John Mears’ incredible 1974 Ford Bronco
The Long And Short Of It
“It was found in a field by my nephew in southern Idaho. Paid $500 for it and brought it home.” –John Mears
The creativity of the wheeling world knows no bounds, and John Mears’ incredible ’74 Ford Bronco trail machine is a prime example. “It was found in a field by my nephew in southern Idaho. Paid $500 for it and brought it home,” John says of the Bronco. The rig was mostly stock, had no engine, and each body panel was dented in varying degrees, but it was the perfect foundation on which to build this very unique rig.
“It was designed to be an all-purpose vehicle that I would be comfortable in for long trips,” John says. He also says that the design utilized as much of the original Bronco as possible, and it remains street legal in his home state. “Throughout it was built to handle all terrains and conditions well but none perfectly. Balance was the key,” John notes.
The buildup combined a slew of custom fabrication and factory Bronco parts to create a one-of-a-kind machine that includes a longer wheelbase and a unique shortened body. “We named her Machu Picchu after visiting the ancient ruins in Peru. Generally speaking, Machu Picchu means ‘old mountain,’” John says. The Bronco build was completed just in time for John to take the rig to King of the Hammers 2015 in Johnson Valley, California, but unfortunately, the engine grenaded shortly after hitting the desert trails. “After a quick motor swap, we brought it to Moab,” John says, referring to the 2015 Moab Easter Jeep Safari, which is where we found John and his rig.
Now that the rig is “done,” John says, “Plans are to run as many trails as possible including more time in Moab, The Hammers, the Rubicon Trail, and wherever time allows.” Sounds like a good plan to us.
Mears’ Bronco has outstanding approach and departure angles, which enable it to ascend and descend obstacles with ease. Twenty inches of length was added to the factory frame, and new frame members were added in front of the engine and at the T-case. The tube chassis from the cab rearward is all custom, constructed by Hazzard Fabworx. The front winch mount holds a Warn Zeon 10-S, and John says the mount is integrated into the rollcage and interior supports. To illuminate the trail at night, there’s a 40-inch LED lightbar and four Lost River Offroad-sourced magnetic rock lights. The Bronco rolls on 40x13.50R17LT Toyo M/T tires that are securely mounted to 10-inch-wide Raceline AL Monster beadlock wheels. The nose of the Bronco has been narrowed 13 inches, Wild Horses fiberglass door inserts were added, and the body (which sits on a 2-inch Wild Horses lift) was sprayed ’14 Ford Raptor Terrain color.
A full-width Spicer prototype Ultimate Dana 60 axle sits under the front of the rig and is fit with 4.10 gears, an Eaton ELocker, Nitro Gear & Axle diff cover, and disc brakes with 3/4-ton truck-application calipers. A PSC steering box and hydraulic ram help John point the big 40-inch Toyo tires and the rig has custom high-steer. Both the drag link and tie rod are made from 1.5-inch, 0.250-wall material, and they’re fit with RuffStuff spherical rod ends.
The rear suspension (shown) is a Hazzard Fabworks-made custom four-link setup and the front is a custom three-link. All of the link bars are made from 2-inch, 0.250-wall material and most are fit with Barnes 4wd spherical rod ends. The lower rear link bars have been miter cut and gusseted to increase ground clearance. Both front and rear suspensions utilize custom-tuned remote-reservoir 2-inch King coilovers, hydraulic bumpstops, and Mac’s Custom Tie-Downs custom-made limiting straps. The rear also includes a Currie Antirock sway bar.
Out back is a disc brake-equipped prototype Spicer Ultimate Dana 60 axle fit with an Eaton ELocker, 4.10 gears, and a Nitro Gear & Axle diff cover.
Custom driveshafts with 1350 U-joints sprout from an Offroad Design Magnum Box. This setup helps give the Bronco a maximum 53.8:1 crawl ratio.
The Bronco is still Ford powered, and the ’plant is a 302ci V-8 that has been bored 0.030-inch over and fit with a mild cam, Edelbrock Performer intake, FAST TBI, Pertronix ignition, Wild Horses shorty headers, and dual exhaust with Flowmaster mufflers. A GM one-wire alternator, one Optima YellowTop, and one Optima RedTop battery provides electrical current. A rear-mounted Griffin aluminum radiator with Flex-a-Lite 17-inch electric fan helps to keep the engine cool. Power is routed through a modified C6 transmission.
John monitors his rig via a Dakota Digital gauge cluster and Auto Meter gauges. Other interior items include an ididit tilt steering column, Grant steering wheel, Rugged Radios VHF race radio, Lowrance GPS, Art Carr shifter, custom console, and rollcage.
Switches and fuses for electrical items are conveniently mounted in the dash within easy reach of the driver. Note that there’s no signage designating what each switch does. This is the keyless rigs security system. The system was designed so switches must be pressed in sequence to activate the ignition and fueling systems for the vehicle to start.
Modified Beard suspension seats are mounted to the interior rollcage assembly, and each seat is fit with Crow Enterprises safety harnesses.
One of the many unique mods to the Bronco is the shortened cab that is capped at the rear by aftermarket Bronco taillight panels with the tailgate welded in to increase rigidity. Spokane WaterKnife helped with the body mods.
The custom tail end of the Bronco is designed to securely mount a number of items, including a spare tire, Power Tank, engine radiator, batteries, air compressor, Hi-Lift Jack, Mac’s Custom Tie-Downs D-Vise, and a trio of Swag Ammo Can Mounts. There’s also a 23-gallon Wild Horses fuel cell that has been reversed to allow for rear axle travel.
At A Glance
Vehicle: ’74 Ford Bronco
Owner: John Mears
Stomping grounds: Spokane, Washington
Build time: 18 months
Engine: Ford 302ci V-8
Transfer case(s): Offroad Design Magnum Box
Low range ratio(s): 2.00:1, 2.72:1, 5.33:1
Crawl ratio(s): 20.2:1, 27.4:1, 53.8:1
Front axle/differential: Spicer Ultimate Dana 60 prototype, disc brakes, 4.10 gears/Eaton ELocker
Rear axle/differential: Spicer Ultimate Dana 60 prototype, disc brakes, 4.10 gears/Eaton ELocker
Front: Hazzard Fabworx three-link, King 2-inch remote-reservoir coilovers, hydraulic bumpstops, Mac’s Custom Tie-Downs custom limit straps
Rear: Hazzard Fabworx three-link, King 2-inch remote-reservoir coilovers, hydraulic bumpstops, Mac’s Custom Tie-Downs custom limit straps, Currie Antirock sway bar
Steering: PSC hydro-assist
Tires: 40x13.50R17LT Toyo Mud Terrain
Wheels: 17x10 Raceline beadlock
Lighting: 40-in LED lightbar, Lost River Offroad-sourced magnetic rock lights
Armor: Hazzard Fabworx rollcage including rock rails
Cool stuff: Extended wheelbase, shortened body, custom rear cage, onboard air, Power Tank, Swag toolboxes