A while back, Shawn Nelson walked into JRW Rods and Customs with aspirations to commission a very special 1976 Ford Bronco build. The reason why it was special was the Bronco was to be custom constructed for his wife Tiffany, as a secret birthday gift. Wayne Glasgow owner and chief designer of JRW accepted the project and started the tedious creation that would meet Shawn’s vision for his wife.
Since opening in 2016, JRW has built an impressive portfolio of one-off custom vehicle builds for both street and off-road purposes. This is not your ordinary automotive customization shop. For JRW Rods and Customs, it is all about the details, both big and little, with a mission to exceed expectations. Their motto says it all: DREAM…..DESIGN…..DRIVE…
Shawn Nelson must have been dreaming about this Bronco for some time. After talking for hours and exchanging hundreds of texts to lay out the basic vision, Shawn thoroughly relayed what he wanted. Wayne receptively told him what was possible. And all the while, Tiffany never knew what was coming until her birthday gift was revealed in a surprise fashion.
First-generation Broncos are a very hot commodity today, fetching high five figures for frame-off restorations, and original Stroppe Baja Broncos going into six figures. The Bronco has now gone from a simple bare-bones utility vehicle to a full-on collector vehicle posing as an actual investment. What JRW constructed for Tiffany is an eye-catching workhorse, pretty enough for shows and street duties but built with wild underpinning ready to be unleashed on the trail.
The Nuts And Bolts Of This Coyote V8 Powered 1976 Ford Bronco
Enough of the pre-build banter, let’s talk Bronco! The build started with a 1976 Ford Bronco frame and body, the basic dash structure was retained but heavily modified which we will later highlight in larger detail.
The star of this build is the engine, a second-generation 5.0-liter Coyote V8 with a Ford Performance ECM and wiring harness. It cranks out 430 horsepower and about 400 ft-lbs of torque. The Coyote is a unique engine and popular with many resto-mod builds of both cars and trucks.
Cooling is handled by an aluminum high-flow radiator and a 16-inch brushless fan. The spent gasses are handled by a pair of shorty headers hooked into a 3-inch stainless tube which dumps into a Magna Flow muffler and out the rear.
A Little History On The Coyote
The year is 1980, and Ford is facing pressure from Dodge and General Motors to up their engine game with small block eight-cylinder engines. The government was adding further pressure by increasing stringent emission regulations further choking performance. Ford looked to gain technological help from their partners in Europe and Japan.
By 1987, the Romeo, Michigan plant started retooling for the new “modular” engine; a 4.6-liter single overhead cam, two-valve per cylinder masterpiece. It took seven years and 4 billion dollars to get to this point. That engine, think of it as the Coyote’s grandfather, first saw duty in the 1991 Lincoln Town Car.
It was 1996 when things really started rolling for the modular engine. Ford had tossed the pushrod small block engine out of the Mustang and Thunderbird and installed the 4.6 liter. Single overhead cams were mostly utilized, but the Cobra version of the Mustang got a twin-cam version. In 1997 the engine started getting installed in F-150 trucks. Soon after that, the bigger 5.4 liter debuted in heavier-duty trucks.
Still, Ford needed something more. In 2010, they sought something even more powerful based on the venerable 5.0-liter design. The project was code-named “Coyote” paying homage to the A.J. Foyt chassis of the 1970s that ran in the open-wheel Indy cars. By 2011 the engine was coming out in Mustangs. The twin independent variable cam timing helped Fort achieve the trifecta of power, emissions, and improved fuel mileage.
Behind The Engine Of This 1976 Ford Bronco
For this Coyote V8 Powered 1976 Ford Bronco, a Ford 6R80 automatic transmission built by Power By The Hour in West Palm Beach, Florida. Shifting is handled through a Lokar electronic sport shifter. The Dana 20 transfer case was rebuilt, and a twin-stick shifter was installed to control high and low-range shifting. A rebuilt Ford 9 inch sits under the rear, and a rebuilt Dana 44 occupies the front.
Clearance for the tire package is provided by a Wild Horses 3.5-inch lift. James Duff radius arms give extra support to holding the suspension in place. Bilstein Shocks smooths out the ride and offer better control over the rough stuff. The steering is all custom with an under-dash electronic assist.
The whole package rides on a set of 18 X 8.5 KMC Dirty Harry wheels painted to match the vehicle highlights with semi-gloss black and toasted coconut flake accents. LT325-65R-18 Cooper Discoverer SST Pro tires were mounted on the KMC wheels to give gobs of grip on any surface the desert can throw at it.
The Coyote V8 Powered 1976 Ford Bronco dash was preserved to keep the interior looking classic. Like everything else it was also highly customized with upgraded newer components. An under-dash air conditioning system was fitted from Restomod Air and highlighted with billet control knobs. A Dakota Digital gauge package keeps good information coming about what the engine is doing, yet still looks almost period correct.
The chassis and interior received all custom wired and an integrated an American Autowire fuse block. To satisfy the desire for cruising tunes, they turned to a Retro Auto Sound. The 1976 Ford Bronco was equipped with the most modern sound system. A Bluetooth Alpine S-Series S-A55V 5-Channel Power Amplifier, 2 sets of S-S65C components, and a S-W12D4 with a custom box looks like it sounds amazing.
New Bronco-style seats were installed in the front, while a quick-release tumble rear seat occupies the back. Both front and back were outfitted with seat heaters. Between the front seats, the JRW crew installed a custom GM-style jump seat just because they could! Charging cords and wireless charging pads were added throughout as well.
The upholstery was handled by Cody at Seams Impossible, who built the center console as well as all the interior panels. Everything was wrapped in a special Apex Auto Leather that exactly matches one of Tiffany Nelson’s favorite handbags.
And because this 1976 Ford Bronco is built to wheel beyond its striking good looks, a most important custom-built roll cage was fitted to the chassis for the safety of all its precious occupants.
The paint is Ochre gold base, with Toasted Coconut .008 Flake and topped off with House of Kolors show Klear. The accent color is black with Global semi-gloss clear.
All off-road lighting, including the headlights, are LED units (off-road lighting not shown in photos). Bumpers were built to resemble factory bumpers of the era, with beefy tow points added at both ends.
In the end, JRW built an exemplary Ford Bronco that was both functional and fashionable in every conceivable way. Tiffany is one lucky lady.
Coyote V8 Powered 1976 Ford Bronco Built By JRW Rods & Customs
All Bronco photography was captured and furnished by Tom LeClair Photography.