Budget Diesel Bronco Build: Glorious Results of Perseverance

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Undeterred by a few setbacks — and his mom’s wrath — FTE member creates an oil-burning Bronco with an incredible two-tone paint job.

As we all know, Ford never built a diesel Bronco. This is a shame, really, because we’d bet that a lot of folks would love to have had the option to purchase an oil-burning SUV. After all, the Excursion has proven to be quite the popular ride, even after its untimely demise. So, a Ford Truck Enthusiast forums member from Arizona who goes by the moniker of Bubba Jones decided to take the initiative and make the swap in his own Bronco.

The young mechanical engineer began by sourcing an F-250 with a blown transmission and a 1995 model year 7.3 liter Power Stroke. He was also able to pick up a ZF5 transmission and everything else needed to make the swap — much to the chagrin of his parents, of course, whose home garage he was transforming into a makeshift mechanics garage. However, things were looking bright and the motor seemed to be running good save for a leaky oil seal and some bad glow plugs.

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Fittingly, he was able to tow the F-250 home with his gas engine-powered Bronco. And while he mentions in his thread on the FTE forums that his parents weren’t happy with the score, at least they were tolerant of his ambitious project.

“I’ve towed with my Bronco before, but this thing didn’t seem to want to budge at first. It didn’t help that I had to start in gravel, and I didn’t want to kick up too much rocks and such. I ended up putting my Bronco in 4 low to start pulling with the hubs unlocked so that I wouldn’t have to be worried about making sharp turns on pavement.”

“So I told my mom about pulling the 250 into our driveway. She said “Oh no… you’re telling me casually you have a piece of sh*t out in the driveway? What’s it for?” And I said it’s a parts truck for my Bronco. She then said, “There’s something wrong with you.” But then she kinda laughed it off. So, I think I’m okay, I’ll just have to be super-sure to stay extra-clean while working. I can’t have parts laying all over the place! I could store all my parts in the bed of the 250 and my Bronco until I’m ready to swap it into the Bronco.”

With that, he began to tear into the donor truck. Out came the entire dash assembly, wiring, exhaust, and fuel tank. Then, finally, the engine itself! In the process, however, he discovered why it had been running a little rough in the first place: It was missing the pressure relief valve for the oil cooler. Then it was on to cleaning, painting, and making a parts list for the old diesel.

Ford truck

Next, it was time to strip down the Ford Bronco and get it ready for a transplant. And what better time than now to go ahead and slap a fresh paint job on the patient? So, Bubba got to work sanding and laid down some fresh two-tone paint on the formerly teal ride. The black and red result is simply amazing and completely transforms the Bronco into a badass.

Ford truck

Some long days and restless nights later, the engine was in. Next came the dash and suspension. And before you knew it, the diesel Bronco was up and running — with a few hiccups along the way, of course. Some new badges, a 2″ lift, and 33″ tires round out the awesome build. Sadly, however, some bad news quickly followed.

“The bigger issue is I finally got around to compression testing the motor I put in…….. A good range would be 380+ with new being around low 400s.”

“I have 4 cylinders around 280 to 295 with a few others in the low 300s. The motor is beyond worn out. I’m pretty sure the fuel in my oil is due to terrible compression numbers. It’s weird because the motor ran so well and pretty smooth as well. It had tons of power on top of that so I didn’t think it would have been so bad.”

Ford truck

But don’t think that he’s going to give up on the project. In fact, he’s already located a suitable replacement.

“I did manage to pull another motor with 290k, however, from a wrecked truck. The turbo wheel looked slightly dusted but overall nothing too worrisome. Couldn’t test the motor because the truck wasn’t running at the time, but I believe it’s going to be okay! I know it will be in better shape than the motor in my truck now! I just have to clean and reseal this new motor then swap all my good new parts over!

“I’ll save up to get the current motor I have rebuilt so I’ll have a good spare!”

In the meantime, you can keep up with Bubba’s escapades in this thread. You can bet we’ll be doing the same!

Join the FTE forums for FREE!

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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