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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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Glad to help. Another suggestion; get rid of the needle bearings and go with these bushings from Wild Horses. I did and they work great. No more muddy bearings and seals.

One of my spindles looked beat up, but not nearly that bad. I got it to work by smoothing out the inner race seat. Looked like it had spun a bearing race at one time and was never fixed.

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I already have a set of spicer inner spindle needle bearings that came with the stub shaft seals and washers. So I guess I will run them.

I hope to get the outers assembled today.

I am getting the outers together. A bit sentimental- I am using my old spare warn premium hubs from my Navajo. They spent years in my tool box back when I was wheeling and driving that rig all over the place.

Notice the ttb/ late model hubs fit the lockout housing really nice. The earlier ones leave a gap. The ttb f150 I pulled those hubs from had really odd one piece spindle nuts. I ditched them in favor of a new replacement spicer set. Ed had the spicers stocked on the shelf.


I also ran accross the upgraded hub screws I got from fastenal. I only have 4 of them, but in my experience the warn ones are soft and strip easily. These are much harder and the heads don't strip. I may go grab 9 more when I get a minute. The hardened ones aren't chrome.


I also got the driver side together only to notice the caliper bracket has some bad wear
In the channel the pads fit in. Luckily, I caught it before putting on the hubs etc. Phil gave me a spare set out of his parts pile. So I am painting the drivers side to swap it before I out this side together.



Rust oleum silver for the win! Thanks Brian.

Made a trip to fastenal.

Got both outers on after fixing the brake bracket.

I had planned on buying brakes from auto zone. They have been the best with warranty exchanges. However, the only set they stocked was a cheap set of semi metallics. I ran those for a bit on my explorer, but with big tires and hard driving they didn't last long. So I called around. The only place that had any decent pads was napa. They were $60 and I don't think napa does much to warrant brakes. So I ordered a set of hi performance wagoners from rockauto. They were like $15. Unfortunately, they won't be here for a few days. Oh well I needed to buy the front brake lines anyway. Did anyone figure out how to use the 1 stock center line?l the f150 ran? I wasn't happy with the setup on my explorer. 2 stock rear explorer rear lines wasn't the most sano.

Does anyone know of someone that has cut out the stock crossmember and built another? I wanted to cut it out and build one for my explorer, but I never did. It seems like it would be a great time when I am doing the sas to get it done. Wondering if anyone else has done it.

Sorry, I am a little all over the place. Based on your pictures in your build and your explanation, I was thinking the stock tranny member could stay for now? I thought I was out of the woods on that one? I can see 3 bolt holes on yours in front of the duff arm mounts making me think the stock one is ok?

So I looked for pics and searched for engine cross members and it doesn't seem like anyone has redone them? Mine cracked and was always ugly so I was thinking of cutting it off under the motor mounts and plating the bottom then putting in a couple bushings and some tubing.

So I looked for pics and searched for engine cross members and it doesn't seem like anyone has redone them? Mine cracked and was always ugly so I was thinking of cutting it off under the motor mounts and plating the bottom then putting in a couple bushings and some tubing.

I've been wanting to do this for the longest time but it's a case of if it aint broke...

I have a few ideas of how I would build it...probably something removable since it would run in front of the oil pan.

Stic-O did just that on his 99 Explorer. He posted pictures of it here, somewhere. My engine cross member is surviving fine with all the mounts for the old suspension cut off to clear the track bar and HP D44. If it becomes a problem, then I will do the same.

If I remember correctly he built a steel tube crossbar that bolted into place just below the engine. I have a picture somewhere I'll find it and post it for ya.

Ok, so I could be wrong but I believe this is stic-o's crossbar brace he built.


I'll probably be building something similar on mine after I put the 351w/ C6 and 1356 t-case in to see how much room I have under the oil pan.

Yep, that's it.

I added another cross member directly below where the engine and trans meet. I made it out of 1-1/4"x1/4"wall DOM. It strengthens the frame and acts as the front mount for the trans skid plate. I think there used to be a OEM cross member there but it was removed years ago as it interfered with the front drive shaft.

I got some work done. I have had some challenges.

So one caliper bracket was worn and I had to tear it back apart to replace it. The other side seemed good. So I put it together. Unfortunately, the other side must have had jacked up threads on the caliper mount bolt. I broke the bolt off flush. Spent 4 hours trying to get it out before I have up. Broke a bunch of easy outs. This is a broke easy out with a bit welded to it.

It was that bad! Haha!

So I had another bracket from Phil. I cleaned it up and painted it and tore everything back apart to install it.

Yesterday I picked up 2 degree radius arm bushings from crazy eds performance. Today I got the radius arms on.

Head units, brake lines on. Using a 78/79 center line. I hope it is long enough.

Radius arms on.



Bam! I am getting close.

Looking good. I am jealous of your press. Did you see the new wobble stoppers that Ruffstuff is selling for the Y steering?

That sweet press was another inheritance from my unlce and his welding buisiness. There was a cherry picker too that matched but I didn't have space for it. So much good stuff I didn't have space for. I couldn't pass on the press though.

Matt you speak of ruff stuff's "cure"? With all the hype I expected more. I think I have gotten 14 emails about it! It's just a little white bushing with a pink instruction sheet. I do have one in my possession and plan on executing the cure. I will report back on it's performance. Also, it's different from the synergy bushings (which are too thick and don't fit f150 knuckles because they are designed for jk knuckles) as it goes on the lower drag link joint, not the tierod joints.

I went and filled my oxy acetylene tanks this morning. It cost me $120. Geesh. It was worth it though....

Because today was d day (deconstruction day):

Got the front end out (you can see it in the background) in about 3 hours.

With the help of the hot wrench I had the buckets and ttb pivots out in another hour and a half.

Torch sure does come in handy. I used one on my deconstruction as well. Found out that if you hold it parallel to the frame you can cut the head off the rivets without cutting into the frame. Then just knock the rivets out with a punch.

Might as well cut down the engine cross member while you are cutting. I cut both the front and back off, leaving only the lip of the old suspension mounts.

That's exactly what I am using it for. It is really nice to get the rivets red hot too because they swell, stretching the holes that are in. Then if you let them cool until you can touch them they have shrunk back down so you can knock them out easier.

Before tearing into the ranger yesterday I used the bed to hual a piece of tubing to Phil's to use his jd2 bender to bend a piece of 1.75" for a cross
Member. Now that I can see everything, I am not sure I can bring myself to remove the whole crossmember. There us so much tied to it. It just seems like a terrible idea. I would love to do an oil pan gasket, though.

A question for you Brian- just sitting there the Jd arm mounts are about 24 maybe 25" wide where they mount to the frame. They will stretch to the 30 or 31" of the ranger frame where they will live. Did yours do that? Or did I get a set of arms for a full size axle sas and I should have gotten eb width? Or is there a difference?

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All the Duff arms are the same. I asked them when I called to order. They sell different mounting kits for different frames. You are only talking about 2.5" per side, which is where mine ended up, if I remember right. It did not take any pressure to speak of to move the RA's out to meet the frame. The only thing you could have wrong would be having the RA's on the wrong sides (flat side up is correct). The frame width of a early Bronco, and a full-size bronco are nearly the same at the mounting point, or so Duff says. I think they are about 6" wider than RBV's, which would be the difference in axle widths.

Is the frame double-walled at the RA mounting points? It is on the Explorer. I was thinking about how to sleeve the bolt holes and what a pain it would be, when I realized that most SAS's have welded mounts. I slapped them on the frame, after measuring 15 or 20 times, and welded them in place. I went two inches forward of their recommended mounting point and it pushed the axle forward two inches. My wheel base ended up being 114".