Four-Door Bronco Conversion: Building the Perfect Beast
Aftermarket awesomeness: For years, Centurion and Magnum provided truck enthusiasts with the Suburban fighter they were clamoring for.
America has always been a land of opportunity, a place where anyone with a vision can capitalize on it. Vision is what created the entire automotive conversion market, for example. Conversions aimed to build the vehicles that automakers simply couldn’t or wouldn’t. Things like four-door convertible cars and exotic bodies affixed to cheap economy car chassis. And, most importantly to us, four-door Bronco conversions.
Automotive conversions have existed nearly as long as the automobile itself. But these strange birds really began to catch on in the 1950s, and by the 1970s, conversions were all the craze. Dozens of car kit and conversion companies blossomed, building anything they (or you) could dream up — typically, things that automotive manufacturers couldn’t, either due to immense cost, safety regulations, or market viability.
Such is the story behind the four-door Bronco conversion. Ford has never built anything other than a two-door Bronco, and certainly not one with a long wheelbase and carnivorous cargo space. This, despite the fact that Chevrolet had long offered just that in the form of the Suburban. So, what was a diehard Ford fan to do? Enter Centurion and Magnum, a pair of Michigan-based coachbuilders.
Centurion Classic (C-150 and C-350)
Centurion Vehicles is the more recognizable name of the two, having produced more four-door Broncos over the years; somewhere south of 5,000 total. To create their version of the four-door Bronco, Centurion started with an F-Series chassis, either from an F-150 or F-350, with a wheelbase shortened to 140 inches. They then mated the F-Series crew-cab body to the rear portion of a Ford Bronco, starting just behind the rear doors. And voila – a four door Bronco was born!
The resulting creation was essentially a giant SUV with seating for nine, loads of cargo space, and a removable roof section. Depending on the chassis, Centurion dubbed their models either the C-150 or C-350. The C-350 bested both the C-150 and Suburban’s 3/4 ton chassis with a one-ton. The C-150 was offered with the F-150’s 5.0-liter or 5.8-liter V8 engines. The C-350 offered either a 7.5-liter gas V8 or a 7.3-liter diesel option. Both were available in two or four-wheel drive.
For a conversion vehicle, the Centurion Classic enjoyed rather considerable success. But once Ford decided to cease production of the Bronco after the 1996 model year, so went the Classic. The following year, Ford finally gave consumers what they wanted with the Expedition. And in 2000, the Excursion became a proper C-350 replacement. Centurion itself was bought out by Southern Comfort Conversions in 2006.
Be sure and check out this partially restored 1990 C-350, as well as this barn find example, both of which are great examples of the Centurion breed.
While Centurion was imminently more successful building a four-door Bronco conversion than Magnum, many enthusiasts prefer the latter. The Magnum Metropolitan is a more desirable option mainly for two reasons – they were produced in far fewer numbers, and Magnum used OEM Ford parts in their conversions. This means that everything, including the interior, looks like it came from the factory that way.
Actual numbers are a mystery, but most peg production of the Metropolitan at around 500. And of those, you had a number of options. Magnum would build you a four-door Bronco using anything from a regular cab F-150 or F-250 to a crew cab F-350. They would also stretch an existing U-Series Bronco. Regardless of the base vehicle, the Metropolitan also utilized a 140″ wheelbase and three-row seating. Just like the Centurion models.
The Metropolitan was squarely aimed at the Suburban, even offering a GM-style 2nd seat in place of the standard 60/40 split. Options were plentiful, including everything from captain’s chairs up front to an overhead console with built-in CB radio. No matter how you optioned it, however, the Metropolitan was about as close to an OEM four-door Bronco as we’ll ever get. Unless Ford finally decides to build one in 2020, that is.
If you’re looking for nice examples of the Metropolitan, you won’t find many better than this pristine 1990 model or this well-preserved 1991 Magnum.
Today, four-door Bronco conversions are becoming highly sought after as people begin to appreciate them more. And while both Centurion and Magnum versions are rare, that renewed interest also means plenty of them are popping up for sale. Just be ready to open up your wallet, because prices are climbing roughly at the same speed as every other Bronco on the market. Which, to say the least, is rapidly.