As magazine groupies, we see a lot of cool rides. We are constantly on the lookout for rigs that exemplify a bona fide pride of ownership, the kind of rigs that roll down the trail with the top of their breed. Some are off-of-the-showroom-floor vehicles with an array of bolt-on goodies, a few are home-fabbed, frame-up projects, and some are shop-built turnkey rigs. But they all have a few things in common: clean body lines, reliable drivetrains, functional suspensions, and they possess something that catches our eye. We spotted Nathan Middleton's '66 Bronco near the Rubicon trail and couldn't help but take notice. The question on our minds: What is it? Homebuilt classic Bronco or 21st century shop-built rock buggy? The answer? Read on.
A longtime off-roader and owner of a construction company, Nathan found himself in a dilemma. He wanted the high-end rockcrawling performance of a custom rock buggy and the classic clean lines of his first love, a '68 Bronco. The second part of the dilemma was time. He knew he would have to stretch the hours in a day to manage his company, as well as allocate the hundreds of hours required to craft a rig of this caliber. Nathan found the answer on Moab's Potato Salad Hill when he bumped into Jared Prindler, owner of AFW Fabrication in Lewistown, Montana (formerly known as Advanced Frame Works). The two shared ideas on the matter. Nathan wanted big tires while maintaining a low center of gravity. He wanted to keep the vintage Bronco body but narrow it to protect the sheetmetal, as well as have a longer wheelbase for surmounting large obstacles, and add coil-springs like a rock buggy.
The AFW boys, who are in the business of building high-end custom rigs such as the orange Detroit Locker flatfender (4WD&SU April '05 cover), loved the idea and the challenge. What they came up with was a combination of both worlds: a partially homebuilt, partially shop-built rock buggy, a Bronco-Buggy, or in other words a "Bruggy."
Nathan picked up a donor '66 body, rebuilt a Corvette 350 mill and tranny purchased from a wrecker, ordered a pair of Dynatrac axles and a variety of goodies from ARB, Detroit Locker, Advance Adapters, and Warn Industries. Upon depositing this booty on AFW's shop floor, Jared and his design team when to work. This classic ride possesses the clean lines of a classic Bronco along with all the attributes of a 21st century high-tech rock buggy. We figured you'd want to check it out.