Jr's Desert-Dominating Ford Ranger Prerunner

Growing up in Georgia, there were only two kinds of trucks we ever encountered: lifted mud trucks and lifted show trucks.

While a long-travel, two-wheel-drive truck doesn't make much sense in the mud and the rocks of Georgia, the open dirt and sandy terrain of California's desert is prime territory for them. With the wide variety of truck builds in So Cal, it's hard to choose one to focus on, but the mighty "Prerunner" has always stood out. And it just so happens that Jr. Hernandez's 1998 Ford Ranger Prerunner is a fine example.

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Better, Faster, Stronger

We use the moniker "Ford Ranger" lightly, as there are not many parts on this truck that are stock. The build started life as a humble 1998 Ranger, but now wears a new suit of armor in the form of a Fiberwerx F-150 one piece front clip conversion and six-inch flared bedsides.

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Anyone can throw on body panels, but like mom always says, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Under the Shadow Grey paint (which matches Jr’s daily driver Harley Davidson F-150) you’ll find a tube frame supporting everything from the cab to the back of the truck.

body panels

Safety First

Moving inside, you’ll see this truck was built to be used, and used safely. All that speed over whoops and blasting over dunes won't matter if one roll leaves the truck looking like a discarded soda can. To ensure the truck's three occupants are safe in the event of a mishap, a 1.5-inch chromoly cab 'cage was installed by the good folks at The Baja Shop.

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Three MasterCraft Safety Suspension seats and Crow 5-point harnesses add another level of safety, allowing for a secure ride.

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A Fuel Safe remote fuel cell and dual fire extinguishers mounted in what used to be the bed of the truck provide even more more insurance.

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Finishing off the interior, Jr has installed a fiberglass dash, which houses a Lowrance 7-inch Elite Baja GPS for navigating out in the middle of the desert, as well as a Kenwood 110 race radio and PCI four-Link Intercom to communicate with his fellow enthusiasts.

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Taking Control

In order to keep this truck on path and at speed, a Hold Fast USA custom ProAm steering wheel was chosen, as well as an Art Carr Winters shifter mounted in the Dirt Skum aluminum center console.

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Now, we get into the nitty gritty of a truck, the real basis for control: the suspension. The front of the truck (and the ported Windsor 347 Stroker powerplant with Johnny Branch custom headers) is all supported by a Baja Shop long-travel kit with King 2.5-inch, 12-inch-travel coilovers and King 2.5-inch, 12-inch-travel triple-bypass shocks.


Out back, amidst the tubing, spare tires, fuel cell and mounted jack, you’ll find a Baja Shop custom back half and four-link kit with 55-inch trailing arms. Connected to each arm is a 14-inch-travel King coilover and 16-inch-travel King bypass shock. Both are of the 2.5-inch variety.  

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Of course, all of these specs and parts would be useless if they weren’t put to good use; and boy, does Jr put them to use. One of his favorite quotes was said by trophy truck pilot Alan Pflueger:

“You can’t really describe it, you’ve got to experience it, and it’s just awesome. It’s a controlled explosion, it’s like trying to hold a piece of dynamite and keep the explosion in your hands. It’s driving that fine line where if you get off that line it gets hairy… it gets really hairy. But it’s fun on that line.”

From the full-blast assault on the sand pit out in Fontana, California during our shoot, we'd say Jr fully cosigns on Pflueger’s line of thinking.

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We can only imagine how great the truck handles flat out in the desert, and one day we hope to find out. When we do, we'll make sure to show all of you.

Vehicle Specs

  • OWNER: Jr Hernandez
  • LOCATION: Fontana, CA
  • VEHICLE: 1998 Ford Ranger Prerunner
  • ENGINE: Ford small block Windsor 347ci stroker, E303 cam, ported heads, Johnny Branch custom stainless headers, CBR radiator
  • SUSPENSION (FRONT): The Baja Shop custom long-travel kit; 2.5-in, 12-in-travel King coilover, 2.5-in, 12-in-travel King triple bypass 
  • SUSPENSION (REAR): The Baja Shop custom long travel four-link w/trailing arms; 2.5-in, 14-in-travel King coilover, 2.5-in, 16-in-travel King triple bypass
  • REAR AXLE: Ford 9-in, trussed, Currie nodular third member, 31-spline axles; Strange spool; 5.29 gears
  • WHEELS: 15x8 Raceline Monster beadlock
  • EXTERIOR: Fiberwerx F-150 one piece clip conversion and 6-in flared bedsides; CBR transmission coolers; Fuel Safe 32-gal fuel cell; Four Hella 4000 lights on rack
  • INTERIOR: 1.5-in chromoly interior 'cage; MasterCraft Safety suspension seats; Crow 5-point harnesses; Fiberwerx OEM fiberglass Ranger dash; Autometer Gauges; Dirt Skum aluminum center console; Kenwood 110 race radio; PCI 4link intercom; Hold Fast USA ProAm steering wheel; Lowrance 7-in Elite Baja GPS; Art Carr Winters shifter
  • THANKS: "Big thank you to Wide Open Customz in Victorville for always putting the time and effort into making the truck great and fixing it when needed. Couldn't have done without you guys. Also would like to thank Raceline wheels for the amazing wheels and Johnny Branch for building me the awesome set of headers."

Until then, enjoy all the sunset sand blasting fun in the gallery below!



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