Ford’s 7.5-inch rear axle...
Ford’s 7.5-inch rear axle holds up well with tire sizes up to 33 inches. Gears as low as 5.13:1 are available, and this axle also benefits from a smattering of traction-aiding differentials.
It wasn't just the purple paint that drew us to Rebecca Campbell's "Purple Panther" 1986 Bronco II. It was the aplomb with which it tackled terrain. Spotted at the 2011 Cal 4Wheel Hi Desert Roundup, we watched as the BII worked its way up detritus-strewn slopes and through tight turns.
If you haven't thought about a Bronco II lately, you're probably not the only one. In its mid '80s heyday, the BII offered a sought-after combination of good fuel economy, decent power, excellent maneuverability, and rugged construction. The last Bronco II model year was 1990, after which the Blue Oval replaced it with the popular (and controversial) Explorer. Yeah, it's been a few years.
These days, precious few Bronco IIs are still on the road, and fewer still take to the trails. We think there's a good case for the BII. For starters, it's got the same mechanical platform as the popular Ranger pickup, including a stout frame, a decently strong rear axle, and Ford's distinctive Twin-Traction Beam front suspension. The 2.9L V-6 is factory fuel injected for easy starting as well as consistent performance even on steep climbs and angled slopes. Add in a track width that's friendly in confined quarters combined with a short 94-inch wheelbase, and you've got the recipe for a capable trail rig.
Thirty-three-inch GT Radial...
Thirty-three-inch GT Radial Adventuro M/Ts are the Panther’s tire of choice. Judging by what we saw, they work well in loose, varied terrain.
Rebecca's "Panther" is one of the cleanest we've ever seen. "I wanted something different and small," she reveals. "I couldn't leave it looking plain, so I painted it my favorite color: purple."
This thing gets 'wheeled, even when Rebecca's schedule clashes with prime trail time. Lamar Campbell was at the controls during our photo shoot. “Everyone just calls me 'Soup',” he told us. Rebecca lists the Cleghorn trail, Gold Mountain, Dishpan Springs, and Truckhaven among her local favorites. Future trail plans include trips to Moab, New Mexico, Colorado, and eventually Canada.
We'd forgotten about the Bronco II, but the Purple Panther reminded us that this rig is worth another look.
Ford’s Twin-Traction Beam...
Ford’s Twin-Traction Beam (TTB) system is loaded with potential, and basic performance mods yield big suspension travel. If you need more strength than the Dana 28 offers, the Dana 35 TTB is a bolt-in swap. The Panther uses a bracket system to lift the vehicle four inches. There were plain white shocks on board when we took the photos, but Fox Shox have since been added.
||1986 Ford Bronco II
||Rebecca Campbell/Hesperia, California
||Ford 2.9L V-6
|Transfer case/low range ratio:
||Dana 28 Twin-Traction Beam
||four-inch front bracket lift, replacement rear leaf packs
||33x12.50R15 GT Radial Adventuro M/Ts
||Factory Ford Explorer
You won’t win too many drag...
You won’t win too many drag races with a 2.9L V-6, but with factory fuel injection you’ll have an engine that starts on cold mornings and one that will run well at awkward angles.
Home-brewed rock sliders are...
Home-brewed rock sliders are welded to the frame and work well.
The factory rear glass windows...
The factory rear glass windows offer a great view, but contribute to the top-heavy nature of the Bronco II. The front TTB system doesn’t handle like A-arms or a solid front axle. As such it’s best to get used to the BII’s handling before you start pushing the envelope.