37" Bronco Battle: Two Different Cross-Country Takes on Ford's Revived Off-Roader
When Ford first debuted the Bronco in 2020, the 4x4 community nearly burst with excitement for the entirely new off-road platform. Jeep’s Wrangler had long been the only modern player in the convertible off-roader space, even as more and more enthusiasts picked up vintage FJ40s, Scouts, and Broncos to satisfy the market demand. The long rumored Bronco, however, arrived ready to party, with two different engine choices, 2 or 4 door body styles, and enough off-road chops to satisfy even the most demanding of enthusiasts.
Once released into the wild, the aftermarket, of course, was ready to pick up where Ford left off. Whether an owner was looking to simply improve aesthetics, or build something more purpose-driven, the options quickly arrived. Within weeks of the vehicle’s release, the Bronco was passed through the various channels of modding cultures, showcasing the various styles from around the country.
These two Broncos are relatively mild interpretations of styles indicative of the West coast and the East coast. Honestly more similar than they would appear, their modifications are tailored not just to aesthetic styles of the owners, but also the geography of their locations. Both are perfectly capable of traversing their respective native off-road trails, and both require very little in the way of sacrifice for daily driver duties.
The West Coast 2-Door
Austin Berendes has built his 2021 Ford Bronco 2 door Wildtrak to tackle the California desert. “I had a Jeep built up with 40 inch Nitto Trail Grapplers . . . the whole rock crawler build,” he said. “I loved it but I always liked the 4Runners for how much smoother they were and also the ability to do some small modifications and be able to haul a** across the desert and jump it. The new Bronco is a perfect combination of the two.”
High Speed Hijinks
Wanting to be one of the first to fit 37” tires on the new platform, he added a Zone Offroad 3.5” spacer lift but has since transitioned to IVD Suspension Stage 5 coilovers with remote reservoirs to aid in cooling for sustained shock performance at speed through rough terrain. A set of Wicked Creations rear lower control arms provide added strength over the stock units.
Although the coilovers have made a significant difference in his comfort level with the larger tires, he was more than comfortable sending it with the spacer lift that the Bronco was equipped with for these pictures!
37-inch Trail Grappler Tires
When it came to wheel and tire selection, Austin stuck with a familiar recipe. “I chose the 37x12.50x17 Nitto Trail Grappler to go with my Method 106 beadlocks because I knew I was going to be doing some serious wheeling with this Bronco and I wanted to make sure I had a good amount of sidewall for rock crawling and also to help the suspension out a little more when going fast across the desert or rough dirt roads.”
The Trail Grappler mud terrain tire is perfect for the rocky Southwestern desert with its strong sidewall and hefty construction, increasing puncture resistance. Nitto also went to great lengths in the tread design, however, to ensure that the Trail Grappler has relatively quiet on-road performance as well. As serious as this Bronco is on the trails, Ford ultimately designed these rigs to be able to do-it-all as a weekday commuter as well.
East Coast 4-Door Bronco
\While Austin’s two door has been built for fast paced desert adventuring, Georgia-based Automotion built this four door Bronco for slower East Coast off-roading. Not looking for the same level of sidewall protection that a desert runner requires, this Bronco wears a set of 22” Hostile Wheels covered in 37x12.50x22 Nitto Ridge Grappler hybrid terrain tires.
A Modern Take on a Vintage Look
The effect of the large diameter wheels is inarguably a much more modern look for the vintage inspired Bronco. The Hostile H109 Alpha gives a decidedly aggressive look to the four door Ford, without crossing too far over into the flashy show truck aesthetic.
This East Coast Bronco has also been lifted 3.5” inches, although the altitude adjustment is thanks to a comprehensive kit from off-road juggernauts Rough Country. This kit combines the use of aluminum upper control arms, differential spacers, upper strut spacers, a rear track bar and brake line relocation that allows for factory-like suspension geometry. The kit makes room for 35” tires, but some creative cutting and trimming enabled the 37" hybrid terrain Nitto tires.
37-inch Ridge Grappler Tires
The off-road needs for this Bronco are certainly less strenuous than those of Austin’s two-door. The hazards will most likely consist of deep ruts and thick mud at a slow, careful pace. Nitto’s Ridge Grappler hybrid terrain tire features shoulder grooves that are arranged in alternating widths and lengths to clear mud and maintain traction. Incorporated stone ejectors protect the bottom of the groove from stone drilling, an important feature for any light truck truck tire, but especially when regularly venturing off-road.
East Coat vs West Coast
It would be tempting to pit these two Broncos against each other as simply as function versus form, but the reality isn’t that simple. Both are set up for 37” tires and both have 3.5” lifts from quality suspension builders. The demands of their owners, however, have led to different priorities.
Simply put, off-roading in the East Coast is generally different than in the West. That’s not to say that there aren’t both style of builds in both areas, but usually if you are off-road in the East, you are in a forest. Concessions can be made for certain aesthetic styles, but they wouldn’t be ideal in the rocky deserts of California, yet perfect for the muddy trails of Georgia.
Needless to say, the new Ford Bronco has been an absolute smash, and to see the opportunity for such variety on a single platform is refreshing. With the release of the 2023 Bronco Raptor, the builds will just get even more wild, coast to coast. Whether it is the big wheel style of the Southeast, or the pre-runner inspired builds of the Southwest, the new Bronco is a breath of fresh, outdoor air.
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- Bigger, badder, faster, and wilder: The 2023 Ford Bronco Raptor is here.