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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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I just looked at nwf. They don’t offer anything for the 1354. You can get an atlas with 4 to 1 for a RBV. You shouldn’t need anything more that that, right? You just want more options Brian?

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It would be rad if one of thier boxes would fit between my 1354 and m5od. I would be all over that for my ranger.

I meant if I was to install the Atlas II again in my Explorer, I would add the Black Box-i just because its a doubler, and it would add 4" to the front drive shaft, making it much easier to clearance. With the 700R4 trans, it really shortens up the drivetrain and with all the flex in my front axle, I had to clearance the heck out of the joints in the front shaft.

I think the guy might have bought that one @gmanpaint. He texted me and said he got a line on one.

I made a long drive today. It was a gamble, but I found a set of ranger seats 5 hours away for a good deal. Off of a 2003. Figured I wanted to do a drive on my day off and see some fall colors anyway. So the wife and I loaded up and went for a drive today.

Turned out to be a good score and a fun drive. My 91 seats are getting pretty ragged and I can't wait to have a cupholder!

They are a little dirty, but no hols and really good shape.

Any ideas for cleaning them? Would love to take off the covers and put them in the washing machine!

Also, I think these have some sort of seat belt tensioning system. I am going to have to figure out how to defeat that.

Any resources and knowledge send it my way.

I guess it is called a seatbelt pretensioner. I guess there are some problems with later model trucks needing the systems to match up because it can trigger a diagnostic code. Obviously, mine doesn't have that problem. I am just trying to decided if I can get away with running them as is, or if I need to go around them or something. I guess first step is seeing if my seat belts will latch in the female receivers of the seats.

I think I am going to remove the covers and try washing them in my washing machine. We will see how that goes.

I think I am lucky these dont have airbags. Looks like some newer models do.

Those look a lot like the seats in my daughter's 2010 Ranger. Be careful with that center console and don't put any weight on it, hers broke at the swivel when she was pushing her self up on the console, and she weighs about 105 pounds.

delete the auto tensioners run your old seatbelts if possible
If not then you can leave the tensioners on the seats and just do not hook them up BUT MAKE SURE TO ANCHOR THE SEATBELTS TO THE STOCK LOCATIONS on whatever seats you are working on, even if this means running a small strap from the auto tensioner to the floor

I have put 07 and 08 seats into Rangers and on one truck I bypassed the auto tensioner because the female ends went to the floor brackets and on the other truck I left the auto tensioners in place just not hooked up to anything, If I remember correctly I had to add one anchor from floor to seat to make sure it was safe and used the safe hold down location as the stock belt

Do you know anyone with an upholstery cleaner, like a bissel wet vac? Friggin awesome for cleaning seats.
Otherwise hot soapy water and a soft brush, followed by clean water with a clean towel and then let dry. Stains can be spot treated

Removing the covers can be tricky
Sweeet score good Ranger seats are hard to find
Nice Aspens!!
I have replaced Aspens with Alder, Birch and Tamarac, Tamarac trees are interesting they are an evergreen that turns yellow then brown and sheds all its needles? I had never seen anything like that before moving North

Any ideas for cleaning them? Would love to take off the covers and put them in the washing machine! Any resources and knowledge send it my way.

Nice score, agree with the Bissell or similar. I've used a pressure washer with good effect. . ., but may be a bit much with 17 year old seats (and stitching). I'd be hesitant to remove the covers, maybe consult a upholstery shop ? ? ?


Get a bottle of Pure Power. It’s an amazing product. You can get it on Amazon. A shop I used to work at many years ago sold it. It removes about any stain with minimal effort.

Thanks for the replies everyone. I ended up taking the covers off- which was quite the job and required removing the top halves from the base. Pulling the covers off was a bit of work but not too bad. they are pretty simple. Then I ran them in the washing machine on cold or warm and delicates. Then I let them dry in my house. They turned out really good. Lots of lint after the wash but I took care of it with a roller and the shop vac. These really show the dog hair.

I also used the spray with water in the sink then shop vac the water out for the center console.

The seats were not a direct bolt in.

I started with the driver because I thought it would be harder. Start with the hardest one first, right?

The holes didn't quite line up and I wondered if I should be using the old rails. So I tried to swap them. The old 1991 rails came right off. There is a lot to taking off the 2003 ones. The latch for recline and the latch to slide forward and back is integrated into the rails. So that wasn't an option.

The main thing on the drivers seat is that the front holes were bent too steep. So I flattened those with a couple of big crescent wrenches and 3 out of 4 holes lined up. I think on the third I will do a 1/2" bolt with some big washers. I plugged the unused hole with the bolt that came out.

Then on to the passenger. This is where the real work started.

I flattened the front brackets to meet the holes and then the back brackets were off by 2". Add to that, only 1 front hole aligned. I thought this would be the easy one.

After alot of head scratching, I ended up cutting the front brackets off the old 1991 rails and welding them to the 2003 front brackets.



I was careful covering up the new seats with a welding blanket of course I welded them and painted them.


then all 4 holes matched up. I am really happy with them. Cant wait to use the cup holder!


I did have to use the old seat belt buckles because the 2003 buckles didn't work with the 1991 belts. I might look for some black belts in the junk yard.

Next on the list of maintenance and repair for hunting season: install the new fox shocks.

Cute off the old mounts:"


Then I realized I didn't have any new mounts. Oops! I ordered some and this job goes on the backburner.

Its ok, the rear ARB has had a leak ever since I got it installed. I thought it was either bulkhead fitting or orings on the seal housing. It was weird. It would only leak when cold or stationary.

So I tore it apart. It was none of those. The bulkhead wasn't leaking. No bubbles with soap. The orings I thought might be the culprit, so I removed the seal housing and replaced them. made up a bench tester- still leak.


I think it is the bonded internal seal. I ordered one of those. $23. I hope that fixes it.

That's how I do the seats too.... cut the ears off the seats that come out, actually lightly bolt them to the truck, set new seat in place get it in the perfect spot and tack weld....... the seat belts are always a pita, just make sure you incorporate the stock seatbelt hold down for safety....
nice work getting the covers off and then back is a big PITA but do able.
You can use RIT dye to color those old seatbelts, another option to consider if you cant find the perfect JY solution.

Why not just ditch the RABS? I hated the RABS on my 88 BII....the rear end would get sideways in any wet conditions way too easy....

I like the rabs actually. The rear on the ranger is light- so when I lock it up on slick stuff at speed it actually works really nice. It keeps it straight and slows it down. So I want to keep it. It’s actually part of the reason I stuck with the 8.8.

Thanks for the input on the seats Jaime. Are you saying that you don’t trust the seat belt receiver bolted to the new later seats?

I do not trust it UNLESS the self retractor is anchored to the same spot the stock belt was. Otherwise you are counting on the 4 seat mounting bolts to hold your seatbelt...and if you look under your ranger there is a cable that goes over a body crossmember that retains the stock seat belt anchor way or the other you MUST anchor the seat belt to those locations.

Copy about the RABS!!!

I think on both seats the receiver mounts to the seat. The middle belt goes to the floor on both seats behind the seats.

We have success! It was the bonded seal that was leaking. I cant find a single thing wrong with it, but its leaking. Kind of nice to know it wasn't my fault installing the locker for once. I rigged up arb bench tester. That was a life saver. Waiting on some parts- but should be able to reassemble tomorrow.


I ordered some ARP bolts for the ring gear. Someone said they are good and I should torque to 80lbs on someones build on here. I cant find it, but for a little piece of mind they will be worth it.

And final thoughts for tonight- I forgot to mention that I found my rattle in the front end.

Head bushings. These bushings in the duff arms are WAY loose. I can see how it happens too- the shock works them sideways. I don't know how to fix it though. They clunk back and forth. I am excited that I found them and stoked to see them fixed and hopefully quiet down the front end. they are between the arm and the cast piece that bolts to the axle.


If you are running duff arms for any amount of time, I would suggest checking these bushings. They have been making a racket for a long time and I didn't know what it was.

When I ordered the Duff radius arms I asked them to leave the shock mounts off. I found out that they make a bunch at one time and do not do them one at a time or special orders. My head unit bushings are still in great shape, but maybe that is because I never ran shocks on the arms.

The ARP bolts I ordered won't work. Grr. They have too long of a shoulder. I have everything I need here except that. Darn it.

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When I ordered the Duff radius arms I asked them to leave the shock mounts off. I found out that they make a bunch at one time and do not do them one at a time or special orders. My head unit bushings are still in great shape, but maybe that is because I never ran shocks on the arms.
I think you are correct. Mine probably have more miles on them than yours since I drive mine everyday. But you are totally right- the shocks on them have to twist them back and forth constantly.