Can You Live-Front-Axle a Ford Bronco So It Looks Like a Jeep? | Daily News Byte


Ever since Ford brought back the Bronco, it’s been a hit—and a long-awaited solid competitor to the Jeep Wrangler. Speaking of Jeep, while the Bronco can go knobby tire to knobby tire with an off-roader, it does so with an independent front suspension, rather than the Wrangler’s live front axle, which also known as a “solid axle” in the enthusiast space. The stick axle is noticeably better for rock crawling, and more rugged in general, than Ford’s street-friendly independent front end. So, what if you want the coveted live front axle and a new Bronco? That’s why Eric O’Sullivan, owner of Lonestar Ring and Pinion, engineered the SAS, or Solid Axle Swap.

The previous three years were won by live-front-axle competitors, but the three years before that were all independent front suspension (IFS) cars. That said, most rock crawlers stick close to the idea that live axles—front or rear—are better because they articulate well while keeping both wheels on terra firma, and because they’re plain. which is strong and can support larger tires.

SAS Gives It

O’Sullivan bought the 2022 Bronco you see here pre-swapped at a huge auction for a great price. A former SEMA show truck, it has been given a live front axle conversion, but needs work to make it a properly functioning SAS Bronco.

For this 2022 Bronco, the front axle swap wasn’t the only thing O’Sullivan had to fix. He modified the entire suspension and frame to suit his crawling needs, not to mention the massive 43-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Pro XS wheels he loves. 17×9.5 Raceline Monster Beadlock wheels are attached to a 2005 Ford Super Duty Sterling 10.5-inch axle in back—but you want to know what’s up front, right? That’s a Ford Super Duty’s Dana 60 you see, rebuilt by O’Sullivan along with the rear axle.

The front axle uses an Eaton electric locker for the Dana 60, while the rear gets a stock Super Duty electric locker and upgraded to 5.38:1 gearing from Motive Gear. Both ends of the Bronco receive power from the stock four-wheel-drive system.

A new, custom made triangulated four link rear suspension and a new belly pan were fabricated and attached to the Bronco’s frame. This required a new fuel tank, so a custom cell was fitted to the frame just behind the rear axle, with enough clearance to allow the Sterling axle to go full bump without any issues. The front suspension also needed a lot of rework, with a new radius arm design that included a panhard bar to center the axle on the chassis. Because of the original SEMA modification, the stock steering was replaced with a fully hydraulic steering system. Not only was the stock rack and pinion setup not strong enough for the big wheels, it was no match for the new Dana 60 front axle.

Controlling this Live Axle Bronco

Instead of converting his Bronco to a drag link steering system and hydraulic ram, O’Sullivan kept the Performance Steering Components (PSC) SEMA build fully hydraulic steering system and modified it to perform better. Setup is missing mechanical connection between the steering wheel and the wheels, while the valve sends fluid from the hydraulic pump to the steering ram in the direction you want the front wheels to turn. While this off-road-specific design offers the strongest steering you can get for a live front axle, it also doesn’t deliver real feedback from the front wheels and, to the driver, can feel fuzzy on the pavement. Hence why you only see it in rock crawlers and open desert racers.

What’s It Like to Drive?

“We haven’t driven it a ton yet,” O’Sullivan told us, “but so far, it’s done pretty well considering it’s in the 43s.” He also admits that, sans IFS, the Bronco is less streetable. “You definitely lose some street manners when building an SAS,” he says, “but it’s like what you’d lose with a built IFS rig.” When asked the biggest question of all, how the SAS’ed Bronco does against the Jeep Wrangler (which, again, usually has a live front axle), he said “It drives just as well, if not better than , most Jeeps built to the same extreme,” adding that while he didn’t build a full on swap kit, he did it to help understand how to build future Broncos and Rangers. (The two Fords share pieces underneath. ) “We hope to test it in the next Ultimate Adventure, if we get in for 2023.” If he gets in, it will be O’Sullivan’s second chance. He took part last Four Wheeler‘s Top Truck Challenge until 2001 with a Ford F-150 and finished sixth. It may be time for both O’Sullivan and this former SEMA Show Bronco to earn a little redemption.

Photos provided by Eric O’Sullivan, Owner of Lonestar Ring and Pinion


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