18 Helpful Early Bronco Restoration Tips That The Pros Use


It’s no secret that early Broncos have become more popular as time passes. There really doesn’t seem to be a time when people didn’t like them; it’s many uses have made it an American favorite since it was made.

Since Ford has set out rumors that it will be releasing the new edition of the Bronco, the craze for early Broncos has increased. If you’re like me, you’ve decided or are thinking about restoring an early Bronco yourself.

While restoring an early Bronco is completely doable, it’s helpful to know a few tips beforehand that will make your restoration process a lot easier. I am currently restoring a 1966 Ford Bronco and I’ve learned a lot through the process. I’ve been able to compile a list of helpful tips that will make your restoration easier and will hopefully leave you feeling less frustrated during the process.

Have End Goal In Mind

Before you get started on any classic car restoration, the first thing you need to do is know exactly what your end goal is. What I mean is, pick out the exterior color, interior color, lifts, rims, body kits, etc. and know exactly how you want your early Bronco to look when you’re done. Take a few days to decide so you know for sure that’s what you want.

Take a few minutes and look at pictures of early Broncos either online, in magazines, or at car shows and decide what you like best. If you find a design you particularly like, print it out and hang it somewhere you know you’ll see every day. Or you can even set it as your desktop screen saver or the background on your phone.

The purpose of this is provide you with the motivation to finish your project. It’s really easy to get pumped up on an early Bronco restoration, but it’s also very easy to deflate and lose some interest in the middle of the project. Seeing that picture will remind you of what you can potentially have sitting in your driveway once you finish.

Make Sure You Have The Space

It’s very important that you have the appropriate space to work in while you restore an early Bronco. A lot of people, including myself, have attempted to restore classic cars in the driveway or parking lot. While it is doable, it’s very difficult and takes up a lot more time because you’re constantly cleaning up after yourself so your neighbors don’t get mad.

Before you start your early Bronco restoration, make sure you have a garage or a shop to work in. This can either be your garage, a friend or family member’s garage, or even a storage unit.

Restoring cars is messy business, so having your own space to work in that will let you get messy makes the whole process a lot easier. Plus, restoring an early Bronco takes a while to do, so if you’re caught in the middle of winter or the rainy season, the garage will keep you out of those elements which enables you to keep working.

It Will Be Expensive

There’s no way to sugar coat this fact, restoring an early Bronco, or any classic car for that matter, is expensive. The cost to restore an early Bronco will range between $15,000 – $30,000 if you plan on doing the restoration yourself. If you have someone else restore it for you, your early Bronco restoration will cost between $35,000 – $50,000 if it’s in medium condition.

With that being said, make sure you have the funds to enable you to pursue a project like this. It’s okay if it takes you a couple of years to get there as long as you keep working at it.

It makes it a lot easier if you make a monthly budget on how much you allow yourself to spend on your early Bronco restoration. This will help keep you in check with your finances and won’t break the bank unexpectedly. It’s very easy to spend more than you thought on parts, so make sure you stick with your budget. For more information on the expenses to restore an early Bronco, click here.

Join Forums And Car Clubs

One of the most helpful things you can do for yourself during your early Bronco restoration is to join Bronco forums as well as some local car clubs. Forums and car clubs may seem a little outdated to some, but the information they can give is quite valuable.

Joining online forums are usually free and you’ll find yourself among many early Bronco lovers who are probably doing the same thing you’re doing. This is a great place to ask questions or ask for helpful tips on a specific part of your restoration you’re stuck on. People are more than willing to help because a lot of them have been there themselves.

Joining local car clubs also gives you a chance to network with other early Bronco lovers. Again, you’ll be able to ask questions and bounce ideas off of other people who have been in the same situation. You may even be able to render some help from them as many car enthusiasts are willing to help a friend out for free.

Do The Restoration In Steps

Starting off on any car restoration can be very overwhelming. There are a million little things aside from the large projects that need to be done and it’s easy to get anxious about it. The best way to combat this is by taking your restoration in steps. These are the steps I always follow in my restorations: dismantle, body work, reinstall large components (engine, transmission, exhaust, and drive line), axles, suspension, brakes, fuel system, electrical and wiring harness, interior, and finally the wheels and tires (click here for the full article on the steps to restore a car).

Take these projects one step at a time. Make a list of what you need to get done and stick to the list. Bouncing from one project to another without finishing will leave you frustrated with no evidence of progress. Complete your restoration in steps and you will see the early Bronco restoration coming together nicely.

Do A Frame-Off Restoration

A lot of classic car restorations don’t necessarily require a frame off restoration, however, I highly recommend you do a frame off restoration for your early Bronco, especially if it’s in rough shape like the one I started with.

Doing a frame off restoration doesn’t actually require as much work as you would think. And you will thank yourself once you put it all back together because the frame and body will look fantastic after treating them individually. I was able to get all the bolts connected to the frame off within a few hours. I had several men in my neighborhood come and help me remove the body from the frame. It wasn’t necessarily heavy, it’s just awkward moving such a huge piece of metal seven feet over to the right. And that part only took about fifteen minutes.

Putting the early Bronco body on several jack stands will give you the best accessibility for you to do your body work. Not to mention the easy accessibility you’ll have on the frame and the suspension. It sounds like a lot of work, but I promise that a frame off restoration for your early Bronco is worth it.

Treat The Frame

Once you get the body off the frame, you’ll need to pay special attention to the frame itself. Notice any cracks or rust forming on the frame. You don’t want to have any faults anywhere on your frame, so now is the time to fix anything that’s wrong.

The biggest issue you’ll probably run into with an early Bronco frame is rust. A lot of early Broncos were used as outdoor vehicles when they first came out, so their frames are especially susceptible to rust. The frames are hollow, so that makes it difficult to know what the condition is like inside.

Luckily there are ways you can treat your frame in the comfort of your own garage and make sure rust doesn’t bother it anymore. Use an engine lift to lift the front end of the frame so the back is tilted down. Use a pressure washer and wash off any dirt or rust chunks. The reason for the tilt is to make sure any water that gets inside the frame will run out in the back end. The water running through the inside of the frame will be able to wash out a good deal of dirt and rust that’s built up inside that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to access.

Let your frame hang tilted for a day or two to make sure it dries out. Once it’s dry, paint the frame with POR-15 frame paint. This will prevent any rust from forming while also giving the frame a shiny new look. Use an internal frame anti-rust coating for inside the frame to prevent rust from spreading further there.

Undercoat The Body’s Undercarriage

Like I said before, having the body separate from the frame will make your accessibility to the body much easier, especially underneath. You’ll probably notice a large amount of rust that’s underneath the body of your early Bronco, so you’ll need to take some time to remove it. The undercarriage of early Broncos were susceptible to rust, just like the frames were.

Once you remove the rust, spray underneath with some undercoat specifically made for this purpose. Some people choose to use rhino lining underneath is also works perfect. It all depends on how you want it to look underneath the body.

Check For Rust In Less Obvious Places

Rust is pretty much the nemesis of any restorer during their projects. Not only can rust be an extreme eye sore, but it can also cause a lot of damage to metal if not treated soon enough. You will most likely encounter a large amount of rust on your early Bronco restoration.

All classic cars are susceptible to rust, but early Broncos have a few places that are common and especially prone to it. Such places include underneath the body, door hinges, and the plates underneath the battery. You’ll probably run into a few other surprise spots, but those places will most likely give you the most grief.

Checking for rust in less obvious places is especially important if you’re not completely dismantling everything on your early Bronco. A complete dismantle will expose every problem the car has, but by not doing that you run the risk of not treating some hiding rust. Make sure you at least inspect every part and make sure they’re in good condition.

Take Lots Of Pictures And Label Everything

One of the biggest mistakes people make during an early Bronco restoration is assuming they’ll remember where everything goes and start taking things apart without labeling anything. While you may remember where some parts go, I assure you that you will not remember everything. Restoring an early Bronco takes a while, so over that time you’ll forget a few things.

Make it a point to take as many pictures as you can while you’re dismantling and taking things apart. This will help you immensely when you’re putting everything back together later on. You don’t want to risk putting a part in the wrong place and end up breaking it.

While you’re taking pictures, make sure you label everything with a small description of where it goes. Put nuts and bolts into a labeled zip lock bag. Wrap tape around wires and lines and write on the tape what that particular wire does. If the part is too big to put into a zip lock bag, use a black or silver sharpie and write directly on the part where it goes.

Do Body Work Yourself

It may seem overwhelming, but it’s actually entirely doable to do at least most of the body work yourself on your early Bronco restoration. Most people assume they need to take it in to a professional and have it sand blasted. While that is an excellent and thorough choice, it’s also pretty expensive.

Do the body work yourself. It will take a lot longer doing it this way, but it will save you hundreds of dollars. There are a lot of tools that can make this task a lot easier. I use a polycarbide abrasive wheel that I attach to my angle grinder and it does an excellent job at stripping paint and getting the body all the way down to metal. Click here to see my recommended list of tools to use during a classic car restoration.

Small dents are easily fixable with some sand paper and body filler. You can even replace some panels yourself if you have a welder. If you have any large dents or rust holes, you will need to replace that panel as that is not fixable.

Buy Parts Only When You Need Them

When you’re first analyzing the parts you’ll need to fix up your early Bronco, it’s easy to jump the gun and buy a bunch of parts at once, way before you’ll be able to install them. My tip to you is to only buy parts when you need them and not buy a bunch of parts all at the same time.

Too many times I’ve made the mistake of buying several parts at the same time and storing them in the corner of the garage, knowing I’ll eventually get to them. The problem with this is you run the risk of losing those parts or even damaging them because they’re sitting for so long, waiting to be used.

When you buy parts right when you’re able to use them prevents you from losing them and also saves you a lot of money. You may think you need one part in advance and later realize you want something else, but by then the warranty or return dates have expired and you’re out the money.

Wait For Shipping Sales

The nice thing about the internet is that we get to order anything we ever wanted from the comfort of our own homes. This also applies to buying early Bronco parts. I buy most of the parts I need online.

Though ordering online is convenient, it can also be expensive because of shipping costs. Shipping can get expensive because the part you’re ordering is either heavy, big, or awkwardly shaped. Sometimes shipping can cost more than the actual part you’re buying. This obviously doesn’t really help with your budget.

Luckily, a lot of online early Bronco stores have shipping sales every 2 – 3 months. Make a small list of a few things you know you need and wait for a few weeks until you get a notification from the company that there will be a shipping sale. Once the shipping sale hits, buy all the items you need and get low cost or free shipping.

Clean As You Go

Restoring an early Bronco is a pretty messy ordeal. Between sanding, grinding, removing parts, and buying new parts, your garage can look like a total mess. There comes a point when the mess can be too much and get in the way of successfully restoring your early Bronco.

Every few weeks or so, make it a point to organize and clean your work space. Sweep up any dust and dust off your tools and other items that may have gotten flecks on them. Organize the old and new parts into separate piles and make sure you place everything in a way that easily accessible. Throw out any old parts you know you won’t use or isn’t worth anything. Countless studies have shown that working in a clean environment increases productivity, so give yourself the best chance by doing occasional clean-ups.

Sell Old Parts

While you’re organizing your work space and getting rid of parts you think you won’t need, don’t throw them out just yet. Before throwing anything out, check online and on local classifieds to see if anything you’re getting rid of is worth something. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

When I was restoring an old Firebird, my father-in-law and I were able to sell about $5,000 worth of parts which came in very handy to fund the rest of the restoration. Chances are, what you think is junk may be worth something to someone out there, especially if you can clean it up a little bit. Any extra cash you can get for your early Bronco restoration can go a long way.

Be Conscience Of Neighbors

Sometimes us car enthusiasts can have a bit of a different opinion about cars compared to others. What we think looks like a beautiful machine may just be an ugly piece of junk to someone else. That someone else could include your neighbors.

I remember when I brought home the 1966 Ford Bronco for the first time. It was in really rough shape, but I was so excited about it and thought it was amazing. Some of my neighbors, however, didn’t appreciate it because they thought it looked ugly and thought I was going to bring down the value of the neighborhood because of what I had just bought.

Be courteous of neighbors. It may be tough to swallow that they have a different opinion than you, they’re still entitled to their opinion. Keep your garage clean for the times you need to keep it open and close your garage door any time you’re not working on your early Bronco restoration. Also be mindful of the time of day you’re working. Neighbors don’t love when you’re grinding and pounding on metal at eleven o’clock at night. They’ll eventually appreciate the progress you make and will love the finished product.

Use Salvage Yards

If you’re wanting to get a part for your early Bronco that isn’t Bronco specific, going to a salvage yard can save you a lot of money. There’s no shame in using salvage yards and a lot of people actually end up finding a lot of good, quality parts there.

Often times salvage yards will have promotions or sales and will notify the public via email or a social media page. You can get the parts you need for a bigger discounted price than you would anywhere else. This is how I got the engine and transmission for my early Bronco restoration.

Don’t Be Afraid To Do Some Restomods

A lot of people assume that restoring any parts on your early Bronco will bring down the value and that you need to keep everything original. While that may hold true for some classic cars out there, the early Bronco is an exception.

Don’t be afraid to restore and add restomods your early Bronco because you’ll actually be increasing the price by doing so. A lot of people who are looking to buy an early Bronco are mostly getting it for looks and functionality. There are several companies out there, such as Icon Broncos and MixLider who will completely custom make an early Bronco for you. Every single part of them is brand new and they’re worth over $100,000. Restomods on early Broncos will not hurt the worth of it.

Related Questions

What are the pros and cons of owning a classic car? The pros to owning a classic car include easy registration, they’re easy to work on, and they have the potential to be worth a lot. The cons include more maintenance, they’re less safe, and they’re less reliable. Click here for more info.

Are there other classic cars similar to the early Bronco? There are several classic cars that were similar to the early Bronco, some of them were actually manufactured to compete with the Bronco. Similar classic cars include the International Harvester Scout 800, Land Rover Series III, and the First Generation Chevy Blazer.

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