The freshly resurrected Ford Bronco became one of the brightest releases of 2021 with the automotive community going absolutely crazy about it. It’s no wonder because the truck turned out to be nearly perfect design- and performance-wise, but there is one thing that disappointed me deep in my soul…it doesn’t have anything to do with the OBS Full Size Bronco.
Perhaps there aren’t many people sharing the same feeling like me, but there is certainly something special about the OBS body style that, in my humble opinion, deserves a tribute.
Although, taking a look back at Ford’s strategy on resurrecting the Ford Mustang back in 2004 suggests that chances to see a modern version of the OBS are not that promising.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the new generation Bronco, but the nostalgic feeling of the 80-s and 90-s trucks still lives in my mind, and there’s hardly anything I can do with it. Perhaps it’s also one of the reasons why I am so glad to share with you the story of this awesome OBS Ford Bronco pre runner that served as a rally support vehicle for Brad Denham, from Sandy (Salt Lake City), Utah.
“Back in the day, these trucks were dominating the off-road racing competitions throughout the country and south of the borderd”
Being the last of the full-size Broncos it shared the majority of the components with the F150 trucks along with the solid suspension and mighty V8 engines, which made it so popular among the fans of off-road racing. Back in the day, these trucks were dominating the off-road racing competitions throughout the country and south of the border, so it wasn’t a surprise that the majority of the professional fab shops recommended Brad to stick with this platform. Read on the interview below to find out how it went further from this point and don’t forget to check the impressive spec list of this beautiful Ford Bronco pre-runner!
How did you become interested in off-roading?
– In the late 80’s/early 90’s when I lived in upstate New York (just outside of Rochester,) I learned that there was a performance rally event that took place every May/June in Wellsboro, PA. It was called the Susquehannock Trail Rally, and friends of mine actually work the rally in the timing team. IN 1994 I moved to Northern California and immediately started to look up rally events that I could attend and even work. And I did…I worked Rim of the World, Gorman Ridge, and the Prescott Pro Rally events and quickly realized that I needed a ‘rally support vehicle’ (read: pre-runner / chase truck) instead of beating up my Ford Escort GT on those rally stages.
“…I quickly realized that I needed a ‘rally support vehicle’ (read: pre-runner / chase truck) instead of beating up my Ford Escort GT on those rally stages”
So – years later – I finally bought my Bronco in 2008 and started prepping it in 2010 to work rally events here in the West…which I did by working the Idaho and Tri-State Rally events in 2017.
Why did you choose this particular model for your project?
– In the late ’90s and early 2000’s – whenever I was in SoCal for a meeting – I went down a day earlier and visited multiple off-road race and fab shops…probably a half-dozen or so, and asked about what makes a good off-road vehicle. And after hearing all of their input I settled on the late model Bronco as the basis of my offroader. That and it was large, safe, had tons of options for suspension systems, and could be built out well on a budget. Plus, it could be built with four suspension seats to fit my entire family as well! Nobody left home.
“it was large, safe, had tons of options for suspension systems, and could be built out well on a budget. Plus, it could be built with four suspension seats to fit my entire family as well”
What inspired you to choose this modification style?
– I think the rally community had a big influence…that and the off-road pre-runner community as well. I didn’t have a race truck or a $six-digit$ pre-runner…just something that could get me to and from the rally events and pretty much go anywhere I needed it to go at an event. A real ‘drive it hard and put it away and do it all over again the next weekend without issues’ kind of truck.
What challenges did you face while putting it together?
– Deciding how far I wanted to go and how much I wanted to spend. That, and find a good local Utah fab shop to do the work for me based upon my plans. I did find that fab shop and both Ogive Industries and DP custom fab here in Salt Lake City did a great job back in 2010 when it started to undergo the transformation.
What do you love about your vehicle?
– Its sturdiness, visibility, reliability, comfort (heat and air conditioning), and safety. One of the first things I learned when I was visiting those fab shops 20 years ago was for me to start the build with a safety cage. And that’s exactly what I did…it was my first requirement and what the rest of the truck was built around…and it was fully tied into the frame as well.
“One of the first things I learned when I was visiting those fab shops 20 years ago was for me to start the build with a safety cage.”
Is it your daily or a weekend ride?
– Well, it WAS my weekend ride for working rally events and sporting events requiring ham radio support, but alas, I sold the Bronco this July to a KoH racer who is now using it as his race pre-runner!
1996 Ford Bronco Specs
Engine specs, modifications
Stock Ford 302 (5.0) truck engine, MPFI, VIN=N, OBD-II/MAF, with the following modifications/enhancements:
- Static advance set to 13° BTDC (via SPOUT connector removal)
- Advance Air Cleaner Systems ‘Super-Flow’ 8”x12” off-road air filter with paper element (Donaldson #P182054)
- Ford Motorsport 9mm wires
- MSD distributor cap #8482 with wire retention ‘clamp-down’ loom
- Accel #140012 “Super-Coil”
- Autolite #25 plugs gapped @ .052”
- Bassani ‘Equa-Length’ shorty headers (ceramic coated) #50150BC
- 2.5” ID exhaust through two inline OEM catalytic converters
- Single Magnaflow #12259 oval muffler – 5” x 8” x 24” (OAL) straight core, 3” in / 3” out
- 3” mandrel-bent tailpipe over rear axle exiting passenger side in stock location
- Mobil 1 High-Mileage 10W-30 full synthetic oil used exclusively since purchased
- Derale #15749 dual remote mount oil filter system using Russell AN- fittings with SS braided hose
- Dual Motorcraft FL-1A (2) or Purolator ‘Pure One’ PL30001 (2) oil filters used exclusively
- Stock Ford E4OD 4-speed automatic transmission with O/D
- Aluminum deep transmission pan from PATC (+3.0 quarts over stock)
- Full synthetic ATF
- Factory transmission cooler @ front radiator
- DC Power “XP” 270 Amp 3G high-output alternator #7768-6K-270-XP
- “Big 5” charging wire upgrade to 1/0 marine cable
- Extra grounding straps for noise-free ham and stereo radio operation
- Starting Battery: Odyssey PC1750 Group 65 AGM (950 CCA)
- Auxiliary Battery: Centennial CB12-120S AGM Deep Cycle 118Ah Battery; rear compartment mounted (used to power off-road radios & communications gear)
- Battery Mounts: Artec Industries steel HD battery mounts used for both batteries
- Military style battery clamps
Lift height and suspension modifications
Front Dana 44 Twin-Traction Beam (TTB) Suspension:
- Autofab cut-n-turned TTB long travel (~16”) suspension system spec’d by John Ehmke (owner of Autofab)
- Bushing mounted extended radius arms
- TTB trussed and reinforced by dpcustomfab/Ogive Industries
- Provides 4” lift (no increase in track width)
- ~16” travel (as advertised)
- Sway-W-Way Race-runner 2.5 reservoir shocks (2 EA per wheel)
- Front crossbar over engine ties in left and right shock hoops
- Racerunner shocks rebuilt and custom tuned/valved by Matt Bell, owner of Desert Speed Shock Tuning (2018)
- Limit straps, custom reservoir mounts
- 4.56:1 ring & pinion by Yukon
- Open differential
Rear Ford 8.8” Axle and Leaf-Spring Suspension:
- Autofab leaf-spring long travel suspension with trailing arms spec’d by John Ehmke (owner of Autofab)
- National/Deaver leaf springs (sourced by Autofab)
- Provides 4” lift
- ~16” travel (as advertised)
- Sway-a-Way “Race-Runner” 2.5 reservoir shocks (1 EA per wheel)
- Racerunner shocks rebuilt and custom-tuned/valved by Matt Bell, owner of Desert Speed Shock Tuning (2018)
- Limit straps
- Axle housing trussed over the third member
- 4.56:1 ring & pinion by Yukon
- 35-spline axles by Yukon
- Ford Racing cast aluminum 8.8 differential cover
- Eaton ‘TruTrac’ Torsen LSD #913A561
- General 35×12.50R15 “Red Letter” off-road radial tires (4.5 years old)
- American Racing 8×15 AR-23 Wheels (4) 5×5.5 PCD
- 35×12.50R15 “Wildcat” off-road radial spare tire on OEM Ford aluminum wheel mounted on swing-away tire carrier
- Blue-anodized steel lug nuts #33004U by Monster Lug at all four wheels
- Spare tire secured with Gorilla wheel lock and matching socket
- OEM Ford ‘Oxford White’ (code: YZ) paint in excellent overall condition
- No fiberglass; all original steel
- Custom fabricated F&R tubular pre-runner bumpers, front brush guard/skid plate (with aluminum plate)
- All tubular pre-runner bumpers, swing-away tire carrier, and hitch are custom powder-coated in “Silver Vein” and “Clear Coat”
- Grade 8 hardware used where possible
- Swing-away tire carrier has been reinforced with oiled brass hinges
- HD receiver-type trailer hitch with 2” tube
- Receiver hitch installed with D-ring recovery shackle by Smittybilt w/ steel locking pin
- Hella Rallye 4000 Euro beam 100W (2) with Hella white protective covers
- Hella 500 Driving 55W (2) DOT with Hella white protective covers and clear covers (currently installed)
- Aftermarket HID projector headlights with halo ring and synchronized turn-signal flasher (replaced OEM Ford lights)
- Rear aftermarket stop/turn light housings with high-intensity bulbs
- Frame and partial sections of the undercarriage have been pressure-washed and then exposed metal acid rinsed and painted with semi-truck detailing paint
- Stock Ford ‘Royal Blue’ (Code: 9V) interior
- HVAC works great; excellent A/C
- Full front-to-rear safety cage (covers entire passenger compartment and is tied into frame @ six separate points)
- Stock Bronco XL instruments, manual windows, manual door locks
- Mastercraft full-suspension ‘original’ off-road racing seats (4): front seats are 2” wider and on sliders, and rear seats are 1” wider than stock; all special ordered in blue/grey two-tone upholstery to match OEM interior
- Mastercraft 2” 4-point safety harnesses (seatbelts) with ‘sewn-in’ shoulder straps at all four seats (all tied directly into safety cage)
- Sony MEX-GS810BH AM/FM/HD radio with CD player
- Massive Audio #BX4 amplifier (4x120W)
- Kicker DS65 (6.5” 2-way oversize) front speakers (2)
- Kicker DS693 (6×9 3-way) rear speakers (2)
- Metra #44-US19 amplified AM/FM antenna
- Steel floor sealed, sound-proofed, padded, and custom carpeted
- Entire safety cage wrapped in blue safety padding
- Overhead grab handles mounted to the safety cage
- Hi-Lift “Patriot-Edition” jack mounted to rear safety cage with OEM mounts
- Wide-angle rear-view mirror
Anything else you would like to share about your vehicle or about the off-roading in general?
– Truly an outstanding truck. And it was the last of the full-size Broncos too!
Watch the progress and find out more about this Ford Bronco project by visiting the Instagram profile of the owner: @denhabr82!
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Automotive journalist and technical writer at Offroadium.com with more than 10 years of experience in the sphere of aftermarket parts and 4×4 vehicle modifications. Passionate about off-roading, outdoor adventures, and an active lifestyle.