The Ford Bronco is one of the most iconic American 4x4s, introduced in the mid-1960s as a compact off-roading vehicle. It was designed to be cost-efficient, so it had a very square body style with straight bumpers and flat windows to keep tooling and production costs down. However, as we’ve seen with the Land Rover, this simple approach to car design can often lead to a surprisingly popular car. The Bronco would befall a similar fate to the Land Rover and would become quite the popular machine both on and offroad. Part of this was the fact it came in three distinct body styles, with the open-top roadster being perfect for cruises along the beach front for instance. Even today, early Bronco’s are highly sought-after and can cost quite a bit of money when in perfect condition. But if you’re looking to go beyond that, this Gateway Bronco might be the ideal candidate for you. This remastered, completely handbuilt Bronco can be fully customised to your liking, with three available engine configurations and a ton of bespoke options!
Birth of the Bronco
The Ford Bronco is the brainchild of Ford Product Manager Donald N. Frey, also the man responsible for giving us the legendary Ford Mustang. His idea was to create a compact off-road vehicle to compete with the Jeep CJ-5, the International Harvester Scout and the Toyota Land Cruiser. The Bronco is considered the daddy of the Sports Utility Vehicle, or SUV, even long before that term became popular. It was first introduced in 1966 and featured a two-door body style in three available configurations; a two-door wagon, a half-cab pick-up and an open-body roadster. The chassis was developed specifically for the Bronco and it always came with four-wheel drive. Engines ranged from a 2.8-litre straight six to a 4.9-litre small block V8, all connected to either a manual or automatic three-speed transmission.
From very early on, the Bronco would be entered in long-distance off-road races. Bill Stroppe, a legendary American race car builder would enter multiple cars in events such as the Mint 400, Baja 500 and Mexico 1000 (later known as the Baja 1000). The most famous racing Bronco of all is without a doubt ‘Big Oly‘, also built by Bill Stroppe and raced by Rufus Parnell “Parnelli” Jones. This was a full-fledged ground-up built off-road racer that very much looked like the Bronco but came with some incredible engineering concepts to combat the gruelling 1,000-mile event. Things like an adjustable roof-mounted wing, an upswept windshield to prevent dust from entering the cabin, retractable high-beam roof lights, a built-in drinking system and more. You can read the entire story in one of our previous episodes of The Petrolhead Corner.
The first generation of the Ford Bronco would last a little over a decade, as the second generation was introduced in 1977. This grew in size and had an altered design but still followed the initial concept of the 1966 Bronco. It now entered the so-called full-size SUV segment, aimed squarely against the Chevrolet K5 Blazer and Jeep Cherokee. This generation wouldn’t last long though as the development of its predecessor had already started before the second-gen Bronco hit the showroom floor. Introduced in 1980, it had updated drivetrains to provide better fuel efficiency. The fourth and fifth generation followed in 1986 and 1992, yet sales slowly declined through the years, leading to the Bronco’s discontinuation in 1996.
Fast forward about a quarter of a century though, and the iconic Bronco made it’s long-awaited comeback! It had been rumoured and teased for a number of years already, but in 2020 Ford finally put the Bronco back in production. The boxy shape is still very recognizable although it’s completely new from head to toe. It’s done sort of in the line of the current Land Rover Defender. You can easily identify it as one, but it’s miles ahead of the old models obviously. The new Bronco proved so popular that there were long waiting lists at dealerships and cars were sold at a serious premium, especially the two-door model which captured the essence of the original Bronco.
The Gateway bronco
The Gateway Bronco company was founded by Seth Burgett, a man who has been deeply passionate about Ford since he was a kid. At the age of 12, he started an engine repair shop in the shed of his parent’s house. This quickly got out of hand, in a good way, and fuelled his passion even more to the point he wanted to pursue a career. During his working life, he mastered skills in engineering and invented a number of industry-firsts. In 2008 he started a sports headphones company, which became hugely successful and was eventually sold in 2014. Returning to his Ford-loving roots, he then founded Gateway Bronco in 2016 and started the development of a restomod take on the Bronco. It’s no surprise Seth would select the Bronco as his vehicle of choice since his company owns the first-ever Bronco built.
Based in Hamel, Illinois (USA), Gateway Bronco creates what is essentially the ultimate rendition of the legendary boxy 4×4. In the spirit of Henry Ford’s revolutionary assembly line manufacturing process, Gateway Bronco rebuilds each car from the ground up, moving it from station to station. The company mainly uses first-gen Bronco’ as a base vehicle, meaning they were built somewhere between 1966 and 1977. Everything that needs to be done to get the Bronco in the best possible state, is done to the car. The chassis is straightened and strengthened if needed, the body is completely repaired and straightened if needed, and so on. Gateway Bronco uses only the best available materials and components, and everything is done in-house, in the 60,000-square-foot facility (a little over 5,500 m2).
Three levels of bespoke builds
To make it simple, Gateway Bronco offers three different routes for a build, all neatly presented in the company’s online configurator (try it out, it’s very cool!). First up is the Fuelie, the simplest of the three. This basically keeps most of the car’s original parts and restores it to perfection. Although components can be replaced where needed, OEM parts are used wherever possible. You get 4-wheel disc brakes and a full three-year warranty. The car will be fitted with a 5.0 litre Ford Coyote V8 crate engine that’s also found in the Mustang. On top of that, you get tons of options for the paint, the interior, the exterior trim and so on. The next level available is the Coyote edition which comes with an updated suspension system by Kincer, active ride control and an extended warranty. This too uses the Coyote engine, which produces about 460bhp.
But in all honesty and while we’re at it anyway, the one you want is the Bronco Luxe GT, the top-level Gateway Bronco. This gives you all the options available from Gateway Bronco and a choice of three drivetrains. The basic 5.0l Coyote V8, a Roush supercharged variant of it, or a fully elective drivetrain. You also get a fully independent suspension system, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control and so on. And just as with Fuelie and Coyote editions, you can spec your Bronco whichever way you want.
The possibilities are basically endless as you can have metallic, matte, patina or carbon fibre paints and so on. There are also different stripes and liveries available to add even more 1960s-1970s flair. There are options for a spare wheel, the style for the grill and tailgate, the roof, the bumpers, etc. On the inside, you can install different types of roll cages, wood flooring, gauge clusters, various levels of audio systems, and whatnot.
Mind you, all this extra does push up the price quite a bit, as it tends to with any restomod/remastered car available. The Fuelie is the least expensive model, starting at a base price of USD 180,000. Next up is the Coyote edition, which starts at USD 250,000. Depending on the options you’ve selected, this will easily be bumped up quite a bit. But if you’re really looking to go all-out and want a Bronco Luxe GT, you’re starting at USD 400,000 for the non-supercharged V8. Adding the supercharger will push that to USD 450,000 (roughly) and the full EV drivetrain has a base price of north of USD 600,000.
So yes, while it looks insanely cool, the Gateway Bronco comes with a hefty price tag whichever way you look at it. However, considering the incredible attention to detail and the expert craftsmanship involved, you do get the finest Bronco imaginable, which potentially makes you the King of Cool when cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway!
For more information, please visit GatewayBronco.com
This post first appeared on Monochrome Watches - An online magazine dedicated to fine watches.