Velocity Modern Classics’ modernized Bronco is still wild at heart
Earlier this month we had the chance to drive a wonderfully modified 1970 F-250 from Velocity Modern Classics, a Florida company that is elevating vintage Ford 4x4s with ground-up rebuilds of excellent quality. After we drove one of its best-optioned pickups, Velocity offered us the chance to drive one of its classics Broncos. Naturally, we accepted and spend an hour driving the short-wheelbase SUV with the wind in our hair.
Unlike the classic Ford full-size pickups that it modifies and rebuilds, the Broncos tailored by Velocity Modern Classics still use the factory chassis. Velocity locates a suitable donor Bronco and completely disassembles it to begin the process. The frame is stripped down and powder-coated before the radius arms are rebuilt and bolted to a Dana 44 front axle. In the rear, leaf springs locate a Ford nine-inch rear axle. Braking is much improved thanks to a Wilwood master cylinder that uses a Hydraboost system, which relies on the power steering pump to increase braking force.
Grab the billet-aluminum door handle, open the door, and an Amp Research running board deploys to ease your entry. There’s also a grab handle on the six-point rollcage in case you need to pull yourself up. The front buckets and the two-person bench seat in the rear are all upholstered in espresso-colored leather and stitched with a double-diamond pattern that’s also found on the door panels and inner bed-sides. Anvil Gray paint from the exterior makes its way inside via the dash and upper door panels. The remaining panels are covered in floor mats or otherwise left uncovered, exposing the textured bedliner that coats the tub inside and out. A Dakota Digital gauge cluster puts all of the pertinent info on the left of the dash and includes a digital odometer. The window cranks, door handles, and knobs for the HVAC system and Atlas twin-stick transfer case are all milled from billet aluminum, but they’re not at all flashy. The overall look is refined yet rugged and the seats are very comfortable with adequate bolstering.
The suspension may be a bit archaic, since Velocity lets the Bronco keep its ’60s-style radius arms and leaf springs, yet the trucklet rides surprisingly well, with springs that are nicely matched to its weight. You can chalk up some of the ride quality to the generous sidewall on its 285/70R17 BF Goodrich All-Terrain T/A tires. They’re roughly 33 inches tall and are mounted to Mickey Thompson wheels that capture an aftermarket, off-road-performance vibe that suits a classic Bronco quite nicely.
The first-gen Bronco’s 1960s suspension design was probably never meant to contend with a powerful, high-revving V-8, but that didn’t stop Velocity. This Bronco is very much a free spirit thanks to a 430-hp, 5.0-liter Coyote V-8 engine that sends power to a 4R70 four-speed automatic transmission. That’s more than double the power of a 1969 Bronco’s 302.
The V-8 breathes through a more sporty exhaust than that on the Velocity Modern Classics F-250 we drove, lending the Bronco an extroverted character that’s appropriate for this smaller, more agile 4×4. There’s an assertive roar when on the throttle but no obnoxious drone while cruising. Surprisingly, the cloth top of the Bronco keeps down wind noise quite well. That was our only complaint with Velocity’s F-250, but on the Bronco, the noise seems much better managed. You could easily have a conversation at cruising speed without resorting to yelling.
There are also a lot fewer creaks and rattles than you’d expect on a classic 4×4 of this vintage. No doubt the six-point rollcage makes the body a lot more rigid. For example, Velocity secured the top of the Bronco’s folding windshield frame to the cage on each side using turnbuckles, which seems like great insurance against rattles. One noise that you may hear at times is the flapping of the three-point seatbelts for the rear passengers. That’s safety equipment that the original Bronco didn’t have. It’s a welcome addition.
The Coyote makes the little 4×4 quite sporty. It handles the power well, although it is a lot more lively than a more modern 4×4 in regards to weight transfer. There’s enough power to make the short-wheelbase SUV hunker down when the throttle is pressed, and it also loads the front when slowing. We noticed just a touch of bump steer when we were quick from throttle to brake. Remember, this is a spirited off-roader, not a sports car.
Along with the aforementioned F-250 and these “Signature Series” classic Broncos, Velocity also builds traditional International Harvester Scouts and Toyota Land Cruisers. Like the “High Roller” F-250 we tested, the Broncos don’t come cheap. The Signature Series Broncos start at $239,000 and with the amount of time and the cost of the hard parts going into these, that figure will rise quickly. There certainly is a market for such thoroughly rebuilt and tastefully modernized Broncos, as we’ve covered those from Icon and Gateway Bronco in the past. The tough call for buyers is which shop they’ll trust to build their dream Bronco.
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