The first generation 1966-1977 Ford Bronco became an iconic car based on its simplicity. Its square looks and removable roof were focused on being functional in a world before vehicles of its kind were called SUVs. It allowed people to drive off-road, while still being able to comfortably traverse the roads between work and home, but a historic off-roader it became. One of the most famous off-road cars in history was Parnelli Jones’ Big Oly, a 1970 Bronco that was heavily modified of course. This car set fire to a love affair that many enthusiasts now hold. Fast forward to today, and the Bronco is making a comeback.
Seth Burgett was always a Ford fan, having idealized the Shelby mustangs since he was a kid. “My passion was for Shelby, says Burgett, ‘I was 15 years old and had the ability to buy a 1967 G.T.350—it was lime gold [with] parchment interior.’ It was $6000 in 1985. I didn’t buy it because it wasn’t a G.T. 500. Fast forward from 1985 to 2016, I then went and bought a G.T.500 survivor car on the west coast, and then on the same day, a barn find—a G.T. 350 on the east coast. We bought both [cars] on the same day.”
Buying those iconic Shelby’s gave Burgett the inclination to become a car collector, “that began my real passion for the ’67 Shelby’s, [and] as a part of that, what I looked at was collecting Shelby’s,” says Burgett, but he found that the Shelby market had changed, no longer were the prices of the cars skyrocketing year to year. “I found that the market had really stabilized if you will. That was one way to look at the Shelby market, and I looked at the ’65-’67 Shelby’s and [they were stable, their values were no longer increasing]. So, I said, what other vehicles do I have a passion around? That I could put in blue-chip level investment in. I just sold a company, wanted to see where to invest, and we looked at the Bronco.”
“I loved the Bronco—always loved the four-wheel drive. I never had a Bronco, but I always wanted one,” said Burgett, “so I did the research, and by the numbers, it showed that … the Bronco market is about to take off.” According to Hagerty’s reports, the Broncos that were being sold “outperformed the DOW, the S&P, NASDAQ, and Gold—it was unbelievable.” Compared to the Shelby, they were still at the top of the hill, “I think we are in that place now [where the Bronco market is going to explode in value].”
Burgett bought “15 all original paint Broncos” as an investment. In the last three years, the values of those cars have increased to three times their original value, “so I think it was a wise investment; [however,] the investment was really [just] to become a collector,” says Burgett.
According to Hagerty’s reports, the Broncos that were being sold “outperformed the DOW, the S&P, NASDAQ, and gold.
He planned to have fun with his Shelby’s while the Bronco’s accrued in value. I like to “race my Shelby’s at vintage events like SAC,” but he chooses to drive the vintage Broncos for fun on the street; however, his family did not warm to the Bronco’s like Seth did—they hated being inside of the old cars.
“My family didn’t want to ride in them. I had 15 original paint Broncos, and no one wanted to ride with me. ‘They’re smelly Dad, why do you like these things?’ My wife was like ‘they’re hot in the day, cold at night. I have to get in and out of your Bronco in a bucket,’ recalls Burgett.
So, he set out to add modern features to try to sell his family on the Bronco’s charm. “We [initially] put in a powered step. At first, I was like, I’m going to go get a Bronco built. I had a whole year off, and I said ‘let me just take time, spend it with my family, and do some fun things,” but before he could get a Bronco built, his wife threw in the towel, refusing to ride in the cars anymore. “I went on a road trip with my wife in the mountains,” and Burgett recalls her saying “‘I’m done with these things! These are not safe, they’re smelly, all these things [are wrong],’ so I said, ‘Okay, I’ll build you one.’”
Burgett called Jonathan Ward of Icon 4×4 and a few other builders hoping to get a Bronco modernized, but the timeframe was something that did not work for him. “I wasn’t happy with the response of a three-year build time,” decries Burgett, “the lowest [timeframe that] I could find was a year to a year and a half.”
“The demand [for the Bronco] is high, [yet] the supply isn’t able to keep up,” explains Burgett, “So, he decided to add to the supply side, “my background is production.” Using the money from selling his business, he decided to start a business.
“I bought a 60,000 sq. foot hangar and we built a state-of-the-art manufacturing center because I couldn’t find someone else to build my own Bronco, and so now we build Broncos” (Burgett).
Burgett went about revamping and modernizing the old, first-generation Bronco. He started Gateway Broncos in 2016. The goal of the company was to deliver top quality, modern first-generation Broncos, that were bespoke—the owner could have all of the modern trimmings of a new car or as little as they desired.
All three models are powered by Ford’s newest 5.0L Coyote V8. The engine offers 450 hp with 420 ft-lbs. of torque, which trumps the car’s old 302 cubic inch motor.
He created three-tier options: The Fuelie Edition, The Coyote Edition, and the top dog: The Modern Day Warrior. Priced with their near peers from Icon 4×4, the Gateway Broncos command an impressive price as Burgett explains “The three models are $150,000 base, $250,000 base, and $300,000 base.”
Gateway’s Bronco looks stock on the outside, but it is completely modern underneath with modern suspension and brakes, and it drives like a modern car.
All three models are powered by Ford’s newest 5.0L Coyote V8. The engine offers 450 hp with 420 ft-lbs. of torque, which trumps the car’s old 302 cubic inch motor. Behind the coyote is Ford’s six-speed 6R80 automatic transmission. Most of Gateway’s competitors use an older 4-speed automatic.
Although Ford has already replaced the 6-speed auto with the new 10R80, 10-speed automatic transmission in most of its cars like the Ford Mustang, Burgett says that the 6-speed is still his choice for high horsepower applications like Gateway’s Modern Day Warrior. “The 6R80 [is] so strong—I abuse the thing and it just holds up,” it is “[a] heavy-duty [transmission] capable of taking 800 horsepower;” however, “We are actively talking about the 10-speed, [and thinking of] when we are going to introduce it [in our cars]. We just won’t introduce it into our top tier product (The Modern Day Warrior)” because there are some concerns with the 10-speed being able to cope with a forced induction application. “It works flawlessly with the base Coyote with no power adder,” says Burgett.
While looking at the Orange Gateway Bronco, Burgett says, “This may look like an all-stock Bronco, but when you drive it you will notice, it’s two fingers on the wheel, it’s a canyon carving very simple car to drive. The Porsche Carrera S is a very neutral car. It’s not really understeer or oversteer. Most Broncos would be heavy oversteer. Depending on how it’s built and how it’s tuned. We have a very neutral feel, so when you are driving this, I describe canyon carving because you’re not pitching in the front, you’re not feeling the back [coming] around, it’s just very stable—very neutral. Vintage racing is my thing. Having track time is my therapy—throttle therapy [as I call it]. So that is what we are doing… I take all of that engineering background and racing background, and [we] plug it [all] together to create an environment that is the Four Seasons treatment for the client.”
After the sale, Gateway Bronco is still there for their customers, if any issue arises they are there to take care of the car, “Just like [a] concierge,” states Burgett; “It’s how our client should feel in general. When they get in their vehicle they should feel the same way, so we deliver their vehicle [to them]. We even delivered one vehicle on Christmas eve, so that they could have it for Christmas Day.”
The Icon Bronco’s front end looks completely modern with its LED lights and CNC milled front grill.
All Broncos come with “a 3 to 5-year warranty depending on the product, and its serviced wherever you live, wherever you keep the vehicle, and it doesn’t matter if it’s Montana or British Columbia—anywhere,” declares Burgett, “We take care of the vehicle and we give it back, and we pay the bill. And let’s just say if a coyote grenaded—which we’ve never had anything like that, there hasn’t even been an oil leak, but if it did—then I call Ford and I get paid maybe 3-months later on that warranty item, but my customer already [has] their vehicle, and he’s already enjoying it. They don’t have to take it to the dealership. We take it to a car collection or Hot Rod builder because they know the fit and finish [and standards] that they have to protect.”
This may look like an all-stock Bronco, but when you drive it you will notice, it’s two fingers on the wheel, it’s a canyon carving very simple car to drive.
Burgett’s dream is that with Gateway Bronco, “You get in, [and] everything is in the right spot. You turn the key and it all works, you put it in Drive, and it feels so good because we do have the engineering behind it. This is the base level of engineering, our middle of the road product is a proprietary four-link chassis, Fox Shocks on all four corners, and then the high-end product is the similar chassis, but in the ultimate form with Fox Racing Shocks, Brembo brakes, power adder such as an 800-horse genuine Shelby supercharger on the Coyote engine, [or you can have] twin turbochargers—you can have whatever you want. The three models are $150,000 base, $250,000 base, and $300,000 base. When you get the ultimate model, it’s heavily engineered, and less of the original character is there and you have more of a—let’s just call it a Ford Raptor.”
The Ford Raptor set a high bar for modern performance off-road trucks that can take a beating jumping over rises, and drifting around sandy corners, while still remaining livable on the street. Gateway’s car would have to meet that high bar in an older package. “I love the Ford Raptor,” says Burgett, “I drive it to redline every day—and I [really] drive it! We were really out to meet or exceed the performance of the Ford Raptor. I run [it] hard, we personally have a 500-acre proving grounds, and we run it, and I run it hard. [I’m] like Tanner Faust [out there]—no apologies given because we own the property, and there is no one up there—that’s where we came up with the 6-speed transmission. We were running it hard one afternoon, and it shifts [perfect] every time, every curve, every sweep— [it’s just] perfect, and I said ‘Why don’t we have this in our Bronco?’ And Boom there it is. We are the world’s first to put a Ford six-speed transmission behind a coyote, all controlled by Ford electronics.”
When you get the ultimate model, it’s heavily engineered, and less of the original character is there and you have more of a—let’s just call it a Ford Raptor.
Burgett wanted his cars to be 100% quality, and in 2018, Ford Motor Company officially licensed Gateway Bronco as an Official Ford Product. They can build you a 100% brand new car that uses all original steel or they can source an original 1966-77 car and remake it. They will even find a car for you, if you desire a rebuild, as Burgett exclaims, “We take care of everything. We [even] had a Barn find that we pulled out at 6 am in the morning [before] dawn. [The customer] wanted something so original, [so] that is what we are building for him.”
Gateway Bronco showed off a customer’s Orange Fuelie Edition Bronco, and for this rare occasion, their car was next to an Icon 4×4 Bronco that a customer traded-in. It allowed a great comparison between the two Bronco companies offerings; however, the comparison on appearance was not completely fair as Gateway’s example was bespoke to that customer’s taste—and he wanted as basic and as rustic of a Bronco as he could have—the car did not even have a gear selector dial! So, comparing this particular Fuelie example to the exterior of the more modern looking Icon 4×4 Bronco is a little perilous; however, we were able to judge the two vehicles on workmanship and handling.
The two cars sat outside of a church on Topanga Canyon, outside of Los Angeles, CA.
The Icon wears a modern sculpted front grill that bares their logo. It’s a nice modern take on the Bronco grill, while Gateway aims to recreate the appearance of the original Bronco by having their cars equipped with the factory first-generation grill that has a cutout that says “Ford”.
The bumper is the same story, with Icon going for their new modern take on how the Bronco’s bumper should be, while Gateway sticks to revamping or replacing the factory piece.
Both cars have cloth covers as roofs, but that is when things start to become apparent that these two companies with a different take on the Bronco. Getting in easily was something that Burgett’s wife required, and although both cars come with a quickly deployed footstep, that swings out as soon as the door is opened—they come out so fast, and are so well hidden when the doors are closed, that it startled this reporter and elicited laughter, but the Gateway’s step dwarfs the Icon’s step. It’s big because Burgett was thinking of his wife, and wanted it to be easy to get on even if she was wearing heels.
Both cars feature Ford’s Coyote engine, and they look identical if it were not for the many badges that adorn the Icon’s engine cover. Gateway Bronco’s engine looks just like it came from Ford, and being that they are the Ford Officially Licensed Product, it seems fitting. Burgett said that “we wanted to highlight the Ford product.” It’s a nice touch that seems right when comparing it to the Icon.
The Gateway Bronco engine bay is cleaner looking with all the ECU and fuse boxes being hidden, whereas the Icon utilized the inner fender wells to hold those units. They are seen, but still, both engine bays look good.
Burgett wanted his cars to be 100% quality, and in 2018, Ford Motor Company officially licensed Gateway Bronco as an Official Ford Product.
The headlights different greatly in the cars, the Orange Gateway ran the original housings with halogen bulbs, which were “what the customer wanted,” as Burgett mentioned that it was keeping with this particular customer’s wish for all original parts; but next to the Icon’s LED bulbs, it really made it hard to not wish that the Gateway also had this modern illuminative touch. Burgett did say that “LED [headlights] are standard, but this gentleman (the orange truck owner), wanted to keep it as original as possible. We’re a bespoke builder, so we provide you a build sheet. We do that exactly, we can send you a build sheet, and they can add in or take out what they like.”
The interiors were very similar in that the upholstery was very nice and the fit and finish of the cars were superb, minus the spartan accessories that the Gateway Bronco customer desired. It was hard driving a car that did not have a gear selector dial that showed if you were in Park or Reverse. Moving the car was more trial and error as you tried to count the gears, and then release the brake pedal to see if you go forward or backward, but once again, that was per the customer’s specifications.
The biggest difference in the interior arrived when you try to put stuff in the back of each car. The Gateway Bronco was easy to drop the back seat or to move the rear seats forward to access the back. The Icon was more difficult. It looked like it would be easy, but it was not. Putting cargo in the Icon was stifled by seats that did not move easily, so we had to crawl over the seats to retrieve our gear. Something like that could definitely be a hindrance as a daily driver, but one that for this amount of money, is not really an issue as people do not buy these cars for the ease of carrying gear alone—although clearly some do. As the interview was going, a prospective customer showed up to drive each Bronco. That customer talked about wanting to buy the Bronco as a daily for his partner, she would take it everywhere and use it as a daily car.
Both of the Broncos were equipped with modern shocks and suspension setups, and 4 pistoned fixed calipers.
Driving the Icon was like driving a modern-day car. It was comfortable, easy to control, and stable. This reporter did have a chance to move the Orange Gateway car, but a driving comparison was nixed as the prospective customer jumped in and took the car for a test drive. Although not ideal, for a customer who wants to spend $150,000 to $300,000, I can understand knocking the reporter out of the seat. Hell, if we were selling the car, we would have done the same. So, comparing the drive between the Icon and Gateway is something that, at this time, Hot Rod cannot do.
One thing is certain, Burgett’s family now likes riding in his Broncos.
Today, there are many companies that can give you an original Bronco that is rebuilt to modern-day standards. You can have them built to mirror your tastes, they do however come with a cost, but there is only one that comes blessed by Ford. Gateway Bronco’s quality and build are amazing, and you can have one without waiting a year or two before you are cruising around in your new truck. Ford has announced that they too are releasing a modern rendition of the iconic Bronco, but if you fancy an original of the sixties and seventies, then feel comfort in the fact that the original Bronco’s collector car value has skyrocketed, this is now the Bronco’s time.