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An IFS-Converted Fullsize 1979 Bronco Set Up to Daily Drive and Prerun

Fast-Speed Chaser

Tom MorrAuthor

Dominick McCormick grew up around off-road racing. Childhood friends with the racing Swift family, Dominick got into the sport by pitting for them at SCORE races. He eventually co-drove with John Swift.

As a citrus farmer in Ventura County, California, Dominick now has the juice to own a dream truck: a luxury prerunner. He wanted one multipurpose vehicle that could function as a family daily driver and also chase his desert-racer friends on weekends.

A Chevy guy genetically, Dominick approached former LeDuc and Swift Racing fabricator/crew member Sean Roper of Roper Design in Ventura, California, to collaborate on a luxury, long-travel SUV. Sean is a second-generation truck builder; his uncle Darrel "DJ" Jaques worked for the famous Rough Riders off-road racing team in the 1980s and 1990s as well as for Venable Racing and Ford Class 8 champion Dave Shoppe. A hard-core Blue Oval man, Sean agreed to take on the project—but only if it was a Ford.

The build criteria: a comfortable daily driver 4x4 for Dominick's ranch-management duties, four seats to haul his family, the lockable security of an SUV, and enough ground clearance and suspension travel to handle remote roads in California and Mexico at race-chasing speeds. This limited the realistic candidates to '78-'96 fullsize Broncos (FSBs).

Unlike the most famous fullsize Bronco chase vehicle in Southern California, Sean preferred the styling of the first-gen FSBs. Sean's only other non-negotiable stipulation was that the project had to retain the OE color scheme to be somewhat of a street-sleeper.

An all-there '79 Bronco was sourced. Roper Design took it down to the frame and grafted in '74 Ford pickup panels and pillars to cure existing body rot. Then Sean fabricated a Trophy Truck-inspired suspension incorporating factory-based geartrain components. A largely TIG-welded 14-point full cage ties into the frame and also doubles as mounting points for the suspension, seats, and various accessories. At the rear, a later-model Dana 60 with a limited slip and 4.10 gears was narrowed to fit the '79 body, centering the tires in the wheelwells and avoiding the clich 'glass-flare prerunner look. Roper Design used custom 3-inch-lift Deaver leaf springs and custom 2-inch drop shackles to mate the axle to the vehicle. King quad-bypass 16-inch-travel shocks with 3-inch bodies were run through the cargo area behind the rear seats and then mounted to the cage.

In the front, the factory solid axle was dumped for a better-riding, later-model IFS. The system uses a Dana 44HD TTB axle. Sean narrowed the axle's beams to fit the wheelwells. Both axles were assembled with chromoly shafts by Ventura 4x4 in Ventura, California. Custom-fabbed Roper front radius arms permit full lock-to-lock tire clearance during suspension cycling. The ride is controlled by dual King 2 1/2-inch, 6-inch-travel bodies per side: one triple-bypass and one remote-reservoir coilover. The dual Kings allow the ride to be fine-tuned for the conditions, and King 2-inch air bumps with 4 inches of travel allow the Bronco to launch without eating itself for lunch. The front suspension is protected by a custom 3/8-inch aluminum skidplate. In the rear, a 5/16-inch aluminum skid protects the 40-gallon Fuel Safe cell. The OE fuel door was raised on the rear quarter to be higher than fuel-cell level to retain a stock look.

LT315/75R16 BFGoodrich KO2s were chosen for their street/off-road performance. They are mounted on eight-lug 16x8 Alcoas for a period-correct look. The rolling stock is controlled by a Howe box, pump, and ram-assist. Roper Design made a custom pitman arm and swing-set steering linkage.

Dominick wanted to keep his truck numbers-matching with the exception of the axles. Thus, the stock 351M was rebuilt by Mike's 3 Point Auto in Ventura, California, with reliability and Baja field-fixability in mind. Components included an RV cam, a Quick Fuel Technology carburetor with off-road float bowl kit, an MSD ignition, Taylor cables, and Hedman headers. A stainless exhaust system leads to a single MagnaFlow muffler and tailpipe that exits through the body in front of the passenger-side rear tire. Cooling is handled by a CBR Performance radiator with dual electric fans. Juice is supplied by dual Odyssey batteries.

The rest of the geartrain consists of a T-18 four-speed with a period Hurst shifter (found on eBay) and an NP205 transfer case that was previously converted to part-time. Custom shafts from DriveshaftPro in Oxnard, California, complete the powertrain.

The Bronco has a race-inspired interior. All four MasterCraft Safety seats are mounted to the cage and have five-point Crow Enterprizes harnesses. The entertainment/communications system includes a Sampson Racing Communications head unit with a headset at each seat. The Bronco also includes a Rugged Radios radio for racing and four Sony speakers. An original-design Auto Meter tach was added. Comfort was upgraded with Vintage Air A/C plus custom square-weave carpet and full-length OE-look side panels and headliner by Jesse's Upholstery in Saticoy, California. Further, the cargo area was Rhino-lined.

The final piece of the puzzle was the body. Roper Design did the basic metalwork, then Chemo Ordaz did the finishing details. Painter Rickey Hodge reapplied the original colors to the Bronco: Ford Wimbledon White and Light Medium Blue. To minimize glare, the hood received a race-inspired, flat-blue patch that also matches the interior panels. Final details include a custom Roper rear bumper with signature oval dimple-die swiss-cheesing. The bumpers were chromed by Meclec Metal Finishing in Fresno, California, and the stock front bumper has a custom lightbar for four LED KC Daylighters.

Now that Dominick has his luxury prerunner, he has a new bucket-list goal: creating a Frank Vessels-inspired F-100 to enter in the NORRA Mexican 1000.

At a Glance
General
Vehicle: '79 Ford Bronco
Owner: Dominick McCormick
Stomping grounds: Ventura, California
Build time: 18 months
Drivetrain
Engine: Ford 351M V-8
Transmission: Borg-Warner T-18
Transfer case: NP205, part-time conversion
Low range ratio: 1.96:1
Crawl ratio: 50.8:1
Front axle/differential: Shortened Dana 44HD TTB, Warn hubs, chromoly 'shafts, 4.10:1 gears/limited slip
Rear axle/differential: Narrowed Dana 60, chromoly 'shafts, 4.10:1 gears/limited slip
Suspension
Front: Custom Roper Design radius arms, King coilovers, King triple-bypass shocks, King 2-in air bumps
Rear: Custom 3-in Deaver leaf springs, 2-in drop shackles, King 3.0 quad-bypass shocks
Steering: Howe ram-assist
Tires/Wheels
Tires: LT315/75R16 BFGoodrich Radial All-Terrain T/A KO2
Wheels: 16x8 Alcoa
Miscellaneous
Lighting: KC HiLites LED driving lights
Armor: Roper Design rear bumper, skidplates
Cool stuff: MasterCraft Safety seats, Sampson Racing Communication head unit, Rugged Radios communications, Sony speakers, Lowrance GPS mapping, Auto Meter tach, Vintage Air A/C