Big Darla 1997 Ford Ranger Rock Crawler

Like many off-road trucks, “Big Darla” (owned by TRS forum member ‘XionicWaste‘ (Tommy Untiedt)) has seen many modifications and transformations since it first appeared in our forum in 2011.

Tommy’s original truck was totaled by someone fleeing a hit-skip crash, so he bought this 1997 Ford Ranger 4×4 for $2,500. It came with a 4.0L V6, 5-speed manual, manual hubs, and a snow plow. With only 5-days before he was suppose to leave for Moab, he set out to make the Ranger trail ready by salvaging parts from the totaled Ranger.

The new Ranger received the old Ranger’s:

  • Chevy leaf springs with Belltech 6400 shackles
  • 31-Spline Explorer 8.8-Inch axle
  • Dana 35 front axe with Powertrax locker
  • 4.88 gears
  • 4-Inch lift
  • 35-Inch tires

Fiberglass front fenders and a Safari snorkel were added after the trip. Eventually the rear axle was moved forward 6-inches, and the frame and bed was shortened to improve departure angle. This required the fuel tank to be moved to the bed. Tube doors were added and the Ranger started to do it’s green ‘Incredible Hulk’ color transformation. Our forum readers liked the Ranger so much, that they voted it the ‘April 2012 Off-Road Truck Of The Month‘.

Big Darla continued to transform replacing the front axle with a Dana 44 solid axle that was narrowed and uses Chromoly axleshafts. The front axle was located 5-inch forward from where the stock axle sat.

The bed was removed and a new one was built out of steel tube and sheetmetal. I personally don’t like ‘truggies’. They always just look weird to me. Tommy actually created a cool truggy rock crawler that I actually like. The new bed also helped fit the Ranger’s new 37×12.50X15 Pitbull Rocker MTs on Trail Ready Aluminum Beadlocks. A custom built dual transfer case doubler helps the 4.0L turn those big tires up and over large rocks.

Here’s how Big Darla looks today:

This is basically an overview of this Ranger. I would encourage you to check out the “Big Darla” Build Thread to see more photos and details about this truck.

Modifications From Front To Back:

  • Stinger/clean tube bumper
  • 8500 Lb Superwinch
  • Chopped Grill
  • Hood Pins
  • Re-centered Stock Front Fenders
  • Warn Premium Hubs
  • 4-inch Front Stretch
  • 1979 F150 Dana 44 Solid Axle (Narrowed to 60-inches) Spool and geared to 4.88
  • Solid Diff Cover
  • F250 Shocks and Towers in the Front
  • XJ 6.5-inch (180ppi) Coils
  • 1 Ton Tie Rod Ends
  • 1.5x.25 Drag Link and Tie Rod
  • Early Bronco ChroMoly Shafts with CTMs!
  • 37×12.50X15s Pitbull Rocker MTs on Trail Ready Aluminum Beadlocks
  • Quick Release Door Pins
  • Painted Dash
  • CD/IPOD Deck
  • Aftermarket Seats
  • 5-Point Harness (now just a 3-point)
  • True Flat Belly Skid
  • Manual 1350/1354 Transfer Case Doubler (Homemade sector shaft and plate)
  • 15.5 Gallon Beer Keg (Half Barrel) Gas Tank
  • Full Tube Bed
  • Rear Axle Moved Forward 8-inches
  • Explorer 31-Spline 8.8 Limited Slip Re-geared To 4.88
  • F250 Shock Towers Out Boarded (Rear)
  • 12-inch Travel F250 Rear Shocks
  • Cherokee Leafs, running them backward with one explorer leaf
  • Custom Toyota Tacoma 5/8ths offset shackles
  • 60-inch High Lift Jack with Custom Mount
  • Moss Paint Job
  • 112-inch Wheelbase with 3-inch lift

*Wish List*

  • Rear Selectable Locker
  • 31-Spline 8.8 ChroMos on 5×5.5
  • Rear 3000lb Winch Mounted Over the Rear Axle
  • Small Exo Cage (Only Over The Cab)
  • Axle Wrap Issue
  • Bend Control Arms (hang down too far)
  • Finish Center Post For Coil Springs
  • Rear Brake Line Mounts
  • 8.8 Axle Truss
  • Finish small exocage
  • Rock lights
  • More headlights
  • Front brake line routing
  • Rear Brake Line Mounts


More Photos:

Click to enlarge.



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Follow Jim Oaks:

As a Ford Ranger enthusiast who enjoys modifying my Ford Rangers for off-road use, I quickly discovered that there wasn’t any websites dedicated to the subject. So in 1999, I created What started as my own personal desire to help other Ford Ranger owners, has grown into a wealth of online information from numerous contributors. 20-years later, my commitment to the Ford Ranger, and the Ford Ranger community, is as strong as ever.

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