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1978 Ford Bronco

Front Passenger Side
Wendy Frazier | Writer
Posted May 1, 2001

A 460 V-8 Powers This Fullsize

Step By Step

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  • The easiest part of the buildup was adjusting the steering so that the tires don’t rub. The Bronco has seen several other amendments to the Bronco bill of rights that include custom fabricated bumpers, wheelwell/fender trimming, KC lights, and a Warn winch. Taking three years and counting, the Bronco is built to fight any dirt battle. The wallowing started off in the usual “dip the big toe (or 15x10 black wheeled 38s) in first to see how deep the hole actually is” way. The beefy stance comes from Superlift 61/2-inch front coil springs, Superlift front shocks, a flipped shackle in the rear, and rear Rancho RS 9000s.

  • This isn’t Scott Hamilton’s Figure Skating Show on Ice but it could’ve been. The 38-inch Swampers grab the slick stuff like gum in your little sister’s hair, and Craig cut loose the Bronco to challenge the hill. After the victorious ascent, he noted, “I didn’t care how many parts I broke, all I wanted was to make it.”

  • Holy vertical Bronco, Batman! Finding the coil springs that matched the rear 7-inch reverse shackle was difficult, Craig says. The front axle is a reverse-cut Dana 44 with 4.56 gears and an ARB locker. The Bronco holds a 205 T-case with a 2:1 low-range gear ratio, and for long-haul journeys has a 35-gallon gas tank.

  • Solid muscle draws from the transplanted 460 V-8 engine from an ’89 F-250. Craig swapped the engine in an effort to achieve the maximum power potential. The multiport fuel-injected authority assists with tumultuous off-road terrain.

  • The rearing of any young steed is critical to the general performance of any off-road machine, and this Ford 9-inch with 4.56 gears and a Lock-Right locker does the job. Rancho RS 9000s cush the already soft Superlift fullsize-feeling ride.

This building Bronco battle didn’t include any photon torpedoes, muzzle loaders, armed forces, or nuclear reactors (that we can speak of). What it did involve was an anthology of wrenches and power tools, a knowledge of Bronco resurrection, and Craig Wachter’s ’78 hobby horse. The retired hunting truck was purchased new by Craig’s dad in 1978 and was passed from father to son. It has seen the modifications that Ford should have made 23 years ago—and that has turned the old burro into the big Bronco.

The main muscle of this trick horse flexes from a 460 V-8 taken from an ’89 F-250. Craig said that his biggest challenge in swapping the engine came from finding, or rather not finding, a wiring harness. “No one makes one for this application so I had to take the entire wiring harness out of the F-250 and cut and splice it to work with the wires in the Bronco,” he said. Craig used Advanced Adapters engine mounts to secure the big-block, and exhaust flowage was upgraded to a Super Turbo dual exhaust system that exits at the rear.

The modifications fit well with the terrain that the Bronco is built for. In Utah, the topography gamut runs from intense rockcrawling to major mud whomping. With three months a year of snow, the do-no-wrong Bronco can handle the slippery stuff as well. Here are the highlights of the Bronco’s story.