Bebo Norman

POSTED: 05/14/10

THE BRONCO

It’s 4:30AM and I’ve been up for about an hour. This seems to be my pattern lately for some reason…I usually wake up sometime around 3 with my mind running and I can’t go back to sleep for an hour or so. I’d love to be able to say when this happens that there are some profound “goings on” going on in my brain because it might make me seem deep and introspective so that I may perhaps impress you a bit, but the truth is I usually spend my middle of the night hours mulling over pretty normal everyday stuff like schedules or projects I need to do around the house. This time, for example, I woke up thinking about my garage. Deep. It’s probably because I spent the entirety of the last 3 days cleaning out my garage, so my nighttime brain is just continuing it’s daytime activities. Either way, what seemed initially to wake me up was thinking about my garage, but what’s keeping me up is thinking about what’s in my garage. My 1976 Ford Bronco. Yes, it’s older than my wife and has beautiful curves just like she does. Actually, if you’ve seen the early Broncos, they don’t really have much in the way of curves, but you always hear the real car buffs describing cars like they describe women so I thought I’d give it a try…another attempt at perhaps impressing you a bit. Sorry.
My first car ever was a 1985 Ford Bronco. My father had bought it several years earlier off an Army officer in Ft. Benning. I remember driving down with him and my brother to pick it up…I’m not sure how he found it since there was no internet back then…come to think of it, how did people buy used cars back then?…hmmm…oh yeah, this crazy thing called the classified ads in this other crazy thing called a newspaper…yeah, I’m pretty sure my dad found it in the classifieds of the Columbus Ledger Enquirer. At any rate, I remember we turned onto a really shady tree-lined street down in Ft. Benning and in one swift and life changing moment my love affair with the Ford Bronco was born. It was a dark metallic gray standard 3-speed with maroon vinyl seats and no air conditioning. I was in love. I drove that Bronco through thick and thin all the way through college. It seems insane now to think that I spent summers in Georgia with no air conditioning but I remember burning my legs on those vinyl seats like it was yesterday. When I would make the 5-hour drive back and forth to college in South Carolina, it was like a Sunday stroll in a wind tunnel – every window was down going 70 on the interstate and I would literally have to change clothes upon arrival because of the “seat sweat” as I called it. Sounds glorious, huh? It really was…even though I did vow to never EVER own another car without air conditioning. I honestly could write an entire book on the memories I have in that old Bronco from first dates to first wrecks (not much difference between the two in my experience), but I think any of us could probably say the same about our first car. The point is, after college I had to get more practical to drive myself around the country playing shows, so I bought a Subaru Outback station wagon that could fit all my gear and still get good gas mileage. I seriously think that Bronco probably got about 11 miles to the gallon, but I also remember being appalled when gas got above 99 cents back then. That thing had a MASSIVE gas tank (probably close to 30 gallons) and I remember being riled up if I had to put more than a 20 down to fill it up. Anyway, after I wore out my Subaru, I splurged on a 1997 Land Rover Discovery that I put 150,000 miles on in just over 2 years. I had a brief affair with a Toyota Tacoma pickup somewhere in there but the point is this: they all paled next to my Bronco. And even though my first one was of the 80’s OJ Simpson variety, I have especially always loved the early model Ford Broncos (1966-1977) because they were the originals built to compete with the Jeep CJ-5 and the old International Scouts – the 3 grandfathers of the modern SUV. So after briefly owning and totaling a ’74 Bronco (another story for another day), I found this 1976 about 6 years ago. It was in pretty bad shape when I bought it but I drove it for about 2 years with the idea that I would be it’s savior and friend and do all the work myself. I successfully completed a whole host of small jobs, but long story short, my first big rebuild project started one Saturday afternoon and my Bronco didn’t run again for 2 years (enter Toyota Tacoma). So after conceding the fact that I am not the man’s man I’d always hoped I’d be and that I would NOT in fact be my Bronco’s messiah (although we are still friends), I began the long search for someone to undo what I had done. Fast-forward another 2 years and the stone has finally been rolled away and my Bronco has emerged from its Bebo-induced cryogenic chamber.
The blessing (if you ask me) and the curse (if you ask my wife) is that when you own a restoration, the restoration is never complete…there is always more to restore. So as I often do on weekends or days off, I spent yesterday working on a few Bronco projects – installing rear seatbelts and building a pulley lift in my garage to hold the hardtop when I take it off on sunny days. I really do love that sort of thing. It’s hard to understand how little projects like that, mindless in so many ways, can also really give me life. But the reality is that something good happens in my spirit when I work with my hands to repair or rebuild something. As tempted as I may be to get all melodramatic and draw some comparison between a restored Bronco and restored soul, I shall not. Instead, I’ll just give you a few pictures I took this morning. And although her curves look nothing like my wife’s, she is indeed a beauty. And she (now) has air conditioning!



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