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Discussion Starter #1
First, I'll issue this warning: This is going to be a very long-term project, with great periods of (seemingly) inactivity. Progress will be measured in years rather than days or weeks. Normally, I'd never buy a project car with the intention of letting it hibernate in storage, but because this one was so significant to me, when I saw the opportunity to buy it, I jumped. Honestly, I'm not sure I'd ever find another one.

I found this 1996 XLT in Mississippi, where it's been living for the last few years as a hunting vehicle. It's cosmetically rough, and will need everything. Broken dash, ripped seats, headliner, missing trim, etc. etc. But it's also has a rust free body and I'm pretty sure it's never been in an accident (other than a few dents). It's also been completely mechanically rebuilt sometime in its past (around 2001-2002) by the government. Indicated mileage is 101XXX.

Because it was just what I was looking for, I bought it after talking to the seller over the phone and looking at photos. He said it ran well, with cold A/C, but was a farm/hunting vehicle that needed work. Good enough for me, since I'm doing a full, frame-off rebuild eventually. So I headed down from Chicago and rescued it from the farm.

It didn't start when I got there. We had to winch it onto the trailer.





 

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very cool..looks like you have the makings for a nice project.

should be fun..good luck.:thumbup
 

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Rebuilt by the government eh? That may be suspect.

Really though, looking forward to your work.
 

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Discussion Starter #4


Once home, I started tracking down the no-start problem. It was a poor connection in the battery cables, and once they were cleaned up & tightened back down, it fired right up. So far, I'm very satisfied, because it runs & drives very well (other than a wild steering box and some other "wandering" issues). I believe the engine is a very low-mile unit.





The body is solid & extremely rust free. I was really fortunate there. The bumpers are a little bent and the front fenders need some alignment to be straight. The firewall has had some patch/repairs done in the past where the hood hinges attach, and they look a little crude but seem to have done the job. The radiator support panel was cut & re-welded (when the motor was replaced) and the welds are cracked. And the driver's door droops. Nothing major so far. (Hope it stays that way!)

It also cleaned up decently... for now. The interior is still pretty rough, so I'll start tracking down replacement interior parts.



 

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5.0 or 5.8? Also, what's the deal with the radiator? It looks like they stuck a tiny single core in there..you can barely see it sandwiched between the core support and the shroud...

one other suggestion, I'd get rid of those crappy battery cable connectors..you may have cleaned them, but that clamp on style will just give you more trouble down the road.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I did a little research and found a very interesting (to me) report that explains the Border Patrol's $750,000 "Bronco Body off/Frame up Restoration Program (Restoration Program)", which operated in early 2001 and was responsible for rebuilding 129 Broncos out of a fleet of 1800 vehicles in San Diego.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=8&ved=0CE4QFjAHahUKEwjCofSHjZPGAhUEH6wKHckVAHw&url=https://www.oig.dhs.gov/assets/Mgmt/OIG_05-47_Sep05.pdf&ei=L4F_VYLONoS-sAXJq4DgBw&usg=AFQjCNHFohcrdEzxsrU0yUY7bcAk9HeMMg&bvm=bv.95515949,d.b2w

According to this report, and my very poor reading skills, it seems that later, only 23 running (meaning not scrap) Broncos that had gone through the restoration program were sold to wholesalers, who resold them to the public. Each had an average of $10K spent on new mechanical components (labor was not included) and were driven an average of 19 months and about 14,000 miles beyond their restoration, before selling them in 2003.

This is all interesting to me because it means that my Bronco's indicated mileage doesn't necessarily reflect the wear & age of the major components. Good deal!
 

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Discussion Starter #8
5.0 or 5.8? Also, what's the deal with the radiator? It looks like they stuck a tiny single core in there..you can barely see it sandwiched between the core support and the shroud...

one other suggestion, I'd get rid of those crappy battery cable connectors..you may have cleaned them, but that clamp on style will just give you more trouble down the road.

It's a 5.0, which is luckily what I prefer. I drove both in the field, and remember the 5.8 was a (bigger) gas hog. I never had an issue with the power the 5.0; it was fine. And now that I'm paying the gas bills, it's the best option.

Not sure about the radiator. Does that not look stock?
I agree with the battery cable connectors. This isn't the first time I've had to clean-up those on a car to make it start.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
After the clean-up, I drove it a little and then parked it for a few weeks until I can get back to it. I'll fix a few small issues here & there to keep it as a driver for now. I also have to drain & fill the radiator with antifreeze before the summer ends. The PO in Mississippi didn't have that worry, and used straight water.





 

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Discussion Starter #10
I just ordered & received 4 of those door pin replacement kits, and will be trying to realign my driver's door (really needs it) in two weeks. The passenger door isn't really sagging, but while I'm going it, I might as well do both!

Also, I'll be ordering a new redhead steering box & a new rag joint. Steering on this thing is absolutely horrible, with LOTS of play in the box. Hopefully little things like this will start improving this truck prior to any major work.

Oh, and I had a friend send me a nice photo of one of the Broncos that had just gone through the government rebuilding program (back in 2001). There's a little variation with the side stripes, but this is 99% my long-term goal with this truck.

(Does this look like it sits just a little higher than my truck? Tires?)

 

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Looks tough! Are those bars across the rear glass? does yours show holes in the top from where they would have been mounted? Can't say I've ever seen one of those before.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Looks tough! Are those bars across the rear glass? does yours show holes in the top from where they would have been mounted? Can't say I've ever seen one of those before.
Yes & yes. (see the photos above of mine)
I'm going to recreate those ASAP, as well as the cage inside.




(ignore the broken rear window. Thrown rocks were/are pretty common along the border. We had one area called "memo lane" because rockings were common there, and every time you had damage to your vehicle you had to write a memo to management explaining what happened.)
 

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Discussion Starter #13
My helper & I fixed a few essentials today.
First, we flushed and refilled the radiator just in case this Chicago summer experiences a cold snap. Everything looked good & clean when it drained, so I was happy to see that.

Then we replaced the broken driver's inside door handle. Now we can get out of the truck without having to roll down the window. (progress is measured in small steps here)

Finally, we replaced the driver's door pins and bushings, so it doesn't sag anymore. I think it's still a little tweaked at the top, because it doesn't exactly have that solid "thunk" when it closes, and the top of the door vibrates a little. It could be the flat weatherstripping.




And we couldn't resist taping a piece of "artwork" on the door temporarily... just to see how it looks.




Next week, we're ordering our new redhead steering box, and hopefully we'll get that installed sometime in the next few months.
Baby steps...
(besides, I'm not actually supposed to be working on this yet.)
 

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Did you replace the striker bushings on the rear of the door jambs? - If they are missing, the doors will have a loose rattle type feel. Regardless - She's a looker. I've always liked the looks of the BP Bronco units - keep up the good work.
 

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Erik
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Did you replace the striker bushings on the rear of the door jambs? - If they are missing, the doors will have a loose rattle type feel. Regardless - She's a looker. I've always liked the looks of the BP Bronco units - keep up the good work.
Agreed on the bushings. It took the amount of rattles I have in my interior from infinite to almost none. Bronco looks good too. Any progress is progress.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
No, we didn't replace those, and that's a great suggestion! I'll get some and try that. One thing I really want to get back is that "solid" feel that they had new, and rattley doors just blow that.

This truck is such a paradox. It seems everything is broken on it at times; every piece of trim, every bracket, bolt, etc. The interior is a disaster and all the bolt on exterior parts (bumpers, trim, windshield, even the antenna) are twisted or broken. But despite all that, it runs absolutely great! It starts instantly after sitting for 2 weeks, idles perfectly, shifts smoothly... Not an unnatural sound or shudder in her! Whenever I get frustrated at all the damage, I twist the key and take it down the road and that all disappears. Mechanically, I can count the issues on one hand, and they are minor. Cosmetically, well, I can't count that high! lol!

Regardless, I'm very happy to have this money pit. If I had to go find another, especially from the same station where I started my career, I doubt it could be done.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Well, I had a few idle days this week and decided to drive out to a salvage yard near my parent's house, looking for parts vehicles. I don't know if it was good luck or not, but I found 3 trucks with blue dashes, and since mine looked like a passenger put his foot through it, I thought it was time to replace it. I mean, it's not easy to find nice dashes (that's what I told myself to justify the work).

Here's what I started out with. Broken, just above the glove box, and the pad is all chewed up & has holes drilled in it. Plus, when I later took it apart, I found a lot of the plastic tabs not immediately visible, were cracked and broken.




First, this happened. The radio removal alone had me stumped for nearly an hour. (I've never worked on a Ford)



and I finished up the day with this:



Now I just have to decide if I should pull the dash in the junkyard, despite tomorrow's forecast of thunderstorms and heat.

Also bad planning... I left my windows down and can't roll them up tonight! lol! Guess I'll use plastic.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
I pulled it and skinned it.



After a lot of wrenching, washing, wiring, and swearing, the new skin is on the dash, and it's at least back in the truck. Not 100% finished with the install, but I'm satisfied with the progress so far. Too tired to continue; I'll finish it tomorrow.







Some important things I learned today:

- 20 year old plastic is very brittle
- there are waaay too many electrical connections in a modern car
- a F150 instrument cluster & surround is not the same as a Bronco (no rear defroster slot on the surround, & gauges are different)
- There are some subtle differences between 1994 & 1996, on brackets & such. None made any difference in my install; everything fit.
- always use bug spray when at a junk yard & take a cooler full of water
 

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its not an easy job to skin the dash like that. I did that the first time I pulled mine. Now I unplug all the wires and take the whole thing out in less than 15 mins. Goes back in the same way, in 1 pretty much complete assembly.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
its not an easy job to skin the dash like that. I did that the first time I pulled mine. Now I unplug all the wires and take the whole thing out in less than 15 mins. Goes back in the same way, in 1 pretty much complete assembly.
There's a learning curve. Removing the new one from the donor took me about 1/2 the time, because I kinda knew what I was looking for. I'm sure it will be faster in the future.

Wish I had some of you guys here to help! lol!
 
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