Tom Ledsinger began off-road racing over 20 years ago in 1986. As a family member of the DeNault Race Team, he helps with prep on the various race cars and with pit support and codriving duties. Over the years, he has participated in numerous races including the Baja 1000, Baja 2000, Laughlin, Vegas to Reno, San Felipe, and various MORE races. Growing up, he gained his experience working for several race teams, learning skills that would benefit his fabrication and metalworking knowledge. Also having worked for Team Saleen in the pro SCCA circuit, he has prepped a world-record-holding drag-race car and both prepped and codrove a 7 Open Ford Ranger in the SCORE and Best In The Desert series. Recently, he has opened a race shop with his best friend Jeff Haugh, performing fabrication and prep services to racers and enthusiasts.
With all of this valuable experience, when it came time to build his own truck it was inevitable that it would be nothing short of spectacular. He started the build on his truck with the intent of making a fast, reliable prerunner and chase vehicle. The build started with an '86 Ford Ranger extra-cab truck that would eventually be stripped of everything but the cab section. Robert built every piece of this truck himself aside from the suspension components. In this case, he called on Nestor at Newline Products to order up a set of his front equal-length I-beams with crossover steering replacement. The front end uses massive 3x14-inch King coilover shocks and Fox hydraulic bumpstops that together allow the front end to achieve 19 inches of travel. Also found up front is a set of Cone Industries 1-ton hubs, a Lee power-steering pump, and a Lee hydraulic ram. Stopping this much truck requires much more than the stock Ford brake package. He chose to install Wilwood six-piston calipers with 12.19-inch rotors, which would be more than adequate. Toyo Open Country M/T 35x13.5x15-inch tires run 15x8 Champion Beadlock wheels at all four corners.
The transmission is a C6 built by Craig's High Performance Shop that uses a full manual valve body with a reverse shift pattern. The torque converter used is a model A1 Automatic that was custom-built for lockup over 3,500 rpm with special experimental internals that Robert told us were his little secret. Robert truly spared no expense with this build. He knew that not only did he need his truck to perform flawlessly, but it needed to be extremely reliable when traveling to the tip of Baja and back. Under the hood, he stuffed a 427ci small-block Ford engine that was also built by Craig's High Performance Shop. This isn't just a small-block - it was built to push over 575 hp at 6,800 rpm and 575 lb-ft of torque while still being able to use regular pump gas. Other components that made this possible include a Dart cast-iron block; Trick Flow R-Series heads; an Eagle stroker crank; Eagle H-beam rods; COMP Cams cams custom-grinded to Craig's specs; JE custom-forged pistons; an Edelbrock intake system; a Carb Shop off-road 950 double-pumper carburetor; custom-made, equal-length "stepped" headers built by Robert himself; and dual 3-inch Borla XR-1 race mufflers. As you can imagine, that much power pushes a lot of gas; to keep enough in the tank to run Baja, a Fuel Safe 44-gallon fuel cell was installed with dual 140-gallon-per-hour fuel pumps located just behind the cab. Basically, Robert's truck sounds like a Trophy Truck coming at you when he mashes his right foot.
A Cone Industries full-floating 9-inch rearend complements the high-quality Cone components used up front. The Cone 9-inch boasts the strength of 40-spline Moser axles, disc brakes, and Cone Industries' own full-floating hubs. The 9-inch's nodular-iron third member is stuffed with a 4.86 ring-and-pinion set that surrounds a no-nonsense full spool. To go with the front-end suspension, Robert installed the Newline Products bolt-on four-Link suspension kit that uses 2.5x14-inch King coilovers, 3x14-inch King bypass shocks, and Fox hydraulic bumpstops. In its present configuration that includes an unmodified factory frame, rear suspension travel measures 22 inches. More rear travel can be had by either notching or "kicking" the framerails to clear the way for more compression travel.
Wilwood brakes were also chosen for the rear using 11.75-inch rotors. Also found in the rear is a pair of Fluidyne oil and transmission coolers and a Ron David radiator.
You can tell by looking at this Ranger that everything was very well planned. From the perfect welds to the selection of just the right components. There are no "let's-see-how-this-will-work-here" parts on Robert's truck. Climbing into the cabin reveals the same formula one finds on the truck's exterior. Robert custom-made an aluminum dash and then wrapped it in black leather. An entire picnic of Nordskog gauges is found littering the dash, as well as a Lowrance GlobalMap GPS unit and Kenwood 110W race radio with remote-mounted faceplate. Both seats are made by MasterCraft and use Crow five-point race harnesses. Above the cabin and in front of the truck are six Hella HID off-road race lights. We can't forget to mention that Robert did all of the wiring himself and he even wired up a rearview camera with monitor display in the center of the dash to see who may be following a bit too closely. If you want to check out this amazing work of craftsmanship yourself, visit one of the popular races Robert attends or even try one of the local off-road conventions where it just might show up on display for adoring fans.