Norm Coscia's 1973 BroncoNorm's Bronco is a great example of a highly modified trail rig, with most of the major modifications done at West Coast Broncos. We first met Norm at Big Bear Bronco Bash VI in Big Bear Lake, California. He had just gotten his Bronco on the road after an extensive build (at another shop) that included many high end features such as a full floater Dana 60 rear end, fiberglass body tub and several other goodies. After the Bash, the Bronco came to WCB for a few upgrades, and the project blossomed from there.
Norm's goal was to build his Bronco into a capable trail rig while preserving ride quality and drivability as well as a level of comfort not normally found on a trail rig. This would be a tall order, and addressing these along with a few other needed upgrades would take us to every corner of the Bronco for everything from major surgery to small touches. With every WCB build, we try to emphasize safety first, so with Norm's Bronco we started by pulling the top off to begin work on a custom family style roll cage.
Custom 6-Point Family CageNorm's cage would be a totally custom build, based on WCB's basic 6-point family style cage. The cage was fabricated of 1¾" diameter, .120" wall tubing with gussets at the major joints, a dash bar, entry handles and passenger grab handles throughout. Like all WCB cages, the windshield is braced to the cage and the cage members are fit as closely to the interior walls and surfaces as reasonably possible. Norm wanted to have plenty of lockable storage space, so we built in a Tuffy locking overhead console as well as a big, roomy Tuffy lockable storage trunk behind the rear seat. The trunk is mounted off of the floor to provide plenty of room for trail gear underneath. All of the Tuffy storage pieces, including the center console, were keyed alike. The fiberglass tub would necessitate tying the cage into the vehicle frame underneath the floorboards, which we did at all 6 points with tubular outriggers and urethane bushings to absorb vibrations and flex. Before the final installation, the cage was powdercoated in durable "silver vein" wrinkle finish. This would begin a theme that would carry throughout the project, with just about anything we fabricated or could unbolt from the Bronco getting the same silver vein powdercoat.
Custom Rocker RailsIn a battle with granite, fiberglass will loose every time. Even on steel-bodied Broncos, the rocker panels are one of the most vulnerable areas of the rig, practically taking on damage if a rock even looks at them on the trail. In order to protect Norm's vulnerable fiberglass tub from the rocks, we installed a set of custom 3/16" plate steel brake-formed rocker rails. The profile of these rocker rails extends 2" from the body, keeping the doors and body panels a safe distance from whatever rocks and trees the rig is pivoting against. Like we did with the cage, we wanted to brace the rocker rails to the vehicle frame so the fiberglass body wasn't bearing the brunt of any impact. Tubular gussets at each end of the rocker rail tie into the cage outriggers under the floor. For a clean, finished look, we mitered the ends of the rocker rails to match the wheel openings and capped them by welding in steel end plates then grinding them smooth. Of course these also got silver vein powder coat (shown here with temporary rattle-can black prior to powdercoat).
Custom Tubular Traction BarNorm's Bronco was suffering from a nasty case of axle wrap. Whenever you put the Bronco into gear you could see the rear pinion jerk violently upward or downward. It wouldn't be long before this would lead to premature u-joint failure, or even worse, broken leaf springs. We tamed the axle wrap problem with a custom tubular traction bar. After studying several anti-wrap/traction bars available on the market, we came up with our own design that preserves maximum suspension articulation while providing the beef to withstand the abuse of high torque loads. We borrowed some of the components and design cues from our famous long travel tubular radius arms, including the massive 1¼" heim joint and tube adapter, and 1¾"-.120 wall DOM tubing. Vertical separation of the urethane bushings at the axle end provide torque control, while the double-jointed shackle at the frame end provides freedom of articulation and suspension travel. The bar's length mimics the length from the rear output to the axle centerline, with the heim joint in plane with the driveshaft's CV joint. This helps to maintain proper pinion angle through suspension travel, keeping the pinion correctly pointed at the T-case rear output. The traction bar, shackle pieces and removable crossmember were all powdercoated silver vein.
Attention Under the HoodMost folks are never satisfied with old school vacuum brake boosters. Dialing them in correctly requires a rare form of black magic, and even when working properly they're woefully inadequate for stopping a heavy trail rig with big tires. That's why we don't even mess with vacuum brakes at WCB—we insist on hydroboost or nothing! Of course, hydroboost was the only way to go to meet Norm's demand for drivability and safety. So we installed our full hydroboost kit from Hydratech, and plumbed it into the Saginaw power steering pump residing on a WCB Saginaw pump bracket. This would complete the hydraulic system along with WCB's Rockcrawler power steering gear and a large fluid cooler mounted on the core support. While we were under the hood we also installed a Howell Electronic Fuel Injection system to provide new-car-like drivability and ease of starting. The EFI system will also provide smooth running at any altitude as well as stumble-free performance even in the rough terrain and off-camber situations that this trail rig is bound to get into. We also replaced the water pump with a high flow unit, installed some WCB Extreme Duty Motor Mounts and a 130-Amp G3 alternator.
Norm's Bronco Gets a LiftFor maximum ground clearance and just plain good looks, Norm selected a set of new 37" Pro Comp tires and wheels, and it was our job to make them fit while improving suspension performance. We started by installing a 1" body lift to help with clearance in other areas under the truck, and also for that little bit of extra tire clearance without raising the truck's center of gravity by going with a taller suspension lift. Norm's truck already had a 3½" lift that performs well, so we set out to improve articulation and off-road performance with WCB long travel tubular radius arms and WCB tubular front shock hoops. These of course were also powder coated silver vein. In the rear, we opted for Cage Off-Road's excellent rear shock mount, and installed custom-valved Radflo 2" body emulsion shocks on all four corners. The molded-in flares of the fiberglass body looked nice and mimiced the stock Bronco body lines, but they simply wouldn't mesh with the 37's so they had to come out. So we trimmed the fenders for the 37's and also re-cut, capped and powdercoated the rocker rails.
Keeping it all CoolIn anticipation of a a high performance 700R4 transmission install, we wanted to do everything we could to keep the Bronco cool, from engine and fluid temperatures to the all-important under-hood temperatures. We started by installing a pair of high flow electric pusher fans in front of the Ron Davis aluminum radiator. We also thought the fiberglass core support was probably not up to the task of supporting that massive cooling pack under hard use, so we cut the center section of it away and built a custom tubular core support and fan mount system. The fans are wired into switches on the dash and are also controlled automatically by inline thermostatic switches. To help airflow through the engine compartment to keep under-hood temperatures down, we installed a set of louvered aluminum hood vents. Transmission and engine oil are kept cool with remote stacked-plate fluid coolers with electric fans, mounted under the floorboards on custom brackets with specially fabricated heavy gauge mesh rock guards. These too are wired with thermostatic fan control switches.
A Few Finishing TouchesNorm has spent many hours researching and selecting the highest quality components for his Bronco. This also extends to the small things that lend comfort and quality of driving. Norm has customized his Bronco with a full length bikini top and matching urban camo roll bar pads. He has addressed safety with dual fire extinguishers on Four Treks billet aluminum cage mounts. To upgrade the interior, he had us install a Dakota Digital gauge cluster (we re-chromed the original gauge cluster bezel) and an array of high tech Nexus auxiliary gauges. Norm had Cross Enterprises ship us a full-featured rear bumper with tire, GI can and cooler racks, which we of course had powder coated in matching silver vein before installing it on the Bronco.
And the Upgrades ContinueNorm's Bronco is currently at West Coast Broncos for its latest round of upgrades. Chief among these will be the installation of a custom built level 3 700R4 automatic overdrive transmission and STaK 3-speed transfer case. We believe this will be the first Bronco with this drivetrain combination, and it will entail some serious R&D, custom crossmembers, a custom shifter solution as well as modifications to the driveshafts and the already-built traction bar. Also included in the current round of upgrades are the installation of a Flaming River stainless steel tilt steering column with shifter for the 700R4. We'll add more photos and update this page as the project progresses.
Thanks from WCB!We at West Coast Broncos would like to sincerely thank Norm for trusting us with his precious rig, and choosing to work with WCB to perform such extensive modifications to it. As you can see by the photos below, it is truly a whole different truck compared to when it first came through our gate.
© 2008 WEST COAST BRONCOS, INC.