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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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oh snap! What happened?

Haha! I had the bed full of studs and Sheetrock I had demo ed out of my house. When I pulled out of the garage a 2x6 caught the top of the garage door and ripped the tailgate off/ taco’d it. Fortunately I have an aftermarket gate in my garage that is brand new. They are super hard to find and no one is making them anymore. Unfortunately, the aftermarket ones don’t have the embossed Ford logo on the back. It’s just flat. That’s why I had this stock one body worked and painted. I had a rough time finding a decent stock one, so I think the aftermarket one will do. It’s only money I guess...

Thank goodness its only the tail gate!

I have a super clean light blue 89 tailgate with the Ford letters :)
I'm keeping it though! for reasons you already mentioned
So glad its just the tail gate phew I know it sucks but its the best of a worst case scenario

the truck is jealous the house is getting all the attention

We got some good snow and I got out in it in the ranger. The ranger really preformed well.

The first day the snow was soft. Despite the terrible visibility, the ranger with the lockers locked would just about go through anything. I did get stuck a few times. I got a couple in pictures. First one was in my sisters pasture behind her house. There was a fence nearby to winch to.




Next time was in my dads pasture. Both lockers locked up. No chance.




Never put the chains on. Probably should have. Had to walk to my dads to get his truck. On the way home I got stuck in the middle of the road and ended up winching to a tree in a guys yard to get out.

That night one of my buddies got stuck in a piece of chevy pulling a trailer full of stuff.. Had to spend the night in a firestation. So I went and winched him out. He didn't think it would pull it. I did a double line pull with a snatch block and it took care of it. nice and slow. I bet I pulled out 8 cars that day. Good times.


Back at my dads to survey the mess. It was pretty deep and the snow was hardened by the wind by now. When I would hit a huge drift, it felt like the truck was floating. The ranger does so good in the snow. It is geared well- has plenty of power to pull. The lockers, the clearance. Its a beast. It has it's limitations though.


Too deep for too far.

So after the storm, my arb compressor made some weird noises and stopped working. It made a weird noise and just stopped. I took it apart and I think its the motor. I dont know if condensation got into it or what. I checked for water in the tank. There was a little. IDK. I emailed ARB and they said I needed a receipt. I can't find one. But they warrantied the motor anyway. Stand up! Motor on the way now.


So I will put that in when it gets here and hopefully have lockers again.

Now my winch stopped working a little intermittently. I got stuck and on a long pull it stopped and wouldn't go in or out. Then all the sudden it did. I talked to warn and it might be the motor. I replaced the solenoids a few years ago. IDK. Maybe I will put a new motor in it. Maybe I will put a contractor in it. Maybe Ill run it.


Looks like you almost completely buried the Ranger. I noticed when in snow, that when the bumper starts pushing snow out of the way prepare to get stuck. You should get yourself a set of serious mud tires for snow days.

That is an awesome little pickup. Gotta love snow wheeling just to get home....

Yeah it depends on the snow here if it would get stuck with bumper deep. That picture of it over the hood- that was attempt #2. Attempt #1 it got stopped and I set and spun until it would back out and then I hit it again. The snow was light and fluffy. It was really uphill on a sand embankment that drifted down. That day I was busting drifts over the hood no problem. The next day, though, the snow go harder. So it was tougher to bust through, but it would with speed. The one in the sun where I am stuck, a little more speed and it would have done it. By the time it stopped though, it was up on top of the drift. Probably a foot of snow under the tires- which were atleast 35" deep. So when I stopped I was done. Nothing to grab.

I actually used to run BFG mud terrains, but I like the all terrains better for the all weather and the wear rate. It's my daily, so I like it to behave nicely. You are right though, muds in the deep snow are better. In the ice and slick stuff the all terrains perform better.

I drove it to the airport in Denver this morning for a quick trip to SLC and noticed it is at 297k miles. I am going to have to build an engine soon.

Also, the back window started leaking water at the car wash. I think the whole window slid down a little and also the rubber around the outside is weather checked and cracked. I will probably grab one from the junkyard and replace. Took it out last night and moved it up and it is better, but still weather checked.

My painter has all but started ignoring me. He really doesn't want to paint my tailgate. Pain in the butt. I need that for healing dirt bikes.

I got in touch with the painter. He is going to fix me up. Dropping the gate off this week.

And I found a new, but familiar problem:


It started making a racket in the front end again. Yep, same problem as the bilstien shocks. Maybe it’s me! Bilstien said it was topping out. I emailed fox warranty and they said it is from “topping out extremely hard”.

I know the fox shocks are longer, but with moving down the lower mount I thought I had that accounted for. however, I also thought I got longer travel fox shocks. Turns out they are the same travel as the bilstiens just longer total. Perhaps I miscalculated. Perhaps, also when the suspension unloads both sides at speed like in a situation where I hit a snow drift and launch, it is drooping considerably further than I calculated by cycling the suspension.
The bad news: fox won’t cover this under warranty. The good news: the eyelet is the only damaged part and they sell eyelets reasonably cheap. $20. Even tall ones so I could effectively make the shock longer.
Going to need to do some calculations to decide what will work best. Maybe run these shocks in the rear and get 14” travel ones for the front.




here is the one thing that puzzles me: why didn’t it rip out all the threads? It only ripped out half. If it was topping out hard, seems to me all threads would be toast.


Ok, so I think I have gotten to the root of some of my problem. According to post #535, my bilstiens were 10” travel shocks. So I ordered 12” travel fox shocks, but looking at my bilstiens, the seem like they are 12” travel. So I lowered the mounts because the fox shocks had longer compressed length thinking I was gaining a little more compression travel and I thought I was getting more droop travel with longer shocks, but if my bilstiens were 12” too, then I was mistaken and I gained more stuff by limiting droop which would cause the topping out when I jump it in the snow.

as it sits I have 7” of up travel at ride height.

I have been combing through my build and found my shocks are:

At the mount full stuff is just under 21", full droop is 27". Bilstien part number: 33-185569: 17.9- 29.7"\

She still has it. Tucks and travels really nice. The bilstiens were really the perfect length. 18" compressed was perfect and fully extended is about 28".

I decided to go with a little longer shock. I am going to hack off the lower mount anyway, so I will move the lower mount down a bit. This will give me a little more travel available. I really need to do air bumps at some point anyway, but for now I will be sure I am not maxing out my shocks.

I got my buddy Ed to order me 2 shocks today. They are 10 days out. Went with the performance series 2.0 smooth bodies. Part #
985-24-006 19.65 inches compressed and 31.75 inches extended 12" travel shocks.

Ok, these two posts confirm that I am in fact a moron. I thought I was ordering a 2" longer shock. I was ordering a shock with slightly longer compressed and drooped measurements (1.7"), but the same amount of travel- 12". I dont know why I thought the bilstiens were 10" travel. I think I must have gotten mixed up because I was debating between 12" or 14" fox shocks. Confirmed the bilstiens measurements and part numbers:

IMG_6686 2.JPG

Anyway, I screwed up. I moved the lower mounts down to compensate for a longer shock with more travel. But there is the same travel. So with the new mounts, the shocks are too short. The bilstiens were too. With these mounts and these shocks, the droop is actually shorter than the bilstiens by 1" or so. So the problem is worse. When I jump it, it tops them out hard and destruction occurs.

I used some loctite on the shock with the eyelet problem and threaded it back together with the thread it had left and it is good to go for the moment. I have been driving it and it is fine. However, I am considering ordering a new eyelet and putting that on it. Then probably moving the rear mounts outboard and setting them up for these shocks. Since I redid the rear end it bottoms the bilstiens when I am heavily loaded. I used higher lower mounts when I built the new axle. They would work better outboard by the tires anyway.

I know I could do limit straps and some bump stops. I would actually really like to do some air bumps some day. But I need the right shocks too.

I see what I did. I reread the posts. The first one I said the bilstiens are 12" travel. 18-30". The second one I measured the shock mounts and got 18-28 and the bilstiens were perfect for that. So I worked off that 28-18= 10" of travel. I think that is where the mixup happened.

So on the 985-25-007, I would get a 14" travel shock. Unfortunately, that would give me only 4.8" of up travel from ride height and 9.3" of down travel. Should be plenty of down travel. Wonder if that is enough up travel or if I will be bottoming shocks.

Longer shocks and limit straps would be the best way to go. My coil overs are 14" and I use all of it with those Duff arms. With the full-width axle you might even get a little more travel out of them.

Are you running limit straps? I would think my travel is limited by the captive coil springs which is different than your setup. But yeah I think you are on to something.

And I think I need to apologize to Bilstien. They were right all along.

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I have limit straps because coil overs do not have captive coil springs. I think they are 14" and stop the drop with about 1" of shaft left. To figure out placement I pulled the front tires off and raised the body until the front suspension was hanging off the shocks then raised the axle about a inch. Had to pull the tires off because I don't have enough jack or a high enough ceiling in the garage to max out the suspension, not even close.