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Ford Ranger Through the Years

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Ford returned the mid-sized pickup truck Ranger to the market in 2019 to a mixed reception. Exploring the Ford Ranger generations explains why.

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2019 Ford Ranger - ford.com

2019 Ford Ranger  – ford.com  |  Shop Ford Ranger on Carsforsale.com

The Ford Ranger is a truly fascinating vehicle. It wears a badge that Ford has championed as far back in history as the 1950s. It came about out of necessity rather than desire but shot to the top of the sales chart and stayed there until 2008. When it ended production in 2012 buyers quickly felt the truth of absence causing a more fond attitude towards the small pickup. Now that it’s returned in 2019 it’s evolved into a whole new animal that requires an appreciation for a brand that can reinvent itself. Here’s a deep dive into the history of a truck that has gone from small and spartan to mid-sized and luxurious.

First Generation (1982 – 1992)

1983 Ford Ranger - ford.com
1983 Ford Ranger - ford.com
  • After the OPEC oil crisis, Ford realizes that a small domestically made truck would be an asset to the company and begins a project called Yuma to develop the Ranger.
  • After using the name “Ranger” from a high-level trim package on the F150 and F250, it is bestowed on a small pickup truck that takes over for the Mazda built Ford Courier.
  • Before use on the F150, Ford actually used the name Ranger for the Edsel Ranger sold from 1958-1960.
  • The small truck is sold with 4 small engine options, the largest of which is a 2.8-liter V6 producing 115 horsepower
  • None of the other engines even crack 80 horsepower and are considered highly undesirable in the used market.
  • Styling is heavily influenced by the rest of the Ford truck lineup only scaled down to better fit the small frame.
  • In 1986, the Supercab debuts with added interior space for more people and things.
1991 Ford Ranger Supercab - carsforsale.com
1991 Ford Ranger Supercab - carsforsale.com
  • Despite not being the first small American truck to the market, the Ranger sells well and gains more and more traction as the years go on.
  • 6- and 7-foot beds were available on the original Ranger.
  • Styling changes were the major improvement over this generation of Ranger and improved motors were also offered.
  • Ultimately, the 4×4 Ranger would get a 140 horsepower V6 that made the entire truck considerably more usable.

Second Generation (1993 – 1997)

1993 Ford Ranger - carsforsale.com
1993 Ford Ranger - carsforsale.com
  • In 1993, Ranger again follows its larger counterparts and gets a whole new look that’s far less boxy.
  • A 4.0-liter V6 is now available with 160 horsepower and 225lb-ft of torque.
  • Throughout the run of this Ranger generation, there’s a very rare but factory “4×4 Performance Package” available.
  • The package showed no outward badging or indications whatsoever but the changes were significant.
  • The 4×4 Package automatically employs the biggest engine available and outfits the truck with a special 3.73:1 rear axle, 31-inch tires, skid plates, and heavy-duty shocks.
  • The Ranger also gets a stepside or “Flairside” bed for easier reach to retrieve cargo from the small truck.
1986 Mazda B-Series Pickup - carsforsale.com

1986 Mazda B-Series Pickup  – carsforsale.com  |  Shop Mazda B-Series on Carsforsale.com

  • In 1994, Mazda began using the Ranger and rebadging it as the B-Series in a role reversal from the days of the Courier.
  • Safety improvements take place in 1995 as ABS becomes optional and the driver side airbag becomes standard.
  • A year later a passenger-side airbag becomes available.
  • In 1996, all Ranger engines underwent a factory certification process that indicates that they should be capable of running to 100,000 miles without a tune-up.
  • A 5-speed automatic transmission became available in 1997 for the 4.0-liter V6.

Third Generation (1998 – 2012)

1998 Ford Ranger - carsforsale.com
1998 Ford Ranger - carsforsale.com
  • The 1998 model is a complete refresh where the Ranger grows up into a very modern small pickup.
  • Suspension changes improve overall road handling and comfort while a longer wheelbase adds more interior comfort.
  • The first four-door Ranger is offered with rear doors that are rear-hinged for ease of ingress and egress for rear passengers.
  • At the time this was a feature no other small pickup on the market had. 1998 sees an ultra-rare piece of Ford history when they release the Ford Ranger Electric. This Ranger is a true EV with a 65-mile range and 65 horsepower.
  • In the first year of production, it actually used carbon fiber leaf springs to save weight without strength, nevertheless, they proved too weak for the task and were replaced with conventional steel in 1999.
  • It can be differentiated from the regular Ranger by the “Electric” badges on the sides, lack of exhaust pipe, a special factory bedcover, and the charging port behind a door in the grille.
  • The now widely used Ford Leaf & Road badge on many Ford Hybrid products was first used on the Ranger EV.
  • The electric variant runs until 2002 before being discontinued. Many were destroyed but some estimate that 400 or more may still be out there.
  • In 1999 the Ranger gets a host of changes including a Sport model with special colors on the bumpers, grille, and fog lenses.
  • The 3.0-liter V6 becomes a flex-fuel compatible motor.
  • The base price of the Ranger is just $11,485 in 2000.
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2001 Ford Ranger - carsforsale.com
2001 Ford Ranger - carsforsale.com
  • In 2001, the Ranger sees 200+ horsepower for the very first time with the single overhead cam 4.0-liter V6 that builds a maximum of 207 horsepower.
  • Further aesthetic adjustments are made in 2001 as the Ranger gets a new grille, bumper, and lighting both front and rear.
  • Thicker window glass is installed in 2003 to reduce overall noise and improve ride comfort.
  • In 2004, Ford revamps the front of the Ranger again with a slightly massaged grille and changes to the steering wheel, instrument cluster, and seats on the inside of the truck.
2007 Ford Ranger Sport - carsforsale.com
2007 Ford Ranger Sport - carsforsale.com
  • In 2006, Ford changes the grille again to better emulate the F150 and then adds TPMS sensors to the wheels in 2007.
  • While the Ranger was slated to end production in 2008, the financial crisis saved the truck from that end thanks to its economical nature.
  • The lower section of the grille is changed and includes an air-deflector to further improve fuel economy.
  • In 2009, Ranger gets four-wheel disc brakes for the first time ever.
  • In its final year of production for the US market, the small truck sells just over 19,000 units, a far cry from the some 250,000 it could manage in successful years.
  • The Ranger continues in other markets around the world but leaves the US until 2019.

Fourth Generation (2019 – Present)

2019 Ford Ranger - ford.com
2019 Ford Ranger - ford.com
  • The Ranger returns to America with the benefit of having years of continuous development across the globe.
  • It arrives with best-in-class payload, towing, and power output.
  • The 2.3-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine produces 310lb-ft of torque which trumps the competition despite being a smaller engine overall.
  • It can also tow up to 7,500lbs and handle an onboard payload of nearly 2,000 lbs.
  • For the first time, the Ranger gets a super-advanced transmission, in the form of a 10-speed automatic.
2021 Ford Ranger - ford.com
2021 Ford Ranger - ford.com
  • Much like it had in previous Ranger generations, this pickup shares a clearly recognizable Ford truck front facia design.
  • Many traditionalists bemoan the size of the new Ranger as it shares nearly the exact same footprint as its “big brother” the F150.
  • The Ranger has a set wheelbase of 126 inches where the F150 in its smallest form is actually 4 inches shorter at 122 inches.
  • Overall length is similar with the Ranger, clocking in at 210 inches and the F150 at 209.
  • That’s okay though because Ford will soon bring to market the smaller Maverick pickup to fill the space left by the now mid-sized Ranger.
  • The base 2021 Ranger is now available with an STX appearance package that features standard 18-inch wheels, an 8-inch touchscreen, and optional exterior graphics.
2021 Ford Ranger Tremor Lariat - ford.com

2021 Ford Ranger Tremor Lariat  – ford.com  |  Shop new Ford Ranger on Carsforsale.com

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2016 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Stephen Rivers

Stephen is a car enthusiast who loves all things built with passion. In his free time, he’s usually at a hockey rink, walking his dogs, or on a road bike. His automotive tastes lean towards cars that oftentimes seem to take a pound of flesh for the ethereal pleasure they provide: things like the Lamborghini Diablo, TVR Cerbera, and a C4 Corvette turned into a street-legal go-kart. He drives his Bugeye Subaru WRX in Autocross, Rallycross, and track day competitions throughout the year and daily drives a twin-turbo BMW 535i.

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