What makes the perfect wheeling machine? Is it a powerful V-8, gigantic tires, or maybe a suspension system with seemingly unlimited travel? The truth is that there is no secret formula for creating the perfect do-all wheeler. If anything, we’d say the key to wheeling success is being in a vehicle that you simply know well and feel comfortable in.
Take our ’97 Ford Ranger project for example. Over the past five months we have cut, welded, and bolted on an array of parts in an effort to make the aging pickup a more versatile wheeler. The regular-cab shortbed pickup has plenty of scratches, dents, and quirks that create character that just can’t be bought. The truck’s rugged exterior also makes trying more extreme obstacles a bit less stressful. Though it isn’t as refined as a factory-fresh late model, it is very reliable and ready and willing to get dirty and gives us that no-frills fun wheeler feeling that can’t be replicated by a pretty-boy rig with a crazy monthly payment.
With the help of the 4x4 experts at Low Range 4x4 in Wilmington, North Carolina, we merged a mesh of junkyard, custom, and readily available parts to create a wheeling machine that is easily replicable and won’t shatter the everyman budget. Though no project is ever really finished, we finally have enough pieces of our Ranger build puzzle together to take it to the dirt. For our official shakedown run we toted the Ranger to the scenic and moderately challenging trails inside the Uwharrie National Forest.
The Uwharrie trail system is located just outside of Troy, North Carolina, and is home to clay-lined trails, rocky hillclimbs, and an amazingly lush and green backdrop. While we are still getting used to the new build, the first outing was an absolute success. From the soft and flexy suspension system to the no-nonsense Detroit Lockers, the truck performed predictably and often effortlessly when crawling up the trails.
We’re looking forward to testing the pickup more over the coming months. Those anxious to find out more about the Ranger, be sure to check us out at www.4wheeloffroad.com.
For what started out as a rolled and rusty pickup we are extremely pleased with the truck’s transformation. The guys at Low Range 4x4 did a great job of executing the build plan, and we can’t thank them enough for all of the long hours and hard work . One item that we suggest for those looking to daily drive their Danger Ranger replica is a front sway bar. A sway bar would help tighten up the handling and reduce some of the corner lean we felt on the road.