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Completed Project Kirby's 1991 Ranger Build Up

Use this prefix for completed projects that are not "How to" articles or threads asking for help.
I haven't posted much here since I sold my 1993 Mazda Navajo around 2010 or 2011. It was 10 years in the making and finally to a solid, reliable state. I had some other priorities and decided to sell it and get something more versatile. I will include some pictures below of its developing states and final state when I sold it below. In the end, it had 37" MTRs, Arb front, detroit rear, 4.56 gears, D and D doubler and I built all the armor and the Dana 44 front Solid Axle Swap.

James duff 3.5" VR coil lift, 235" defender tires and a home made heavy ugly bumper (around 2000 when I bought it) :

2001 with 33x10.50s and James duff 4.5" lift with extended radius arms, manual hubs and new auto tranny:

Here it is just after the SAS with 34s and a swapped in manual tcase and tranny:


Winching out of Mikeys hot tub circa 2002 or so


Stuck on a tree just after 37s

37s, winch bumper rebuild etc

Final State Explorerforum moab trip 2010




Last Poser Shots


I hear it still gets around Colorado and Utah and I have had buddies call me with airings from time to time.

I have had a few rangers and one explorer since I sold my explorer.
Here are some pics of those:

Beat up 1994 Ranger 2.4l ($250)

Traded 1993 Ranger 4.0l and an abused auto tranny


1991 Manual Tcase and Tranny Explorer Sport


We have also had a ton of cool Jeeps. Here are a couple of pics, along with our current Jeep which we are hanging on to:

2005 unlimited Rubicon Sahara 5.7 L Hemi


2005 unlimited Rubicon 35s and 4" lift

Our Current 2005 Unlimited Rubicon 4" Lift 315 Kevlars

It does great grocery getter, family truckster, and occasional wekend wheeler, but I need a truck and I miss my exploder, so I decided to build a Ranger. However, I want to build it a little different this time.

I have always wanted to build a 1989-1992 ranger, so I spent a considerable amount of time looking for a low mile one with the right engine, tranny and tcase in good shape. 4.0l, m5od and 1354M stock. My explorer ended up with this combo, but started out as an auto tranny and tcase. This made for a ton of modifications and headaches with my explorer. Rangers can be had in many other undesirable configurations because they were available with 3 different v6s in 1989-92 and a 4cylinder. It proved to be a difficult task. Finally in the fall of 2012 I picked this one up. A 1991 4.0l manual tranny and transfer case 4x4 extended cab "mountain States Edition. It had 130k on it and ran great. The paint was toast, it had a rusty bed and (my biggest complaint) it had no factory air.


I drove it for a year until I was ready to have it painted. I fixed a bunch on it- thermostat, muffler, wheel bearings, brakes, had a new headliner installed, etc. When I got a quote for the paint (one solid color and fix the dings) it was 2k. So then I started thinking I better look for a different ranger to build! I settled on this one. It too is a 1991, it has air (huge plus after not having it in my other truck all summer), manual case and tranny and everything else and a 4.0. The body is really straight no rust and the interior is super nice. The odo read 83k and I believed it.

Since then I tracked down the original and only owner to find it has 183 k on it and they were all hwy miles. The only complaints I have is I wish it had the other mirrors and pop out extended cab windows. I can deal with those, though. This truck has been taken care of.

First order of business was a tune up, brakes and leaky valve cover gaskets.

The build plan is pretty simple: build it similar to how my explorer ended up, with out all the half builds in between. It took me a lot of work and money to get my explorer to preform well off-road and on the street and be reliable. On this one I want to skip all the poor performing, cheapskate half steps I took with the explorer.

My goal is to end up with a reliable, daily drive able, off-road capable ranger that will make a great driver, great work truck and great expo vehicle. I like the idea of a truck over a explorer sport because I need to haul dirt bikes and Sheetrock and plywood and all kinds of stuff all the time so I always needed a pickup when I had the explorer even though I wanted to drive the explorer all the time. Hopefully this will do both functions well.

So far, I have installed:

A blue tooth pioneer stereo (replacing the stock tape deck)

A optima yellow top

A Black grill and headlight bezels along with new headlights:

The only body work it needs is the topper it had on it was put on with a loose and poorly placed clamp that rubbed a hole in the bed cap. I will weld it up and hopefully add a LineX bedliner over the top

I purchased a Dana 44 out of a 76 f150 with no guts or outers for a $50 bill. I still have my spare warn premium hubs off my ex, and I plan to build this one stout before I put it in and leave it full width but move the c bushings in about 2" per side. I will likely then run stock style f150 wheels with stock backspacing and 35s or 37s as skinny as I can find. It will get a full rebuild and at least 4.88s, maybe 5.13s. I am not decided on radius arms yet. I suppose extended ones are on the bill instead of the stock wristed ones I had before, but I haven't sorted that out yet. The wrist traveled fine but it clunked and made a racket and it was also a pain to get out and pull the pin when it was time to wheel. Extended arms won't perform quite as well on the street as the stock length ones did with the pin in, but longer arms should stream line things.

For the rear I will rebuild a full width late model 31 spline 8.8 put of a bronco or f150 and install explorer disk brakes. I will likely need to have the axle flanges turned down and drill the rotors for the new bolt pattern.

I will extend the wheel base around 3" by moving the front axle forward and leave the rear axle centered in the wheel well. I plan to leave the bed size stock as I need the truck to haul stuff all the time. I will build bumpers and sliders before I beat it up this time.

Stay Tuned, I am picking up the front axle tomorrow.

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So I have been looking for a winch plate to use as a starting point for my winch mount/ bumper. I found a Tj winch plate for sale. The guy had a roller fairlead and a winch for sale too. It ended up being an xd9000 that needed some work. It was too good of a deal to pass up. The great thing is that it fits better that an integrated solenoid winch in between the frame rails. I didn't have to cut the grill or apron at all. So here it is bolted in place with some effort.


Good approach angle


The closest and highest I could get without cutting on the body

I turned the clutch housing around so I could access the handle.



I guess Ill put the 9000i on my wife jeep. I considered a rope for this, but with durability and longevity in mind I guess ill put a cable back on. I should be able to find one cheap that someone has taken off.

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Thanks man! I have some cable in it and I also installed a fairlead. It had a xrc smitty built logo on it that I removed because I can't stand cheap Chinese winches. I think the fairlead won't suck like the winches though.

I needed to rotate my tires, so I bit the bullet and trimmed the front fenders. My poor, straight unmolested ranger's body is now pretty cut up.

For those out there who wonder (because I did) there is a plastic inner fender, that is attached to a steel inner fender structure, this plastic is also attached to the outer fender lip by the little screws in the lip. I chose to cut the plastic up close to the metal inner fender structure and keep some of the coverage and mounts the plastic inner fender had. I butchered the driver more than I should have, so I may get a replacement from the junk yard and try again.

Here is the pics:


I cut the fender with a cut off wheel in my angle grinder then finished it off with a flapper wheel. I masked and painted the cut edge, so hopefully it won't rust like crazy. I cut it an inch below the bulged contour, hoping that I could fold an inch in for an inner lip like stock. However, now that it is done it looks good enough and I don't plan on folding anything.


I needed a spot to see if I cut enough. I had to go get a load of mulch, so I tried at the rock yard.


It wasn't enough. So I took it out to my dads to stretch its legs




That was as far as I could go. The rear hits too hard to go further. I still had an inch or two at the shock there, probably not as much at the spring. I had a little on the radius arm before it hit frame too. And an inch or so at the fender.



Great droop with nothing binding.


Its quieter than my explorer when it cycles. My explorer springs would pop and bang some. It definitely sways more in corners.

Overall, I am really stoked with the suspension. I am excited to get the rear done so I can really push the front to the limit. Its funny, it was done months ago, but I am just now getting to cycle the suspension completely.

And the best part is rotating the tires seems to have really helped the slight death wobble I was getting!

Fenders look good. I had a right side pull after I rotated my tires. I swapped the fronts and it went away.

The death wobble is there ever so slightly now again! I guess I can rotate tires every other week ;)

I also didn't post up pics of the winch with the cable spoiled in it. I also permanently mounted the solenoid box too. It's hiding in the grille.


I am going to mount the xd9000i on the wife's jeep.

Me and my kid helped my buddy trouble shoot his winch. Hs9500i. After testing everything from the motor to the solenoids, we figured out one of the leads inside the plug in for the remote corroded and was causing it not to work.


I needed to haul a my uncles 8n Ford Tractor and trailer for a hay ride for a trunk or treat tomorrow. So I hooked it up to my ranger. I wasn't sure the bumper hitch could handle it. But seemed to pull it really well with the 1/2 ton springs and 5.13 gears. I was pretty surprised. Then I hit the brakes pretty hard going down hill. The bumper hitch won't handle it.



So I removed it with the hot wrench.


I guess I need to figure out a plan for a rear bumper sooner than I thought. Does anyone have a favorite rear bumper design? I need some inspiration.

I am sick of working on my house so I switched it up with some ranger work tonight. It has really started leaking oil. I am positive part of it is nasty atf coming out of the top three rubber plugs on the tranny. I will be getting to that when the clutch or the slave cylinder.

I suspected the oil level sensor might be part of my leak, so I replaced it. A new one is $100 from ford wholesale. Ouch! Of course once I get it off I realize they didn't give me a washer seal for the stupid thing so I have to go back tomorrow. Hopefully this helps some, but I doubt it. It looks like the oil is coming from high on the engine and in the back possibly the driver side. I just did the intake gasket and did a really thorough job, so I really don't think that is it. It does look like it is leaking a little from the PVC valve so I might change that.

My driveshaft has been rubbing on my gas tank skid at full drivers rear stuff. It actually wore out my slip on my driveshaft so I have to go have it rebuilt. I took the skid off tonight and cut out a bigger chunk and rebuilt the support.

Here is the piece I hacked:


And the new piece I put in.



It gave me right around 1/2" more clearance. I hope that is enough.


I am taking my driveshaft to get fixed tomorrow. I am going hunting in a couple weeks and have a long drive so I would like it to be smooth and vib free. I can't decide if I should shorten the wheel base an inch. Now is the time to do it. I think it would be closer to stock. I was always trying to stretch my explorer out and get better departure and approach angles, but this ranger is so long I don't need any more length. However the departure angle could be a little better. The wheel base is around 128".

Here is where it sits (front of truck is to the left).


Next is rear fender hack time.

Is this safe?

Does this make anyone nervous? I am trying to decide what I think! Slightly sketch or super sketch.


I had to do this to make it happen



Those are stocker ranger blocks btw

Yeah, I decided that was ghetto. I spent nearly all day working on a new leaf pack. I priced Chevy 2" leaf packs and they were $400, so forget that. I got new rub pads for every leaf, new center pins and put my ranger pack and the Chevy pack together.



I hope it doesn't ride like a semi and travel like crap. We will see.

Before I got busy on that, I went and flexed it and yep, the driveshaft still hits the skid.

Also, my driveshaft is too long. Back to the shop to shorten it again. Geesh.

I also got one rear fender hacked. I didn't want to do it but I did...


Now that you started cutting the body it is all over. I would look into a bronco II tank swap. 23 gallons and weight behind the rear axle. Makes the truck more stable on the downhills as well.

I am still a bit sad I cut it up!

I think the tank is going to work where it is at.

I matched the other side.


Plenty of room! I could run 37s now!

It still has lots more travel, but this was all I could get there.


I changed all the fluids in the ranger and raised the breather hoses in prep for hunting. Then last week, I really put the ranger through its paces. 5.5 hours of highway at 80 mph, then snow/ mud wheeled all week, then drove it home at 80 mph another 5.5 hours. I even got to yank out a jk on 37s who was stuck. You can't tell from this pic but it has all 4s chained up due to the 24" deep snow up high. The ranger performed flawlessly.



I didn't kill an elk, but I got to shoot at a few and my buddy Phil murdered a cow.

On the way home I picked up my daughter at my parents and cycled the suspension in my favorite spot I have used since I was 12 with my blazer. The driveshaft still hits a little bit but it is a simple trim. She flexes excellent. (Excuse the hunting mud. I did wash the front so I could see out to drive home)





Unfortunately I need to do some more trimming. Or some bump stops. Or both.

The rear:


The front:

I also broke my inside door handle. So I have to roll the window down and use the outside handle. Lame!

I might be a little late but I would leave the rear axle where it is. I have mine perfectly center and wish it was a little further back. As I get toward max up travel the leaf flex pulls the axle forward and it rubs. I'm planning on reworking my spring pack due to some over zealous play in 2wd and kinking my current setup and when I do I will be moving my axle back 1in or so.

Yeah, it's too late.

It did take some extra work but I like the wheelbase 1" shorter. The turning radius is noticeable. The tire is centered in the wheel well. And because I did the 63" Chevy leaf conversion, my springs are pretty flat. The rear axle doesn't move back much during compression.

Good News/ Bad News.

Good News. My bride got me a 220 Mig with Gas for my Bday. Woo hoo!


I am excited to use it. Might have to retire my 110 Mig and 220 stick. I will make sure it does everything I need it to.

I had to drive two hours to get the welder. I took a shot of my rpms at 75. The ranger is smooth to 85+ now. AC on and cruise set. The rpms are a little high, but it is nice. This is 76 or 77 mph btw. The speedo reads fast. Its the closest I could get with the 5.13s and 35s.


Now for the bad news. My Alternator is shot. Unfortunately, I can't find any info on a 1991 alternator upgrade. Stock is anywhere between 60 amps and 75 amps. That sucks!

It seems like in 1992, I can but all sorts of 130 amp alternators over the counter. They had the wrong plugs though.

Does anyone know how or where I can adapt a 130 amp over the counter alternator?? The big grey plug doesn't match any of the explorer 130 stock alternators.


I have that same welder and cart, had it since 04 and never a problem with it. I dont care for the cart, I lean the bottle back so its not against the hose coming out of the welder.

Maybe an alternator shop could convert your alternator to the right plug if you have one local or somewhat local.

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I have that same welder and cart, had it since 04 and never a problem with it. I dont care for the cart, I lean the bottle back so its not against the hose coming out of the welder.

Maybe an alternator shop could convert your alternator to the right plug if you have one local or somewhat local.

Not all that stoked about the cart, but glad I have a cart!

Good call man! I took your advice this morning.

I took my alternator to a local alternator rebuilder.

Apparently, 1991 was a transitional year as far as alternators are concerned. They have a 2g alternator. The 2g cannot be rebuilt for more power. It also doesn't have any other options. It is a 65-80 amp alternator. No other options really However, with a little bit of wiring, it can take a 3g alternator, which has options up to 130amps.

I tried a bunch of 130 amp alternators. None had the correct mounting pattern. Some had the correct mounting pattern, but the wrong pulley. Some had no pulley.

Finally, I found and bought an alternator with the pulley that fit perfect.The right mounting pattern and a 6 groove pulley. It is for a 2004 Explorer 4.0 2wd. It has a lifetime warranty and was $130, about the same price as the replacement 70 amp for my ranger.

In case anyone else has a 1991, here is what I did:

Next, I removed the bigger 3 wire plug:



Next I added a terminal to the two red wires out of the plug. 2 wires to the one terminal. I used a copper end and soldiered it. Then shrunk wrapped it.

This fits on the post of the new alternator.

I didn't do anything with the other wire. The rebuilder said it was not needed? I suspect it is for the idiot light, but the idiot light did not come on.


Next I picked up this little plug (these can be purchased at you local auto parts store, I got it at the alternator place) and spliced it into the middle (white with black stripe) in the other plug.


Plugged everything in and boom! I got a cheap 130 amp alternator. Thanks dave!