Gateway Bronco built a one-off 1974 Ford Bronco commissioned by NASCAR driver, Ryan Blaney. The Bronco will be auctioned off at Barrett-Jackson, Scottsdale, Arizona in January 2020, with all of the proceeds going towards the Alzheimer’s Association.
We sat down with Gateway Bronco’s owner, Seth Burgett, to talk about the unique Bronco and figure out its inspiration.
“The Ryan Blaney family foundation commissioned us to build a Bronco. They wanted to build this Bronco to then sell it for charity at Barrett-Jackson, Scottsdale in January,” says Burgett. He describes how the impetus for the build was “that Ryan’s grandfather was afflicted by Alzheimer’s.”
Ryan Blaney, a Penske and Ford driver, started his charity in 2018. The effort to find a cure for Alzheimer’s hit home for Burgett when he found out that his mother-in-law was also diagnosed with the disease. He says that it all collided, and they got involved with the build.
Blaney’s grandfather, Lou Blaney, owned a lumber company called Blaney and Sons. He was a very successful race car driver in his own right. “He had 600 wins in 47 years,” says Burgett— “Can you imagine that? A 47-year career is amazing for a racing driver,” and so they wanted to infuse some of that racing heritage into the build.
In a design session with Ryan, they decided on the aesthetics of the vehicle. “The color was one of those things, I showed a number of things to Ryan… He saw that dark blue and got excited, and said ‘That’s it—that’s the one.’ We talked about using the barn wood on the back.” They used the logo that was on his grandfather’s 1960s race car, and they laser burned it into the wood so that it “says Blaney and Sons Lumber Special,” comments Burgett. The wood was sourced from a fallen barn located right outside of Gateway Bronco’s factory. “It was just natural to have a tie in with his grandfather’s lumber company.”
He had 600 wins in 47 years. Can you imagine that, 47-year career is amazing for a racing driver.
The Blaney Bronco uses a supercharged 5.0 Ford Coyote motor with “mainly stock internals, we do a few tweaks to it,” explains Burgett. The Harrop USA supercharger that utilizes the same Eaton TVS technology as the new Shelby GT500. It has four-link suspension and custom billet wheels that are meant to look like the original 1971 Bronco’s hubcaps. They are 18” in diameter and are wrapped in Goodyear Wrangler Ultra Terrain AT tires.
It produces about 600 engine horsepower. Burgett says that they have made higher horsepower Broncos in the past, but they’ve found that the sweet spot is at that power level, “Put 500-horsepower at the wheel and that’s more than adequate for a Bronco. “We’re well over 600-horsepower at the flywheel and 500 at the wheels and we’re pretty happy with that.” According to Burgett, the Bronco has “the best of everything.”
Inspiration from the Automotive Greats
Burgett, a self-described Shelby diehard whose first car was a 1967 GT500, fell in love with Porsche on a trip to Germany. He rented a Porsche C4S from Hertz and drove it from “Nuremberg down to southern Bavaria to Neuschwanstein which is the castle in southern Bavaria.” He says that he spent more money on gas than he did on the rental of the car. The car was so intoxicating that during one night on his trip, he awoke to buy himself a Porsche Carrera. “That car has taught me driving on a road course,” he says.
Tarpin is what they called it. Immediately I called our suppliers, ‘Can we get that material? —I want the exact material.’
From his love of Porsche, the Blaney Bronco received Porsche leather. He recalls seeing an advertisement for the new Porsche 911 R, “The interior on it was houndstooth in the middle and this beautiful brown Porsche leather, Tarpin is what they called it. Immediately I called our suppliers, ‘Can we get that material? —I want the exact material.’”
His suppliers didn’t disappoint, not only did they find the upholstery, they found the exact leather that was made for, and used in the 911 R. “We bought the material from Porsche. We bought the remnant material for the 911 R, so it is genuine Porsche 911 R material.”
From his love of Shelby’s, the Blaney Bronco found its paint code and its steering wheel.
“We work with color pallets that are very much intentional where all elements match on-trend color hues, and that they’re proven,” describes Burgett, “Part of what you will see is our Britney Blue and our Night Mist blue. They’re both from the early days in Shelby—the 1967 Shelby, the numbers don’t lie. The highest value ’67 Shelby, doesn’t matter what the feature set, is the Britney Blue or Night Mist. They battle for number 1, and this has been that way since the ‘80s.”
He says that they tried out those popular colors on their Broncos, first with the Britney Blue, and it became an immediate success with multiple orders. They then brought out the Night Mist Blue. It also became a customer favorite.
The Blaney Bronco was painted in the iconic 1967 GT500 Night Mist Blue. The Shelby theme extends to the steering wheel.
The large diameter skinny wooden rim steering wheel was pulled directly from a 1966 GT350. It is the same steering wheel that is in all historic Shelby American automobiles. Burgett describes the steering wheel as iconic. “It’s the perfect diameter and the gear ratio that we were using. It’s precise, but it’s not overly precise.” He says it has just the right diameter, the right looks, and has the right feel and it ties in the wood theme of the tailgate to the front of the vehicle.
Although Carroll Shelby never sold a Shelby Bronco, it is Gateway Bronco’s intent to build their Broncos as if he had.
Gateway has an iconic piece of automotive history sitting inside of their factory, the first Bronco ever made, and it was owned ironically by Carroll Shelby himself.
“This is the first Bronco… It was taken from Dearborn to Shelby American as a v8 prototype,” Burgett says. It was also “the first sport Bronco; [and it was] the first Bronco built before production went into play so the VIN plate has all zeros in the VIN.”
According to Burgett, it was also “used for the original tv commercials for the Bronco when they launched it” and it was used in “all of the original print collateral.”
Ford, he says, “pulled a Carroll Shelby—they painted it multiple times. They had it in all three of the configurations: the roadster, the half cab, and the full cab.” This famous Bronco sits unrestored at the mouth of their building that leads to the assembly line. As we walked towards it Burgett commented, “This is the bronco on the tv commercial—You see it flying through the air, over the hill.” This heritage gives Gateway Bronco inspiration every time they design a truck. As Burgett says, “We own the first Bronco, owned by Carroll Shelby, with a bullet hole in the back from his ranch in Texas, and I couldn’t imagine a better alignment of a Shelby diehard.”
After the Blaney Bronco was completed, it went on tour. They took it to Darlington where Ryan drove fans around on the track, it was displayed at Barrett-Jackson Las Vegas 2019, Telluride 2019, shown in New York at a media event in Manhattan, and highlighted at SEMA 2019 in the Eaton Booth. Gateway Bronco also made a film series to introduce the vehicle, giving a more thorough background on the truck and the Blaney Foundation.
Riding in the Blaney Bronco, its four-link suspension gives an amazingly comfortable experience whether it’s driving: on the road, running over grass and hills or even going over curbs and sidewalks at the St. Louis’ Forest Park.
When I was shooting the vehicle at a farm with a silo by a lake as a background, I thought that this truck would be the farmer’s equivalent of a dream car. I could see a poster of this truck hanging on a wall in someone’s bedroom in the same way that Lamborghini supercar posters used to hang in mine. It is unique, and the specialness was clear to anyone who walked past us when we were photographing it in the park.
Whoever wins this truck, gains something extremely special. They also have the added benefit of knowing that their money went to help find a cure to a horrible debilitating disease.