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Don't Stop Believing: One Ranger’s Incredible Journey

When it comes to a truck with nine lives, none may be a better example than Jody Treadway’s 1999 Ford Ranger. Purchased a little over three years ago in a semi-built but slightly rough condition, it wasn’t until the Carolina Axle and 4x4 shop owner got his hands on it that the truck would really spring to life. Having a drive to do some of the hardest trails in the Southeast, and the know-how to build serious 4x4s, Treadway took the Ranger and transformed it into a buggy-chasing, Mustang-powered monster.

We recently caught up with Treadway as he was blasting around one of his local stomping grounds, the Flats Off-Road Park in Marion, North Carolina. While the video above will give you a great insight into how this beast of the pickup works, below, we’ll dive a little deeper into the details. 

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Closer Look

Since Treadway wanted more punch when he put down the skinny pedal, he dropped in a 5.0L Ford V8 from RoHo Racing Engines. The 425 horsepower engine has an 11.7:1 compression ratio, Probe SRS forged pistons, Trick Flow heads, LS valves with Scorpion roller rockers, and an Edelbrock Performer intake manifold. BBK headers allow the engine to breathe freely, while a radiator from a Ford Explorer was paired with an electric fan from a Volvo to keep things cool.

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Long gone is the truck’s original independent front suspension. In its place is a more durable high pinion Dana 60 front axle. Adding beef to the 1-ton diff are 5.13 gears mated to a Yukon Grizzly Locker, axleshafts from East Coast Gear Supply and Yukon Super Joints. To ensure steering wouldn’t be an issue off-road, a PSC Motorsports fully hydraulic steering cylinder was mated to an Ironman 4x4 Fab aluminum tie rod. Other front axle upgrades include a Solid steering knuckles, Four Wheel Supply steering arms and knuckle tie-in kit, and rod ends and heavy-duty brackets from Barns 4WD.

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Tucked neatly out of harm’s way is a C6 automatic transmission and Advance Adapters Atlas II transfer case. The gear-driven two-speed case has a 4.3:1 low range ratio for increased crawl control in the rocks. The tube chassis out back and upfront was crafted by the original builder Chris Paiva.

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Putting a little GM in the Blue Oval masterpiece is a 14-bolt rear axle. To provide a little more ground clearance, Treadway shaved the bottom of the diff, using one of Barns 4WD 13-bolt conversion covers. Inside, the full-float axle’s assembly is fit with Yukon chromoly axleshafts, 5.13 gears and a Detroit Locker.

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A triangulated four-link using 2.00 x 3/8-inch DOM lowers and 1.5 x ¼-inch wall uppers secure the rear axle in place. A Currie Antirock sway bar adds a touch of stability, while 14-inch-travel 2.5 Fox air shocks suspend the rig. Since driveshafts are often at the mercy of the terrain below, Treadway had a custom ¼-inch wall rear ‘shaft built by Oliver’s Driveshafts.

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Getting power to the ground are 40x13.50R17 Nitto Trail Grapplers. These meaty mud-terrain radials are mounted on 17x9 Raceline beadlocks. Given the mud-soaked and rocky conditions this truck frequents, the setup has proven to be extremely effective at finding grip.

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Inside, the stock bucket seats were ditched for a more secure set of PRP suspension seats, while Auto Meter gauges are used to aid the stock cluster. Beside the Art Carr shifter you’ll find a pair of CNC cutting brakes. For our more eagle-eyed readers, yes, those are road-bike drink holders.

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Feeding the Mustang V8 is a RCI 15-gallon fuel cell. Also housed out back is the B&M transmission cooler and Auto Zone battery.

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The 115-inch wheelbase and 4,525-pound weight allow the Ranger to stay nimble and stable on the trail. In case the belly does see daylight, a custom 1¾-inch, 0.120-wall DOM exo-cage will keep the occupants safe.

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‘Wheeling hard trails in the South can be brutal on sheetmetal. Treadway’s Ranger is testament to that fact. While he could easily have converted the Ranger to a more buggy-like vehicle, Treadway enjoys the uniqueness that is the extended-cab Ranger. Even with the high-clearance front end and dovetailed rear, you’d be hard-pressed to find a dent-free panel on the little blue pickup.

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Hard Facts

VEHICLE 1999 Ford Ranger
ENGINE 5.0L Ford V8
TRANSMISSION C6
TRANSFER CASE Atlas II (4.3:1 low range)
FRONT AXLE High-pinion Dana 60, Grizzly Locker, ECGS axleshafts, ECGS drive slugs, 5.13 gears
REAR AXLE GM 14-bolt, Detroit Locker, Yukon chromoly axleshafts, 5.13 gears
SUSPENSION 3-link front w/track bar, triangulated 4-link rear, Fox 2.5 air shocks
WHEELS 17x9 Raceline beadlock
TIRES 40x13.50R17 Nitto Trail Grappler
MISC. 3-in body lift, Warn 9.5ti winch, Mohave heater, PRP seats

View the gallery below for more views of Treadway's Ranger.

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