Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Barrett-Jackson Brings Me Back!
I can remember feeling the excitement as my Dad and I rode with my uncle across town to meet a guy about buying a new truck. I was 10 years old, and the only thing I knew was that Daddy, who happened to be my hero, was about to have something new at the house. I really didn’t care what type of vehicle it was, all I cared about was that I got to tell my friends that Daddy has a “new” truck, and that my Daddy’s truck could beat your Daddy’s truck. That truck turned out to be a 1974 Ford Bronco. My Uncle had a 1976 Bronco Ranger, and had turned my Dad on to the idea of owning a Bronco. I can remember as Dad and I took it for a test drive how my head would snap back every time Dad would hit the gas. He got a big kick out of watching me laugh under the stress of the powerful little Ford. He bought the truck, brought it home, and started a love affair for his son with the most wonderful machine ever built.
I never new luxury until now! Power steering, automatic, power door locks and windows, and nice quiet interior. I brought her home, cleaned her up, and talked Mom into buying her second set of tires and rims. She’s a great Mom!! The new Pony was just what the doctor ordered. I could date in style, carry around all my friends, and still sling a little mud at the clay pits. I had the seats redone, new shocks, and a new exhaust put on. After someone ran into my rear end while it was parked on the street, I had it repainted on their insurance company’s dime. I spent the last 2 years of high school and all 4 years of college driving that little truck. It has been all over the state of Georgia going on numerous road trips. Every precious memory that I have during those great years of my life involve that Bronco II, from the girls I dated, to the friends that I hauled to all of those parties, to all of the trips back and forth to college, to all of the hunting trips between Dad and me. Including one snowy Georgia morning (the only one that I can remember us having in the past ten years) when Dad and I blazed a trail to our hunting club to try our deer hunting luck with white powder on the ground. The little Bronco held to the snow-covered road with all four paws, as we watched other vehicles slide all over the place. That truck was always there! I got every bit of good out of that Bronco over those 6 years. We went through two engines two transfer cases and one transmission. The last transfer case did me in, and Dad decided that the truck was not safe to be on the road back and forth between Georgia Southern University in Statesboro and home. We sold the Bronco II for $3,500 and put that towards the purchase of a new pick-up. I was Bronco-less for a span of two years.
In 1997 I started to feel a little calling from deep inside my heart. I knew it was the Bronco crazies that I had managed to put aside for the last two years. They wanted out, and I was ready to let them loose. I had now been out of college for two years and had a very good job traveling the state of Georgia in a sales position. More importantly I had what every Bronco owner must have to start a restoration project, MONEY, and this time it was my own! I started looking around during my travels and checking the local truck traders, but was not having much luck finding what I was looking for. I also realized that the Bronco craze has infected more and more people in this part of the country. Prices had risen tremendously since I had purchased my first half-cab. A rusted bucket of bolts was being priced in the $5,000 range. This was more than I was willing to spend at the time. Then one day on the side of the road in Quincy, Florida, I found a pretty beat up 1972 Sport. I stopped to check it out and found that the motor ran great, the windows and door parts were fine, the transmission was fine, the “3 on the tree” changed smoothly, the brakes were recently re-done, all the lights and blinkers worked, and it was equipped with a nice set of 33x12.50 tires and chrome wheels that still looked fairly new, with a three inch lift. The Bronco’s body was another thing all together. Florida means salt water, and salt water means rust. I could read the radio faceplate from behind the truck. The tailgate was nothing more than a bunch of rust held together by the air in between it. It had some surface rust, but surprisingly, the floor panels were okay, and the top was in good shape. All of the fender flares were busted, and the seats and door panels were awful. But it had no leaks that I could see, and I figured I had already saved $800 on the tires and rims, so I paid the lady $2,000 and hauled her home. Since everything was in working order, the first step was to improve her looks a bit and take care of the rust.
It was family reunion time in October of 2001, and as we drove north from Fitzgerald, I told my Dad that I was going to buy another Bronco that day. He looked at me kind of funny and asked where I had found another one. I told him that I was going to buy Uncle Johnnie’s 1976. I really had no idea if Johnnie would sell it to me or not, but the Bronco had been sitting up for quite some time, and I knew that it was just wasting away. Johnnie had planned to restore this daily driver with an off-frame restoration, but kids and other priorities turned his interest in other directions. He got a steal on a new pick-up that made it easier to haul two boys, and parked the Bronco. It was calling me from 75 miles away! This is the Bronco that everyone wants. A 1976 Ranger with power steering, power disk brakes, and an automatic, whom the previous owner drove on a daily basis and kept very well maintained. The top half on the engine had been rebuilt and all of the brake lines and exhaust were brand new. It didn’t look the way I wanted it to, but what fun would it be if you found one that did? At lunch that day, with a mouth full of Grand-Mama’s dressing, I asked Johnnie what he planned to do with the Bronco, and he told me that he was thinking about selling it. I had to hold back my excitement and my mouth full of dressing! I told him that I may be interested, and we worked out what I thought was a very fair deal. I went to pick it up 3 days later. The Bronco fired up (with a little begging and pleading) and I drove it onto the trailer. She wasn’t running very well though. I took the Bronco to my good friend Josh McClelland, owner of McClelland Racing and Ben Hill Auto Parts, and told him that the truck had run fine before it sat up for a year, and that I wanted it running fine again. One carburetor later, and the little Pony did just that. I was back in the Bronco business.