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1998 Ford Ranger Cummins - 4BT Diesel Dream Truck

From Classroom Sketches To A Real Cummins-Powered Ford Ranger

Aug 1, 2008
Photographers: Trevor Reed
Photo 2/20   |   1998 Ford Ranger Cummins left Front Angle
Lots Of People Sketch Out Their Dream Truck During Class, but high school senior Matt Conrad of Okeana, Ohio, actually turned his drawings into reality. He said the drawings worked like a "game plan," allowing him to design a real truck that would look exactly like the one in his imagination. At the young age of 15-and-a-half, Matt bought a '98 Ford Ranger pickup and gave it a suspension lift that allowed him to fit 33-inch tires. He liked the new setup, but thought the engine no longer had enough power, so he started looking for a diesel powerplant.
Cummins Hunting
An Internet search for diesel engines led Matt to a wrecked '04 Kubota tractor that was being used to excavate a tree that promptly fell on it and crushed the chassis, but left the engine intact. Matt drove all the way from Ohio to North Carolina to pick up the four-cylinder 3.9L 4BT Cummins diesel engine that would be used to repower his mini-truck.
Photo 3/20   |   1998 Ford Ranger Cummins left Side
Diesel Power and Transmission Swap
Matt swapped the engine into the Ranger by himself, and backed it up with a hydraulic 46RH automatic transmission and driveshaft that were scavenged from a 3/4-ton Dodge Ram pickup and a used Ford 8.8-inch rear axle with 3.08 gears. The Holset HX25 turbo breathes in through a high-flow S&B air filter and out through a 3-inch downpipe that leads to dual 5-inch stacks that let everyone know the Ranger is packing a diesel under the hood.
In addition to the stock speedometer and fuel gauge, a set of DiProcol gauges monitor the boost and EGT; Sunpro dials keep track of the voltage, temperature, and oil pressure; and an Isspro tachometer that uses magnets on the front pulley tracks the rpm. At first, the engine did not like its new home and acted up under normal driving conditions due to the variance of engine loads. With some help from the crew at Woodruff Diesel in New Vienna, Ohio, (, the 4BT was calmed down with the installation of a 3,200-rpm governor spring kit and a Denny T. power pin. The upgrades helped the Cummins run better in the Ranger and improved output to 160 hp and almost 300 lb-ft of torque at the crankshaft, which is more than enough power to spin the big rear tires on pavement.
Photo 7/20   |   1998 Ford Ranger Cummins engine
Custom Airbrushed Paint
Matt received a vacation from driving after getting a speeding ticket and put his free time to good use getting the paint job done properly. With help from his father, Joe Conrad, the factory white paint and teal pinstripe were removed and the Ranger received a bright coat of Corvette Yellow paint. On top of that, Matt used an airbrush to create the look of riveted steel ripping through the base coat. A cowl-induction hood, European-style headlamps, taillights, side markers, and a rollpan rear bumper were bought from various Internet auctions and combined with a Recon third brake lamp to nearly complete the unique look of the Ranger.
Homemade Bumper
Unable to find a suitable off-road bumper for a small truck, Matt decided to build his own. After the first two attempts did not work out, the version you see here was mocked-up with cardboard and traced on steel that was cut primarily with a band saw and some torch cutting. Matt welded the bumper together and airbrushed it to match the rest of the truck just a couple of days before the Diesel Power photo shoot.
Photo 8/20   |   1998 Ford Ranger Cummins engine Intake
Suspension Lift and 33-inch Tires
To make room for 33x12.50 BF Goodrich Mud Terrain tires mounted on 15-inch American Racing wheels, the Ranger got a Superlift 3-inch body lift along with suspension modifications. In front, a 3-inch spindle lift was combined with 2-inch spacers that Matt fabricated, and in the back 4-inch blocks were combined with helper leaf springs to get the truck up into the air.
Show Stopper
We caught Matt's 4BT Ranger at the TS Performance Outlaw Race where it made its public debut. Whether it was in the Show 'n' Shine area or on the dyno, it was surrounded by crowds throughout the show. Judging from the great reaction of onlookers, we guess the truck will be appearing at more truck shows, but until you can see it in person, you can check out videos of the 4BT Ranger in action blowing smoke and burning the tires on the Internet at:


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