Highly Optioned: 1976 Ford Bronco Explorer

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First Generation Broncos are renowned for two things. They are accomplished off-roaders capable of transporting their occupants into pretty wild territory. They also have a well-earned reputation for rust issues, and this 1976 Bronco Explorer is no exception. It requires significant work as part of its restoration. Still, with values climbing and the latest prevention techniques minimizing the chances of the dreaded tin worm returning, it deserves a close look. This Ford is listed here on eBay in Fullerton, Nebraska. Bidding has raced beyond the reserve to sit at $9,000.

This Bronco poses an immediate mystery for potential buyers. The existing Orange and Blue paint isn’t original, but I can’t confirm what it was. The Tag shows Code H, but that doesn’t gel with any shade offered by Ford in 1976. Therefore, the winning bidder may need to do their best Sherlock Holmes impression to determine the truth if a faithful restoration is their aim. The glass is in good order, most trim pieces are present, and nobody has cut the fenders to accommodate larger wheels. That brings us to the topic of rust, and there’s a lot to cover. The vehicle’s frame is structurally sound, but the body looks like Swiss cheese. There won’t be much of this classic’s original steel left when the buyer cuts away the rot. Replacement parts are readily available, but the A-Pillar rust is best tackled by someone with high-end welding skills. Compromising this repair could be disastrous if the Bronco ever winds up shiny side down. Alternatively, several companies produce replacement bodyshells, which could be a viable option. Some of these are so good that it is impossible to tell they aren’t the real deal. It is a path that some might consider, with a complete shell retailing for around $17,000. I know it’s a significant outlay, but it could save a lot of grief and hassles. Rules on such changes vary widely, so potential buyers should check the requirements with their local authorities before spending that amount of money.

The seller admits they don’t have the driver’s or back seat, but the interior is otherwise intact. It requires a retrim, meaning the buyer’s wallet will take another hit in this build. There are a few aftermarket additions, including a column-mounted tach, a box that may have housed a stereo, a homemade console, and an array of switches occupying the spot previously reserved for the radio. Reversing the changes shouldn’t be challenging, but returning the interior to its original appearance will leave little change from $2,200. On a brighter note, the factory air conditioning system appears intact.

Powering this Bronco is a 302ci V8, with the original owner specifying a three-speed automatic transmission, power steering, and power brakes. That V8 should produce 125hp and 220 ft/lbs of torque. With most of both delivered low in the engine’s rev range, the automatic transmission and dual-range transfer case should allow this classic to traverse harsh terrain with its engine barely ticking over. The seller states the Bronco has sat idle since 2019. It runs and drives, but the fuel system and brakes require attention as part of the process of returning the vehicle to active service.

I won’t insult your intelligence by suggesting the restoration of this 1976 Bronco Explorer will be easy. The new owner faces dismantling the vehicle to the last nut and bolt before they spend countless hours cutting away the rot. That is the easy part because they will need to stitch in new steel while ensuring that the alignments remain correct for a high-end result. Values have recently taken a hit, although a well-restored Bronco Explorer still commands over $70,000 in the current market. If the new owner is hands-on with some tasks, it should remain financially viable. Are you brave enough to consider pursuing this classic further?

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  1. bobhess bobhessMember

    Good idea on the replacement body. It’s going to cost way more than 17K to repair the original body when you put the parts and labor into the equation.

    Like 5
  2. Todd Zuercher

    Color code H in 1976 was Copper, which corresponds to one of the colors that the ’76 Explorer was offered in – and that’s obviously not its external colors now (although the dash looks to be the original color).

    There was no “factory air conditioning” in the early Broncos – the closest was dealer-added systems. This may be one of these but it’s far from “complete” as advertised since the compressor and who knows what else is missing.

    Yeah, the body on this one is shot. Mega-$$ to repair or maybe better to just replace it. 20-30 years ago we stripped trucks like this and used the good stuff on rigs in better condition. Not so today…

    Like 3
  3. Mr Meowingtons

    Methinks we need a wee bit more than a retrim

    Like 5
  4. Mimo

    Relax, all right? My old man is a television repairman, he’s got this ultimate set of tools. I can fix it.

    Like 7
  5. chrlsful

    Any way, this is ‘last 2 yrs’ model w/a lill change to the final so has the frnt discs, my 1st customise (just got the whole chassy, another rig sat on top of it) was the 1 yr beefer frame w/discs. Got the “Y” steering not “T” so a lill better st than trail. More ta say, outta time – post to chrlsful at the aol isp.

    Like 1

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