Nika Bronco: A `79 Ford Bronco Reborn (and Better, too)
Creating a restomod from the carcass of an old vehicle like a '79 Ford Bronco is a big undertaking. It's like Pimp My Ride and This Old House are having a baby. You get all of the challenges of restoring an oldie (rust, rotten rubber hoses, chasing down OEM parts) with those of upgrading (combining the right performance parts, making sure they all work properly and looking good doing it), and the challenge mode of fitting the latest tech in a project that left the factory back when said tech wasn't around yet.
Which is exactly what Rick Fragnoli and Cleveland Power and Performance set out to do with Nika Bronco here. Rick's dad started CPP as a straight-up old school junkyard in 1986. but over time it moved into customizing. First with smaller builds in the early 2000s after Rick finished college. Now they create full-on SEMA-quality show pieces. That broad range makes the shop a prime operation for any restomod, too. In the case of the 1979 Bronco project, that meant hiding modern performance in a cloak of classic Ford. As Nick put it, "We wanted the Bronco to look mostly original, but once you started to walk around the it, the details would come out and subtly show more of them the more someone walked around the car."
That '70s Show Car
When you've worked in the junkyard side of cardom, you probably learn a thing or two about automotive history, especially in regard to what years' parts fit with which vehicles. That background may have lead the shop to the 1979 Ford Bronco. When Ford launched the second generation Broncs back in `78, they based much of it off of the F-Series trucks. That tradition held true for every Bronco generation afterward, too. F-Series trucks and Broncos share a commonality when it comes to parts; a fact that wasn't lost on Rick: "We tore apart the 1979 body in 2015 as an in-house project, then we did not touch the project again until 2019! Our design concept was incorporating all of the new modern amenities into an older truck. We built this truck using a ton of parts from a donor 2014 Tonka F-150 truck. The independent front suspension was the biggest component we wanted to use on our build."
One of those modern amenities hides beneath the hood in the form of a 5-liter Coyote V8 that draws breath through a Roush R2300 Supercharger.
It kicks out spent gases by way of a custom-built exhaust system consisting of Kooks Longtube headers and resonators. The rest of the system is largely stock 2014 F-150 (including the 6R80 automatic transmission) but it cranks out a claimed 570 horsepower at 5500 rpm. That's not too shabby!
More Bounce to the Ounce
All of that brand new power is awesome but there've been a few improvements in suspensions since the disco era, too. As you may have guessed from his quote above, Rick sorta kinda wanted to incorporate said improvements into this project. Up front you'll find Belltech coilovers and an indie F-150 suspension while its rear counterpart is a parallel 4-link with Panhard bar that works with the F-150 rear axle.
Making that independent front suspension a reality wasn't all about bolting up some cool new coilovers, though. The Bronco's chassis has a lot of work in it to make the system work. Up front, the frame from the front crossmember to the first cab body mount is stock 2014 F-150. The front bumper and core support mounting is custom made from 3x3x3/16-inch steel wall tubing, using the factory Ford underhood structure and core support. The framework after the stock F-150 consists of 3x5x1/4-inch wall tubing. A frame rail connected to 3x4x3/16-inch wall tubing runs over the top of the rear suspension, all the way back to the hidden trailer hitch. And speaking of custom fabrication, the Bronc's fuel tank was made in-house from 16 gauge stainless steel, with the specific goal of being unseen while still holding 18 gallons of gas.
Bring Me a Tire Love
One of those cool hints of modernity you'll find in that walk around Nika Bronco would be the Forgeline VX1-6T wheels. The 20x10-rollers are forged 6061-T6 Aluminum and shod in 35x11.5-20 Nitto Terra Grappler G2 All Terrain Tires. "To be blunt," Nick tells us, "we love Nitto. We have worked with them on a bunch of our past builds. The tires are durable, but also soft. We have run them for customers that bring their cars in for service, we have run them on our daily driver cars. For me, I like that they are still soft while maintaining durability. Some other tires can feel like bricks on the vehicles when rolling down the road. Not the Nittos." Closer inspection of the wheels reveals Brembo brakes (6-piston front, 4-piston rear) with two piece rotors taken from a Hellcat Charger. Take that, 1979.
An Inside Job
If you think a fair amount of in-house customizing went on outside of the cab, wait until you see what CPP did inside of it. "The interior came out great," Rick says. "Overall the entire build is something our team is really proud of. The interior took a ton of effort, design,and fabrication to pull off. The door panels, dash, and built in/hidden sub woofer system came out like it rolled off the factory floor, but it took us a lot of effort during the build to get to that point."
That's what happens when you work your ass off on a one-off custom interior. They shortened the factory depth on the dash and started with factory door panels from the donor F-150. These were shrunk down and modified three times over, but the crew had to build all of the lower structure to keep the cup holders and other options the factory F150 would have. After that, CPP then plastic welded, body worked, and wrapped them in Moore & Giles leather.
The seats Rick wanted came from a four-door donor truck, since the F-150s don't have a two-door truck with the bucket front seats and the console style desired. Fitting the seating took some work: "We had to design and make a custom seat bracket that allowed the 4-door seat to flip and allow access to the rear seat of the Bronco." The rear panels that go down the inside of the quarter panel were made from aluminum. The front door panels are plastic, so CPP had to machine the depth of the silver inlay to be the same thickness of the door panels. They also built an enclosure in the floor underneath the rear seat to allow subwoofers, but finished out the floor so that the interior looked all as one.
Coming Up Next
Needless to say, when you love anything enough to put this much effort into a project like this Bronco, you want to do more. CPP is charging ahead with, well, actual Chargers: "We have a couple cool customer builds in progress. We have a pair of `69 Chargers going on, and one is really going to be over the top. We will have one of the `69 Chargers at SEMA 2023." How much of them will be "resto" and how much "mod" is anyone's guess but Rick's next shop product is definitely one Nika Bronco will be proud to sit next to. "Our next in-house project we are really excited about is a 1956 Dodge truck," Rick told us. "We are building our version of a modern day Viper truck. I actually cut up my running, driving, insured Dodge Viper for the build." Now that's sacrificing for your art!