Ford jolted the off-roading public in 1966 with the introduction of the Bronco. The new SUV combined compact size and maneuverability with smooth-riding coil front suspension. An optional 289ci V-8 was available to push the newborn Pony more authoritatively than the base 170ci inline-six. Downstream from the engine, the model 303 three-speed manual transmission and Dana 20 transfer case spun the yokes on the Dana 30 front axle and the legendary Ford 9-inch rear axle. Drum brakes front and rear attempted to halt the 3,800-pound SUV with its 92-inch wheelbase. Ford rolled 18,200 Broncos off its 1966 production line.
Jump forward a few years to 1973. Bronco sales were consistently strong, prompting the Blue Oval to produce 26,300 Broncos during the 1973 production run. Although the 289 V-8 was a good engine, Ford bumped the displacement to 302ci. Customers now had the option of backing the 302 or inline-six with the familiar 303 manual or a C-4 automatic. The Dana 20 'case was firmly planted in the Bronco line, along with the 9-inch rear axle. Thankfully, the Dana 30 front axle had been replaced with the stronger Dana 44. Power steering was now an option, along with a rear-mounted swing-away spare tire carrier. Drum brakes continued their attempt to haul the Bronco down from speed.
Leap to 1984, when Steve Williams of Sebastopol, California, first purchased the pristine '73 Bronco that graces these pages. Although he knew the Bronco offered an excellent 'wheeling platform, Steve set out to infuse the Pony with modern upgrades. Selecting performance parts from a host of companies allowed Steve to morph the already-strong '73 into the Swamper-shod, 351 GT40 Lightning-powered wonder horse that it is today. Steve's upgrades are "never done," but the Bronco's current state of tune leaves us wondering what, if anything, could make this '73 more pristine or more capable than it is now. Ford may have thrown the "off" switch in 1966, but Steve Williams is the one doing the jolting for 2003.