From One First to Another: the FroncoBronco First Edition Backstory and Build
Happily, Bronco upfits and builds are becoming plentiful as owners take delivery of their new vehicles. If you’re a frequenter of forums or follow Bronco-focused Instagram accounts, by now, you may have seen one 2021 taking shape fast: @FroncoBronco’s First Edition.
Frank Gonnello, known as Fronc on Bronco Nation and Bronco6G, shares with us his Bronco history … and his FE’s future.
Starting Strong with a ‘93
The 2021 Ford Bronco isn’t where it started for Frank. His first vehicle was Clarence –– a red 1993 full size Eddie Bauer edition.
“I loved it,” says Frank. His high school did, too, thanks to the impressive sound system he installed, one that once saved game day by playing the team’s entrance music when the field lacked a loudspeaker. “This OG Bronc beast had the principal fuming. I drove straight over the track and across the football field. To this day, everyone involved still laughs about it.”
Memories like that will always have Bronco owners wanting to make more, and Frank has known for more than a decade he wasn’t done yet.
“I had always said to friends and family when I sold it back in 2010 that if Ford ever releases a new Bronco, I’ll be first in line. I didn’t know that I’d literally be one of the first to own the 6th gen Bronco, but I am very happy I was able to live up to my word.”
Yes, you read that right: Frank was one of the first Californians to drive off the lot with his FE.
Due Diligence on Delivery
Spreadsheets. Trackers. Forum threads. To an outsider, the efforts order holders have put into staying on top of production dates and timestamps may be overkill, but to community insiders, they just make sense. And Frank was right there deep in the priority codes and commodity combinations with the best of them.
“The last week of May was the earliest any Bronco6G users had reported a build date. Mine was originally June 7. After a little shuffle of dates, Ford officially began production on consumer builds June 15. My build date was shifted to June 21. So as far as I can tell, I was the second week of production.
“Staying dialed in to the 6G forums, it appeared that the entire batch of first-week Broncos were truck deliveries to dealerships nearest to MAP. For the second week of production, there was at least two rail shipments, but possibly a few others, based on conversations with other soon-to-be bronco owners in the bay area. Mine was part of the first, about a day ahead of the other, based on the tracking information my dealer provided. I did not see anyone else post about a First Edition delivery prior to mine being dropped off at the dealer. I don’t know if someone else physically drove off a lot before me, but I’m very comfortable saying I was part of the first California delivery, at a minimum.”
Dreams into Reality
With Ford’s seven Bronco trims to choose from, some future owners found themselves waffling among two to three of the options. Not Frank, though.
“When I originally reserved my Bronco, I decided I was going to go all-out and try to get the First Edition to hopefully secure one of the very first trucks built. I figured that since it was all the best parts of the other builds put together, I wouldn’t need to worry about mods for a while. Plus, I had a promise to my younger self I had to fulfill –– be first in line!”
Even then, capability and performance be darned. It’s hard to have a Bronco and not do some upfits and modifications right out of the gate –– after all, Ford itself planned for this. Frank began exploring options to customize his vehicle immediately upon receiving his VIN, and in doing so, helped aftermarket companies develop products for upcoming customers.
“What I didn’t realize about having an early delivery is that many companies are eager to get their products on these trucks so they can start marketing to a whole new vehicle segment. I started connecting with companies as soon as I had a build date and was surprised to learn that most of them hadn’t even gotten access to pre-production builds to get started on their R&D. What’s worse was that their ordered Broncos had no build dates yet.
“I went on a little road trip to visit a bunch of them, meet the people behind the companies, and help them kick-start their development. Marly from fifteen52, Brit from American Adventure Labs, Dave and Brad from Heretic Studio, Kyle from Rhino-Rack, and Adam from TrailRax might all be contenders for ‘nicest people ever.’
“I’m now working with over 15 different companies in the aftermarket/overlanding/off road space to get this rig outfitted, and there’s a good chance that a bunch of this stuff will be ready for my rig in time for me to appear in one vendor’s SEMA ’21 booth. But even if it doesn’t work out, I’ll be happy just having a build that’s unique and recognizable so that my photography can serve as a symbol for what the Ford Bronco brand stands for. Hell, if just one kid uses my truck as their phone or computer wallpaper, I’ll consider it a victory.”
And a victory within in the community is seeing owners get their Broncos and Sports off road. We’ve heard it time and again –– you love the Bronco now, but it’s a whole new level of appreciation and fun once you get it off the pavement. It didn’t take Frank long to do that with his FE: the first full day of ownership had him seeing dirt. We asked him about any unexpected realizations he experienced.
“Lots of things surprised me about the Bronco and the way it performed. From the comfortable highway ride from the Bay Area to Nevada, to the way the suspension just floats across your basic rough trails … the thing rides incredibly nice no matter what you throw at it. And the technology of the 360-degree cameras when off-roading is something you just need to experience to understand what a game-changer it is.
“But more than anything else, what surprised me most was the number of waves, points, and thumbs up I got just about everywhere I took it. One Bronco6G member even spotted me driving through Tahoe on two separate occasions and reached out on Instagram just to say it gave him a little more patience to wait for his build to come.”
Racking Up Miles across the U.S.
When we talked at the end of August, Frank had approximately 3,500 on the odometer, and with a happening-now trip to Utah, his on- and off-road miles will keep adding up.
“So far, the trails I’ve hit have been unnamed, but I have a lot marked on AllTrails for the future. I’ve gone from San Francisco, down the pacific coast highway to L.A., then San Diego and up through the Mojave Desert into Las Vegas. From there, Zion and southern Utah, up to Salt Lake City. Back across Nevada, through Carson City and around Lake Tahoe, back to the Bay Area. I flew my mom out from New Jersey and did that whole trip with her. She’s never seen any of those places, so we had a blast reminiscing about the old Bronco and making some lasting memories in the new one. Approximately 2,500 miles and she never once felt the seats were uncomfortable!
“Once a few more mods are done, I hope to start organizing trips using the Bronco Nation calendar and my IG following.”
Modifications for the Road, Trail, and Trailhead
At this point, no one online or in-person is mistaking the FroncoBronco as stock, even though some of the changes fly under the radar. One of the first additions was a Kuat NV 2.0 bike rack attached to the Kuat Pivot v2, which lets the rack swing out of the way of the tailgate, allowing him quick cargo access. That addition only scratches the surface of the changes Frank has incorporated.
“I’ve covered the truck in Avery Dennison Supreme Defense Matte paint protection film, with some custom graphics, badges, and a grill easter egg courtesy of my favorite mod shop, SS Customs. I’ve also outfitted the rig with fifteen52’s Traverse HD wheels, same as the overland concept Ford showed a while back.
“I’m equipped with some essential MaxTrax MkII from Adventure Imports and have my trasharoo on hand. I’ve also got all my other camping gear (Gazelle tent, Setpower fridge, JetBoil, and AeroPress) ready to go. Oh, and I mounted that tow hitch myself for the bike rack! But the future holds in store a lot more stuff:
“Top priority is cargo management: American Adventure Lab’s M.A.S.S. Cargo Storage System, VersaTable, and Shelving. They have this one new product they’re adapting for the Bronco that they call a “Flip n’ Slide” drawer that allows you to slide out a fridge, then slide out a table underneath it, and then flip out another table from that, all sturdy workspaces for your camp cookspace. And they don’t rattle, either.
“Then, I’m getting ‘the works’ with Heretic Studio off road lighting: light bar, fogs, pods, and other Bronco-specific goodies that you’ll have to wait to see!
- Rhino-Rack’s backbone system and roof rack
- TrailRax side-mounted roof rack, with RotoPax storage
- ROAM Adventure Co Awning and Storage Case(s)
- Falken Wildpeak AT/3 Tires
- Mountune USA tuning and performance modifications
- Ram Mounts for the gadgets
- Surely more, as I go on more trips and see what else is needed.
A lot of this other stuff is dependent upon the manufacturers finishing their R&D, but many of them plan to have prototypes for me in the next few weeks. Folks will have to keep following my Instagram account for those updates, because that will be the very first place these products will be seen!
For those looking to make customizations to their own Bronco, Frank has some advice:
“First off, if you’re new to the scene, then just slow down and go use your truck a bit. Find local communities like on the Bronco Nation forums and go on some camping/4×4 trips with them to learn what they like, dislike, need, or want. Then prioritize based on what you’re going to use the most or get the most value from. Generally, word of mouth in these kinds of social circles carries far more weight than any flashy advertising, so if someone vouches for and uses a particular brand, you’ll know you can trust it.
Honest, friendly content creators can really be helpful, too. I’ve gotten to know YouTuber/IG creator Justin B. McBride (@justinbmcbride) just from DM’ing him questions about his product reviews from time to time. The information that creators like Justin are willing to provide to their audience is invaluable for making decisions in a sea of similar products and offerings. So don’t be afraid to ask questions – the vast majority of this community is eager to help.
For me, I’ve been camping, biking, overlanding and off roading with my cousin for a few years now, and have learned some of those things firsthand. My first priority was getting the paint protection film done since the protective aspects apply to nearly any driving scenario, and next, getting my cargo space in order to make packing and unpacking much easier, trip-to-trip.
Fun Will Come, and Waiting Is Worth It
“I just want to say that I know how incredibly fortunate I am to have received mine, as-ordered, as early as I did. I just hope that the photos and videos I share help people live vicariously through my trips, and that they stay positive as they wait for their builds to arrive. Ford’s engineers and designers did a fantastic job bringing this truck back, and they deserve the recognition far more than any shade they sometimes get as a result of these unfortunate delays. I promise you all, it’ll be well worth it when the time finally comes to go pick it up from your local dealer.”