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Detonation: Week to Wheelin’

Detonation

John Lehenbauer
Jul 12, 2019

While many of you were preparing for the Fourth of July holiday, I spent the week of June 24, 2019 working on the Four Wheeler Network's second Week to Wheelin' truck build, a '74 Ford Bronco, in the Motor Trend Group's Santa Ana, California, Tech Center. I must say, it was a lot of fun and very rewarding—especially when we got the 302ci engine fired up for the first time on the final day.

For those not familiar with Week to Wheelin', it is the Four Wheeler Network's version of the Week to Wicked online series (videos and editorial) of car and truck builds performed by the staff members of different Motor Trend Group publications (Hot Rod, Super Chevy, JP, and such). This time, it was Four Wheeler magazine's turn.

Each build differs in its complexity. Some have a lot more to accomplish in a week than others. It could be as simple as modifying a newer truck with suspension, tires, and accessories, or as intensive as doing an engine/transmission swap along with suspension upgrades, paint, and interior on a classic ride. And other builds go even further. This Bronco was one of them, as there was no donor vehicle to use as a starting point for reference or as a parts source.

We started from scratch with a new, bare reproduction Bronco frame and body that had been painted, and a huge pile of parts that consisted of practically everything needed to make a functioning vehicle. However—and anyone who has built a car or truck will understand this—building a truck or car is normally a multi-week, if not several-month process of getting components to match up, fit right, and function properly. And to add to the complexity, the Bronco build was more of a restomod effort, which involves working with a lot of aftermarket parts that may or may not be specific for a Bronco. And we were given five days to make it all work.

Photo 2/2   |   Detonation Week To Wheelin

But, from experience, I know conquering a challenge is much more rewarding than a simple mundane routine. So, with no hesitation we (the build crew) jumped in and started charging hard from go. The first day of the build, we had all the suspension and axles under the frame, and by day's end, a rolling chassis was completed. The next five days were more of the same: Everyone came in ready to get to it and they did, making great progress each day.

Of course, not everything went exactly as planned. There were aftermarket performance and restoration parts and nuances with the reproduction frame that made things interesting at times (like having to install a modern Ford Performance high-output 302ci V-8 engine with an AOD four-speed automatic transmission and an Advance Adapters Atlas transfer case into a body and frame designed to fit a dimensionally smaller 302). And, keep in mind, the body was freshly painted, so exterior modifications were minimal at best.

Defining the Bronco's electrical makeup was also a bit of a challenge at times. If it had simply been a matter of wiring the truck for a bone-stock powertrain and accessories, the job would have been easy. But, as I mentioned before, this was a restomod, not a restoration, so the new Painless Performance Products stock replacement wiring harness had to be adapted to a Dakota Digital instrument cluster, Holley Sniper EFI system and distributer, high-torque starter, and a one-wire alternator, along with all the stock electrical components. At times, there were a lot of colored wires that had to be sorted through and harnesses opened to find the proper wire.

Even with some of the complexities encountered, the camaraderie of the build team was part of the reason the whole thing was so successful. If anyone needed a hand, a tool, or help in any way, someone was there to offer assistance.

The challenge of having the cards slightly stacked against us was part of what made it such a fun experience. If the build was been a piece of cake, it would have probably been a bit too humdrum. Check out what we accomplished at fourwheeler.com.
John

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