A classic 1973 Ford Bronco built to crawl.

WHEN IT COMES TO A cov­eted four-wheel drive, the 1966-1977 Ford Bronco may be one of the most cher­ished Blue Ovals. With Ford slated to bring the Bronco name­sake back in 2020, we know we’re not the only ones hop­ing to see a strong re­sem­blance to the early Bronco plat­form. Out of pro­duc­tion for over 40 years, a first-gen­er­a­tion Bronco on the road is an in­creas­ingly rare sight. Spot­ting one on the trail is even more sur­pris­ing.

We bumped into John Sims while at The Flats Of­froad Park in Mar­ion, North Carolina. There, we got to ogle the Easley, South Carolina, wheeler’s 1973 Ford Bronco. While you’d be hard pressed to find a sin­gle panel on the Bronco that hasn’t in­curred some sort of trail “love,” the classic styling of the rig is rec­og­niz­able from a foot­ball field away. Hav­ing owned the Bronco for a lit­tle over two years, Sims gives much of the build credit to Steve Sharp and Gor­don Bailie. An ac­tive wheeler, Sims uses his Ford to hit many of the Bronco-spe­cific events and trails in the south­east.

Aside from the frame and body, there isn’t much orig­i­nal Bronco left, but the parts that were swapped in have helped cre­ate an in­cred­i­bly com­pe­tent crawler. From a low­buck V-8 swap from a Ford Ex­plorer to the su­per-high-clear­ance TrueHi9 third mem­bers, this build is an ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple of dol­lar-smart up­grades. Sure, some purists may cringe at the sight of wrin­kled sheet­metal, but we love that this classic 4x4 is still run­ning free on the trails, not tucked away in some barn for preser­va­tion.

1 Up front, a Ruf­fStuff Spe­cial­ties hous­ing was paired with Reid steer­ing knuck­les and 35-spline RCV Per­for­mance CV axle­shafts. Steer­ing du­ties are han­dled by a PSC Motorsports fully hy­draulic steer­ing sys­tem, while 12-inch-travel shocks from ORI Struts sus­pend the Bronco at each cor­ner.

2 Out back you will find an­other off­set Ruf­fStuff hous­ing, which, like the front, uses a TrueHi9 third mem­ber fit with 4.88 gears and a Detroit Locker. Gone is the orig­i­nal sus­pen­sion and in its place is a three-link us­ing a track bar to iso­late the axle.

3 Un­der the hood of John Sims’ 1973 Bronco you will find a 302ci roller-cammed V-8 that was plucked from a Ford Ex­plorer. It’s fed by a How­ell throt­tle-body in­jec­tion kit, which works with an MSD Ig­ni­tion mod­ule. To up­date the brak­ing sys­tem, the orig­i­nal brake booster was swapped out for a late-model hy­dro-boost unit from a Ford Su­per Duty. This sys­tem pow­ers four-pis­ton Wil­wood calipers se­cured at each axle end.

4 With rock­crawl­ing be­ing the pri­mary fo­cus, Sims backed the V-8 with a TH700R4 au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. This gave him a 3.06 First gear, which when cou­pled with the 5:1 low range in the At­las II trans­fer case, makes for trac­tor­like crawl con­trol. At­tached to the gear-driven T-case are mas­sive 1410 U-joints, with only slightly smaller 1350-se­ries joints se­cured at the dif­fer­en­tial side.

5 If you’re go­ing to spend time in the rocks, air­ing down will make for a bet­ter ride and al­low your tire to con­form more eas­ily to the trail. Thanks to a set of 17x10 MRW dou­ble­bead­lock wheels, Sims can drop the Bronco’s 37x12.50-17 BFG red-la­bel Krawlers into the sin­gle dig­its off-road worry free.

6 Keep­ing Sims and his pas­sen­ger rid­ing in com­fort and safety are a set of Cor­beau sus­pen­sion seats and four-point har­ness belts. The cus­tom ’cage sur­round­ing them is com­piled of 2-inch DOM and runs the full length of the cabin. Sit­ting in place of a back­seat is a 15-gal­lon RCI fuel cell, along with other crit­i­cal items such as a tool bag, re­cov­ery gear, and a fire ex­tin­guisher.

7 Se­cur­ing the Warn 8274 winch up front is a Bailie Bilt front bumper. Just like the Bailie Bilt rear bumper, these steel guards have some se­ries trail scars. Show pony, this is not.

8 Although a lit­tle longer than stock, the Bronco’s wheel­base re­mains be­low 100 inches. This can make it lift a wheel from time to time, but keep­ing the over­all size down has some se­ri­ous ad­van­tages in the tree-lined trails in the south­east.







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