1996 Ford Ranger - A Tale Of Two Rangers

Bringing Two Fairy Tales To Life

Mike Alexander
Apr 1, 2010
Contributors: Owners
Photographers: John Jackson
For this year's special Under Construction issue we wanted to do something a little different and dive into the owner's perspective to hear why they do what they do and have them tell us all about their journey first hand.
Photo 2/9   |   1996 Ford Ranger custom Ford Ranger Trucks
Many of us go through good times and bad when building a long-term project, but we don't always get to hear all of the behind the scenes stories that go along with these crazy builds.
We searched far and wide to bring you some of the baddest minis in progress for this issue, and these two Rangers are certainly at the top of their class. These two Rangers share a few similarities that are noticeable; they're both extended- cab body-dropped Rangers sporting 20/22 wheel combos, and both are extremely clean, simple, and smooth! And with help from The Little Shop of Horrors, both Rangers are exactly what we look for in near-completed projects for this issue. Some of the obvious differences are; the open engine bay vs. closed engine bay, the new-school motor vs. old-school motor and the sheetmetal bed vs. the wood bed floor. It just goes to show that even owners that share similar taste, styles, and shops, can be original and create their own works of art! So sit back and read what each owner has to say about their long trip on the road to this Under Construction Special.
Owner: Forrest Warren
Ride: 1996 Ford Ranger
Hometown: Acworth, GA
Club: Relaxed Atmosphere
Photo 3/9   |   1996 Ford Ranger front Left View
It's A Long Way To The Top
Every truck has a story that is just as unique as the owner and the project itself. The story of this Ranger begins like many. I purchased my 1996 Ford Ranger in 2002 as the first vehicle I ever owned.
Working through high school and college to earn extra cash, the truck began mildly: a static drop, 17-inch wheels, a few shaved items, and a stereo. After deciding to get serious about building a nice chassis, I met Cris Collins from Seale, Alabama. One night Cris called and informed me that he had decided to cut off the front frame section, and he wanted to build a front frame clip using Toyota spindles, tubular control arms, and a rack and pinion steering setup. I decided to finish the clip off into a full bumper to bumper frame, using 2x3x1/4-inch steel tubing. The chassis now included a triangulated four-link and tubular rack to hold a fuel cell, compressors, and air tanks. All the frame work was done with the help of James Hill and Jason Farnell. Working on the cab during that time, James and I mated up an Explorer front end, frenched a set of Thunderbird vents into the fenders, as well as shaved many of the normal factory annoyances.
Photo 4/9   |   1996 Ford Ranger interior
At Scrapin' the Smokies in 2007, I met Eric Saliba from Little Shop of Horrors for the first time. I approached Eric about building a vintage dash and door panels to fit the truck. After scouting various places, I made a visit to Jerry Crawford, a very talented man with a history of building world-class hot rods. He pointed me to the woods near his house saying, "There's about 30 cars out there, walk around, see what you like, and tell me what you find." After spending the day browsing the collection of '50s and '60s tin, I stumbled upon a 1958 Ford custom with the perfect dash. This dash would become the theme for the entire truck, and elements of the dash are incorporated throughout. That September, I dropped my Ranger off with Eric at the Little Shop of Horrors, and the real build on my truck began.
Photo 5/9   |   1996 Ford Ranger custom Truck Bed
The dash was reformed to match the cab, including small details like a notch for the factory VIN plate and extending the dash upwards to meet the factory A-pillars. Next, Eric built a set of sheetmetal door panels that wrap into the dash and continue the 1958 Ford dash lines. This was the start of a two-year whirlwind of ideas and fabrication that led to what you see now. We started with the intention of building a smooth sheetmetal bed that matched the styling of the rest of my truck, and the work quickly got out of hand. A new set of Coy C-5 wheels, 20x8.5 and 22x9, were also added to the mix. The theme of the vintage dash lines in the door panels was carried inside the bed, and the construction of a full set of bed panels began. Next, Eric and Bradley began construction of the framework and mechanisms to actuate the bed as a tilting unit using RE-8 bags. After roughly 300 hours of intense metalwork, the bed could finally be called complete. Grant Kustoms built the roll pan, taillight fillers, and two custom skins that were used to smooth the back cab wall and front bed wall, complete with the factory Ranger bodyline. A Kinetik Audio HC2000 battery was hung on the framerails, some bodywork on the outsides was completed, and the truck was sprayed in blue primer just before going on the trailer to debut at Allstar as planned.
Photo 6/9   |   1996 Ford Ranger rear Right View
The next missing link on this project was a front bumper. Using an early Explorer factory bumper, the end result is hardly recognizable as anything factory. Preparing the truck for Allstar Event 2009, I decided it was time to get a motor and transmission back in the truck. Instead of the factory 4.0 V6 or going the traditional carb motor route, Eric happened to have a 2001 Mustang 4.6L V8 and automatic tranny at the shop. The motor and tranny were squeezed in the Ranger, barely fitting under the stock hood. Further work included a smooth firewall with wheeltubs that extend over to meet the outside fenders. The truck also received a set of Phatty's Fab front brakes from Alberta, Canada. And that's exactly as you see it pictured here.
Photo 7/9   |   1996 Ford Ranger rear View
In case you haven't noticed, there's a recurring theme with all Little Shop feature trucks. They all have titles from an AC/DC album and It's A Long Way To The Top describes my build perfectly. After five years there is finally light at the end of the tunnel. Work continues to progress on my truck, and the end vision is still the ultimate driving force. With some new tricks to be put into place, you can be sure that this won't be the last you'll see of this Ranger.
Rolling Attire
Wheels (Front/Rear): 20- / 22-inch Coy C-5s
Tires (Front/Rear): Hankook 245/35/ZR20 and 265/35ZR22
Chassis Modifications
Suspension Type: Air
Suspension (Front/Rear): One-off front suspension using Belltech 2-inch drop spindles and Mustang rack and pinion steering. Rear suspension uses a narrowed Toyota rearend with Moser axles and a triangulated four-link from Gravity Werx
Airbags: (Front): Slam Specialties RE6 (Rear): Slam Specialties RE7
Control Arms: One-off tubular arms
Frame Mods: Custom bumper to bumper frame
Frame Material: 2x3 tubing
Gas Tank: 15-gallon aluminum fuel cell
Brakes: Phatty's Fab front brakes using Wilwood calipers and rotors and Phatty's rotor hats and caliper brackets
Performed By: The Little Shop of Horrors, front suspension by Cris Collins, brakes by Deuce at Phatty's Fab
Photo 8/9   |   1996 Ford Ranger wheel And Tire
Body Modifications
Shaved: Fender emblems, body line in front of the fender vents, wiper cowl, mirrors, door handles, third brake light, stake pocket holes, gas door, tailgate handle, taillights
Frenched: 2003 Ford Thunderbird vents into the fenders
Body-dropped: Stock-floor body drop
Front End: 1995 Explorer conversion and heavily modified Explorer front bumper
Back End: Grant Kustoms rollpan and shaved tailgate handle
Misc.: Back cab wall and front bed wall have been shaved smooth with the factory body lines using custom skins by Grant Kustoms, tilt bed by Little Shop of Horrors using RE8 Slam 'bags, full sheetmetal bed using lines to match the interior work
Performed By: James Hill, owner, and The Little Shop of Horrors
Photo 9/9   |   1996 Ford Ranger left Side View
Brand and Colors: Sherwin Williams Riviera blue
Style: Primer
Performed By: The Little Shop of Horrors
Seats: Factory 1985 Ranger bench
Material: Factory red vinyl
Dash: 1958 Ford Dash sectioned and formed to fit the cab, modified to match the factory interior panels, and shaved smooth
Door Panels: Sheetmetal door panels that wrap into and match the dash
Performed By: The Little Shop of Horrors
Displacement: 4.6L Mustang GT
Model/Year: 2000
Number of Cylinders: Eight
Battery: Kinetik HC2000 under the bed
Misc.: Custom tubular motor mounts
Performed By: The Little Shop of Horrors
Special Thanks From Owner:
"I would like to thank my parents Larry and Vicki for their continued support and love throughout this long project. I owe endless thanks to Eric and Bradley at the Little Shop of Horrors for the countless hours of incredible work and their awesome friendship. I would also like to thank Erik Harbour at Kinetik, Grant Kustoms for the sheetmetal, and Deuce at Phatty's Fab for the brakes. Without all of the above people this truck would not have been possible. Other people who deserve thanks for their help and support are: Chad Bain, Endless Mike, Jeff Lewis, all of the boys from Lawrenceburg/Little Shop, Jerry Crawford for the dash, Hairbear, Josh, and the rest of the ///RA FL chapter, Lo-N-Slo, James, Ham, everyone who has helped me load and unload the truck, and all my family in Relaxed Atmosphere."



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