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Karl Bradley's Cherry '77



For Sale: 1977 Bronco, Original owner, 78,000 original miles, uncut, no rust, call 555.1212. How many of these types of ads have we seen? Sure enough, when most of us hop in the truck and head over to look at this supposed ‘cream-puff’ only to be disappointed by rusty rear quarter panel seams, gut-rot under the carpet on the floor boards, and sure enough, the door posts are about to fall out.

Much to his surprise, Karl Bradley found out that this bronco’s original owner was telling the truth! How lucky can a guy get? So with a wad of cash and some down-home horse-trading, Karl went home with a nice looking, basically rust-free ’77 bronco.

Tahoma'>With the help of his ‘fab-guy’--who turns out to be master hot rod artist Roy Jones of Asheville, NC-- Karl turned this ‘cream-puff’ into an immaculate trail and show rig. Here’s his story and he’s stickin’ to it!

Since Karl is a true Bronco Fanatic, this wasn’t his first bronco recreation, and it definitely won’t be his last (he has six broncos in his garage right now!).

At this time, he had a clear idea of what he wanted to do to this rig as far as modifications go. Keep it simple. Claiming temporary insanity, Karl cut the cherry rear fenders to install bigger tires. He put on 31 x 10.50 x 15 BFG ATs, installed a CD player, and used it as a daily driver for about a year. The ’77 had a 302, C4 auto tranny, and disc brakes on the front from the factory.

After about a year, Karl felt a ‘squishiness’ under the stock Ford rubber floor mat. Upon removal, low and behold, the dreaded floor pan rot was found. Careful inspection while in the shop revealed one rocker that needed replaced and one rocker that needed a patch. This is where the metal-working talents of the experienced hot-rodder Roy came into play. He grafted in new floor pans, a new rocker, and hand-formed a patch for the other rocker panel. New primer and paint to match the factory job were applied, and Karl resumed driving it daily.

After riding with friend Alan Soutter in Alan's highly modified '68 (Wild Horses rock crawler suspension, locked axles, and 36 inch Super Swampers), over the summer of ’98, Karl’s brain started surging with ideas. On Labor Day, 1998, Karl stripped down the bronco and hauled it over to Roy’s shop for ‘the transformation.’

The first areas to be addressed were the suspension and drive train. The brand new (at the time) Wild Horses system 9, 3.5 coils with 4.5-inch rear leaves, suspension system and a 2 inch body lift were installed. This included the extreme front and rear shock hoops (requiring the tubbing of the rear fenders). The Dana 44 front and Ford 9 inch rear were removed and completely rebuilt. The front 44 received Currie Enterprises heavy-duty shafts with a True-trac limited slip, 4.88 gears, and Warn premium hubs. The rear received a 28 spline Detroit and 4.88 gears.

Roy modified a Smittybuilt cage kit to include hoops behind the seat for shoulder harness attachments. The hoops also allow pass-through access to the rear. An extra spreader bar was fabricated across the top of the dash that also included a grab bar for the ‘shot-gun’ passenger. Two spreader bars were added between the front bar and the main hoop down the center of the bronco. Roy also designed and built a sub-frame attaching new Beard super seats to the stock bronco mounts and then to the frame.

A couple of local trail rides and a couple of trips to Tellico proved that the new rock crawler system truly flexed, especially after riding in non-flexy, harsh riding broncos for years. It also became apparent that the stock 302 was very tired. Even with 4.88 gears, it wasn’t happy pulling 36 inch Super Swamper TSL SXs.

After the successful trail christening, Karl hauled the bronco back to Roy’s shop and the bronco was completely stripped for bodywork and paint. The first shock came when the front fenders were removed and massive rust areas on the inner fender wells were discovered. Roy cut out and replaced all the rust spots and hand-formed patches and most of the right-side inner fender. At this time, OEM front fenders were still available from Ford, so Karl bought 2 new front fenders from the local Ford dealer and Roy slapped them on. Next, the passenger side rear doorpost was replaced. Finally, a small area of sheet metal was replaced in the tub and then it was ready for some minor body prep.

The drive train was next on the list. The stock C4 was rebuilt. Roy built a custom sheet metal center console and topped it off with an Art Carr gated shifter. After pricing rebuilds and aftermarket heads for a stock 302, Karl and Roy decided to buy a GT40 Crate motor from Tommy Vaughn Motorsports in Houston, TX. Originally, it came to life with an Edlebrock performer intake and carb, MSA distributor and 6AL box and Wild Horses headers. More work on the motor is in its future.

A 4 core radiator was also installed with an external tranny cooler when it was time to hit the trails. After some more wheeling in Tellico, NC, Karl determined that stalling on every bump and blowing black smoke all day long was NOT how he wanted to spend his days on the trail. Back to Roy and to the drawing board. Out went the Edlebrock 4 bbl, and on went a Ford Multi-port Sequential Electronic Fuel Injection (SEFI) system using a Mustang GT40 lower, Mustang Cobra upper, Cobra fuel rails and plenums, Cobra computer, external Paxton electric fuel pump, BBK fuel press regulator, and a plethora of other Mustang/Cobra parts. Roy spent a lot of time with the Mustang wiring harness getting all the extra stuff stripped out and then wired the bronco up. Karl said there is nothing sweater than a sweet purring injected motor through ceramic coated headers and 2 chamber Flowmasters. Let’s just say heads turn when he runs down the street.

Karl also decided he wanted a full locker in the front end and swapped the True-trac for a Detroit Locker. Back to the trail and the Bronco not only purred like a kitten upside down, but it climbed just about everything he could think of. Roy also built an innovative rear bumper with swing out tire carrier and swing out gas can/jerry can carrier. The front bumper houses a Warn 9000i winch to help get out of those tricky situations that you always seem to get into at Tellico.

After a successful few trail runs, the bronco went back to Roy’s shop and it was just about completely disassembled and each body part was painted and then remounted. Roy’s attention to detail and his hot-rod background are clearly evident in his work. The many coats of PPG Yellow that stops folks from a mile away is accented beautifully with black flares and the black cage.

Check out the entire buildup pics of this beautiful Bronco. Believe it or not, Karl even took it out on the trail many times in this show quality condition before deciding to retire it from trail use and build a trail rig.

In order to fund his other 6 bronco projects, Karl reluctantly let this piece of art go. Alan Soutter of Cary, NC now owns this cherry ‘77 Bronco. As the saying goes, everything always comes around full circle--Alan was the one who took Karl wheeling in his tricked-out '68 which inspired Karl to build this rig in the first place. All we can say is this is one cherry '77!

  • Info

    • Vehicle - 1977 Ford Bronco

    • Owner - Karl Bradley, now Alan Soutter

    • Special Thanks to - Roy Jones.

  • Engine

    • Year - 1998

    • Make - Ford

    • C.I.D. - GT 40 5.0 Crate Motor

    • Heads - GT40

    • Intake Manifold - GT40 lower, Explorer/Cobra upper

    • Fuel – Cobra SEFI, external Paxton fuel pump, BBK fuel press regulator

    • Ignition - MSD 6 AL

  • Drive train

    • Transmission - C-4 Automatic

    • Shifter - Art Carr

    • Cooler - Radiator Integrated

    • Transfer Case - Dana 20

    • Drive shafts - Lengthened Dana Spicer

    • Front Axle - Dana 44 W/1356 Series HD U-Joint Axles

    • Front Diff - 4.88, Detroit Soft Locker

    • Hubs - Warn

    • Rear Axle - 1977, 28 Spline Ford 9"

    • Rear Diff - 4.88, Detroit Soft Locker

  • Suspension

    • Front – Wild Horses Extreme 3.5" Variable Rate Coils

    • Shock Hoops – Wild Horses Extreme Front and Rear Shock Hoops

    • Trac Bar - Superlift Adjustable Trac Bar

    • Rear - 3.5" 11Pack Leaf Springs

  • Steering/Brakes

    • Gear Box - 1977 Power Saginaw

    • Front Brakes – stock Ford disc Brakes

    • Tires - 12.5"x36" TSL SX's

    • Rims - 15"x8" ARE Baja Wheels

    • Brake Hoses - Braded Stainless

  • Body

    • Flares - Bushwacker Duraflex

    • Front Bumper - Custom

    • Rear Bumper - Custom

    • Paint - PPG concept 2000 series-primer, basecoat/clear '97 Viper Yellow with GunMetal grey and red accents.

    • Lights - KC Daylighters

    • Winch - Warn XD9000i

    • Top - Kayline Sunshade and Fast Track Soft Top

  • Interior

    • Seats - Beard Super seats

    • Belts - Simpson five point harness

    • Gauges - AutoMeter Guages-Temp, oil, volt and an AutoMeter "Silver series" tach

    • Steering Wheel - Grant

    • Tub - Rhino Liner Spray In Bed Liner

    • Roll Bar - Custom 6 Point Full Cage by Roy