Built, Not Bought 1971 Ford Bronco The Scott Dale
This year appears to be the year of the Bronco. The highly anticipated and long-awaited return of the iconic Ford looks to regain its place among the off-road elite. Soon you will see many on the road and on the trails. Sean Jennings is one person who couldn’t wait for the new Bronco, so he decided to build his own modern version.
Sean grew up drawn to the outdoors where he would spend his free time camping and fishing. He served two tours with the Marine Corps and would often find himself out in nature riding quads, dirt bikes, and hitting the trails. After his time in the military, he went to college studying marketing and graphic design, and now works with clients in the automotive and firearms industries. His diverse background has dovetailed, where his love for the outdoors, passion for all things automotive and his creative vision have aligned to build custom vehicles.
What began as a project for a client to build a marketing vehicle quickly became a personal project after the original plans were scrapped. Sean had always wanted an older Bronco, and when plans fell through with the client, he decided to make the purchase for himself. The timing was right for the Idaho native, who lived in Arizona at the time, a place where he could enjoy the vehicle all year round.
Sean found the vehicle locally from a gentleman who only used it to haul his mountain bikes. It was in good condition with a mild restoration, but it still had its fair share of issues, which he knew needed to be improved. Initially, a few minor cosmetic changes were done after the purchase as the vehicle was used for daily driving and as a weekend vehicle to hit the trails and camping. Like with any of these projects, he wanted to add his signature touches to make the Bronco his own, but after almost a year of daily driving, he decided he wanted more out of the vehicle.With his background and a desire to customize an older Bronco to incorporate a modern drivetrain, Sean began the project. He dubbed the Bronco project the “Scottsdale” as a nod to the city where he found the vehicle as well as for its lifestyle. He was inspired by his surroundings in Arizona and his daily encounters with high-end supercars. He wanted to ensure the Bronco would not only stand out, but also fit in among these fancy vehicles and hold its own on the trails with the most capable of vehicles.
With more than a dozen vehicles under his belt, Sean has progressively pushed the limits for his creations. His first truck as a teenager taught him a few valuable lessons on what to do and what not to do.
“I had my first truck about a year before I could drive, which is where I learned all the ways to ruin a great truck by not knowing what you are doing and wanting to modify everything,” Sean says. “You know, spray paint all the dash panels that can be easily removed.”
Since then, he’s used his experience to hone a distinct style for his builds, taking each one further and further with customization. The current Bronco started off with the intention of being a reliable vehicle that would be able to take on moderate to technical trails with his kids on the weekends. That quickly changed once he decided to convert to a modern drivetrain with a Coyote motor. With age, his desire to do more and push himself has grown stronger, and that dedication, vision and know-how led to this one-of-a-kind Bronco.
“I knew when I bought the Bronco, I would modify it to my style,” Sean says. “At first, it was going to be cosmetic, mostly because it was such a great driver, but after I decided the engine needed to be modern instead of old-school carbureted, it all really snowballed from there—all of a sudden my imagination and goals escalated very quickly.”
He set an almost impossible goal of completing the restoration in a mere seven months to make its debut in the Toyo Tires Treadpass area at the annual SEMA trade show in 2019. Starting from the ground up with a vision of building a Bronco to be as reliable as a new vehicle, he knew he would need to replace and upgrade practically everything. Although he was very intentional when it came to the body and frame, and while modified, they are still original and not a reproduction.
The first part was to pull the engine and begin the disassembly process. He wanted to make sure the Gen 2 Ford Performance 5.0 Coyote engine swap would fit and work properly. Everything was overhauled in the engine bay, including a host of Krawlers Edge products including motor mounts, an accessory bracket kit, stainless steel headers, radiator and electric fan. He installed a Power by the Hour engine and transmission wiring harness. He then swapped out the transmission with a 6R80 4×4 automatic that bolted directly to the Coyote engine and paired it with a Lokar cable floor shifter. For peace of mind performance for both daily driving and for off-road trails, mud, sand and other conditions, an Advanced Adapters Atlas 2 transfer case was installed. Much like everything else, a Krawlers Edge stainless steel fuel tank was installed to replace the factory tank. Rounding out the performance modifications is a custom Airaid intake and Magnaflow exhaust.
The factory restored chassis would then be secured with a Krawlers Edge Sport Cage. The lifted suspension itself is a masterpiece combining various parts to come together to work in unison. A set of Bilstein coilovers with air bump stops and Eibach springs were installed to give about 4 ½ inches of total lift, which includes a 2-inch body lift to help clear the Coyote engine. To offer more geometry options and to keep the rear axle centered, a custom three-link front and four-link rear suspension were designed and installed with a pair of Currie F9 front and rear axles. The entire wheelbase was lengthened with the front axle moving forward an inch along and the rear axle moving back an inch. Connected to the axles are Warn locking hubs, which provide the ability to disconnect the front wheels from the drivetrain to help increase fuel economy and decrease drivetrain wear. To ensure maximum traction for any terrain, ARB Air Lockers were installed.
The Bronco was outfitted with a full set of Wilwood brakes with a 6-piston kit up front and 4-piston kit in the rear along with a Hydroboost setup to help add stopping power for the vehicle. Sean went with 18×9 John R version Detroit Steel Wheel Co. wheels wrapped in 35×12.5 Toyo Tires Open Country R/T for added grip and performance both on the streets and in the dirt.
The interior wasn’t ignored, and every part was carefully curated. The eye-catching plush red leather upholstery complements the custom dashboard painted to match the exterior paint and is paired with black weather resistant vinyl with contrast red stitching by Bell Auto Upholstery. The console also features Vintage Air billet in-dash vents to allow the driver and passenger a more comfortable ride. An Icon 4×4 center console was added for a factory look. The front seats were swapped out for a pair of Scheelman front bucket seats that received the same red leather treatment. The minor details weren’t excluded as a host of Ring Brothers interior components were installed including rocker switches, window cranks and tie-downs. A Flaming River Steering column connects to a wood Wild Horses steering wheel completing the vintage look. To finish off the interior a layer of Line-X was applied for additional durability and protection.
One noticeable modification that stood out for Sean is the Wild Horses wing window delete kit.
“It might seem simple compared to the rest of the build, but my favorite modification is the wing window delete,” says Sean. “Having a larger window is not only more modern but seemed to change the driving experience.”
The vehicle was originally painted a matte black by the previous owner. Sean wanted a more sophisticated and yet timeless look for the new version and elected to spray the exterior in a PPG Porsche Chalk gray that was applied by Kreative Image. This was complemented with Wild Horse fender flares and Hanson front and rear bumpers that provide additional clearance and protection. Attached to the front bumper is a Warn Industries Zeon 8s winch with a Factor 55 fairlead. And Ring Brothers Billet Mirrors were carefully installed to the doors as one last detail.
No expense was spared and no stone was left unturned as Wild Horses Billet Headlight Bezels surround the United Pacific LED headlights. Additional lighting is provided by Baja Designs LP6 amber lights and a 10-inch Lazer Lightbar to help provide ample light coverage in the dark.
One to be always prepared, Sean opted for a Front Runner Slimline II roof rack topped with a Pelican case for storage and a DMOS shovel. And for recreational use a 1up bike rack was installed on the back to hold his custom RAD Bicycle Company Fat Tire bike.
The project was not without any trouble. Much like many restoration builds, there seemed to be endless issues as he encountered problems throughout the process. This led to many sleepless nights for Sean as he worked continuously to make the deadline.
“I encountered every possible issue it seemed like,” he says. “So many sleepless nights and way over budget, but the first time it fired up and I was able to drive it made all those pain points go away.”
The hard work and dedication of Sean, along with his team and family, made it possible for the vehicle to debut at 2019 SEMA Show at the last minute. He even installed the front windshield the night before the event from inside the booth. The entire process was a memorable experience and one that he won’t likely forget anytime soon. For now, he looks forward to enjoying the vehicle with his family before finishing another project, a 1980 Dodge D50, which was his grandfather’s daily driver. The Bronco may have been the first of many full restoration builds.
“If my wife and budget allow, I’ll start something new this winter,” hints Sean.
We hope his wife is on board so we all can experience another one of his masterpieces.
You can follow Sean Jennings’s adventures on Instagram @defconbrix.
1971 Ford Bronco
Gen 2 Ford Performance 5.0 Coyote engine swap
Krawlers Edge motor mounts
Krawlers Edge accessory bracket kit
Krawlers Edge stainless steel headers
Krawlers Edge radiator and electric fan
Custom Airaid intake
Krawlers Edge stainless steel fuel tank
6r80 4×4 automatic transmission
Advanced Adaptors Atlas II transfer case
Lokar cable floor shifter
Power by the Hour Engine/Transmission Wiring harness
Factory restored chassis
Krawlers Edge sport cage
Currie F9 front and rear axles
ARB air lockers
Warn locking hubs
Bilstein coilovers and air bumps all around
Custom three-link front
Front axle moved forward approximately 1 inch
Custom four-link rear
Rear axle moved back approximately 1 inch
Wilwood disc brakes, 6-piston front and 4-piston rear
Wheels & Tires
35×12.5r18 Toyo Tires R/T
18×9 Detroit Steel Wheel Co.
Line-X tub sprayed by Arizona Line-X
Scheelmann front bucket seats
Custom red leather by Bell Auto Upholstery
Icon 4×4 center console
Vintage Air with billet in-dash vents
Ring Brothers rocker switches
Ring Brothers window cranks
Ring Brothers tie-downs
Flaming River steering column
Wild Horses steering wheel
Wild Horses wing window delete kKit
PPG Porsche Chalk paint sprayed by Kreative Image
Wild Horses fender flares
Ring Brothers billet mirrors
Wild Horses billet headlight bezels
United Pacific LED headlights
Baja Designs LP6 (amber)
Baja Designs 10-inch Lazer lightbar
Warn Industries Zeon 8s winch
Factor 55 Fairlead
Hanson front and rear bumpers
Front Runner Outfitters roof rack
Pelican case mounted on rack
DMOS shovel mounted on rack
1up bike rack