An owner of an early model Ford Bronco finds out his family car was actually a prototype car and was formerly owned by an American Automotive legend.
An interesting Bronco-related storyline came out of Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale 2017 this past week, and it was the reemergence of a 1966 Ford Bronco Prototype. It’s latest and third owner, Seth Burgett of Gateway Bronco, acquired the vehicle in October 2016 from a gentleman by the name of Vincent “Vinnie” Yakubanski. Vinnie purchased the Bronco from its first owner in 1978 for the low price of $100.00. Here’s where the story gets more interesting.
Back in 1978, Vinnie Yakubanski owned a Ford dealership in Alpine, TX, where the Bronco was frequently serviced. Vinnie was in the market for a family truck and he asked Harold Wynn if he could buy his. Harold said that he didn’t own the truck, and that it belonged to Christmas Mountains Land & Cattle Co., the ranch he worked at near Terlingua, TX. That ranch was co-owned by none other than automotive legend, Carroll Shelby, and they agreed to sell the Bronco to Vinnie. Although the check was endorsed by Mr. Shelby’s ranch business partner, Dave Witts, the Bronco was owned by Mr. Shelby as part of his Shelby American and Hi Performance Motors Company.
According to materials provided by Gateway Bronco, the vehicle’s VIN number indicates that it came from Ford’s pre-production plant in Allen Park, MI, in 1966, meaning it was a prototype vehicle – possibly the very first Bronco ever created. Through research, they uncovered that the vehicle stayed in Michigan for about a year and was picked up by Shelby American truck driver, Bob Parker, in Dearborn, MI, and delivered to the Shelby American Facility in El Segundo, CA. There, the Bronco received a fresh red and white paint job and 289 V8 performance upgrade.
Based on the information given, conversations with the folks at Gateway Bronco and my contact at Shelby American, Inc., it’s unclear what was intended when Ford shipped the vehicle to Shelby. Perhaps this vehicle became another prototype for a performance version of the Bronco with Carroll Shelby’s signature touch. What we do know is that the Bronco was shipped to Texas shortly thereafter where it served as a farm truck until 1978 when it became Vinnie’s family vehicle, taking several trips to the mountains of Wyoming. Shortly after taking ownership and after the photo below was taken, Vinnie painted the Bronco two-tone blue and grey.
It was one of Vinnie’s mechanics who pointed out that the 000 serial number wasn’t typical and that he should investigate more. Vinnie turned to the Bronco community and posted on ClassicBroncos.com. The moderator of the site chimed in and said that the UF4S732000 serial number was not real and vintage Broncos originally came with an inline six cylinder, not a V8. Vinnie decided to reach out to Seth Burgett of Gateway Bronco due to their extensive knowledge of Bronco restoration, and their research uncovered how special this Bronco and its ownership lineage is.
A special moment happened at Barrett-Jackson when I was fortunate enough to see the current owner, former owner and a bonifide Ford Bronco guru discuss the vehicle at length. They poured over the vehicle discussing its paint and various parts associated with early Broncos. That guru was Andrew Norton, and he’s been researching Broncos since 1990 and started Baja Broncos Unlimited as a restoration and research company in 1998. Today, he works primarily on rare and historic early Ford Broncos as well as hosting the Baja Bronco Registry on BajaBronco.com. It’s special to see someone like Andrew, who devotes his life’s work to Broncos, learn something new and connect with people associated with such an historic vehicle.
It’s been a big month for Ford Bronco fans with the announcement of the brand’s revival in 2020. Not much is known about the new Bronco program other than it will be built alongside the new Ranger pickup in Ford’s assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan. Also, Ford’s chief designer, Moray Callum, is cruising around in a 1976 Bronco for inspiration, which is the same model year as Gas Monkey Garage’s “Bad Ass Bronco” that was restored and sold on Fast N’ Loud.
This Bronco will now be restored to its original red color and enter into another phase of its existence as a piece of automotive history. But it’s nice to know that it didn’t sit in some museum for the past 50 years. Some may say that this Bronco is an absolute barn find, but we at Gas Monkey Garage like to think of this as a Texas ranch find. This prototype Bronco has been modified by a legend, it’s been worked on a ranch and it’s been loved by a family. That is a truly legendary vehicle.