Project Trail Bronco: Bushwacker Dura-Flex Flare Review

Jun. 01, 2011 By Jaime Hernandez

Our early Ford Bronco project is taking form. Owner and builder Esteban Hernandez has been busy at work piecing it together and prepping it for a semi frame-up resto. One of the things he wanted to do was run 37-inch off-road tires. That is quite a step up from the factory G78 x 15s (roughly 27-inch diameter) tires that rolled off the assembly line back in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

One of the limiting factors to getting bigger tires on the early Ford Bronco is the rear wheel well design. It is lower than the front and partially covers the tire on the outside. Although lifting the vehicle may help with height, there is still a clearance issue with wider tires. One of the most popular modifications to fit larger tires is cutting sheet metal for a bigger opening (I can see the purist cringing). 

Cutting sheet metal to accommodate bigger tires isn’t anything new, but giving it a clean and safe finish is something Bushwacker has been perfecting for over 40 years.

Our trail Bronco project was already partially cut by the previous owner to allow 33 inch tires. With the 3.5-inch lift already in place, we just needed to open up the wheel well a little more to stuff in 37s.

We were able to source Bushwacker fender flares for our early Bronco from Jeff's Bronco Graveyard out of Michigan. Bushwacker has, in recent years, seen an up-tick in the tire sizes off-roaders are running, so they have expanded their product lines to include solutions for even bigger tires.

The Bushwacker Dura-Flex XL is the newest flare addition for the early Bronco that allows more clearance at the front edge of the rear flare. It is designed to allow up to a 2 inch larger tire than the standard flare (5 inches more than standard size flares). This new rear flare is highly recommended for Broncos with increased articulation.

Bushwacker Dura-Flex fender flares are a great way to finish a wheel well trimming project.  They are flexible and can be painted. 1966-1977 Ford Bronco Part# 20001/20002 (Front & Rear), 20005 (Rear) Large Cut-Out

To install the Bushwacker Flares you will need a complete set of front and rear fender flares, welting and hardware:

• Bushwacker Front Dura-Flex flares, Part# 15700
• Bushwacker Dura-Flex XL Rear Expanded Opening flares, Part# 15704
• Bushwacker Fender Flare Welting, Part# 15710
• Bushwacker Fender Flare Mounting Hardware, Part# 15712

Once you have confirmed all the needed parts are there, the following tools are recommended by Bushwacker to complete the job:

• 3/16” Drill Bit
• #2 Phillips Bit
• Marking Pen
• Sheet Metal Cutting Tool (Hacksaw, Sabersaw, Air Chisel, Metal Nibbler, or Air Saw)
• Tape Measure
• Jack Stand

The following is an overview of how to install Bushwacker Dura-Flex fender flares on an early Ford Bronco. The first step will be doing a test fit of the Bushwacker flares to verify they are the correct ones.  Fitment should be pretty close, but if not, there is room for small adjustments by trimming off excess plastic.

Once you have confirmed which fender flares belong to each corner, use a marking pen to trace the outline of the flare onto the sheet metal.

After tracing the outline of the flare, remove the flare and draw second line 1 inch inside the line.

Cut the fender along this second line. We used a small grinder with cutting wheel and it worked great. If the vehicle you are working on has nice paint and you’re worried about it, use masking tape to keep the paint from chipping where you cut.

Here you can see that our Trail Bronco sitting on 37s just got a nip/tuck.

To attach the flare, pre-drill the flare with a 3/16 drill bit at the indents. Fit the flare on the wheel well making sure its contour matches the sheet metal contour. Using pre-drilled holes in the flare as guide, fasten with drill tip screws beginning at the back and move your way forward.

At this point the welting would also be installed, but we opted not to since the Bronco will be going to the body shop soon for a fresh coat of paint.

You’re done!

Repeat the same procedure on all four corners.

Ford Bronco with new Bushwacker Dura-Flex XL Rear Expanded Opening flares on 37s.This little Bronco isn't so little anymore. Using the Bushwacker fender flares allowed us to keep the rig’s center of gravity low, run larger tires for better traction and step-up ability over obstacles. It also gives the Bronco a nice stance.

Keeping the overall height low was an important feat. Low center of gravity (a.k.a. Low COG) and big tires is a winning combination for short-wheelbase trail rigs. We've seen the Low COG trend gaining traction, especially in the Jeep market. More 4x4 owners are running stock height suspension with aftermarket fender flares that open up the wheel wells for larger tires. 

Overall, the Bushwacker fender flare installation went smooth. It’s a great and inexpensive way to properly finish up the job after cutting sheet metal. The last thing you want is your 4x4 looking like a hack job.

As for the new XL opening flares in the rear, big thumbs up for anyone running 35 inch or larger tires.  The added clearance and fast lines not only make it look great, it’s very functional when flexing that rear axle.



Jeff's Bronco Graveyard
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