The off-road hobby is tremendously greener than people give it credit for. Need an example of this? Just check out your local Craigslist. Without a doubt, the pages will be full of used vehicles and parts, many for a fraction of what they originally cost new. The creativity and cost savings that the pre-owned market creates is something that is truly exceptional.
Take Jody Treadway’s ’99 Ford Ranger for example. After years of building an assortment of 4x4s, he was ready for his next project. Looking for a good deal, he did like most of us do and scoured the classifieds around the web. He landed on what looked like a very weathered, but overall well-built, Ford Ranger. Spending so many years building his own vehicles, he wasn’t sure how he felt about buying some else’s old wheeling rig.
After much thought, he decided the deal was too good to pass up, so he picked up the ’99 Ranger. However, it was not the gem that you see here today. Thankfully, Ranger body panels are easy to come by on the cheap, and a paint job was just a rattle-can away. So, for a fraction of what it would have cost to build the rig from scratch, he ended with one that really just needed some TLC.
We’re suckers for mini-trucks, so we were immediately drawn in when we saw it on the trail. Treadway says that he continues to find little things he wants to tweak and has since added a bit more Southern pinstriping and body damage, thanks to the tree-lined trails he likes to wheel. While buying an already-built rig isn’t for everyone, it is often a good way to get a good value and get on the trail quickly. Even if you are a reviving a once-beaten trail rig back to life, it can be just as rewarding.
Inside of the cab, the original seats have been swapped out for a more plush set from PRP, and the carpet replaced with a durable Rhino liner. A bevy of Auto Meter gauges help monitor all the vitals. A set of cutting brakes (red knobs) is positioned easily within reach and work well with the Northwest Fab cable shifters that control the flipped Dana 300 T-case. Since the photo shoot, the Dana 300 has been swapped out for an Atlas II with a 4.3:1 low range.
Under the hood, the stock V-6 was replaced with a 5.0L Ford V-8. The small-block Blue Oval engine was bored .030 over, fit with GT40P heads, B303 camshaft, 1.7 roller rockers, GT40 intake manifold, shorty headers, MagnaFlow muffler, and an oil pan from a Ford Explorer. After some tuning help from Power Adder Solutions, the engine is now said to be pumping out 300 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque.
A custom three-link with a track bar controls the Jeep Wagoneer-sourced Dana 44 front axle. A traction aid comes by way of an ARB Air Locker, which, since our feature shoot, was paired with a set of RCV Performance axleshafts. Steering duties are handled by a Howe hydraulic-assist kit and aluminum tie-rod and draglink.
A 31-spline Ford 8.8 rear axle sits out back and is fit with Moser chromoly axleshafts, a Detroit Locker, and 5.13 gears. A triangulated four-link suspension keeps the axle isolated, while a Currie Anti-Rock sway bar increases the rigs stability on-road and off. The low-lift height and tremendous articulation is thanks to a set of Fox 2.5 air shocks, which provide 16 inches of travel.
Similar to the rear, the front uses 2.5 Fox air shocks, but these are of the 14-inch-travel variety. To control the travel, limit straps were used all around. If you look closely, you’ll notice that the stock framerails have been replaced by DOM tubing from the firewall forward.
This Ranger’s bed is far from typical. A 15-gallon aluminum fuel cell feeds the fire, while an Optima YellowTop battery was moved to the back as well. The custom cargo basket offers a place for extra gear, and the spare tire mount securely holds his fullsize 37 (removed for the photo).
To have the drivetrain tucked within the framerails, a 3-inch body lift was procured. Another high-clearance feature was achieved by removing 3 inches from the bottom of the cab, which allowed the sliders to be mounted on the same level as the frame. At the rear of the cab, you will also see that the transition from the Ranger’s stock framerails moves to 1 1/2-inch, 0.120-wall DOM tubing with plate reinforcements.
Despite having nearly as much tube work as a full-on buggy, the Ranger still appears close to how it came from the factory. Treadway replaced all of the body panels and gifted the truck with “new Ford blue” paint job via eight cans of spray paint. The subtleness of the ’cage and the functionality of the entire package makes this Ranger one of our favorite domestic mini trucks we’ve come across.
Helping with the approach and departure angles are custom tube bumpers that tie in cleanly to the chassis. The inset Warn 9.5ti winch upfront and factory grill were especially well executed.
At A Glance
Vehicle: ’99 Ford Ranger
Owner: Jody Treadway
Stomping grounds: Horse Shoe, North Carolina
Build Time: N/A
Engine: 5.0L Ford V-8
Transmission: C6 automatic
Transfer case(s): Flipped Dana 300
Low range ratio(s): 2.62:1
Crawl ratio(s): 33.06:1
Front axle/differential: Dana 44/chromoly axleshafts, ARB Air Locker, 5.13 gears
Rear axle/differential: Ford 8.8/Detroit Locker, 5.13 gears
Front: Custom 3-link, 2-in, 0.250-wall control arms, 14-in-travel 2.5 Fox air shocks
Rear: Custom triangulated 4-link, 14-in-travel 2.5 Fox air shocks, Currie Anti-Rock sway bar
Steering: Howe hydro-assist
Tires: 37x12.50-17LT Maxxis Trepador Bias
Wheels: 17x10 Allied beadlock
Armor: Custom tube bumpers and sliders
Cool stuff: 3-in body lift, 15-gal fuel cell, Optima YellowTop battery, Derale transmission cooler, Art Carr shifter, Oliver’s Custom Drive Shafts, Warn 9.5ti winch, Smittybilt synthetic winch rope, Auto Meter gauges, PRP seats