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.