The Ultimate Ford Ranger Page

The inimitable Ford Ranger was available to American consumers between 1983 and 2012. For 17 years, between 1987 and 2004, the Ranger was the most popular compact truck sold on the market, and it left an indelible mark on the consciousness of truck fans around the world. Its history is legendary. From the outset, Ford treated the Ranger as a tiny workhorse rather than a novelty, giving it many of the interior features and fixtures available on its other models of trucks. Though small in size, it made a lasting impact on consumers and on the automobile industry at large.

Ford Ranger Sizes

The most recognizable feature of the Ford Ranger is arguably its size. As a compact truck, the Ford Ranger had incredibly modest body specifications. Standard beds between the years of 1983 and 1988 were 175.6 inches, and they were 176.5 inches between 1989 and 1992. Long beds between 1983 and 1988 were 187.6 inches, and between 1989 and 1992, they were 188.5 inches. The biggest versions of this truck were still small compared to mid-size trucks.

Ford Rangers with super-cabs, though, were understandably larger than the standard variety. Between 1983 and 1988, the super-cab vehicles were 192.7 inches long, and between 1989 and 1992, the length of these vehicles was 193.6 inches. Rangers were 66.9 inches wide between 1983 and 1988 and 66.8 inches in width between 1989 and 1992. Third-generation models came in lengths of 184.3 inches, 196.3 inches, 198.2 inches, 188.5 inches, 200.5 inches and 202.9 inches. Their widths were 69.4 inches and 70.3 inches.

First Generation

The world got its first taste of the Ford Ranger between 1983 and 1988. Ford instantly recognized its appeal, and the Ranger was introduced to the market as a smaller and more economical version of Ford's full-size pickup trucks. Despite a body small enough to feature wheel wells spaced only a little more than three feet apart, its four-wheel drive gave it the ability to perform alongside its larger contemporaries. Consumers had the option of choosing 72 horsepower 2-liter and 82 horsepower 2.3-liter OHC four-cylinder engines for power. Since the Ranger shared DNA with Mazda trucks, engine choices also included a four-cylinder, 59 horsepower, 2.2-liter Mazda/Perkins diesel and the then-impressive 115 horsepower, 2.8-liter Cologne V6.

Toward the end of this generation, these specifications became bolder. For example, 1985 brought improvements in the engines, with a Mitsubishi-built 2.3-liter turbo-diesel with 86 horsepower acting as the new diesel choice, and horsepower improved more in 1986 with the introduction of the 140-horsepower 2.9-liter Cologne V6. True to form, the Ford Ranger entranced the public with more space in its interior, granting owners the option in 1986 to purchase a super-cab version that boasted 17 additional inches of room.

Second Generation

Between 1989 and 1992, the Ford Ranger entered a new era. The 1989 model, in particular, was modernized. Along with exterior body upgrades like new grilles, fenders, and hoods, the headlamps became composite and flush with the rest of the vehicle. A new steering wheel column made driving easier, and an upgraded dashboard improved the interior's appearance so that it could compete with new truck models. Extra thought was put into the vehicle's ease of operation, as seen in the additions of easier key removal and a column-mounted gear shift.

A 2.3-liter engine added more horsepower to the Ranger and made it run with more fuel efficiency. Continuing this trend, in 1990, a 155 horsepower, 4-liter Cologne V6 and a 3-liter Vulcan V6 were offered. From 1989 to 1989, a Ford Ranger with a super-cab could only be purchased with a five-speed Mazda M5OD-R1 transmission. The A4LD transmission eventually replaced old three-speed automatics, and owners with extended cabs were granted the optional luxuries of a wheel anti-lock system and generous 21-gallon gas tank.

Third Generation

The Ranger raced into the 1990s with a more contemporary look, doubling down on sleek design by making its door glass flush-mounted. Offering wider doors made entering and exiting the truck easier, and fender flares gave it a sporty feel. Instead of a 2.9-liter engine, consumers were given the choice of a 2.3-, 3-, or 4-liter engine. Special packages included the Splash, which in addition to the superficial addition of decals included a rear suspension lowered by one inch and a front suspension lowered by two inches.

In 1994, Ford changed the Ranger's air conditioning systems to be CFC-free. Ford fell in line with safety advances as well, including adding driver's-side airbags and making passenger-side airbags an option a year later. Anti-lock brakes were part of the standard 4-liter and 4x4 vehicles. This year also brought changes between partnered companies: Mazda B-Series vehicles were technically considered Rangers. Among the Ranger's other major changes were power seats added in 1995 and the incorporation of a five-speed automatic transmission for the 1997 model.

Special Editions

In 1986, the Ranger GT cruised onto the scene in California. It offered a standard cab, short or long bed, unique bucket seats, and 14-inch wheels. Consumers could choose either a manual or A4LD automatic transmission. With a 2.9-liter Cologne V6 engine, front and rear sway bars, a full instrument cluster, and optional features like a center console, the Ranger GT was an enviable compact truck to own.

Between 1998 and 2002, the Ford Ranger EV electrified the market as a battery-powered Ranger. The EV broke with the convention of the standard Ranger configuration and had a De Dion rear suspension. Its batteries were eventually upgraded to the nickel metal hydride (NiMH) variety. The EV's body appearance remained very similar to other Rangers, and the only indication of its model type was on the right side of its grille, which contained a special area for a charging port.

Ford answered the call for an off-road version of the Ranger by designing the FX4 Level II starting in 2002. BFGoodrich all-terrain tires, Bilstein shocks, and 15-inch Alcoa wheels gave the vehicle what it needed to complete a smooth ride over rough terrain, while a 31-spline Ford 8.8-inch rear axle boasting a Zexel-Torsen limited-slip differential, better tow hooks, and three skid plates made it completely accessible to busy nature-lovers. Upgrades were not limited to the Ranger's exterior, however: Cloth seats with two colors and the option to choose leather and rubber floors along with a six-CD MP3 head unit gave the vehicle a modern touch. In a mysterious marketing choice, Ford's 2002 off-road FX4 package was the same as the FX4 Level II 2003 and later packages.

Decline in Sales

Despite Ford's best efforts, a steep drop in domestic sales affected the Ranger's viability in the market. In 2010, only 55,364 Rangers were sold, making the Ranger's continued production a costly investment. Ford decided to discontinue the Ranger in 2012 after assessing their own internal numbers and recognizing that the market was trending toward full-size pickups. With that, the era of the compact truck seemed to be over in the U.S., though it should be noted that international sales continued to take off.

The Ford Ranger's Future

While the Ranger has been officially discontinued in America, there's been hopeful chatter among pickup fans that Ford is considering reintroducing the Ranger to the U.S. market. If this came to fruition, the new Ranger would likely take design cues from other Ford trucks currently offered in foreign countries. It would also probably be a direct response to Ford enthusiasts who appreciate the brand's quality but who find current models, like the F-150, too big or expensive for their personal tastes. Since the current trend in the automobile industry tends to accommodate larger sizes of pickups, it would also not be surprising to find that any redesign of the Ford Ranger would add extra inches to its legendary compact body.

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