The "Unser" Stroppe racing Bronco
Back when Todd and I had found the "Red Racer" featured elsewhere on our site, I had also been on the hunt for more of the original racing Broncos. An ad on Craigslist had piqued my interest, so while taking a break from working on the Red Racer in the afternoon heat of Phoenix, I called the seller. His ad stated "built on the body and frame of an original Baja 500 race Bronco driven by Bobby Unser." I had to know more! In fact I knew enough already to know his story had some truth to it - Al and Bobby Unser DID in fact race the 1969 Mint 400 in a Stroppe Bronco.
During our phone conversation I made alot of notes, and I still have the paper full of them. Some of the items I wrote down were : exhaust thru rockers, piss holes in floorboards, orange and blue paint, unsers names still on fenders when bought, and more.... I was excited and made plans to come see it.
Here's what she looked like - lots of owner installed modifications. Many of the details were hidden but were all easy to uncover over the months following purchase. Air cleaner tube through the firewall, accelerator pedal, bobbed rear frame rails, and more.
Careful research uncovered several layers of paint that led us back to the history photo books of what Broncos were what colors for what races, and so forth. Based on the original Ford paint, and the early races, and physical cues like the metal formed rear flares which are welded in, we discovered that the Unser Bronco was more than just the Unsers ride for one race, it was the former 1968 season truck for Larry Minor and Jack Bayer - winning the 68 Mexican 1000, 68 Mint, and 68 Stardust 7-11. And thanks to Larry's memory of how the 68 season truck started - we know it was also Ray Harvick and Bill Stroppe who drove it to near victory in the innaugural NORRA Mexican 1000 in 1967. Larry told me he told STroppe he wanted the truck that almost beat them in the mexican 1000 the prior year to be rebuilt for him as it was a tough little truck.
Here's how the Unser Bronco sits today awaiting restoration. But not for long. Pieces are already being rebuilt and readied for the first stages of restoration. The transmission is done and the front and rear axle are being rebuilt at this time. Many special parts have been acculmulated for the build. The truck has also been sold twice to bronco enthusiasts and bought back twice...it will be restored and owned by Baja Broncos Unlimited.
We've got alot of work to do in the next months in terms of and testing. But we are hoping to have it at some Bronco events soon while we test its new drivetrain: 289 hipo, toploader 4 speed, and detroit locker! Hope to have it looking like this at a NORRA race or show soon!