I got my 1996 XLT back in (I think) July of 2009. Oxford white, blue interior. 5.0 / E4OD. I'd been looking for a bronco for a while. Several years, actually. I've always been a Ford guy, and when I was working my first job, I had to travel to Reynosa, Mexico. I thought something like a Bronco would be a good vehicle for driving around on bad roads every day. I'd looked at a few when I was still in Tennessee, including a 5 speed 92+, an 87 (with carbed 351) and a few more that had some rust. When I moved to Houston in 2007, I didn't really keep looking, since I had a bad commute and gas was high priced. Eventually, after a few heavy rains/ flash floods where a higher vehicle would have been useful, I convinced my wife to let me look again. I found one near me on ebay. I contacted the seller and arranged to go look at it before I bid. It was stock height, with 197K miles on it, but it seemed solid. I outbid maybe one person and got it for less than $2800. It had a few issues, such as two ugly bumpers and quite a bit of junk ad ons. Here are a few pics from when I brought it home:
Before I'd drive it on the roads, I found a new set of bumpers on craigslist. I installed the chrome front, but decided to hang on to the straight chrome rear and repaint the back bumper silver. I also removed the chrome wheel arches and vent visors. The 'dual' exhaust that was on it (cat back) was rusty and full of holes, and had big chrome tips under the rear bumper. I had that replaced with a 3" single pipe exiting in the stock location. I think it has a dynomax muffler.
A friend at work, who is a jeep guy, convinced me that I need to lift it. I found a used skyjacker 6" lift, also on craigslist, for about $350. It had lift springs in the back, and radius arm drop brackets in front. I didn't have a spare $1000 lying around to buy big wheels and tires, so I kept the kit in the garage for a while. In the meantime, I upgraded the alternator to a 130A 3G, and bought another bronco. It was a well used 1985 with the 351HO and 33" tires. I ended up swapping the 33s to my 1996, and putting the chrome factory wheels on the 85. At the time I did this, I also put my factory manual locking hubs on the 85 (replacing autos) and put some 'new in open box' warm premium hubs on the 96.
Figuring that 33s wouldn't look totally bad with a 6" lift, I put the lift on. Rust free makes removing (then) 15 year old parts come off relatively easy.
I drove it like this for several months. I eventually found a job "back home" in Iowa. Since I'd never gotten around to it, I used some of my 'lump sum' relocation bonus to finally buy some 35" tires. I installed them, literally, the day before I drove the 1000 miles from Houston to Iowa.
I should backtrack a bit. Soon after putting on the lift, but before moving to Iowa, I did the tie rod end flip, swapped the blue interior for gray, added a trailer hitch to the rear, and built/installed what I thought was a sufficient 'recovery point' behind the front bumper. It was basically a bracket that spanned between the frame rails, bolted in between the bumper and the brackets, and also bolted to the sway bar brackets. Tow hooks roughly lined up with the holes in the bumper.
I eventually cut off the bars going to the sway bar brackets and just welded the main cross plate to the frame.
After moving to Iowa, I was pulled over by a trooper and told my windows were too dark, so I had to remove the tint. Not a big deal.
Next thing I did was add a fold down front license plate bracket and weld a receiver tube to the hidden crossplate, so I'd have a place to put a winch up front.
I noticed my rearend was starting to whine, so I replaced it with one from the junkyard. Still sporting the 3.55 gears, I did the PSOM reprogram, so at least my speed was correct.
Also, having a locally owned junkyard nearby allowed me to resume an old hobby that I had back in college, of picking over vehicles in the junkyard for 'upgrades'. Besides the 130A 3G listed earlier, I also upgraded by power steering to a Saginaw unit, and put the 7.5/4.9 intake duct on. I eventually replaced the crew cab 40/20/40 bench with captains chairs and center console.
I can't really think of much else I did to the bronco during those first few years here in Iowa. I did use it to tow my 1964 comet from my parent's barn, where it had sat for several years, to my house about 2 hours away.
Here's a pic of my youngest, helping me rotate the tires about 4 years ago
And a random snow pic
I'd always had a mystery leak somewhere, and it eventually got bad enough that I was adding about a quart of antifreeze a week to it. I decided that I'd pull the intake and do new gaskets. That led me to my complete engine and transmission swap that you can read about in my build thread, linked in my signature. I'll summarize in the next chapter.
I've always wanted to make my bronco a 5 speed. I drove a ford probe for 10 years before we had kids, and I enjoyed shifting my own gears, so I'd started collecting parts to do the swap fairly early.
One of the harder parts was finding a ZF5 that would match my 302. I finally found one, attached to a parts truck, for a reasonable price. One week while my family was away, I got the truck, tore it down, sold the motor, and stashed the transmission, then hauled the rest away.
I had all the parts, but an ever increasing coolant leak is what lead to me actually doing it.
Pulling the intake resulted in broken bolts in the head. After some consideration, I opted to pull the motor. I figured I would replace the 302 with the 351 from my 96 F150.
I ended up putting the ZF5 in the bronco fairly soon after pulling the old engine and transmission, but various things kept me from finishing for over 2 years. Here's a pic of the clutch pedals before I cut the carpet for the shifter
I kept hesitating when it came to pulling the motor from my F150. At first, I really didn't want to go into winter without a 4x4, and I wasn't sure I could get the swap done in time, so it sat. The next summer, I found what was advertised as a 96 351, so I bought it without looking too closely. It was a 95, at least a roller, and it looked like it had been rebuilt at one time before. I decided that I'd add a set of GT40 heads that I'd pulled from the junkyard, and slightly upgrade them with trickflow valve springs and cobra 1.7 roller rockers. Other than that, the motor is a stock MAF OBDII 5.8. Since they never made an OBDII 5.8 with a manual, no computer exists, so I live with the check engine light.
That took me, working slowly, thru the next winter. By summer of 2020, I was ready to put it back in.
Here are a few more of the engine rebuilt/overhaul pics.
I feel like I was pretty lucky that everything went as smoothly as it did. I bolted everything up, hooked up the wires, and it fired right up and idled smooth. Transmission shifted OK, and I only had one annoying squeak, which turned out to be my AC compressor, which I currently have bypassed. I've been daily driving it for the past year, around 100 miles per week. The only real issue I had, was that the old manual starter that came with the donor eventually gave out, but @Clarko hooked me up with a like-new one, and its been flawless since. I even used it a couple weekends ago to tow a 'new' bronco to the house that I plan to work on (or scrap) with my son. Granny low was a big help getting the trailer going with my stock 3.55 gears.
I'll add more details about other upgrades in my next update.
Well where do I start. First I've lost almost all my pics from the first build. I will post some if I can find them.
My love for Bronco's started in the late 70's when my parents bought a 67. I was hooked from then on. I bought my first Bronco in spring of 2000. It was a 69, 3.5" lift 2" body lift, 351w. I put a lot of money and time into it. This is when my passion really grew. On July 2 2003 I purchased my 93 Bronco. Originally it was for the wife to wheel. It had a 4" rancho lift and 33x12.4x15. After having it for a few months we found out we were having a 3rd child, and the wife wanted a car to drive instead of the bronco. So we got her a little car and I took over the 93 as my daily driver. Fast forward a few month and I was driving our new baby boy home in it. I kept it the way it was for the next year or so. One day me and my son were driving the 69 around and the motor locked up. I towed it home with the 93 and parked it. I got bored one day and pulled the 35's off the 69 and put them on the 93, they didn't fit to good. After a long conversation with the wife, we decided to sale the 69 and concentrate on the 93. ( wish I would have never sold it)That's when it all started.
After pretty much giving the 69 away, I went to work on the 93. First thing was to make the 35's fit. I decided I was going to SAS it. So I was able to get a HD high pinion 44 and a sterling 10.25 for a steal. I decided to go with 6" superflex coils for a 78 bronco and a shackle flip in the rear. When it was all said and done I ended up with somewhere around a 8" lift. After getting it done the 35's looked to small. I ended up getting some 37x14.5x15 toyos and it improved the look and ability. It wasn't long before I started breaking ujoints in the front axle. Thats when I decided a dana 60 was needed. I scored a 79 f250 with the snowfighter package for $100. In went the 60 and no more broken ujoints. Somewhere between the axle swap I had my custom bumpers and sliders built. I got tired of the auto trans and swapped in a ZF 5 speed trans. Boy was I happy. Bronco was just a rollcage and paint job away from being done. YAY!!!!!!!
The summer 2008 rolls around and I bought a truck, 94 f350 crew cab longbed with the 7.3 IDI turbo diesel. We (the wife) thought it was crazy to have a truck and bronco, so up she (Bronco) went for sale. That fall I got offered a snowmobile and cash for her and took it. Now I love snowmobiling and this was a newer sled. But I cried like a baby watching the bronco get loaded on someone else's trailer and drive away. Part of the deal was that if he ever wanted to sale it I got first dibs. He kept in touch with me, sending me updates and telling me how awesome it was, I already knew that I built it and it was a Bronco HAHA.
So a couple years went by and was still sad about selling it. Out of the blue the guy emails me and says he's thinking about selling the Bronco. We email back and forth over the next couple month and then nothing. Was my baby gone forever???? Fast forward to July 2012. I get an email, The Bronco is for sale, this time I mean it. I replied with I want it. He said the 4 wheel drive wasn't working so he wanted to fix it first. I said don't worry about it and we settled on 4k. Off to the bank I go. Then straight to Montana to pick the old girl up. 3 Hours later there she is in all her glory, He'd put less then 10k miles on her and didn't change a thing. Now at this point I have a problem, a couple weeks prior to all this I shattered my right foot and was in a big boot. Wait 2 problems wifes cars a stick also. I said screw it, threw my crutches in and jumped in the old girl and off we went. Got home at 4 in the morning and had to be at work at 7. I didn't care, I had my baby back.
I drove her around for a while and was loving life again. Then the wife says I don't like rock anymore I want to go fast....Don't have to tell me twice.......
I think I'll do the order of operations a little different than I did the last time I was doing FOTM. I'll show how it looked before I got it, show how it looks now, and then show the journey. She's not pretty, before or after, but she's all mine. lol
Here's a couple pics from the Facebook ad when I saw it for sale.
And here's some more recent pics. One when I was finishing up the 460 swap last year and one from last weekend.
I saw my Bronco for sale on the FB marketplace back in early September of 2017. I went and looked at it on the 11th, which made it pretty easy to remember.
I wasn't looking for a Bronco, I'm sure many can relate. I was wanting a short bed 4wd 73-79 F100/150 to go with my 2wd 77 F100 short bed, but hadn't planned on looking for one at that time. It was just something in the back of my mind that I wanted to do maybe a year or two later, but then I saw this Bronco for sale and the guy had it listed for $900. Too cheap to not at least take a peek at! lol. That and I figured a Bronco would better suite a family than a single cab truck. Most importantly, it was the same body style and that's what attracted me to it.
The guy who was selling it really didn't seem too familiar with it and most things he said it had, it didn't. It ran really well despite it smelling badly of gas all the time, drove and stopped, the steering wheel would turn about halfway before the wheels moved, and he clearly covered up rust on the floorboards with some fresh black spray paint (he left the cans behind the front seats when I test drove...), but I bought it anyway.
We settled on $700, I paid him, and I came back to his house on foot later in the evening and picked it up.
Here's the interior shot that was on the FB ad.
I asked him if he had anymore pics and he sent me this. Uh... oops? lol. Ya gave your sweet coverup job away, dude. I pointed it out when I test drove it and I told him I wished he'd have not done that, so I could see exactly where the rust that I expected on a dirt cheap Bronco was.
Here are my two "dentsides" getting to know each other. This was taken before I brought it home to show my wife. When I brought it home, I just parked it in front of the house where I'd normally have my truck and I let her "discover" it when she first looked out the window or door that day. Once she noticed it and saw that my truck wasn't there, she exclaimed to me "That better not be your Mojon out front!". I guess she didn't appreciate my new "Calico cat". lol.
I don't have a lot of great pictures, or pictures from great angles, from when I first had it, but here's a shot of the factory wheels with the 31" tires that were on it at the time. You can see that they leave a lot of gap between the fenders. Oh, I've also since ditched the 20's on my truck, they didn't really work out the way I had hoped. Little too bling blingy.
One of the first things I did to it, of course, was try some different wheels and tires. I was able to get a set of 17" wheels with some very worn 35's via the FB marketplace for a couple hundred bucks. I took that as an opportunity to see if 35's would fit without a lift provided I had the right offset wheels. I found that they would indeed fit, but these wheels did not have the right offset, so the tires would rub in a couple of places at full lock.
I took it "off road" to test it out. I flexed it as much as it could, turned the wheels as much as I could, and drove around to see what rubbed.
I guess all that dirt and grease was useful for something.
On my maiden off road journey where I tested out those 35's is when I tried the 4wd for the first time. Yeah, probably should have tried it out on the test drive before I bought it, but oh well.
When I drove it in 4wd it made a clicking sound like you were on a roller coaster ascending a hill and its frequency followed the speed I was travelling. This led me to my first mechanical fix, which included replacing all of the u-joints on the front shaft and rebuilding the cv. That indeed got rid of the clicking and all was well with the stout, gear driven NP205.
I set up shop on the tailgate of my old F150 and went to town. This was the first time I had ever rebuilt a driveshaft, so it was new to me and I had very limited tools at the time.
I cleaned the shaft up as much as I could by hand.
Took me a long time, but I also cleaned the inside of it and removed all of this chocolate fondue. Crazy that they put chocolate fondue in there as lube during the 70's.
Painted the shaft black, lubed it up with some fresh Redline CV2 grease, and installed some new u-joints with a rented ball joint tool.
Other fixes included things like my wiper switch completely falling apart suddenly when I went to use it.
Replacing the printed circuit board on the gauge cluster, repainting portions of it, and installing red LEDs because I felt like making mistakes while doing "upgrades" on this Bronco.
And theeeeeen, because I knew what I "needed" for wheels and tires after my used 35's experiment, I came across a preeeetty good deal on NTWonline and bought a set of five 15x8 3-5/8" back spaced Mickey Thompson Classic 3's and Mickey Thompson Deegan-38 35x12.50r15 MT's.
That's a mouthful. I helped the Fedex guy roll 'em up to the porch and then I installed them on to the Bronco later on.
What happened to the old wheels and tires, you ask? (you didn't ask). I took off the black plastidip that was on the wheel's (took forever), I scrapped the tires, and then I bought new tires for my truck and put those wheels on my truck to replace the 20's that were on it. Everything worked out juuust nice.
One item (among many) my Bronco was missing when I bought it was the retaining hardware for the spare tire. I had this set of five new wheels, but I couldn't mount my spare yet. The hardware is not reproduced (that I could find), so off to the wrecking yard. I found a few other pieces I needed (glove box, glove box door, etc) while trolling the wrecking yards and some I wanted (headers) as well.
The original passenger side wing window was bent where the latch is, I'm assuming someone locked themselves out and went though the wing window to get a hand through. The tailgate was mostly empty other than the glass itself, so I sourced everything else via the wrecking yard. You can see the two lengths of PVC pipe that the PO used to prop the window up in the tailgate. This has been an interesting Bronco.
Spare mounted up with the retaining hardware I found in the wrecking yard.
The PO (one of them), cut the wiring harness for the tailgate right where it goes into the rear quarter. I spent time soldering it back together (poorly) and installing my wrecking yard parts to get the rear window functional again. After I got it all together I somehow shorted the original harness that I soldered back together and killed the wrecking yard regulator motor.
So, after spending a day or two on all of this, I ended up buying a new regulator and motor, pulling another harness from the wrecking yard, and then putting all of that into the tailgate to get it working. And then a couple years later, I no longer use the rear window at all as I have a soft top. Go figure, right? lol
The Bronco I sourced the tailgate guts from had a set of headers (Hedman 89210). I got those dirt cheap and then had them blasted and powder coated with some high temp powder coat and in total ($120) spent much less than the price of buying these headers new ($350). They turned out great, but I don't recommend long tubes if you plan on anything other than street driving. I dragged the collectors on rocks more than once.
After having the new engine and transmission in the bronco, and daily driving it for a while, I wanted to upgrade my radius arms. I've had drop brackets since I did the lift 10 years ago. I read how people had modified stock ones by welding on extensions. I even bought a section of DOM tubing to try that myself. But once I thought I'd read where someone had used 2WD Superduty radius arms. One day at the junkyard, I found an F350 that wasn't all rusted up, and I asked the guys there if they could put it on the rack so I could get them off easier. They agreed, and I did. Long story short, I modified them to move the lower hole forward, so they'd "line up" with my lift. There are more pictures in my build thread, but here are the major ones.
Stock SD arms on SD truck
Comparison with stock Bronco arms
Modification to move the hole forward
Making them look nice
View from underneath after a few months in service
Ride is improved. Haven't tried any flexing yet. If I were doing another bronco and keeping the TTB, I'd probably do it again.