It was 1969 and Ed Schreiner was just kid, but when one of his relatives rolled up in a brand-new rig, he developed a lifelong obsession.
“The whole thing started when my dad’s cousin bought a brand-new Ford Bronco in 1969,” Schreiner told Cowboy State Daily. “He was a hot-rodder, so within a week he had that thing outfitted with loud dual exhaust, fender flares and big tires.
“And then I thought, ‘Someday, I’ll have one of those.’ We always went on family vacations together, every summer. And my place was always in that Bronco.”
It took until the 1990s for Schreiner, who now lives in Torrington, Wyoming, to finally own a classic Bronco. He still regrets selling it after a few years.
But in 2000, he found another one in Loveland, Colorado — just the rig he’d been looking for. It was a 1973 Bronco Sport with its original yellow paint.
He had recently gone through a divorce, but was still on good terms with his ex-brother-in-law. So after Schreiner bought it, the former brother-in-law embellished the paint job with some flames.
“He told me that it was my ‘happy divorce’ present,” Schreiner said.
He was living in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, at the time working for the railroad, and the Bronco was his only vehicle for quite a while.
He later moved to Torrington, and a serious shoulder injury ended his 30-year railroad career, but the Bronco remained a constant in his life.
It came to be called “Stella Louise.”
“One of my friends told me I should call it ‘Stella’ because it reminded her of her grandmother: ‘Looks really nice, but has its own attitude,’” he said.
Another family friend in Missouri insisted that her name, “Louise,” be added to the vehicle’s moniker.
And although Schreiner has two other vehicles, Stella Louise is still the one he drives the most. Roaming about Wyoming and other parts of the West, he likes to indulge in another of his great passions: photography. He’s captured countless images of his Bronco in stunning locations.
“I haven’t really been up into northern Wyoming, but I’ve got plans to get up there,” he said.
“The Bronco sees a lot of Nebraska, it sees Colorado and it sees the Snowy Range quite often,” he said. “I go to Devils Tower every year in honor of my older son, who unfortunately passed away.”
Mostly Original, With Character
The Bronco has been his favorite touring vehicle for about a decade, chewing through thousands upon thousands of miles every year.
“I do my own work on it. Mostly it amounts to doing regular oil changes, and a few parts here and there,” he said. “I did have to replace the steering about a year and a half ago because it was going bad, but the Bronco still runs very well.”
Besides various replaced parts and a few alterations, the rig is mostly original, Schreiner said.
A few years back, he swapped out the original 302-cubic-inch engine for a 351 Ford Windsor motor.
Ford made two legendary 351-cubic-inch engines, the Cleveland and the Windsor. While the Cleveland motors had better high-RPM performance, the Windsor has the “low-end torque” that Schreiner was looking for.
He likes to keep Stella Louise clean and in good working condition, but it’s still very much a working vehicle, with some of the usual wear and tear, Schreiner said.
“It’s got some rough spots on it – it’s 50 years old — but I leave them,” he said. “It could look better than it does, but the rough spots give it its own personality.”
Other Famous Broncos
Ford manufactured Broncos during model years 1966-1996, and then brought a new edition back in 2021.
Schreiner’s ’73 is the original body style, which ran though 1978.
“I specifically wanted a 1973 or newer, because that’s the first year they made Broncos with power steering and automatic transmissions, and I wanted those things,” he said.
One famous example of that original body style can be seen in the 1994 action thriller movie “Speed,” driven proudly by A-list actor Keanu Reeves’ character.
Schreiner’s seen the movie, and of course noticed the Bronco right away.
“I’m not really sure, but I think that particular Bronco is a 1967 model,” he said.
After 1978, Broncos moved to a larger body style. And one famous example of that is the rig driven by fictional Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire in the “Longmire” television series.
Schreiner said he loves that style of Ford Bronco too.
“My uncle in Laramie has one he bought new in 1979, and it still looks like it rolled off the showroom floor,” he said. “I come from a car family. My dad has a 1959 Ford he bought brand new, and it’s still in showroom condition too.”
On a more infamous note, a white 1993 Ford Bronco was at the center of the nation’s attention in summer 1994.
Former NFL star O.J. Simpson rode in that vehicle during the nation’s most famous slow police pursuit. He was driven by friend and former teammate Al Cowlings during a 60-mile, two-hour drive along Los Angeles freeways.
As America watched via live television, the white Bronco cruised down the freeway, followed by a phalanx of police cars. Simpson had gone on the run after being charged with two counts of murder in the deaths of his ex-wife, Nichole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. A jury later found Simpson not guilty.
Lots Of Compliments
Schreiner said Stella Louise is appreciated everywhere he goes.
“When I pull into a gas station, it’s bound and determined that I’m going to get some compliments on it,” he said. “I get lots of compliments when I go to the Snowy Range. It seems a lot of people take Broncos up there.”
His scenic Bronco photos have been a huge hit on social media. And several years ago, Stella Louise was featured in “Bronco Driver” magazine.
He doesn’t see Stella Louise going into a storage garage anytime soon.
“It’s relaxing, it’s fun to drive and it’s my pride and joy,” he said.
Mark Heinz can be reached at email@example.com.