I’ve owned a lot of vehicles over the years – good and bad(some VERY bad). I’ve also had the privilege of driving so many vehicles that I have lost count. When I first obtained my drivers license, I didn’t have an actual vehicle at the time – even though I had possessed a couple prior to getting my license but unfortunately they were long gone at this point.
So I was stuck with driving my moms 1988 Mercury Grand Marquis that originally belonged to my grandmother. It was beige with beige leather interior, wire wheel hubcaps, and the half vinyl top. It had the 5.0L V8 and obviously was automatic. While I wouldn’t mind driving such a car now, at 16 years old it was completely uncool and I absolutely despised having to drive it. I didn’t have much of a choice though, so I sucked it up and decided to have gratitude to actually have a vehicle to drive period.
After a few months I had saved up some money and my mom decided to help me buy my first car. I knew I wanted a truck or an SUV. I really wanted a Toyota pickup because a lot of my friends had them but finding one within my budget was next to impossible. After looking through Autotrader – which was actually still printed at that time – I ran across an 1989 Ford Ranger Extended Cab V6 for sale. My dad had owned an 1985 Ford Ranger when I was younger and I always had good memories of that truck being pretty good.
We went to look at it and it was pretty close to what I wanted. The only negatives were it was an automatic and it had one of those hideous camper tops on it with the big hump in the back. We purchased the truck and I immediately removed the camper top from it. Then I went to meet up with my buddies to show off my new truck that I was extremely proud of.
This 89 Ranger served me for over 3 years, going through various stages throughout those years. New paint, new wheels and tires, louder exhaust, and every cool mod I could afford as a teenager. It took the abuse I put it through very well and looked pretty cool to drive around for a kid my age but as it began to show its age and I got older, I wanted something newer and more reliable. I finally decided it was time to let it move on to the next person, but this certainly wasn’t going to be my last Ranger.
While I had my current one up for sale, I began shopping for my next vehicle. I was pretty sure I wanted another Ranger – just newer. I found a couple of used ones that fit the bill well, but my mom convinced me that for the money I was looking to spend on the one I really liked I might want to look at a new one. My step-dad was retired from Ford Motor Company, so he could get a great discount on a new vehicle as well.
I found a brand new 2004 Ford Ranger Edge in the perfect color – Dark Shadow Grey Metallic. Everyone had one in either Sonic Blue or Black, so this one was already a bit unique. It had the 3.0L V6 with a 5spd manual transmission and an 8.8 Rear Axle with limited slip and 4.10 gears. It was everything I was looking for at the time, so we managed to negotiate an awesome price and the rest was history.
It wasn’t long before the modifications began and this model was so unbelievably easy to find parts for and to modify. I “cranked” up the torsion bars in the front, which gave the truck enough room to clear larger tires. I started with a set of 31×10.50 BFGoodrich All Terrain tires on a set of Eagle Alloy 15×8 wheels and over the years it had all the way up to 33×13.50 Mickey Thompson Baja Claws installed on it.
I spent quite a few of my paychecks modifying this truck and the list was pretty long by the time I was finally done. It had a Hurst short throw shifter, an underdrive pulley, a Superchips tuner, custom exhaust, billet grill, unique black euro taillights, clear corner lenses, and an MTX Thunderform subwoofer behind the seat just to name a few things. A lot of the performance modifications were probably a waste of money for the limited 3.0L V6 and on such a truck, but it made the truck super unique and it was the first vehicle I had owned that everyone knew me for.
I was very proud of this truck and everywhere I went people recognized it. No one around had one that looked anything like it and everyone loved it. It was cool enough to take to car shows, yet it was still practical enough to take me everywhere I wanted to go. I raced it, I took it off-road often, I hauled stuff in it, and I towed stuff with it. I even met my wife in it. This truck literally became my best friend for over 5 years. It was reliable, took an insane amount of abuse, and never left me stranded – even when I completely destroyed the transmission. I sheared off first AND second gear doing something stupid in it and it still was able to be driven home. It was like an old faithful pet that never disappointed you.
Life eventually did happen though and a regular cab pickup just wasn’t going to cut it anymore once we found out our first child was on the way. Even if we could have made the regular cab work, it was a manual transmission – which my wife couldn’t drive and it was two wheel drive. We had moved to Kentucky at this point and we had a really bad winter that year. It was pretty much useless in the snow and ice.
It made me sad to finally have to let go of the truck that felt like my best friend, but thankfully it went to a younger guy that it was going to serve as his first vehicle. He was super excited about it and drove over 5 hours with his parents to purchase it from me, because he wanted my truck more than any other one he had seen. I knew it was the right time and it was going to the right person, even though it was painful to hand those keys over.
I didn’t have that feeling with a vehicle again for a long time, until I purchased my Nissan Pathfinder in 2014, because finding vehicles like that are not always easy to find and I know some may think I’m crazy, but that bond and magic is hard to create with just any vehicle.
To quote Jeremy Clarkson: “It’s what non-car people don’t get. They see all cars a ton-and-a-half, two-tons of wires, glass, metal and rubber. People like you or I know, we have an unshakable belief that cars are living entities. You can develop a relationship with a car. And that’s just what non-car people don’t get.”
was excited that my father in law ended up with a 1992 Ranger XLT Extended Cab recently that I’ve been tinkering with. While I still prefer the newer ones, it has the 3.0L V6 with a 5spd manual, which makes it a little more desirable. I’ve been spending quite a bit of time working on it, which you’ll see in more of in the future, and trying to get in respectable condition again. These trucks are so simple and it brings back good memories getting to tinker with a truck again similar to my first one. It’s amazing that even after all of these years that I still remember so many things about these trucks and how they work.
The Ford Ranger – and I’m not talking the new one, because the jury is still out on that one – is still one of the best trucks I’ve had the privilege to experience. They have their quirks, depending on the configuration but they’re super easy to work on and modify. They have an endless amount of potential and pretty decent aftermarket support. The one drawback for the Ford Ranger prior to the all new one, was that they were never available with four doors. As I’ve gotten older though that’s less important to me in a truck, because unlike most – I don’t feel the need for a four door truck. I want to use a truck as a truck – not an overpriced people mover. That and in the current new truck market, it’s almost pointless to buy anything less than a half ton pickup considering the pricing point of them.
Aside from that though, I still regularly recommend these trucks to people today. If you can find a well cared for example in a decent configuration – I rank them almost as high as a Toyota Pickup. I’ve seen quite a few Rangers with 250,000 and sometimes even 300,000+ miles on them and chugging along. So if you’re looking for a reliable pickup truck to haul stuff around in, to build into a cool street truck, or a super easy off-road/overlanding pickup that can clear 32″-33″ tires for very little money then consider taking a look at the Ford Ranger. Especially a 1998 up to a 2011 – which were the best years in my opinion. Sure, there are plenty of other options but take it from this guy – a Ranger is worth a look. It may surprise you how good they actually can be.