cage kit and custom Headbanger pads are options.

This low-profile, winch-ready ’66-’77 Bronco front bumper from Wild Horses Motorsports is the Bobcat. It's a modular design fabricated from plate steel. The center section holds the winch and is configured to accommodate a number of different styles of winches including the Warn #8274. The Bobcat’s right and left sides bolt to the center section, that make them replaceable if needed.

There are few ’66-’77 Classic Bronco rear bumpers that are as custom as Wild Horses Motorsports’ Rear Rock Blocker Bumper. It is custom built out of ¼”-plate steel for extreme-duty use. It comes standard with a cam lock, but can be configured with optional tire rack, a gas rack, D-ring tabs and a bolt on cooler rack. Bumper comes unpainted.

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