Last month we shared the story of the early life of a Gateway Bronco project we named the Steelhead Bronco due to its time spent in the wilds of Alaska. It was an original-paint 1970 Bronco owned by an outdoorsman who operated a guiding outfit for fishermen.
The Steelhead Bronco led an adventure-packed life in the North American outback and has been transformed by the master craftsmen at Gateway Bronco. But even this well-traveled vintage Ford SUV can’t match the exploits of its new owner, Keith Stansell.
A Marine Corps veteran, Keith Stansell worked for Northrop Grumman as a government contractor performing reconnaissance missions tracking drug traffickers. His plane was shot down and crashed in 2003, and he was captured by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas. He was held captive in the Colombian jungle for the next five years — 1,967 days, to be exact, before being rescued by U.S. Special Forces and the Colombian military. It was a harrowing experience to say the least, and Stansell recounted the tale in his book Out of Captivity, written by Stansell and his fellow captives Marc Gonsalves and Thomas Howes.
“It was an honor to work on Keith’s Bronco,” said Gateway Bronco founder and CEO Seth Burgett. “Keith’s story is so unique. Between his service to his country, his service to his family, and his outdoors lifestyle. It was a pleasure to work with Keith. Every phone call, every contact was enjoyable.”
The Steelhead Bronco has not only physically traveled a long way since its humble beginnings, but it has traveled an equally enormous distance in terms of its capabilities. The original powertrain is long gone, and the Bronco is now powered by a Coyote 5.0-liter V8 teamed with a 10-speed automatic transmission.
The 4-link suspension with Fox Racing Shocks is likewise far advanced beyond the original hardware. The Steelhead Bronco has cut fenders with carbon fiber flares, which provide ample room for the 18-inch slotted wheels, 35-inch BFGoodrich tires, and large Wilwood disc brakes. A 4-point family style roll bar adds stability and safety to the package.
The Bronco’s standout appearance comes by way of its custom Brittany Silver hue with color-matched hard top, Blackout Package, impact bumpers, and LED lighting. The interior sports genuine Porsche leather, German square weave carpet, rearview mirror backup camera, power windows, Bose audio with Bluetooth + Car Play, and a GT350 Sport steering wheel.
These features are fresh upgrades, but the Bronco maintains some continuity between owners. Like the Bronco’s previous stewards, Stansell is an avid fisherman. And while the Steelhead Bronco spent most of its life on the West Coast of the Lower 48 and Alaska, it now finds itself in an entirely different fishing environment. Stansell is a native of the Sunshine State, and a typical fishing day will see him on the flats that snake through Florida or the Gulf of Mexico.
“It’s hard to imagine a project that’s as rewarding as this one,” Burgett said. “It ranks up there with ‘Gramp’s ’69′, an heirloom project of a 1969 Bronco we restored for Phil Falconer.”
This bespoke build will be a project not soon forgotten by the team at Gateway Bronco.
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