The first Bronco, the prototype for the 1969 Boss Bronco went to Shelby to use on his Christmas Mountains Land and Cattle Company ranch at Terlingua, Texas, near Big Bend National Park and just north of the Mexican border.
But before the Bronco got to Texas, it was delivered first to the Shelby American workshop in Los Angeles, where it underwent an engine transplant and was repainted red and white.
From LA the Bronco went to Texas and was used on the ranch until 1978, when it was sold — without its wheels and tires — for $100 to the local Ford dealer, Vincent “Vinnie” Yakubanski. The Bronco served as the Yukabanski family’s daily driver, and made frequent trips back and forth to Wyoming, often with hot dogs wrapped in tin foil and cooking on the V8’s intake manifold along the way.
The Boss Bronco was a project by Ford prototype builder Kar-Kraft, designer Larry Shinoda and off-road racer Bill Stroppe. Their hope was that Ford president Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen would approve the souped-up Bronco for production, especially since they named for prototype for him, the Ford Division “boss.”
The Boss Bronco was built with a blueprinted 351 Windsor V8 engine and four-speed automatic transmission, 4.11:1 front and rear limited-slip differentials, Stroppe’s own Baja-racing style suspension and power steering, Stroppe padded roll bar, Stroppe rear fender flares, 10-inch wide chromed wheels (with rear fender flares for clearance), and even the hood scoop from a Mercury Cougar Eliminator.
Everything was great until Lee Iacocca fired Knudsen.
After Bunkie left Ford Motor Company in late 1970, Kar-Kraft and Ford got into a dispute over the billing for the Bronco that caused Ford to pull their work from Kar-Kraft, causing them to go out of business. In the beginning the Bronco was marked as unsalable and to be crushed at the end of the project,
Fortunately, instead of being destroyed, the Boss Bronco became part of the Kar-Karaft liquidation sale in late 1970, though it wasn’t until last year that ancient Kar-Kraft documents were re-discovered and proved that VIN U15GLF31817 was, indeed, the Boss Bronco prototype.
The Boss Bronco decals were removed and it became just a regular yellow Bronco. Then it was lost and disappeared.
How the Bronco was discovered is that while writing a new Kar Kraft book, the author Wes Eisenschenk received an inventory sheet from Kar Kraft from 1969. When he was searching some of the serial numbers in a DMV search, the one that came up was the Boss Bronco, and it had recently changed hands.
It was sold on eBay by the daughter of a man that had owned it for decades. They had no idea that it was anything special, to them it was just a hot-rodded yellow Bronco that they called the “Bumble Bee Bronco.” So when Wes found out about it, he got in contact with the new owner and bought it.
The Shop Magazine just did a couple pages long article on the Broncos: