Classic Bronco Restoration GuideLast Updated August 4, 2019 | Sam Padgett
Somewhere out there, in some barn, scrapyard, or field, there’s a first gen Bronco that with a little TLC can kick just as hard as it used to. Restoring a Bronco is a wonderfully rewarding experience. Not only is the process itself worthwhile, but the results can be fantastic as well; a Bronco is a blast to drive.
If restoring a Bronco is worth the effort and money to you, then you've come to the right place. Not only do we have all of the parts that you'll need, but we have also written this guide in order to give you a broad sense of what restoring a Bronco entails. There is a lot to this process, and it won’t always be the same for everybody.
Starting Your Bronco Restoration
Without further ado, let’s start at the very beginning (that’s a very good place to start). There are plenty of different ways that your Bronco restoration can go. The first big thing to decide is whether you would like to fully restore a Bronco, or restomod one. Basically, if you want to enter Bronco shows and keep everything as authentic as possible, then restoration is for you. If this is not important for you and you wouldn’t mind modernizing your Bronco, then you should consider restomodding. There are plenty of reasons for either option, but it’s absolutely necessary to make this decision right up front.
Once you have set your sights on a particular type of restoration, then you will need to take stock of your life. How much time and money are you willing to spend resuscitating a classic 4X4? Are you sure that you won’t get tired of the project halfway through and end up with a garage full of Bronco odds and ends? Finally, when would you like to be done with your project? These are all things that you should carefully consider before starting your restoration. The Bronco is a wonderful vehicle, you wouldn’t want to leave one hanging, would you?
Independent of time and money constraints, you should also consider your ability to work on cars as well. Restoring a vehicle is one of the more involved car projects out there; in a sense, you are essentially rebuilding an entire vehicle, and any gaps in your vehicular knowledge will surely be tested. If you don’t feel comfortable with everything, however, you can always ask for a little help from your friends (who may or may not be well acquainted with old Broncos).
It’s a good idea to browse our selection of 1966-1977 Bronco parts before you begin restoring your vehicle. Not only can this help you get a better idea of the parts that you might need, but it can also help refine your budgeting.
Taking the First Steps
Now that you are squared away, you can begin to dip your toes into the Bronco waters. Even if you have had your eyes set on a specific Bronco that you want to spruce up, it’s still a great idea to go find your local Bronco clubs. The Ford Bronco has a robust fandom, and there is someone out there who can help walk you through this process. This is especially useful if you are planning on doing a full restoration. If you want to win some awards with your Bronco, you will certainly want the help of someone who is well acquainted with the scene.
Beyond that, it’s also best to lay as many different pairs of eyes on the Bronco that you are planning on restoring or restomodding before you buy one. Even if you are an eagle-eyed observer, you are liable to miss something on a vehicle as big as the Bronco. Keep in mind, this is likely going to be very different than buying a normal used vehicle from someone. Instead of thinking about the vehicle’s immediate roadworthiness, you ought to be thinking about the vehicle farther down the line. How bad is the rust? Will the frame need significant repairs? What (if anything) can be refurbished and reused? There are plenty of questions like this, and it’s best to consider them all before you invest too much time and energy into your Bronco.
Bronco Restoration Gameplan
There are plenty of different parts to any vehicle, so it is a bit daunting to decide where to start first. Again, this could be radically different for you depending on your goals and the state of your project vehicle. That being said, let’s assume that you are working with a completely worn down Bronco, full of cracking paint, rust, and odd mystery stains all over the interior. In this case, the whole vehicle needs attention.
Body and Chassis
This is one of the most work-intensive parts of the restoration or restomodding procedure. Depending on the level of rust, working on the body and chassis of a Bronco could require quite a lot of welding and cutting. You will need plenty of tools to complete the whole restoration process, but the tools needed for the body are the heavier duty ones. If you don’t have access to a welder, there surely is a shop (or a friend) who can help you out.
Keep in mind, the condition of your Bronco’s body and chassis may not be absolutely clear until some of the outer parts have been stripped down. In that case, you should be prepared to work on these parts of the vehicle even if you think you might not have to. It is highly recommended to complete a frame-off restoration, as it is much easier to work on the frame itself, and you won't be stuck with a bad frame later in the process.
Engine and Transmission
This spot in the restoration process can go either way. During this phase, you may simply need to clean up the engine and transmission, and replace some fluid and call it a night, or you might have to gut everything and replace it entirely.
Additionally, if you plan on restomodding your Bronco, then this is where a lot of the major performance upgrades are going to come into play. If you want to perform a Coyote swap on your Bronco, then this is the time to install it. Keep in mind, this step in the restoration process is liable to be one of the more expensive ones. Engine and transmission components (especially modern ones) can cost a pretty penny, so be prepared to front the cost.
If you are going the restomod route, upgrading the transmission is critical as well. The first gen Bronco’s three-speed transmissions (both manual and automatic) leave a lot to be desired, as it seriously limits your speed and fuel efficiency. This is another good thing to consider replacing with modern components.
Suspension and Driveline
The Bronco is a wild 4X4, and it surely needs a hearty suspension system to back it up. Beyond that, all of the necessary joints, the differentials, and a transfer case are super important to give your Bronco the off-roading skills that it ought to have.
Since these components deal with a fair amount of wear and tear, they should all be replaced. Even on a standard wheeling rig, replacing the various struts and joints is a must. If you are planning on a restomod, then this is another great place to upgrade your Bronco.
Brakes and Electrical
While not as exciting as the engine, frame, or suspension, the brakes and other electrical elements of your Bronco are just as important. You can’t really go anywhere if you can’t stop, right?
There are a lot of minor steps for this process, and this would be a very opportune time to purchase a manual to get a clearer idea of how the Bronco’s electric and braking system is set up. For most restorations, it’s practically guaranteed that you will need to replace the brake lines and fill them back up with fluid.
If you are restomodding your Bronco, then you might also want to consider upgrading its brakes (especially if you dropped a Ford coyote engine in there). The brakes on the first gen Broncos are lacking, and a car with the size of a Bronco better be able to stop when required.
Interior and Exterior
At this point in the restoration process, your Bronco should practically be roadworthy. That being said, there are a few important things to take care of on the inside. For one, first, gen Broncos do not come with seatbelts. There’s no way to avoid getting tickets if you can not click it! However, that is the main thing on the insides that can prevent your Bronco from working as a functional vehicle. Whatever else you do to the interior is up to your taste.
The exterior is quite important though. The Bronco is a handsome car, and can really turn heads if restored properly. Either you can go with the classic Ford Bronco look and find the exact paint code for a 1966-1977 Bronco, or you could pick an entirely new color. Besides a paint job, you also might want to find a replacement ford logo to place on the Bronco, or maybe even powder coat some of the exterior trim.
Tips and Tricks
As with any other project, one of the most important things for restoring your Bronco is having a clean and organized workspace. Restoration requires a lot of tools and parts, and they can easily get lost and disappear if your work zone is in chaos. That being said, you don’t have to have an absolutely meticulous organization, but rather, some system that can work for you. We all know how tricky those 10mm bolts can be.
In addition to that, be sure to have a space dedicated to working on your Bronco. The restoration process takes some time, and you won’t want to impede yourself too much. If you don’t have enough space, you can always rent out a garage or space in an auto shop that allows such a thing.
More than anything, however, be willing to ask for help. An undertaking like this shouldn't be done alone. From small tips and tricks to helpful top-level strategies, the more people you consult during your Ford Bronco restoration, the better the results will be.
There (of course) is much more to the restoration or restomodding process than explained above. This process requires you to pore over every single detail of your Bronco, so the more help you can get, the better. If you are looking for some guidance, or simply want to watch someone else go through the restoration process, then check out our Youtube channel. Otherwise, we wish you luck on your journey. With enough effort, you and your Bronco can be riding off into the sunset in no time.
Sources: Classic Broncos | Broncozone
A lot goes into a restoring a Ford Bronco. In order to understand what the process entails, read our guide that explains the basic contours of the project.
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