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90 ranger old crap to new beast

adamshadow2008

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1991
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Transmission
Automatic
Current Status:

1990 Ford ranger 2.3L with 7.5 rearend, automatic tranny. All stock. Runs fine for 250,000 miles. Transmission kicks when pulling it from park into reverse, and again when shifting from 1st to 2nd. Been doing it for a while.

Goal:

Restored ranger with a 331 stroker, 350rwhp naturally aspirated for now, Street/track truck. Motor/transmission/rearend/suspension first things to be fixed/replaced. After that interior and finally exterior with a paintjob. Had a thread on here quite a while back(year or two), when I first decided I was going to "do something" to the truck. Figured I would let that old post die, too old to recover. I have spent the last year learning everything I can, online and printed word.

I have a general direction where I want to go, but haven't picked out all the "small" parts yet. Plan is to replace the rearend and suspension first. Replace the 7.5 with the stronger 8.8, and new suspension that it needs desperately. After that I plan to hopefully rebuild the motor myself, getting the machine work done here in town(Wichita Falls, tx). I have read about people preferring to do the swap first, and later pull it to do the rebuild. The motor runs currently, but I would prefer to get the short block completely rebuilt and done before installing it. The general picture right now is to rebuild it with a ~forged 331 stroker kit, get the original heads ported/polished, and springs/rollers/valves etc. ~Rebuild the transmission. Install the motor and tranny. Enjoy the new power that this brings for a while. Then after that becomes boring, replace the stock heads with aftermarket aluminum heads, but keep the compression relatively low. Finish up the whole package with a supercharger down the road.

I completely understand the forged internals are not necessary for the goal of 350rwhp, but I am hoping for a one time bottom end rebuild. Have it ready for 500hp later on. I am aiming for a stock looking ranger on the outside, with a 2" body lift to make engine and tranny swap easier. Larger tires than the doughnuts that it has now. Interior will be a black rhinolined floor, new seats(no idea), with an all black interior. Exterior is yet to be decided. Rhinolined bed forsure.

Could really use input on quite a few things. Please give advice on anything and everything.

Parts Owned:

Purchased a 1987 Mercury Cougar 5.0, including transmission, wiring harness, and computer $500 from junkyard.

Purchased 2002 ford ranger 8.8" 3.55 rearend, leafsprings, and driveshaft.
 
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adamshadow2008

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1991
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Engine Size
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Transmission
Automatic
Unanswered questions

1. The truck currently is in need of new suspension all the way around. Trying to keep the stock height of the truck. Current plan is purchasing new springs and shocks, for the front, and the old rear shocks were damaged beyond repair so those will be replaced as well., Can/Should I reuse the leaf springs off of the 2002 ranger 2wd, just replacing the ubolts? Or should I purchase new leafsprings for the rear?

2. Will the driveshaft from the 02 ranger be a direct bolt in to my current transmission, or will the end need changed?

3. What have I got myself into?...
 
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adamshadow2008

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Pictures









It is tough to tell in the last picture, but you can see it sits a little lower on the driver side then the passenger.
 
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JoshT

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Ok, I'll see if I can help out a little.

For starters I'll go ahead and call you a copycat and get that over with. Your build is almost a duplicate of the plans for my 86 Ranger build. First goal is to get it running with the Explorer 5.0 and auto trans I have, second step is 331 stroker (possibly forced induction) and 5 speed, final stage is custom suspension. I intend for the truck to be drivable during the second and third stage, will build a second motor for the 331, and a second frame for the suspension, then swap them in once ready. My main reason for going with the swap before the rebuild is because of all the electronics I'll be swapping in from the Explorer, basically swapping over the entire body harness as well. I know everything works now, don't want potential problems with a new engine or transmission compounding on the issues I'm already likely to encounter.

For the small parts, this exact same swap had been performed dozens of times. Any 2wd (I'd say 4wd as well) Ranger from 83-97 is almost exactly the same swap, with minor variances. It's best to read some of the swap threads (over on RPS as well) and see people's experiences with different parts.

As for your suspension. If the 02 rear end and springs are still bolted in as an assembly just bolt them into the truck like that. No real need to replace the U-bolts, maybe the nut if you remove them. You will be fine using those springs, they probably haven't sagged more than a half inch from stock. Coincidentally the 8.8 is a little larger in diameter than the 7.5 so the 02 stuff will probably put it back at right about stock height. No need to install brand new rear springs unless you just want to. As for the front springs, get progressive rates, they'll ride and handle as good as (or better than) stock and will handle the added weight better.

Given your power goals you would have been better off with the 31 spline explorer axle, but it would have taken more work to get it installed. I can't help with the drive shaft because I don't know. I'm going to use the shaft from my donor Explorer (which is also giving up its transmission and axle) and having it shortened to fit.


Fully forged internals won't be necessary for 500 hp either, once you get over 500 you need to be looking at aftermarket or 4 bolt blocks. Check out Coast High's stroker kits, they have a large selection and post suggested power ratings for their kits. FWIW I plan go fully forged when I build my replacement motor, but I'll also be going with either a 4 bolt block or an aftermarket block. I plan to run twin turbo on mine, not sure what kind of power level I want to push it too. I figure I might well end up at block breaking levels. But like I feel about my build, it's your truck, its your money, build it to suit you.

It sounds like you want to keep EFI, wise choice IMO. Considering your plans I would recommend converting the engine to use the Mustang 5.0L EFI system with mass air. I don't believe that the system you have is set up the same, and the Mustang Mass Air system is a lot more mod friendly.

I've been up for going on 20 hours so my thoughts are getting less and less coherent, so I'm going to leave it with that. If you have any more questions or questions about anything I've typed please ask, I'll try to check back when I'm in a clearer state of mind.
 

adamshadow2008

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Ok, I'll see if I can help out a little.
Thank you very much. Any help is welcome.

For starters I'll go ahead and call you a copycat and get that over with.
Yeah the 302 is a very very common swap, the 331 is pretty common as well. I am not aiming to be original, doesnt matter to me or you I assume. Just want to be fast right?


As for your suspension. If the 02 rear end and springs are still bolted in as an assembly just bolt them into the truck like that. No real need to replace the U-bolts, maybe the nut if you remove them.
The two of the u-bolts were bent at the top right above the bolt, so they had to be cut to be removed. I am worried that the 02 springs would give it to much of a lift, but maybe it is just because my current leaf springs are that bad.

As for the front springs, get progressive rates, they'll ride and handle as good as (or better than) stock and will handle the added weight better.
Okay I will look into progressive rates, dont really know much about suspension.

Fully forged internals won't be necessary for 500 hp either, once you get over 500 you need to be looking at aftermarket or 4 bolt blocks. Check out Coast High's stroker kits, they have a large selection and post suggested power ratings for their kits.
Forged are stronger but if the block is going to give out before you reach that point what does it matter. I have been looking around seems like the average cost for forged stroker kit is about ~$1500. Ill check into the cheaper kits.

It sounds like you want to keep EFI, wise choice IMO. Considering your plans I would recommend converting the engine to use the Mustang 5.0L EFI system with mass air. I don't believe that the system you have is set up the same, and the Mustang Mass Air system is a lot more mod friendly.
I was thinking about switching to carb for simplicity, but if I am going to do it I might as well do it right. I was planning on sticking with the current efi, but I haven't looked into the pros or cons of the cougar.
 

JoshT

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I was simply calling you a copycat because of how similar this build sounds to my own, and I was 100% kidding. I realize you aren't copying my build, and I could care less if you were. You could copy it bolt for bolt and mine would still be better. :thefinger: There are a few 331 Rangers around, but not many as most people stick with the 302. Among those that are, forced induction is a rarity. I'm still up in the air for the paint on my truck. One idea has it as a stock-ish two tone, the other is solid color with Mustang style stripes. if I go the latter it'll be after the engine and where a mustang would say "GT-350" I want to have "TT-331". Leaning towards the two tone because the Mustang stripes are a little too common. And there I go thread jacking again. To answer the question. No, I just want it to be fun.

What I hear, a lot, is that stock (2 bolt main) 302 blocks start cracking at around 500hp. You might be able to go higher but it's like a time bomb, it's still ticking but you don't know when exactly it might blow. (Ok, bad analogy.) As I said I plan to go straight to a stronger aftermarket block when I do the 331 build for my truck. I figure by the time I buy a second engine and have the machine work done on it I'm well on the way to the price of a new one, so why not just go a head and throw in little more for the stronger block. I'm not going to tell you not to go with fully forged internals, but I do recommend checking them out a little more then make your decision. Really think about your plans for the truck. Will you be happy maxing out power at 500hp (you'll still need to be blown to get there I think), or do you think you will put the blower on and keep wanting more. If the former you'll probably be fine with the cheaper (but good quality) kits; if the later get the forged and consider a stronger block. I think some of the other kits that will handle the 500 hp you are talking about running, go for closer to $1000. That $500 could go a long way towards other parts you need.

In that case I recon you do need new U-bolts. Ranger springs are pretty much the same for the entire production run, really only varying in number of springs or spring rate. There were a few special cases like the splash that sat a little lower stock, or a few models came with fiberglass mono leafs, but these are the exception to the rule. Where you find different springs is with the Explorers, some had about a 2" taller spring pack.

Linear coil springs have the same spring rate for the entire range of compression. When weight gets added to the spring such as during cornering it compresses a lot. This contributes to body roll and even more weight transfer to that spring. To for good handling you need a really high spring rate to resist a lot of compression but this makes for a harsh ride. For a smooth ride you need a soft spring rate to absorb impact, but this makes the spring compress easier. As you can imagine, neither would be beneficial to a good riding and handling vehicle. A progressive rate spring has a lighter spring rate for the first few inches of compression, and a stiffer rate for the rest. This allows the lighter rate section of the spring to absorb impacts and such for a smooth ride. During weight transfer such as in a turn, the lighter section compresses and the stiffer section takes over. You will still have the springs ability to compress (though stiffer), but it will limit severe body roll.

Carb vs EFI is an endless debate. Personally I'm an EFI guy. I can't make a carb work for crap, and even if I could I don't believe one can match the capabilities of an EFI system. Everyone's entitled to their own opinion, but that is mine. Given the system you are starting with I'd check out Cool Cats (.net). They have a tech section with info on mods pertaining to the exact engine you have and it's EFI system.

EDIT: If I keep making replies like this, I'll be able to publish a book before long.
 

adamshadow2008

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Location
Mississippi
Vehicle Year
1991
Make / Model
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Engine Size
2.3l
Transmission
Automatic
Pictures of motor tranny and rearend coming soon. Have to get time to upload them.

Also an update and a parts list coming soon.
 

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