Maxlider’s 4-Door 1966 Ford Bronco: An Inside Story By Maureen McDonald
SEE ALSO: Used Ford Broncos For Sale
By Maureen McDonald
The Auto Channel
Bloomington, IL What could be one of the ugliest, most utilitarian cars in automotive history is the golden calf of Erik Barnlund’s existence. He turns vintage Ford SUVs into custom models with a price tag that could exceed $400,000.
Bronco's are rude, crude work vehicles. We take them, modernize them. Make something people get so excited their mouths hit the floor,” says Barnlund, whose best Broncos commanded the center view of Detroit’s Autorama car show last week. He is CEO of Maxlinder Brothers Custom that revives the vehicles for a lot people they describe as “high net worth individuals.”
The timing couldn’t be better. Ford Motor Company has announced it is reviving the Bronco nameplate, possibly in 2020. Road and Track speculates the car will be made on the Ford Ranger platform with option hybrid platforms and manual transmissions. Bronco began production in 1966. It remained a base, utilitarian sports ute until 77, then a classy SUV from 77 until 96 when the vehicle was mothballed.
“My Uncle Dick fell in love with the Bronco in 1966 and so id our whole family. It was basic and rudimentary. A box with four wheels. It was perfect for farm country because you could drive it on roads, fields, through a foot of snow or a rugged hunting trail,” says Barnlund. He notes a customized Bronco literally sails off the sand dunes.
Over the years Bronco restoration became a hobby Barnlund said went seriously wrong. He grew up flipping Ford vehicles. He bought them and marketed them while his brother, a senior master Ford technician fixed them. They stayed for loyalists. Models run as low as $25,000 to several hundred thousand. The sky is the limit.
The Plain Jane Bronco is so simple, it begs to be customized, according to Barnlund. The brothers dump in a coyote 5.0 Ford engine, often paired with a Mustang, and an F150 overdrive transmission. Nearly every custom model comes with air conditioning, high-end stereos, custom leather interior, functional roll cages and coil over suspension. Their shop has 40 to 50 Broncos coming and going at various stages of rebuild.
The brothers often tap United Pacific Industries for parts, particularly sheet metal. Aftermarket parts are notoriously challenging. The metal doesn’t fit. It doesn’t hold up as well as the original. But United Pacific invested money to improve its tooling, so, the parts fit better. With people like them, the whole community gets a better product.
Erik and Kris Barnlund grew up in farm country outside Donovan, IL, and now run Maxlider Brothers. Their headquarters in Bloomington, IL, contains a technology company that builds websites called Mavidea. The other side of the store is the Bronco biz.
They take the souped up models to all the big shows including SEMA and Autorama, one of the 14 shows on the Championship Auto Show circuit. Detroit and Chicago are the biggest. Autororama stretches 800,000 square feet, including a couple models of the Barnlunds.
“Customers drive their Broncos every day to the office and take them to a car show on Saturday. They often win first place.”
For information about the restored Broncos, visit: https://www.maxliderbros.com/