The original Ford Bronco was admired for its simplicity in design and purpose. Available in various configurations—and devoid of many creature comforts—it went head-to-head with vehicles like the Willy’s Jeep CJ and International Scout for bragging rights. Before long, the Bronco was rolling off assembly lines and into driveways and hearts across America.
A Pecan-Crusted Bronco
A 1977 Ford Bronco, previously owned by his father-in-law, Tony Eller, is the current project vehicle for Ryan Duwe of Fort Worth, Texas. “There it was, just sitting in an Alabama field. Pecans inside. Rusting. Sitting there neglected,” says Duwe. Time and time again, Eller would drive by and dream of the day that it would be his. “Finally, the guy agreed to sell it. My father-in-law had it for about 10 years and during that time, he rebuilt the 302 and added a 3.5” suspension lift and 35” tires.”
Unfortunately, the Bronco fell victim to grand plans with good intentions from a talented man with many hobbies. High hopes of restoration were relegated to backyard storage, out in the open elements acquiring even more rust. “Every time I’d go to the house, I’d see it just sitting there, wasting away,” says Duwe. Like many, he was fascinated with the history and undisputed cool factor of restoring a vintage 4×4.
“I couldn’t help but to wonder what it would be like to take it home, so one day I inquired seriously about it. I remember him saying to me, ‘What are you going to do with it?’ He knew that I wasn’t a big car guy, nor mechanically inclined. Really, the only car I ever truly loved was an ‘86 K5 Blazer because that’s what I wanted when I first turned 16,” says Duwe. After consideration, “I told him that the Bronco would be for his grandkids… to make memories.”
With that, a deal was struck. Duwe planned to restore the 1977 Ford Bronco to its former glory and keep it in the family for his children. But after the initial high that accompanies a classic vehicle purchase, Duwe admits to nagging buyer’s remorse. “Though the engine would maybe turn over with three pumps and a few Hail Mary’s,” he says, “it was in such bad shape. The floor panels were rusted out, and the electrical was all messed up—it was just a safety hazard. I kept thinking, ‘I don’t know anything about cars. What am I going to do now?’ No lie, when I first got the Bronco, I couldn’t even change the oil,” Duwe recalls with a laugh.
“The Blue Bastard”
At that moment, he reminded himself that the cash was gone and the ’77 was permanently relocated to his garage in North Texas. He found solace in the fact that “even at just one and two years old, the kids thought the Bronco was super cool. No matter what I paid for it, the smiles on their faces were worth every penny,” he adds.
Buyer’s remorse cast aside, Duwe affectionately dubbed the project “The Blue Bastard” and set out to find, review, and bookmark every online resource available to him. As a career software salesman, most recently as an Account Executive with Assurance Software, based out of Wayne, PA, he started where he felt most comfortable. “I began to tear things apart (but sure to keep the body intact). The very first thing was I pulled out all of the old electrical,” says Duwe.
Three months later and wires tossed everywhere, his wife, Ashley, began inquiring when the initial two-week timeline would cease to occupy the entire garage. “Even though it took a lot longer than expected,” he admits, “it was the absolute best thing for me from a learning perspective because then I knew what everything was and where it was routed.”
Additional resources proved immensely helpful, like various social media accounts and Nashville Early Bronco and Matt’s Garage on YouTube. Duwe says that 20 years ago, without such resources readily available online, the build wouldn’t have been possible for him.
An Introduction to Car Culture
Previously unfamiliar with the camaraderie associated with the industry, nothing prepared Duwe for the sense of genuine community that surrounds car culture. Neighbors with coveted classics of their own were intrigued by the bright blue, beat-up Bronco in the driveway. “On our street, there’s my 1977 Ford Bronco, 1983 Jeep Scrambler CJ8, 1964 Corvair, 1969 F100, and a 1979 Scout II,” he says.
As far as friends are concerned, “They were instrumental in helping me learn and make progress on the Bronco,” adds Duwe. Plus, he says, “The Whataburger payouts didn’t hurt.”
All jokes aside, “Remember, I knew nothing about cars when I bought this truck so, needless to say, the learning curve was steep. We replaced the cooling system, seats, and valve covers and then installed the wiring harness, fuel tank, power steering, long-tube headers, roll cage, and FiTech Go EFI 600—among other things,” says Duwe. “Hey, I even changed the oil a few times,” he jokes.
Interestingly, as he dove deeper into the project, Duwe realized the 1977 Bronco was a bit of an anomaly. “By that time, it was normal to have power steering and power brakes. For some reason, this was a little unicorn… and not in a good way. Mine didn’t have either,” he says. “I looked through documentation of how to decode your vin. Everything seems to check out. Though my original color code (underneath the blue) doesn’t match up with anything for the 77. However, it was the only year with fuel tank doors instead of exterior gas caps, and I have the fuel tank doors,” he adds.
A Work in Progress
Today, the 1977 Ford Bronco is mechanically sound and used as a daily driver. “It’s just reliable. The thing never fails on me,” says Duwe. Next up, he plans to outsource additional body work and a professional paint job. What started with a goal of restoration has grown into a desire to customize.
“It’s time to have some fun with it and, yes, that means possibly a new color—it may be time for ‘The Blue Bastard’ to get a new shade,” he laughs. “But I don’t want the paint to be too pretty because I want to drive the Bronco when I want to drive it and, more importantly, where I want to drive it,” he adds. “If my boys and I feel like off-roading somewhere, I don’t want to be shedding tears because I scratched the damned thing.”
Perhaps the most inspiring part of this story extends past the vehicle itself. A man, determined to preserve an astounding part of 4×4 history for his children, poured over numerous resources and studied alongside wrenchers who possessed the patience to teach him new skills. These days, Duwe is putting the Bronco’s mechanical reliability to the test on local trails, and expresses a desire to immerse himself further in classic car culture.
Welcome to the brotherhood, Duwe.
1977 Ford Bronco Parts List
|Replacement Starter||Bolts & Parts – Driver Side Door||Snap Rings||Fuel Sender||Rear Light Bulbs||Steel Fan Shroud + Shipping||4CH Rockford Fosgate Package||Grommet set||Tom’s Bronco Parts Black Family Rollbard Bikini Top Kit w/ Hardware||Headlight Body Components|
|Starter Cable||Brake Warning Light Bezel||Wiring Butt Connectors||Air Filter & Battery Cable||MasterCraft Seat Belts for the Kids Seats||Thermostat Gasket||Texas Ford Bronco Tailgate Sticker||30 amp MIDI fuse for Amp||Black Lug Nuts||Wild Horses 4×4 Deluxe Power Steering Kit & Bilstein Shocks|
|Light Bulb||Stereo Retrofit Kit||Butt Connectors||Backup Light Switch & Bracket, USB Extension Cable||Front Bucket Seats||Thermostat||Throttle Return Spring||Midi Amp Fuse Holder for Center Console||Exhaust Bracket Hanger Mounts||Turn signal pad & Red/Amber Side Marker Kits|
|Fuel Filter & Fuel Cleaner||Heater Inlet Duct||Ring Terminals||Gas Tank Connection Hose||Master Cylinder/Door Bolts/Radius Arm Bushings||Water Pump||Battery Hold Down Kit||BFGoodrich T/A KO2 – 35 x 12.5 x 15||Fuel Pump||Dennis Carpenter Bronco Scripted Engine Valve Covers|
|Fuel Line Hose||Defrost Duct Hose Kit||Steering Column Grommet||Headlight Bulb||New Battery – 3 Year Warranty||Hose Clamps & Battery Protector||MasterCraft Kids Seatbelt Harness Pads (x2)||Headlight Switch Nut||MSD Pro Billet Black Distributor||Ram Ball Mounts for GoPro and FiTech Controller|
|PainlessWiring Harness||Lower Bearing Seal||Coil Wiring Pigtail||License Lamp Assy – Clear||Replace Shift Collar||Upper/Lower Radiator Hoses||Blank Dash||LED Dash Instrument Cluster Lights||Black Bumpers with Bolts – Rear Rock Blocker Bumper w/Tire Rack||Turn Signal Switch, Black Mirrors & Door Handles, Retractable Seat Belts|
|LED Dash Control Lights||Screws for Steering Plate||Connectors for Turn Signal Switch||Clear Bulb||Heavy Duty Rear Axle – Product #8663||Alternator Replacement||Bolts for Door Hinges (Does Both Doors)||Turn Signal Cancelling Cam||Receiver Hitch and Hood Struts||CB Radio and Antenna|
|Bronco Script Column Cover||Bolts/Washer for Hard Top||Zip Ties/Cables||Sidemarker Gasket||Aluminum Radiator||Votage Regulator Replacement||Center Console||Front Fender to Door Pillar Screws (Qty: 6)||FiTech EFI, Fuel Pump, J-Shift Knob, Tire Center Caps, Fuel Pump Block Plate||Rear view mirror, dipstick, timing pointer, Speedo Gears, door limiting straps|
|Retrosound Stereo||Nuts for Hard Top||Turn Signal Switch & Turn Signal Lever||Well Nut||Caution Fan Sticker||Bailie Bilt Roll Cage & Mods to the Roll Cage||Wiring & Misc Parts for Amp/Center Console||Replacement Headlight Switch||Headlight Mounting Bucket Kit & Dimmer Switch Foot Pad||Components to get the heater working|
|Wild Horses 4×4 Tachometer||Windshield Upper Frame Seal||Fuel Hose||Screw – Black A/R||18″ Steel Fan + Shipping||Bailie Bilt Tool Tray||RCA Cables for Amp/Center Console||Hard Top & Black Wiper Motor Cover for Bikini Top||James Duff LED Headlights & Gas Cap Replacement||JAmes Duff Liftgate shocks & Windshield Braces|