"I turned my Ford Bronco into a ditching machine by removing the stock wheels and bolting on home-built 3 1/2-ft. high, 3-in. wide steel wheels. It lets me drive through rice and soybean fields making trench tracks that drain unwanted water off the fields," says Perry Smith, Church Point, La.
Smith uses the steel wheels on his 1985 4-WD Bronco, which is powered by a Windsor 351 cu. in. engine and a C6 automatic transmission with 5.60 gears. The big steel wheels increased the rig's clearance from 10 to 24 in., which keep the truck from getting hung up in deep mud.
"The big steel wheels leave a 3-in. wide trench up to 12 in. deep as I drive through mud and standing water. In rice fields I generally use the wheels after the rice has germinated and most of the water has been drained off the field. Any standing water in the low spots has to be removed. I also use the wheels to drain standing water in soybeans after heavy rains."
He had a local machine shop make the wheels, which mount on the Bronco's original wheel hubs. The wheels are equipped with metal ribs on both sides, which provides traction in deep mud. In addition, a piece of rebar is welded to the outer edge of each wheel in a wavy, zig zag pattern to improve their grip.
Smith cut the front and rear fenders out in order to make room for the big wheels. He welded in a 1/4-in. thick steel plate above each wheel to support the wheel wells. "I had to cut out 6 in. of the floorboard to make room for the wheels when turning," says Smith.
"I can drive across soybean fields at 20 mph. However, the solid steel wheels make for very rough riding on the road, so the only time I drive on a road is to cross it."
Driving slow through deep mud can cause the transmission oil to get hot, so Smith mounted the radiator and fan off a small car on front of the Bronco's radiator for extra cooling capacity. The radiator is protected by a home-built rectangular bumper made from 2-in. steel pipe.
The Bronco doesn't have any doors or windows. "One time I was driving on a levee and accidentally rolled the Bronco over, damaging the hood, windshield and doors. Instead of spending the money for new doors and windows I just removed them," notes Smith.