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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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That is beautiful work!

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Rear Shocks 6.jpg

Rear Shocks 10.jpg

I also completed the front mount. On this one I wasn't able to run a tube across because the gas tank was in the way.

Spent so much time on the notching. It took forever to get it to fit tight.

Then I tacked up the tube to see if I could make it fit under the bed and get it out wide enough that it would clear the leaf spring.
Rear Shocks 7.jpg
Rear Shocks 8.jpg
Rear Shocks 9.jpg

Then while it was tacked I took off the bed with the help of the lift and took it out and cycled the suspension to make sure everything would clear.

Rear Shocks 13.jpg
Rear Shocks 14.jpg
Rear Shocks 15.jpg
Rear Shocks 16.jpg
Rear Shocks 17.jpg

I was pretty happy an everything was symmetrical (tougher than you think)- but I was still worried about the thing flexing and I didn't want to run a tube across through the middle of the bed. SO i decided to add another mount. Triangulation if you will.

for the middle mount, I was able to use another through tube. For this one, I didn't think it was needed to use a base plate also.

I am bolting and welding the plates on. Overkill.

I also found a good axle mount from ruff stuff and some upper tabs from them as well. Plenty of down travel and up travel.

Rear Shocks 18.jpg

Rear Shocks 19.jpg
Rear Shocks 20.jpg
Rear Shocks 21.jpg

You can also see mounts for limit straps for the rear. I dont have the hardware to mount them yet.

Got it all painted up.

Rear Shocks 22.jpg

Rear Shocks 23.jpg

I am really happy with them. I did have to heat up the exhaust and bend it a little to clear.

Then I took out the tent on friday. It handles all the weight up high so well now!!!
Rear Shocks 24.jpg

In the meantime the next project arrived in the mail...
Doubler 1.jpg
Doubler 2.jpg
Doubler 3.jpg

Just as purdy as I expected- but honestly bigger than I expected. It is huge in person. Stoked to put it in!

The discerning eye might also have noticed an issue with my passenger brake rotor.
Rear Brake Fail 1.jpg
Rear Brake Fail 2.jpg
Rear Brake Fail 3.jpg

I grabbed a foot full of parking brake in the last snow storm to do a little spinny. I think I got carried away.

I have ordered another set of rotors and currently have them at a machine shop getting machined for 5 on 5.5.

I need a garage like that

soo much want!!!

I need a garage like that
Ha! Thanks man. It has been really special. My dad has always wanted a big garage with a lift. The home he has lived in for 35 years was pretty worn out. He built it for my family when I was 4. Over Covid we built a new house for him and my mom to live thier life out in. They are 72 now. We put the garage he wanted on it and it is 2k sq feet and insulated and heated. Its Been really fun to work in with him. He was the general contractor and I did a lot of the work that was easy. It’s all slab on grade and we put big hallways in case they need to wheel down them. I did some sweet tile, marble and granite finishes. My mom got her kitchen and pantry that she has always wanted. They complained and thought it was too much the whole time, but now they love it and are proud of it.

I thought it looked bigger than my house. Very cool!!!

Love that Ranger!

Here are some more pictures of the shocks mounted and traveling. The limiting straps look too long in these pictures- the only time they actually get utilized is when both wheels are drooped out at the same time- like when catching some air.
shock flex 1.jpg
shock flex 2.jpg

shock flex 3.jpg
shock flex 4.jpg

The compressed shock uses almost all of its compression travel. With a little more weight or speed it would completely use it. When I set it up, it didn't have the tent or the bad cage on- so I thought I had plenty of compression. once the weight was added it is getting pretty close to running out. I have considered doing something to bring the rear up a little because it does sag with the bed cage and the tent on- that would give me back some more compression. So far it is working well though. Also- the tire does not contact the shock on the top when articulated- it gets close.

shock flex 5.jpg

I also dig how it looks in the wheel wells at ride height

Wheel well.jpg

I have some time off in a couple weeks- I hope to grab junk yard parts to start working on the behemoth strongbox and the rear brakes.

I have bump stops for my rear suspension. They are bolted to the bottom of the frame above the U-bolt plates.
Like these

I agree- I need to do some bump stops. I would like to do some air bumps front and rear- but haven’t had the funds available yet.

My next mod will be air bumps up front and new rear shocks, Radflo to match the fronts. Then new front seats or a doubler....then...

Oooooh new front seats!! What kind? Sport trac seats make awesome ranger seats
Some Mazda b4000 also have really nice seats
Some ranger dudes been using escape seats too
Or aftermarket!

Ok- I finally got some time to work on the doubler. I went to the pull and pay in the heat and pulled the donor parts.

I took parts from 2 2001 exploder sports.

First off, took the front off of a case- luckily it was already pulled.
Doubler parts 3.jpg

Then I used my trusty sawzall to hack off the sides of the case- carefully making sure not to cut into the ring gear.
Doubler parts 1.jpg

Then I wacked the case apart to get out the ring gear.

Doubler parts 2.jpg

Next I compressed the little clip to get out the planetary gears.

Lastly, because my Tcase is a 1991- I know my internals are likely going to be 4 gear. I definitely wanted a 6 gear in both cases, so I grabbed another set of planetary gears out of another 2001 Exploder sport.

Doubler parts 4.jpg

The time bomb SOHC worked in my favor- glad there was 2 trucks there I could grab parts off of and glad they both already had the cases out.

With this pile of parts, I can get the doubler assembled without pulling out my current transfer case and putting my truck out of commission while I put it together. I didn't feel bad about tearing apart 2 transfer cases either- the yard charged me $30 a piece for the planetary gears! WOAH. I was expecting $10.

Next I started the assembly process:

I followed the instructions here:

They were spot on with the exception of the clip that holds the bearing in the front section- it was redesigned to mimic the factory design. Noted below.

Here are the parts on the table ready to go: (the shifting section was still in the box)
Strongbox Assemble 14.jpg

First, I got the front portion ready by applying some tape to the face to hopefully keep that purdy anodizing in good shape. Unfortunately, I did garf it up a little when it was all done. Luckily it will be hidden inside the transmission adapter.

Strongbox Assemble 13.jpg

Next I cleaned up the ring gear (sun gear I think) and pressed it into the front section- carefully putting the tapered section in first.

Strongbox Assemble 10.jpg
Strongbox Assemble 11.jpg

It is supposed to fit just above flush.

Next, I pressed the shaft out of the planetaries. This required removing a circlip before pressing them apart. The clip was a royal pain. Those clips took the longest part of assembly. I need a better set of pliers I guess.

Strongbox Assemble 12.jpg

The next step includes putting the original bearing that was pressed on the shaft on top of the planetary gear set into the case. The video instructions are not accurate on this step- behemoth has changed designs to use the original clip and retention setup that is the same as factory. This took a lot of head scratching and a call to behemoth for me to sort out.

Here is the channel the clip lives in:

Strongbox Assemble 9.jpg

And here is a picture with that clip in place. I got the clip from one of the donor cases- the one off my case would have been fine too.

Strongbox Assemble 8.jpg

Once that clip is in place, you slide in the original bearing. I priced new ones of these, and I could only find a japanese bearing and it was $60 so I decided the original bearing out of my donor would be fine. Then, as it was- but now with a new anodized case in the mix- you press the shaft back into the gear set and the bearing. There is also a thrust washer that goes in between the bearing and planetaries. Lastly, the stubborn little clip goes into place.

Strongbox Assemble 7.jpg

And then a seal goes in. I am going to wait on that.

Next step is the shift section. You slide the collared shift gear into the shift fork and set aside. I like the quality on this whole section of the case. Super nice.

Strongbox Assemble 6.jpg

Also- note the o-ring seal on this section. IT would have been acceptable to just use RTV, but I am impressed behemoth put in a seal. I hate RTV.

Strongbox Assemble 5.jpg

Strongbox Assemble 4.jpg

The last section is the favorite because it involved the Behemoth spud shaft. Beef.

Strongbox Assemble 3.jpg

It involves assembling the spud shaft over the rear section of the case with the vent, a new bearing and a some bushings. Its really similar to the front install, but with the custom shaft.

Finally, we have a complete doubler, ready to be bolted to the front of my existing transfer case and then figuring out some shifters.

Strongbox Assemble 2.jpg

Of course it will be taken apart to bolt the pieces to the case and glue them.

There are 4 oil passage holes that will allow the cases to share oil. as you clock the center shifting case, the holes line up with 4 holes, or 3 or 2. I have 4 holes aligned here and the shifter handle near the factory location. I dont know if this will be the final resting place, but its a good place to start mockup. You can also see the garf I made in the front case. Ugh.

Strongbox Assemble 1.jpg

I might get some time to start messing with it in the next week or two. However, I have a camping trip this weekend- so I probably won't want my truck to be down. I might just add some tube to the bumpers this week and mess with the doubler next week or so.

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Gorgeous!! Will transform that beautiful ranger into an even more beautiful ranger