COAL: 1993 Ford Ranger – “Family Friend”

1993 Ford Ranger – a truely great machine


Last week I told you about my love-hate relationship with my Italian American. Before I tell you what came after that, we must first reflect on the ownership of a vehicle that has already been mentioned a few times in previous COALs. This vehicle has played such an important role in my vehicle history, that I am not sure if these words will do it complete justice.


In the fall of 2003, my dad’s younger brother and his wife were pregnant with their first child. Their primary car was a 1993 Ford Ranger XLT, which my uncle bought new. Being in the military, the truck had taken him all over the country. After 150,000ish miles, it would be replaced with a more family-friendly car. My uncle sold my dad the “old Ranger” for a family discount. The Ranger would soon be put into third-vehicle status/weekend warrior/”4WD is the only way we are going to make it into town today service” vehicle.

My uncle had ordered the Ranger in late 1992 from Sioux City Ford. He had requested all the features he wanted on the vehicle. This included the mighty and reliable 4.0L Cologne V6, 5-speed manual, ‘Touch-drive” selectable 4WD, AC, manual windows and locks, full instrument cluster, manual sliding window, cruise control, and the oh-so-important, sport bucket seats in bright red fabric.

Time has lost most photos of this truck. Our interior was this bright red, except we had sport bucket seats. They were quite comfortable! My sister and I really liked the bright red interior. I wish more cars had colored interiors.


The Ranger served my family very well during its time at our home. My dad fixed whatever needed to be fixed on it. Over the years this led to your typical wear items that included; a water pump, power steering pump, suspension, replacing the auto hubs with manual ones, etc. The thing was very reliable and never once stranded someone anywhere or gave anyone any grief. It was shocking just how tough it really was. I guess “Ford Tough” has some meaning.

The funny thing about this Ranger is it was always present in my life but played a very important backstage role. From the time I was 11 to 18, it was the “spare” car at home. Anyone would borrow it for whatever reason. When I started driving in high school, I drove this a lot when there was an issue with whatever car I was driving at the time. When my sister’s Saturn was in the body shop for the latest accident, this was the vehicle she would drive as a backup. When I went off to college, the Trooper followed me my first year, but after that, this truck would be my backup vehicle/winter car for the remainder of my time in NW Iowa. It never gave me any problems and was always ready to be put into service. Over the years, my dad brought home other trucks to maybe replace the Ranger, but at the end of the day, they were sold and the white Ranger was kept. It was just too good to let go.

As a child, my sisters and I spent ALOT of time in the jumper seats of the Ranger.


Like any good family history, there are always some good stories to go with such an important family member.  One Iowa-cold winter evening, my sister and I had our high school band concert. My dad showed up late, something he was strongly advised not to do so. After the concert, we learned the reason for his tardiness. On his way into town, there was a school bus stranded in the middle of the highway at the top of a hill. My dad stopped to see what the matter was. The fuel had gelled up and the bus would idle, but stall when attempted to be driven at any speed. This happened on Herbert Hoover Highway, a highway that is hilly, narrow, and has virtually no shoulders.  My dad asked if the bus driver had tow straps. He did. My dad hooked up the bus, and with the Ranger,  towed the driver to a safe point where he would not cause an accident. No one believed my dad, however, he had tow straps in the back of his bed with “COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT” printed on them. My dad is not one to lie, so I guess the mighty Cologne was up for the task.

On another snowy Iowa morning, my sister and I were headed to school. I was in the Trooper, and she was in the white Ranger. Before we had left the house, I had gone outside and started both cars. I assumed the Ranger’s hubs were in “FREE” position, so being the nice brother, I switched them to the “LOCKED” position. We took off for town. The county had not come to plow the roads, so using 4WD was a must to get to school. We were about three-quarters of the way to town when I noticed my sister was not behind me. I stopped and called her. She said the Ranger was really struggling in the snow. I turned around to go find her. I found her stuck in a snow drift. When I stopped, I discovered my dad had apparently locked the hubs the night before. I had mistakenly unlocked them and as a result, made my sister’s drive very difficult.

One of the many trucks that tried to displace the Ranger. None of them had the charm of the Ranger.


In the fall of 2016, my dad called me to say he was done with the Ranger. I was shocked. How could he be done with the best truck and one of the best cars he’s ever owned?!? I could not let such an important vehicle in my life go away. If you recall, I lived in Michigan and had the Dart as my primary car. The Dart was serving me well, but the thought of having a truck in snow-country sounded very appealing. Soon I found the Ranger in my driveway. I was excited to have it back as a constant in my life. I kid you not, the next day after I got it, I went to go drive somewhere, and I made it not even a mile from my house before the thing would barely run. The check engine light came on and sounded very rough. Never in all the years and miles had it ever behaved so poorly.

What happened next is the Ranger spent too much time in my garage as I tried to figure out what was wrong with it. Stubbornly I did not want to take it to a mechanic, so I attempted to fix whatever the issue was myself. With my handy Hayes manual and Youtube, I was convinced I would have it fixed. I was wrong. I started on the fuel side of the system. I checked the fuel pressure and that was good. Hum…ignition? The ignition system checked out. Crap, something related to intake? Nope, that all checked out. My frustration then led to the old trick of throwing new parts at the car in hopes it would solve the issue. This led me to put in a new MAF, coil pack, oxygen sensor, fuel filter, spark plugs, and catalytic converter. None of these changed the fact that the truck would barely run.

Being a 93, this was OBD1. Unlike OBD2 systems that tell you code numbers, OBD1 utilizes a blinking “CHECK ENGINE” light to tell you what codes the computer is throwing. One has to count the number of blinks and then cross reference X-number of blinks to specific codes that they could find in a service manual. If you blinked at the wrong time, you could miss the correct number of light flashes and then have to wait for the system to cycle through all the codes before you could figure out the correct code. With the Ranger, it was throwing very random codes. I do not remember what they were, other than they did not really correlate to each other. This left me very frustrated.

Our Ranger had an instrument cluster identical to this. Probably one of the last cars with a five-digit odometer. The story goes my uncle took delivery of the Ranger and it had the wrong instrument cluster. My uncle drove the truck for a couple of weeks while he waited for the correct cluster to be installed.


Something people do not really talk about is how much work it goes into moving to a new geographical area where you have no connections. Moving sucks, but I think the hardest part of moving is on the after side when you need to set up your life in a new city; doctor, dentist, car insurance, etc. One of these would be finding a good mechanic that is not going to take you to the cleaners. Not being from Michigan, I had zero ideas of a good mechanic in the area. I asked around at work and multiple people told me to go talk to this guy “Trent.” Trent must know what he’s doing because when I called, he had a two-week waiting list. Nevertheless, I put my name down and waited.

Trent got the Ranger and after one hour of diagnosing, concluded the PCM had failed. A new PCM was going to be $400. A couple of days later, the Ranger was back on the road and running great. I drove the Ranger all summer and it treated me well. At the time, I had a roommate living with me. I had the Dart and something else (future COAL), he had his car, and I also had the Ranger. It was getting to be too much having four cars in our single-wide driveway. Wanting to simplify my life, something had to go. There was not really a big need to have the Ranger, which made deciding to part with it very difficult.

The agreement my dad and I had was if I wanted to get rid of the Ranger, I would give it back to him. I made the very difficult decision to part with my dear old friend. One very hot September Friday, I piloted the Ranger west towards Iowa. Once I got to my parents, my dad and I kept going west to western Iowa for my great-grandmother’s 100th birthday party. The whole weekend we ran the truck with the AC going and it got a respectable 21 MPG.  Driving it over 700 miles that weekend made it very hard to think I would no longer have this truck in my life. Sunday night, we returned to my parents. The next morning I headed back to Michigan in a borrowed car from my dad. Before I left, I walked around the truck one last time. It was very painful for me. After I returned to Michigan, my dad listed the truck for sale and sold it within a matter of days. When he sold it, it had just under 300k miles on it. Occasionally my dad still sees it around Iowa City. Rust will end up killing this truck before anything else does.

My dad sent me this CL listing one day and asked if I recognized anything. There was our beloved Ranger playing a background role. I know this is our truck because the bottom LH corner of the window has a circular US Marines sticker that my uncle put on the truck many years ago. I could spot this from a mile away.


In finding photos for this chapter, I found almost no photos of just the Ranger, and tons of pictures from my childhood with this in the background, playing that ever-so-important supporting role.  Cars are tools. Sometimes the tools have strong emotional attachments. This is one of those cases where this vehicle meant more to me than the sum of its parts. I cannot do it justice how I really loved this old truck. The same can be said for my younger sister.  She is not a car person, but she loved this truck. When I asked her if there was anything she wanted me to say about it, she said “It is the best truck. Ever.” My dad is not someone to get emotionally attached to anything. However, this truck has a soft spot in his heart. He says this is the toughest car he’s had. We really abused this truck and it always did what we asked and then some. I knew selling this truck would be something I would regret. I was right and I still regret that decision, but living in the past is a recipe for disaster.

Life must move forward, and it did. For next week’s chapter, we will find out what the Dart’s replacement was. The Dart had European roots. Its replacement would have foreign roots but from a different continent.