Bronco Bastards’ Josh Vee Takes You On His Journey to Restomod a Classic Ford Bronco
The concept of restomodding has likely been around nearly as long as cars themselves. While we don’t have much definitive proof that the earliest owners of Henry Ford’s first run of Model Ts tried their hands at improving its acceleration or style, we do know that it didn’t take long for that urge to kick in in the form of the universally admired Ford T-buckets that have patrolled the asphalt for quite a few decades now.
It’s a very understandable pursuit that may take the form of starting with an already compelling car and maximizing its potential in terms of power, comfort and aesthetics; or to simply make that ride a singular extension of the owners, themselves. Legions of classic Ford Bronco owners have gone down this road — the Broncos of yesteryear, and in particular the model’s first generation, have proven to be outstanding foundations for restomodding, due to their timeless good looks and ready adaptation to a variety of modifications.
We at Bronco Bastards are as on board with this trend as anyone can be. Sure, we have plenty of appreciation for the magnetism and historical significance of an unaltered first-generation Bronco that might even still be in possession of its original small block 289, but we also know full well just how compelling it can be to formulate and execute a plan that transforms that Bronco into a one-of a-kind machine with enhanced capabilities both on and off the asphalt, along with world-class head turning magic.
We Know of Which We Speak
We even have firsthand experience — Bronco Bastard co-owner Josh Vee has gone down this road himself, dating back to his days plying his trade at Rebel Motor Company. Formerly known as Exotic Car Trader, Rebel specialized in creating high end automotive builds — tailored largely for athletes. This was where Josh and his team worked their magic on a 1972 Bronco.
The 1972’s road to restomodding greatness was by no means a straight line — the process included dropping what was then a state of the art first generation Ford Coyote engine into a classic Bronco at a time when there were few aftermarket component kits available to pave the way for such an undertaking. That’s not to say this was a build characterized by trial and error — during his time at Rebel Motor Company, Josh worked at transforming quite a number of vehicles while perfecting his skill at everything from frame off restomods to much simpler vinyl wrap jobs. It would prove to be valuable experience that would serve him well at Bronco Bastards.
After all, no one understands not only the drive to maximize the looks and performance of a classic ride but also the challenges found along the way than someone who has gotten his hands dirty many times over the years doing just that.
For Josh, this project was undeniably compelling on several fronts. For starters, he and his team were already abiding fans of classic Broncos and fully realized their nearly universal appeal. Secondly, this undertaking was perfectly in line with his previous experience, which included a number of frame off builds that included classic SUVs like Scouts and FJ40s, along with muscle cars like Chevelles, GTOs and Firebirds. The fact that most of his previous handiwork included the installation of modern-day drivetrain components made the ’72 Bronco’s pending transformation that much more appealing.
The Process Gets Underway
Flash back to 2012 when, after some searching, the team at Rebel (then known as Exotic Car Trader) happened upon a 1972 Bronco that was in overall pretty solid condition, making it a perfect foundation for a shop project that would include the aforementioned Coyote swap — a modification that’s now considered among the most sought after in the world of restomodding, but was still a pretty novel idea at the time. When Josh and his team tracked down a crashed 2012 Mustang still in possession of its Coyote 5.0 engine, the project was now underway in earnest.
The first challenge they encountered centered on just how to properly fit the newly-acquired modern drivetrain into the classic Bronco. First generation Broncos may be perceived as being sufficiently broad enough to make the installation of the Coyote powerplant seem fairly easy — despite being smaller than their more modern successors — but the model’s front inner wheelhouses extend inward by quite a bit and the Coyote engine is deceptively broad.
To put the latter in perspective, plenty of 1967 through 1969 Ford Mustang owners have successfully dropped even the beefy Ford 460 cubic inch big block into their rides without having to undertake engine compartment surgery. And yet fitting a Coyote into a classic Mustang leaves almost no lateral room without removing, or at the very least drastically shaving or notching, the shock towers.
Despite the logistical challenges that came with it, Josh and his team were all in on the decision to go with the Coyote engine over some of the other options that were available. Sure, vintage powerplants have an allure of their own, but the prospect of positioning a modern, reliable engine under the hood of the classic Bronco was too hard to resist. There would be no issues with potential flooding and keeping the Bronco in tune would require relatively little maintenance, among a number of other pluses. The combination of an aftermarket EFI kit added to the original 302 would have provided a few of these advantages, but when it was all said and done, the formula of installing thoroughly modern power to propel a revered classic turned out to be every bit as winning as anyone could have hoped for.
Of course, there was also the challenge presented by the modern engine’s accompanying transmission, which was substantially deeper and broader than the native C6 already in place. After some deliberation, the team decided to stick with the original C6, which would make retaining the Bronco’s stock 4-wheel drive system an easier step. As it would turn out, this decision itself brought with it some difficulties.
Once the proper bellhousing adaptor plates and torque converter were decided upon, it was time to start fabricating the engine and transmission mounts. Having the Coyote jut upward through the hood, street-rod style, was never going to be a part of the plan — this build was going to show seamless craftsmanship in arriving at its impressive conclusion — so several other adjustments were required to get the engine situated properly, including notching the engine cross member just below the powerplant.
The engine’s sheer width not only presented a challenge but also led to an inspired solution that would also enhance the Bronco’s aesthetics. Once properly positioned, the broad Coyote left virtually no room for headers, so the team crafted a pair from scratch that would free up room beneath the hood while leading out to a unique dual center tip exit for the exhaust that provided just the right modern, exotic look that still remained in keeping with the classic’s exterior aesthetics.
There Was at Least One Easy Solution During the Process
Ask anyone who has been bold enough to undertake a thorough restoration project of this type and they’re likely to tell you that getting the electrical system to work properly — especially where it interacts with the drivetrain — was one of the most frustrating tasks. Google would prove to be a valuable resource for Josh and the team, leading them to a surprisingly simple solution for this part of the project in the form of a Ford Performance Engine Control Pack with Speedometer Adjuster.
There were still a number of related obstacles yet to be encountered, including getting the alternator to fit properly, which was accomplished by mounting it facing backwards. Also, the decision to use Dakota Digital gauges inside the cabin allowed for the use of most of the OEM Ford sensors, which saved some time and trouble. Nonetheless, after 8 months of conscientious work during the team’s spare time, it was time to test their handiwork up to this point.
The Moment of Truth: A Big Day on a Number of Fronts
Josh vividly remembers the first time the engine was started. “It cranked right up, like it was meant to be.” It would prove to be not only a fulfilling occasion, but a fortuitous one as well. One of Rebel’s regular customers just happened to be on hand that day to witness the team’s handiwork in person and to say he was impressed with the results put in front of him would be an understatement. Josh noted, “You know that look a kid gives you when you surprise them and take them to a Toys ‘R Us? Well, that was the look on his face. He just had to have this thing!”
And have it he would, not only buying the already impressive Bronco on the spot, but also giving the team carte blanche to make whatever additional modifications they saw fit to undertake, complete with a $50,000 budget. This financial leeway, as you’d expect, would pave the way for the inclusion of plenty of top-tier components and aesthetic upgrades that would take the Bronco to a still higher level, including an array of inspired alterations to its exterior, sizable brakes for optimum stopping power, a powder coated frame, a drastically improved suspension, a custom roll cage and upholstery, Line-X Interior Lining and a seamlessly integrated stereo to provide an unbeatable audio experience inside the cabin.
Some of the Hardest Work Was Still Ahead
With all the financial freedom Josh and his team were given also came a certain responsibility. They couldn’t merely stockpile and assemble an array of name brand add-ons — they had to be sure that all those modifications were synced up properly to provide a world-class driving experience.
That would require testing. A lot of it. And, largely because of the vastly enhanced power provided by the Coyote engine now residing under the hood, this testing would lead to a somewhat inconvenient but very important truth — there would be a number of additional upgrades needed before the Bronco’s full potential could be reached.
Stout driveshafts and fortified axles were already in place but, just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, some of the existing components just weren’t up to the task of standing up to the substantial power that was now on hand. The C6 transmission that the team had decided to retain blew out after its first hard testing, so it was promptly rebuilt with slightly modified internals and a better torque converter. Upon the C6’s return to duty, despite being the best of their kind, the H-blocks on the driveshaft soon began twisting under the enhanced force of the powerplant, so their replacements would have to be fabricated from scratch to reach the level of durability and strength required.
This long and winding road wasn’t without still another twist to it. When further testing caused the C6 to blow out for a second time, there would be no choice but to rebuild it yet again — this time with nothing but forged billet internals in place.
The team’s perseverance would pay off in the form of an unusually stout drivetrain whose output could easily roast the 35” tires that had been added, while also offering enough versatility to reach a top speed of 128mph. Every bit as important, the Bronco now featured an overall driving experience that was on a par with its acceleration abilities — the array of upgraded suspension components combined to provide an unexpectedly smooth ride, while the Coyote’s refined power was every bit as smile-inducing as the team had anticipated.
The Project Takes a DetourWith most of the mechanical work behind them, the team then started on strategizing and installing the aesthetic elements that would make the ’72 even more of a standout than it already was. At this juncture, the saga took yet another turn, as its enthusiastic owner ran into some life problems and had no choice but to sell his now stellar ride. With so much money and time invested, Josh and his team couldn’t rationalize holding on to the Bronco as a shop vehicle to provide ongoing evidence of their skilled craftsmanship, so they made the group decision to add just the right inspired finishing touches and help facilitate its sale.
As you can imagine, with its now unbeatable combination of tasteful aesthetics and outstanding performance, the Bronco eventually proved to be irresistible to one particularly high-end buyer and it fetched a price befitting all the skilled craftsmanship that was put into it over an approximately two- year period, selling for $120,000 in 2016.
Take a look at the finished product in action!
The experience Josh gained from this build yielded serious value — both in terms of confirming his abilities as a versatile aftermarket technician with an abiding admiration for the Bronco, as well as providing lots of insight into his Bronco Bastard customers’ mindset. “I know what people want and I look forwarding to providing them the value of being able to find the quality parts they’re looking for,” Josh said. “It’s not about offering as many parts as possible; it’s about offering only the best of the best parts. Our site continues to fuel the passion we already have for the Bronco and we want to help others get the parts they need to make their own machines amazing.”