Velocity Restorations had two Broncos on hand for us to sample. The first was designed as a daily driver or beach cruiser; the second was a SEMA build that was far wilder. The daily driver was one of the shop's set-price builds, a Brittany Blue model fitted with a 400-plus horsepower Ford Coyote V8 crate engine and a five-speed manual transmission. The entire car was disassembled and rebuilt from the ground up, and just about every part has been upgraded or restored. There's an all-new custom tub, a six-point roll cage, Dana axles with a Dana transfer case, a 3.5-inch lift, Pacer wheels with 35-inch BF Goodrich All-Terrain T/A K02 tires, power steering and power-assisted four-wheel Wilwood disc brakes. Other upgrades include new seating with marine-grade upholstery, air conditioning, a new instrument cluster, a Pioneer head unit with Kicker speakers, power-retracting steps, LED headlights and a number of billet aluminum parts like the shifter, fuel cap and window crank.
The upgrades keep the Bronco's retro allure intact while improving performance and upgrading things that make it feel dated. Details like the shifter and instrument cluster look and feel fantastic. Most of the metalwork is either black or chrome, with much of it having that slightly ribbed billet aluminum look and feel. Like most good aluminum pieces, it feels both light and solid in your hands. The gauges are clear and appropriately retro, though we wish the speedo was a bit larger. Outside of some slightly garish speakers protruding from the doors, it all looks like it could have come from the factory this way. It's still a vintage vehicle, so there are a few shakes and rattles over bumps, but it's an improvement over almost anything of the era. Despite the new 5.0-liter V8 more than doubling the Bronco's original horsepower, it didn't feel manic or overpowered. It sounded damn good thanks to the Magnaflow exhaust.
The steering is light and devoid of feedback, but it doesn't detract too much from the driving experience. The five-speed's throws are long, but the relaxed and deliberate nature of each shift feels fitting in an old cruiser. The soft suspension and copious amounts of sidewall help soak up bumps in the pavement. It's top-heavy, and the body rolls through turns, but it's perfectly content to cruise around on a sunny afternoon.
As with most custom vehicles, what you can accomplish is only limited by the size of your bank account and the vastness of your imagination. That leads us to the green and copper Bronco Velocity Restorations built for SEMA a few years back. If the blue Bronco provided a baseline, the SEMA Bronco moves everything up by several degrees. At first glance, it looks like a lifted Bronco with some flashy copper accents. Look closer and you'll notice the hidden door hinges, flush-mounted glass, custom lighting and high-grade leather on the dash, doors and seats. The quality of every bit of trim is tweaked about half a degree higher than the other Bronco. It's even got power windows with custom glass. The Coyote V8 gets a Whipple supercharger and is paired with a beefed-up Ford 6R80 six-speed automatic. Other mechanical changes include an independent front suspension with four-link Fox coilovers, 18-inch wheels with 35-inch Nitto Trail Grappler tires and 14-inch six-piston Baer brakes. It's loud, flashy and one of the most frightening cars we've ever driven.
You see, to clean up the engine bay for SEMA, the shop removed the power brake booster, something listed on the spec sheet and that we weren't informed of ahead of time. This Bronco has all the power in the world — enough to pull the front tires off the ground on a hard launch — but not nearly enough stopping power given the grunt. It gave us a good scare the first time we went for the pedal. We expected the same level of braking force as the first Bronco we drove and received none of it. For what it's worth, Velocity Restorations says that it will be fitted with power brakes before heading off to its owner.
Nail it from a stop and the nose gets light. All the weight shifts to the rear, but on the sandy surface of the Florida coast, the tires struggled a bit for traction. Shifts from the transmission are quick, but there's not a lot of grace to them. There was noticeable lurch on each gear change. We would have liked to have driven a less powerful Bronco with the automatic transmission. Like the blue Bronco, the steering is light, and bumps in the pavement are mostly dissipated by the suspension and tires. It was entertaining, though we much prefer the balance and drivability of the blue Bronco.
Automobiles are emotional things, and the attachments we form with them can't be quantified. Velocity Restorations does a good job with these builds, and few things are as cool as a topless Bronco with a burbling V8 on a sunny day near the beach. And that's the whole point of these six-figure classics. The quality seems to be there, and there's a lot of room to make a custom build your own. The custom options are where Velocity Restoration's Broncos really shine. That said, the waiting list is long and there are a number of other shops like Icon and Gateway Bronco that do much the same thing. If you're interested in ordering one, we say shop around and see who can deliver your heart's desire. The options are seemingly endless.