Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
1971 Ford Bronco
Article by Richard Butschi
Photography by Richard Butschi and Shelby Youngreen
At first glance, one notices nice paint and body work, sitting pretty high, which exaggerates the short (92”) wheelbase. Other than that, “ho, hum”. In 1966, Ford produced the Bronco to compete with the Jeep CJ-5 and International Scout. Production ran to 1996. These were forerunners of SUVs and were tagged “multi-purpose vehicles” (MPVs). They were generally used on farms and ranches in off-road situations, but the short wheelbase of the early Broncos made towing almost impossible. The base engine was a weak 170 cu.in. in-line 6 cylinder. It had flat glass, straight bumpers and even the door skins were interchangeable to keep costs down. Model options included a station wagon, pickup or the less popular roadster, which was dropped early on. Base price was around $2,200, but options were plentiful, ranging from bucket seats, CB radio, snowplows, winches and even a post-hole digger, along with wheels, tires and engines. First year sales totaled 23,776 units, second only to Jeep.
Todd Youngreen, now of CR and Boulder, CO, was a high school junior in Indiana when he acquired his first set of wheels – a 1973 Bronco. As many car guys do, he stayed true to his first love, reuniting with a ‘71 version in 2016. He bumped into this “project” at Eddie’s Rod & Custom and later made a deal with the owner from Waterloo. Metal/body work had been finished and the Bronco was in primer with the drivetrain removed. It sat in CR for a while, but was finally hauled to New Buffalo, MI, by Todd’s father, Pat, where the project was to be completed at US 12 Speed & Custom. Steve Setzer, owner of Performance Concepts in Marion, had completed many projects for Youngreen, and recommended a 2014 Camaro SS LS3 425/430 engine for the Bronco, but the builder had other ideas, installing a 385 rwhp Corvette engine with a NV4500 5-speed transmission. Paint and interior upgrades were also completed there. Youngreen’s wife, Michele, took it for the maiden voyage with disappointing results. Pat had to rescue her, mid-voyage, trailering the Bronco and eventually hauling it to Setzer’s shop in Marion.
Setzer and crew went through the ‘71, noting all aspects that needed attention. The Vette engine was to be replaced with the animalistic LS3 originally suggested. Problem: the exhaust system needed to be snaked through frame rails that were only 23” apart. Solution: take it to Professional Muffler, downtown CR. Problem: discovering there were no defroster ducts. Solution: pull “custom” dash, interior, seats, brackets – start over. Done “in-house.” And so it went with rollbar, stereo speaker location, short driveshaft angle and so on.
The project is now complete, other than some minor tweaking on the Wild Horses suspension. It’s now outfitted with a SPEC clutch, the LS3 engine and NV4500 5-speed with Advance Adapters transfer case, Vintage Air package with serpentine accessories, stainless headers and exhaust, an all-in-one Classic Instruments 7 5/8” “Big Ol’ Gauge” with GPS speedometer, custom roll bar and stereo system.
It didn’t take Youngreen very long to get the blue beauty to Colorado, again courtesy of his retired truck driver father. On one of the first break-in trips, Todd, Michele and younger daughter Shelby, logged over 200 fun-filled miles in the mountains. He now has his mountain bike attached for frequent “coffee breaks.” The family, including older daughter Syndey, have also fallen in love with the manual sunroof with canvas cover that Todd had made in Europe. The Bronco will be a daily driver for the mountains.
There was a second title that came into consideration after research was done for this article - “Shades of Things to Come.” In January of 2017, Ford announced plans for a new Bronco, to be unveiled for 2020. It will likely be a 4-door, 4x4, mid-sized SUV, replacing the Explorer. History does repeat itself.