Ford Broncos are notorious for being some of the greatest platforms for building an off-road prerunner, from bombing through deserts to the rock crawling in the mountains. The Ford Twin Traction Beams have proven their worth time and time again throughout decades of continuous engineering. This has been especially true for our friend Michael Cox from the Bronco Factory and his insane LS Powered Bronco that has even jumped his truck over a Mclaren. But what about those smaller Bronco II’s that look like an explorer? Michael and Vince Scopen decided that the Bronco II needed some love, so they cut a 1988 Bronco II and turned it full prerunner because why not? You might as well keep it in the Ford family, right?
Because I am an automotive history nerd, let’s dive into the disastrous history of the Bronco II that led to over 823 deaths due to rollovers – to this day, known as one of the deadliest vehicles in production over the past 50 years. In 1983 the Bronco II was released; it was an effort not to join in on the SUV craze but to only downsize from the full-size Bronco to compete with the Jeep Cherokee XJ and Chevy S10 Blazer. Before it was released to the public, Ford knew about its tendency to roll over at low speed; they even canceled certain testing maneuvers because they worried about the drive. But production continued on and went on sale in 1983. When an investigation was opened on Ford, 53 out 100 requested documents had disappeared with evidence that engineers knew about the problem prior to releasing it to the public.
Years later, over 100 lawsuits opened up against Ford and paid out millions of dollars to people who had suffered from the crashes. In 1992, the New York Times claimed Ford faced a total of $742 million in 13 lawsuit claims. Of course, they had to redesign this platform, and thus, the Explorer was born, and Ford will never name anything Bronco II again.
So how do you fix the fatal flaw of a Bronco II? You widen the track width and get the center of gravity down lower, and Michael did just a little more than that. His affinity for all things Broncos started with a 1988 Ford Bronco II. He completely tore it down and built it into a simple mini Bronco sender ready for anything and most importantly it is no longer deadly.
Starting with the wheelbase, he stretched it to a 98-inch wheelbase and pushed the suspension geometry and much as possible while keeping it simple.
In front retained the 4wd Dana 35 TTB modifying the beams 4″ wider per side with King Coil-overs resulting in 17″ of wheel travel. The rear was built for simplicity, a custom set of Deaver leaf springs, and a King bypass shocks still making 17″ of wheel travel. Michael thought there was no need to link it; maybe in the future, he will; after all, it is a build just to go have fun in.
There is no way around talking about the massive K&N Carbon Fiber air filter sticking out of the hood. There surely must be a massive 8-stack high horsepower engine in it, right? Well, no, sort of. It has a Ford 302 V8 with a 4 barrel carb on in. So no high horsepower but a V8 nonetheless, the air filter is for aesthetics to flow into the over-the-top but straightforward theme of the build. It looks fantastic, simple fun.
The 302 V8 sends the power out back to a manual transmission to 5:13 gears and a Ford 8.8-inch rear axle to spin the massive 37 inch BFG tires. They used an old turning brake from a former Formula Drift car that Michael built years ago as the gear shifter; it is an excellent way to repurpose an old part.
The overall goal was to build something different and straightforward so starting from the inside, they kept that motif as a complete custom dash to the Bronco II doesn’t even have a speedo or tach. But what it lacks in fancy gadgets and gizmos it makes up for in pure function, such as having a full roll cage and a completely sealed cabin and fuel cell.
The Bronco II has an almost cartoonish look, and that is sort of the point. Over the top, loud and fun with the massive flares and tires. Michael, Vince, and the rest of the Bronco Factory team absolutely nailed it on this build and now has us envious wanting to build a Bronco II of our own. So is this Bronco II the most deadly prerunner? Of course not Michael and Vince fixed it. And yes, the googly eyes are functional.
Chassis: 1988 Ford Bronco II
Engine: Ford 308 5 Speed Manual transmission
Exhaust: Custom Bronco Factory Exhaust
Tire: 37x 12.50x 17 BFG Baja TA
Wheels: KMC Robby Gordon Beadlocks
Front suspension: Dana 35 TTB 4″ over 17″ Wheel Travel 5.13 gears
Rear Suspension: Custom Deaver Leaf Springs 17″ Wheel Travel Ford 8.8 Axle 5.13 gears
Shocks: King Off-road Racing Internal Bypass 2.5 Shocks