Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Barrett-Jackson Brings Me Back!

I spent most of the past weekend watching the Barret-Jackson Classic Auto Auction in Scotsdale, AZ.  For those of you who are not familiar with Barret-Jackson, they hold 4 big auctions each year that are featured on the Speed Channel.  They auction off vintage cars from better days and the amount of money spent on these vehicles will leave you asking yourself, "What economic crisis???".  There are some beautiful vehicles that come across the stage and someone is made very happy when the gavel comes down and the auctioneer yells SOLD!  I watch because I am so amazed by the beautiy of an older car and the love and effection that has gone into restoring a piece of American History.  I also watch because I can sort of relate to the plight of someone who is willing to take a piece of junk and turn it into a treasure.  You see, I have done it three times with three great trucks!  The following article was written by me about 7 years ago and published in Bronco Driver Magazine.  Hope you enjoy!

Hello, My Name is Trey, and I am a Broncoholic!”

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.

The little Bronco was burgundy with a white top and had uncut fenders. Dad put a set of headers on it and had it sounding really good. I loved to be in the Bronco, taking it hunting and fishing or just riding all over town. He really didn’t do much to change the look of the Bronco. He just kept it pretty much stock all the way down to the plain white rims and silver hubcaps. He kept the Bronco for a few years, and I can remember the day that he traded it. I was crushed, but he traded for a bigger vehicle because he said that he needed more room. Even though the Bronco was gone from home, it never left my mind or my heart.

A year or so went by before I got hit head on with truck fever. I had just turned 15, and had already been warning Mom and Dad that it was time to find me a vehicle worthy of my sure to be higher social status when I turned 16. What happened next was almost too good to be true. Riding by the local bank one day, I spotted a little green 1972 half-cab Bronco in the back parking lot. Being from a small town, I knew that this lot was reserved for repossessed vehicles, and was surely set to be sold. We stopped and gave the Bronco a look. The body was very straight and had no rust. The fenders were uncut and it had stock factory rims on stock tires. The interior was in need of a little work, but for the most part was ok. We went in the bank a found out that they planned to auction off the truck along with several others. I told Dad that this is it! He told me that he would bid on the truck, but that I better be sure that this is what I wanted. There was never any doubt. He bought the truck for $1,900, and the fun began. About half way home the Bronco started a violent vibration that nearly knocked out my fillings. We pulled over and started checking things out. Nothing was on fire, and as far as we could tell nothing had fallen off, so we continued the journey at a much slower pace. We got home and started what soon became a weekly ritual, trying to find out what is wrong with the Bronco. We replaced all of the U-joints in the drive line, and that fixed the vibration problem. Now we could drive it without feeling like you were riding a buzz saw, and I got the same head jerk reaction that I had received as a kid when I stepped on the gas. The little pony had plenty of power under the hood with its 302, but also had its share of problems. I was introduced to all of the little problems that a Bronco can have, and I learned an awful lot along the way. Some of the problems included gear shifter arms that came apart all of the time (I think I have robbed every carter key in every junk yard in the southern part of Georgia), blinker nightmares, unpredictable drum brakes, a heater that worked when it wanted to, windows that may or may not roll down, doors that may or may not lock, and a carburetor that always seemed to flood just when a pretty girl was watching. But this was my baby!! Dad made an agreement with me. He would get it running and safe to drive, but if I wanted it to look any different than it did, I would have to pay for it myself. I had an after school job and had done pretty well saving my money, so the transformation was on. The first thing was to get rid of the green and make way for some bigger tires. I took the truck to a local painter and body man by the name of Phil Luke, who would wind up doing three Broncos for me over the next 15 years. We ordered a set of flares from K Bar S, cut the fenders, and decided on a jet-black paint job. Phil had a set of burgundy high back seats that he gave to me, so the factory seats were trashed (we didn’t have E-Bay back then). The entire truck was sprayed black inside and out. The homemade bumpers and grill were sprayed white, and a white pin stripe was taken down the side. It was the prettiest thing I had ever seen, except for one problem. It still had those skinny, ugly, white wheels and worn out tires. No problem, except funds were running extremely low!! This is where a mother’s love has saved many a broken hearted little boy. Mom footed the bill on a set of chrome rims and tires for Trey’s Pony. I was still 15 and only a couple of months away from being able to drive on a full time basis, but Mom and Dad would let me drive it around the block or to church on Sunday’s. That Bronco was my world. I remember the first time I took her out cruising after I turned 16. Because of a well placed hole in the muffler, the Bronco had a killer rumble. I got asked 10 times if I wanted to race. I just said no thanks, but show me the mud. Off to the local clay pits to see how much damage I could do. Everyone who has owned a Bronco understands its thirst for mud. She did well on our maiden voyage and made the locals proud. We cruised back into town and promptly ran it over a curb when the brakes decided to take a small vacation. Luckily we came to rest only a few feet from the fire hydrant that we were about to dismantle. So was the life of that little 1972 Half-Cab! Proud one minute, hiding my head the next. I will never forget the night that I got pulled over by a local policeman in the middle of town with lights flashing. I was scared to death. Here I was 16 years old and had no idea what was about to happen. The officer walked up to the door and asked me if I liked my Bronco. I said yes and he proceeded to tell me how he was thinking about buying one. I then asked him if I had done anything wrong and he told me no, he just wanted to check out my truck and couldn’t get me to stop any other way. I drove the Half-cab for about a year and a half before Dad and I decided that it was costing way too much to keep it running on a consistent basis, and it wasn’t the safest vehicle either. The unsure brakes had almost gotten me into trouble on more than one occasion. Sixteen years old with a sporty 302 can cause a heavy foot and some breath taking brake to the floor situations. I was also growing a little tired of it leaving me on the side of the road, at the worst possible times. My girlfriend was getting a little tired of walking. We made a decision to sell the Bronco and move on to better things. A 1984 4x4 Bronco II!!

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.

I called Phil Luke again, and made my call to James Duff for my flares. Phil found me an old tailgate and made other small body repairs to get me ready to paint. This time we went with a cherry red finish trimmed in black. I made several trips to Obsolete Ford in Nashville, Georgia to pick up things such as light covers, side mirrors, and seals. I bought all of the interior door parts and a dash cover from Duff, and pretty soon had her looking like I wanted. My uncle found me two seats and we got them mounted in, as well as a new carpet kit for the floor. I had the back seat re-covered and the windows tinted. I put a Rancho shock kit on the Bronco with adjustable stiffness that was controlled by a key pad mounted under the front dash. Once again I had a Bronco that looked great, drove great, and performed well, and boy could it perform!!

I drove the Bronco to visit my uncle, who was on a camping trip with twenty other people on the Flint River in middle Georgia. The night before I arrived, they experienced heavy rains and a lot of wind damage. My uncle called me and said that the three-mile trail into camp was pretty ruff, and that not one vehicle had made it all the way back to the river without some help from a 4X4 tractor. I asked him if he had tried the trail with his ’76 Bronco, and he told me that the only time he was going to try was on the way out the next day. I decided to make a go of it anyway. As I pulled off of the main road, all I could see was deep red Georgia clay, and some serious ruts. I locked her in to 4-wheel drive and kept in mind that it was only 3 miles. It turned into the most thrilling three miles that I have every driven. The Pony and I threw Georgia clay all over that trail and rumbled into camp with a big grin and a muddy roof. Everyone there knew what I had just done, and all said they would never have believed it. My uncle said he had been waiting by his cell phone for me to call, but swore he would never doubt a Bronco again. He should have known better. I sat in camp with pride as other cell phones rang, and the tractor was fired up to go fetch lost souls. I drove her out of camp that same night, and had as much fun going out as I did going in. I stopped by the local car wash and gave the Pony a much-needed bath before we went home.

The Bronco was not my daily driver, so I was able to keep it clean and well maintained, and probably only put 2,000 miles on it in a year. I had changed jobs at this time and had begun my career at a local bank. I would drive it to work at least once a week, and would always get offers to buy my truck. I would always say no, until one day when someone from out of town that was passing through stepped into my office. Like my father has once done for me, he was looking for an old Bronco for his son. He said that he had seen my Bronco parked at the bank when he would come through town on Fridays, and that he wanted it for his son. He made me a very generous offer and told me to think about it over the weekend, and that he would call me on Monday. I studied it over the weekend and decided that the offer was too good to be true and I let him drive it off the next Friday. I was once again without a Bronco, but I already had a plan. My Uncle still had that ’76 Ranger, and it had been parked in the yard for the better part of a year.

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.

My next call was again to my good friend Mr. Phil Luke. It was time for some paint and body work. This time I choose Ford Chrome Yellow paint with black trim and black Linex interior. Phil told me that this had better be the last one because he wasn’t getting any younger, but he agreed to tackle the project. All of the usual parts were ordered (flares, interior, seals, tires and wheels, etc.), as well as a few other surprises over the next couple of years. I have spent more money and have gone further on this ’76 than any of the other Broncos that I have owned. I have been very lucky to find trucks that have had very little rust and very little problems mechanically, so I have not had to tackle a major renovation, but what I have done has still been very rewarding and very fun. I have added to the ’76 a James Duff Ultimate Suspension package, with help from local suspension guru Jeff Blease of Jeff’s Jeeps, custom made seats with yellow trim from CJ’s Customs of Fitzgerald, a complete sound system from Segrave’s Sound Center, a custom roll-bar from McClelland Racing, and a new C-4 transmission. Plans are on the horizon for a set of headers and maybe some new bumpers, but now I have a child of my own and I will have to except that the Bronco is not tops on the list anymore. I have shown great restraint in the fact that I try not to fix anything until it brakes. Besides, I figure if I have to really think of ways to spend money on the thing, then it must be pretty close to being finished.

I once told someone that bringing these awesome vehicles back from the dead is the thrill of owning one. I have had so much fun with all of my Broncos, and I could not have done the things that I have done without help from great friends and the people at James Duff. I love to hear someone say that they love my truck and ask what year is it. I cannot read enough about these trucks and I want to absorb as much information as I can about them. I have people call me on a regular basis to ask me about buying one for them selves, and I simply tell them good luck in finding one, and if you do, please call me to help you bring it back to life. I still have the burning passion for Broncos, and I feel very blessed to have had the Bronco in my life, and I plan on keeping the ’76 around as long as she will hold together. I look forward to riding my 7-month old son around town when he is older, and I can’t wait for the day that he tells me that he wants one for his own. Then I can start all over again.

Back to present day 2011!  I bet some of you didn't know that I was a published author!  :)  I enjoyed putting it together at the time.  I am sad to say that I sold the yellow Bronco a few years ago.  Someone paid me a good bit of money for it, but it still feels like I sold a little part of my soul!  I sold it because it just wasn't practicle to own anymore when I started my married life and our family.  A classic vehicle is expensive to maintain and I know me well enough to know that I would have continued to spend money on it even if it didn't need it.  Do I miss it??  You bet!  I still love these old trucks and hope to own another one one day.  But I want to be in a position where I can be on the buyers side of a transaction at Barrett-Jackson.  I want to buy a completely restored trailer queen with a hefty price tag!  Years from now I want people to say, "Look at that little old man in that classic truck.  He must be crazy to spend that kind of money!". 

Nope, just reliving childhood dreams!!!!


Dennis said...

I'm a Barret-Jackson head as well Trey, and worked at a Ford dealer during my first career..I always loved those old Broncos (thumbs up).

The Downeast Duck Hunter said...

Awesome! Make mine in Mossy Oak Duck Blind with booster seats in the back please. Seriously impressed man, two thumbs up. You had me at "Bronco"...

CHERI said...

I miss that yellow Bronco too. If I ever win the lottery (or get blessed by some great windfall), I promise to buy you another...just cause I think you're great and I know you had to sacrifice a lot.

Anonymous said...

MOST AWESOME POST - EVAR! :) I found you from OBN. Love the blog and my BIL graduated from GSU. FIL lives in Metter and we shoot some when we're down that way. Glad to have found your blog - I'm trying to keep from reading everything I see in one sitting! :)
Keep it up! very nice!

Trey said...

SBR- Thanks for stopping by and I hope that you will continue to check out my little part of the internet!!

Steve said...

Great post about a great line of Broncos. I have always wanted a 70's Bronco and talk to a friend I teach with that has one.

Steve in Central CA

tim said...

Just took time to read this post. What a great article. Makes me want a Bronco. Years ago I had one of those Blazers with the removable top. It was a lot of fun.
I would like to link your blog to my campground website if you don't mind.

Trey said...

Link away! You know I don't mind!!