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1999 Ford Ranger XLT - Project 4x4link

Part 1 40 Days And 40 Nights

Jason GondermanPhotographer, WriterNick Van DragtPhotographer

Take one perfectly good truck, cut it in half, and completely re-engineer it. That is exactly what the plan was when we started on this project. And as if that wasn't enough, we had only nights and weekends to do it - and in only three weeks.

The project started off innocently enough several months back when the idea to link the truck was born while sitting in traffic leaving the sand dunes of Glamis, California, after a long weekend of wheeling. It seemed simple really: build some trailing arms, a couple of upper links, grab a Ford 9-inch axle from the junkyard, and - voil! - I would have a linked truck. Yeah, it didn't happen quite like that.

The HistoryBefore we get too deep into this latest project, we should probably introduce you to the truck. The truck we are working on is a '99 Ford Ranger XLT 4x4. In the spring of 2005, the truck was equipped with a Dixon Bros. Racing long-travel kit in the front and Deaver long-travel leaf springs in the rear with a single 2.5-inch Sway-A-Way shock at each corner and 2-inch hydraulic bumpstops in the front. In this state, the truck was a daily driver and weekend warrior and it did very well at both, but it was time for something more. We were looking for more travel and better performance than leaf springs can deliver. The logical answer: a conversion to a linked rear suspension.

The PlanWith simplicity in mind (along with cost), we decided it would be best to go with a four-link, specifically the Weld It Yourself four-link kit from Giant Motorsports. The plan was to do all of our own labor, so the Weld It Yourself kit would the perfect fit. The rear axle would be a Ford 9-inch out of a late-'70s Ranchero. In stock form, these axles only have 28-spline axleshafts, but they do have the big bearing ends and are the exact width to match the Dixon Bros. kit on the front of the truck. We happened to get lucky and find one at the local pick-a-part. After a couple of quick phone calls to West Coast Differentials and Currie Enterprises, we had all the parts needed to build the axle on their way.

With the suspension and axle taken care of, we were able to focus on the smaller stuff like what batteries to run, what Heims to use, what kind of tubing, what nuts and bolts, and where to buy all these parts. After scores of trips to the local parts houses and off-road shops, and with the parts pile growing and to-do list shrinking, it was time to start laying out our plan of attack.

Knowing that this truck was a daily driver, everything had to be laid out ahead of time and ready to go when the build started. So, for four months nothing was done but ordering parts, designing, fabricating the different units to be installed on the truck such as the trailing arms, and working out dates for the build. Everything was planned out down to the day a part was to be installed. Obviously though, being a small-time operation (one man working in his backyard at night to be exact) nothing ended up following the schedule, but you'll read more about that later.

ExecutionThe time had come. All of the critical parts had been ordered, paid for, and had arrived. The subassemblies, trailing arms, pivots, and axle, to name a few, had been built. The plan of attack had been laid out and the truck backed into the driveway. It was time to start building.

Follow along as we tear into the truck in an attempt to make a good truck great!

Be sure to check out OFF-ROAD's blogs at http://blogs.off-roadweb.com for even more photos and information on what went into building Project 4x4link.