Rare Budd Body: 1966 ford Bronco U13 Roadster

Claiming rarity for any classic vehicle can be a slippery slope. There have been countless examples where an owner will stake their claim on the strength of a single optional extra. However, sometimes you have to admit that a vehicle is something out of the ordinary. That seems to be the case with this 1966 Ford Bronco. Not only is it a confirmed genuine U13 Roadster, but it is claimed to be one of the earliest examples that featured a body built by Budd. The owner has decided to part with this automotive unicorn, so he has listed it for sale here on eBay. It is located in Great Bend, Kansas, and solid bidding has pushed the price to $7,800 in this No Reserve auction. Given the desirability of this vehicle, I suspect that the figure might grow significantly before the hammer falls.

There’s a bit to consider with this Bronco. It seems that somebody has made some changes to convert it to a wagon, but all of the body stamps and the VIN tag confirm this as a U13 Roadster. It needs some work to return it to its former glory, but it has one refreshing characteristic compared to many of the First Generation Broncos that we’ve seen in the past. This classic seems to be surprisingly free of rust. There’s plenty of surface corrosion on the underside and the frame, but the amount of penetrating rust seems minimal. It has been cut in a few places, including on the side of the transmission tunnel where a previous owner has fitted a floor-change conversion. The rear fenders have also been modified to accommodate larger wheels, but replacement steel for these areas is readily available and very affordable. The orange paint it wears isn’t original because the plate indicates that it rolled off the line wearing Caribbean Turquoise. One missing item that might cause delays for an owner intent on a faithful restoration will be the grille. The early vehicles featured “eyebrows” above the headlamps, but this Bronco is missing the feature because the grille is a later version. Thanks to the low early production total, it may take some detective work to locate a genuine replacement. The story behind these early Broncos was fascinating, and it bears a brief recap. Ford developed the Bronco on a tight time frame, which was nothing new for the company. While they developed and manufactured the frame themselves, it fell to a company called Budd to produce the bodies for the prototypes. Once production was scheduled to start, Ford didn’t have the body dies in place, so they contracted Budd to build the early bodies. It seems that it was around November of 1965 before production moved “in-house” at Ford. This Bronco carries all of the hallmarks of a Budd-body vehicle, and its build date easily falls within the recognized range as specified by many specialist organizations.

The owner doesn’t specifically indicate whether this Bronco is numbers-matching, but it does appear to retain a 170ci six-cylinder engine and a three-speed manual transmission. That six would’ve produced 105hp, and when coupled to a Dana 20 transfer case, it gave the vehicle pretty accomplished off-road capabilities. It seems that this Ford has been sitting for years, and it doesn’t run or drive. The owner replaced the points and poured fuel down the carburetor. The result was that it did cough into life, but it didn’t really run. However, that’s a promising sign and could mean that coaxing the engine back to life will be a straightforward task.

The Bronco’s interior is complete, but this is another area where the buyer will need to spend a few dollars. Trim and upholstery will be the first port of call while some items are missing from the dash. However, the beauty of these interiors is their simplicity. Dismantling the dash to restore the painted surfaces isn’t complicated, while replacements for all of the trim and missing switches are easy to find. I admit that the whole process will probably hit $2,500, but when you consider the potential value of these classics, it could be money well spent.

The information and photos supplied by the seller seem to confirm this 1966 Bronco as a U13 Roadster with a body by Budd. Of course, there is no substitute for an in-person inspection, and if I were interested, that would be my next move. While Ford produced 23,776 examples of the Bronco for the 1966 model year, a mere 4,090 of these were the U13 Roadster. That already makes it a rare beast, but if it is confirmed as a Budd, that lifts the rarity stakes to a new level. A pristine ’66 Roadster will command a value of $50,000 any day of the week. Those that are genuine Budds take that figure significantly higher. A bit of detective work revealed a couple of reasonably recent sales, and both changed hands for around $70,000. If this is the real deal, that makes it an automotive unicorn worthy of a meticulous restoration.

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Comments

  1. Todd Zuercher

    Just spent the night in Great Bend a few months ago. Would’ve checked out this rig had I known it was there. This one’s going to take a lot of work. Someone put a Kelly top on it too!

  2. Gary

    These things are like jeeps, they only drive well lifted, with wider tires and offset wheels. They are so narrow they follow every rut in the road and are hard to handle if you aren’t careful. I’ve driven them and they are not a vehicle I would care to own, other than to flip it

    Like 4
  3. Steveo

    I miss the days when money was actually worth something.

    Like 4
  4. sir_mike

    Just don’t understand why old Bronco’s bring big money..

    Like 1
    • Mike

      You don’t need to understand. It’s a trend and speculators are jumping in. 4×4 market is hot.

      Like 2
  5. Howard A Member

    Hmm, I don’t think so. Anyone else see a problem here? The U13 roadster didn’t have doors, as debuted by Hank Kimball in Green Acres. While I read, Budd did make the prototypes, they still had no doors or top. https://www.zero260.com/posts/the-rarest-of-the-rare-restored-u13-budd-truck-17k-mile-1966-ford-bronco

    Like 4
    • Todd Zuercher

      Hi Howard – actually many of them did get doors and tops added over the years as owners wanted more protection from the elements. Since the roadsters were so slow selling (production numbers dropped from 4,090 in ’66 to 698 in ’67), Ford even put doors and tops on the majority of them for the ’67 model year to get them sold. But you’re right, most of them the first year just had the roadster inserts on them.

      Like 3
      • Steve

        Exactly. It was cheaper to buy a roadster with doors, and a wagon without the top.

        Many came from the factory like this. I’m not saying this one did, but it’s possible. This vehicle needs a whole lot of work.

  6. Russ Ashley

    On Power Nation channel, truck tech show. they are building one of these from scratch using Dennis Carpenter components. When it’s finished it will be the only one of these that I might like to have.

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