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JGRAHAM
JGRAHAM Reader
2/17/17 3:44 p.m.

Like most who are part of this grassroots community, reading about the seemingly endless, creative builds has inspired me to share my own current build. I feel it’s the least I can do to “return the favor” for everyone whose shared their own. Giving you very brief background about myself; from a very early age I’ve always enjoyed building things. This drive started out as a young child building things with the wood scraps from my father’s woodworking shop, to now as a mechanical engineer designing agricultural equipment. I’ve always been drawn to the thought of “make something from nothing” or even just repurposing things. I’m sure this trait stems from my father’s own resourcefulness. Anyways onto the meat of this thread; the Ford Ranger and what is to hopefully become a very capable autocross truck. Good logical thinking and planning is something that has been clearly missed. Who in their right mind would try to autocross a ranger right? Nonetheless hopefully you will at the very least find entertainment in my project blog. I acquired the truck from a friend/customer in the fall of 2014. I do a fair amount of small engine repair work on the side, mainly for friends and bartering tends to be the easiest form of currency. I have a tough time asking for money from friends and trades seem to ride better on my conscious. So I repaired a friend’s zero turn mower back that fall and worked out a deal to become the “proud” new owner of a 2nd Gen Ford Ranger pickup. It was a short bed, 2WD, “custom” model; equipped with the 2.9L V6 engine and an automatic transmission. It had spent the last 5 or so years in the backyard surrounded by brush. I was told the previous owner had gone through a divorce and truck ownership was never determined. One evening after work I hauled the repaired mower back to the owner and loaded up my new jewel. Initially I had planned to send it straight to the scrap metal buyer, but I immediately had second thoughts as soon as I saw her hunkered down in the weeds. It wasn’t because this was some special, barn find, holy grail of ford rangers, but simply the “cute-little-ugliness” of it. I know what you’re thinking, I must have one screwed up sense of what cool is, but please bear with me. When I got it home the very next day I began working on her. Apparently over the many years of sitting in the backyard a freeze plug had worked it’s way out of the block and of course it had a dead battery. A quick and dirty fix, using a rubber block plug and a hot battery had the old 2.9 running……somewhat again. Just speculating but the truck must have been filled with water way back when and the years of freezing winters in VA pushed the plug out. In addition too, the water freezing must have cracked a head as well. The tailpipe had a constant bellow of steam rolling out when running. Various brands of stop leak helped to reduce the water consumption, but I knew from the start the old 2.9 engine’s days were numbered. I was good with the thought that this truck might blow at any time. Nevertheless I drove this truck around town for errands and trash runs throughout the winter and spring and it never missed a lick. During this time I again bartered into a set of actually really nice Ford Racing FR500 wheels. A few hours with the torch and hand tools I had a lowered mini truck sitting on 18s (of course it was done as getto as possible with cut coils and a crude leaf spring flip) The truck after the budget lowering job and FR500 wheels One of the wheels had about 8 inches of bead broken off. A few hours of aluminum welding and lathe work had the rim edge built back up. ...and thats all for today. I need to proof read more. I'll be trying to upload daily until the project gets up to present day.

APEowner
APEowner Reader
2/17/17 6:32 p.m.

I've always had a soft spot for those trucks. I look forward to seeing where this one goes.

JGRAHAM
JGRAHAM New Reader
2/18/17 6:00 a.m.

Thanks APEowner!

JGRAHAM
JGRAHAM New Reader
2/18/17 6:28 a.m.

So I continued to drive this truck all spring. Every time I turned the key I wondered if this might be the last go of the motor, but again the little 2.9 wouldn’t die. By May it was mixing it’s motor oil with coolant and smoking a fair amount.

At work on one of the morning work breaks a group of us co workers usually mingle together and talk cars, engines, tools, etc. In this particular group we are all “gear heads” at heart, and somehow the conversation drifted into Autocross.

As with any group of guys, one suggests that their car would the fastest and right behind him the rest of the group trying to persuade each other who would beat who. Looking back it’s funny because we all had relatively slow cars. The group’s cars ranged from a late 80’s Firebird to a 1963 Ford Galaxie; none of which are very competitive by autocross standards. So the thought of us all going to an autocross event to determine who is the fastest progressed over the next month. There was a constant stream of prodding and badgering coming from all everyone. Some of the pressure was directed at the thought taking my old slammed Ford Ranger on the course. With enough peer pressure from the coworkers I had the old truck signed up for it’s first autocross; and as well MY 1st autocross event. The fear of being the slowest; which was a definite possibility with a worn out Ranger, AND being a complete novice made me think of every advantage I could get above the co workers. Most of this revolved around modifying the Ranger (as cheaply as possible). Keep in mind at the time my intents were not of on a long term investment for the Ranger. Everything I was doing was done as cheaply and as quickly as possible. If the truck blew up the next day I would have to cut my losses and send it to the scraper.

So the list of home brew mods included a very basic tune up and service and bed style roll bar (I had just finished building a tube bender and was looking for it’s first project). A few evenings in the shop and we were ready for the big day with the guys.

From that point on I was hooked on autocrossing. What a fun form of racing where you can take a complete piece of junk, IE a worn out Ford Ranger and be pitted beside a 100K sports cars. I will have to give credit to the local autocross club, Tidewater Sports Car Club of Hampton Roads VA. They made my first (and all after) event very enjoyable and eased a lot of my nervousness with a will organized, friendly event.

The Ranger with a bed cage and stickered up.

Window tint for that ricer boy status.

Loaded up and headed out for that 1st event

Walking the track with the coworkers

My coworkers on course.

The ranger in all her glory. Coworker's Galaxie behind!

On course!

All done and loading up.

Dusterbd13
Dusterbd13 PowerDork
2/18/17 6:36 a.m.

Im loving it!

mazdeuce
mazdeuce UltimaDork
2/18/17 7:21 a.m.

This is cool and I can't wait to hear where it goes. That's a pretty epic piece of concrete for autocross.

XLR99
XLR99 Dork
2/18/17 7:41 a.m.

THis is awesome! I love the underdog builds where you take something destined for scrap, and make it useful again!!

Gunchsta
Gunchsta New Reader
2/18/17 9:07 a.m.

Yep, this IS awesome. I like the bed roll-bar and the fr500's. Excited to see what's next. Autocross is an excellent and approachable form of motorsport.

Any pictures of the galaxy on track? Kudos for that guy for bringing that thing out too.

I'm excited to see what's next for your truck!

JGRAHAM
JGRAHAM New Reader
2/19/17 8:19 a.m.

Thanks for the compliments!

I don't have any photos of the Galaxie, but the owner does have his own Youtube channel.

ThunderHead289 Youtube Channel

Here's an in car video of him running that day actually.

Galaxie on course with ThunderHead289

Stampie
Stampie Dork
2/19/17 11:23 a.m.

Can you do a build thread on the tubing bender? And did you win the trash talking contest?

Lof8
Lof8 HalfDork
2/19/17 12:14 p.m.

I'm a Ranger fan and in to follow along!

BlueInGreen44
BlueInGreen44 Dork
2/19/17 1:10 p.m.

Awesome. I love the pic of the old Ranger parked next to a 911 at the autocross.

pimpm3
pimpm3 Dork
2/19/17 2:18 p.m.

Bring it to the challenge this year, we need more Rangers...

dropstep
dropstep Dork
2/19/17 5:08 p.m.

Ive had a huge soft spot for squarebody rangers since i owned my first one. Ill follow along, they all rusted away up here.

DaewooOfDeath
DaewooOfDeath SuperDork
2/19/17 7:06 p.m.

Awesome! So when is the magnetic number on the side going to match the number under the hood?

JGRAHAM
JGRAHAM New Reader
2/19/17 7:56 p.m.

In reply to Stampie:

I'll see if I can find photos of the tube bender build.

You know I fared pretty well for my 1st autocross event. Oddly I think having a slow truck might have made me faster than if I had something faster. I believe our company group was made up of a late 80s Firebird, '89 Fiero, foxbody mustang, E30, and a '65 Galaxie. Surprisingly I beat all but Firebird and Fiero.

I haven't mentioned it, but I had also installed a fogger nitrous kit on the truck just prior to the event. Sadly I never got to use it at the event. It did make for a few laughs during tech that morning though.

twin nozzle, wet system with it's own separate fuel system. It was actually a pretty legit setup with a wide open throttle switch and RPM window switch wired in series.

JGRAHAM
JGRAHAM New Reader
2/19/17 7:58 p.m.
DaewooOfDeath wrote: Awesome! So when is the magnetic number on the side going to match the number under the hood?

Good eye! It's already happened, but I'm still back writing the blog.

Sky_Render
Sky_Render SuperDork
2/19/17 9:17 p.m.

302 swap?

JGRAHAM
JGRAHAM New Reader
2/20/17 5:39 a.m.
Sky_Render wrote: 302 swap?

Yes a +30 302

JGRAHAM
JGRAHAM New Reader
2/20/17 5:58 a.m.

So over that first season the poor 2.9 Ranger hung in there. I couldn’t believe it made it the whole summer. In those first three events I realized a few things that it would take to make a proper (as proper as a Ranger could be) autocross truck. #1, the bench seat and lap belt will not properly hold you in place. You will be gripping the steering wheel to simply hang on vs. actually steering the vehicle. #2, anti-roll bars make a huge difference when your vehicle is softly sprung with a high CG. #3, starting with a 1990 ford ranger for an autocross rig will put you squarely at the very bottom of the raw time list…..from there it’s all gains though.

Relatively minor improvements were done over that summer. These included a front sway bar from a 96 Ford explorer, stiffer front coil springs from an F150, a bucket seat from my Datsun 280 project, and a set of used BFG R1S slicks for the FR500 wheels.

By the end of the summer with all those mods and the worn out 2.9 engine I was consistently still at the bottom of the raw time lists, but was always able to beat a few other novices with better cars. That was good enough for me; I was having fun, simply enjoying being at the TSCC events, learning from others, and getting a better understanding of what it might take to be a competitive autocrosser one day.

The truck was even being put to work between autocrosses

Scavanging the sway bar and other drivetrain parts from an Explorer.

Ranger with some serious rubber on the wheels at Pungo.

And so this blog comes to a turning point. I decided to do an engine swap for the old Ranger. I knew at this point this was going to be a "long term" "investment".

STM317
STM317 Dork
2/20/17 7:29 a.m.

Yay for fellow lunati- I mean Ranger autocrosser! I like the fender mods. FR500s are my favs, but I'm biased. I need to get around to starting a build thread here too.

Dusterbd13
Dusterbd13 PowerDork
2/20/17 7:51 a.m.

I sW tscc. Is that tarheel, tidewater, or another?

In short, are you a relative local?

JGRAHAM
JGRAHAM New Reader
2/20/17 8:53 a.m.
STM317 wrote: Yay for fellow lunati- I mean Ranger autocrosser! I like the fender mods. FR500s are my favs, but I'm biased. I need to get around to starting a build thread here too.

You've got a beautiful, much cleaner ranger there! What kind of front suspension are you running?

Dusterbd13 said: I sW tscc. Is that tarheel, tidewater, or another? In short, are you a relative local?

I live in Suffolk, VA and attend many of the Tidewater Sports Car Club (TSCC) events.

STM317
STM317 Dork
2/20/17 9:11 a.m.

In reply to JGRAHAM: Well thank you! Currently running the factory style SLA with DJM 4 inch drop components (springs and tubular control arms).

The thread title has changed since my original post, and I now see that an IRS is in the works. I'm really interested to see how you approach that as I've got one in the garage that is waiting for a time in the future when money and time coincide well enough to let me work on it. Keep up the good work!

classicJackets
classicJackets HalfDork
2/20/17 10:08 a.m.

What size tubing is that/ is it bolted to the bed or to the frame? My Courier needs a bed roll bar too, and I'm trying to figure out what to use. It seems like most people go super oversized on tubing diameter.

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