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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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It will be fine!!

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Thanks man. I hope so!

I think i got some issues sorted, but I still might have a lingering electrical issue. The only thing I can think of is that a few years ago I had an issue with the wiring harness on the drivers side frame rail. I didn't notice it for years, but it turned out when I did the leaf spring conversion to the 53" springs- I drilled into some wires that go to the fuel pump. I think I fixed them well, but I am wondering if they are causing problems again.

When I am cruising down the highway at 75 mph, usually near a quarter of a tank or so of gas, every once in a while the truck will act like I just turned the key to the off position and turned it back on. It will do it over and over, sometimes pretty violently. I thought it had to be the fuel pump, but after all these fuel pump issues it still lingers, so I dont think that is/ was it.

It is not throwing a code, and doesn't do it for an extended period- usually I will stop and fill up with fuel and it will quit. It seems to do it more when it is hot outside (I thought the fuel pump was overheating).

I decided to try a coil. Ford had it for relatively cheap and I thought it was something I hadn't changed yet, so why not.


I also read on the ranger station that someone had a theory that the coil pack grounds through the bracket- to the base of the pack. said it seemed to affect the idle. I know I painted mine, so I thought it might be worth a try.


It didn't seem to do a thing. I still have the high idle, but it isn't obnoxious- its just a little high. This didn't help.

We got a decent snow storm this week. I had a good time pulling out some vehicles, then I ripped down the highway in 4 hi. I think I mentioned it before- but my transfer case has been leaking profusely out of the front output I have changed the seal twice and it just doesn't seem to help. perhaps the bearing is going- there was a little slop in it- but nothing crazy. I also thought that before I got the limit straps, the front driveshaft could have been running out of travel and wore the bearing or bent the front output or something. So I have just been filling it and trying to get by until I have time to put in the doubler. I also got a rebuild kit from rock auto.

Anyway, I filled the transfer case recently. Maybe a week or two ago- when I had it on the lift. Unfortunately, I think ripping down the highway in 4 hi spit all the fluid out! It started really snarling at me, and was even causing the truck to lurch and seize a little at slow speeds. It was making a huge racket. When I got home two nights ago, my driveway was a little treacherous to get up and I needed to go back into 4 hi. I locked in the hubs and held pressure on the shifter- it wouldn't go back as far as it should for 4x4 and it just sounded awful with some pops and bangs- but got up the driveway. I needed to drive it yesterday so I did, but again it sounded awful.

So today I had the day off and junking I went. My old man was down for a trip around so we drove his truck. We hit 3 yards before I found a 1354 manual. It sucked working in the snow and mud, but I didn't have a lot of choice. Found this jewel about 1 hour from my house at the 3rd junk yard we visited. It was in a 1997 XL with a 3.0. Had 200k miles.



I got it put in this evening and she is tight and quiet. It sucked a little to do transfer case work without putting in the doubler, but I really need my truck this week/ weekend and I dont have time for all that is involved with the doubler- fabing the crossmember, modding driveshafts and sorting out the shifters- so it will have to wait.

Funny thing is, when I got the old one out (covered in oil) I am sure the chain is now completely broke. It won't even turn the front output in any position. I noticed when I drove it today on the way to my dads to swap the cases, it would shift in and out of 4x4 while going at highway speeds- front hubs not locked. So it is definitely apart in the insides. Normally, I would never do this- but its worth $27 for a core, so I think I am going to take it in for that. Seems silly with the hard to find Manual 1354s, but I did find one today.

If anyone has any ideas on my electrical/ fuel issue- please let me know. I think I might try to check that wiring issue I had before and see if that is still holding together well. Otherwise, I might replace the ignition control module. Everything I replace, I figure has 345K on it, and even if it doesn't fix it its another thing that is new and will go another 345k.

You say it’s
Like you turn the key on and off, does the dash light up too? Could be ignition switch or possibly pcm relay issue? Battery cables and connections?

I had a red top optima once that lost a cell it worked ok until it didn’t I had 12
Bolts for starting but not 12.2 or 12.4 and when running everything acted normal running on the alternator…
But once in a while it would
Act like no battery hard to start sometimes did t want to kick over the starter solenoid eventually I found it was only
Holding 11.8… at the time my buddy was working at optima so I let him
Check it out they found it had one dead cell. That one was a bit tricky to sort out!

Keep your old 1354 open it up and see what gives! I have never had one push fluid like that and I’ve only seen a couple of them
Actually fail. They are getting harder to find, we sell them for $500-800!!

Man that was back when optimas were premium. I had a buddy who was an electrician and worked at the plant in longmont sometimes. He would get blems. In those days optima would last 10 or 15 years. I guess that's bad for business.

This 1354 is pretty destroyed. I dont think I would ever run it again and I dont think I would sell it to someone to run in good conscience. But if anyone wants it, Ill take $27!

So- yes it does shut off like I turned off the key- lights and all- but not immediately and not all the time. It chugs, and sometimes it will chug hard enough for the lights on the dash to come on- you know like if i stalled it out by putting it in too high of a gear- anti lock light on the dash, etc- then it comes back. Other times it will just stutter for a second and the light doesn't come on. Like I said, I thought it was running out of gas, so I would look for the closest gas station, whip it in there and fill it up. Oddly enough, that seemed to fix it. Back on the road with no stutter.

You have me wondering though- I might have to try tomorrow- if I stall it does the dash light come on? I think it does. If I turn off the key and back on at highway speeds- does the light come on then go off? I'll have to check.

I spent some time reading through this thread last night. Turns out on my frame rail, the thing that got me looking at the wires was that it would pop a fuse on left turns and blow the brake lights with them. That was the broken hot wire. But I say- and remember- that there was also a broken wire for the ground on the fuel pump. I wonder if that is what is giving me issues now??? Seems like I am so careful and thorough, that I would have fixed it up so it never needed fixing again, but who knows? I might have to look at that tomorrow night. Could that explain why filling it with gas affects it? maybe the tank swells a little? IDK. I should be able to jiggle that wire and replicate it if that's the deal. Maybe ill try that while it is idling. Maybe the coil fixed it, and I thought it was stuttering but it was just the transfercase coming apart? Maybe it needs a icm?

Would a PCM relay act like this? Ignition switch- like in the steering column? If the solenoid on the fender? I just put in a new motorcraft solenoid when I did the starter so I wouldn't think that would be it. Its been misbehaving before that and after.

As an update to the transfercase- man where has it been my whole life?
I started the day remembering that I didn't tighten the tranny mount. So did that before a shower in the cold this morning at 6:00 am.

Glad I remembered when I was waking to do that.

While I was under there, I was thinking about how nice it will be to clock this case up 1 notch and get it out of harms way.

You can see where it hangs down just a little. you can also see where I took off the boses for the dampner. Those are not necessary.

I can't believe how much better the ranger drives. It is so quiet. Also, before it had a vibe between 80 mph and 85 mph and also a pretty loud noise. I figured the rear driveshaft was too long and vibrating. The driveshaft shop told me it was right at the edge of being too long and might vibrate a little. That made sense I thought. That was wrong. The new transferase fixed all of it. Vibe free and quiet to up over 100 mph. It really made a big difference.

Given that the problem goes away with a full tank, maybe there is a wire on the top of the tank that is getting pinched - thinking the tank shifts down when full/heavy, and lifts as it gets lighter.

Just a thought. Check your fuel tank mounts as well,

You only have one fuel pump right not the stupid dual setup my 88 originally had?

I would suspect ignition switch or battery cables from what you describe seems like you are losing electrical power for a moment?

My optima was red and green I used to get the blemishes too! My buddy that worked there his name was Merle peeveyhouse
He was also the same guy who helped
My Bolt in a 4.0 when I first ditched my 2.9 must have been 1993 or so?

Yes sir just one. I was unaware there was a setup with 2 pumps?!? Sounds like a typical ford “let’s try this”.

Wow.1993? My buddy was there probably 2003 or so. He had a blue 1985 Ranger that he restored and put a James duff lift on and painted. One of my favorite trucks of all time. He rolled it and had it repaired. Then rolled it again and gave up. We were going to rebuild it but ended up stealing parts off for other projects. The lift went on my 1993 Navajo.

It must have been about 2004 when I came to your house in Littleton and you showed this young padwan all of yours and Brett’s projects. And helped me with a manual swap for my Navajo. I remember Brett’s Barney purple sport and mustangs and a crawl space of wonder. Also your cut and turn beam jig.

I think Scott b might be on to something. I did run it out of gas today and it acts differently- it dies slower. So I don’t think it’s that any more. But I do think that wiring could be it. It didn’t act up today at all. Other than actually running out of gas. I did move that harness around when working in the transfer case on Monday. If it acts up I am going to pull over and wiggle the harness.

I had a red top optima once that lost a cell it worked ok until it didn’t I had 12
Bolts for starting but not 12.2 or 12.4 and when running everything acted normal running on the alternator…
But once in a while it would
Act like no battery hard to start sometimes did t want to kick over the starter solenoid eventually I found it was only
Holding 11.8… at the time my buddy was working at optima so I let him
Check it out they found it had one dead cell. That one was a bit tricky to sort out!

My Optima story...


@Rick completed project huh? I am not sure how accurate that is. She still has lots of work to be done.

I did some work on the Ranger this weekend. When I was hunting two years ago, I lost one of the inner fender liners I fabricated. It was probably from the mud. It was made from thicker and material that was recommended to me by @410Fortune. I believe it was 1/8” abs. Over the last couple years we have had a constant reminder of the need to fix this problem when my door hinge constantly squeaks and needs a shot of oil.

Luckily, I ordered some thinner abs- 1/16”- that I have been storing since last made the 1/8” pieces. When the 1/8” pieces fought with me so hard, I ordered the 1/16” and by the time the 1/16” pieces came in I discovered that the 1/8” could be manipulated with a heat gun.

Let me say, the 1/16” stuff is way easier to work with. I don’t know how it will hold up but time will tell.

I started by masking off the area with blue tape. Then I traced out the part I wanted cut out with a sharpie.


Next I carefully pealed off the tape. Then trimmed the template with scissors and laid it out on the sheet of abs


Then I cut it out with shears. Fortunately, I was able to cut it all out with shears and didn’t need to use a grinder or oscillating tool. It is much easier to work with then the 1/8” stuff.

Next I put it in place and manipulated it a little with some heat. I started with clamping and the final product got black rivets with backer washers to hold everything tight

I was able to rivet the front to an old piece of 1/8 that stayed behind. The rear part I was able to wrap around the bottom. This is more than I had before/ did on the other side and snow and ice would still get between the body and the door and hang up. I am hoping it is durable enough and stays together.

Very nice!


(Blue tape aided design)

They are never really “done”

@Rick completed project huh? I am not sure how accurate that is. She still has lots of work to be done.

Are they ever really "completed"? LOL This one looked close enough for me. :D