Every project has places where you want to spend time and money and other places where you want to save. Since we’re basically starting from scratch with our ’97 Ford Ranger’s axles and suspension, we have a clean slate. It’s at these times that your imagination can run wild with ideas of mega-suspension travel and monster full-width axles. Ultimately though, you have to be realistic with yourself and what you plan on doing with your rig.
At its core our 3.0L Ranger is a great trail wheeler, and over the years we’ve learned that going slow both on-road and off suits it best. Last month we began our rebuild by bolting in the new 6-inch lift Skyjacker rear leaves. Now we are ready to wrap up the rest of the rear lift and give the springs a fresh axle to bolt to. With the Ranger aftermarket tiny compared to the seemingly endless bounty of Jeep goodies, we figured we’d see what parts could cross over into the Blue Oval arena.
Since our front axle choice (more on that next month) dictates that our rear axle be close to the Ranger’s factory width and use a 5-on-41⁄2 wheel bolt pattern, our axle options were a little more limited.
After a bit of calculating we determined that the ’87-’95 Jeep Wrangler YJ rear axle would fit perfectly. Why is this important? Because there is a host of YJ rear axle upgrades available from the aftermarket.
For our Ranger we found that the G2 Axle & Gear Rock Jock 60 would ultimately fit our budget and needs the best. The G2 Rock Jock YJ series rear axle is fitted with the aforementioned specs along with 3-inch-diameter axletubes, a high-pinion Dana 60 gearset, 35-spline semifloat axleshafts, and (optional) disc brakes. And since we ordered ours from our local 4Wheel Parts store, the 4.88 G2 gears, brakes, and Detroit Locker were already installed.
With the truck still under the knife at Low Range 4x4 in Wilmington, North Carolina, we continue to make great progress. Low Range specializes in all things 4x4 and has developed a few budget tricks for fitting a solid front axle under our Ranger that we’ll be showing you next month. For those who need more Ranger in their life, head over to 4wheeloffroad.com for behind-the-scenes photos and progress updates.