Welcome to part 3 of our Ranger Rehash project. Over the past couple of months we’ve torn down the well-used ’97 Ford Ranger (Mar. ’12) and hung the new rear axle and suspension in place (Apr. ’12). This month we’re turning our attention to the front of the truck. This means getting our new front axle prepped and starting in on the solid-axle conversion.
With the front framerails cleared of the original and aftermarket suspension brackets, we were able to examine a handful of fresh suspension options. While a leaf spring setup was possible, we found that the spring mounting points would make the Ranger much taller than we would like. This led us to compare a more advanced coilover setup versus a standard coil and shock configuration. While coilovers come with plenty of tuning advantages and long-travel potential, they also carry a hefty price tag. After reviewing our suspension options and deciding on the front axle, we opted to go with a more budget-friendly coil and shock setup.
Using a G2 Axle & Gear Dana 44 front axle, we worked with the crew at Low Range 4x4 in Wilmington, North Carolina, to craft a simple and effective way to execute the solid-axle conversion. The G2 Dana 44 front axle is designed as a bolt-in upgrade to replace the factory Dana 30 that’s found under the ’97-’06 Jeep Wrangler TJ, ’84-’01 Jeep Cherokee XJ, and ’93-’98 Jeep Grand Cherokee ZJ. This means that while we prefer the stronger Dana 44 differential, a Dana 30 can be used to achieve the same straight axle conversion that we’re demonstrating here. Check back in with us next month as wrap up our solid-axle swap and continue to breathe new life into our old trail truck.
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Next month we’ll wrap up the steering and straight-axle conversion, fit our new transmission crossmember, and even get the drivelines bolted in place. For web-exclusive Ranger Rehash photos and content visit 4wheeloffroad.com.