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1999 Ford Ranger Roll Cage - Project 4x4Link Part 4

Wrapping Ourselves In Metal, And Wrapping Up The Project

Jason GondermanPhotographer, WriterKevin MorganPhotographer

When we first came up with the idea for our Project 4x4Link the idea was simple, take one perfectly good truck, cut it in half, and completely re-engineer it. And this is exactly what we accomplished. Over the course of the last year we have taken a perfectly good, well performing, desert truck and turned it into a monster of sorts. When the plan was first laid out it was done in such a way that this truck was to remain a daily driver, that vision was lost when reality set in about half-way through the project. We had also planned on having the entire project completed in less than a month's time. That didn't happen either as you can see that we are now wrapping this up a year after it began. So what happened you ask? This project became a monster, consuming all of our free time, our energy, our spare cash, our friends' time and our patience. The monster didn't stop until it had devoured everything we had to give it, and then some. And when we finally were able to release this monster back to the wild, it tore up everything insight there, too!

The point of this project was not to showcase some new wild and crazy part or megabucks Trophy Truck, but instead to show what could be done by an Average Joe, in his (or her) backyard with some basic knowledge and basic tools, and we feel we accomplished that quite well. The monster we created may have consumed everything we had, but in the end it was all worth it. The pride of know that you built it and that it works well is a great feeling. We have people checking it out all the time commenting on how good it looks and asking where it was built, it's awesome to be able to say "I built it." And the satisfaction of knowing that it handles very well off-road and knowing that we built a capable machine make dealing with this monster for a year well worth it.

We couldn't have come this far without learning a thing or two and really it wouldn't be fair if we didn't pass our new found knowledge onto you guys. The first lesson we learned was not to set deadlines. If you look back at the beginning of this project we had set a very unrealistic time frame to have it completed, and were stressed when it didn't happen. If you are going to do something this big, have enough time to complete it or a spare truck, it will save you a lot of grief. Secondly we learned not to rely on anybody but yourself. This isn't anything bad, just the truth. Friends get too busy to help, shops get backed up and don't get parts out on time, tools break, and ideas flop. The only thing you should count on to get the job done is yourself and your work ethic. Lastly we learned to be patient, good things come to those who wait (and work hard for). We wanted the truck done quickly and doing so lead to some simple and stupid errors being made (like cutting through a brake line or forgetting to tighten a jam nut for example). For the second half of the build we took our time and made sure everything was done to our liking and it really paid off. In the end this monster taught us a lot more than we ever thought it would.

When we last left off we had just finished buttoning up a lot of the loose ends that were left from building it in a rush and had just begun gutting the cab and building the roll cage. We can admit freely that we built the truck backwards, the cage should have been first, but the unrealistic expectation of building a daily driver along with the crazy time frame dictated that it be done in this fashion. If we could do it again, we would have built the cab cage first. Anyway with the cab gutted we were able to start bending up some tube.

We decided to stick with 1 3/4" x .120 DOM steel tubing for the roll cage since it would match the bed cage, was plenty strong, and 4130 Chromoly is nearly twice the price. When all was said and done we had nearly 150 feet of tubing in the cab alone. As if building a roll cage isn't difficult enough we decided to reinstall all (or as much as we could) of the stock plastic trim back into the truck, along with carpet the stock dash, and rear door latches to retain the use of all four doors. The roll cage was mostly MIG welded with some of the gusseting being TIG'ed, and the whole thing is welded 360 degrees so that it will be race legal in most sanctioning bodies should we ever decide to race it. We finished the interior off with seating from Beard Seats in the form of a pair of Ultra Pro 2 suspension seats, a pair of padded Crow 5-point harnesses, and a Parker Pumper fresh air system to keep it cool and dust free inside the driver and co-drivers helmets when driving with the windows down or the windshield out. With working A/C and heat, a decent radio, and the comfy seats this truck is a blast to drive both off-road, and to the office.

So here we are, one year later, a lot wiser, and much poorer, but we have a pretty bitchin' truck to show for it. We hope you guys enjoyed reading about Project 4x4Link.