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Two Week Overhaul  
The Ranger Resurrection

So here’s the short part of the story.  Tiffiany leaves me her 97 Ford Ranger truck.  I figure I will fix up the truck a little and return it to her as a surprise.  I have two weeks before she gets back, lets see what we can accomplish.  I know nothing about Rangers but what I have read on the forums in the last two weeks, so go easy on me, and feel free to chime in with cool ideas...b@bmwmpire.com

The reason to keep it is because she blew the motor last year and the new motor has approximately alot less miles on it.  The bumpers were bent in the front and back from the accident that took out her oil pan, and shortly after driving it, her motor.



I ended up jacking the car up by the trailer hitch, heating up the frame rails and then jumping vigorously in the bed until the rear bumper leveled out as much as possible.  Then off came the hitch and the bumper, I cut the mounting bracket holed into slots using a blow torch, and then re-mounted the rear bumper with about 50 washers to bring it up level and straight.  The slots in the brackets allowed me to line it up the proper distance from the truck.  Overall about a quarter of an inch off of the truck.  (Do they make something to fill the gap between the bumper and the tailgate?)

The front bumper was re-aligned by using a 2x4 and a floor jack to jack. I loosened the brackets, then jacked up the bumper till it bent back in place, and then bolted it back down.  Worked like a charm.  I was amazed.

Then I pulled the trim piece off the rear bumper and the trim pieces off the front bumper and gave them a light sanding and painted them with the duplicolor bumper coating that you get at autozone.  It looks so much better in black verses that crappy grey color.  Whose idea was it to make them grey in the first place?

So the next thing was the front grill.  It was crunched up in the accident.  I tried to glue it up, but it was too much work.  A trip to ebay found me a new set of chrome pieces for over the headlights and then another stip for the top of the grill for $20.  Then I got the only aftermarket grill ever made for a 97 ranger, but its fine I am sure. 

The headlights were polished up.  Not much you can do about those. The third brake light was clearly a leaking issue, so I sandwiched the foam gasket in two layers of neoprene and that seemed to stop the leaks for now. 

The windshield was pitted and old, so I ordered up another one, then while they were out putting it in, I got the rear slider window replaced with a solid piece of glass.  Then off to the tinters to put some 20% on it so that people won't be eyeballing her while she is driving, and its hot in Florida so it will keep the temps down.

BTW, the rear slider window is fine, and for sale, ready to install.   Just make an offer.  I don't like looking at those little doors in the rear view mirror.

On to the other issues, a trip to the stealership picked up a new set of thresh-hold strips that hold down the carpet.  Then I picked up new trim pieces for the outside of the windows, and a black shorty antenna that was just staring at me and was only 5 bucks.  I also grabbed a chrome license plate frame for another $3.99 and headed back home.

Finally, I broke down and bought some bushwhacker fender flares to try out.  Ebay, 40 bucks.  I think they will go along with the fresh black trim on the bumpers, and they cover up some serious scratches on the fenders too.  Speaking of scratches, the touch up paint showed up that same day.  That will be gotten to later when I have more time.

The wipers looked like crap, and the windshield was new, so I picked up a set of the new bosch edge wipers and then a couple cans of flat black paint and black primer.  Shot the arms and then mounted them up.  Makes a subtle difference already.

Finally I got out the car wash tools and detailed the outside of the truck.  The paint felt like sandpaper.  After a good wash out came the clay bar followed by some cleaner wax and then another coat of nano-wax.  Much improvement!  Now it beads nicely.

So the exterior is now up to par, I even polished up the third brake light and the chrome on the bumpers.  So I can stop worrying about the outside of the truck and get to the part that is actually important to me.  The inside.


First things first, out came the seats that smell faintly like cat urine.  (Thats a whole different story in itself.) Then the door panels, the carpeting, the rear panels, headliner, and the carpeting piece below the window.  Now that the truck was stripped bare, out came the seat belts too.  They are grey after all, can’t use those!  Plus they were looking pretty tired, not sure if they are safe. The floor bolts were rusted out for sure, so lets not take any chances.

The gauge cluster didn’t have a tachometer, WTF.  It really is a POS.  So out to the local junk yard where I found an assortment of parts.  I came back with a white/titanium gauge cluster from a 4 door ranger, then the matching A/C controls, a set of tan leather explorer seats, an overhead console with lights, and one of those fancy center consoles everyone is so happy about.  I got out the door for under $200 bucks.  Not too bad for a day in the junk yard.

Finally I picked up some new carpeting, with the nice rubber backing on it so it will have some sound deadening.  I also ordered 120 square feet of the E-dead sound deadening to help out with the noise.  Oh yes, new headliner material with enough extra to do the visors.

So that’s about it, right?  Did I buy enough crap?  Of course not.  I ordered one of those fancy Sony head units with the IPOD controls and a couple sets of speakers and a low profile subwoofer.  I also ordered a power door locking system and an alarm with keyless entry.  Why not?  If you’re going to do something, do it right the first time.

Talk about a disgusting interior!

Now that the interior was stripped, out came the dash panels and the dash. 

I picked up some of that fancy SEM paint everyone raves about and out came my scotch-brite pads and some degreaser.  I finished up with a heavy rinse and finally the adhesion promoter for two coats and then two coats of the SEM satin black paint.

It did a pretty good job I think. Its not 100%, but I think I put too many coats on to start with, it was the largest piece and I think that had something to do with the imperfections.

So as I am painting my interior panels, I am getting through each one at a time. Those pesky little louvers in the vents are the biggest PITA ever. Everything was dissasembled to eliminate the need for masking. Bad masking jobs are the worst! Its easier to just take it all apart, paint, then reassemble.

Scrubbing the interior with a brush and bathroom cleaner seemed to help cut though the gooey residues left by a decade of spilling soda in this truck. Lets all hope that the new explorer console will resolve this issue by keeping beverages upright.

While I am waiting on the dash to cure I went ahead and put the dynamat that I had laying around from my car on the firewall behind where the dash would mount. Every little bit helps, and its such a noisy truck when your driving. Got to do something about all that noise! Can't wait till Wednesday when the rolls of sound deadening are scheduled to arrive.

My friend Teh Shiek came over today and helped me mount the dash back in the truck. I also put in the new gauge cluster and the a/c controls while I was at it. I mounted up the steering wheel and fired it up to see if it worked. Surprisingly, it did. I now have a Check Engine Light and a Check gas cap light. Odd, so I put the old cluster back in, the CEL bulb was broken, I swapped them over and what do you know, it has a CEL too. I think I liked it better with a broken bulb. The white cluster was cleaned up and then replaced. Amazing how much dirt it had under the glass. Seems odd to me.

You can see where the cluster was from an automatic model. Its no big deal as the shift position indicator just pops right out. I took it out, then covered it with 3M white vinyl electrical tape. Looks ok to me. I might put some indicators in there in the future, but its good enough for me now.

The dash is in, and I can now drive the truck around, but wait, I need a seat. So I am test fitting one of the exploder seats to make sure it will work. I took off the seat tracks from the 60/40 seats and shot them with a fresh coat of paint. Not that I really care, but I scrubbed off the rust and sprayed them down to make sure that they didn't get rust on my new carpet!

So then I went ahead and bolted up the tracks to the driver's seat to try it out.

Then it got bolted down to the cab. I need somewhere to sit while i am detailing the steering column with a toothbrush. Its amazing how well ladies makeup gets all over the steering wheel. You really have to scrub to get it off.

The fit looked pretty good to me.... Until I sat in it. This is going to be a serious issue for sure. This seat track just doesnt slide back far enough to make it comfortable. I am going to have to work on this. Any ideas would be appreciated. I will definitely be taking my plasma cutter to the power rails to make them fit, thats for sure, but for later. Its probably fine for Tiffany.

I scrubbed down the steering wheel with a toothbrush and cleaner, then wiped it with a damp rag and finally applied a little zymol vinyl to it to give it a nice satin finish. So afterwards I went ahead and put on one of those leather steering wheel wraps. Its a nice touch. I have no idea why anyone would want one of those crappy plastic nubby things that goes on steering wheels when you can get a wheelskin for $30. Anyways, no more shiny plastic steering wheel.

Simple enough. Then back to the garage to give the seat bottoms a quick coat.

They turned out nice, and I will install them when I put the seats in the final time. While I was over there I re-installed the dimmer switch and the headlight switch, then re-assembled the a/c vent and attached that to the panel as well.

Getting the little logos to line up behind the panel was the hardest part of the whole install so far. Then I took apart the other vent and painted the louvers.

They are still wet, but you get the idea. I also painted up the vent, and a couple of misc trim pieces.

While those were drying I prepped the glove box for paint. Its looking pretty rough. I spray everything down with a harsh degreaser, then scrub till you have little gray dust, and then rinse with running water. Its turning out better. Most of the dash is just black plastic painted grey. Seems ironic to me. What an ugly box!

Amazing what two coats of paint will do!

Of all the things to waste time on, I think the windshield wipers were the worst. I painted them, but they were covered in pits and looked horrible. So then I sanded them, put two coats of sandable primer, and then wet sanded them with 600 grit sandpaper. Then two coats of satin black duplicolor paint with a quick wet sand in between. Now they are level and smooth to the touch. No one will ever notice. Well, now I have to do the other one!

So, here we go again. Its been a busy day considering I have to work all day and then play around with this crap. Anyways, today didn't get as much done as before. I ripped apart the doors and installed the new actuators in the doors to handle the locking and unlocking.

Since we don't have an airbag in this old truck, I have lots of room to put the new electronics inside the glove box. I am adding a HD radio receiver along with a couple boxes to run the keyless entry and the door actuators.

So the A/C vent was a bitch to install. I had to take it apart twice to get it back together the correct way. Call me picky.

I installed the under dash panel, and the tach surround panel too. Ran the wiring for the doors and then had to pull power from under the hood for the door lock actuator. It pulls too much juice to safely tap off existing wiring. Learned that hte hard way before.

The AC panel isnt illuminating at all. Not sure why that is, but now I have to go back and check it to make sure its working. Could be a bunch of bad bulbs. Not sure right now, but I will get to that when the new radio arrives. I cleaned up the rusted parts in the center console and gave them a shot of paint.

Then I took out the console and test fit it. It didn't fit, some air duct in there getting in the way. Ok, out comes the sawsall.

Now test fit it to see if it will clear the seatbelts and the shift knob.

Looks like its fitting just right.

Pulled everything out and cleaned it up the floor to make it nice and clean. Then out came the sound deadening materials.

Yeah, its dark. Took a while. Put double layers on the footwells and then on the transmission hump. Then I bolted in the new anchors for the new seatbelts.

Finally I dropped in the carpeting. It was alot more work than I expected. I then bolted in the drivers seat. I don't think its moving again for a long time. Its alot of work to get the carpet oriented properly. My back is killing me.

Anyways, so I re-covered the sunvisors. Then I took them to the local upholstry shop to get them stitched together. Its not easy getting that metal rod back into the clips.

So anyways, time just ran out. I worked all day on the truck, and in the end it turned out nice, but it sure was alot of work. I didn't get to put the sound deadening in the doors, I didn't install the OHC, but I didn install the bracket and cut the headliner (before I re-covered it) and I have no idea where to find the temperature sensor on an explorer.

I installed the center console, then the passenger seat, and whatever else I forgot. Then I installed the new seatbelts. Its good stuff, and it turned out nice.

You can see that I re-covered the door armrests in leftover headliner material, and then I re-covered the center console armrest too, but that was after this picture. I ended up just painting the whole door panel. It turned out nicely for sure. Its not too complicated.

The new trim for the front of the truck arrived at the last minute. I threw it on at the last minute.

It looks good I think. I also replaced the trim strips on either side just below the windows. It makes a definite difference in updating the truck.

The new cluster is a nice touch, and you can see the new wheel wrap and the rest of the dash installed.

Here is the center stack reinstalled. You can see the new A/C controls that match the guage cluster, and then the Blaupunkt head unit. I have hte IPod Connector in the pocket underneath. I also added a LED for the new alarm.

I just can't help it, the lighting at night is just too cool, and such an upgrade!

The new headunit blends in nicely doesn't it?

Heres the big picture!

Here is another shot of the interior. It looks good doesn't it?

Overall, she is pretty happy with the results. Its nice isn't it?





After all is said and done, I have a few parts left over. If you would like to help me clean out my garage of extra parts, just let me know. You can email me at b@bmwmpire.com.

The list:

Complete Explorer Center console in Tan. (Armrest cover needs replacement) I think my cousin wants it, so you gotta speak up fast!

Complete Explorer Center console in Grey, but missing armrest cover. I have all the parts that go with it too. I can paint it too if you would like. I have plenty of satin black SEM paint left over. There is no armrest cover, someone nabbed it already. I bet you could fab one up pretty easy though.

Rear center console bracket (had to be pried off the frame with crowbar! No one gets these! They always forget.

Kenwood CD radio with install kit and wiring harness for 97 ford ranger. Its complete and works great, but doesn't have an IPod hookup. Comes iwth harness ready to plug in. Works perfectly. You can see it even has the install kit ready to go. Just snap it in in under a minute. No cutting, soldering, etc. Wires are soldered and shrink wrapped so its never going to fail.

Grey overhead console with sunroof switch. Lights are included, but need to be attached.

Tan overhead console for sunroof, but painted satin black. I ended up finding one with the sunglass holder instead and no longer need this one. I already painted it though.

6 cans of Satin Black SEM paint. (I used less than that, got a case of 12) 4 cans of Satin clear SEM paint.

A couple Explorer overhead lights/reading lights with switches.

2003? or so Ranger instrument cluster w/tach with the titanium colored guages. Its really cool looking, but someone nabbed the odometer. So you will need to use your existing odometer. It looks really cool though, doesnt it? Worked find in the 1997 Ranger FYI.

Here are some misc needles that I nabbed...

I am sure there is more. Various switches, etc. I have a couple of overhead console brackets too.

I have two and a half rolls of sound deadening material left if you want some of that.

I also have this auto-dimming rear view mirror.

If anyone wants this thing, they can have it!

If your interested in any of this, just let me know and help me clean out the junk.

Someone needs a rear window, right?

Also, I can clean up the parts and hit them with a coat of satin black if you would like. I have everything out and ready to go so its not too much trouble.

email me at b@bmwmpire.com