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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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you forsure need limit straps. and you want the most amount of up travel as possible. 4" up would SUCK offroad. i would take the shocks off and let the suspension droop out and measure. then take the coil spring out and measure where bump is. measure and then set up the shock/ limit straps accordingly. uptravel is more important than droop.

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Uptravel (compression) is not more important than droop (rebound) with a multi-purpose rig that is also a great rock crawler. You want more rebound than compression. My front shocks are 14", they have about 6" compression and the rest is rebound. It stuffs the tires all the way into the fender wells and its very smooth on go fast type roads. It will also allow my 35" tires to drop below the body to keep them on the ground when crawling.
Like this

sure in rock crawlers droop is more important rather than something that goes fast only. but regardless if youre running 4" of up travel on anything youre gonna have a bad time.

Ok, I did a little trick to see how much up travel I m currently using. I use zip ties on dirt bike shock and fork tubes to see how much travel is getting used. I was going to do that, but the urethane bump stops on these fox shocks move, so I moved them up and I am trying to drive it hard for a week or so. Ill see how far the bump stops move and then I will have a good gauge on how much up travel I am using. This isn't "flexing"/ cycling the suspension but more just regular driving. As I said before I am getting more up travel when flexing/ cycling. The front tires are actually getting into the fender a little. Which makes sense because I am getting less droop too (did it this way because I thought I was getting a longer shock but that was wrong). So anyway, I have a couple options:

1. Replace the 12" travel with 14" travel fox shocks. This I might be able to get away with no limit straps. IDK. Would have to get them and measure. My coils will limit travel at some point.
2. Use a longer (4") eye for the current fox shocks to effectively make them longer. This would require limit straps too.

For bump stops, I used some urethane bumps on my explorer. They were fine, but they didn't really get used. I have been looking at air bumps for a while as a secondary suspension strategy. Might start looking closer.

I would go with option #2 as 14" shocks seem real long for a coil sprung radius arm type suspension. My 14" travel coil overs use all of the available travel, but they are real long when extended. My upper mounts are a few inches from the inside of the hood. It will also save you money since you already have the shorter shocks. I think you just need to figure out where they need to sit to get the most out of them.

I have Daystar Stinger 8.25 bumps up front, which are really just urethane bumps in a can. They do work very well for me as they don't seem to make any contact at all when crawling unless one side of the suspension is near fully compressed. They work like regular bumps when crawling, but give a few more inches of compression cushion when going fast. Can't really feel them engage, so I guess that means they are working well/ Judging from the unrusted marks on the landing plates, they make contact on a regular basis. They wouldn't work for a racer of someone who has a go fast rig because I don't think they would hold up. When I bought them they were about $150 a pair. They are now nearly $300 a pair. Still cheaper than air bumps, but the price gap is closing. Down the road, I will probably put air bumps up front and move the Stingers to the back. The transition will be easy because the Stingers use standard bump cans and I set them so they can take a 2-3" bump.

Ok- so it has been a while. Been trying to drive it aggressive on the street and hit some big holes and corner hard. I also took it on some high speed stuff through the field and flexed it a little. Not major.

Anyway, looks like I am using about the same amount of up travel on both sides. 3.5" or so.


This leaves me about 3" extra down travel that is only used in heave articulation.



So with this in mind- The 12.1" travel shocks I have are 19.65" fully compressed. If I put in the 14.1" travel shocks (non resi
985-24-007), they will be 21.85" full compressed. This will make my setup have 2.1" less compression. So that means I will still have about 1"+ of up travel that won't be used in normal driving with the 14" shocks. The 14.1s will give me about 5" of up travel. This will also result in 4.2" more down travel than the current setup.

I also discovered that the piggyback 14" reservoir shocks (985-24-055) have a little shorter compression length of 20.85" so I could go with them if I don't have enough uptravel for articulation. It will be $100 more per shock and will only result in 3.2" more down travel, but I will get 6" of up travel.

So anyway, I need to flex it up and see which one would be more useful. My usual spot to check travel got sold so I need to find a new spot. My dad is also installing a vehicle lift in his garage soon- that would be prefect for checking max droop. Otherwise I will see if the old high lift can max it out. I am expecting that I will need to use limiting straps too- but I want to get the most travel possible.

Thinking the 12" shocks can get used on the rear. I would love to outboard them. My bilstiens are too long in their new setup- they bottom out when I have the rear end fully loaded. Wondering if I can find some sort of upper mount that can mount to the frame and get them into the wheel well. Especially since I have the full width rear end. The super duty mounts won't work- I need something that would orient the top mount the other direction. Seems like I have seen something that is cast on the lower end. I will have to look around. I could also build something out of tube.

Also, Fox lists performance shocks, then factory race shocks 70/30. I think I will call them and ask what the difference is. Assume the performance have different valving. I would like something a little softer if possible.

Ok, I went looking for a spot to push the travel today and fully cycle the front. It’s hard to believe it could have more droop. Seems like it has a ton of a droop. I am getting really close to max stuff. Could maybe get another inch before the springs are completely collapsed. The tires stay out of the the fenders- which is really nice. I think if it had more droop on the opposite side it would get closer.

I am going to measure how far it traveled to see if I would be bottoming the 14” in a few minutes:


Ok I found some more pics of the lace I stuffed the other side.


I also measured where the rubber stop ended up. On the passenger side I have a little over 2” left of compression. Drivers side a little over 1”.

so idk if the extra 1” of up travel is worth the piggy backs and the extra $200. Seems like I would use it if I have it. But I also think with more droop the tires maybe get get into the fenders- especially under loads/ some momentum. Definitely think either would help not over compress the Springs.

You could pull the shocks and then go flex it out to see if you get more drop. I think you are pretty close, but I bet there is a little more. Mine has tons of drop with the narrowed axle, so you should get a little more. My restrictions seem to be the length of the drag link and track bar on passenger side drop, and the shocks on driver side. Its less than 1" difference side to side. Yours would probably be the coil springs, but you could set them up like on Jeeps with the center cone slide thingie.

Thats a great idea. I had to go into work and I was thinking I should disconnect the shocks and set the old high lift in the middle of the front bumper and see how much she droops. Either way, both of those would give me more info to make the best decision.

I agree the coils will likely be the limit- even though these are long coils for the amount of lift I have because I am using the full height f150 buckets. I know what you mean by the drag link and trackbar- on my explorer I made the drag link and trac bar steep because it was convenient when I built it. But then it resulted in a ton of lateral movement for the front axle through travel. This one I made both drag link and track bar as flat as possible so I wouldn't have as much lateral movement.

Its a good idea on the jeep mounts- but at this point I dont think I will redo the mounts the un-captured coil at the top like a Jeep. I think I am getting plenty of travel with a captured coil- I dont think I would use much more anyway. If I can get it working optimally, then I will be happy.

If I remember right, my tie rod/track bar are a little less than 4 degrees angle so not much. The way you have the shocks mounted on the radius arms, it looks like you have a lot of room to move the lower mounts up and keep the shocks you have. Take the shocks off the lower mount, max out the drop and compression, see how much you need to move that mount up.

Yeah I could do that- but then it kinda defeats the purpose of this exercise. When I got new shocks I lowered the Mount because the compressed length on the new ones was longer and I thought I was getting a shock with more travel. Unfortunately I made a mistake. I obviously have more travel available than what I am using so I am trying to use it. Fox also sells some longer eyelets for the bottom that would essentially move the lower mount up 2-3 inches too. I could do that but same thing- more travel available and I am only using part of it.

I finally got some garage time this morning. I unhooked the lower mounts. The first thing I did was confirm down travel available. Its about 5". A little under

Next Up was the sketchy Hilift Jack move.
I got it to balance with the tires just a little off the ground.

Almost not surprising, the shocks were right at full droop.

Also noticed the driveshaft is almost done traveling.



It still has a little more.



So this did give me some more info. I dont think I need a shock that is much longer. I would guess under some speed/ load it would extend more. Like in articulation and when I catch air over a snow drift. So I need another inch or two of droop for sure.

Thinking the remote reservoir 14" shocks would be the best fit. Definitely wouldn't need to strap it with those.


I have been on vacation and I read through my whole build thread to get a good perspective on the build today. A couple of things I have yet to do on this build:

1. buy some longer front shocks and setup the rear for outboard shocks.

2. build a tranny with the small engine 1st-3rd gear for a better crawl ratio.

3. build/ install the rebuilt engine.

4. A little update or sorts:

- carnage. My dad ranted a backhoe and we buried it in his pasture. I winched it out twice with it hooked to my brothers f350 for an anchor. This worked out great. Until I had it tensioned really tight, both lockers locked and In low range. Front end winched down really heavy. I jumped out of the truck and dropped the clutch when I got out of the truck when it was in gear. Loud pop and a broke ujoint in the passenger front shaft.

The last time he buried it, I anchored to a tree. He insisted on hooking to the bucket. When he rolled the bucket it just tore the gears out of my winch. I deserved it. It was a good winch for a long time and that was not necessary or wise.

So I need to change the ujoints in my front end. It was about time anyway. The spicers have held up ok. I don’t think the breakage hurt the shaft, but I will get a closer look when I tear it apart.

I found a newer xd9000 on Craigslist. The same model as my other winch. I was going to repair mine with parts, but based on the problems it was having before- I should have replaced the motor and the gear box and maybe the solenoids. The parts are reasonable, but that is a lot of parts. This Craigslist one had two pulls on it and It has the newer contractor control too. I paid $360 for it.

It will be a good winch for a long time at that cost it was worth it. don’t buy China winches dudes. Pony up and pay for a good piece of equipment and it will pay off when you need it. Unless of course you only want a piece of decor for the front of your jk- then go ahead and buy a cheapy. I use the crap out of my winch and I need it to work well when I need it.

- the tailgate is painted. Need to get it lined soon. As well as warranty some spots of liner and I think the roof is getting lined. It is still leaking and it seems this would be the most sane way to fix it.

-I bought a 1996 bronco for my daughter. 5.0 and a manual. Needs a little rust repair and otherwise it is pretty straight. Has 130k on it and it is plain Jane. Power nothing. Just like I like them. The previous owner nailed the drivers beam on a rock and bent the crap out of the front end. Originally I thought only radius arms. The further I dug, the more I found tweaked. I finally just bought another set of beams in addition to the radius arms I am replacing. I am also replacing the coil buckets due to rust. Further in I concluded that the pivot bracket for the drivers beam was bent. So I also bought a lift kit. New brackets, new coils that are not rusted , shocks, it was worth it. So we have all the parts and are putting it back together. It was a 2.5” rough country. Cheapy lift, but again replacing parts that needed replaced. All new joints and bearings and seals in the front too while we are there.

I should have this bronco buttoned up soon then I can drive it and get the ranger in the garage to repair. My kid is only 15, so we have over a year before the bronco will be her driver full time. Thinking maybe 33x10.50 bfgs on the stock Alcoa wheels will be plenty. Maybe a regear to 4.56 or something. It has 3.55s currently. I have carriers that are pretty new and a notched cross pin to do this. But maybe not. I might just leave it geared stock.

sorry no pictures. My phone went down a water slide in my pocket and I lost all the pics I had.

Wicked! Poor Ranger..... using it as an anchor like that!
I know what you say is truth, but I must stick up for my Harbor freight winches.... I have beat the living snot out of their 2000#, 5000# and 10,000# and they just keep going. I use the 5000# to load explorers and rangers onto my trailer....... even laying frame from a wreck, the winch pulls it up there.

Roof is still leaking???? DANG!!!!

Cool about the 96, good time to get a FSB!!

Stick with spicer lifetime joints

I worked on the ranger a bit this week.

I got the new tailgate installed. Since the aftermarket gate doesn’t have raised letters- I decided to do a little tip of the hat to another model of Ford. What do you think? I also ordered the plain old ranger letters. I might swap those out.
I also installed the new used winch. We destroyed the other one. I was winching out a backhoe and I was tied off to a tree. My dad insisted on hooking to the bucket. Heb he rolled the bucket it just ripped the gears out. So I priced parts and it was cheaper to just buy another warn winch. I also have a parts winch now.
I still need to install the contactor To take the place of the solenoids. But it works for now.

I also had a photo shoot at my church that they wanted to use my truck. They really wanted a overland rig. I bought this rack off a Tacoma guy. Looks ready for the mall after a few welds and tweaks.

Rented a rtt and Headed to the sand dunes for the video shoot. HARD CORE!
All joking aside, the rtt is pretty cool.

you can rent tents? I would not have even thought about that.....

Your Ranger is pretty awesome. I love the way it looks.

Yeah the tent was good sleeping too. $175 for a weekend. I guess they run close to $2k new.

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