1972 Ford Bronco half-cab occupies special place in automotive history
A machine always is more than the sum of its parts. That’s especially true for Americans when it comes to the cars and trucks that convey and excite and sometimes vex them. It’s especially true when it comes to old cars that someone has invested time, money, sweat and aggravation into restoring. They always mean more than they mean by design.
That’s probably never been truer than it is with the example at hand — a nicely restored 1972 Ford Bronco half-cab that came from Florida, but resides in Galveston, for now at least.
Just as a vehicle, the Bronco is special. It occupies an interesting place in automotive history. It’s among the ancestors of modern SUVs and crossovers that are everywhere today. It was among Ford’s better ideas, right up near the Mustang and Thunderbird. Like those icons, the early Bronco models are timeless, instantly recognizable to gearheads.
The early Broncos are among the American automobiles that even people who can’t tell one car from another will ogle when they roll by. Like Mustangs and T-Birds, Broncos are sheet-metal monuments to youth, freedom and adventure.
That’s a lot, but for Garold Motes, that’s not the half of it.
For Motes, 36, a cardiology resident at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, this Bronco is a tangible link to his father, also named Garold, who bought and restored it and passed it down to his son when he died in 2015 of ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Like the truck itself, the story of the truck follows classic lines.
The senior Motes, who went by Gary, bought it because he’d owned one as a younger man, and with the intention of doing a little work here and there on it.
“One thing led to another,” however, when Gary Motes and a group of mechanically inclined buddies got started, Garold Motes, who goes by Eddie, said.
What began as tinkering turned into a full-on restoration that included replacing the original 302 cubic-inch V8 with a 347 CID Stroker crate engine, Motes said.
“It took a lot of time, and a lot of Tom’s Bronco Parts orders,” he said, referring to the Medford, Ore.-based online retailer that claims to be the “world leader in 1966 to 1977 Ford Bronco parts.”
Motes drives the Bronco often, and takes it pretty easy, he said. Some of that’s because the 347 is mated to the original three-speed gearbox, he said.
“It would be pretty easy to scatter the transmission all over the road,” he said.
Taking it easy on the pavement is a good policy anyway with all the four-by-fours — the Blazers, the Jeep CJs and Toyota FJs — of the era, which, with their very short wheel bases, high centers of gravity and stiff suspensions, are about as happy going backwards, sideways and upside down as straight ahead.
They all also share a mechanical simplicity that some find soothing and reassuring in the age of the silicon chip.
“I grew up working around heavy equipment,” said Motes, whose father ran an agriculture services business.
“I like to work on it. I like that you can get your man creds by fixing it on the side of the road.”