The Long and Winding Road: A Ranger Story
WHAT’S UP IN THE FORUMS: Painstaking restoration turns into passion project for FTE member. Now, we’re equally enamored, and envious.
The story of Ford Truck Enthusiasts forum member Jbrown1238 and the long, winding road of his brilliant Ranger restoration will resonate with every Ford truck enthusiast.
It all started with the FTE forum member’s desire to change careers, which also, unfortunately, required letting go of his beloved 2003 Mustang Cobra. Seeking to “simplify” his life, Jbrown set out to purchase and modify a stepside Ford Ranger. But as is the case with most of these big projects, what followed was anything but simple.
The initial idea was to purchase a 1998-99 Ranger and transplant a 5.0 liter V8 and T5 transmission into the little truck. Then he was going to rebuild whatever needed rebuilding, throw a fresh coat of paint on there, and call it a day. But, as we all know, that’s never the way things go when you’re attempting to create the perfect truck.
Jbrown quickly realized that he needed to keep his black 1998 Ranger as a daily driver. So, he purchased another Ranger. This time, it was a red 1999 that he could tear apart and take his time building exactly the way he wanted to.
It didn’t take long to yank the bed off and remove the engine and transmission. Jbrown then proceeded to remove everything from the engine bay, tagging and bagging it for easy reassembly. Soon after, the frame was stripped and separated from the body. The frame was then media-blasted and painted. After reassembling the frame, Jbrown shifted his focus to body work.
Through the brutal Florida sun and August heat, Jbrown took his time ensuring that every panel of the Ranger was perfectly aligned and straightened. As anyone who has ever done bodywork knows, panel gaps are typically a giant pain, and they certainly were in this case. Once everything was lined up, the floor pans were painted. Next came the body and engine compartment.
The formerly red Ranger received several coats of Tuxedo Black Metallic before three coats of clear were laid down. The finished product quite honestly speaks for itself. All those hours of painstaking prep paid off, as they typically do. After carefully reinstalling the fenders and doors, it was time to shift focus to the engine that would power this beauty.
To this point, Jbrown had done all the work by himself. But, his visiting son assisted with disassembling the Explorer short block. After tearing it down, the 100,000-mile motor proved to be a good candidate for a rebuild. Just like the rest of the truck, the valve covers, oil pan, and the new 8.8-inch rear end were all media-blasted and painted.
Internally, the 5.0 received a slew of fresh parts. The block headed to the machine shop, where it was cleaned up and bored .030 over. Reassembly of the engine began, a process just as meticulous and detail oriented as everything else Jbrown completed on the truck. And, unbeknownst to his wife, some of it took place in one of the bedrooms. (Let’s hope she doesn’t read the forums!)
With the engine nearing completion, it was time to install the engine harness and reinstall the cab on the frame. It was at this point when plans changed once again. Jbrown decided that he wanted to lend a more modern look to the Ranger by installing a header panel, grill, front bumper, lights, and lower valance from a 2011 model.
With various parts coming in at various times, a little bit of jumping around was necessary. After modifying and installing the pedal assembly, Jbrown worked on color sanding the cab. The rear differential and suspension went in next. Before long, it was finally time to install the engine and transmission.
If you think that this Ranger would live a pampered life after such a painstaking restoration, you would be mistaken. Before the interior was finished, Jbrown had already racked up nearly 1,000 miles.
With a little bit of machining and ingenuity, a set of Cobra brakes fit up front. And as a bit of a tribute to his lost and beloved Terminator, a set of 2003 Cobra wheels arrived. Four meaty 275/55/17 tires helped fill out the wheel wells nicely. Next, work on the interior began as Jbrown attempted to get the Ranger running properly.
With the bed and remaining panels test-fitted and painted, it was time to install the 2011 Ranger components. After making sure all the new panels were lined up properly and polished to a fine shine, the tedious journey was almost complete. But, a complete interior refresh was obviously in line for such a beautiful truck.
But if you think that this Ranger would live a pampered life after such a painstaking restoration, you would be sadly mistaken. Before the interior was even finished, Jbrown had already racked up nearly 1,000 miles on the odometer. Then came some 400-mile runs. Next was an 800-mile run while towing a trailer. Before long, his many travels across the southeast added up to 30,000 miles, then 50,000.
And even after all that, the truck still managed a first-place finish at a local NMRA event. Despite experiencing a few minor proverbial bumps in the road during the restoration, the way this Ranger has performed over the last five years is a testament to the tenacity of its builder. When the Blue Oval claims its trucks are “Built Ford Tough,” they ain’t kidding. And while we may not all be lucky enough to share Jbrown’s skill and undying perseverance, we certainly share his passion.