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1979 Ford Bronco Build: The Ballistic Bronco Redux

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Appealing to nostalgia can be a tricky proposition in the automotive business. While models like the Chevy Suburban have been around continuously since the 1930s, not many manage to last that long. Occasionally, companies reintroduce names previously thought to be extinct in an effort to make people want to relive their past and possibly win over some new fans.

VW dusted off the Beetle for another go-around, but after a respectable second act, it was ultimately retired again not long ago. Ford attempted to revive the Thunderbird and appeal to baby boomers with a design reminiscent of its 1955 inception, yet three years later they called it quits. Well, OK boomer! As e-cars become increasingly popular, an electric version of the Hummer is set to go on sale in 2021. What’s the over-under this green new deal develops a reputation beyond bro-dozer for hipsters? Place your bets.

1979 Ford Bronco

The Blue Oval announced some time ago that it was rereleasing the Bronco this September after being shelved back in 1996. While we’ve seen some “revealed” images of the new design (that looks suspiciously like a glorified Explorer), it’s too soon to tell if this homage will manage to top its initial 30-year run. Back in Issue 17, we showed you our editor-in-chief’s 1979 Ford Bronco, affectionately known as the Ballistic Bronco. Since then it’s had some upgrades, and we felt the timing couldn’t be better to help spur the sentimentality some of our readers may feel about a model that’s now seeing a revamp. So here’s what’s new with Harrison’s 1979 Ford Bronco. 

The builder, Dominic Janeway, had marching orders to make it look dark and mean. Cosmetically, it had previously been wrapped in vinyl, which was covering a rattle-can enamel paintjob. Needless to say, the metal fatigue and dings that had accumulated over 40 years could no longer be ignored. It took about two weeks of prep work in order to get it ready for paint. The body was hammered out and resurfaced to give it a proper foundation for its new coat of stealth, low-gloss gunmetal gray. Holes where trim originally resided were filled in to keep with the sleek new look.

1979 Ford Bronco suspension

Being an Arizona truck meant that the chassis and body were corrosion-free, so adding extended control arms was easy.

The original C6 transmission was retained, rebuilt, and fitted with a Monster Transmission low-stall torque converter. Skyjacker generously donated one of its 4-inch lift kits with Black MAX shocks as well as spacers to account for change in driveshaft-to-pinion gear angle. This required the addition of a dropped Pitman arm and modified suspension towers up front to make room for an extra pair of shocks, which were added in order to stiffen up the front end, as extended control arms necessitated removal of the sway bar. Bronco aficionados are undoubtedly familiar with Duff Tuff, which provided extended radial arms modified to fit the truck. Anyone familiar with this generation of Broncos knows the original brakes sucked, and adding bigger tires make them suck more. Since Iain replaced the original engine with a 460 big-block some time ago, upgrading the stopping power was a no-brainer. Accouterments came courtesy of Wild Horses Four Wheel Drive in the way of new stainless steel plumbing and a larger master cylinder.

1979 Ford Bronco Interrior

Secure storage and gun racks give a clue as to what the truck's job entails.

Bumpers were cut down a bit and repainted black. The old-school halogen illumination was upgraded with a set of LED trail and infrared lighting from Rigid Industries on the front bumper and on top of the cab, which when lit up give the appearance of a second sun. Brake and side marker lights were given some translucent black lenses to keep with the stealthy dress code. The increased demand for current now meant more power was needed to operate the new electronics, so rewiring the stock dash was the next order of business. A Tuffy Products steel-locking center console was installed in the cab for obvious reasons, and gun mounts from Blac-Rac bolted to the internal roll cage. New upholstery from 4 Wheel Parts completed the cab, while the cargo area was treated to sliding drawers, outlined in RECOIL Issue 43.

1979 Ford Bronco

Although this is a work, rather than show, truck, the black accents and matte gray body always get attention in the parking lot. Note IR driving lights for stealth mode.

Nowadays, this horse is finally looking a little more like a stud and a little less like it was rode hard and put away wet. Like any good project, you never really finish it, you just start on another area. Although originally this was a two-year-only body design, thankfully the aftermarket parts supply for these Broncos is fairly forgiving if you want to have a go at rebuilding one yourself. Hard to believe that just a few years ago trucks of this era were regarded by many as gas-guzzling pigs. Nowadays, older Broncos command sums of money that make you wish you’d held onto them when they had that reputation. They’re only going up in value.

1979 Ford Bronco

It’s easy to look at this no-frills build and understand why these trucks still have a loyal following. You don’t need to do much to make them look good. They’re simple, rugged, and still stylish all these years later. If we had to choose between fixing this one up and purchasing one of the impending revamps, it’s not hard to figure out why we’d open our wallets for the older bottle of wine. Forty years from now, we doubt we’ll see anyone restoring the Broncos soon to hit dealerships.

[Editor's Note: This Article First Appeared in RECOIL #50. Photos by Kendra Lenseigne.]

1979 Ford Bronco: The Ballistic Bronco

Engine: 460ci V-8
Transmission: C6 Automatic
URL: @recoilboss

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