The vehicles Amos Zook restores, specifically, are Ford Broncos from the “first-gen” era, built from 1966-1977.
Zook lives in Lancaster County, where he runs Zook’s Bronco Barn, doing work for clients as far away as Florida, on projects that can exceed six figures.
What makes this story unusual is that Zook is Amish. That’s not the only thing unusual about him though, as revealed in a recent profile in Road and Track.
First, about the cars. How did an Amishman get into a business restoring vehicles that he would never drive as a baptized church member? It started as a case of tinkering, and grew from there:
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.
Zook’s work became appreciated far and wide:
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 went full-time with the business, in 2011. Zook’s wife had a pivotal role in getting him into the Bronco restoration business full-time:
“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.’ ”
His projects run from $40,000 to over $100,000, and the wait time is around two years. Zook says these Broncos are “very labor-intensive.” Sounds like it is worth the wait for more than one reason:
“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.”
Amish who work on cars is not unheard of. There is an Amish-run business called Pequea Alternator and Starter, right in the heart of Lancaster County. I once had them do some minor work on my car, which was having electrical issues.
Some Amish buggy shops also restore cars. I’ve found this to be more often the very old models (early 1900s), which in some ways are closer to buggies than to anything people drive today.
The other unusual part of Zook’s story, is how he came to be Amish.
Zook spent a long time outside of the Amish, only returning to the church in 2016, following the birth of his son. He was able to keep the business he established while not Amish, with the caveat that he no longer drives his creations.
Returning to the Amish later in life (based on clues in the story, I’d say Zook is in his 40s) is also not unheard of, but a much less common way to find yourself an Amish church member.
The most remarkable such case I know of is the grandfather of an Amish friend who returned to the Old Order church much later in life (he was in his 90s).
The fact that Amos Zook can simultaneously be a car restoration expert and Amish is just one of those quirks of Amish life, which may seem like a puzzling conundrum to the outside, but which has its own logic within the rules of the church.
It’s not something he could do in every Amish church, but with the business-oriented and materially progressive Lancaster Amish, it fits. Nice to see that Zook can both follow his faith and continue making a living doing something he loves.