Real Steel: 1977 Ford Bronco Blends Old And New

While taking in the sights at the 2020 Detroit Autorama this year we were stopped in our tracks by this 1977 Bronco. The truck harnesses just the right blend of old and new. It caught the attention of just about every show goer. The truck owners Josh Masters and Rick Arnold run J and R Customs in Houston, Ohio. They work on anything with a motor and this Bronco is a true testament to what they are capable of. Josh admitted, “It’s a business but we always want to establish relationships and friendships. That’s what’s important.”

Josh Masters and Rick Arnold built this amazing 1977 Bronco from the ground up.

The pair have been working on vehicles for a long time and share a passion of all things automotive. Rick said, “I’ve been involved with cars since I was ten years old. I’ve been motoring and tinkering with things since then and I can’t get away from it. I just want to share my talents with anyone that wants them. I love bringing old things back to life.”

Josh explained that, “My family has always been involved in off roading. Over the years you learn a lot and by all means I’m not perfect. I learn every day. Rick has taught me so much and everyday is about learning something new. There is always someone out there that is better than you and they might be willing to pass on that knowledge. Even though it’s an expensive learning curve, off roading is a great hobby.” In between an avalanche of fandom and questions we got the down low on how this all came together.

On A Mission

Josh explained the find like this. He stated, “We went down to Mountain View, Arkansas to pick it up. I had one of these in high school and I wanted to redo another one. After we got it home and started getting into it we realized it was one of those things where once you started removing stuff it just kept going. It became a complete frame-off restoration with a lot of custom work. We didn’t think it was going to be this elaborate of a build. It took us about sixteen months to completely redo it. Everything is new on it.”

As with any project things don’t always go smoothly. Josh admitted, “It had some headaches. We wanted to take old school and new school and bring them together. I always liked the old body designs but we wanted to update it with some of the newer features. The brakes, suspension, and lights are all updated. Newer is better. At the same time we wanted to keep as much of the old stuff as we could.”

The Choices We Make

Josh knows that sometimes build choices may not be popular with everyone. He admitted, “You know you get to a fine line, especially with the older generation, when you start doing bigger wheels and tires some people don’t like it. I think that it all really came together. I’m happy with the way it turned out. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Not every car talks to everyone. This one talks to me.

While not everyone agrees with all of the choices made on this build, most still want to stop and talk about it.

“Another great thing about it is that it’s a conversation starter. We have heard so many stories from older and younger people about how someone used to have one. They remember when they used to drive one on a farm or go out four-wheeling. Maybe it ended up in a ditch or at the bottom of a mountain and it’s still there! It’s one of those things that is really fun because you get to learn a lot and hear those stories.”

Attention Grabber

We would say that the pair nailed it with this ride. The truck is striking and turned a lot of heads at Autorama. Even though the truck is certainly sharp, don’t think it’s just a showpiece. Josh reports that, “I drive it. We’ve taken it out to a lot of shows and I polish it a lot, but it was built to be driven.”

Some of the updated items included the Amp power steps. We were impressed with how seamlessly they were incorporated into the body line. A breezer-style bikini top on the back of the rig provides a little cover for those that desire it. The choice also maintains a high level of style and the iconic bodylines. The full metal hood and scoop was one of our favorite details and Josh agrees. Josh and Rick both stated that the hood was one of the most challenging things about the build.

Josh and Rick both agree that the hood was one of the most challenging things about the build.

The hood is metal and not fiberglass. They took the factory hood and built the hood scoop and everything on it. To do it all without any warping and getting all of the angles just right was really challenging. However, the final product speaks for itself. In addition to the hood, the fully shaved doors set the tone for just how unique this Bronco really is. Tim Bragg did the exterior paint at 937 restorations. We would certainly say that they nailed it.

The Heart

The heart of this Bronco is the 351 Windsor. Steve Neal at SOB Motors built it. The list of improvements is long and features some prominent names in the industry. To start with, the motor has been bored .030-inch over and honed to make sure the best possible product was achieved. The time and expense was also endured to both line hone and 0-deck the block. At that point a Melling high-volume oil pump was installed. An Eagle 4340 crankshaft with a 4.00-inch stroke and H-beam connecting rods also prove that this pony doesn’t play.

MAHLE forged pistons and a Lunati custom grind cam team up to show that performance is a priority. Lunati also once again got the nod for their hydraulic roller lifters. Additional features like the AFR Renegade 185cc heads with 58cc combustion chambers, Scorpion 1.7 roller rockers, and hardened push rods work together to take things up a notch.

Up top an Edelbrock Super Victor intake, Holley Sniper fuel injection, MSD distributor, and an Edelbrock air cleaner handle spark and oxygen distribution. A Ford SFI harmonic balancer can be found up front, and March pulleys keeps things classy. Custom ceramic-coated headers handle exhaust gasses. The headers dump into a custom 2.5-inch stainless exhaust that ends with Black Widow mufflers.

Two inch diameter Fox shocks handle dampening at all four corners.

That Bling

While all of the work that has gone on under the hood is plenty impressive, the interior is where Josh and Rick’s passion really shines. Once inside viewers are treated to a full TMI interior. Dakota digital gauges make keeping an eye on the vitals a breeze. An Ididit steering column sends input to the wheels.

The impressive interior really is a work of art.

Meanwhile a 4,000-watt Ds 18 stereo system keeps the party going. The Krawlers custom roll cage makes sure that everyone stays safe and sound. Of all the features on the inside of this truck, the custom billet door panels, light bezels, knobs, handles and gauge covers have to be our favorite. You can just feel the time, energy, and passion that went into this work and it is fantastic.

The Under Wonder

If you have a high performance motor, then you know the high level of importance in bringing it all to a stop. When off-road, being able to stop can mean the difference between a fun day on the trail and a really bad day. That kind of bad day usually involves your insurance company giving you some serious side eye.

To avoid all that, Josh and Rick went with 17-inch Wilwood disc brakes in both the front and rear. The original booster was also ditched and replaced with a Wilwood hydroboost system. The brakes connect to a Ford 9-inch rear axle. It is stuffed with 4.11:1 gears. Five and a half inches of suspension lift are also utilized. This is in addition to a one-inch body lift. The added height makes room for the 35-inch Amp tires on Dropstars 20-inch wheels. Two-inch diameter Fox shocks handle dampening at all four corners.

Wrapping It Up

Josh considers this to be his own truck. However, he does admit that some special thanks need to go out to Rick Arnold and Mike Shoemaker for their contributions as well. Rick stated, “The entire build was fun. Everything from the electronic fuel injection to the ignition systems and the AMP steps were fun.” Josh responded, “The best thing about this is that I designed this in my head. The vision that I came up with was all in my head. We didn’t have any renderings or drawings. I saw it in my head and we made it a reality. So that is what is exciting to me.”

Moving forward the truck is currently for sale. If you think this is the Bronco for you reach out to Josh and go for a ride. J and R Customs can be reached at (937) 418-2017 or [email protected]

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About the author

Christie Materni

As a photographer, and self-proclaimed "magic maker" for over 12 years, Christie loves to create anything from amazing images to great chocolate chip cookies. Traveling the country with her camera, husband, and sometimes a dog, in search of fast cars and tough trucks is her favorite way to spend the day.
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