Going off-road can sometimes be a mix of wilderness survival and tightrope walking. While the two may sound a world apart, the reality is that extreme trails often challenge us to keep our rigs sure-footed so as not to annihilate ourselves or the vehicle. We all make mistakes off-road, and sometimes the traction that we need simply isn’t there. This is where body protection comes in handy.
Our ’97 Ford Ranger was originally built with a basic interior cage and virtually no exterior protection. Fast-forward five years, dozens of trail rides, and a rollover in the mountains, and the pickup’s body shows plenty of use. Since starting the project we wanted to revamp the body a bit without going overboard. The driver’s side of the truck, especially the bed, has significant body damage, but nothing that in our eyes has to be replaced.
So instead of fixing much of the old, we worked with the build shop at Low Range 4x4 in Wilmington, North Carolina, to cut, trim, and protect the crucial pieces of the pickup. The guys at Low Range are extremely handy with a tube bender and have done a great job executing the “less is more” theme that we were after.
Since aftermarket body protection for the Ranger platform is few and far between we took a trip to our local steel yard and loaded up on 13⁄4x0.120-wall DOM tubing. What developed from that pile of steel was a set of bumpers, modified Trail-Gear sliders, and a very subtle exterior cage.
We are wrapping up a few odds and ends on the truck and planning for next month’s installment to be the payoff. That means putting down the welder and dropping the Ranger into clay-covered mountains. Check out 4wheeloffroad.com for behind-the-scenes photos of the build and web-exclusive info.