Recent Restoration: 1978 Ford Bronco Ranger XLT Free Wheelin’

When Ford released its Second Generation Bronco in 1978, it found itself with an immediate hit. First-year sales more than tripled the best achieved by the First Generation, and our feature Bronco is a gem. It is a Ranger XLT featuring the Free Wheelin’ package, and it presents superbly after a recent cosmetic restoration. Adding to its appeal, the owner equipped its original V8 with fuel injection that should improve smoothness, power, and driveability. It needs a new home, with the owner listing it here on Bring A Trailer in Katonah, New York. Bidding sits at $32,000, with time remaining for interested parties to stake their claim.

To classify the reception of the First Generation Bronco as lukewarm would be fair. Its most successful sales year was 1974, with 25,824 buyers parking one in their garage. Ford released the Second Generation in 1978, with 77,917 buyers handing over their cash for one. Our feature Bronco is a Ranger XLT from that year with a known ownership history. The current owner purchased it in 2021, and they immediately treated it to a cosmetic restoration. It received a fresh coat of its original Dark Jade Metallic paint, with the owner removing the Black hardtop to paint the top rails and replace the seals. They also replaced the remaining door and window seals to provide excellent weather protection and remove wind noise. The original owner ordered the Bronco with the Free Wheelin’ Package, with the owner reapplying the distinctive tri-color vinyl graphics following the repaint. They sent the original wheels to the powdercoaters for a refresh, and the overall effect is impressive. There are no flaws or faults in the panels or paint and no evidence of rust. The spare tire sits on a practical swing-out mount, and the tinted glass is flawless. It is probably one of the tidiest Broncos of this vintage you will find in the current market, and it’s guaranteed to turn heads.

If this Bronco’s exterior presents superbly, its interior continues that theme. Upholstered in two-tone Jade vinyl, there is no evidence of wear or other issues. The meaty sports wheel should feel pleasant in the driver’s hands, while an AM/FM radio and air conditioning should make life on the move pleasant. The owner indicates there are seatbelts to cater to six occupants, making it an ideal family carrier. The dash is impressive, there are no pad cracks, and the faux woodgrain is excellent. It wouldn’t matter where the buyer took this Bronco, the interior should receive positive comments.

Bronco buyers in 1978 faced a couple of engine choices, with this vehicle featuring the venerable 5.8-liter V8. When it rolled off the showroom floor, it would have sent 156hp and 262 ft/lbs of torque to the road via a three-speed automatic transmission and a dual-range transfer case. I would class this V8 as a  “lazy” engine, but I’m not being derogatory with that term. I mean that it produces most of its power and torque below 2,500rpm. Therefore, there’s no need for the driver to rev the heads off this beast because it achieves little. That characteristic makes it ideal as an off-roader, allowing it to climb effortlessly over some pretty harsh terrain. Since purchasing this Bronco, the owner spent some money on its drivetrain to ensure it is in sound mechanical health. It received a new timing chain, professionally rebuilt heads with hardened valve seats, and a new fuel tank, fuel lines, a starter, distributor, spark plugs, plug wires, and a battery. The final piece of the puzzle was the addition of Holley electronic fuel injection. It should improve fuel economy and power delivery, providing better road manners and driveability. The Bronco runs and drives well, ready to be enjoyed by its new owner.

After opening at $20,000, it hasn’t taken long for bidding on this 1978 Bronco Ranger XLT to race to its current figure. That’s hardly surprising when you consider its condition. If it soars past $40,000, I’ll be unsurprised. It appears to need nothing and offers much to its new owner. Have you ever owned a Bronco of this vintage? If so, did you enjoy the experience enough to consider making a play for this one?

Comments

  1. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    This generation of F-Series is very popular (and my favorite), and the accompanying Broncos now have similar popularity. This is an excellent example. The stripes give it some extra pizzaz. Even given the “BAT effect,” I’m not surprised at the bidding. It may not be as cute or trendy as a first-gen Bronco, but it’s probably more live-able overall.

    Like 4
  2. Todd Zuercher

    Stripes courtesy of our good friends at MontanaBroncos!! Dark Jade is a good color on these.

    Like 5
  3. ThunderRob

    I’ve seen mint free wheeling Bronco’s of this era top 100K on BAT,notably black ones with orange graphics.I myself am a green freak and this is the most stunning of the lot i’ve ever seen.

    Like 2
  4. gabriel

    HI I like it , I think I talked to you on FB in the past. I am in Florida. how is the process to get a florida title. because you said that CT doesn’t give titles to vintage cars. Are you familiar with this? thanks

  5. Lothar... of the Hill People

    I love everything about this truck except maybe the aftermarket steering wheel and that’s an easy fix. It’s gorgeous and it reminds me of my Dad’s ’79. I maybe a little weird but I love the old bench seats.

    I wonder where the bids will land on this truck. I’d sure buy this Bronco for $38K, maybe more, before I’d buy this F-350 for $38K.
    https://barnfinds.com/cruisaire-package-1979-ford-f-350-4×4/?utm_campaign=Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Newsletter+(Daily)

    Apples and oranges you say? I don’t care I say.

    Like 3
    • Mark

      That steering wheel is not aftermarket. Ford put those on most of the freewheeling packages

      Like 5
      • Todd Zuercher

        And they aren’t cheap these days either! Nice ones are hard to find.

        Like 1
      • Lothar... of the Hill People

        Mark- Thank you for the correction. Maybe my Dad’s had the other steering wheel because it was equipped w/ cruise control, etc.

    • Bolivar Shagnasty

      my 78 Mustang II has the same steering wheel so it is a Ford item

    • Brad460 Member

      That is in fact a Ford steering wheel and was offered on different pickups, broncos, mustangs, etc., However as another commenter pointed out, when cruise control was ordered, buyers got the single bar wheel with the “bent ends” on the bar.

  6. Johnny

    I have 2-78,s I,m working on and all these people running and looking for one and paying stupid prices–I,ll sale you one . For the high price. Why the cheap radiator and what else does a person not know. Its too shiney—plus the paper work . Who every buys it.Had better know what to look for and check out themselves. The ride and go good on slick roads,but like gas alot.

  7. chrlsful

    like these w/a bigger ster. wheel and solid paint color. Our local spring fling toward bronks features one w/the 400m (I like better) and a ’79 top where the side back windows slide w/wind wing. That’s the largest ‘square engine’ in production. Pretty neat (gas hog). In fact, back in the day if 1 rolled by that’s just what we called them (or the other oe motors) “PIG!”

    Still lub em as my #1 is the 6th gen F series truck (even over many, almost ALL cars).

  8. Connecticut mark

    Had 4 of these all 351/400 modified engines, not great engines, wanted a Windsor or Cleveland, but never came upon one, I upholstered the removable top white, was blood red inside and out, the others were for plowing , not fast but for plowing great, yes gas guzzlers/ but very good looking trucks, rather a 78-79 then and original small bronco, or after OJ TYPE and newer.

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