How many old Toyota pickups still hard at work in Eugene have I shown you over these past eleven years? Dozens. And of course there’s still many at it. But my prejudice has been showing, as I’ve failed to acknowledge a Ford Ranger in my neighborhood that’s been working just as hard. Time to give it its due appreciation.
I know it’s owner, as I’ve run into him numerous times. He lives right on the way to where my rentals are, and I see him at jobs around the neighborhood, trimming trees and shrubs and doing other related work. I guess I didn’t need to tell you that from a look at the back end of his truck.
What’s there to say about the Ranger that hasn’t already? Ford’s first domestic compact truck arrived in the spring of 1982 just months before the similarly-conceived Chevy S-10. Both shared as much as possible with their compact SUV siblings; the Ford Bronco II and the Chevy S10-Blazer. It was a new morning in America, when the Big Two finally got serious about the compact pickup market that the Japanese head created and utterly dominated.
Power choices were 2.0 and 2.3 L versions of the Ford “Lima” SOHC four. The 2.0 packed a modest punch of 72 hp; the 2.3 upped that to 80hp, which grew to 90 in 1985, and 100 in 1988. The “Cologne” 2.8 V6 cranked out 115 hp. By 1986, a larger 2.9 L version boasted 140 hp. And in 1990, the big 4.0 packed 160 hp. And the 3.0 L Vulcan joined the Ranger party for 1991-1992, in RWD versions only (I’m only covering the gen1 version here). So quite the range of power.
But we mustn’t forget the diesels: In 1983 and 1984, a 59 hp NA Mazda (Perkins licensed) 2.2 was available, and then in 1985-1986 an 86 hp Mitsubishi turbocharged 2.3 L four was on tap. I don’t ever remember hearing any Ranger diesels though.
The popular extended cab arrived in 1986, with a 6′ bed.
Front suspension was via Ford’s Twin-Beam (elongated swing axles) IFS. It seemed to work well enough in the longer Rangers, but I found the Bronco II we had somewhat shockingly unstable, although I eventually got used to it. But I wouldn’t have wanted to have Stephanie deal with a sudden high speed emergency maneuver in it. The Cherokee that replaced it was much better in that regards, despite its solid front axle.
Thank you for the posting on the Ranger. I had forgotten that the 2.0 was actually used along with the 2.3 Lima on the earliest models. There was some sort of problem with stamped metal front suspension parts in the first year model.
I had a ’88 XLT model purchased new, standard cab, long bed. I nearly certain that was the first year for a EFI 2.3. That ’88 model had 80 hp at a very low rpm. The 2.3 didn’t reach 100hp until the dual plugged model of 1990.
With a manual trans, my 2.3 did 21 mpg locally and would do 25 mpg highway with a 16 ft. canoe on the roof and several hundred lbs. of camping and fishing gear.
The twin I-beams usually needed eccentric bushings installed to obtain proper alignment. Ford often didn’t bother. When done and with upgraded shocks it was not a bad handling truck.
I for one will never forget the 2.0 with it’s scintillating performance.
A co-worker of mine had an early diesel Ranger around 1993, I remember because it wouldn’t start during a cold snap. We had to push it into the shop and leave it there overnight so it could warm up and start in the morning.
Always nice to see one of these square Rangers still working.
The only vintage Ranger diesel I’ve ever seen occasionally appears in the small town of Shelburne, Ontario.
The owner knows exactly what he has. He pulls into a busy parking lot, diesel clattering away and all the old guys wander over to take a look, interested in his ‘engine swap ‘.
Predictably, most people don’t know it’s factory original.
I can’t help but think of a summer job I had in the early nineties. The college kids were
given use of Rangers and S10s that had one wheel in the grave. Pretty much just a can of
rattling bolts. The highlight was truck bowling, where you would take whatever heavy debris
you had picked up and haul to the flat asphalt pad that was the staging ground for a
dump run. Flooring the battered little trucks in reverse and then slamming on the brakes,
the load in the bed would shoot out, and if your aim was true, knock something else
over. Idiot fun.
I COAL’d my ’84 here:
I still see a few here and there, in The Land That Rust Forgot™. Mini trucks (that aren’t Toyotas) are very often seen being driven by sole proprietor swimming pool cleaning/maintenance businesses. Owing to transportation of caustic chemicals, an enclosed van won’t do, but these folks have no need for full-size trucks. So they keep the old ones going. It’s not particularly difficult – these are simple machines with plenty of parts availability.
I have an 86 ex-cab, has a 2.9, 5 speed standard and 4WD. What an awesome little truck it is !
Dad bought a new one in 1985, along with a 1985.5 Ford Escort base 3 door for mom. Towed his boat across country, was reliable and served its purpose until it was traded in on a new Ford Aerostar in 1990, and what a revelation that was. It was becoming quite unfashionable to load your three boys up in the bed of your single cab Ranger while you and the wife share the cab, even with a canopy on.
I’ll never understand why my dad didn’t buy a 5 passenger car in 1985. I’m not sure he realized that the Escort only had seating for 4, looking back on it. I think he drove that problematic turbocharged Monte Carlo onto that Ford lot in Marietta Georgia in ’85 and said “show me the cheapest car and pickup you got”.
So, when I got too big to squeeze into the not-a-seat between my brothers, we started taking the Ranger with the canopy on it when we went places as a family. No, it wasn’t padded or finished off in any way.
That’s my childhood riding in a car “we didn’t know any better” story. Hey, I am getting old! (40 in April lol.)
Wow, John Taurus!
There’s a name I haven’t heard in a while. You, BTSR, Deadweight, and principal Dan had legendary commentary on the old TTAC site.
Hello James. I do miss the princiPAL Dan, heh.
I may offend the GM fans with my observation that the Ranger drove better and lasted longer than the S-10. For reference in 93 we had an 85 Ranger S (2.0 5 speed and nothing else) for about a year and right after I worked at place with an 84 S-10. The Ranger’s 5 speed shifted more smoothly, even the gutless 2.0 Lima was more eager than the S-10 and I think it even rode better. Our new 93 Ranger with the 3.0 Vulcan air conditioning and XLT trim blew away both of the old trucks and also looked and felt much better than the new for 94 S-10 with its drab grey switch gear.
While the first generation Rangers are getting rare. the 1993-2011 generation are still common and fetch some surprising prices. On my block we actually have the yin and yang of Rangers with a loaded 93-94 4×4 Supercab XLT parked across from a bare bones 95-97 short bed XL that doesn’t even have air conditioning. I suspect the short bed was a meter reader’s truck since it has an automatic and some odd tie downs in the bed.
The original Ranger was just enough truck for decades and a worthy Toyota competitor.
My only problem with this generation of Ranger was that I was too tall to sit comfortably in one. Like many mini pick ups during that era, those trucks had enough room for anyone UNDER six feet tall. I had one that was used by Orkin Pest Control. Orkin used Rangers for twenty years as their fleet vehicles. I made due with one when I had to drive it, but long trips were rough.
Be thankful you didn’t have to drive an early second generation Ranger. The restyled 93 regular cab had less legroom than the first gen until Ford introduced a deeper rear panel stamping in 98
I had an 85 4×4 Ranger with the 2.8. Drove it from Oregon to Florida and back. Had it for 15 years and had almost 250,000 miles on it. Probably still have it but got t boned by a Taurus. I liked it a lot better than my brother’s Tacoma.
Still plenty of them in Southern California. I had an ’88, long bed, 2.9 V-6/5-speed. One of the best vehicles I have ever owned. My first EFI and that was a revelation, especially at high altitude. I did beef up the rear suspension with a helper leaf spring and sway bar. Helped immensely with the slight instability blamed on the front suspension.
I had a ‘94, which was the last of the EEC IV systems… perhaps THE last one according to my vin. 2.3 four banger with an unmistakable whine. Got it free in 2000 and drove it for 15 years since I couldn’t afford to replace it. It had the 5 speed stick. That thing was GUTLESS. It wouldn’t get out of its own way. It wallowed around corners, I didn’t fit in it, it bounced over flat streets like a carnival ride and got not more than 20 mpg even down hill with the engine off. The only good thing I can say about it? It had 212K all original miles on it when I sold it on in 2015. I guess there was something screwed together right on it!