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Off-Road Unloaded - Letters to the Editor - August 2012

Posted in Features on August 1, 2012
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Editor’s Note: If you want to say or ask something, email Unloaded at or write:

Unloaded, OFF-ROAD Magazine, 1733 Alton Parkway, Ste. 100, Irvine, CA 92606

Remember, we’re giving away swag every month to the author of our favorite letter. Be sure to include your address, so we know where to send your goods.

Letters of the Month This month's letter writers are getting a Blu-ray combo movie pack from Universal Home Entertainment. Two new releases- Safe House and The Grey- are coming to everyone who had their letter published, along with an OFF-ROAD license plate.

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Four-Speed Manual Ranger Swap

I have a 2002 Ford Ranger, 4.0L SOHC manual transmission 4x4. My five-speed went out for the third time, so I looked around for an adapter to put a NP435/NP205 transmission and T-case in the truck. No one makes an adapter, so I designed and built my own bellhousing (working on a new aluminum one, too), crossmember, and modified the transmission so that it has an OSS sensor that talks to the computer. The shifter has been modified so that it retains the stock shifter in the stock location. The interior looks completely stock. The exhaust is original and unmodified.

I have over 2,000 miles on this combo and it has worked flawlessly. I had to install the clutch arm on the passenger side, which made for a long hydraulic hose.  It is sticking out right in between the pipes where both banks of the engine tie together.  I am using a slave cylinder from a Chevy stepvan and have had zero issues with the combination.  Another thing I’d like to look into is changing out the pressure plate.  I don’t like the idea of the current Ranger pressure plate with the pre-load adjustment on it.  You have to have tension from the throwout bearing all the time and I don’t think the older style thowouts like it too much.  I’m thinking a pressure plate from pre ‘99 or so would probably work just fine.

As far as the shift gaps being broader with this transmission, I feel it’s ideal for these trucks with the 4.0L motor.  Going from 2nd to 3rd, the motor does not bog down at all.  In fact, starting out in 2nd, sometimes I spin my tires because the gearing seems just about perfect.  With the original five-speed the gears never seemed matched to the engine.  And, I have a real reverse gear ratio now.

I have 4.10 gears in the differentials and on the highway, while the engine does spin about 3200rpms, the fuel mileage has not seemed to take a hit.  City driving, however, I have noticed a dramatic drop in economy.  I think that’s due to the fact that I have to rev the engine more and seem to drive around in third (gear) most of the time.

I am thinking this might be a popular swap for Ranger owners since there is no aftermarket support in regards to transmission swaps. I am interested in marketing this conversion, but need to get the word out about the kit. I’ve attached some pictures. Currently, I’m working on another bellhousing to adapt an SM420 to this engine.  My preference has always been the SM420 (yeah, I know, Chevy in a Ford?!), so that’s what I ultimately want in my truck.  Things are kind of ugly, but this whole swap was done out of necessity.  From the time I pulled out the original transmission to finishing this up took me maybe about a week.

Anyway, this is it in a nutshell.  If you have any questions or comments, please, feel free in contacting me.

Marc Bergen
Durham, California

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Thieves Suck

I have a small off-road motorsports shop called North Coast Side x Side in Northern California. I have been a desert rat since I can remember, always into trucks and OHVs. I have a boy 7, two girls, 5 and 3, and wife who all love the desert as well. Last February 2011 on Super Bowl Sunday night my ‘99 F-350 was stolen, then hooked up to my fully loaded 24-foot enclosed trailer. The trailer was all locked down but didn’t do any good since all the keys to it were in the truck. I had insurance only on the truck, but had none of the accessories on the policy. The trailer had a $20K four-seat rhino, CRF 450R, TTR50, brand new TRX 400EX, LT50, PW50, and miscellaneous camping stuff. No insurance at all.

A few months later I found a drug addict sleeping in a truck that was identical to mine but black. He was arrested, the police found drugs and a loaded modified shotgun. There was a digital camera found in truck with photos of the criminals dismantling my truck also pictures of my OHVs. The next day my family’s toys were found along with the corpse of my Super Duty. Two months before they stole mine they stole an F-550 crew cab flat bed from another local family, which was recovered cut in half.

The black F-350 I found the drug addict in actually turned out belonging to the thieves that stole my truck, but all the parts on it were stolen. I purchased the thieves’ black truck for a good deal from the tow company that had ended up with it and figured that was sweet retribution. I didn’t have it long. It kept breaking down, so I sold it to buy a more dependable family tow truck.

Dealing with insurance and tow companies sucks, by the way. I would like to make my story known to protect my fellow off-roaders. This has cost me a lot of time, stress, and money. After receiving the pathetic insurance check, I have replaced the truck with the same thing only new. I hope I am able to someday I will be able to make it like the old one. Here are a couple of photos: one just before it was stolen, and one of the carcass afterwards next to my new one.

Dustin Gipson

Any More ‘Mudders or ‘Hawgs?

I was wondering if anybody was going to start making the Monster Mudders and the Denman Ground Hawgs again.

Joseph Packard
Arlington, Texas

Joseph, we asked David Guidry of Interco Tire to help us with this one, and he let us know that neither the Monster Mudder nor the Ground Hawgs will be produced again. There are still a bunch of big tires that Interco offers—Boggers, Trxus, and Iroks all in stock—but those particular two won’t be around again. Sorry.

Not the Last American Mini Truck!

In your newest issue’s Rant, y’all are talking about minitrucks and you say that the Chevy Colorado is the last American minitruck. But the Toyota Tacoma is still being being produced, and the plant that makes them is in San Antonio, Texas. So wouldn’t that make it the last American made minitruck?

Georgetown, Kentucky

Steve, I wrote that with the assumption that Toyota is a Japanese company, and therefore the Tacoma is a Japanese vehicle. But when considering where it’s built, I guess that you could be correct. Although, if we’re getting technical, one could also argue that neither the Colorado nor the Tacoma are all-American trucks, since some of the parts are shipped from overseas to produce both of them.

Is the V8 Really a Better Brake Kit?

I’m really interested in how the SSBC V8 brakes that you installed on the F-350 are performing.

Brien Lumppio
Duluth, MN

The brakes have been an excellent addition to our Super Duty, Brien. The eight-piston calipers have been working well, and the performance hasn’t seemed to fade. The truck doesn’t get driven as often as it used to, but we have about 6,000 miles on the brakes and they’re still seemingly as good as they were when new (once broken in). It appears we have about 75 percent of the pads left on our F-350 truck with 40-inch tires.

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