The 2019 SEMA show is a awash in Ford Broncos. Restored, lifted, modified – whatever the flavor, they’re as ubiquitous as flat-rimmed baseball hats in the halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center. So, when Ford shows off Jay Leno’s personal 1968 Ford Bronco, front and center in it’s booth, it must mean the Bronco is played out, right? No, it turns out, not at all. Leno’s Bronco is not only an exercise in tasteful restraint, it’s packing some serious power under the hood. Not bad for a truck once owned by Danny Bonaduce.
Yes, really, although the Bonaduce connection is just a coincidence. The Bronco was a gift from fellow NBC talk show host Craig Ferguson, who bought the truck off a used car lot as a prank for Leno’s last day of taping. What Ferguson didn’t know is that Leno was happy to accept the Bronco, despite its rough condition, and turn it into the truck you see today.
“I wish you could see the before photo,” says Theresa Contreras of LGE-CTS Motorsports, the shop that did the Bronco’s bodywork and paint. When Leno first got the Bronco it had a bad lift kit and cut rear fenders, both popular modifications before Broncos turned into hot collectors items. For the restoration, “We went full sleeper on it,” Contreras says, adding that Leno “likes horsepower, but he likes things to be really unassuming.”
Out went the cut fenders, and LGE-CTS installed replacement body panels from Dennis Carpenter. Contreras and team also added the hard top, replacing the original soft top. “We wanted to keep it old school, so we put steel wheels on it,” says Contreras, noting the BF Goodrich Rugged Trail T/A tires, which are more comfortable for on-road driving than the Mud Terrain T/As you might expect. The rest of the design is clean and subtle, like the custom front and rear bumpers that mimic the original but curve in more at the ends to hug the bodywork. The “Tonight Blue” paint has a slight pearl effect. The grille is a custom piece that looks original at first glance, until you notice the missing row of thin horizontal slats on the top and bottom. Inside, the Bronco has a two-seat configuration, with the spare tire bolted down in the cargo area. The leather seats were done by Los Angeles area specialist Rogelio’s Upholstery.
Overall, Leno’s Bronco looks exactly like the sleeper it’s intended to be. If you saw it on the street, you’d think it was a really nice restoration. What you wouldn’t know is that it packs the heart of the 2020 Ford Shelby GT500 under the hood, a supercharged 5.2-liter V-8 packing 760 horsepower. The engine and chassis work fell to Kincer Chassis (and sister brand Krawler’s Edge), a specialist in early Bronco frames and chassis parts. “This is what we do every day,” says owner Thomas Kincer.
Like the bodywork, the underside of Leno’s Bronco is meant to look almost stock – my untrained eye didn’t notice the one-inch wheelbase stretch to the rear. Kincer started with its custom Bronco frame, made of 2 x 4-inch CNC mandrel-bent 3/16-inch steel with two extra crossmembers (for a total of four) for extra stiffness. The rest of the hardware consists of proven components: an Atlas transfer case, Eaton Detroit Truetrac differentials and gearing, Dutchman Motorsports axle shafts (upgraded from 31-spline to 35-spline in the rear to handle the extra power), Fox coilover shocks, Wilwood brakes, and a Tremec TR-4050 five-speeed manual transmission.
The challenge for Kincer was fitting the engine under the hood. They had done Coyote engines in Broncos before, but the added size of the Predator V-8’s superchager (and packaging extras like the intercooler) required an entirely new solution, and working with Contreras to make sure the engine bay could fit everything. Kincer’s frame is two inches wider than stock, which also helped.
For the Bronco’s exhaust, Kincer took inspiration from the electronically adjustable muffler in the GT500. Towards the front is a Borla two-in, two-out exhaust with an X-pipe, with another muffler at the rear that exits on each side. That rear muffler is attached with hose clamps, for easy disconnect. Kincer says you can swap out the mufflers for resonators or even straight pipes depending on how much noise you want. Or how much noise Leno wants, to be more accurate.
After the SEMA show, the Bronco will appear on an upcoming episode of Jay Leno’s Garage.