It was only four years ago that Seth Burgett started Gateway Bronco, but as we’ve all learned by now, things can change quickly in the 21st century. Back then, some people thought his business model was questionable, if not ridiculous: $80,000 minimum for a restored Ford Bronco? Are you nuts? Now, the Hamel, Illinois, company is the gold standard in the increasingly popular world of restomods, customers are coming back for more and Burgett is just getting started. At the end of June, Gateway Bronco, which has so far only offered the namesake Ford as part of its official lineup, added a new vehicle to its stable: the best-selling F-Series truck. The addition is not a surprise, considering both the neverending popularity of Ford’s iconic pickup as well as the increasing demand for Gateway’s vehicles (the base price for its signature builds has almost doubled, to $150K). But Burgett could have gone any number of directions, whether to another Ford model like the Mustang or to a whole new line like vintage Defenders. To get some insight into the choice, and to nudge some more details out of him the can’t be found in the press release, we dialed him up. If you’re new to Gateway, you might be wondering what, exactly, makes an old Bronco worth $150K? And what are we talking about when we talk about “restomods”? “Restoring a vehicle could be putting some paint and a new engine in to one person, and to another it could mean what we do, which is every restoration has $110,000 worth of new parts,” Seth Burgett, president and CEO of Gateway Bronco, tells InsideHook. “Virtually everything is new.” Why not just buy a new Bronco, then? Well, fans of the nameplate didn’t have that choice back in 2016 when Gateway was getting off the ground, but they will starting on Monday when Ford opens up reservations for the redesigned, reimagined Bronco family. But this is where the “restomod” part comes in: Gateway only deals in first-generation models, made from 1966 to 1977, and essentially keeps the style and heritage of the vehicle intact while allowing its clients to hand-pick engines, transmissions, seat leathers and even futuristic amenities that ‘60s drivers couldn’t dream of (from seat heaters to push-button, active-tuned exhaust). The addition of the F-Series continues Gateway’s raison d’être in every aspect. For one, the Ford pickups that will be on offer are from the same general time period — the fifth-generation models that were built from 1967 to 1972. Plus, the same modern comforts and inconceivable power will be available as well; as Burgett said, Gateway Bronco is planning on debuting its first F-Series at the SEMA trade show this fall, and it’ll be powered by a 7.3-liter V8 juiced up with Harrop USA’s Eaton Performance technology supercharger, which is “currently in Australia being prototyped.”
“There’s a personal interest there,” Burgett said when asked why he chose the F-Series as the first official vehicle to be offered alongside the restomod Broncos. He also said the decision came down to his customer base, that “they want to add that F-Series truck to their portfolio of vacation home vehicles.” But an equally important reason, which accounts for adding the fifth-gen pickups specifically and not any other models, comes down to one word: business. “There was Hagerty data that showed that the F-Series truck lagging by five or six years from the growth of the value and the interest in the Bronco. But there’s still a very similar curve,” Burgett said. “So with that growth and the value of those vehicles, I invested in the license for those vehicles because I believed that they would be the right area to invest in over time.” In other words, Burgett expects interest in this generation of Ford trucks to skyrocket. (For what it’s worth, in a 2017 article forecasting vintage F-Series valuation, Bloomberg said these years “look the coolest.” Hard to argue there.) And when they do, he’ll be there to satisfy the nostalgia-fueled cravings of discerning gearheads and trend-watching tycoons alike. But unlike every other restomod shop getting into the game, Burgett holds the ace: a license from Ford itself. “I think it’s a huge deal. It took us years to achieve the license [for the Bronco]. And what the license does is it holds us and anyone else with the license — Revology has the license on the Mustang side — to a higher standard. It’s a standard that Ford establishes for restoring a vehicle,” Burgett explained. “On top of that, it enables us to build a complete replica vehicle, which is not possible by anyone without the license. So as vehicles become depleted and there are no more good quality Broncos to restore, then we’re able to manufacture it full-steam ahead because we have the license to build a brand new vehicle under the Low Volume [Motor Vehicle] Manufacturers Act.” While it took Gateway years to get Ford’s stamp of approval for its signature product, Burgett said getting a license for the F-Series was, in short, “smooth.” Whether or not the final product will live up to the standard set by Gateway’s Fuelie, Coyote and Luxe GT Broncos remains to be seen, but will the long wait be all for naught if November’s SEMA show ends up nixed because of the COVID-19 pandemic? Burgett said a potential coronavirus cancelation is “definitely something that [he’s] talking about with Eaton,” whose booth will host the vehicle, but they’ll have a plan to debut it “in a virtual way” if necessary. For now, besides the illustrated renderings, Gateway is offering a small glimpse into its latest project on YouTube, showing the “before” view of one of the first F-250s it’s about to transform. It’s hard to imagine how a busted-up, rusted-out, flat-tired crew cab like that will eventually become a $100K-plus dream machine, but according to Burgett, his clients have big imaginations (and the deep pockets to fund them). The first order for a Gateway F-Series is from a long-time customer who bought a Bronco for his wife for Christmas and wants his new truck to match his Miami Blue Porsche GT3. (Yes, this is an I’ll have what she’s having moment.) In the end, that’s what this all comes down to: exclusivity. Burgett’s clients want something no one else on the planet drives, and sometimes that means one-upping other Gateway customers. If you want something special — like, say, the first F-Series build — it helps to have already purchased one of their Broncos. And if you like Gateway’s aesthetic but would rather have it slathered on a classic Mustang or even a De Tomaso Pantera, they’ve got a private client group for one-off builds like those, too. It all starts with a call. As Burgett notes in the video, while you may not be able to see their first Ford pickup for another four months, they’re ready to take your order today.