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1997 Ford Ranger - Flying High Again

Posted in Features on May 1, 2004
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Photographers: Mike Finnegan

Ok, so space travel in an unlimited class mini-truck is a little far-fetched, but that's what the carbon-fiber and chrome-moly used to fabricate this Blue Oval were originally designed for. Only the best will do when you're putting yourself in the driver seat of one of these high-speed thrashers. That's why Mike Ruane of Santa Clarita, California, took his '97 Ford Ranger to C&D Fabrication to have an Unlimited Class 7 mini-truck built for Team Orbit.

The techs at C&D stripped the little Ranger down and began strengthening the stock frame. With dimensions taken from the body, a rollcage took shape over the prerunner's base structure. Of course, provisions for race truck amenities had to be designed into the frame, which would include a custom suspension, a removable fuel cell, prerunner bumpers, a lightbar, body mount brackets, tabs, shock mounts, and interior framework.

Scratch-built, equal-length chrome-moly I-beams crisscross between the front framerails and are managed with 2.5-inch coilovers and 3-inch external bypass dampers. The front suspension allows a set of BFG Baja T/As to travel 21 inches in total suspension movement.

Out back, beefy boxed lower links carry the mini across rough terrain with the help of the same shock setup as up front. The Cone 9-inch rear differential connected to the two lower links was strengthened by boxing it, and a link mount was fabricated at the top.

A wishbone is attached to the upper link mount on the differential and triangulates the suspension to prevent lateral movement.

Adding weight to a prerunner is critical when it comes to building a trash-proof frame. Getting the truck set to pull the large BFG Bajas was made easy by the techs at JGM in Santa Clarita, California. They took the stock Ford 4.0L and massaged it to kick ass. The block was bored to 3.965 inches, and Childs and Albert slugs were set in. The pistons were then attached to 6-inch connecting rods, which were bolted to the hardened crankshaft. The pushrod motor received a cam from Cory Weyer, who custom-ground the V-6 to a 0.500-inch lift on both the intake and exhaust lobes. The duration was set at 258 degrees on the intake and 278 degrees on the exhaust.

The top end consists of an aluminum set of SOHC heads, which were reworked by Baker Cylender Heads. After BCH reshaped the combustion chambers, a custom set of stainless valves was sealed to a three-angle valve job. With the new combustion chambers, the engine static compression ratio is 13.3:1. A crank trigger was attached to the harmonic balancer, which tells the Electromotive Tech III computer when to fire the high-output coil, providing spark to the cylinders.

The fuel-injected V-6 exhales through a set of Ellis Fabrication scratch-built headers. The collector is attached to 3-inch tubing that's piped through a Flowmaster muffler and exits through the bedside. The combination makes 410 hp and 360 lb-ft of torque at the crank. The top speed is about 108 mph, which is mostly due to the high gear ratio in the Strange nodular-iron third member.

The C-4 transmission was properly equipped by the crew at Trans Pros to take the brutal punishment that the Unlimited Class truck was going to dish out. This included a billet input shaft and clutch drum. A manual valvebody finished off the trans, and keeps the shifting in the driver's hands. Taking the power from the tranny to the rear differential is a custom-built driveshaft by High Desert Driveline.

The oversized tires are stopped by way of a Willwood dual-piston, caliper disc-brake system. The entire cockpit is covered in carbon Kevlar, which holds all the gauges and switches needed to monitor and control the race truck. Mastercraft seats are a comfortable fit and hold you in tightly.

With the truck now virtually new, updating the body was a no-brainer. A call was put out to Entire Body, and a '03 Ranger body soon followed. With a paint scheme in mind, the body was prepped and shot silver with yellow-and-blue graphics.

Owner/hometown : Mike Ruane/Paso Robles, California
Year/make/model : Custom
Suspension : Front: I-beam with coilover; Rear: Three-link with
Wheels/tires : 15x7-inch American Racing/35x12.5-inch BFGoodrich
Baja T/A KR
Engine : Ford 4.0L V-6
Transmission : C-4 with manual valvebody
Shocks : 2.5-inch King coilover and 3-inch external bypass
on all four corners
Differential : Strange nodular iron

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