Amos Zook stands in his well-worn barn, reminiscing. He’s a broad man, all burly shoulders and barreled chest. His deadpan voice, breathy as a bamboo flute, belies his stature.
“Yep, I used to keep my horses in this stall here,” he drawls, swinging a thick forearm to a dim corner of the barn. “But then I bought too many Bronco bumpers and the animals had to get lost.”
Zook’s Bronco Barn, nestled politely into the hillocks of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania—the heart of Amish country—specializes in frame-off restorations of the boxy, first-gen workhorses, built at Ford’s Michigan Truck Plant from 1966 to 1977. Here, a rolling Bronco chassis serves as a visual centerpiece. The barn is ultimately a projection of its owner.
Zook was born into a sect of Anabaptists known as the Plain community, whose lifestyle can include limited or zero use of electricity, wearing plain clothing, and abstaining from modern technology. The Amish are perhaps the most well-known example, though dozens of Plain community groups call the nearby hills home.
For Zook, this means a simpler life. He doesn’t drive cars—even Broncos. He limits the use of electricity at home but owns a basic tablet for reading, one of a few concessions to modern electronics. Zook’s conservative living doesn’t extend to his craft—good luck cutting rust out of a Bronco chassis by hand. But sometimes, deliberate or not, art imitates life: Sunlight pours through the barn’s open doors, bathing the workspace in a warm glow, while overhead lights are left dark. There’s no radio buzzing with classic rock.
“No, it doesn’t change how much I enjoy my job,” he says, landing on each syllable contemplatively. “Wrenching has always been what it was about. Because I would build a truck for myself, and once it’s done, it's kind of, well, on to the next one."
Zook hasn’t always lived as he does now. He left the religion and his home in Pennsylvania at 20, to explore. There was a road trip up the Oregon coast and the time he wheeled a truck into Death Valley desert to sleep under the Milky Way.
It’s common, he says, for young people in the Plain community to venture out to find themselves. While many do eventually return, for decades, Zook did not. His tales weave wistfully between opposing forces—those reeling him homeward and his thirst for exploration. There’s just one constant: Broncos.
His earliest memories include neighbors fording a creek in a beat-up Bronco. Zook was hooked. “The first Bronco I looked at, it looked pretty good from walking around it—like an easy fix, an easy paint job,” he chuckles. “I brought it home and took everything apart, and as I did that, one quarter panel fell on the floor.
That first Bronco turned to two, which became three. And on. For years, he bought every Bronco under $800 in the area, stacking spare parts like hay bales in the barn’s attic. The challenges of restoration captivated Zook. The trucks appear simple but were stitched together from nearly 50 separate steel panels, leaving endless seams for rust to scourge, he says.
“Very labor-intensive, Broncos are. And even once you have all the rust taken care of, they were never that straight. People expect them to look like new panels. So you block-sand till your arms fall off,” he groans.
Zook toiled and, in the process, became a master of his craft. Members of the Bronco community praised his efforts, asking for paint jobs or other fixes on the side. Zook’s list of projects grew, wedged into the nighttime hours following long days as a mason or as a trucker driving oversized loads. Eventually, he hit a breaking point.
“During the time I was in the truck, I met my wife,” Zook says. “She said, ‘Why are you in the truck thinking about your shop all the time? Just quit and do your cars.’ ”
So in 2011, he did. The transition was uneasy, but clients kept him busy. Zook’s keen eye—especially when hanging doors and straightening the bodies on rare and desirable Bronco roadsters—became his hallmark. Work snowballed as demand for these quirky, honest trucks grew into nostalgia-fueled mania.
Though Zook spent most of his life completely removed from the religion of his youth, he returned—sacrifices and all—following the birth of his son in 2016. He’s guarded when sharing about his background, slow to speak in measured words. From the outside, it seems an odd balancing act, like living between two worlds. One thing is clear: Even if Zook never drives one again, the Broncos will stay.
“Generally we don’t like to have the Amish thing be a ‘thing,’ you know,” he says. “It becomes like a label and whatever is attached to that label or whatever is common knowledge of it. We’re all individuals. We’re just people. . . . I’m Amos.”
His barn is serene. Cellphones don’t work here. Customers slouch in mismatched chairs, washing down political jabs with coffee and belly laughs. The revolving door of characters, who linger long after their trucks are completed, act as a sort of stage play that transforms hours into eyeblinks.
“There’s some companies restoring Broncos a lot quicker than me,” Zook says. “But I like customers that want to experience part of the process. And I always end up being friends with ’em.”
Bronco Barn builds can range from $40,000 to more than six figures, depending on customer specifications.
“The ones willing to put $100,000 or better into a new Bronco are not used to waiting,” Zook says. “They’re used to ‘I want that, and I want to take it home.’ ”
Zook remains immune to it all. The wealthy ones wait like everyone else. His barn is an inverse of the hipster affectations many Broncos have become. There’s no sepia-tinged Instagram feed. No hashtags. No fitted Supima cotton T-shirts sold beside lattes up front. There’s not even a website. Instead, Zook’s restorations act as rolling billboards, drawing new customers the old fashioned way. “Customers come to me because they won’t get ripped off,” he says. “I let them make decisions. I tell them what’s good and what’s bad. At the end of the day it’s their decision, whatever they want to do.”
Commissions have come from as far as Florida, and the backlog of projects keeps growing. Plan on a couple of years before you can get your order finished.
“In the old days, I worked on Broncos because I liked the vehicle and because I could build and work on them for minimal cost,” Zook says. “In the meantime, it blew up into this other thing. I’d like to tell you that I’m a visionary, but I’m really not. Just lucky.”