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1983 Ford Ranger - Round Two

Posted in Features on July 15, 2014
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Some 4x4 projects are hatched with a grand plan. Others just happen. This fascinating 1983 Ford Ranger seems to be a combination of both. It’s owned by Jason and Nathan Koehn, proprietors of Koehn Brothers Industries, Inc., a welding and fabrication shop in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada. “We actually received the 1983 Ford Ranger for free, as it had previously been hit by a dump truck,” Nathan says. You could say that run-in with the dump truck ended round one of the Ranger’s life, but the Koehn brothers had a plan for the truck. “Essentially, we have built everything you see with our own two hands. We use the truck to represent the skills and abilities that we have, as well as to continually refine them,” he goes on to say.

We found the Koehn brothers and their Ranger prowling the southern California desert. The wood bed initially caught our eye, but it soon became obvious that the truck was chocked full of other interesting mods, as well as a good story. Above all, we had a chance to see the Ranger in action on the trail, and it didn’t disappoint.

Round two of the truck’s life didn’t happen overnight. “It has gone through a couple of transformations since the beginning. For a while it was on 38-inch tires with a Dana 44 front axle and a 9-inch rear axle. As our friends’ trucks have progressed, so has ours. We come from a very wet climate, so everything is always slippery, which means everything is wheeled with a healthy dose of enthusiasm. This results in a lot of part failures. Even with the little 5.0L engine, axleshaft and ring-and-pinion failures are not uncommon,” Nathan says.

"We come from a very wet climate, so everything is always slippery, which means everything is wheeled with a healthy dose of enthusiasm."

Inside the rig, the Koehn brothers sit in RCI bucket seats, and they’re restrained by factory seatbelts. Other interior mods include Auto Meter gauges and an interior rollcage made from 1.75-inch, 0.120-wall ERW tubing.

Up front is a custom Koehn brothers-fabbed front bumper made from 1.5-inch, 0.145-wall schedule 40 pipe. This bumper holds a pair of “old” Pro Comp lights and a Warn 8274 winch that has been upgraded with a newer 4.6hp motor. To help make room for the large tires, the cab sits on a heavily modified 3-inch body lift and the front wheelwells were opened up “a lot.” The Koehn brothers made the frame-mounted rock sliders from the same schedule 40 material as the bumpers. All visible signs of the Ranger-versus-dump truck collision seem to be gone, but when we photographed the truck, it was wearing fresh passenger-side damage from a Johnson Valley rollover. Meaty 43x14.50-16.5LT Interco TSL SX tires are mounted to recentered Hummer H1 dual beadlock wheels. The custom rock rings were designed and built by the Koehn brothers.

Located between the seats are the twin-stick shifters for the NP205 T-case; switches for lights, cooling fans, and winch, and a single lever for the NP203 range box.

Up front, the custom three-link suspension was designed and built by the Koehn brothers. The lower links are made from 2.25-inch, 0.375-wall DOM tubing, and the upper links are made from 2-inch, 0.250-wall DOM tubing. Summit Machine rebuildable spherical rod ends are located at the ends of each link. The coilovers are 16-inch-travel Fox 2.0 Series remote-reservoir units, and there’s a pair of Fox 2.0 bumpstops. Limiting straps keep the supple suspension from overextending,

The high-pinion Dana 60 front axle came from a 1992 F-350. This axle has Yukon 5.43 gears, a Yukon spool, Yukon 35-spline inner and outer axleshafts, CTM U-joints, Dynatrac Dynaloc hubs, and Dynatrac heavy-duty ball joints. Feeding the front axle is a Tom Wood’s Custom Drive Shafts piece with a BAMF 42-degree CV joint. The large 43-inch-diameter tires are pointed via PSC Motorsports hydraulic steering that includes a 2.5-inch-diameter double-ended ram. Other steering components include a Chevy Astro power-steering pump and custom reservoir and cooler. Each PSC steering end link is made from 1.5-inch, 0.250-wall material, and each is fit with a spherical rod end at the knuckle. Nathan also notes that the knuckles were modified to accept double-shear bolting.

A BorgWarner T-19 four-speed manual transmission from an early 1980s 6.9L diesel-equipped Ford F-350 was chosen in part due to its granny-low 5:1 First gear ratio. It’s now sandwiched between a Centerforce clutch and NP203/205 T-case setup facilitated by a NorthWest FabWorks kit. The NP205 is controlled by a custom twin-stick setup. This arrangement gives the 1983 Ford Ranger a maximum low-range ratio of 3.92:1. A custom crossmember/skidplate also serves as the forward mounting point for the rear traction bar. If you look closely, you can see one of the four frame-mounted Grote LED floodlights that help to light the terrain underneath the rig.

“Just an honest little 300hp fuel-injected 5.0L Mustang V-8 built to 1993 Cobra specs,” is how Nathan refers to the powerplant in the Ranger. It’s balanced and blueprinted, has a 10:1 compression ratio, GT40 heads, Crane 1.6:1-ratio rocker arms, a GT40 upper/lower intake manifold, a Ford Racing E303 camshaft, a high-pressure oil pump, modified Hedman headers, and a 3-inch-diameter exhaust with a Flowmaster muffler. Cooling is handled by a radiator sourced from a 460ci-equipped ’78 Lincoln Town Car and the radiator is fitted with a pair of Flex-a-lite fans, one 12-inch and one 16-inch in diameter. The engine is estimated to produce 300hp and 325 lb-ft of torque.

Dana 60 HD rear axle pirated from a late 1970s Ford F-250 now has Nitro Gear & Axle 5.43 gears, a Yukon spool, Yukon chromoly 35-spline axleshafts, and disc brakes. The suspension is comprised of 5-inch-lift Pro Comp 63-inch-long leaf springs, a custom traction bar made from 1.75-inch, 0.120-wall ERW tubing with a spherical rod end at the forward mounting point and poly bushings at the axle, 16-inch-travel Fox 2.0 remote-reservoir shocks, Fox 2.0 Series bumpstops, “beefed-up” Belltech lower shackles that have been flipped; and limiting straps. The axle’s internals are spun by a custom rear driveshaft with 1350 U-joints.

One of the most unique aspects of the Ranger is the wood cargo bed. “The custom wood cargo bed just happened because there was always something more important to work on,” Nathan says. Unusual building materials notwithstanding, the bed houses a slew of items, and it is integrated with a custom ‘cage that mounts directly to the truck’s frame and ties in with the interior rollcage. This ‘cage also acts as the upper mounting point for the rear long-travel shocks and their reservoirs. In this photo, you can also see the modified Summit Racing 20-gallon aluminum fuel cell. Protecting the rear of the truck is a Koehn-built bumper made from 1.5-inch, 0.145-wall schedule 40 pipe. The bumper has an integrated 2-inch hitch receiver and a pair of D-ring shackle mounts.

Storage compartments in the bed on each side of the truck hold a variety of tools, recovery supplies, and lubes. A mount for a cooler has been integrated onto the top of the passenger-side compartment, and it allows the cooler to be easily accessed while staying securely mounted.

Electrical needs are met by a 100-amp alternator and a pair of bed-mounted Kirkland Signature batteries wired in parallel with equal length wiring.

Owner: Koehn Brothers Industries, Inc.
Stomping grounds: Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada
Build time: Six years
Engine: Ford 5.0L V-8, EFI
Transmission: BorgWarner T-19 four-speed manual
Transfer case(s): NP203/205 doubler, NorthWest FabWorks Dual Transfer Case kit
Low range ratio(s): 1.96:1, 2.0:1, 3.92:1
Crawl ratio(s): 53.2:1, 54.3:1, 106.4:1
Front axle/differential: High-pinion Dana 60, Yukon chromoly axleshafts, CTM U-joints, Dynatrac ball joints, Dynatrac Dynaloc manual hubs/Yukon 5.43 gears, Yukon spool
Rear axle/differential: Dana 60HD, Yukon chromoly axleshafts/Yukon 5.43 gears, Yukon spool
Front: Custom three-link, 16-in-travel Fox 2.0 remote-reservoir shocks, Fox 2.0 Series bumpstops, limiting straps
Rear: 5-in-lift Pro Comp 63-in-long leaf springs, 16-in-travel Fox 2.0 remote-reservoir shocks, Fox 2.0 Series bumpstops, limiting straps
Steering: PSC Motorsports hydraulic, Chevy Astro pump, custom cooler, PSC steering end-links
Tires: 43x14.50-16.5LT Interco TSL SX
Wheels: 16.5x8.5 recentered Hummer H1 beadlock with custom rock rings
Armor: Custom front and rear bumper, rock sliders, skidplating
Cool stuff: Custom wood bed, interior rollcage, upgraded Warn 8274 winch, Grote LED rock lights, Summit Racing 20-gallon fuel cell

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