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Project Thunderhorn: Second Generation Bronco Build

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Old 11-17-2015, 11:40 AM
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Project Thunderhorn: Second Generation Bronco Build

I have used these forums for many years and been a member for a few now. My Favorite thing to do when I am not working on the truck is to see other peoples stories and their builds. I think it is important to stay connected with like minded individuals and keep these Rigs on the road. Every vehicle that gets used again instead of a new one bought is a win for everyone who counts. Anyway, I figured I would start a build thread now that i have something significant to show. But first, a little history:

It all started when I was 16 and working on my Sophomore year in High School. Hadn't really been thinking about a vehicle but when my parents started talking about what to do with the Bronco that my cousin had abandoned on their property, they thought it seemed like something i would be interested in. I liked the idea but we had no idea how to contact the registered owner of the Bronco and really anything about the truck at all. Turned out that we initiated a lien sale and when it was done the title passed to me, my first vehicle of many and a pretty clean 1990 Ford Bronco!


Over the next few years, I got my drivers licence, got the Bronco Smogged and Registered, did all the stupid highschool stuff that stupid highschool kids do, went through alot of gas money and replaced alot of parts on the Bronco. It had been neglected pretty badly by the P.O. by the time I graduated highschool everyone I knew thought that my Bronco was just a money pit and not worth my time, (get a nice little Honda they said) Well, unfortunately after months and months of discouraging words, I let them get to me and I decided to sell my pride and joy. Didn't take too long before someone came along and snatched it up. In reality most of the neglect that the P.O. did was undone by my use and care and it was a killer deal for them.


I instantly regretted the sale and my key-chain felt lonely for it. As I was getting ready to go to college the next spring, I missed my Bronco more and more. Finally I decided to ignore all the naysayers and made the decision to buy another Bronco! I did alot of research and decided on a second generation. I found the cheapest one I could and after a couple sleepless nights decided to pull the trigger on it! Cue the awkward music for this one...


It was going to be alot of Work and the only mechanical experience I had was from my first Bronco. But this time i resolved to do whatever it took to hold on to this one and make it my own.
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Old 11-17-2015, 12:13 PM
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I managed to pick this one up for $1,000 and the seller trailered it to my parents house. It was supposed to have been able to start and run but

it seemed to have a starter problem right off the bat. I replaced the starter as it was pretty old and looked worn, but the truck still wouldn't

start after that. I soon realized that i had an ignition wiring problem somewhere in my harness. Being that there was lots else to do I ignored

the wiring problem and changed focus to the body. I cleaned up the interior and trim pieces and proceeded to put them back on the truck. This

felt like I was getting lots done and it was very exiting. I even managed to find a set of rims and 33" tires from a jeep guy on craigslist who

was upgrading to 38s. All this took me a period of a few weeks and I still didn't want to think about the ignition problem. But I had plenty more

to work on yet and not much time between work R.O.P., and college prep and even less money to devote to the Bronco. But It was already starting

to LOOK better at least.
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Old 11-17-2015, 12:29 PM
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By this point I had come up with the name Thunderhorn for my project as a tribute of sorts to the full size Broncos' development in the seventies code-named "Project Shorthorn"

The next issue i would look into was this bondo problem that i thought was isolated to this one quarter-panel (spoiler alert, it WAS NOT...)

I Chipped and sanded, and chiseled, and peeled the layers upon layers off and began to kick myself for not noticing how bad it was when i bought it. Eventually i got to a point where the bondo was okay to stay for now. I primed the exposed metal and called it a day. Again not wanting to think about this part of the project. Luckily this got me back to making the Bronco actually function.
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Old 11-17-2015, 12:42 PM
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After some more tinkering with the wiring I found a way to just crank the engine at the solenoid. Satisfied with this for now, i turned to the fuel tank, which wasn't really hooked up to anything. I dropped the tank, cleaned it up inside and out, and re-installed it in the truck. I hooked up the fuel lines and added a couple gallons. I wouldn't figure out the filler neck situation for a long time though. With the gas tank back in, I next had to address a problem I was having with my steering column.
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Old 11-17-2015, 02:32 PM
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So for some reason the column shifted wasn't turning the linkage to actually put the transmission in drive. If memory serves me correctly it was due to a broken pin or something that connected the shaft to the linkage inside the steering column. It was a pain in the you know where but i finally got it all apart, fixed and back together. After reinstalling it seemed to work just fine. one more small victory for the project!
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Old 11-17-2015, 02:51 PM
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Finally, I decided to suck it up and try and tackle the ignition problem. I traced wires from engine to tailpipe and couldn't isolate where the problem was until i tore into the dash and found that my ignition pigtail seemed to have shorted out and melted in a couple spots. I found a replacement pigtail at a local auto wreckers and spliced it in. While I was at it I ordered a new ignition switch and installed my key module into it.

After all that work, I still couldn't crank it over at the key!
So i settled to crank it under the hood while i tried to get it to run.
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Old 11-17-2015, 03:20 PM
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So, I had fuel, I made sure i was getting spark, but i couldn't get the damn thing to run for more than a few seconds. I tried fiddling with the carburetor for a couple more weeks but time had run out. August had rolled around and it was time to leave for college in Quincy Ca. (AKA Quintucky, BFE, and the Middle of Nowhere)

This would be the end of progress for the project for almost a year... caught up in school and trying to scrape by on a minimum wage job plus no way to get the Bronco to me from my parents in Placerville, I yearned to hit the mountain trails that wind for hundreds of miles up here but alas, I was stuck in town only wishing I had the Bronco.

Finally, for my nineteenth Birthday in February, my parents managed to rent a trailer and bring me my truck, courtesy of my Dads 86 F-250 Diesel. (as-well as visit me for the first time since living in Quincy!) I was ready for another round and exited to have my truck back.
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Old 11-17-2015, 06:47 PM
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HA! At first glance in your last pic I thought it was a dog sitting in the drivers seat! Good story though. I've been longing for a Bronco for years now but between a mortgage and recent down turn in oil related greatness I have to wait even longer. One day I will get my 1986 Bronco though and like you will make it something I hold on to forever.
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Old 11-17-2015, 08:15 PM
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So far so good
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Old 11-17-2015, 10:24 PM
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Great story Thunder! I too am a broke college student wishing I had my bronco. Have you done anything else yet? or is it still not running? Nice Bullnose too!
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Old 11-17-2015, 11:03 PM
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Great story Thunder! I too am a broke college student wishing I had my bronco. Have you done anything else yet? or is it still not running? Nice Bullnose too!
Haha well there is lots more, this is still two years ago almost. Working on finding more old pictures and remembering everything I've done to it and i'll be catching up to current time over the next few days I hope. Stay tuned!
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Old 11-18-2015, 09:47 AM
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Well, now that i had it back, and everyone went through all the trouble to get it here. It was time to make it all worth it. It was time to get it really running. So after a couple days of tinkering again, getting back to know her, I figured out that my carburetor had an internal vacuum leak and it was dumping too much fuel and flooding the engine after a few seconds of running. I decided to yank the carb out and attempt a rebuild. I had never done a carburetor rebuild at this point so it was a very fruitful learning experience. I did my research, ordered a rebuild kit. And proceeded to make a mess of the kitchen table for a period of a couple weeks. I took my time with the carb making sure everything was immaculate and nothing got misplaced. My girlfriend-at-the-time (we are engaged now ) had recently moved in with me and understandably wasn't amused with the smell of gas and my project invading the house and kitchen table. But i worked on and continued other work on the Bronco in between carb time.
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Old 11-18-2015, 11:16 PM
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So if I got bored or tired of the tedious carb work I would go out and work on something else. I decided a fun project would be to clean up and

improve the interior cab space. I ripped out the dash and entire dash panel and cleaned and painted what i could. I also painted the metal access

cover to the top of the transmission and began to remove surface rust from the floorboards. I had always wanted to try and toughen up the

interior as I thrashed the carpet in my first bronco so i decided to look into roll on bed-liners. After some thought i purchased a Hurculiner
kit and proceeded the preparations in the cab space.
I made sue to clean and prep the area and layed down a couple of coats of primer. scuffed it up again after it dried and began to roll on the bedliner. After a couple hours of carefull and a bit messy work i finished the first coat. the next day i finished the second and was very pleased with the results. (to this day i am still pleased with the product and the only places it has failed is spots that my prep work was inferior. It has stood up to alot of abuse though)
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Old 11-19-2015, 05:02 PM
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Unfortunately after this I seemed to have stopped taking pictures for a while and thus the order of some things is a bit fuzzy in my mind. Though

the next thing I did do was complete my carb rebuild...

I cleaned up the intake manifold a bit and proceeded to install my fresh carb on the truck. I did have some problems with the fuel inlet and do remember having to order a new one as i had stripped one of the connections and it leaked fire hazard all over the place. but after i finally got it all attached, I looked up how to do a basic tuning and lo-and behold, it would run! I still had to start it at the starter solenoid at this point but for the first time in over a year of owning it my new Bronco was running on its own, albeit not very well on my amateur tune up job, But running none-the-less! There was still lots to do before i could really put it on the road but I drove it around the block a couple times anyway and hoped there were no cops nearby. First time driving it and I could tell there were even more problems but it was exiting anyway.

over the next few months i got the breaks working a little bit better (barely worked before i bled the rust, er.. brake fluid) installed the seats and seat-belts, fixed some wiring and got my taillights, blinkers, and running lights to work, and even got around to wiring around part of my ignition switch since i couldn't figure out what was wrong with it. I installed a momentary toggle switch that would crank the starter with the key in the on position. I cant remember what exactly was wrong or how i figured out how to do this and i still haven't changed it because I grew fond of my momentary starter switch. But Finally the Bronco was capable (but in no way safe, reliable, or a good idea at all) to drive!

I waited until I would get a full year of registration and then took it off of non-operation status (this also was a loophole so I wouldn't have to smog it since it wouldn't last 5 seconds against the visual inspection) and Registered it for the full year. After insuring it I began to drive it very seldom around town and to work and school. I even used it to move from our apartment to the new house we rented.

I wanted to take it wheeling but my better judgment told me it was a bad idea in its current condition. Of course, it wouldn't be better judgment if i had no worse judgment. So i decided to do it anyway! Used my credit card to fill up the tank and met up with a buddy to run a easy trail up the hill. We left after dark and headed onward. before i got off the dirt road onto the real trail, my lights started to flicker and then i lost them all. Dash, headlights, and taillights. The truck never shut off but i was now a couple miles down the road with no lights or even the moon that night. So before any fun could be had, i followed my buddy back home. defeated before the fight even began. turns out, the wire cluster going backwards to all the electronics at the back of the truck (taillights, fuel level indicator, backup light ect..) wasn't tied off very well against the frame and ran right next to my headers. needless to say, when they got bumped up AGAINST the headers they didn't stand very much of a chance. It had melted through most of the wires and shorted them all out. over the next few days the same buddy and i got around to splicing new wire and i got my important lighting back. (It didn't seem to fix my blinkers, reverse lights, or fuel gauge though)

Since then I have replaced the brake master cylinder, rear brake pads and brake hardware, resealed my carb to the intake as i had a pretty bad vacuum leak at the intake and carb mating gasket, got her an Optima Red-Top battery, and generally just fixed (or hid) some little cosmetic issues and was familiar and confident enough with the rest of the truck to start taking it out of town for some mud-slingin.. Even had some old highshool friends from Placerville come up and we took a caravan up to the Mount Hough lookout point right as a snowstorm was rolling in.
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Old 11-19-2015, 05:14 PM
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HA! At first glance in your last pic I thought it was a dog sitting in the drivers seat! Good story though. I've been longing for a Bronco for years now but between a mortgage and recent down turn in oil related greatness I have to wait even longer. One day I will get my 1986 Bronco though and like you will make it something I hold on to forever.
yeah, the hat does kind of look like a snout doesn't it haha. Just find the cheapest one you can and go for it XP lot more work but that way but at least you could start now! yeah, i am trying to save up for a down payment right now but its hard not to spend it on the Bronco (or Fiancee) instead.
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