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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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Yeah I did. I didn't really like the idea of washers, but looking back I am sure it would have been fine after all the other hokey crap I did to make it work. I wonder if a set of these would work well between the rotor and shaft

We might do that on the bronco setup. They are cheap enough.

if the outer diameter is right it could. You can get those at any autoparts store...or at least use too

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With the exhaust; you are not going to need any of that spare tire mount stuff under the rear bumper. Cut that all out and run the exhaust along the inside of the frame rail with the tip pointed down just inside the rear bumper area. Mine has been like that for years. Do this after your SAS is complete so you don't have to do it twice, of course..

I was thinking of running the exhaust out of the rear bumper I build eventually , but I would like to keep the spare mount for the time being since I have 5 stock 5 on 4.5 wheels/ tires and they are all beat and worn out. I plan on running the front in stock form for a while and I will need a spare I am sure.

Still thinking over the exhaust. I was thinking about Brian's suggestion. I could haul a spare in the bed for now and get all the carrier out of the way while the beds off.

I have the springs in. Front mounts relocated. I had to unbolt the gas tank/ skid to get to the back side of the brackets on the passenger side. I did use the front lower bolt hole for the new rear lower bolt hole. On both sides there was a rivet for a crossmember bracket that interfered with the new location. I blasted the head off with the torch, ground it smooth, then welded it to the frame then ground it
Smooth again so the bracket could go over it. So the rivet is still there doing it's job, it just doesn't have a head on it to get in my way. I did decide to bolt the front upper hole over the body mount brackets on each side.

Before pic with the body mount bracket:

Ground smooth and traced the outline of the rivet with soap stone so I could see it under my hood.

Welded her up

Ground smooth and squirted some paint on it

Springs are in, except for tightening down the bushings

I also added some grease zerks to the usdr shackles.


There is a small space between the two bushings halves when installed so the grease can get down where it needs to.

More progress. I worked on it Monday night until my neighbor came over and asked me to shut the body shop down, then a little on Tuesday night with out pissing off my neighbor then all day today from 9am until 9pm.

I started off by removing the 2 piece driveshaft. What a waste. I can understand why a 2 piece driveshaft is valuable. Especially off-roading- keep that shaft off the rocks! The rangers is pretty odd though. The shaft by the tcase is only a foot long or so.- I don't think it helps much!!


I torched out all the rivets, then I removed the crossmember, a little has tank skid and the carrier bearing. Then out came the shaft.


Then I bolted everything up and set the pinion angle. And located the spring mounts, and


Then I burned in all the brackets and while I was there I welded the tubes to the center section.


I also built some brackets out of 2" strap to hold the short brake hoses for the calipers and plumbed the brakes.

I had a few bad experiences with stainless braided lines (like almost died when I was pulling a trailer and one burst) so when it became apparent I needed a longer rear brake line I started looking for oem solutions. I read a thread where stic-o used a 96 f350 rear line for an extended line. I got one and it was only about an inch longer than the ranger one. 2 inches longer than the f150 one. So I found another solution on trs. It is off a 1989 dodge w150 truck. Part number BH38744.

Perfect. Plenty of length. I used the f150 brake lines. It comes down on the drivers side, then splits from there. I had to switch out an end because where the sides come into the hose in the block for the 150, one is larger. I was having to shorten them anyway so no prob. A little flaring and life is good.



Then I filled the diff, got a game plan for the ebrake,- then I mounted the tires and tightened the spring mount bolts with weight on them. Also tightened lugs! Forgot that on the explorer build and noticed a bad vibe on the way home before I lost a wheel! That would have sucked!
91FA6D5D-762B-476D-B552-1569F3C4D206.jpg B6C6B1BC-06CC-4A35-9B55-69DF7DF0E77B.jpg

Tomorrow I get to make an ebrake bracket, drop off the driveshaft and get one made at 63 3/8" ride height, mount the bed and bleed the brakes. Giddy up!

I got the ebrake cable bracket built kinda temporary to see how it works. It almost makes contact with the spring when the tire stuffs. Probably would if it was really stuffed. Adjusted the ebrake and it works excellent. Bled the brakes and they grab great.



I ended up with about 6" of lift. That's. 64" Chevy leaves with overload left in and the stock ranger blocks. The rear wheel wells on the rangers are tiny! I am worried about butchering my fenders to fit these tires. I front wheel drove it to some spots to check travel and measure for shocks. Almost got stuck !









I am happy about the travel. A little bummed about the fenders. I need to figure out how to cut them and fold them under nice.

I went to the drive long shop to have them mod my 2 piece shaft and lengthen the main part and put the end on the long part . It was going to be $350 because they would have to rebuild everything. The slip/ tube is too small for the 63 3/8" length I needed.

So I went to the junk yard and found one off a. 2000 ranger that was the right length! $20! Except they moved the truck with a fork lift and bent it. It should be $100 to get retubed. It will be ready tomorrow.

I think I am going to order bilstien 5100 shocks tomorrow. They need to be 20" compressed and. 27" extended. Pn 33-185569 should work. I had bilstiens on my one of my jeeps and they were great.

With the help of my buddy Phil (the bronco owner) we got the bed on late last night. I am really pleased with how everything tucks up under the bed. The ebrake mount, the relocated spring mounts, the shackles. I am really bummed how the tires do not tuck up under there though!! I need to trim the rear of the rear wheel wells some how.

On to the pics:





And one with my copilot/ co builder!


This shows where the fenders need trimmed I can always move the axle back or fwd 1" with the ruff stuff mounts and the bed even moves a little. I think it is close. Might move it back a little.


I ordered the bilstien shocks for the rear. They will be here Monday.

The stock speedo gear was a 19 tooth (pink). It is way off with the 5.13s and the 35s. So I ordered a 21 tooth from ford today. Should be here Monday.

I also got the driveshaft in today! Woot woot! I was excited to drive it with the 5.13s. To cycle the suspension yesterday I was rolling in front wheel drive.

First impressions: I have to pay attention driving a stink bug on the hwy at 75 with no rear shocks, but it is wrapped pretty tight. Good bye 20 mpgs!

It has a ton of pep around town, lots of shifting though. It seems faster off the line than it was stock.

With 37s and 4.56s on my explorer, low left a lot to be desired. Then I added a doubler. That brought the final crawl ratio to 94. That was almost perfect! It was hard to stall with that setup. Even by standing on the brakes.

With 35s and 5.13s, this in low has a final crawl ratio of 43. I think I had my expectations really high after wheeling with the doubler. It will be fine for what I need it for now.

I ended the day today by using the eraser wheel on my 1991 radical graphics. I actually kinda miss them.


I got my shocks and my speedo gear. The speedo reads abou 4 mph over at 75, which is probably a good thing. I will try to forget it.

I keep getting thumbs up and complements on the ranger. I always laugh! It's not done yet! It drives nice now and will be tolerable until I can do the front. It even keeps the tires out of the fenders on normal driving.

I like the way the bilstiens look.



What is the model number of the Bilstiens? It looks like you don't have very much compression travel.

I'm in the process of getting new rear shocks, and to get sufficient compression travel, I am considering turning the lower mounts down back to the stock position.

It looks like that huh? I thought the same thing so I double checked it. I cycled the suspension and measured before purchasing shocks. I did buy them on the longer side in case I need more lift. There was another option on the shorter end, but I decided to go with these. The lack of fender clearance worries me- it may have to be taller. At the mount full stuff is just under 21", full droop is 27". The pn on the shocks I got is 33-185569: 17.9- 29.7". Should be fine. I have high expectations I had these on my 97 tj and they were great. However they are valved for the vehicle, so in custom applications it's impossible for them to be as good.

I have been driving the truck a few weeks and everything is working great. I even decided the gears were broke in so I changed the rear diff fluid.

I installed a junk yard (found an auto so it would be rarely used) ebrake pedal assembly. The spring on my old one was toast and it would just pop off of engaged. I had to re adjust the ebrake shoes also, in the process. I found the best way to do it is to engage the pedal about 1/3 of the way and tighten the adjusters until they are tight. Then both are set even and hold well with the brake fully engaged. It was a nightmare to change this bugger out.


I also changed out the drivers side door hinges. I found a gold 91 ranger at the junk yard. The passenger hinges were tight. They looked the same as the drivers. I had to pull the fender off to get them off, but I got them off. So I got them home and installed the upper without drama, but the lowers are different. So I robbed the bushings out of the passenger one I pulled and used the piece that bolts to the tub so I could have a stopper again. I had to grind the studs head and then weld it in when I was done. Door shuts easy again.


I also got started on the front axle. It was filthy, so I took it to the car wash with hot water and some engine degreaser. It became good and clean.


Then I pulled the cover off and the knuckles off and realized the inside was filthy too. The seals have been leaking forever too. The tubes were full of dirty old diff oil. So I took it back to the car wash, stood it on end and washed the tubes and center section out with steam. It came out nice and clean!


I pressed the ball joints out and went looking for some spicer replacements. Napa was the only place carrying dana/spicer and they wanted $50 a piece. $200 in ball joints? I only paid $50 for the housing! Rock auto has Moogs for about $45 a side, so half. Jeff's bronco graveyard has spiders for $55.


I need to decide on one and order. I also need 10 studs for the spindles. Mine came with only 2! The only place I can locate them is Jeff's bronco graveyard.

And finally, I found a 79 bronco with the engine out in the junk yard. The frame measures just under 33 1/2" at the coil buckets.


I need to compare it to a ranger frame, but it is kinda a pain with the engine in. Anyone have a frame sitting without a motor and would make a measurement for me? I need to figure out exactly how much to move in my suspension mounts.

I still haven't been able to get a clear frame measurement. I have to go drive near the junk yards tomorrow, maybe I will check again and see if I can get a good measurement since I can get anything clear online.

On ball joints, I ended up ordering a Dana 44 Solid Axle maintenance kit from bronco graveyard.

It comes with Spicer ball joints, Timken outer wheel bearings, outer seals and needles, and 2 5-760x ujoints (the picture is of TTB ball joints but they sent the Solid axle ones). I thought $229 was expensive until I priced all that name brand stuff. Then I decided this was the best bet. I also got some inner seals. So I have some seals and a couple BK1's to return to napa tomorrow. I also got 10 spindle studs and nuts from bronco graveyard.

I got the ball joints in and welded up the center section on the 44 today. I will include some pics tomorrow. Tomorrow I will be installing a new Rear ABS valve. I am not so excited.

Ok here is some pics



Your call on the ball joints, but my next set will be Synergy. They're about the same price as Spicer (around $200/all 4) and they're beef. Supposed to be quite a bit stronger than Spicer which is top dog in the parts store brands. Unfortunately Moog aint what they used to be. I got less than 20k out of a set on a Dodge AAM 9.25 front.

edit- Crap! Your last post didn't show up for some reason :p

Hey James! Thanks for chiming in. I have never heard of synergy. It is too late though, I got the spicers in last night. I have had good luck with them in the past, but it seems like quality in parts is inconsistent lately.

I went to the junk yard today. Still no rangers or explorer missing the engine, however I did find a 1990 2.9 ranger with the front end all gone. I was able to measure just behind the buckets and came out with just under 29". I double checked the 1979 bronco too. It looks like I need to narrow the mounts a total of 4.5" or 2.25" per side. That makes sense because my explorer lower mounts always seemed a little too far in- I guess they were about 3/4" too far on each side since I narrowed the axle 6".

I changed the rabs valve and the brakes seem to be performing better. I may have time to start moving mounts today.

No worries... Spicer still makes good stuff. Make sure this sucker is ready by Moab 2016- all the uncool people will be there again. :D :thumbsup:

I have a ranger that currently has no engine in it. Where exactly do you need the measurements taken? I can get them for you when I get off from work :shifty_ey

Frame width from center of coil bucket to center of coil bucket would be great! Thank you!

35.5 looks to be dead and on center to center.

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Sorry- I meant outside edge of frame to edge of frame, but in the center (front to back) of the coil bucket. Right where the coil buckets are riveted to the frame. It should be close to 29" as close as I can tell. Thank you!