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1999 Ford Ranger 4x4 - Project 4x4link

40 Days And 40 Nights Part 2

Jason GondermanPhotographer, Writer

If you picked up last month's issue you already know that this is the second part of our '99 Ford Ranger 4x4 project build, and if you didn't pick up last month's issue then shame on you! We left off last time on day 20, having just started mocking-up the first tubes for the new bedcage. We pick back up now with day 21 and the second half of the suspension install.

Be sure to check out next month's issue of Off-Road magazine as we take Project 4x4link to the next level and start working on the most important part of any off-road vehicle: a full rollcage!

After plating the frame where the bedcage tubes were going to be attached with 1/4-inch steel, we began to bend tubes and started tacking things in place.

With the first tubes in place, we were able to measure and bend the 1-3/4-inch DOM tubes that would extend to the rear of the truck and complete the main structure of the bedcage.

The next step in building the bedcage was adding all the bracing and shock-mount "wings." The shock-mount wings are 1-3/4-inch, 0.120 DOM, while most of the crossbracing is 1-1/2-inch, 0.120 DOM tubing.

One of the most important pieces to this build is this one right here: a new tone ring. In '98-'00 Ford Rangers, the computer uses the vehicle speed sensor (VSS) in the rear axle to calibrate speed for the speedometer, activate the ABS, and calculate the shift points in the automatic-transmission. Since this truck is an automatic, without this ring the truck wouldn't shift, and since we were now running a Ford 9-inch axle with no provision for a tone ring like the stock 8.8-inch axle had, we had this ring cut and relocated the VSS to the pinion flange on the transfer case.

The truck's tail section will now be supported by coilovers, so we needed to build a pair of stout upper shock mounts. We began by cycling the suspension, and then we created cardboard templates.

With the cardboard templates complete, it was time to cut out the steel plates for the upper shock mounts. For this we used the trusty plasma cutter and a sheet of 3/16-inch steel plate.

You didn't think the shock mounts were going to be only those two plates, now did you? Since these mounts will be supporting the weight of the rear of the truck, they needed to be stout so we attached them to the cage in four places and wrapped around the tube for added weld surface area and holding power. We don't anticipate ever having a problem with these mounts.

In an effort to help keep everything below the bedsides, we went with a shallow 22-gallon fuel cell. The cell is mounted in an angle-iron tray that is attached to the bedcage via three tubes that span the width of the frame.

With a small cell and long commute, frequent trips to the gas station were bound to happen so a shiny billet fuel-filler cap was in order to help brighten the awful experience of fueling up.

Before the fuel-cell bladder was installed for good in the can, we added a fuel-level sending unit so that we can keep tabs on how much fuel is left in the cell at all times.

While we worked on getting the fuel cell in, brake lines plumbed, and other assorted loose ends tied up, our good friend Brian Beaumont worked on fabricating the hydraulic bumpstop cans and mounts. The unique design of the bedcage made designing a mount more difficult than most, but Brian's skills prevailed and the mounts turned out beautifully.

Here we have another view of the bumpstop mount, this time with a bumpstop inserted. You can see here where the stop bumps on the axletube and how the brake lines route around that area.

The money shot. With the limit straps in place, we felt it would be best to limit the rear suspension travel to 28 inches, which is what you see here. At ride height we have 14 inches of uptravel and 14 inches of downtravel. This matches well with the amount of power we are making and the amount of front wheel travel.
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Here's something worth bragging about. With the limit straps removed, the suspension will cycle a whopping 37 inches with minimum pinion-angle change - impressive.

With the truck back on the ground and holding its own weight for the first time in 30 days, we felt this was a good time to fill up the rear axle with AmsOil Severe Gear gear lube. Nick Van Dragt took on the task of filling the axle with AmsOil's newest creation, Severe Gear 75W-110, which is perfect for the daily driver/weekend warrior this truck will be.

Since the truck was mechanically able to be driven again, it was time to get the fuel situation wrapped up. We plumbed the fuel cell with all braided-stainless-steel line. Here you can see the blue cartridge-style filter that we added and the new Pierburg external fuel pump.

This is where we ran into another snag. See, the truck runs on about 65 psi of fuel pressure, and the new pump pushes out roughly 95 psi and the stock regulator is in the stock tank. The answer: Add an external bypass regulator. This colorful unit from Aeromotive was precisely what the doctor ordered.

The truck was driveable at this point, but there were still details to attend to. Rewiring the taillights topped the list. We rewired the taillights using a five-pin trailer plug and cleaned up all the wiring with black sheathing.

Prior to mounting the bedsides, we had to build the mounts for the spare tires. We decided to mount the spares horizontally in order to help with visibility out the rear window and to be a little different than most trailrunners on the road. We secured the spares with Beard three-way tire straps.

Mounting bedsides is no easy task, especially when they need to be customized to fit horizontal spares. Motorcycle straps are no replacement for a spare set of hands, though they don't talk back as much.

Before we were able to drive the truck again, we had to replace a bad inner tie rod. For this, we made a call to Dixon Bros. Racing and ordered the upgraded steering with machined clevis, stainless steel tie rods, and high-quality FK Heims and spacers. This is definitely a high-quality piece, much nicer than the stock unit it was replacing.

Old stock tie rod and extension.

One of the last steps before putting the truck back on the road was a thorough check of all the work that was done. This involved tearing the rear of the truck down and checking every nut, bolt, electrical connection, and fluid level. Once the truck got a clean bill of health, it was ready to hit the road!

With the suspension on, fuel cell plumbed, wiring completed, everything mounted, and the time limit for completion done, it was time to resume daily-driver duties and I am happy to report it made it to the office with no problems! And with over 1,000 miles on the system thus far, I'm glad to report all is well!