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1983 Ford Ranger: Rhino Ranger

Posted in Project Vehicles on January 1, 1998
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Aaron Oberster has always favored Ford Rangers. His '92, with six inches of suspension lift, 3-inch body lift, and Lock-Rights in both axles, has always run well in the Off-Road Sportsman's Challenge . . . but Aaron, an airline mechanic by trade, decided to go radical and build an unstoppable war wagon styled after desert prerunners.

This truck was designed for competition only (no street use), so a stock '83 Ranger was purchased for prima materia. Aaron and friend Jason Kern, a fellow Sportsman's Challenge competitor, stripped it down to the frame for a ground-up rebuild. For starters, a Dana 44 frontend and Ford 9-inch rear were donated by a '74 Bronco, with spindles and disc-brake hardware communing out a '78 Bronc.' The differentials were stuffed with Lock-Rights and 4.11:1 gears. A Superlift 4-inch suspension kit and 3-inch body lift provided room in the wheelwells for 35x15.50 TSL Super Swampers.

A close-up shows the steering-box reinforcement to control torsional twist during off-pavement driving.

Power requirements are met by a 302cid Ford V-8 with 289 V-8 hi-po heads, and an Edelbrock cam and intake. A DUI distributor and jacked-up coil provide spark. The Dana 20 transfer case, hooked up to a granny-low four-speed, turns custom-cut driveshafts. To control the big meats, a beefier steering box taken from a '78 4x2 F-150 was installed.

Aaron wanted to blast through watery obstacles, so he mounted the radiator behind the cab. Then, however, overheating became a concern, so he welded a scoop onto the roof to funnel air to the radiator. To keep water out of the air intake, he snaked an extended intake though the glovebox to the engine bay, and the air filter was placed high on the firewall, next to the manifold.

The Ranger's steering is set up for extreme torque; the draglink was built from1-inch steel for strength, and the steering box is gussteted with 1/2-inch plate.

Exterior cosmetics were not a concern, so Aaron eschewed custom paint. On a lark, he talked to the folks at Rhino Linings about coating the entire truck. "It'll work,'' he was told, and now the Ranger is coated head-to-toe in a yellow coat of Rhino's toughest polymers.

Vehicle 1983 Ford Ranger
Owner Aaron Oberster, Atlanta, Georgia
Engine 302 cid Ford V-8, 289 heads;
Edelbrock cam
Transmission Granny-low 4-spd.
Transfer case Dana 20
Axles/differentials Ford Dana 44 in front, Ford
9-in. in rear; Lock-Rights
Ring and pinion 4.11:1
Suspension Superlift 4-in. springs
Tires 35x15.50 Super Swampers
Paint Rhino Lining Yellow
Estimated value N/A

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