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1999 Ford Ranger - Project 4x4 Link: Part III

Loose Ends And Broken Parts

Jason GondermanPhotographer, WriterMonica GondermanPhotographer

When we last left off, we had just completed the rear suspension on our Project 4x4Link '99 Ford Ranger. And if you were paying attention, you would have noticed that the next part of the build, which was to be the interior rollcage, was mentioned and said to be coming soon. Now, we must apologize for using the phrase "coming soon," as you may have also noticed it hasn't been exactly soon (it has been 5 months since the last installment, to be exact.) In our defense though, part of the premise of this build is to show what can be done in your driveway with the basic tools, knowledge, and a little determination. And as such, being a driveway project, both work and life get in the way of forward progress, which we are sure you all know full well about. Enough with the excuses - back to the build!

With the new rear suspension on the truck and working properly, it was time to tie up some of the loose ends that we had left since the truck needed to be on the road serving daily-driver duties. You may have noticed that we made room to mount a second set of shock absorbers on the trailing arms and upper shocks mounts. We did this to accommodate the pair of 16x2.5-inch three-tube bypass shocks that had yet to arrive from Sway-A-Way when the last installment went to press. With the new shocks in and installed, we took the truck for a quick test run, and the performance difference was tremendous! We can't wait to get the truck finished and the shocks tuned. Along with the shocks, we also received a custom-machined antisway bar from Sway-A-Way. This beautiful piece of metal was machined to our exact specifications and should make a huge difference in the amount of body roll our four-linked truck has. Unfortunately, we are still trying to find arms that will fit the 31-spline ends of the antisway bar, thus the reason it's not on the truck yet. We hope to have this figured out by the next installment.

After adding the new Sway-A-Way shocks, we noticed the truck could drive even faster off-road, and with this, discovered a couple minor problems with the front end of our truck. Although both were relatively minor, they took time away from finishing the build just the same. The first issue was with the bushings. After nearly three years of abusing our Dixon Bros. kit, the original bushings had it. A quick call to DBR had a new set of bushings on the way. The second minor problem was with the stock lower control arm mounts. After those same three years of abuse, the bolt holes had become egg-shaped. Some say it is from the bushings, others say the bolt came loose; either way, it needed to be fixed. A set of 5/8-inch chrome-moly weld-on reinforcement washers did the trick. With the bushings replaced and the lower control arm bolt holes fixed, we could then move back to working on the project at hand.

Major fabrication on the bedcage was completed in the last installment, but you may have noticed that we ran out of time to build a proper bumper. In the time since then, we added a custom tube bumper built out of the same 1-3/4-inch, 0.120-inch-wall DOM tubing as the rest of the bedcage. The bumper not only functions as a holder for our license plate and protection for the rear of the truck, but it also houses two small coolers (capable of holding 24 cans each, if that gives you an idea of the size) and a 5-gallon gas can for those long trips where the 22-gallon cell isn't quite large enough.

Between installments, we decided to use Project 4x4Link for some good and attended the 8th Annual CHOC Cruise put on by the Playtime Foundation. We joined up with hundreds of other truck enthusiasts (mainly from the custom-truck side, but there were some lifted trucks too) to deliver toys to the kids at the Children's Hospital of Orange County. It was truly an awesome experience, and I encourage everybody in Southern California to mark their calendars for December 14, 2008 and come join us in making Christmas just a little bit brighter for these brave young children.

The most important part of this build has also been begun - fabrication of the rollcage. We firmly believe that any vehicle that goes off-road should have a sturdy rollcage. After all, what is more important: your truck or your life? We did things a little backward because this truck is a daily driver. Normally, the 'cage would have been built first, then the suspension, but the boss wouldn't have been happy if we didn't get it done and couldn't come in, so the suspension was built first. As of now, the cab has been gutted and stripped of all the nonessential sheetmetal, the dash is removed, and the plastic panels have been tossed. We have also machined a set of solid-aluminum body mounts to take the place of the stock rubber units. The solid mounts are essential to keep the body from moving around once the 'cage is finished. A cab flexing on a rigid chassis is asking for squeaks, rattles, and cracks. The next step is to start bending tube.

Be sure to check back with us next time as we dive more deeply into building the rollcage and put the wraps on our Project 4x4Link!