1971 Ford Bronco Build: Hindsight Is 20/20

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1971 Ford Bronco

Most build threads start on day one. But the owner of this Bronco is able to look back on the highs and the lows.

About 99.9% of the time, the builds we see here in the Ford Truck Enthusiasts forums start on the day their respective owners begin the build process. But every so often, a build is already in motion. Oftentimes, this is because the owner just so happened to stumble across the forums after they’ve already started. Sometimes, they’re seeking help with the project or maybe their buddy referred them to us. But in the case of Nothing Special and his 1971 Ford Bronco build, the timeline is a little bit different.

“This isn’t exactly a build thread, because I built this Bronco between 2003 and about 2009. So it’s more of a look back. Since I’ve had ample opportunity now to evaluate my choices, I’ll treat this as a retrospective. I’ll try and point out what I did that worked well and what worked…not so well.”

Interesting concept, no? And the coolest thing about this Bronco build is that we don’t have to wait years to see how it turned out. But we do get the entire backstory on how it came to be, which is certainly interesting. Coincidentally, that story begins with regret.

1971 Ford Bronco

“I started on this project because my two boys were 7 and 9. They were threatening to outgrow the back seat of my Jeep CJ5. I decided to get a bigger vehicle so they’d be happier when we went on family four wheeling vacations. Which brings up my first mistake. And that was getting a CJ5 to begin with. There’s only room for two adults and one kid in them. I should have started with something bigger.”

Thus, the OP settled on a Bronco, and began searching. He perused the internet and looked at hundreds of examples, searching for something relatively rust free and within driving distance. He eventually settled on this 1971 Bronco, which already had a 6-inch lift installed. Once home, he wasted no time, installing a tow bar first.

Next up was a set of high back seats to keep his kids safe on off-road excursions. Truck style mirrors helped improve visibility, and installing a Bestop Supertop and roll cage added both safety and open air fun.

1971 Ford Bronco

Since the OP would be flat towing his Bronco, the next step involved installing air-actuated brakes. With all of those mechanicals sorted, it was finally time to get this Bronco looking right. Thus, the OP stripped everything down and shipped it off to Maaco for a respray. With a fresh coat of Ford Sonic Blue, the old off-road ‘ute was looking a thousand times better.

There was just one problem – the original engine had well over 200,000 miles on it. But luckily, a buddy had won a 70k-mile Mustang 302 and AOD transmission, and was nice enough to let them both go for the paltry sum of $50. Things weren’t all rosy, however, as the engine needed a lot of stuff including an entirely new accessory drive. It took a lot of work to get it all sorted out, which also provided the OP with a few valuable life lessons.

1971 Ford Bronco

And that wasn’t the end of the mechanical work, unfortunately. New driveshafts, brakes, alignment work, you name it and the OP did it. The automatic transmission didn’t cut it off-road, so it had to go too. Death wobble led to a steering box rebuild, but then the old Bronco was finally sorted. At least for the time being. And finally, it was time to start wheeling and enjoying this rig instead of wrenching on it all the time.

1971 Ford Bronco

In the years since, the OP’s certainly done plenty of that. And he’s also been able to tackle numerous little jobs along the way. It’s quite refreshing to see a first-gen Bronco being used as intended instead of living life as a show queen, that’s for sure. And you’ll want to check out all of this one’s adventures by heading over here!

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Brett Foote is a longtime contributor to Internet Brands’ Auto sites, including Chevrolet Forum, Rennlist, and Ford Truck Enthusiasts, among other sites.

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