Flexin' Ford

A V8 mini worth raving about

Travis Noack
Aug 26, 2005
Photographers: Travis Noack
Photo 2/14   |   1997 Ford Ranger Standard Cab front Side View
The switches are tapped and the frame relaxes comfortably on the soil. The glow from the pearlescent paint radiates off of the smoothed domestic metal. The rumble of the massaged Mustang mill permeates the surrounding air. Jim Licata of Summerville, South Carolina, enjoys this automotive ambience every time he climbs behind the wheel of his 'bagged, shaved, and radically redefined Ford Ranger. Jim started with a bone-stock '97 Ranger standard cab and created the wrinkle-free, frame-crushing custom seen here. Armed with a strong vision and a collection of shops prepared to get down to business, Jim busted out his wallet and began tossing green at his dream.
Photo 3/14   |   The inside of the bed is a masterpiece in itself, with a smoothed floor and inner walls complemented by custom wheeltubs and a one-off, handmade '57 Chevy tail fin stretching through the center. All of the metal art was sealed with the subtle and sanitary two-tone paint.
Laying the frame on the tarmac was accomplished at Kunfuzed Kustomz in Gulfport, Mississippi. The crew at Kunfuzed got the Ranger's 'rails cozy with the South Carolina concrete by using Firestone 2600 airbags up front fed by 1/2-inch AirLift valves and 1/2-inch stainless steel hard line. Planting the rear was done via a Pete & Jake's four-link and Panhard combined with Firestone 2600 airbags and a custom C-notch to provide excess rear-axle clearance. Four Firestone compressors work to fill a custom 6-gallon air tank concealed in the bed. Completing the laid-out look are 18x8-inch front and 20x8-inch rear Center Line Avenger aluminum rollers wrapped in low-profile rubber protection from Toyo Proxes. Street skins up front measure P215/35ZR18, while the rear fenders provide clearance for P245/35ZR20 Toyo meats. With the rail-sparking stance alterations in place, Jim began focusing on sticking a few more ponies under the hood.
Knowing from the get-go that this truck was destined for excess show duty, Jim felt that nothing short of a V-8 would suffice. After turning over a few rocks, a 302ci V-8 was pulled from a '91 Mustang. Ray at APM Racing in North Charleston, South Carolina, got inside the mighty Blue Oval small-block and bored the cylinders 0.030 over and stuffed them with hypereutectic pistons. A Comp Cams bumpstick with 512 duration and 281 lift works in harmony with Comp Cams lifters and roller rockers. The cruising tunes are belted out through '65 Mustang Shelby tri-Y headers and a custom exhaust system. The heads were ported and polished for increased flow, and the compartment was visually spiced up with a host of custom sheetmetal panels and a custom airscoop built by John Pryor at Xtreme Toyz in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. Power is delivered to the rear differential through a C4 transmission massaged by TCI. Completing the transplant of the 300hp small-block brought Jim to the paint and body portion of the buildup, where he met with the challenge of creating a well-balanced scene with a classic sense character.
Photo 10/14   |   1997 Ford Ranger Standard Cab side View
To pull off a rich and classy two-tone laid over a host of wild metal updates, Jim looked no further than the pros at Xtreme Toyz in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Owner John Pryor redefined the Ranger's exterior attitude by shaving the door handles, the antenna, the factory mirrors, the gas door, the stock taillights, and the cowl panel. All the factory seams were ditched for a smoother finish, while the top bodyline was completely shaved to give the Ranger a seamless midriff section. The rearview of the truck is enhanced with a Fender Bender International steel roll pan and tailgate skin combo.
Photo 11/14   |   1997 Ford Ranger Standard Cab rear Side View
Sending stop and turning intentions out with bright authority is a pair of 10-inch Hitech LED Products taillights frenched seamlessly into the smoothed tail section. At the nose, the factory Ranger hood was relieved of its lines, and a classic Ford Fairlane-style hoodscoop was grafted into the hood. Once the bodywork was complete, John went the extra mile and crafted a custom dash, door panels, and subwoofer enclosure for the Ranger's innards.
Photo 12/14   |   The original door panels were ditched in favor of these fiberglass-mold replicas, which have each been reshaped and fitted with an opening for an Infiniti 6-1/2-inch component set. Xtreme Toyz performed all the shaping and laid down the paint styling.
A custom dash, fashioned after a classic Mercury, resides between the A-pillars and is teamed with a pair of smoothed and reshaped door panels. A custom-built subwoofer enclosure resembling the front of a classic '57 Chevy Bel Air fender sits between the trick upholstered seats. As the sparks cooled from all the welding and the dust settled from the glassing and sanding, John mixed up a bright blend of House of Kolor Copper and Tangerine Pearl to kick off the truck's lower body panels. Up top, a DuPont and House of Kolor custom-mixed White sets the scene, while airbrushed trim in bright silver, reminiscent of '57 Chevy Bel Air trim, breaks up the two hues. For a true finished look, the paint scheme and graphic treatment were carried into the doorjambs and onto the dash, door panels, and the center console.
Photo 13/14   |   The Ford logo and a classic airbrushed trim recalling cars from yesteryear can be found all over this rolling work of art.
Between the doors, Jim commissioned Sonny's Upholstery in Fort Walton Beach, to throw some fabric updates on the Ranger's factory buckets. The seat frames were welded together to create a bench-style seat at the bottom, while remaining buckets in the backrest portion. Sonny of Sonny's Upholstery blended ostrich skin and white leather together on the buckets with a tuck 'n' roll pattern for a real old-school appearance. Dark- and light-gray carpet covers the floorboards, while a 14-inch Colorado Custom Classic steering wheel tops the one-off steering column. Jim Licata holds the keys to one radically redefined Ranger capable of snagging excess attention both at the shows and on the street.
Photo 14/14   |   1997 Ford Ranger Standard Cab emblem View
The truck successfully blends the elements of modern sport truck flair with the character of a few noteworthy American classics. Special thanks goes out to John and Helen Pryor at Xtreme Toyz, Ray at APM Racing, Sonny at Sonny's Upholstery, and the crew at Kunfuzed Kustomz for pouring all their extra time and effort. So, if you're showing your truck in the mini-truck wild class this summer, you'd better watch out because Jim's truck will definitely be flexing its custom muscles.



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