3 custom Broncos that lean into Ford’s Baja bona fides
Ford’s booth at the annual SEMA show in Las Vegas is always packed with customized Mustangs and F-150s, but for 2021’s show, Ford’s booth (like much of SEMA) was a showcase for Bronco builds. Both the Escape-based Bronco Sport and Ranger-based Bronco could be found throughout the show in various themes, from desert-running to overlanding. As soon as we laid eyes on one particular Bronco in Ford’s booth, we recognized the custom paint and modifications as the trademark of Theresa Contreras, a southern California painter who, along with her sister, Sara Morosan, co-founded off-road equipment manufacturer Baja Forged.
Contreras has built several customized pickups and SUVs that have been displayed in Ford’s SEMA booth, including a first-gen Bronco for Jay Leno. Besides the Bronco displayed in Ford’s booth, Contreras and Morosan were also responsible for a Bronco Sport and a soft-top Bronco on display at SEMA. These new builds highlight what’s possible when you combine the latest from Ford with a few bolt-ons from the aftermarket.
SEMA builds have a reputation for being outrageous, but the builds you’ll find displayed at major OEMs like Ford tend to be more realistic and attainable, and that applies to the pair of Broncos and the Bronco Sport designed by Contreras and Morosan. All three vehicles were built by LGE-CTS Motorsports. CTS stands for Custom Truck Shop; it’s the spin-off business that the sisters helped set up. Baja Forged is a new line of tubular bumpers and accessories that are designed and manufactured in Southern California. You’ll find Baja Forged products on each of CTS’s builds, which we brought together for a family portrait
First let’s dig into the soft-top Bronco that we got to spend a bit of time driving. Despite the ragtop and 37-inch Nitto Trail Grappler tires, this off-roader is not terribly noisy on the highway. Its BAJA Kits suspension system helps it soak up whatever you’d throw its way. The setup uses a billet aluminum upper control arm in the front with a Uniball for extra articulation, combined with billet rear lower trailing arms. Each corner uses 2.5-inch King coilovers for extended romps in the desert.
Of course, it also uses Baja Forged bumpers front and rear, along with lower rocker protection.
Like it did in the ’80s, the Bronco lineup once again puts forth two entrants, this time with a compact Bronco Sport in place of the Bronco II. While there’s not quite as large an aftermarket for the Bronco Sport just yet, Icon stepped up and developed a one-off suspension system that gives it a taller stance and the ability to fit a set of 265/70R17 Nitto Ridge Grappler tires on 17 x 8.5-inch Method MR502 wheels. The extra ground clearance and approach and departure angles are bolstered by Baja Forged bumpers along with a front skid plate. A Ford Performance light bar bracket is fitted with Rigid Industries LED lights to show the way, and there are additional Rigid lights in both bumpers.
Inside, this Bronco is equipped as you might expect a pre-runner to be; four Recaro Sportster seats and race harnesses keep the occupants secure. Behind the seats is a full-size spare and floor jack, along with a Ford Performance off-road recovery kit.
Finally, our favorite of the three: the custom-painted four-door Bronco Outer Banks that is Contreras’ personal daily driver. This Bronco is definitely a bit more luxurious and upscale than your average off-roader. Ford made it easy to swap body panels on the new Bronco, and Contreras took advantage by adding a set of Advanced Fiberglass Concepts fenders and quarter panels. The subtle flares add a bit of tire coverage and create a cleaner profile than most styles of bolt-on flares while adding a unique look.
In keeping with the theme of subtle, useful modifications, this Bronco rides on a three-inch Icon Vehicle Dynamics Stage 5 Suspension System that easily allowed it to fit a set of 37 × 12.50R20 Nitto Recon Grappler tires mounted to 20 × 9-inch Method race wheels. Since the Bronco was designed with big tires in mind, the suspension and tires look right at home. The front upper and rear lower control arms are both made from billet aluminum and both front and rear suspensions use adjustable remote-reservoir shocks.
Front and rear tubular bumpers are from Baja Forged. The front houses a Warn VR EVO winch with synthetic rope and a Factor 55 UltraHook. Just above the winch is a 20-inch Adapt Light Bar from Rigid Industries that adds a whole lot of lumens in a low-profile package. To match the exterior, Design Muse came up with a plan for custom distressed leather seats with matching upper door panel trim and armrests. The detailed stitchwork work was finished to perfection by Rogelio’s Upholstery.
Contreras gave this Bronco a custom-mixed PPG paint that seems perfectly suited to the desert. She calls it Saguaro, after the tall cactus found in Mexico and the Southwest U.S. She packed this custom mix with a ton of pearl, and it causes the color to shift from olive green to reveal hints of gold, depending on the light.
The goal for all three of these builds was to show customers what they can create using aftermarket products that transform the already capable Bronco. Based on the response they’ve received, Ford will not only have a hard time keeping Broncos in stock, but aftermarket parts suppliers will also be working overtime to keep owners busy with modifications. As we’ve already noted, this last one is probably our favorite of the three, but feel free to let us know how you’d build your dream Bronco.