My 1966 Ford Bronco was purchased new from Hand Ford in La Grande, Oregon by a farmer and used as a farm vehicle for years. It came with a 170 CID 105 HP in-line six cylinder engine, manual three speed transmission with column shift, 411 Ford 9 inch differential, a heater, wheel covers (which I still have the originals) and an AM radio. It was a base model built and used for choirs, like hauling salt licks and pulling a hay wagon.
When I bought the car in the summer of 1995 it only had 58,000 miles on it, but was pretty rough: rust holes in the floor and box bed (too many hauled salt licks), a frozen shock, rotten exhaust, no two tires matched and the transfer case was stuck in 4 low, not to mention that three of the wheel brake cylinders were corroded solid and a couple of valves were burnt. I paid $2,000 for the car and happily spent many summer evenings that year getting it in order and road worthy. As my second Bronco I knew the ropes reasonably well.
For several years I drove it as a second car and light truck using it for camping in the Blue Mountains of NE Oregon, dump runs, helping folks move, and things like that, doing not much more than general maintenance. In the spring of 2007 with about 100,000 on the clock it became apparent that more than a lube, oil and filter were needed. The springs were sagging, the brakes were terrible, and one could watch the road go by simply by looking where the floorboard used to be. The final straw was when the shifting linkage in the steering column broke. It was time to either sell it or put some serious money into it. Some of work I did and some was professionally done: everything from a new aluminum radiator to an Eaton True Track. The original look of a 1966 Ford Bronco Half Cab remained. The 170 was replaced by a 351W crate engine, the 3 speed by a 5 speed NV3550 gear box, the old drum brakes by 4 wheel power discs. The radio is now an am/fm/sx stereo with Bluetooth. There is power steering, automatic electric doorsteps and power windows.
After the new engine and transmission were installed and a bunch of other work done, the desert sand colored paint was beginning to look a little tired so I chose a new color, Dark Metallic Copper because of the way it jumps to life and sparkles in sun light. I cut out the old floorboards from the firewall back to the tailgate and welded in new metal from LMC, then prepped and painted the old Half Cab with that gorgeous Dark Metallic Copper paint and sprayed in a bed liner over all the new flooring.
With the outside looking so good, next came the interior after an under the dash wiring harness fire. The new wiring harness took forever (I means years) to install. Then the bench seat was rebuilt and covered in leather, insulation and carpeting were installed, the dash pulled and painted, a new I-DID-IT tilt & telescoping steering column with a Cobra GT wheel, plus a tachometer.
By this time my paint job was showing signs of “I did it myself,” the doors did not hang correctly and the wind whistled through every crack and crevasse. I decided that a good fit and finish job was beyond my pay grade so I retained the services of one of the finest custom shops in the area. They took the car apart checking everywhere for rust and corrosion. They cleaned inside and out, top and bottom, painted and clear coated, then re-fitted everything correctly with new rubber seals and the works.
I don’t know the exact horsepower of the engine, never having it on the dino, but it is estimated to be between 290 and 315 HP from the Ford SVO crate 5.8 engine with more torque than it will ever need. The carburetor is an Edl 600 cfm and exhaust exiting through Doug Thorly headers with pipes coming out just ahead of the rear wheels on each side with a gorgeous throaty rumble that makes this old man’s heart pound when I hear it. The car drives and stops as well as any Bronco on the road, getting nods and thumbs up from just about every car nut and gear head around. Invoices, receipts, photos and paperwork are kept in an up-to-date presentation book. Now this Half Cab is an absolute beauty, rust free and one of the very nicest old Broncos on the West Coast, taking First in Class at the 2019 Portland Roadster Show.
I hope the next owner enjoys this old Bronco as much as I have, continuing to update and improve it as time goes by.