FTE Bronco Build Is No Show Queen

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Bronco Build

This Bronco was made to go off-road. And that’s exactly what the FTE member’s Bronco build does best.

If you haven’t noticed, prices of early Broncos left the realm of sanity years ago. The first gen ‘ute has become a sought-after collectible. Which means most of them are now either preserved in their original glory or undergoing extensive restorations. The SUV that Ford built to go off-road now seldom sees anything but spotless paved surfaces. But with this particular FTE Bronco build, that was never the intention.

In fact, when Nothing Special (or Bob, as he’s known in the real world) set out to build his 1971 Bronco back in 2003, it was because he needed something bigger than his Jeep CJ5 for his family four wheeling adventures. Bob’s two boys had simply outgrown the back seat of the old Jeep. And after weighing his options, an early Bronco seemed like the perfect choice of replacement vehicle.

After extensive searching, Bob found the perfect candidate: a solid ’71 with a 6″ lift kit already installed. And that’s when the work began.

“The first order of business was getting a tow bar on it so I could move it around to different shops as I needed to farm out work. Plus the eventual use was going to be family vacations where we’d tow the Bronco behind our pickup with a slide in camper (see my avatar). When we get to our destination we’d set up the camper and the truck could stay put while we drive the Bronco around for four wheeling, sightseeing or just running to pick up more milk. We had used the Jeep like that for the previous 10 years and wanted the same thing only bigger.”

Bob, a mechanical engineer by trade, proceeded to design and build his own bumper for the Bronco. He modified a front receiver mount to look a little more discreet, then bolted on a tow bar. Next, he wanted to ensure his kids could safely ride in the back. So Bob installed a set of rear high back seats with seat belts and shoulder harnesses.

Next, Bob ditched the factory hard top for a soft one and installed a full roll cage. Then a home baked air assisted braking setup went in. Finally, a total strip job so that the Bronco could receive a fresh coat of Ford Sonic Blue paint.

Bronco Build

Everything seemed to be going splendidly, but as they often do, quickly went south.

“The original engine had 200,000 miles on it, so a replacement was definitely under consideration. Then I “lucked” into a 70,000 mile 302 with an AOD trans out of a Mustang (more on the trans later). A friend of mine won the engine and trans in a raffle at his F-100 club and offered them to me for $50 (he had too many engines and transmissions already). So it seemed like a good deal.

In retrospect, it wasn’t. It cost me thousands to recover from that $50.”

Turns out, the Mustang engine required a bunch of work and lots of cash to play nice with the old Bronco. As did the automatic transmission, to the point where he ditched the idea. But with a set of new driveshafts, the Bronco was once again moving under its own power. Well, for a minute, anyway.

“I’ve already mentioned that on the first test drive my $50 engine lost oil pressure. I’d been running it in the driveway some and had maybe an hour on it. But as I was getting close to home on the first test drive i noticed the oil pressure gauge sitting at zero. I don’t know how long it had been there since I hadn’t looked at it in a mile or two, but I wasn’t happy.

I was taking the Bronco out to the Black Hills in a month and as soon as I saw the gauge I knew I was putting a new engine in it. There was no way I was going to get comfortable with taking my family to the middle of nowhere depending on that engine. With the time pressure I bought a rebuilt engine from a shop in town and had my local garage do the swap.” 

Bronco Build

Things since then haven’t exactly been easy, either, which is often the case with old trucks. But Bob has certainly been enjoying the fruits of his labor ever since. In fact, he pops in with updates fairly often. Including some pics from his recent trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota. And lest you think he’s babied his Bronco since, the beast sustained a little damage on its recent voyage. Be sure and follow along with Bob’s build and his various adventures in this thread!


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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