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1985 Ranger - Project "Chance"

JoshT

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That is a "another chance", a "second chance", or maybe a "last chance". Hell it might be all three.

So my first ride was a 1984 Ranger long bed that was my dad's when I was little, before getting passed around the family. Got passed to me by my grandmother when I was 15, some time in 2000/2001. It was actually the exact vehicle I wanted and I was estatic. At the time it was silver and sitting mostly unused at my aunt's house in South GA. Dad and I brought it home and spent the next 6 months or so getting it ready to drive when I turned 16. Dad even through a little paint job on it which it didn't take me long as a new driver to mess up. :(


Not long before totaling it in 2009:


Bought a non running 86 Ranger short bed a year or two later that I was going to use as a host for all the good parts and stuff I'd done to my 84. Shortly thereafter I got my hands on a 98 Explorer V8 donor. Long story short I had big dreams for using EVERYTHING from the Explorer in the Ranger. I managed to completely butcher the wiring harness in the Ranger, then found rust I didn't like in the floor boards, and got in way over my head electrically. More on all of that can be found in the thread "Project "Snail's Pace": 1986 Ranger Rebuild" <you can probably tell I'm not a naming genius, fortunately I don't have kids or pets> , unfortunately most of the pictures are gone and I'm not going to try to get it straightened out. Essentially I ended up abandoning the project. Largely untouched for years, though I still have most everything. I kind of decided that my best option was to start over with a clean slate to build from, or atleast a fresh complete cab with intact wiring. Have enough going on that I never really went out searching hard, but would regularly check on the various market places.

I'm not going to get into the whole life's shit story, although I almost typed ot all out right here. Had a few hard knocks in the last 6 months or so. Not as bad as many people have had, and not the end of the world, but unexpected. Was diagnosed as diabetic just after Thanksgiving, been trying to get that under control. I was not someone that would look at and suspect diabetes, 6 ft tall, 185 lbs, did not partake in a lot of sweets and sugary items, everyone around me was as shocked as I was. Apparently it's also been affecting my eyes. I got the pleasure of starting intravitreal injections of Avastin about monthly to combat Diabetic Macular Edemia. So a few weeks ago I started getting good news about the diabetes, had dropped my A1c by 4 points with metformin and diet. They adjusted my medication slightly and now my glucose levels are pretty well staying right where they should be. I'm responding well to the Avastin treatment for the eye. A few other good things just seemed to be happening the last few weeks.

Well Tuesday I'm scrolling Facebook Marketplace and I see this ugly mug smiling at me:


"85 ford ranger for parts motor no good" - $1000

Started scrolling through the pictures and got more and more interested. My first truck was a regular cab, long bed, silver (originally) with blue interior. This truck regular cab, long bed, silver with blue interior. This is an 85 model instead of an 84, but I'm good with that. The 85 is an XLT instead of an XL, but I almost bought a set of XLT door panels on eBay last week. It's 2.3L (allegedly locked up) and automatic instead of a 2.8L manual, but I wasn't planning to use the engine and the auto controls are convenient for plans.

I mentioned that my 84 was at my Aunt's house in South GA when it was given to me. The 85 was about 2 miles from where that house was at. Since I couldn't get it home this weekend, I had it towed and its being sored at her daughter's house about 7 miles from there. Kind of like it was meant to be.

Everything just felt right, so when I confirmed that there were no major rusting issues I decided it was mine. Oh did I mention that he actually had the title for it. Don't have to deal with the aggrivation of a BOS, I've got the actual title!

Now y'all aren't here to read so here's the pictures:


Not going to be able to start working on this for a few months, and got to decide the direction I want to take.

The 84 and 86 were both was going to get lowered with suspension goodies. The 84 already had some sway bars and poly. The 86 was going to take it a few steps further with lowering, big brakes, better shocks, and better rolling stock. The 84 was eventually going to get V8 swapped (should have done it instead of rebuilding the V6), the 86 just ascellerated the plans. The 86 was also getting an Explorer 8.8 disc axle. All of those are going to happen to this one too.

The 86 was going to be a short bed for what I thought would be a better handling truck, and a more sporty look. Also had a flush fit fiberglass tonneau for the short bed. The gas tank was going to be relocated behind the rear axle with a BII tank for better weight distribution and room. The plan was to carry forward with all of that, and this truck has parts that make the tank relocation easier.

Was going to drop this cab on the short bed frame and get to building. Now I'm not sure if I want to do that or keep the long bed and dual tanks.
 
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Uncle Gump

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Congrats on the new project...
 

JoshT

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So the more I play with this in my head, the more I think I'm going to be building this as long bed truck. More than anything I think this biuld is a tribut to what my 84 Ranger was and would have become if it hadn't been totaled. One thing I'm absolutely sure of is that it never would have become a short bed truck.

I also think I've decidecd on a course of action for this build and it is not what I had originally planned. The bulk of the bulk of the mods will be the same, the end result will be the same. Because I'm using the complete 85, the soute I'm going to take is a little different.

I think that the reason the 86 build never took off is because I tried to do too much at once. Like this 85, that truck was bought non running, but the engine was literally in pieces in the bed. It made no since to fix the 2.9L since I had a complete running 2.8L I was going to install at home. I was going to install my suspension stuff, drop my engine in, and drive. Before I could do that I found the V8 donor and the project snowballed. I bit off more than I could chew, wasn't making progress, and was never able to drive the truck. In the end I lost interest. I don't want to make that mistake again.

This time around with the 85 I have a complete intact engine. The guy I bought it from only had it about a month. I was told that the previous owner said the engine "locked up" and "wouldn't run". You guys know as well as I do that could mean anything. ANYTHING! Especially since I'm getting it second hand. The guy I bought it from never tried to get it running. He had an engine from a 90 model he was going to install, but then decided to try selling/parting given current prices and parts demand. (AKA he wasn;t expecting to sell whole and I overpaid!) I might be crazy, but right now I'm thinking about getting that engine running and driving the truck as a 4 cylinder until I get prepared for and ready to do the engine swap.

Going off memory here and I wasn't looking close because I didn't plan to use any of it. As it sits the radiator and fan are removed, IIRC the fan and shroud are lying in the bed and clutch is in the cab. Maybe some pulleys removed, but I think they are probably there, I recall a few lying in the bed and/or cab. The timing cover and timing belt are removed. I think the altenator is off, but it might be there.

I seem to recall some acessories removed on the driver side of the engine, but don't remember what. I mostly recall seeing a bracket down low that it looked like something would have mounted to, but I don't know if that something was there and set to the side. Maybe a power steering pump. Did it even have power steering? I can't imagine an XLT not having power steering, it seems to have almost every other option.

Allegedly the driveshaft was also disconnected. I remember looking, but I don't remember what I saw, because once again I wasn't planning to use it. It wasn't laying in the bed of the truck that I remember, but it may have been tied up underneath? That might be the hard part to get. Not many solid results for new online, but found a few used listings on car-part.com. Unfortunately, nothing very close. Need to find some specs and see if one from any other year/option truck will fit. I know it couldn't be after 1997 because of the wheel base change. I recon I'll start a thread on that down in the drive line section.

TLDR: If it isn't going to cost too much I think I'm going to fix it and drive it as a 4 cylinder for a bit. Do the non-engine related stuff a little along until I get a good chance and the stars align to do the engine swap. It'll be slow, but nimble for a little while.
 
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RobbieD

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I like that truck, and I think that you did good with it. It's got good bones, and it's got some neat options on it, too.
 

19Walt93

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I was looking for an 83-88 short box for my 351 project and ended up with a 93 long bed because it wasn't rusty- by NH standards. I would have loved to find that truck when I was looking. My 04 and 11 Supercabs were both a foot longer wheelbase than my regular cab long bed so it was easy to get used to the difference. Congratulations and enjoy your truck..
 

JoshT

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My 04 and 11 Supercabs were both a foot longer wheelbase than my regular cab long bed so it was easy to get used to the difference.
Yeah thinking about lengths of my other rides definitely helped the decision.

I basically cut my teeth on a long bed first gen. 114 WB, 187 oal
My 99 is an extended cab 4x4, so 125" WB and 203 OAL.
The 68 F-100 is a regular cab long bed 4x4, so 131 WB and 215 OAL.
The F-250 is extended cab short bed 4x4, so 141 WB and 227" OAL.

Each is near a foot longer than the one before it. The long bed 2wd Ranger is still the shortest, lowest, and lightest truck I've ever driven. I don't think disappoint, especially not when compared to it's stable mates.
 

JoshT

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Well it's coming home in the morning.

Kind of betting on previous owner not knowing what they were doing so already started buying parts.

An Explorer driver side spring plate for later. A sprocket for the 2.3 and there should be a retainer bolt for the sprocket in the mailbox, never got around to checking the mail today.



Also ordered a 1985 Ranger shop manual, because I wanted one and figure it might be handy for stuff that isn;t in the Haynes manual. I was also assuming that it would have some wiring diagrams, but but I also ordered an 1985 EVTM that hasn't arived yet. Just one problem with it as can be seen in the pictures below.





Yeah that isn't a 1985 Ranger shop manual. Not happy, that just piled on the other agrevations of the week. Already messaged the seller, we'll see what they have to say. I'm hoping they'll exchange for the right year model, if not hopefully they'll take a return. I'd like to have printed copy, but may settle for the CD version. I've almost always got a computer available anyway.

Lots more parts stashed away on shelves that I'll reveal as we get to them. Also ordered the missing power steering and alternator bracket which will hopefully be here sometime next week.

Here's hoping that I'll find good news on the engine tomorrow, it would be a nice end to a week that went south quick. Even if it isn't I can pick up a 2.3 cheap enough it is probably worth it to swap the short block and drive it for a while before the engine swap.
 

JoshT

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The ranger is officially home. Dad and I drug it home this morning, then I spent the rest of the day hanging with family, so not much else happened.

After getting home I just had to know, so I grabbed my breaker and headed for the truck.


Really locked up there ain't it. After I put down the phone I was able to spin it a full revolution with no problem.

Rest of weekend might be spent dealing with collegs possible not much more will happen. If I get a chance I'll pick up a timing belt and spark plugs, connect a battery, and see if it'll spin to life. Looks like I'll also need to track down that driveshaft next week.
 

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Well this is turning out to be a very interesting little truck. A few thing happened today that make me question its history and strengthened the feeling that this build is meant to happen. Lets catch things up to that point first.

Really not too terrible much to catch up on. As noted in a previous post my sprocket and bolt showed up on Friday. Since I thought I had everything required, on Sunday I bought a timing belt and spark plugs and figured out how to align timing marks and distributor. Promptly discovered I needed a timing belt tension tool that is not available locally and my professional mechanic friend didn't have one either. Also figure out that my inner timing cover is all busted up so ordered a new one of those too. Looks like they might arrive in time to try again next weekend, jsut as well since I don't exactly have time to work on it with school load this week.

As I posted in some other threads (1, 2) I needed to track down a driveshaft since this truck didn't come with one. Instead of getting a 1985 Ranger driveshaft, I decided to get one for a 1990+ ranger since the plans are to install an 8,8 in this truck. When I lower it I will be installing an Explorer 8.8 disc axle in spring under for the 5" drop, might adjust that with springs and/or shackles. Since I that will be happening before the eventual V8 swap, I wanted a driveshaft that works with it nessitating the newer driveshaft. The other side of that is now I have to change the axle since that driveshaft won't fit the 7.5, but I have a regular 8,8" axle out of a 1998-2000 Ranger that I'm going to install it until it gets lowered.

I started trying to track down a driveshaft as soon as I got home from buying the truck last week. As I narrowed down what I was looking for the choices got tighter and tigther. I finally narrowed it down to two used driveshafts listed on car-part, they also listed some new ones but way outside my price range. Called the first this morning, was $50 and an hour away, truck had already been crushed. Next option was shady, two or three times as much and 3-4 hours away. Before calling them I started weighing my other options. Realized I've got a driveshaft with the right ends already sitting at my parent's house, just too long due to 98+ extended cab. Started looking for a place to shorten hoping that it would be cheaper and/or more convenient than the remaining options.

After striking out finding a local driveline shop I took a break and popped over on Facebook to browse. Pulled up market place and first listing "Ford Ranger Parts" with a picture of a 89-92. Contacted the guy and he's got a 1990 Ranger 2wd long bed 2.9L automatic. Exactly the driveshaft I needed. Asked if he's sell the driveshaft.

"make an offer"
I've got $30 in my pocket and I'll pull it.
"alright"

It was less than 10 miles from my house and the bed was already off the truck. Fired up the F-250 diesel that had been sleeping for weeks (it gets a little grumpy when that happens) and beat google maps driving time with a few minutes to spare.

I tell you, it's like this is meant to be. This is long enough for one post, but I think it gets even better in the next.
 

JoshT

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This is where things get a little more interesting, or atleast it is for me. The last two owners only had this truck for a little over a year combined so I know they didn't do much to it. I know absolutely nothing about it prior to that.

When dad and I were loading the truck on the trailer saturday I noticed that it had a front sway bar. Looked a little beefy, but didn't think any more about it. Dad mentioned as he was passing a strap over the axle that it also had a rear sway bar. Interesting, but it's an XLT and sway bars were an option. I have an aftermarket 1 1/8" (1 1/4"?) front and BII 1" rear bar I was planning to upgrade to so what came stock didn't much matter. I'd also checked on the door tag axle code that day just out of curiosity. Was F75, which ins't in the chart in the tech library, but I assume the F7 is the important part which means 4.10 gears. Once again didn't care much because I was already figuring on changing the axle.



After getting my driveshaft today I climbed under the truck to check out length and verify that I was correct about it not fitting the axle. Was right on both counts, length was spot on and does not fit the 7.5. When I turned to check out the axle yoke is when I got my first surprise.



This thing definitely has a rear sway bar and it doesn't look like a Ranger bar. It definitely appears to be an OEM RBV sway bar, but I've only ever heard of small rear bar installed in the Rangers.Had nothing to measure but this thing damn sure appears to already have the 1" BII bar installed in the back. It's got all of the hardware of a factory installation. Looks like it's been there as long as the rest of the suspension components. I've never heard of a ranger having this large sway bar from the factory in the rear. Makes me wonder about that front bar.

While I was back there I scoped out the axle tag. It's a weird one as well. So the truck has a build date of 05/85. The axle has a build date of 02/08/85, seems like a good match for the factory axle. Problem is the door tag suggests a 4.10 ratio, the axle tag shows a 3.45 ratio. Is this a door tag code I've never seen listed, or has someone swapped this axle? Maybe someone installed a BII axle with it's sway bar, but how did they manage to get the perfect build date?



I just got more questions now.

Truck also has an aftermarket Walker Quiet-Flow exhaust in it. I know it's nothing special, but I was expecting stock. I don't know that it's going to stay. When PO was going to scrap truck he cut out the catalytic converter. Unfortunately he cut it in the bend just before the cat. right where it'll be a PITA to reattach. I'll have to do some studying to figure out how I'm going to fix this one. Easy option would be to leave in whats there and figure out how to reattach the cat (without a welder) or run a test pipe. More difficult would be the dual exhaust that was behind the 2.8L in my wrecked long bed if tehy are still any good. Header back duals with 2.25" pipe and split side exit, looks good, but too big (?) and I'd have to figure out how to attach to single downpipe.
 

Ranger850

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02-08-85 was my 8th birthday.
 

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Wish you success. I think those years were the best looking Rangers.
 

JoshT

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Me too, that's why I've been wanting another for quite a while.

Timing belt tool and inner timing cover arrived over the weekend. Been too swamped to try and install anything yet.

I think I found the solution to my driveshaft delema, but I haven't had the opportunity to test fit it yet. After much searching I found Spicer P/N 2-2-939. It appeared to be a 1310 yoke with the small 7.5" and 8.8" flange for use on Mustangs. Had trouble confirming that, but I found an open box on Amazon Warehouse deals for $15 so I took a chance. It arrived Sunday (Amazon Prime), I hopped under the truck to compare it it visually fit the axle flange. Carried it and the driveshaft to the press at dad's house on Monday and swapped the flange over.

While I was going under the truck I also took some calipers and measured the swaybars. Rear deffinitely has a 1" BII bar already installed. The front appears to be 1-1/8" inch. Looks like I won't have to waste my time trying to install my sway bars in the truck, someone already did it for me. Do need to check and see if my old front bar was 1-1/8" or 1-1/4", I can't recall for sure.

Also figured out it is a factory bucket seat and console truck, that explains why I couldn't figure out where that little display ont he trans tunnel went. It's because the console is missing. I don't intend to track down a console (at this time), but it does make installing the 60/40 split bench easier.

PS bracket should arrive tomorrow. Power steering pulley on Friday, and I'll pull the pump off the wrecked 2.8L truck. P/S hoses this weekend.

I called junkyard today about an alternator and radiator, they had to check and will hopefully be getting back to me tomorrow if they've still got them. 3.8L mustang 3G alternator for $45 and radiator for $65 if they've got them. Prices listed in case I want to add all of it up at some point in the future.

On the alternator, since I've got to get one anyway, I've decided to upgrade to a 3G alternator. Ordered a 1G-3G conversion kit and a fused battery lead from PA Performance today. I used the conversion kit on my F-100 and like the way it worked out, it repalces the factory regulator to keep the ammeter working and includes a new pigtail for wiring in the 3G. I think it was worth the $29 bargin bin price, but may not worth the $39 regular price. Next time I do this I might have to try to make my own regulator replacement. Power lead was worth it too, couldn't have bought the parts for what I paid.

Noticed I need to replace my block ground too, it's looking pretty rough. If it runs for me, it'll be getting a new battery, battery terminals, and battery cables. Probably a starter cable too. Don't know what I'm waiting to see if it runs first, I haven't actually waited on anything else I said I was going to.
 

JoshT

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Well, shit! Things were going good until they weren't.

Decided to do some wrenching this morning to take my mind off school. I may have found the problem, well atleast a problem. For the timing components reinstalled. Connected a battery. Turned the key and nothing happened. Well I do hear fuel pumps running and I think the tanks may be empty, but that;s not the problem. I can't remember what these first gens are supposed to get for warning lights at KOEO, but I've got nothing. Definitely getting power into the cab, dome light will come on, so will head lights, radio and blower motor (high speed only). I can go out and jump power to the "s" terminal and it'll crank over, so the solenoid and starter are good. I think I've got a break in the circuit between the ignition switch and the solenoid, just got to figure out where. Might be a moot point though.

I think this project just received a death blow. The rose colored glasses have come off and this cab is no better than the last as far as rust is concerned. I was going to see if I could find the NSS thinking it would be an easy replacement or bypass to check. Well in the process I spotted a rust hole inside the trans tunnel on the driver side floor board. No big deal, not a difficult patch when the time comes. Then I spotted more. The entire driverside floor pan is eat up with rust, Area mentioned, back infront of and around the seat mount, all along the rocker panel, but most of the area where your feet rest appears to be solid.

Never would have bought the truck if I'd seen that. I don't know how I missed it, unless I didn't look. I know for certain that I looked under the passenger side because my last one had problems in the fireall/floorpan/kick panel seam area. I know that I looked over at the driver side floor pan. I know that I looked at the firewall/floorpan/kick panel seam from the wheel well area. I don't remember if I actually climbed under the driverside and looked at the floor pan though. Rust repair is something I really did not want to have to get into and don't have the time for right now.

I guess I need to dig in and find out why it rusted out, probably check around the windshield for any rot because I know that's how is happens sometimes. Access the extent of the damage and make a decision. Do I give up on this one too, or possibly the entire idea of the project. Do I keep fixing to use as a cheap beater truck while hunting for yet another donor. Do I continue on with plans as is and add in replacing a floor pan and possibly seat mounting area when I tear it down for engine swap. Need to do more investigation before anything else.

Only positive I can find at the moment is that if it does come to fixing and what I've seen is all the bad, the old cab is good on that side. I should be able to salvage most of a good floor pan out of that one.
 

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