1976 Ford Broncos - Wild Horses
A Pair Of Off-Road Hot Rods
We've done numerous tech stories and shot features built by our friends at South County Customs, so when we learned about the pair of Broncos that were being built in their shop, we were all ears. Former teammates on the Kansas City Chiefs, Kyle Turley and John Welbourn both picked up first-generation Ford Broncos and left them in the capable hands of the guys at South County Customs for total transformations.
When South County first received John's '76 Bronco, dubbed "Christine," it already had a Hawaii Racing 351ci V-8 that churned out 525 hp through a five-speed transmission. The First gear is so low, and the Bronco is so light, that it's reserved for off-road duties, while Second through Fifth leave plenty of gears to grab on the street. With a good foundation and a pallet of parts from Wild Horses, a Stockton, California, Bronco specialty store, the build was underway.
Procar Elite seats and a Tuffy Series II center console were bolted into the interior, after the body tub was spayed with Line-X. You won't find anything fancy in the interior, just functional factory gauges with an Auto Meter tach, an Alpine head unit with a few speakers, and no sub. Where South County really went wild was the exterior. All of the body trim and the tubular rear bumper, sourced from Wild Horses, were powdercoated semi-gloss black. Meanwhile, the body was thoroughly prepped and ready for PPG Lamborghini Orange-just the thing to turn heads when the top's off.
Before the Bronco was ready for duty, it needed a real suspension, so again, Wild Horses was called upon. South County Customs ordered a 2-inch body lift and a 3-1/2-inch suspension lift, so it would clear 35/12.5R15 Goodyear Wrangler MT/R tires. The ride on the road was a bit scary, due to the 40-year-old suspension design, but it sure was a blast to feel more than 500 horses push the mini-utility down the road.
When Kyle's Bronco landed at South County, it was not in very good shape. Although the 302ci V-8 and C6 transmission were running strong, there were obvious problems just below the surface. After a lot of rust removal and floorboard replacement, the guys stripped all of the trim and had it powdercoated gloss black. For contrast, the body was shot with Kustom Shop Hot Rod Flatz flat black. Geared a little more toward an off-road look, Kyle chose a tubular front bumper and 5,000-pound Warn winch for the front.
Of course, suspension work was necessary, so a 5-1/2-inch suspension lift and a 3-inch body lift were installed to give the Bronco the needed height for 37/12.5R17 Goodyear Wrangler MT/R tires and 17x9-inch Pro Comp wheels. One more wheel and Goodyear tire combo was mounted onto the swing-out tire carrier on the bumper, right beside the 5-gallon gas can. Wild Horses also came through with a disc brake conversion, so the huge tires no longer overpowered the old drums.
Inside the flat black beast is an interior that's almost identical to John's. Procar Elite seats, this time with regular lap and shoulder seatbelts; as opposed to the four-point harnesses found in the orange Bronco. Also, it has a Tuffy center console and factory gauges. Dave, who headed up the build of the Broncos at South County, wired the audio system up. He went with a simple Kenwood CD head unit to power speakers mounted behind the rear seats.
There you have it, nearly twin trucks that do double-duty cruising and wheeling. After spending just a few miles behind the wheel of one of the Broncos, our dream truck wish list grew by a factor of one. Our hats are off to the guys at South County for turning out two fun rides, but also to Kyle and John, for their good taste in classic 4x4s. Special thanks to Johnny at Wild Horses, who was a huge help to Dave when building both Broncos. His knowledge saved a lot of time and kept both builds rolling. Check out "Rust Revival," page 192 in this issue, for some under-construction photos of the Broncos.