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Don Peroni's Original '66 Roadster

Don Peroni, Dillsburg, PA

Part I

My son, Drew, and I have been into Early Broncos for more than twelve years a nd have, over that period of time, owned twenty or more. Most have been parted out and sold in pieces (As Drew often says, "Some must die, so others may live"). Currently, we jointly own an uncut 1977 Ranger that is totally original. Drew has two 76's: one set up for off-road which was recently featured in the December 2001 issue of Off-Road magazine, and one awaiting restoration as a modified street truck. I own the '66 Roadster Bronco U13FL732364. We believe this Roadster is something special and would like to share our experiences with y ou as we work to bring this beauty back to its original glory.

I first learned of the truck in February of 2000, when Drew called me after buying a copy of the national Truck & Race Car Trader. Drew read the listing for a 1966 Bronco Roadster located in Montana that allegedly had only been driven 9,500 miles. The advertisement sounded too good to be true but we wasted no time contacting the owner. Carl Westerwald had owned the vehicle since 1993 and he turned out to be a very great guy to deal with. We asked Carl about a hundred questions and finally asked him to video tape the vehicle for us. We requested that he put it on a lift and video tape all the areas where we know rust would be found. We also asked that he tape all areas on the body where any damage existed. Carl's video arrived about a week later and after viewing the tape I knew I had to own this Bronco. The original paint showed brightly in the fender wells and the frame still had clearly visible crayon marks that were applied as it came down the assembly line. There was absolutely no rust; for a couple of Bronco guys from the northeast this was unbelievable. We called Carl and were able to make a deal and I wired him a deposit and arranged to go get the truck in May. In the mean time Drew purchased a new Super Duty F350 and he agreed to let me use it for the trip.

On May 14, 2000 my wife Luanne and I left Dillsburg, Pennsylvania and wound our way to Plentywood, Montana. The trip was uneventful except for a wrong turn on the interstate near Chicago, which led us through the passenger pickup area of O'Hare International Airport. This would not have been so bad except we were towing a twenty-foot car hauler behind the Super Duty. We arrived in Plentywood three days later and I learned more of the Bronco's history.

As I stated earlier, Carl Westerwald purchased the vehicle in 1993, and until 1998, it was used to service his farm vehicles. Carl is a wheat framer who cultivates about 2,500 acres. In 1998, he took it out of service replacing it with an ATV, which he carries in the back of his pickup. Carl said he was the second owner and that the vehicle had about 8,500 miles on it when he got it. The Roadster was delivered to Belkie Ford in Tioga, North Dakota in the fall of 1966 and did not sell. Belkie Ford used it as a lot vehicle from then until they went out of business in 1983. It was sold at Belkie Ford's auction and was titled for the first time. The first owner drove it approximately 5,000 miles. During its lifetime it had been used to plow snow, run parts, transport its owners to work and to haul supplies to the farm fields to service equipment. Needless to say it had a few dents and dings. The grill had been replaced with a later 68-77 version and Carl had replaced the original top with a white Kayline. When I loaded it on our trailer it had 9,723 showing on the odometer.

We have taken this Bronco to the All-Ford and All-Truck Nationals at Carlisle, Pennsylvania and to the 4 Wheel Jamboree Nationals in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania during the summer of 2000. During that time, we debated about restoring it. Many said, "It's too nice and original to touch, leave it as is." However, after much consideration, we decided to do a complete body off restoration with the aid of our long time friend and nationally renowned classic vehicle restorer, Andy Stranko of Bentleyville, Pennsylvania. Over the next several months, we will document the challenges and progress of restoring this classic.

Part II

Once the decision to restore the Roadster was made, I contacted our friend Andy Staranko of Staranko Auto Body and Classic Cars. We have known Andy for more than 30 years and he has done work for us on several vehicles including a 1962 Corvette and a BMW Motorcycle. We know him to be one of the very best restoration technicians working today. I believe my son Drew's passion with classic cars started when Andy gave him a ride in his newly restored 1955 Pontiac Convertible. Drew was eight years old then and I remember him saying how much fun it was when everyone looked at him while riding around in that car. We did not need to check out any other shops; Andy was going to do the restoration.

I trailered the Bronco to Andy's shop in Bentleyville, Pennsylvania and spent the better part of a morning talking with him about old times, old cars and what I wanted from the restoration. Andy also explained his policy for accepting work. First, I would leave the vehicle so that he could do an analysis of the necessary work. He would then do a detailed written proposal and cost break down as to what he felt it would take to accomplish the result that I wanted. Andy charges $100.00 for the analysis, which he will then apply toward the job. This is done as a protection against shoppers consuming his valuable time. He then explained that if I accepted his proposal he would require one third payment before work would start, one third at the half waypoint and the balance upon completion. He would also video the entire restoration process from disassembly to completion and provide me with a copy. Before leaving, we also agreed upon what parts I would provide and what parts he would supply.

Four days later I received Andy's proposal, which included the following:

Body Work and Paint
1. Strip paint
2. Remove dents
3. Sandblast any rust areas that may be discovered
4. Prime with dupont 616 vari primer
5. Reprime with dupont 131 sand and fill
6. Block sand and refinish in red
7. Buff and wax
8. Reassemble

Motor Work
1. Remove and reinstall motor and trans.
2. Clean and paint motor, blue and detail
3. Install points, plugs, cap, and condenser
4. Adjust timing
5. Change oil and filter

Brake System
1. Install new master cylinder
2. Install 4 new wheel cylinders
3. Resurface brake drums -4 each
4. Install brake hoses -3 each
5. Sandblast drums and paint
6. Repack front wheel bearings
7. Install new brake lines front and rear (provided by owner)

Interior Work
1. Recover front seat to original style
2. Remove all instrument and reinstall
3. R & R Dash and refinish in gray

Engine Compartment
1. Refinish, red and clear coat
2. R & R any and all items from this area and reinstall
Fuel System
1. R & R gas tank and support straps
2. Clear coat to preserve new look
3. Install New fuel lines and fittings
4. Install new fuel hoses
5. Install new fuel filter
6. 10 gal. of fuel and lead additive
Cooling System
1. Recondition radiator and refinish
2. 2 gal. Antifreeze
3. Heater hoses-2 each
4. Radiator hoses-2 each (owner provided)
5. Thermostat and gasket

Electrical
1. Rebuild alternator
2. Rebuild starter
3. Check all lights
Exhaust System
1. R & R exhaust manifold
2. Sandblast and heat finish -gray
3. New Aluminum exhaust system, clamps, and hangers

Underbody and Frame
1. Sand and clean
2. Refinish underbody-Red
3. Refinish frame-Black
4. Remove rear end assembly, clean and paint

Tires and Wheels
1. Dismount tires
2. Sandblast wheels including spare
3. Refinish white both sides of wheels (5 each)
4. Mount new tires and balance (New tires provided by owner)

Saftey Check
1. Penn. State inspection
2. Check all fittings, fuel lines/tanks, and brakes
3. Check all hoses
4. Check all lights
5. Road test

Other
1. Recondition radiator and refinish
2. 2 gal. Antifreeze
3. Heater hoses-2 each
4. Radiator hoses-2 each (owner provided)
5. Thermostat and gasket

I also provided a complete fastener kit from AMK Products Inc., a complete set of new body rubber and gaskets from Dennis Carpenter, and a set of reproduction decals from Ford Truck Enthusiasts Inc. The grille that was on the Bronco when I got it was an obvious replacement from a 1968-77 model. I provided the 1966 replacement grille that would be used along with a rechromed 1966 bumper from The Bumper Boyz. The 66 Bronco used a unique bumper that is cut square on its ends.

Ebay provided a reproduction glove box liner, a set of rechromed bumper guards and a 66-dash pad that looks like new old stock. Drew was able to locate a NOS black floor mat exactly like the one that was in the truck, and an NOS chrome windshield lock down knob. Various vendors at the Carlisle Car Shows provided a set of NOS Taillights lenses and bezels, an NOS battery hold down bracket, brake lines, and a new fuel pump. I sent Andy the required deposit and he began work.

The preliminary effort in establishing exactly what I will get for my money and exactly what Andy would do was well worthwhile. I believe that it is the most important step in the process, as both he and I know exactly what will be expected of one another. Modifications will be made as the process unfolds but now each can be dealt with from an established base line.

The disassembly began with Andy video taping every part of the vehicle and continuing to tape at each stage as the roadster was reduced to a pile of parts. The tape will not only make a good record of the restoration, but I'm sure will be used many time in figuring out how to do the reassembly.

After I made the deal with Carl Westerwald for this vehicle, he told me of a phone call he received shortly after placing the Bronco ad in the National T ruck Trader. Mr. Chester Woods form Lemont, Illinois called him offering to sell a set of NOS soft doors. Carl gave me his number and I called Mr. Woods and agreed to buy the doors. On the way to Montana my wife and I detoured about 150 miles from our original route to get to Lemont, Illinois. I felt this was a small inconvenience for a set of NOS original Ford Bronco soft doors.

Chester proved to be quite a character, he was about seventy-five years old and had a hard time getting around, so he told me to just go into the garage a nd get the doors. The garage turned out to be four bays full of old cars, car parts and all kinds of radio-controlled airplanes. I wish I had the time to rummage around in there for the afternoon. Who knows what I might have turned up? Chester is one of those people that make life interesting. After retrieving the soft door from the garage, Chester and I talked Broncos. He bought a Bronco Roadster new in 1967 and decided to put hard doors on it, but the dealership according to Chester screwed up and sent a set of new soft doors by mistake. Lucky for me, he never got around to returning them! The doors were complete with all the necessary mounting hardware and will make a fine addition to the roadster. However, those doors proved to be the beginning of a quest that took me all the way back across the country to Maine.

Ford used a material on the Bronco soft tops and doors called Pin Point, available in both white and black. My doors were white as was the soft top. However, Carl had replaced the original soft top with a Kayline top that used a vinyl material with leather-like texture. The NOS doors and top clashed. I believed that buying a new top from Kayline as they made a pattern called Denim, which closely resembled the original Pin Point pattern, could solve this problem. It was about this time that Kayline went out of business so this no longer looked like an option.

My friend Jim Lesh referred me to upholstery shop in north central Pennsylvania that he believed could reproduce the top to the original specification. Fortunately Carl Westerwald had saved the original Ford soft-top hardware, except for four pieces, which I was able to obtain from fellow Bronco enthusiast Wendell Watson of Tennessee. Jim Heckondorn of Carlisle, Pennsylvania had a NOS soft top in white and a used one in black. I tried my best to get him to sell me the NOS white top, but Jim who also runs a body shop is planning a 66-roadster restoration and would not part with it. He did however, loan me the used black top so that I had a pattern that could be used to reproduce the top for my roadster.

The upholstery shop that Jim recommended was Dressler's Upholstery in Cocolamus, Pennsylvania. I called Ron Dressler and he stated that he believed that he could handle the job. I then traveled to his shop, which is about 95 miles from my home. Dressler's is a father and son operation. They work out of a converted barn next to their home. Like most good craftsmen they proved to be unassuming people with a great knowledge and pride in the work they do. I was very impressed with Ron's knowledge. He was able to identify the cloth and welting by name at first glance. His library of fabric catalogs is unbelievable, much of which I'm sure he has memorized. The problem, he said was not in making the top, he could have the clear plastic windows welded to the cloth material just like the factory original and fit it better than the original. The problem would be in finding the material that Ford used. It had a white pinpoint outer surface with a cream almost pale yellow interior surface and it is no longer produced.

My next question to Ron was what do we do now and is there an alternative material we can use? He told me he knows the owner of the company that made the original tops for Ford and that he would make some inquires and that maybe he could turn up some of the original materials, but he made no promises. I left his shop feeling that my Bronco might have to go topless.

About three months later I got a call from Ron. He informed me that he had located enough original material in Maine to make my top and if I wanted it to send him a check as soon a possible. The check went out in that afternoon's mail. We were on our way to a complete restoration, top and to bottom.

In the next installment I will explain how I restored the steering wheel and show the roadster coming back together after the complete disassembly.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Project Bronco.com.

Don Peroni