Completed Project - Kirby's 1991 Ranger Build Up | Page 35 | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

  • Register Today It's free!

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.

Join the Elite Explorers for $20 each year.
Elite Explorer members see no advertisements, no banner ads, no double underlined links,.
Add an avatar, upload photo attachments, and more!

Not a terrible way to spend the day. Pretty hot though. I am bushed.

It was a 95 exploder with 188K on it. I picked the lowest mile 95 in the yard. The only 97 there was a SOHC. both heads are in fact 95 tm.

I will take them to the machine shop tomorrow and see what I can find out! Got a 25% off deal for signing up for their texts. I will take my 91s in as cores after I drop everything at the machine shop. I leave the country again in 3 days- so I need to get them working on them while I am gone.


Join the Elite Explorers for $20 each year.
Elite Explorer members see no advertisements, no banner ads, no double underlined links,.
Add an avatar, upload photo attachments, and more!

those heads look really good! I mean nice clean oil no carbon chunks
Was the overflow bottle nice and green inside? (No signs of nasty oil and water mixing)
Looks to be a well kept 95 until..................... something? Hopefully the trans went fubar or it was hit

I am sure you did a visual on the heads, check for minute cracks between the valves and cylinders?

the overflow bottle was empty- they do a pretty good job of draining fluid at this particular yard. There was another truck that had a head on that I considered but it had quite a bit more miles. I will get them checked today and I can return them if they are cracked and try again with in 30 days.


I downloaded pics and zoomed way in, although it looked like some minor cracks between the valves when zoomed in there was nothing there but flat metal.
two/three of theintake valves have strange coloring, but no real signs of distress, from my old eyes on jpgs from the internet LOL
the magnaflux at the machine shop will tell the tale
NICE! Hoping for the best!!
was the 95 wrecked at all? Chances are very good the 4r55e bit the dust at 190K

Thats what I figured on the tranny. It wasn't wrecked- there was another that was wrecked that I considered pulling from but it was head on'd and it would have been tight in a few spots. That and this one had a few less miles.

I dropped all the heads off at a local machine shop today. it has been there since my dad was a kid- so I think it is a good one. Hopefully. They are super busy so that is a good sign. I decided not to go to the first one that was recommended because I didn't like the guys attitude when I called. Seemed like he knew a lot, but also seemed like he was too arrogant for my liking. Wouldn't hear me out/ treated me like I didn't know anything.

The guy looked over the 95 heads really close and said they looked good for now- no cracks he could find. Then I explained the situation with the 93s and busted those out and he was impressed with them. He said it would be rad if we could make them work then I would have a whole NOS engine. I agreed.

He is going to cc the two heads and see what he comes up with for difference. Said he would like to figure out how to deck the 93s and see if we can make them work. Said he could maybe compensate for the need for shorter push rods by machining down the valve tops. Also said there was some ways to address the intake change. Mentioned a spacer or machining the intake or a double gasket. I told him no on the double gasket and that I wanted to be careful not to make the lower intake more likely to leak- because they are already leak prone. But if he could machine them to work right then I would be in. He is going to give it some thought and figuring and let me know what he thinks is the best solution. He said worst case, we can rob all the parts from the 93 and use them in the 95 heads.

So I am about to head out of town for work for a bit- I am hoping when I return the heads will be ready and so will the tranny.

I have made some good progress. My stupid Jeep took a dump 2 weeks ago- so I got side tracked by that thing. Its pretty rough when 2 out of 3 of my vehicles are inoperable. The operable one was my kids bronco! I thought the jeep could wait until the ranger was done, but it started throwing a misfire code and tried to leave my wife stranded. Its one of those things too- once it is on the lift and I start pulling parts, I might as well do everything it needs. The jeep got a catalytic converter, a clutch, oil pan gasket, rear main, valve cover gasket, starter, crankshaft position sensor, throttle position sensor, plugs. Rockauto also sent me the wrong clutch- different number than what I ordered- so that was a delay. I think it is going to run now and not leave my wife stranded- so back to the ranger, bonus- I think I got the oil leaks sorted on the jeep.

I have been waiting this whole time for the tranny to be done and for the heads. Finally, I got a call on the tranny- so I picked that up. Completely rebuilt with all new soft parts and the 2.4l gears. The rebuilder said both trannys were in exceptional shape when he pulled them apart. Not bad for a 313k mile 4.0 tranny. It was nice of them to paint over the grease that was left on there. Luckily I powerwashed it twice before taking it to them.

I also decided to swing by the machine shop and check on the heads while I was out. Turns out they have been done for a couple weeks and I had no idea. Thanks for the call....

They ended up not telling me what they decided was best either. But whatever, at least they are done. They put the new valves and springs out of the NOS 93TM heads into the 95 heads. The rebuilder said I need to buy a lottery ticket because the 95tm heads I brought him were not cracked. I told him the 95 variety aren't that prone to cracking.

They supposedly boiled them, but they didn't come back that clean.

Head 2.jpg


maybe it is normal- but I was disappointed. The intake runners were full of carbon and oil. I spent a whole evening with a brush and some cleaner trying to get everything clean. I wish I would have done it before I took them to the place.


They also decked them .009. That should increase my compression a little bit. Also did a multi angle valve job- so that should increase performance. They had to do 12 new valve seals and 6 seats. I dont know why just 6 seats. The guy I picked them up from was about 97 years old and the tech didn't remember anything. I need to call and talk it over.


I started to install the heads on Monday- but then I realized I was missing 4 dowel pins on the new block. So I tried to get them out on the old. That worked not at all. I called ford and they had 4 in stock so I was able to pick them up yesterday.

Last night I got the new heads on and the lower intake. The valley needs SO much RTV to seal. I am hoping it does seal! probably 1/4" in the back. The gasket didn't have anything for the valleys.

Here is my lab. Its been fun to work with my dad on this. He is 72. I won't have his help long.

One last thing, my cousin who was an engineer for ford gave me a FSM. That thing is SO perfect for work like this. So detailed.


the intake plenum on mine was full of carbon, so i suspect its normal. surprisingly it was just upstream downstream no issue, it was nice and clean by the valves just the plastic parts, metal was carbon free for some odd reason. good progress!!!!!!!!

you really should not have to wash your heads before you take them to a machine shop.... I mean, they should have the ability to hot tank them???

Glad its getting there, the best part is you and your dad together time!!

Jeeps, pfft what can I say but Chrysler product, we have them too and they always need something! But then so does all the other old junk around here!!! hahahaha

Yeah I like old junk myself. I will say that jeep is so simple to work on. Spark plugs are easy. Easiest rear main and oil pan I have ever touched. No need to drop the tranny- even though I did.

Back to work on the ranger today. Actually, on a few rangers.

I went to the junkyard first. Spent most of the morning pulling off upper intakes to get a good set of valve covers. Mine are pretty ugly from the poor repaint job I did. I was also missing a plastic piece and I wanted to start over. I tried popping out the plastic piece but it was no go. Ended up busting it and the bracket. So I went on the hunt for a good used set of valve covers.

Ran accross this beauty. First one in a pull I have ever seen.

The other reason I was searching was that I thought the oil pump drive gear must be different on the 98-2000 engines- because my drive would not go into the 98 engine like it did in my 1991.

So I started with a 1993, removing the valve covers. I also was hoping to get the wiring harness that goes to the injectors and oil pressure sensor etc. Mine was in bad shape when I removed it- though functional.

Turns out the 1993 was a little different. And by the time I got to the drivers valve cover I noticed it had some broken plastics.

Junk Yard.jpg

On to the next. I pulled a 1991 to get the wiring. Got the upper intake off to realize the wiring had been hacked and someone had redone the coolant sensors separately.

Next I moved to a 1998 to get the oil pump gear out. I ended up taking it all the way down and even taking off the lower intake to get it out. The later engines have a sensor on there.

They look a little different. I mic'd everything and the longer end is the only difference I could find. That shouldn't matter if I use the same shaft.

opdg .jpg

Turns out it took a little bit of firm force to get the new one in, and this gave me the confidence to push the 1991 in firmly and it was fine. All that for nothing but a little knowledge I guess. I did also order a new O-Ring from Ford. $10 is good insurance to make sure it doesn't leak.

Between cleaning the new valve covers and painting them I started to take apart the timing cover and water pump. With my luck one of the bolts snapped.

Timing cover.jpg

broke bolt.jpg

I did the old weld a nut to it trick and it came out easy enough.

fixed bolt.jpg

I stopped on that because I need a puller for the pulley. I wish it was in better shape. Ill see if a new one can be had. So I yanked the oil pan and began the cleanup process on it. I am getting better at cleaning this stuff but it is nasty.


Ended the day with a coat of paint on my new valve covers and on the @Brian1 supports. Stoked to get them installed.

Autozone has this high temp enamel paint in Ford Grey. I am going to paint it all that color. Love the stock color.

Valve cover support.jpg
Valve covers.jpg

I also did find a way to install the plastic spark plug guides. I cut the metal with a grinder- which heats up the plastic. Then I twist the metal to breaking point and the plastic falls out without breaking- partially from the heat. Then I can pop into the new set.

the "oil pump drive" became a cam synchronizer
there are at least 3 different versions for the ohv, they can be a real PITA! Nice to have an early computer that does not need one!!!!

That beetle looks way too clean to be at a pick n pull sad

back working on the ranger. I am learning a lot but it is an expensive education.

I got the valve covers on. Last bit before putting it on the engine stand. Complete with @Brian1 's valve cover reinforcements.
with valve covers.jpg
With valve covers 2.jpg

Then I hauled the old block to scrap. It brought all of $3 for the 200 lbs it weighed.

ol block.jpg
old block.jpg

Next I got the new engine on the stand.

It has some interesting markers in the bottom end. Wonder what they are for? It was assembled in 2003 according to the plaque on the side. Which means these markings are 20 years old!

Bottom end.jpg
bottom end 2.jpg

The oil pan has been my recent frustration. I spent hours. Like tons of time cleaning my old oil pan.
oil pan.jpg
oil pan 2.jpg

Then I painted it up with the timing cover

timing cover 2.jpg

Where I really got frustrated was trying to install the oil pan gasket.

in the 93-91 version- I have learned with my expensive education- they come with this squiggly oring for a gasket. It fits in a groove in this version of the oil pan.

The really weird thing is what the factory service manual calls a "wedge seal". It is a hard circle plastic piece that fits in the holes on each side of the rear bearing cap, then mates up with the oring gasket on the pan. The FSM calls for a certain type of sealant on this that is different than anything else- a flange sealant gasket maker. I drove all over town locating that.

Then I installed my first flange gasket. It says to push it in with a screw driver. So I tried, then I drove it in with a punch. Almost seated. Then I broke it. So another $25 for a new gasket kit and I tried again. I quit before the wedge seal broke, but it wasn't fully seated. Followed all the instructions for the install and adding sealant and installed the thing.

Then this. At the top you can actually see the wedge seal hanging out between the bearing cap and the oil pan.

rear main.jpg

So back to the drawing board.

I have come to learn that the oil pan gasket design was updated in 1994. This makes me think the slot that the wedge seal fits in is different- because the new setup doesn't use a wedge seal just a more normal gasket. I ran to the store and got one.

Only to find out the oil pan was updated too. its just flat on the surface, no squiggly cavity for the oring. Its great, I want the updated better version- but all that time prepping the old one. My old man said I should order one to start with, but I was trying to save $100. So I ordered a 1994 style Spectra Premium one from Autozone. got free overnight shipping.

It showed up tonight and it is damaged.

So IDK. I guess I will call ford tomorrow and see if they can get one. ugh. I keep getting delayed with small crap like this and I took a bunch of time off work to work on it this week.

My 1994 oil pan has the squiggly rubber gasket. Also some three part gasket at the rear, which I could tell wasn't going to work. I tried to replace it once and it's leaking. Can you just RTV the heck out of it and forget the gasket? That's what I was thinking.

I guess some 1994s had the update others didn't. I like the new style gasket SO much better though. I think it was a huge improvement in not leaking oil. New Old Stock 1995 (95TM) Ebay ford oil pan on the way today. Ford said it was discontinued- so I found one on eBay. It will delay my process, so I am going to bolt the old one one and press on until the new one arrives.

SOHC oil pan and girdle upgrade?

SOHC oil pan and girdle upgrade?

1. Not necessary - I am not hopping this engine up. Just need stock output.

2. That means there would be 2 oil pan gaskets with the two piece- and double the potential to leak.

3. I have found conflicting info. Lots of guys say it will bolt on, but may need a different oil pump and may not clear the crossmember. Doesn’t seem worth it.

That’s the conclusion I came to- but you can try to convince me otherwise!

I've had my ' 99 ohv pan off before 15 years ago. Never used anything but the original gasket. It's never leaked. 🤷

The SOHC pan will fit, but it's super close to the cross member. Like paper thin. No issues with it in the Navajo though.

That is good to hear. I don’t want it to leak after all this work. Did you put any sealer in the corners by the radius? How about in the hole by the rear bearing cap?

Join the Elite Explorers for $20 each year.
Elite Explorer members see no advertisements, no banner ads, no double underlined links,.
Add an avatar, upload photo attachments, and more!


1. Not necessary - I am not hopping this engine up. Just need stock output.

2. That means there would be 2 oil pan gaskets with the two piece- and double the potential to leak.

3. I have found conflicting info. Lots of guys say it will bolt on, but may need a different oil pump and may not clear the crossmember. Doesn’t seem worth it.

That’s the conclusion I came to- but you can try to convince me otherwise!
Just need to change the pickup tube with the oil pan. The pan does clear, there are a few sohc 1st gen Rangers here.