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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 sounds like according to Bkennedy, that I should weld the mounts on with about 4.5 degrees of extra caster? He is setup closest to what I want at the moment. Hoping I can get him to confirm.

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Coil bucket to coil bucket, straight across the center is 29.5" Frame width in the same spot is 28.5" plus 1/16" I'll post photographs when I get to my computer.

Perfect man! 28 9/16". So that is 2 7/16" per side. Thank you!

I cut all the mounts off. First I measured how far each bushing was from the outer "c".


Then I put the lower outer "c's" (where the lower ball joint mounts up) at 0 degrees. Then I measured each bushing's angle and marked it down.


Then I wrote everything down carefully on the trusty garage dry erase board and marked each bushing with a "top" which side it goes on and if it is front or back.


Then I cut each weld with a grinder and cut off wheel and drove them off with a big hammer and a piece of solid stock.


I also welded the tubes to the center section. I had some moist spots on my other housing around where the tubes go in from time to time, making me think welding the tubes even on a 1/2" tubes housing like this was even a good idea. After two passes last night, it was still cracking due to different cooling speeds of the cast center and tubes. In the past 2 passes got everything very warm and I let it cool slow in the open air and got away with it. This time I wasn't so lucky- maybe it's the thick tubes? Anyway, applied some pre and post heat with the trusted oxy acetylene torch and did another pass and she is good to go. Welded with my 220 buzz box turned up hot and 7018 rod.



Tada! All ready to clean up and tack the mounts back on!


One thing I am thinking over is that on my Navajo I had a single sheer lower trac at mount utilizing the stock mount and a 3/4" heim. If you look closely you can see the mount here:



Hiems suck for daily driving in the weather, so I would like to use a double sheer lower mount, with a poly upper and a "super joint" type of joint- spherical joint with Teflon inserts on the other end. We learned this lesson on my buddies bronco. However, we left the stock mount and welded to it. This cost an inch or so of potential trac bar length. You can see it here:


I am considering cutting off most of the stock mount and welding the double sheer to it. It will have to be kept low profile, however to clear the spring cups.


My wedgies are in the stock location. The Duff radius arms come with 4.5 caster built in, and I still needed 4* bushings to make it work. Duff recommends with their RA's: "Bronco II & 83-97 Ranger Dana 44 SAS with our Long Travel Radius Arms:
3-4” lift: #6004 4°C Bushings
5”+ lift: #6007 7° C Bushings"

The 7* bushings were great on the street, but I needed a better driveline angle. I got used to the steering being a little sensitive on the highway in about five minutes. A 5* bushing would be perfect, but no one makes them.

This all depends on how much lift you are going to end up with.

My axle side track bar mount is single shear. Its a Duff weld on kit that was supposed to raise the mount about 3.5". They thought it might fit my axle as it was designed for early Bronco's. It did with a bunch of modification and gussets. When I first thought I was going to mount the coil overs where the coil springs would normally go, I had clearance issues with a double shear mount, and the stock mount was a part of the cast wedgie on that side so I did not want to cut it off. It works for now. I went with the BC Broncos track bar because it was adjustable. It has a rod end on the frame side and a standard poly Bronco bushing on the axle side. Drives great on the street.

Thanks Brian. I really want to run the Duff arms. I am thinking around 5-6" of lift, but it is hard to say. I am only going off of my experience with my navajo. I don't have much fender clearance on the rear, especially with the tires sticking out so far- they don't tuck at all in travel. They will hit the outside of the fenders. On my navajo, they tucked completely. Under the fender on compression. That was something I wasn't planning for.

I was hoping to be lifted less than the ~7" on my navajo that 37s and some slight trimming required, but now I am not sure it will be enough with 35s and a wide track width.

How much is yours lifted for 35s? I love your rims btw. Those are the same I had on my navajo.

At the very least, I should probably build in 4.5 degrees. I can compensate with degreed wedges after that if needed.

I think mine ended up just a little taller than it was with the sagging 6" Superlift, so about 6-7" over stock.
4.5 might be just about right with standard bushings.
With the Duff arms, they run right under the frame rails so your up travel or compression will be limited to about 5-6". It worked out just fine for me. I had to shave off one of the studs that hold the plate covering the fuel filter because it contacted the RA at full stuff. If you can get your transmission cross member at or behind the RA mounts, you won't have to worry about the bolts contacting the RA's.

Ha, funny you like the rims. I like them too. They were the cheapest thing I could find for aluminum rims. ION alloy off ebay. I could not decide between those or the five spoke American Racing rims. I finally decided to go with the ION's because I had five spoke Centerlines on the Explorer for 15 years and wanted something different. Only thing I did not like was the huge center caps. I put them on, looked at it and took them back off. Made the rims look tiny.

Thanks! I will plan for about 6". What does your caster measure at with the 4.5 degree bushings?

Caster with the 7* bushings was just over 7* positive. Seems that Duff got the built-in 4.5 positive caster at nearly zero for me with the radius arms.
Wild Horses says early Bronco caster should be between 4 and 9*. I swapped out the 7* bushings with a 4* set I have to reduce the pinyon/drive shaft angle, but that would bring me down to just over the minimum caster recommendations. So, to answer your question, it should be at a little over 4* positive. I think 5 would be optimal, but like I posted earlier, could not find a 5* bushing.

Need to remember that the more positive, the better highway manners, but less turning radius. I also had a little drive shaft binding at full droop with the 7* bushings, even with a double cardigan at the t-case. It went away with the 4* bushings.

That helps a bunch. I was thinking of setting the bushings at 4 degrees positive and burning them in so I have some adjustment from there. However, after rereading your post I think I better put them at 3 degrees. It looks like there is no such thing as a zero degree bushing. I have to start with a 2, then 4, then 6.25 and 7? So I guess 2 degrees would get me at 4 or 6 or 8.25 or 9? I am almost tempted to leave them where they were. Seems like I'll have more adjustment there.

Ok, I think I decided on 2 degrees extra as I weld on the mounts. I started taking measurements and tacking them up tonight.



When I got to the drivers side I realized how close that arm will be to the pinion and driveshaft. On more question Brian- how close is the driveshaft and pinion to you drivers side arm? Do you have 2 7/16" of space?

Our short or driver sides are the same width. I cut my axle down on the long side only. There is about six inches from the inside of the narrowest point of the arm (at the bend) to the outside of the yoke. If you move the RA's in three inches, you will still have three inches of clearance.

Right on! Glad to hear that. I was a little concerned because I know those arms bend in for tire clearance. I won't have any issue with tire clearance!

No, you will have lots of room for tires. With the steering limiters set so the tie rod does not contact the diff cover, I still have a few inches of tire clearance from the RA's. You will have that, plus 3". You thought about getting different wheels with as much backspacing as you can and still clear the knuckles? It would help with the fender issues. On my Explorer, I had to trim the back of the front fenders when I went with 35" tires years ago. After the SAS and the 35" BFG KO's, I had to trim the front of both the front and rear fenders. It was fairly easy. I cut the fenders a 1" less than what I thought I should, bent the edge over with vice grips, smoothed out the cracked paint and repainted with spray touch-up paint. Having a white vehicle makes that stuff easier. Rear tire well area I just held a piece of 2x4 up against the metal and pounded on it until the tire cleared. It flared the fender slightly but its not noticeable.

Yes! That was my idea with my current wheels. My rims are inset a bunch. They are stock f150 wheels. I am sure there are more inset wheels out there, but these were $20 a wheel! I will measure the backspacing when I get a minute.

I have been staring at my rear fenders for a while now. They need about 2" take off the rear, or the axle moved forward and 1 inch off each. I am planning to move the front axle forward 3.5", so hopefully I can clear the rear of the front fenders. I did get a set of vise grips with a wide mouth and I read that paint is less likely to crack when you are building sheet metal if you heat it up with a heat gun.

I didn't do the best fender chop on my explorer so I would like to do better this time.

Wow, 3.5" forward. I went with about 2" forward and it seems to be working very well. I did have to clearance the inside seam where the body meets the firewall as it cut into the right side tire. Just flattened it out with a BFH. Also adjusted my bump stops down 1" for that and the tie rod was just slightly contacting the lowest point of the drag link frame mount.

I am looking forward to this build's completion and the wheeling pictures to come.

When I built my explorer I pushed the axle as far forward as possible without moving the steering box and it helped approach angle, tire/ cab clearance and I was able to run a stock front driveshaft until I doubled the tcase. I really don't need any wheel base on the ranger, but I think I will take it for the clearance, approach angle and driveshaft reasons.

I got the axle all welded up with the mounts moved in 2 7/16" and 2 degrees more caster built in.



I need 90000 pennies first:eek:

Why do the grey ones cost more than the obnoxious blue ones?

I have to buy some gears and a carrier first.

I said goodbye to an old friend yesterday. My lifted camp trailer on 31" bfgs. My friend even painted some flames on it with a rattle can so it looked extra red neck. With my hotrod truck hooked on the front it was comical!


I painted over the flames and cleaned the interior. It was actually a great hunting trailer. I could get it way back in the woods.

I sold it yesterday for $700. You know what that means? Today I order duff arms!

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I have to still buy track bat brackets, gears, steering. Etc. Woah! I still have lots to buy.