Bucking Ford Bronco

Great vintage trucks like this 1974 Bronco aren’t bought. They’re built.

1974 Ford Bronco right side three quarter
Building an older truck is a labor of love. You go into it knowing that from here on in, you’re going to have to do most of the wrenching yourself if you want anything to turn out right, because most of today’s mechanics have long since stopped tuning carburetors, and threw away those old shop manuals ten or more years old.

You probably won’t have modern conveniences like cruise control, air conditioning or power seats, and if you want a lift kit, you may just have to build your own. But then again, if you’re like Tom Bender, you probably don’t care—because when you’re finished, you’ll have a truck that will never be mistaken for someone else’s.

1974 Ford Bronco left side three quarter
Ever since high school, Bender took a liking to the squared-off, all-business look of the 70’s era Ford Bronco—but it wasn’t until just three short years ago that he finally laid his mitts on the example you see here. Owned by a friend of Bender’s at the time, the truck wasn’t in near the shape you see here—but it was a good enough building block to get Bender’s creative juices flowing. Of course, being a professional mechanic and owner of Bender’s Automotive in Covina, CA. didn’t hurt either, as he would have all the tools, space and know-how to get the job done to his liking.

Naturally, no burly Bronco worth the earth it’s driving over would be equipped with a wimpy powerplant, so Bender made sure his truck would be up to any task with a warmed-over 351W V-8. The engine turns a stock .010 under crank, stock rods with ARP bolts and .030-over Keith Black pistons squeezing a 10:1 compression ratio. A Competition Cams split-duration cam features .493-inch lift on the intake, .500-inch on the exhaust, and 262/270 degrees of duration, respectively.

351 cid Windsor small block engine in 1974 Ford Bronco
The engine inhales through a stock intake manifold fitted with a Holley 600 cfm Truck Avenger Series Carburetor and K&B air filter, and exhales through custom-made Headers and 2-1/2-inch exhaust sporting Dynomax mufflers. Bender reports that the combo is good for 365 ponies and 420 lb.-ft. of torque, which is routed through the stock 3-speed manual tranny with Hurst shifter and sent to the wheels via custom driveshafts, a Ford 9-inch housing with Eaton 4:10 gearing rear and a Dana 44 up front. A freeway cruiser, it’s not—but that’s not what Tom built it for.

Ford Ranchero front Fox suspension lift kit
What it was built for is bullying the backwoods—and thus Bender has equipped the Bronco appropriately. He used 3-1/2-inch lift Wild Horses coil springs along with welded-on shock hoops, Rancho shocks and a modified Pitman arm up front, 3-1/2-inch lift leaf springs and Rancho RS9000X adjustable shock absorber and extended e-brake cables out back to get the suspension where it needed to be.

Rancho RS9000X suspension lift Ford Ranchero
He then added a two inch body lift for a total altitude increase of 5-1/2-inches– enough to clear 35 x 12.5 x 15-inch BFG Mud Terrain tires mounted on American Racing 10 x 8-inch wheels. The front brakes consist of 11-inch disc brakes with Delco calipers, while the rears are stock 10-inch drum brakes.

To give the Bronco just the right look, he had it custom painted yellow by the folks at Star Body & Paint, also of Covina. Other details include fiberglass fender flares, Wild Horses front and rear bumpers, a Warn 9.5ti thermometric self-recovery winch and Cibie driving lights.

1974 Ford Bronco interior
Inside, Bender’s Bronco is as comfortable as it is functional. There’s gray carpet on the floor but diamond plate on the door panels. Seats and five-point harnesses are by Master Craft, while the center console is courtesy Tuffy Products. There’s also a Pioneer sound system installed by Wong Stereo services in Chino Hills, CA.

1974 Ford Bronco flamed gas tank at the rear
The cool, flamed gas tank at the rear gives a hint of some of the custom features on this Bronco. Bender has really built himself a beautiful Bronco that works as well as it looks. Vintage trucks like this are a dying breed—so it’s a good thing that he teaches his craft at nearby Citrus College. With any luck, he’ll pass on his passion for vintage iron to some of his students, so awesome rides like this Bronco will be recognized and revered for years to come.

1974 Ford Bronco front

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