Ford’s not the only company bringing back the Bronco
Ford Motor Co. recently announced that it will build — in Michigan — a new Bronco sport utility vehicle, with availability beginning for the 2020 model year. But another company, Gateway Bronco of Hamel, Illinois (a community 30 miles northeast of St. Louis, Missouri) is updating and selling original Broncos.
Well, it is selling most of them. At the recent Barrett-Jackson collector car auction in Scottsdale, Arizona, Gateway Bronco displayed its modified Broncos alongside a pair of recently verified historic models — the first Bronco built and the prototype for the 1969 Boss Bronco.
Gateway founder Seth Burgett acquired the first Bronco, or as he’d put it, “became the steward,” last October. At Barrett-Jackson, he shared the vehicle’s story:
That first Bronco — VIN UF4FS732000 — was a half-cab built in August 1966 at Ford’s Michigan pilot production plant, in part to test assembly jigs and fixtures before series production would launch that fall at the Michigan Truck Plant.
The Bronco was painted teal green and carried a six-cylinder engine. After Ford engineers were finished with their work with the vehicle, the truck went to none other than Carroll Shelby and his Hi Performance Motors company and his Christmas Mountains Land & Cattle Company near the Mexican border in Terlingua, Texas.
But beforehand, Shelby driver Bob Parker delivered it to the Shelby American shop near Los Angeles, where the Bronco was repainted red and white and the six-cylinder engine was replaced by a 289-cubic-inch V-8 powerplant.
In 1978, Harold Wynn, a ranch hand who had done much of the maintenance on the truck through the years, negotiated the used Bronco’s sale, sans wheels and tires, to Vincent Yakubanski, the local Ford dealer, for $100. “Vinnie” Yakubanski had the truck repainted two-tone blue and gray and used it as a family vehicle, often taking trips to the mountains in Wyoming — and cooking hot dogs wrapped in tin foil on the V-8 engine’s intake manifold along the way.
Also displayed at Barrett-Jackson was Gateway’s 1969 Boss Bronco prototype, now part of the Comer Collection. Ford designer Larry Shinoda and off-road racer Bill Stroppe worked with Kar-Kraft to create the Boss Bronco, named for “Bunkie” Knudsen, the Ford president whom Shindoa and Stroppe hoped would approve the prototype for series production.
Modifications included a blueprinted 210S-code 351 Windsor V8 engine, four-speed automatic transmission and 4.11:1 front- and rear-mounted limited-slip differentials, as well as off-road racing suspension (Stroppe was a star in Baja racing), and the hood scoop from a Mercury Cougar Eliminator muscle car.
The truck remained a one-off, however, after Lee Iacocca fired Knudsen; in fact, the truck was supposed to be destroyed, but instead was included in the Kar-Kraft liquidation sale in late 1970. It wasn’t until last year that old Kar-Kraft documents were found that verified the truck as the one and only Boss Bronco.
While the first and Boss Broncos are not on the market, Gateway does take old Broncos, still wearing their original paint, restores them, installs new high-performance running gear and updated interiors and sells them. For more information, visit www.gatewaybronco.com
Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. You can reach him at email@example.com.