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1997 Ford Ranger - The Sweet Spot

Posted in Features on May 8, 2008
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Chase truck. Prerunner. Daily driver. Impossible to combine in a single vehicle. Or is it?

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Greg Gilbert's '97 4WD Ford Ranger is the perfect platform for this trifold buildup. The SuperCab body configuration gives extra interior room, so it's more comfortable for everyday use. The four-wheel-drive function provides the ability to traverse sketchy terrain at low or high speeds, which is necessary for proper race chasing. The long-travel front and rear suspension swallows up big and small bumps alike in the dirt just like any other prerunner.

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Greg started with a bone-stock truck - clean, functional, and drab. Greg's shop, Desolate Motorsports, has been racing and chasing for several years, teaming with both the Class 8 effort of Langan Racing and the Class 7S program of Mike and Erin Wahl. Greg didn't need another race truck. Although the Desolate stable includes a 4WD Super Duty that's good for towing and chasing, the SD is a bit too portly for some of the trails and roads used to access the racecourse during competition.

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Outfitting the Ranger for race chasing was instinctual, since Desolate Motorsports specializes in custom metal fabrication. A utility box was fastened into place on the bed floor, and other chase-vehicle essentials were mounted around the box. A fire extinguisher tucks in just underneath the bedrail. An 11-gallon fuel dump can has its own home next to the utility box. A Power Tank is easily accessible, mounted alongside the fuel dump can. The biggest standout, however, is not in the bed. It's on the roof. Desolate created a roof rack that's sturdy enough for bags of tools, camping gear, or whatever else can be lashed into place.

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Making the Ranger a functional prerunner was a matter of setting long-travel suspension in place and enclosing the newfound track width behind fiberglass fenders and bedsides. McNeil Off-Road's long-travel front suspension fit the bill. Chad McNeil's suspension kit includes widened Twin-Traction Beam housings, a custom axleshaft, extended radius arms, radius-arm pivot brackets, a tranny crossmember that ties the pivot brackets to each other, brake lines, a dropped pitman arm, and extended tie rods. Two-and-a-half-inch King coilovers and King bumpstops control the action up front. Rear suspension duties are handled by a pair of leaf spring packs from Deaver Spring and King shocks attached to an S.I. Motorsports bed cage. Thirty-five-inch Yokohama Geolandar tires mounted to American Racing AR-23 wheels cycle up and down beneath Hannemann fiberglass fenders and bedsides.

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The daily-driver facet of this truck was handled by leaving the stock interior in place and creating an engine cage that allowed the air-conditioning parts under the hood to stay put and stay fully functional. When building a multitasking truck, it's easy to go too far in one or more directions and sacrifice the civility and comfort needed for proper daily driving duties. This Ranger's creature comforts are all present and accounted for.

Yes, there are chase trucks that can carry more tools and spare parts. Yes, there are faster prerunners. It doesn't matter. This Ranger is a standout because it successfully combines several trucks into one. It's right in the sweet spot.

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Pro Comp Suspension
Chula Vista , CA 91914
Desolate Motorsports
Whittier, CA 90605
S.I. Motorsports
Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670
Power Tank
Elk Grove, CA 95758
Deaver Spring
Santa Ana, CA 92701
American Racing Custom Wheels
Rancho Dominguez, CA 90221
King Shock Technology

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