As a teenager growing up in Colorado in the early '80s, my dream car was a Jeep CJ-7. My friends were into Comeros and Mustangs, but I loved the idea of going 4-wheeling in the mountains. My mother wouldn't let me have a Jeep because of the roll-over hazard. I settled for a pickup truck and forgot about the idea of owning a small go-anywhere 4X4.
In the early '90s, I joined the Air Force and attended flight school in Mississippi. One day, while driving back from a weekend in Memphis, I saw a stock 1970 red and white Bronco for sale alongside the road. After thinking about it for a week, I decided to go have a look at it. The body was straight, but mechanically, it was abused and worn out. It had glass packs with pipes that came out under the doors, so it was very loud. The tired 302 was missing a cylinder, and the 3-on-the-tree had a habit of popping out of 2nd gear. I talked the owner down a few hundred dollars and bought it for $2,400. That was 20 years ago in 1994.
After the purchase, I had to spend a few hundred dollars more to make it road worthy. A few months later, I limped it out west to my next duty station in Texas. While there, I saved up money for a restoration. In 1998, I had a partial restoration done on it, based on what I could afford. It included a new engine, body work, flared fenders, paint, hard top and suspension with a 3" lift. I kept everything else stock, so that meant keeping the manual steering, 3-speed manual transmission and non-boosted drum brakes. It didn't exactly go as planned. It seemed like everything on the vehicle was worn out, and the unforeseen expenses just kept mounting. I eventually got it to the point where it was drivable and somewhat respectable. It looked and ran okay, but I knew I could do better.
I eventually got stationed overseas, so the Bronco went to my parent's farm in Colorado. It resided in their barn for 3 years, and was driven very occasionally by my parents. When I got back to the States in 2003, I flew to Colorado to pick it up. It was covered with a thick layer of dust and bird droppings. Mice had taken up residence inside it, and the firewall insulation made good nesting material for them. I set traps, cleaned it up, gave it a tune, and drove it to my next duty station in New Mexico.
Since then, I have accelerated the modifications. In 2004, I added a 5-speed NV-3550 transmission and power disk brakes. I recently added power steering, a roll cage, heavy duty bumpers, and a winch. I have a list of future modifications I'd like to make, to include locking differentials and fuel injection. Yes, I do like to take it off road, and I don't mind getting it dirty once in a while.
I don't consider this to be the ideal plan for restoring an old 4X4. It's just the way it ended up. I made many mistakes along the way, and had to do some things over again. I guess you could say that as I matured and gained more earning power, it was reflected in my Bronco. It's an on-going process.
I can't believe I've had it for 20 years. I am now retired from the Air Force, and have more time to play with this classic SUV. My interest in it has never faded, and I'm glad I held on to it.