For those that may not be familiar, Roger is my amazing dad. I somehow started calling my parents Rog and Vic when I was in high school and it just stuck. We are so incredibly fortunate that Rog is not only insanely talented, but also patient and willing to tackle pretty much anything we throw his way. One of my favorite, and most treasured, “Rog projects” would by far be my beloved 1974 Ford Bronco. In June of 2010, I was sitting at my desk working my corporate job and got the bright idea to poke around on line for an old Ford Bronco. Little did I know, I would find one almost immediately in Northern Michigan, about 5 hours away. I got so excited I could hardly sit still! There were 3 pictures of the incredibly rusty beauty and I was in love!
I called Rog right away and started the conversation with “I sent you an email have you seen it yet?” He replied that he had and asked what I was up to. I then said “would it be crazy if I just bought it and got it home then worried about the rest?” He said “that wouldn’t be the craziest thing you’ve done.” He then proceeded to tell me that Gilly, the crane operator for his company, is for hire to haul on the weekends and I could give him a cashier’s check to pick it up and haul it back to his company shop. He gave me a checklist of important questions to ask the seller and I gave him a call right away. I’m pretty sure the seller was not expecting a woman to call him and ask the questions that I asked…and he could have told me the beast hadn’t run in years, but I was obsessed and told him he had a deal. Rog told Gilly that when he went to pick up the Bronco, as long as the engine started he had the green light to bring it home. Within a week, Gilly went to pick it up and brought it back to Rog’s shop.
I lovingly named my rusty treasure Marla as in Marla Houch from A League of Their Own. Marla was a shy unattractive white gal that was fierce on the ball field so I thought this was the perfect name for my white and rusty Bronco. I was so excited to see my rusty find, So I drove straight to Rog’s shop after work the day she arrived. The good news is that the engine did start up right away, the bad news is that when it was put in gear, it died. So….Rog worked his magic to fix the problem and get me on the road. What I didn’t realize however, was that the rusty beast had manual steering, manual brakes and it was so rusty that it shook violently when I drove over 25mph. I was convinced I was going to have “Popeye” arms from turning the steering wheel so hard and the brakes were pretty challenging too.
Rog offered to install power brakes that summer which was a huge relief, especially since at the time I lived right off a road with a speed limit of 65mph. Ever try to stop a vehicle going over 60mph with manual brakes? It was definitely an adrenaline rush! We later added power steering which was also a big bonus! I spent the next few summers driving my beautiful rust bucket EVERYWHERE!! It didn’t matter to me that rust would fall out of the shaky windshield when I would go over railroad tracks or hit bumps in the road. I would have to drive with the doors locked because when I turned corners, the doors were known to swing open all by themselves. And then there’s the gas stations…when I would stop to fill up the tank, the line had a small leak and would drip gas all over the ground. People would always point it out to me as if I wasn’t aware of this. I would also tell Rog that I felt like the body hopped off the frame when I went over bumps in the road and he said “that’s just how they ride.” Then there’s the time I was two counties away, at night in the summer, and got stuck in a monsoon storm driving home with the top off. Rog had removed the mechanics to the windshield wipers and zip tied the blades to the top of the windshield frame. He figured I would never need the wipers since I never planned on driving without the top on. I pulled over at a gas station to borrow scissors, cut the zip ties and manually cranked the wipers with one hand and steered the beast home with the other hand…did I mention I got a garbage bag from the clerk at the gas station to wear as a rain coat? I cut out a hole for my face and arms and drove the 45 minutes home.
In 2017, Rog decided it was time to make Marla “road safe”. The goal was to fix the gas leak, fix the doors from swinging open and check out the cause of that “hopping” feeling I mentioned earlier. To his surprise, and mine, there was only one body mount securing the body of Marla on the frame…whoops! So I actually was hopping off the frame from time to time. In addition to the gas leak, the windshield frame was almost completely gone from rust, there was an exhaust leak, the fire walls that protect the engine from catching fire were gone and the entire body was a rusty mess. So, in true Rog fashion, he decided to give Marla a complete overhaul. Within a few weeks, he had souped up the engine, added a fuel injected carburetor, running boards, and went to town on the body. The tailgate had a funny looking patch across the bottom that we were curious about. When he removed it, there was literally nothing there. The tailgate had completely rusted away in that area. So….he made a patch and went to work. Rog completely transformed Marla from that old rusty beast to a work of art. When it came time to give her a new color, I thought it was as simple as finding something in a magazine and matching it with a scanner at a big box hardware store. So, I found a fabulous claw foot bathtub that was a beautiful shade of “hunterish” green. I gave it to Rog and was informed that was not how auto paint works. However, Rog took that magazine with the bathtub to the local auto body store, told the guy behind the counter what he was doing, and the two of them sifted through the auto paint catalog until Rog found something close to what I was hoping for….and it turned out even better than the color on the bathtub.
It was a 1950’s Ford Seafoam Green and it was perfect! He turned the garage into his painting booth and gave Marla a fresh new look. We started calling him the Mad Scientist during the project because of everything he was able to do, all in the garage, in about 7 weeks. Now, Marla is road safe, beautiful and SOOOOOOOOOO much fun to drive all over NW Indiana and SW Michigan! I am beyond grateful for how hard Rog worked on this project just to make Marla “road safe”. It was beyond anything I could’ve imagined. I am asked often if Marla is for sale, to which I point to the license plate that reads 74 NFS. Rog acquired a 76 Ford Bronco recently that is literally just the engine and frame. He plans on restoring this one, that a customer lovingly named Crumbles, as soon as he finds the time to get started in it