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2wd long bed vs short bed, how do they differ driving?

JoshT

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Since I bought the 85 long bed yesterday, I'm at an impasse on how to build my truck. I've got to decide on long bed vs short bed for my build and I don't have enough experience to make it an easy decision. Thanks to the previous attempt at this project with an 86 regular cab short bed, I have nearly everything that I would need to build the truck either way.

Option 1: 1985 Ranger Regular Cab, Short Bed
Option 2: 1985 Ranger Regular Cab, Long Bed

Here's the jist of the potential builds going off memory of the parts I have on hand.

89-97 DJM Beams
95-97 Ranger Spindles
All poly bushings
1.25" front sway bar
Explorer 8.8" 3.73 LS, installed spring under with anti-wrap bars
1" BII rear sway bar
Explorer 5.0L w/ 4R70W

Main difference between the two builds would be the extra length and gas tank. The short bed would get a BII tank (or other) behind the axle, while the long bed is a dual tank and will stay that way.

Its going to primarily be a driver and cruiser so comfort and ride are important, but want to have decent performance and handling too. My 84 was a long bed and at stock height, with the front sway bar and 16" wheels, I was pretty happy with the ride and didn't hate the handling. Can't remember if I did poly or rubber bushings on it. I'm pretty sure new poly bushings, rear sway bar, lowering, and better shocks would have made it even better. Before buying the 85 for its cab yesterday, I was planning to build a short bed thinking it would be better handling and more sporty. The other side of the equation is that this whole build started as a tribute to what the 84 was and would have been, it was a long bed with no plans to turn it into a short bed.

I've never driven a SWB Ranger thought and don't know how differnt the driving exterience is between the long bed and SWB trucks in stock form. I also finally looked at the dimensional differences between the two and noticed that there is only a 6" difference in wheel base and 12" difference in overall length. Now I'm questioning if that is really enough to make a noticable difference.

Have you dirven both? How did they compare? Am I overthinking this? Just shut and build the long bed since it's a complete truck?
 


Blmpkn

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Since I bought the 85 long bed yesterday, I'm at an impasse on how to build my truck. I've got to decide on long bed vs short bed for my build and I don't have enough experience to make it an easy decision. Thanks to the previous attempt at this project with an 86 regular cab short bed, I have nearly everything that I would need to build the truck either way.

Option 1: 1985 Ranger Regular Cab, Short Bed
Option 2: 1985 Ranger Regular Cab, Long Bed

Here's the jist of the potential builds going off memory of the parts I have on hand.

89-97 DJM Beams
95-97 Ranger Spindles
All poly bushings
1.25" front sway bar
Explorer 8.8" 3.73 LS, installed spring under with anti-wrap bars
1" BII rear sway bar
Explorer 5.0L w/ 4R70W

Main difference between the two builds would be the extra length and gas tank. The short bed would get a BII tank (or other) behind the axle, while the long bed is a dual tank and will stay that way.

Its going to primarily be a driver and cruiser so comfort and ride are important, but want to have decent performance and handling too. My 84 was a long bed and at stock height, with the front sway bar and 16" wheels, I was pretty happy with the ride and didn't hate the handling. Can't remember if I did poly or rubber bushings on it. I'm pretty sure new poly bushings, rear sway bar, lowering, and better shocks would have made it even better. Before buying the 85 for its cab yesterday, I was planning to build a short bed thinking it would be better handling and more sporty. The other side of the equation is that this whole build started as a tribute to what the 84 was and would have been, it was a long bed with no plans to turn it into a short bed.

I've never driven a SWB Ranger thought and don't know how differnt the driving exterience is between the long bed and SWB trucks in stock form. I also finally looked at the dimensional differences between the two and noticed that there is only a 6" difference in wheel base and 12" difference in overall length. Now I'm questioning if that is really enough to make a noticable difference.

Have you dirven both? How did they compare? Am I overthinking this? Just shut and build the long bed since it's a complete truck?
My first ranger was a longbed, 2nd was short.

I don't remember noticing that much of a difference during regular driving.. but the back end of the shortbed definitely came around quicker during winter drifting activities.
 

JoshT

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I'll bet that was fun. We don't get to do any winter drifting activities around here. While I'd like to learn drifting, I don't think I'd be doing it in this truck. When I get done with it I don;t want to be sliding sideways with a chance of hitting anything. That's how the 84 met it's demise and I don't care to intentionally take a chance at repeating it.

I can't say I wouldn't play with it on an auto-x course if I found someone willing to let me join the fun. We're talking about open parking lot and traffic cones, not race track and barricades. Something like Road Atlanta would be fun to drive on, but not interested in getting sideways and I don't think they allow trucks. I'm more interested in spirited driving on windy country roads and in the mountains.
 

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In my experience with long and short trucks, I think that the longer wheelbase rides better, and the longer box is a lot more handy for hauling stuff. The only advantages the short truck has is the smaller turn radius and less parking space (mainly as in if you garage it).

Given the choice, I'd go with building the long truck, and the twin tanks would seal the deal for me.
 

Blmpkn

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I'll bet that was fun. We don't get to do any winter drifting activities around here. While I'd like to learn drifting, I don't think I'd be doing it in this truck. When I get done with it I don;t want to be sliding sideways with a chance of hitting anything. That's how the 84 met it's demise and I don't care to intentionally take a chance at repeating it.

I can't say I wouldn't play with it on an auto-x course if I found someone willing to let me join the fun. We're talking about open parking lot and traffic cones, not race track and barricades. Something like Road Atlanta would be fun to drive on, but not interested in getting sideways and I don't think they allow trucks. I'm more interested in spirited driving on windy country roads and in the mountains.

It's about the only redeeming quality of having real winters lol. Everything else gets old real fast.

For what you want to do, I don't think you'd really notice a huge difference between the swb and lwb.

That being said... id probably lean towards building the lwb. Personally, when it comes to small trucks of this era I like shortbeds lifted and longbeds look sweet when they're set up for pavement. Plus.. If at any time you end up getting a bit wild and the back end gets loose on you it'll be easier keeping the long bed behind you and the headlights pointed in the right direction.
 

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I've driven a few different wheelbases. The longer the wheelbase, the more room you need to turn. BUT, the shorter the wheelbase, the harsher the ride.
 

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Well I did start out driving in a long bed first gen ranger, never had a problem with turning radius there. My other trucks are:

1999 Ford Ranger Extended Cab 4x4
2000 Ford F-250 Extended Cab, short bed 4x4
1968 F-100 F-100 Regular cab, long bed 4x4

I'm not sure since I've never actually driven them with the intent to compare turning radius, but I'm pretty sure that list is in order from best to worst. It's been over 10 years since I drove that first gen Ranger, but I'm pretty sure it would have fallen beteween the '99 Ranger and '00 F-250 at worst. I imagine it's probably better than all three, or likely will be before I'm done.

More I see, read, and think; the more likely it is that I'm going to build the long bed. It's a complete truck now, just non running with the engine partially disassembled. If I stick to long bed, it'll be a lot less work and driving a liot quicker.
 

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i say long bed. they look better if you are going to make a hotrod style truck.

and you can run autocross in a ranger. just needs to be lowered a certain amount so it meets the height/width call outs for trucks. my son's friend ran his 88 single cab (i believe it was a long bed) and had a blast
 

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Shortbed looks sportier, I have only ever driven a longbed though.
 

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Theoretically, a longer wheelbase will provide better ride, while a shorter wheelbase can make navigating tight obstacles (like autocross sections) easier.
In reality, the fuel tanks might have a bigger impact than anything else. Putting the tank behind the rear axle will probably improve the ride of the short bed, and the F/R weight balance and traction as well. But you're also taking weight from the center of the truck and moving it to the rear, which can have some impacts on polar moment of inertia and the ability to change direction. Hard to say how much those impacts might be felt or measured, and if they'd offset the other improvements or not. I will say that nearly all of the serious race trucks that I've ever seen have had the fuel tanks behind the rear axle, so I'm guessing the benefits to F/R balance and traction might be enough to justify it.

I'm not familiar enough with the dual tank trucks but if they're a saddle tank on each side, then that could be a pretty well balanced machine, and you might be able to use fuel on the passenger side to offset the weight of the driver. The weight would be centralized (which is generally good), but it would also keep more weight on the front tires than the rears. I'd guess it would probably handle and ride a lot like an extended cab short bed since they'd have similar wheelbase, and similar weight balance/polar moment. If the dual tanks use a stock location, and another behind the axle, that might get kind of weird from a balance perspective.

My Wild Ass Guess is that the short bed with the tank behind the axle might be the ticket as an all arounder. It would probably ride better and have better traction than a shortbed with the stock fuel tank location, but you'd still keep the compact size/turning circle. Just be aware that the handling characteristics might change a bit as the fuel level changes.
 
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sgtsandman

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One caution on the long bed. There is a lot more stuff out there for the short bed since there is so many of them. If you don’t plan to cover the bed in anyway, most of the long bed problems goes away.
 

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@stmitch having followed.the work you did on your truck back in the day, your opinion carries a lot. That said it's about 99.9% decided that I'm going to build this as the long bed, dual tank truck that it is. Having considered what I want out of it I don't think the long bed will be detrimental. Perhaps not ideal for handling, but I think still well within acceptable. As for the tank layout on the dual tanks, it has the factory saddle tank (17 gallons?) and the aux tank is 13 gallons located behind the rear axle. Perhaps not ideal, but I think I'll manage. Worst case if I want to play I'll run one of the tanks nearly empty to adjust weight distribution, or find the right place I can add some removable weight plates. That latter part was already being considered. A long bed truck is also where the memories are, so there's a sentimental element to it as well.

@sgtsandman

How do you mean cover? As in camper shell or tonneau cover?

A tonneau is in the plans, but not something I have to have. What I'd like is made for 93+ long beds I've just got to compare dimensions and see if it would fit the 83-92 long beds. If it comes down to it, I'll build my own.
 

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Take a picture of each. Put them on the wall. Get 3 darts. Which ever one has more darts in it, then that's the one you get.

Don't over think it. It's a truck. Either one is going to be a blast to drive.
 

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@dvdswan LOL

That wouldn't be fair to the neighbor's cat, I don't think it wants to be lowered and V8 swapped. If I tried your way that's probably where the darts would land. 🤣

Simplification and overthinking, that's another reason to go with the 85 long bed. It's a complete truck. To do the short bed I'd have to build it from the frame up.
 

dvdswan

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@dvdswan LOL

That wouldn't be fair to the neighbor's cat, I don't think it wants to be lowered and V8 swapped. If I tried your way that's probably where the darts would land. 🤣

Simplification and overthinking, that's another reason to go with the 85 long bed. It's a complete. To do the short bed I'd have to build it from the frame up.
So, you just answered your question... Glad we could help.:p
 

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