Gambler 500

Personal Project: 1991 Ford Ranger 2.9L V6 manual 4x4

Since 2022
Danger Ranger

In January of 2022 I bought a $1000 1991 Ford Ranger to participate in events with a group caled the Gambler 500 . We are a disorganized group of people who like to drive bad cars, go camping, and pick up trash on public lands. More trash, in fact, than any other group in the world.

This has been a great opportunity for me to learn about vehicles and suspension and hone my wrenching skills. At this point there aren't a lot of jobs I'm afraid to tackle on this truck in the street in front of my house.

Loaded up

Loaded up after cleaning up a dump site at Run Gifford Run 2022

After the stacked lift blocks the previous owner installed caused the axle to wrap so severly under mild braking that the driveshaft deplunged at the slip yoke, I decided it was time for new springs. What was available on Craigslist was a set of lifted Chevy 63s for a Squarebody. With wider spring hangers painstakingly liberated from a junkyard E-350 van and custom delrin spring bushings and "perch offset and pinion angle correctors" made in my shop at work, I was able to get the rear suspension completely redone during a record-breakingly wet Seattle weekend.

My custom perch offset and pinion angle correctors and leaf spring bushings
Rear suspension work in the rain
Jigging and welding front suspension pivots

The following weekend, I corrected the front suspension lift the previous owner installed, which interfered with the front differential, punching holes in it at full bump. I cut and extended the pivot bracket for the passenger side axle beam.

I borrowed my neighbor's welder, but the 15A circuits in my house were not enough for it. I had to build a connector to join two 15A circuits from different breakers but the same phase, which was enough to run the welder. Not ideal, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. The next time I borrowed the welder, I put together a connector to run it off one phase of my dryer plug on the 3rd floor, through a 10 AWG extension cord coming out the window. That worked a lot better.

New front suspension pivot installed
Out with the old and in with the new

To complete the latest round of suspension and running gear upgrades, I swapped in the rear axle of an Explorer. This got me the stronger Ford 8.8" axle which has larger axle tubes and shafts, a limited slip differential, and disc brakes. My partner and I pulled the axle at a junkyard, and I did a full internal rebuild, including bearings, seals and 5.13 gears to match the front. Due to the spring-under geometry of the Explorer, I had to cut all the perches and brackets off the new axle and reweld the perches to the top and the shock brackets from the old axle.

Loaded up

Checking gear pattern to set pinion depth

Drain pipe air intake

Along the way I've done lots of other fun upgrades and budget fixes, including a snorkel air intake made from ABS drain pipe and using the stock airbox and filter, a switch panel from an ambulance for all the lights and accessories, and body mounts made from used hockey pucks.

Repurposed ambulance switch panel

This truck has hauled boats, couches, cars, and hundreds (thousands?) of pounds of trash out of the woods. It's thrown pushrods, gone swimming, done donuts, climbed mountains, and run out of fuel, but it hasn't left me stranded yet. It has taught me more than I ever thought I would know about engines, transmissions, vehicle suspension, and how (not) to engineer things. Most importantly, it's made me unafraid to tackle big projects with little experience and no backup plan. Once you have the truck sitting in the street with no axle under it, one way or another you need to get it back on four wheels. I've discovered that if I can understand how something works, I can probably figure out how to fix it or improve it. Reading the manual and being able to follow directions is important, but understanding how a system works gives you the power to do anything you want to it.

My custom perch offset and pinion angle correctors and leaf spring bushings
Rear suspension work in the rain
Contact Info
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