1998 Ranger XLT The Gen 4 Ranger offered changes mostly under the skin. The lines were s
1998-2011: The Fourth Generation
The 1998 Gen-4 Ranger was a big departure in the mechanical department. It had a similar look to the Gen-3 trucks but more wheelwell room for rubber: Up to 31x10.50s with no lift. The mechanical differences started with the SLA (short-long-arm) torsion-bar front suspension with an aluminum Dana 35 high-pinion diff and rack and pinion steering, supported by a much stouter, partially boxed chassis. The new IFS made the truck infinitely nicer on the highway. The wheelbases stretched to 111.6 inches for the regular-cab shortbeds, 117.6 for the regular-cab longbed, and 125.9 for the SuperCab. Along the way, an XLT 4x4 Off Road Group package appeared with P245/75R16 tires, skidplates, 4.10:1 cogs and the usual “Off-Roady” visuals.
The 3.0L Vulcan V6, still the standard engine for 4x4s, was given flex-fuel capability in 1999 and uprated to 150 horsepower. The Splash model went away for 1999, with only XL and XLT models available, each with a Sport Appearance Package and the XLT 4x4 Off-Road Group.
2002 Ranger FX4 The Ranger reached the pinnacle of its factory four-wheeling prowess in
For 2001, the big news was that the 4.0L V-6 had changed from the pushrod unit to a 207hp SOHC barn-burner that had debuted in the Explorer for 1997. The five-speed automatic (5R44E) became available for the 3.0L trucks. The Edge model appeared as a low-production special that replaced the Splash in the lineup, available with optional Flareside or Styleside beds.
In 2002, the first FX4 version appeared, and that was a notable move into the “trail-ready” realm. Offered only on 4.0L SuperCabs, it had a heavy-duty suspension with Bilstein shocks, 31-spline rear axle with a Torsen limited-slip, 31x10.50 BFG A/Ts on 15-inch forged Alcoas, and a upgraded interior. In a May 2002 Four Wheeler road test, Craig Perronne called the FX4 package “pretty effective.”
2004 Ranger By 2004, the Ranger was looking a lot like the F-150 up front, but the writi
In 2003, Ford split the FX4 package into Off Road and Level II versions. The FX4 Level II had the ’02 gear, but the Off Road package was tamed down with cast wheels and smaller P245/75R16 tires. It had 4.10:1 cogs, but the standard suspension and 28-spline rear axle with the regular Ford Trac-Lok limited-slip. The Level II was good enough to take second place in our Pickup Truck of the Year competition for 2003. The FX4 Off Road was available into 2009, but the Level II was stopped after 2007, though many Level II goodies could be ordered a la carte.
The last decade is when the term “long in the tooth” began appearing frequently in written reviews of the Ranger. Though it had been the compact truck sales leader for decades, sales were off and Toyota had taken the lead. The Ranger “Death Watch” began as far back as 2006, when several plant closures were announced, including the St. Paul, Minnesota, plant where Rangers were produced. There were several subsequent reprieves, but with the compact truck market down generally, would a major push to re-dominate the compact truck market fit in with Ford’s future plans?
2011 Ranger Last of the Breed: The North American Ranger line ends with this 2011 truck—
The Ranger lurched on with few changes, but the big auto industry crash of 2008-09 finally forced a firm choice. For 2009, the Ranger product line was “simplified.” The 3.0L Vulcan was gone, and the 4.0L became the only engine for 4x4s. The Mazda B-Series, which had followed Ranger’s evolutions, bowed out that year. The lineup simplified again for 2010, with only XL, XLT, and Sport models offered. Ford’s Advance-Trac RSC system (Roll Stability Control) and side airbags were added for safety, but there was little else to boast about in 2010 and 2011. Ranger production will have stopped by the time you read this, with more than a few lamenting its passing.
Best Ranger Builders and Tips
Gen-1 Rangers are popular for their broad-shouldered look. All the goodies from Gen 2 and 3, plus the Explorer line thru 1995 (and later), can be swapped in. The Dana 35 TTB from vast numbers of ’91-95 Explorers in wrecking yards, plus their 31-spline 8.8 rear axle with disc brakes, are popular bolt-ins. The pushrod 4.0L and later transmissions are also popular swaps, as are 5.0L (Explorer) V-8s. The main limitations with Gen 1 trucks are the wheelwells and fitting larger tires without nose-bleed lifts—but those problems are Sawzall-solvable.
The short-lived Gen-2 trucks are the least popular Rangers in the looks department, but the last years had many Gen-3 upgrades in them and are good choices for that reason. They share the same wheelwell size limitations as the Gen-1 rigs.
The Ranger four-wheeling crowd generally regards the Gen-3 Rangers as the best of the breed in many ways. They require many fewer upgrades to be effective, having 8.8 rearends and the better D35 front axle, not to mention the pushrod 4.0L, better automatic and manual transmissions and, above all, lots of wheelwell room. The TTB front axle is regarded as more lift-friendly and beefable than the IFS in the Gen-4 trucks. V-8 swaps are more complex than for Gen 1 or 2 trucks but not out of bounds for a good shadetree wrencher.
In general terms, figuring Gen 3 drivetrain components, a 33-inch tire is a good target for an easy build. Fitting 35s is very do-able, but puts the drivetrain more on the edge of strength. Solid-axle-swapped Dana 44s are commonly seen. The Gen-1 and early Gen-2 Dana 28s are pretty weak and suitable for nothing more than a 31 if you plan to work it. The 7.5 Ford rear axle (’89 and earlier) can handle 33s.
Unfortunately, not all drivetrains in the Gen-3 era were good. Some 3.0L-powered rigs feature a hybrid D35 frontend with D28 internals. It’s mostly found on regular-cab trucks. You can tell them by the smooth housing (fewer ribs), and if you pull the oil filler plug and see the main cap, it’s a hybrid. They can be found all the way to 1997, but not every 3.0L is so equipped.
With the exception of the IFS front, the Gen-4 trucks provide a great basis for buildups. The FX4 Level IIs are especially good choices. The IFS front is strictly limited to a 33-inch tire if you plan to wheel it, but it only takes a 3-inch lift to fit them. There isn’t much in the way of stuff to beef the IFS axle, either, unless you want to fab in a Jeep TJ Dana 44 swap.
Go East, young man! The new Ranger was unveiled in 2010 as a new product that will eventua
2012 and Beyond: The World Ranger
Does the Ranger ride off into the sunset and be relegated to history? Nope. The Ranger rides east into the sunrise to tame a new frontier. Ford Australia took the lead in designing a new Ranger to be sold there, as well as in Asia, Europe and other parts of the world. An extremely attractive rig, it’s bigger than the current Ranger and about 90 percent the size of the F-150. This Ranger has the attributes to be a contender globally, so the name lives on at least. Production is at Ford’s Thailand facility.
Ford Motor Company
P.O. Box 685
The Ranger Station