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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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The ranger does so well in the deep stuff. We ended up with 18" or so. Still snowing. Maybe 24". I live at the high point between Colorado Springs and Denver, and we get a lot of snow.

The wheel base is nice and the gearing is great to get wheel spin when needed. The clearance is great too. Its nice to have the air locker available now. I didn't really need it in the snow today, but it was really nice to have the option. The rear would be great too- need to get working on the rear axle. The artec truss has just been sitting on the shelf.


No need to shovel the driveway when all I have is capable vehicles. My neighbors hate me.

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I kept hearing a clank in the front of my truck. Turns out the front passenger shock came apart.

They eye came unscrewed from the shaft. Unfortunately, it boogered up the threads so I only get a thread or two of engagement when I screw it back together.

I called Bilstien- even though it has been years since I bought the shocks. I seemed to remember a good warranty on them. The guy said they wouldn't cover it because it was most likely from over extension. Well, that is really weird because I have been running them for years and just now had a problem. Anyway, he won't cover it.

The bummer is that the shock does still work well and have a lot of resistance in it- not like it is wore out. He said lots of people have had good luck welding them up. Which makes me think this is a common problem. I did see lots of guys chatting about the same problem online. I am trying to decide if I should weld it up and run it, buy another new bilstien- or if I should get some different shocks because these have problems.

Another fun thing- my window broke out. I was just cruising down the highway and this happened. I dont know if a rock kicked up or what. I guess the positive thing is that I am pretty good at reinstalling them. I put some tape on it and next time I am at the junk yard I will grab one.


Can you chase the threads?

I would try to fix it, and run it first. If it works your good to go, and it's free.

I have heard many complaints about service from them too. Lots of people also complain that you have to send them (pay for 2 way shipping too) in for new bushings, as supposedly you can't do that yourself on those. Just what I have read, not experienced.

No- thread chasing wouldn’t work. The threads are basically pulled/ removed except for a couple on the end inside the threaded bung on the shock eye. So there is nothing left to chase. Only a couple threads to engage with.

I would press or hammer the end on and weld it up, being careful not to overheat the seals at the other end of the shaft. Make sure your are not over extending them, but I don't think you are.

As far as the window goes, be glad whatever broke it didn't hit the body and damage a new paint job.:thumbsup:

Im sorry but I swore off Bilstein
Tried to run 5100 series on the Fj since we started lifting the FJ in 2007
After having no less then 3 complete failures of Bilstein shocks/struts I swore them off
went to Fox and have not regretted it
Had to come up with $1200 real quick when the lower mount on her newer front bilstein strut broke that was strike one

Well, I think I am going to @BKennedy 's advice and weld er up. My buddy has my machine- so I have been running around with 3 shocks all week.

I cycled the suspension and at full droop it is at about 29" and full stuff it is about 20" at the shock mounts. it certainly isn't an issue of shock being over cycled.

I took some pics for fun:

I also looked for a window at the pull and pay today- no dice. Ill look at the other one when I get a chance

So if the shock is not being over extended or over worked any you have proof would they now honor your warranty??
Pics look awesome the truck is sooooooo clean!
Whats the next major upgrade??

@410Fortune I have given up hope on warranty support....

Thank you! I am actually motivated to keep it clean for once.

Next upgrades: I need to replace the engine. I NOS have a Ford remained short block in the garage that I picked up off CL. I also have a new rear axle housing. This one is bent a little probably from hauling too much junk or towing too much junk. I also have an artel truss for the new one. And an ARB. Also got a set of graphics to go on.

I have been chasing a leak in the roof. Same one I had before paint. I did a test with soapy water and compressed air and found what I thought was a leak near the drip rail. I have video of that. I had my painter address it last week and it still leaks. I dont know what to do, honestly.

Today I got the tailgate mounted and stickered.



I found a set of NOS bushings for the hinges on eBay. So I got those installed. Parts are getting tough to locate.


I was able to also find a NOS handle on eBay. The inner parts are the best out of 3 sets I had.

It was a tight fit, but it fits and looks good:


Next I took the gate to Rhino Linings to get the lining put on it. It originally had a coat of lineX on it when I found the gem in the junk yard. So the rhino is going over and will match the lines of the rest of the bed/ color.


Rhino is going to line the rest of the 2" on the lower cab and fenders on friday to match below the doors. I am getting some chips there, so I am hoping this will fix it.

looks so sick!!! Seriously that Ranger is like perfect! I LOVE the color.... the older they get and the newer the new ones get, the more I like the classic body lines and features of the old ones
So the roof leak is at the seam sealer?? or windshield? This thing cannot have roof leaks!!
MY BII is still leaking around the rear glass! WTF..I sealed that SOB up....Anytime I have about 32" of slush on my roof some drips appear. New goal is to keep all the snow off my roof until I can fix
The roof leak is what caused all my rocker panel rot that I just fixed!

What engine did you get to replace yours? whats wrong with the original?
Have you considered OBD2 4.0 conversion? (plastic intake)

Yeah- it is leaking. I thought seam sealer. I could blow compressed air under the windshield in a certain spot and get a soap bubble up near the seam and drip rail- but it seemed to be the under side. So I had the body man address that with seam sealer and it still leaks. He has a windshield guy who will yank the windshield and reinstall and try to fix for $25 and he thinks that is the solution. So I am going to see if that works. Its worth a shot.

There is nothing wrong with the current engine. It pulls nice and runs good. It just has almost 300k on it, so I want to have a plan in place when it gives. It does leak oil and burn oil. Particularly since it sat all summer. Now it goes through about a quart every 1k miles.

The engine I got is a 4.0 ohv short block remaned by Ford in a crate. It was a good deal. It is a 1998-2001 block. I *think* I can use all my accessories with it if I get the later heads and it will work. That is my impression. I am not sure though- I was kinda hoping you could tell me.

I don't really want to go to obd2 from what I understand, but again I would appreciate some education from you Jaime. I dont mind obd1 for simplicity sake. And I cut out my cat a while ago. It has plenty of power for what I need. (Which has been my biggest hang up from having you do a 5.0 for me). It will run 85 on the hwy all day and it will pull whatever I throw at it. The 4.0 and manual tranny with 5.13s is really a great combo. I think I will like it even more when I do the tranny gear swap to the 4cylinder 1st 2nd and 3rd- which is something I would also like to do.!More power is always appealing though. Would a obd2 engine have more power? I know it would have more sensors (like o2) and would need more wiring- though I am not sure what wiring would involve.

Usually the windshield is the source of the leak...if it is the seam sealer where the roof, a pillar and windshield frame panels meet then the windshield silicoln should fill in that crack too. I am sure your body guy and windshield guy took the glass frame down to bare metal, used a primer, then finally the glue for the glass, right????

300K is just a baby! LOL kidding of course....ohv can go longer, but I would also be planning the replacement now

OBD1 is simple and with a metal upper intake you can port match the upper and lower add a plastic intake spacer to help with heat soak and really get some air flowing through that sucker
The metal intakes are nice because they allow LOTS of porting. The pushrod 4.0 really really responds well to air flow mods ESPECIALLY in CO at altitude...just keep in mind you are always only as good as your smallest bottleneck. SO a good intake, a good exhaust, headers, throttle body mods, larger MAS, and then the port matching will have an OHV screaming up Eisenhower pass.....

OBD2 has advantages mostly from the diagnostics and tuning stand point, the ability to watch and talk to the pcm is what I like the best. For me its some simple wiring usually I do the OBD2 conversion just because we are always replacing the older ohv with the newer ones...I always try to use the 98-01 ohv when I can as they are really really reliable. However I do NOT like the later model EGR setup that stupid metal line on the drivers side of the engine drives me insane.... so its basically personal choice.
The way it was explained to me best is if the OBD1 computer has something like 32 fuel/air/spark curve maps to choose from the OBD2 computer has more like 1600. More fuel efficient, more responsive to mods, more tunable, and easier to diagnose issues...

93 is a very good year for the ohv and its computer, does your 93 have a cam sensor? does it have EGR?
If not then I really like your 93, as the early cam sensors and EGR just plain SUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Most 93's do not have cam sensor or EGR unless they were CA trucks

My exploder was a 93, my ranger is a 1991. How is that year?

I would be ingested in doing some port matching and grinding and spacing for sure.

Because I don’t tune or plan to change much in regards to other mods- I think I will stick to obd1. I get between 15-17 mpg usually- so I am happy with the mpgs on 35s too.

Yes they took that seam in particular down to metal and primed and painted- it’s an annoying problem. I think I might replace the cargo light too just to be sure.

1991 is a good year very simple computer I am not sure where I got the 93 from you have to forgive me I have not been in my right mind lately....... bouncing all over the place
Honestly I cannot remember if 91 has a cam synch or EGR!?!?!?!

Of course you know the 91 has weak weak heads, but if they never get hot then we see well over 350-450K from these engines with good maint.
Consider ditching the 91-92 style power distribution box eventually, the 93-94 box is far superior (weather tight) and would give you lots of places for additional relays and fuses for accessories.
What I do is cut the 91 style power box off, add a large plug with male and female ends from a junk yard truck and wire up the 93 style box in its place. Now you have a power dist box you can take off the truck and put on the bench to work on. It makes adding accessories a breeze...the box is already powered, already has 12V+ batt, 12V+ acc, and ground so to add a relay and switch you only have to run two wires, one in and one out......

16 mpg with 35's is pretty good, I get slightly less in the BII with the V8, 4.10 and 35's but we are close. Now that I am at 2200' elevation there is alot more power from the engine so its easier to get going and I am getting better MPG then I did in CO

Hope you find that roof leak, you don't need any water getting into that newly built cabin!! Although in CO rust is not nearly an issue like it is in other places (like here in Idaho! Holey cow things that never ever rusted in CO started turning brown in the first 6 months!)

Thank you for sharing your wisdom. I will look into the pdb.

I have heard that about heads- but from what I understand I can’t use the 91 heads on the new block anyway. Do you think I am correct in my findings that the rest of my current engine will bolt up? I want to change things that might be worn or that would be problems- but from what I understand the rest will bolt up.

Also my mpgs are a little less than that- I forgot to subtract for my Speedo error. With 35s and 5.13s I can quite get to where my Speedo should be even with the highest tooth speedo gear available. It’s final ratio is too low- but it is close. So my Mpg is More like 13-15.

I get between 10-15 with my 160,000 mile sploder on 35s with 4.88s and the EGR isn't functional. It does way better on longer trips than the typical mile here and there that I tend to do.

That is one good looking Ranger. I looked for a year for a decent one of those and finally gave up and bought an Explorer. They are cheap around here and easy to find parts for.

The flared fenders and clean paint are sharp on there.

I got the STX sticker set mounted up today. I order it custom from graphics express in flat black before it was painted. Its been a long time coming, but I am really happy about it.

One of my best friends has a sticker wrap and graphics company. I was going to do the install myself, but after i did the tailgate I decided I better ask for help. It was a good idea too- they took all morning and were complicated. We had to reshape and cut out the fender holes on the back. The gas take lid required some ad libbing too. I think it is ready for some wax or ceramic coating next. on to the pics:


my wife thinks it looks so 90s. I think that is perfect.

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friggin perfect!!! good taste ..........I love it