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Crate 302 or Junkyard 5.0 Swap into 1988 2WD 2.9L Ranger?

tayloru

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Hey everyone,

I have been doing research for months now on V8 swaps into Ranger. This would be my first attempt at an engine swap. I have done many other things mechanically and electronically, but never torn an engine apart or taken one out of a vehicle. While I have tons of notes on the specifics, I still have some lingering main questions.

The Vehicle Overview:
  • 1988 Ford Ranger XLT - Single Cab, long bed
  • 2WD
  • 2.9L V6 with automatic transmission
I really want to do this truck properly and show it the love it deserves. My grandmother, who bought the truck new in 88, gifted me this truck nearly 6 years ago and it of course has a lot of sentimental value to me. When it was passed along to me, it had only 84k original miles. Now, it's at 97k and the engine is on its last leg. I already replaced the transmission about 2 years ago when it went out - regretfully before doing any research and discovering the 5.0 swap.


Goals for the engine swap:
  • Replace the unreliable 2.9L that's giving me issues
  • Keep it automatic
  • Be a daily driver/highway cruiser type truck
  • Have reliability and increased power (around 275-300 hp or so)
  • Remain fairly simple as this is my first time doing a swap
  • Ideally - keep factory air conditioning & heating, etc.
  • Ideally - keep all gauges etc, or be open to suggestions from other on digital gauges etc that would work
  • Budget - remain at about $10k for everything (engine, trans, rear axle, etc). I do have some friends in the industry and can get certain things at discounts ranging from 10-40% off at places like Currie, Holley, etc)

Crate Engine Options & Considerations:
Would I be crazy to look into purchasing a 302 crate engine? Say from Blueprint engines, ATK, or even Moruzzi Race Motors? I would likely purchase something that is pretty much turn-key. I have noticed that prices have shot up dramatically since I first started doing research about a year ago. I'm not swimming in money, but I do really love this idea for the peace of mind and confidence in something that's well-built with a warranty etc. I'd like to keep it fuel injected as well and I see most are just using the Holley Sniper EFIs (which aren't compatible with an AOD transmission due to lack of kickdown)

My questions here are:
  1. Is this in general a good or a bad idea? Is this more or less work than, say, finding a 97 explorer 5.0 engine + trans + harness and having a shop rebuild that setup?
  2. How would the wiring for something like this EFI motor here? Would I need a standalone ECM and harness from a donor vehicle, or are there options online that I can pick up to mate into my existing truck?
  3. If I opted for a carbureted engine like this, how does this impact the wiring complexity and the ability to match up nicely to the truck itself? I know they're much simpler in general, just not sure for any impact that might have on vehicle-specific swap.

Junkyard Options:
From what I can tell, it seems like the easiest option would be to find a junkyard 5.0 that's mated to the proper transmission and complete harness etc. If someone else were in my shoes, what would you choose between the two options, especially when considering the desire to have a nice motor that I can trust for a while and that makes a bit more power than factory? Junkyard and find someone to rebuild it?

Are there any particular Year/Make combinations that people recommend when looking for a junkyard 5.0? It seems like the 1997 Explorer is desired due to the lack of theft systems, etc. Any other recommendations?



Thank you all so much for your help! Please bear with me as I am doing my best using all of the search functions and reviewing all of the amazing tech articles and past questions people have asked!
 


RonD

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The 5.0l from the Explorers is desirable because of the low height of the intake manifold and its EFI, plus it has the SHORT NOSE water pump and accesories
Mustang and truck 5.0l EFI's have a little taller intakes, engine sits lower in the wider frames, so don't fit under Ranger hood, but you can do a body lift
And they usually have the long nose water pump and pulleys

All the Explorer 5.0ls were automatics, but you would want a 2WD, 4WD trans can't be used in 2WD
Yes, 1996/7 had no PATS, and also used lower fuel pressure with Return if memory serves, like your 1988
But PATS can be removed from any computer by a Ford Programmer, so not the end of the world to use a 1998-2001 Explorer drivetrain/computer

Crate 5.0l still need the intakes and exhaust from explorer
Rebuilding the 5.0l from the whole explorer you buy would be better

Doing a crate(or rebuilt) 5.0l engine with carb and AOD automatic would be the least expensive option and easiest


Yes, you can keep all your gauges working, even an amp meter if you have that
You will need a speedometer cable electric drive motor, unless you go with old school Carb and AOD trans
 
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rubydist

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A crate engine is going to be way more money than a used Exploder engine, and be a lot more work for finding wiring, controllers, and accessories, but it will be new rather than used.
 

bobbywalter

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10 k budget would be easy with a 2wd explorer donor..

Freshened up heads...cam and tune...your goals are easily met.

These days I would suggest the base megasquirt for efi.

The 4r70 w is an awesome trans, but the 6r80 makes a much more useable engine out of the 302...




My first thoughts would be to use a 5.3 gm powertrain though.
 

rusty ol ranger

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If you get a junkyard 302 youre better off rebuilding it before install anyways.

Personally id go crate. Be more money up front for sure but atleast you know what youre getting and itll have a warranty.

Source brackets and accesories and shit iike that from the junk yard.

Also if you wanna go with the short intake, mustang/vic/marquis/towncars/tbirds ran them to and are probably pretty common on ebay.

4R70Ws should be easy to get your hands on. Theres tons of 90s 300/302 powered 1/2 ton trucks and E series in junkyards. You can tell the difference between those and AOD's by the shift indicator on the cluster....

AOD- "PRNoDD21"
4r70w-"PRNOD21" (the shift lever will also have the O/D button on end) The E4OD also uses this but i believe the E4OD only went into 351 powered 1/2 ton stuff.

AOD's were only used untill midyear 93 i believe. So basically any late93-96 300/302 1/2 ton should be the ticket.

Just a little tip if you do go junkyard diving, try to pull parts from something with obvious damage (unless its got a smashed cab from a tree or something)....cause that means chances are it was road bound and running on its last trip.
 
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Blmpkn

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LS>ford v8s.
 

Blmpkn

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I get that. There's some vehicles where I would think that a motor swap.. especially a motor from a different company.. would he heresy.

In the case of a Ranger that wants a v8 though.... just slap an LS in it. Low mile 5.3s can be had for a very VERY low fraction of what a 5.0 or 302 crate motor would sell for, will support more power, and replacement/upgrade parts cost next to nothing.

A 10k dollar budget would build a 1k hp Ranger no sweat.

That's alot more fun than his goal of a 300hp 302.
 

rusty ol ranger

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I get that. There's some vehicles where I would think that a motor swap.. especially a motor from a different company.. would he heresy.

In the case of a Ranger that wants a v8 though.... just slap an LS in it. Low mile 5.3s can be had for a very VERY low fraction of what a 5.0 or 302 crate motor would sell for, will support more power, and replacement/upgrade parts cost next to nothing.

A 10k dollar budget would build a 1k hp Ranger no sweat.

That's alot more fun than his goal of a 300hp 302.
If his goal is a race truck then great. But a 300hp 302 is gonna be alot eaiser to enjoyably drive on the road then a 1000hp LS
 

Blmpkn

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Its probably better to be self deprecating than self defecating.
If his goal is a race truck then great. But a 300hp 302 is gonna be alot eaiser to enjoyably drive on the road then a 1000hp LS

Well, 1000 was just the flashy number I put out there lol.. he COULD keep it to a reasonable 750 😂

There's no reason big (ridiculous) power vehicles can't be streetable these days, either. Buddy of mine daily drove an ebay built 500hp turbo 91 accord for quite awhile, now he's on to a TT audi r8, A buddy of his has a TT Viper he pretty much just gets ice cream and groceries in.. it's fine. The accord had the ability to smoke it's tires at 70mph with nothing but a deliberate jab on the throttle lol. Other than that.. perfectly drivable. The throttle isn't an on/off switch..


Plus... in the age of factory 300hp 4 cylinders... if you want the big motor you better be looking for that big power.
 

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The 302 would be easier, but if I could go back I probably would have done a 351.

With a proper tune and upsizing the injectors, the explorer injection system will run the 351.

Not sure about the earlier body style rangers, but the 2000, 2001 the entire explorer setup will drop in to a torsion bar front suspension truck.
The coil springs will require an adapter mount.

The exhaust will also transfer over to the ranger all the way up to the catalytic converter, then you're free to do whatever you want with the rest.

I also highly recommend keeping the air conditioning, I only drive my truck after the salting is done, it makes it much more enjoyable when it's 90° out.
 

rusty ol ranger

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The 302 would be easier, but if I could go back I probably would have done a 351.

With a proper tune and upsizing the injectors, the explorer injection system will run the 351.

Not sure about the earlier body style rangers, but the 2000, 2001 the entire explorer setup will drop in to a torsion bar front suspension truck.
The coil springs will require an adapter mount.

The exhaust will also transfer over to the ranger all the way up to the catalytic converter, then you're free to do whatever you want with the rest.

I also highly recommend keeping the air conditioning, I only drive my truck after the salting is done, it makes it much more enjoyable when it's 90° out.
A 351 would be my choice to but they do require more work
 

85_Ranger4x4

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The newest jy 5.0 is over 20 years old and is probably crowding 200k at this point.

I wouldn't be opposed to it but I would rip heads off to check bores and check bearings first.
 

rubydist

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I have had apart several 90s 5.0 from Explorers and F-150s that were all past 150k miles, and on each one you could still see nearly all of the factory crosshatching on the bores. While I had them apart I obviously upgraded them, but the point is they would not have needed it. Only one needed rod bearings, so checking those is a very good idea. Also, the factory Explorer 5.0 valve springs were pretty weak so if you want to run it past 4500 rpm changing those is important, but aside from those two things there is a very good chance you can take a jy 5.0 and drop it in and run it another 100k miles.
 

19Walt93

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I have no experience with LS engines but Chevy's small block was a grenade with the pin pulled. Staying with a Ford engine would simplify installation, especially with V8 Explorer parts, and with a Ford engine you could continue wearing men's clothing.
I have a 390 apart that was an ATK reman about 8 years ago, among other things, the pistons were .093" down in the hole so it would have had about 7:1 compression. Jasper remans are also junk. Rebuilt means different things to different people. I would buy a used engine and go through it so you know what you have. If you buy a crate engine because it's cheaper, staying with the 2.9 would be cheaper still.
I retired form the dealer in 2017 after 42 years and could count the 2wd Explorers I saw on the fingers of one hand, maybe they're more common where you are. I learned about the shorter Explorer front drive system after I had hollowed out my core support and mounted the radiator inside it to clear my fox body FEAD set up.
Eng in process.JPG

I used a 351 in my Ranger because one of my former techs gave me the one he pulled out of his 95 F150. I rebuilt it with new rings, bearings, and pistons, among other things, and converted it to a carburetor with Duraspark. I used a C4 because I had 2 of them and rebuilt that, too. I've heard that a 351 would interfere with the heater box/evaporator case but my truck was someone's hacked up drag truck and did not have HVAC, so I bought a Vintage Air system. The defroster doesn't work well when it's 40 degrees and rainy but the firewall is flat.
 

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