Velocity Restorations Ford Bronco SEMA restomod driving review

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PENSACOLA, Fla. – The Ford Broncos, Toyota Land Cruisers and International Scouts that fill the Velocity Restorations store, beg to be photographed. Everything inside simply exudes style. The store is about a dozen across the country specializing in these restomods, and combines vintage SUVs with more modern powertrains, safety features and comfort. We recently flew to the Florida Panhandle to drive a pair of Broncos, built by Velocity – one a very modified SEMA show car, the other a fairly simple restomode. These are still old trucks with all the associated charm, but they are faster and drive much better than they once did when they were new.

Velocity Restorations had two Broncos on hand to sample. The first was designed as a daily driver or beach cruiser; the second was a SEMA build that was much wilder. The daily driver was one of the store's set-price builds, a Brittany Blue model equipped with a 400-horsepower Ford Coyote V8 box engine and a five-speed manual gearbox. The entire car was dismantled and rebuilt from the ground up, and almost every part was updated or repaired. There is a completely new modified tub, a six-point roll cage, Dana axles with a Dana transfer case, a 3.5-inch lift, Pacer wheels with BF Goodrich All-Terrain T / A K02 35-inch tires, power steering and power – four-wheel Wilwood disc brakes. Other upgrades include new seats with sea quality upholstery, air conditioning, a new instrument panel, a Pioneer head unit with Kicker speakers, electrically adjustable steps, LED headlights and a number of billet aluminum parts such as the shifter, fuel cap and window crankshaft.

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The upgrades keep Bronco retrocoaching intact while improving performance and updating things that make them feel outdated. Details such as the shifter and the instrument panel look fantastic. The majority of the metalwork is black or chromed, with much of that with that somewhat ribbed aluminum appearance. Just like most good aluminum pieces, it feels both light and firm in your hands. The meters are clearly and appropriately retro, although we wished the speedo was a bit bigger. Apart from a few somewhat flashy speakers sticking out of the doors, it all seems that it could come from the factory. It is still a vintage vehicle, so there are a few shakes and rattles about bumps, but it is an improvement on almost everything of the era. Despite the new 5.0-liter V8 that more than doubles the original horse power of the Bronco, it did not feel manic or overpowered. It sounded damn good thanks to the outlet of the Magnaflow.

The steering is light and devoid of feedback, but does not affect the driving experience. The throws of the five speeds are long, but the relaxed and conscious nature of each team feels appropriate in an old cruiser. The soft suspension and abundant amounts of side walls help to absorb bumps in the sidewalk. It is top heavy and the body rolls through curves, but it is perfect to sail around on a sunny afternoon.

As with most custom vehicles, what you can achieve is limited only by the size of your bank account and the grandeur of your imagination. This leads us to the green and copper Bronco Velocity Restorations that were built for SEMA a few years ago. If the blue Bronco delivers a baseline, the SEMA Bronco moves everything up a few degrees. At first glance it looks like a raised Bronco with flashy copper accents. If you look closer, you will see the hidden hinges, the built-in glass, the tailor-made lighting and the high-quality leather on the dashboard, the doors and the seats. The quality of each trim is approximately half a degree higher than that of the other Bronco. It even has electric windows with adapted glass. The Coyote V8 receives a Whipple supercharger and is linked to a reinforced Ford 6R80 six-speed automatic transmission. Other mechanical changes include an independent front suspension with four-rod Fox coilovers, 18-inch wheels with 35-inch Nitto Trail Grappler tires and 14-inch six-piston Baer brakes. It is loud, flashy and one of the most frightening cars we've ever driven.

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You see, to clean up the engine compartment for SEMA, the store has removed the power brake booster, something that is on the specification sheet and that we were not aware of beforehand. This Bronco has all the power in the world – enough to pull the front tires off the ground at a hard launch – but not nearly enough braking power, given the growling. It gave us a good shock the first time we went for the pedal. We expected the same amount of braking power as the first Bronco we drove and we got none of it. For what it's worth, Velocity Restorations says it will be equipped with power brakes before it goes to its owner.

Nail it from a stop and the nose becomes light. All the weight shifts backwards, but on the sandy surface of the Florida coast, the tires struggled to traction. Transfer shifts are fast, but there is not much grace for them. There was noticeable sting in every gear change. We would have liked a less powerful Bronco with the automatic transmission. Just like the blue Bronco, the steering is light and bumps in the sidewalk are usually driven away by the suspension and tires. It was entertaining, although we much prefer the balance and driving ability of the blue Bronco.

Cars are emotional issues and the attachment that we form with them cannot be quantified. Velocity Restorations is doing well with these builds, and some things are as cool as a topless Bronco with a rippling V8 on a sunny day near the beach. And that is the whole point of these six-digit classics. The quality seems to be there, and there is a lot of room to create your own custom build. The customized options are where the Broncos of Velocity Restoration really shine. That said, the waiting list is long and there are a number of other stores such as Icon and Gateway Bronco that do pretty much the same thing. If you are interested in ordering one, we say that you look around and see who can fulfill your heart's desire. The options are seemingly endless.

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