THE FORD Ranger is a favourite among Australian four-wheelers, ever-popular on the sales charts – going tit-for-tat with the Hilux for best-selling 4x4 for a good part of the last five years.
It’s no surprise then that there’s a smorgasbord of aftermarket equipment readily available for the Blue Oval fourbie, and no doubt you’ve seen plenty of accessorised Rangers popping in and out of your favourite campsites.
Over the past couple of years, we’ve drooled over some of the finest Ranger builds in the country – so we decided to list a bunch of our favourites. In addition, it’d be remiss of us to catalogue our favourite Ford custom builds without mentioning a couple of ridiculously good F-250s, as well as a neat and tidy Everest Trend.
SUPERCHARGED V8 MIGHT
WHEN this Ranger rolled into the Diesel Leaders garage, its standard 3.2-litre inline five-cylinder engine had seen its last day. An option raised by the rig’s anonymous owner was to slot in a V8 as a replacement, so the Diesel Leader team – led by Gary Coleman – got to work.
One of the only stipulations enforced by the owner was that the new V8 had to look factory in the bay, so that meant a Ford engine was the only option, with the team nodding toward a supercharged Ford Coyote V8 good for 335kW and 570Nm in stock form. As that engine had been powering a number of hi-po Falcons in Australia, it was easy to come by. To prevent a mountain of additional work, the Falcon’s six-speed auto was the transmission of choice.
Perhaps the biggest challenge of this build was fitting the large V8 petrol guzzler in to the Ranger’s space-limited engine bay, and then fitting the Falcon transmission in to the Ranger’s transfer case – a job eventually performed by Rage Engineering in Queensland. Another huge challenge was fitting the custom exhaust system, a job ticked off by a different local company. It was this cutting and matching of aftermarket parts with standard fitments that consumed plenty of time in the shed.
On a dyno run the V8 was said to smash out 344kW, with the potential to generate considerably more power if desired.
The V8 may be the hero of this build, but the Ranger has some serious modifications for off-road work including lifted suspension courtesy of heavy-duty springs and Bilstein dampers. Other kit includes a Rhino 4x4 bash plate, 35x12.50R20LT Nitto Grappler M/Ts wrapped around KMC Wheels’ satin black XD820 Grenade rims, and a Rhino 4x4 Evolution 3D front winch bar (with aluminium bash plate).
6.6 LITRES OF FURY
THIS example you’re ogling right now is what happens when you slot one of the best-hauling engines on the market into a PX1 Ford Ranger. That engine in question is a stonking turbocharged 6.6-litre Duramax engine, the kind you’ll find powering GMC trucks. To cater for the considerable hike in torque, the Ranger’s factory six-speed and transfer were binned, replaced by an Allison Transmission six-speed auto and New Process NT263 transfer case.
How much power and torque are we talking here? On a dyno tune, the Ranger clocked up a mesmerising 468rwhp and 1320Nm. Yep, no kidding. Somewhat surprisingly, the vehicle’s owner Ant said the engine swap was “pretty straightforward”. “They’re a common swap in to Patrols, but this was actually a lot simpler,” he said.
With the regular duty of towing a 3400kg boat down to the coast, Ant reckons he doesn’t even notice the boat behind the Ranger, only clocking up 17.2L/100km with the boat tethered behind.
As the Ranger’s standard diffs are up to the task, a tickle underneath rectified any off-road shortfalls due to the increase mass up front with heavy-duty XGS two-inch-lifted springs enclosing Ironman 4x4 Foam Cell Pro shock absorbers. It’s the same combination at the rear, albeit with only a 50mm body lift. In addition, a set of Total Chaos upper control arms were slotted in.
Other notable accessories include a four-inch snorkel, front and rear bar work, 35-inch Nitto Terra Grapplers wrapped around 16-inch Allied Wheels’ Brutes, and an Aeroklas canopy. You may also have noticed the clean, de-badged look, which was an intention from the outset. In fact, even the UHF aerial is hidden to maintain the neat aesthetics.
BIGGER AND BETTER
WHEN most folks think of big four-wheel drives they think of RAM 2500s and Ford F-250s, but rarely will they picture a PX1 XLS Ranger. However, this isn’t any regular Ranger. Its owner, Jesse Endenburg, threw the spanners and grinders at it to make it 300mm longer, and that’s only one aspect of this insane build.
By stitching an extra 300mm of chassis rail, pushing the rear axle back and stretching the wheelbase, the vehicle needed a lift to cater for the comprehensive makeover. To this end, the team at Performance Suspension Racing in Queensland gave the vehicle a 50mm body-lift.
A four-inch suspension lift from Superior Engineering provided Jesse with the balance he was seeking, with the monotube arrangement comprising high-quality shocks. Superior Engineering upper control arms were also slotted in, as was a PSR diff-drop kit. The rubber of choice was Mickey Thompson MTZ tyres, and they’re wrapped around Method Race Wheels alloys.
Unlike the previous two builds, this Ranger retains Ford’s 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. The Duratorq engine has been fettled by Just Autos, in an effort to allow the engine reach its potential – aided by an HDI intercooler and four-inch Fabulous Fabrications stainless-steel snorkel. A custom NPC clutch aids the six-speed transmission, while a custom exhaust system expels spent gasses.
An ARB Deluxe bullbar resides up front, as does a Domin8r 12,00lb winch. A set of custom Elite Engineering rock sliders run down the flanks, with an Ironman 4x4 steel rear bar keeping things tidy and protected down back.
Lighting duties are taken care of thanks to a 50-inch light bar positioned on the roof, while a 22-inch Stedi bar lives on the ARB bullbar. Power needs are controlled via a Redarc 1240 BCDC charger and KickAss slimline battery.
THIS Ranger build, clearly concocted with the style of Baja 1000 pre-runner chase cars in mind, is the brainchild of Melbourne-based Harrop Engineering, and we first came across it almost five years ago.
The Harrop Ford PXII XLT Ranger’s key attribute – that killer chase rack – was made by Melbourne mob Uneek 4x4. The fully powdercoated rack comprises of the base rack, a spare wheel carrier and a roof rack, and it features custom-designed side-plates. The base rack and roof rack are TIG-welded in 6061 aluminium, and the tyre rack is made using steel.
MCC side-steps run down the vehicle’s flanks, while a low-cut Rhino 4x4 bar maintains that subtle yet strong appearance. Interestingly, that bar was originally made for a Ford Everest; so a grille from an Everest was fitted to the Ranger as a work-around.
A free-flowing exhaust system, in tandem with a Unichip Q4 tuning module, increases the response and performance of the 3.2-litre diesel engine, with torque now coming on instantly and power rising from 125kW/420Nm to 157kW/536Nm.
The suspension setup was masterminded by the crew at Tough Dog 4WD Suspension, with an overhaul of the stock springs and shocks lifting ride height. A Harrop E-Locker fixed to the front axle now works in tandem with the factory Ford rear locker – it can be run independently if required.
A set of 285/65R18 Nitto Trail Grappler tyres accompanying the 18-inch Method wheels maintain the race-inspired look, with a matching Nitto residing on the chase rack.
It’s so good, in fact, it won our inaugural Custom 4x4 of the Year award, as voted by our readers.
THIS epic 2017 F-250 Platinum puts forward quite a compelling case for the ‘bigger is better’ theory. Assembled for touring by Queensland mob Allsafe Mine Vehicle Equipment (AMVE) – the same crew that screwed together the canopy on the 4X4 Australia Ranger – the purpose-built Yank tank was made to tour throughout Australia while hauling a massive 21-foot Kedron off-road caravan.
Considering AMVE were the brains behind the build, it shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that the custom tray and canopy fit-out is first class. The aluminium tray, for example, features four toolboxes, with one housing an ARB air-compressor.
The canopy includes two lift-up side doors, an 80-litre Engel accessed via an MSA 4x4 drop-down slide and twin cargo drawers. The canopy also houses a Redarc Battery Management System (BMS) to control electronics.
There’s also a Rhino-Rack Pioneer platform up top with a Rhino-Rack Batwing awning and a 100-litre aluminium water tank. There’s also a custom tyre holder for two 37-inch spares.
Eager eyes will notice the vehicle stands taller than stock F-250s – four inches taller, in fact – and that’s courtesy of an overhaul to the suspension setup. Up front you’ll find a King Off-Road Racing Shocks coil-over system; down back is a set of standard rear springs with an additional leaf added to them ... as well as a set of Airbag Man adjustable airbags and another pair of King Shocks.
A Fabulous Fabrication four-inch stainless-steel snorkel feeds clean air into the 6.7-litre Power Stroke V8 engine, while other gear includes a Road Armor Steel Stealth front bar, Bushwacker flares, AMVE 4x4 side-steps, 15,000lb Warn winch, Weldex LED spotties and XRay light bars. The 37x13.5x18 Mickey Thompson MTZ P3 tyres wrap around Fuel 18x9-inch wheels.
ANOTHER F-250 that needs to be seen to be believed is this limited edition 2017 Black Ops Edition, fettled by US aftermarket manufacturer Tuscany Motor Co.
Unlike a stock F-250, the Black Ops edition comes from the factory with a six-inch lift, 20-inch rims inside 37-inch tyres, twin steering dampers, plenty of carbon-fibre bits and pieces, and a massive Road Armor bullbar.
However, its owner Simon wanted to turn the dial up to 11, and a call to Outback Customs in Caboolture got things rolling. You see that massive canopy? Well, it’s sardine-packed with a helluva lot of quality gear. The heavy-duty steel tray itself has plenty of storage options, but it’s up top where things get really interesting. There are not one but two Jackoff canopies, independent of each other, and Simon can also rid the back of the canopies and utilise the flat tray for his Polaris RZR.
The electronics are kept in check by a Redarc battery management system hooked to twin lithium batteries, while other kit stored away includes a gas-powered hot-water system, an MSA drop-down fridge slide, a full 12V kit-out and a Weber Q barbecue. An interchangeable roof-rack system allows Simon to swap between a motorised boat loader and a James Baroud rooftop tent, depending on his trip itinerary.
To cater for all of this added weight, Outback Customs installed a Ride-Rite air-suspension arrangement to the rear, backed by King coil-overs up front and King shocks in the rear – both using remote reservoirs.
A five-tonne rig, loaded to the brim with toys and aftermarket kit, needs a big engine and the F-250 runs a beastly 6.7L Power Stroke diesel that puts out 328kW and 1166Nm. Simon even had the engine tweaked by the experts at Bully Dog, so it’s even more refined than stock!
IT WOULDN’T be fair to the hugely capable Everest to not include in our list of Favourite Ford builds, and this carefully constructed example was simply too good not to include.
After considered research, the owner of this mid-spec Everest Trend, Chris, opted to dress-up the front-end with quality protection. To this end, a steel ARB Summit bullbar and associated brush rails and side-steps – all colour-coded – got the nod. A Warn M8000 winch and LED spotlights are neatly nestled into the ARB bar. Beneath the bar is a Roadsafe metal bash plate and rated recovery points.
Stock suspension bits were replaced with Ironman 4x4 components including Foam Cell Pro shock absorbers and heavy-duty coil springs, giving the Everest an overall ride-height lift of 50mm – aided of course by the 285/65R18 Cooper ST Maxx tyres and CSA Raptor alloy wheels.
As it’s a wagon and not a ute, space is more compromised. So, again, careful consideration was required to appease any storage shortfalls. Recovery gear and other off-road essentials are packed away in a set of 900mm-long slide-out drawers which also house a Waeco fridge. Concealed beneath the fridge is an aux battery and Projector DC-DC charger.
More items are stored on the Rhino XTray roof rack, including a high-lift jack, traction boards and a shovel. Gemtek lighting turns night into day on bush tracks, while an 80-channel UHF radio from GME keeps Chris’s comms active.
The stock 3.2-litre engine remains unchanged and emits 143kW and 470Nm, with the only modification in that area being a TJM Airtec intake snorkel.
While not as wild as some of the other builds on these pages, this Everest proves you don’t need a massive budget or a massive list of aftermarket gear to make the ideal 4x4 for your needs and wants.
4X4 AUSTRALIA RANGER
MAYBE there’s an element of bias here, but we reckon our Ford Ranger cuts the mustard as a highly capable Ranger build. Purchased as a stock-standard XLS with a six-speed manual cog-swapper, the Ranger has received a bounty of aftermarket equipment in its relatively short time with us.
We initially picked a Ranger as we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to aftermarket equipment for the Blue Oval 4x4. Plus, as mentioned, it’s also a great seller, consistently at the pointy end of the sales charts.
The first call of action after signing on the dotted line was to replace the stock tyres – initially Maxxis RAZR muddies, but more recently with Goodyear MT/Rs – upgrade the wheels to a set of bronze KMC Addict 2 alloys, and improve the suspension setup. This was done by Ironman 4x4, with the Aussie brand employing Foam Cell Pro front struts and uprated coil springs, new forged aluminium upper control arms and a constant-load rear leaf spring mated to another set of Foam Cell Pro shocks.
A loopless AFN 4x4 bullbar was then secured up front, housing a Warn winch, Narva Ultima 180 lights and aerials for both the Cel-Fi Go booster and GME UHF radio. The aluminium plate underbody protection is also from AFN 4x4. Those Narva lights are a recent addition, as we were previously running a set of Bushranger Nighthawk driving lights.
That tidy canopy, constructed by Queensland’s AMVE, is custom-made from powdercoated aluminium. Inside the canopy you’ll find a myCOOLMAN 60-litre fridge on an MSA fridge slide, an integrated water tank and oodles of storage facilities. Power needs are controlled and monitored by an integrated RedVision Total Vehicle Management System, incorporating a Manager 30 DC-DC charger and a Redarc 2000-watt pure sine wave inverter.
Other equipment includes a Hayman Reese X-Bar, a Rola Titan Tray rack system atop the canopy, MaxTrax Extreme recovery boards, a second Titan Tray atop the Ranger, Narva LED work lights, a Pacemaker Exhausts’ King Brown exhaust system, a Water Watch unit and a Provent oil separator catch-can from Direction Plus.
It’s definitely been put to work since we took ownership of the vehicle, ferrying camping and photography gear on a number of 4X4 Adventure Series trips, including to Tasmania, the Flinders Ranges and Central Australia. There’s plenty of life left in our Ranger yet!
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