Although restomodding got its start as a niche American muscle car trend back in the late 1980s, it has become a cottage industry all its own in the time since, and recent years have seen a variety of builders turning their attention to beloved vintage trucks and sport-utility vehicles like the Chevrolet Blazer, Dodge D-Series pickups and Ford Bronco.
This particular restoration practice involves the integration of modern powertrain components, suspension parts and other hardware to not only make these old-school rides faster and more capable from a performance standpoint, but also more reliable and easier to live with on a day-to-day basis. And when it comes to body-on-frame, solid-axle pickups and SUVs that were originally designed more than half a century ago, there’s plenty of room for improvement over the factory specifications.
That has led outfits like Icon 4×4 and Velocity Restorations to inject new life into these machines with fit and finish that goes well beyond anything that the Big Three could have dreamt of back in the day. But Seth Burgett of Gateway Bronco says that his company has taken things to another level with their latest first-generation Bronco offering, the Luxe-GT.
“The goal was simple: Build the best vintage Bronco on the planet,” Burgett says. “And the team overshot that goal.”
It’s a bold claim, but Burgett backs it up with some compelling evidence. While the company has been producing fairly traditional high-end Bronco restomods since 2017, the engineering and feature set of their new top-tier offering ventures into uncharted territory.
The Luxe-GT starts with a bespoke chassis that Gateway developed in collaboration with Australian engineering firm Premcar that’s said to provide structural stiffness above and beyond the other options that are available in the aftermarket. Free from the constraints of another builder’s design, Gateway tossed out the solid front axle and its associated components in favor of a custom-built independent front suspension and equipped a modernized five-link suspension setup in the rear. The new chassis also allowed the Hamel, Illinois-based builder to ditch the unwieldy recirculating-ball steering box for a modern rack and pinion system while incorporating technologies like electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes — features that have never been seen in a vintage Bronco before. Burgett tells us that no less than 10 patents have been granted or are pending as a result of the Luxe-GT’s development.
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Under the hood lurks a 460-horsepower naturally-aspirated 5.0-liter V8 paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission, a setup not unlike what you’d find in a modern Mustang GT. Power is sent to all four corners by way of a full-time all-wheel drive system, and the combination is said to be good for a 0-60 mph sprint in 5.3 seconds. Gateway says that they used modern SUVs like the Range Rover Sport and Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen as performance benchmarks during the development of the Luxe-GT, and the latter’s straight-line acceleration as well as its braking performance are indeed comparable to some of the models in the formers’ ranges.
This particular one-of-one example, nicknamed Big Sur Love and priced at $800,000, recently made its debut at The Quail during Monterey Car Week. The build is outfitted with a carbon fiber body and an Ombré Design by Katy paint scheme, while 18-inch wheels wrapped in 33-inch all-terrain tires give it a purposeful off-road aesthetic. The cabin, meanwhile, focuses on improving the Bronco’s ergonomics and creature comforts with a tilt steering column, revamped gauges and switchgear, and all-weather denim upholstery with leather accents. Genuine Birdseye maple wood adorns the bed and tailgate, too, and a custom color-matched Bimini top offers some protection from the elements. A center console-mounted touchscreen head unit connected to a Focal audio system offers Apple CarPlay functionality as well as a backup camera, too.
A press of the start/stop button on the instrument panel brings the V8 to life with a pleasing growl. The mill breathes through a dual-mode stainless steel exhaust system that kept things fairly low-key while I navigated through late-afternoon L.A. traffic, but once I happened upon an open stretch of road and dipped into the throttle, it definitely made its presence known with authority.
Although Burgett considers the Luxe-GT to be on par with today’s performance-oriented SUVs, there are some concessions to buyer expectations that ultimately hold it back from direct comparison. The factory-style column shifter, for instance, doesn’t provide the control required to select a specific gear and hold it there — as a driver typically would with a sports car on a mountain road — or dictate when upshifts or downshifts happen, both of which are common features in today’s performance vehicles.
He rightfully notes that equipping the truck with paddle shifters or a similar contemporary setup would have run contrary to the vibe of a vintage Bronco. Burgett also points out that dropping the shifter down to the notch below Drive engages a Sport mode that alters the transmission’s programming to make it more responsive to throttle inputs and fluctuations in speed, and those who prefer to row their own have the option of equipping a Luxe-GT with a five-speed manual gearbox in lieu of the automatic.
The steering is light but reasonably precise at speed in spite of the tall stance and pliable off-road-oriented tires, but while the reworked suspension setup kept the truck composed over road imperfections while maintaining admirable compliance, I didn’t find myself yearning for technical roads to hustle the Luxe-GT down. While the all-terrain tires and bolster-free front seats contribute to the overall vibe, the fact that static suspension dampers can only do so much to curtail body motion under hard braking and significant lateral load really reinforce the notion that this Bronco probably still does its best work on a warm summer evening at an unhurried pace.
Burgett says that adaptive dampers, along with a more road-oriented wheel and tire setup, are on the way for those seeking performance above and beyond what’s currently on the table. In the meantime, would-be buyers can expect a Bronco that can effortlessly keep pace with modern traffic — and look good while doing it — without paying the typical penalties related to vintage ride quality and overall drivability.
The current lead time for a build is about 12 months and Gateway Bronco intends to produce just 25 Luxe-GTs per year, so interested parties who can afford the $400,000 starting price shouldn’t be shy about making their intentions known.
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