Introduction and getting glassed.
When you write in to us, we listen. After the constant barrage of letters from you, and due to the popularity and low cost of the vehicle, we have decided to commission a Ford Ranger buildup. Although this time it's more of a rebuild, since our 2002 Ranger FX4 already sports a host of upgrades, including a 5-inch lift, 4.56:1 gears, 33-inch tires, and aftermarket intake, exhaust, and headers, to name a few. So, you ask, why the change?
Well for one, we want to do something a little different and learn about a new trend in suspension design in the process. We decided that it would be of interest to you if we built our truck in a direction that you might not typically see in these pages. Largely popular in the racing scene of the desert Southwest, long-travel suspension is making a name for itself outside of racing, mostly due to the fact that it is so effective at soaking up the bumps, allowing the vehicle to tackle obstacles and terrain at high speeds. The two-wheel-drive prerunner guys have known about the benefits of well-engineered long-travel suspension setups for years, but it has only been until fairly recently that the IFS four-wheel-drive guys get to play in the same sandbox. With only a few independent fabrication and racing shops offering proven kits to the customer, for only a handful of platforms, we expect that increased exposure of these types of kits will expand their availability and perhaps bring a new type of 'wheeler out of their 2WD trucks and in to the sport of four-wheeling.
In this project buildup, we hope to answer the question of what would happen if we built a four-wheel-drive truck with a long-travel, race-style suspension; would it prove just as capable on a fast wash as it would crawling over the rocks? Would the suspension be soft enough for it to articulate as good or better than a lift kit, or stock, for that matter? Would the ride and handling still be practical for a daily driver? Would it still be able to tackle a variety of terrains, or would it be relegated to the dunes of Glamis? We are out to prove that a lower center of gravity and longer suspension travel will still do everything you could ever want out of your 4x4 and more.
With these thoughts in mind, we made a few phone calls and laid out the direction of our project. We have procured suspension technology from Dixon Brothers Racing, shocks from Bilstein, rear springs from Deaver, bumpers from Hanson, and a host of other big names. Knowing that the Dixon suspension widens the front track by 4 inches per side, we got started on the ground floor with the guys over at Glassworks in Huntington Beach, California. They're known for some of the highest quality and best fitting fiberglass fenders around. We chose the 6-inch flare/4-inch rise version for our buildup. Glassworks offers other sizes, for a variety of vehicles, if you aren't planning on going as wild as we are.
Follow along as we take the first step in transforming our daily-driven Ranger into Project RangeRunner.