1991 SAS build


gradan07

Member
Joined
Mar 13, 2018
Messages
39
Reaction score
2
Points
8
Location
pa
Vehicle Year
1991
Make / Model
Ford
Engine Size
2.3 turbo
Transmission
Manual
gradan07 1991 build

IMG_2245.jpg

I would like to start out by thanking everyone on the forum whose build thread provided most of the information i needed to build this project over the last 5 years. I have been a long time ranger station reader but never spent the time to document my build. I started this build in 2013 and it is now mostly finished. I plan to upload my build in the order that I completed it over several posts. I hope it helps or inspires someone else to work on their project and stick with it. I will give the disclaimer this is for entertainment only and if anyone wants to copy something they see here they do so at their own risk.

The beginning:

A retired Marine that i work with was going to junk his 1991 Ford ranger 4x4 long bed due to intermittent no start when damp. Over a few lunch time discussions we decided that the truck would be a good starting platform for a project build that I have been thinking about. Since the truck had given him so many problems with not starting he refused to charge me for the truck so he decided to gift me the truck as long as i would do my best to fix it up.

I drove the truck home and started to layout the plan for my build ahead.

Specifications when i started:
1991
long bed
regular cab
4x4
dana 35 front 4:10 gears open diff
ford 7.5 rear 4:10 gears open diff
2.3 4cyl with dual spark 230k miles
5 spd manual M5od
1354 borg warner manual shift

The truck was bone stock other than a spray in bed liner, rusty bed, and a bunch of Ronald Reagan campaign stickers.


bed rust.jpg

At this time in 2013 I had just gotten married and moved into a small house with detached two car garage. I knew the build would need to be on a tight budget so the plan was to slowly build the truck over the next few years as a hobby. The goal was repair the old truck suspension and upgrade the components as i went. I wanted to source as many stock vehicle parts as possible and not buy any kits or pre engineered solutions. I also wanted to be able to get most of the parts for repair while out overlanding/wheeling at local auto parts stores. I also wanted a rig that was safe, and didn't skimp on brakes, steering, or general build quality.

What was broken at the start:
I found lots of major problems when i got the truck home, to name a few.
Engine wire harness had multiple areas of exposed wires from old age and poor repairs (explains no start when wet)
Front drivers side coil spring top mount had bad rust.
Obvious rust on bed and drivers side cab corner.
rear leaf spring brackets rusted
body mount rubber shot
In general the truck was wore out

Given the extent of the damage to the coil spring mount I started considering a solid axle swap (SAS). I thought that this would allow me to lift the truck without buying or making all the TTB brackets. I was also a fan of a few of the ranger station truck of the month builds that had pulled it off before. So i started researching affordable options for solid axle donors


As a teaser this is the current specification list as of spring 2018
SAS dana 30 front 4:88
jeep wj knuckle and brake swap
front leaf spring, from 1995 explorer
8.8 31 spline rear 4:88 traclock
chevy 63 rear springs
285/75/16 BFG km2
chevy 1 ton steering
afco shocks
1988 ford thunderbird 2.3 turbo
ron fransis engine harness
AN -6 fuel system
tube chassis bed
 
Last edited:


Rock Auto 5% Discount Code: 248EE46702D889 Expires: October 1, 2019

gradan07

Member
Joined
Mar 13, 2018
Messages
39
Reaction score
2
Points
8
Location
pa
Vehicle Year
1991
Make / Model
Ford
Engine Size
2.3 turbo
Transmission
Manual
build log 2

After researching all the options and considering my budget at the time I decided to look for the following parts at local salvage yards. Rear chevy 63” springs for the rear suspension. A dana 30 high pinion front axle out of a xj, or yj jeep. I wanted one without the vacuum disconnect and preferably one with stock 4:10 axle ratio. A few weekends later and I was able to source the springs from a 2002 chevy 2500 hd that had front end damage. The truck was clean and I was able to grab the u bolts and axle plate as well. The springs had good bushings still and only set me back $40 for the pair.

chevy 2500.jpg
chevy spring.jpg

I was unable to find any dana 30 HP in the 4:10 ratio so I settled on one from a 1995 xj that had 3:73s. The axle housing with brakes came in at $100.

jeep donnor.jpg
dana30.jpg

I know the dana 30 is not for hardcore wheeling. This build is intended to run 33” tires max and I only run the easy trails at the local park. I have spent lots of time fixing broken rigs from driving too hard so I am aware of the limits on these axles. I encourage anyone building a similar rig to really consider how hard they plan to wheel before they pull the trigger on a dana 30. The up front cost on the housing is more but most of the other components are similar in cost for a d44 or d60. Example ball joints, R&P, and steering are almost the same as the d30 cost.

dana 30 clean up.jpg
dana 30 clean up2.jpg

I spent some time and stripped the dana 30 axle down in prep to go under the ranger. I also cleaned and painted the Chevy 63s.
 

gradan07

Member
Joined
Mar 13, 2018
Messages
39
Reaction score
2
Points
8
Location
pa
Vehicle Year
1991
Make / Model
Ford
Engine Size
2.3 turbo
Transmission
Manual
Build log 3

At the time I did not think I could afford to spend the money on a three link set up so I started research on front leaf sprung options. I found a few examples of rangers that did this using Wagoneer front leaf springs, and some examples of YJ front leafs. I found that SD truck springs website to be really helpful with dimensions and spring rates for common leaf springs. I compared all the commonly salvage yard available springs. This included F150 springs, dodge Dakota springs, Wagoneer, yj, ranger, explorer and many others. After measuring the frame and calculating my new front axle center line I found that 1990s rear explorer leaf springs would place the axle and springs eyes in the approximately correct locations. Many others either placed the rear spring eye too far forward or the front eye beyond the front bumper. Another trip to the junk yard and I was able to snag a clean set of rear leaf springs and shackles from a 1996 explorer 4 door. This was a 4 leaf pack. My backup plan if this pack was too soft was to buy a set of springs from an explorer sport track. And if that did not work I could always go to Deaver springs and have a custom pack made. But it was a good starting point. I was able to get the explorer leafs for $20.00 After some clean up and paint they looked pretty good.

explorer leafs.jpg
explorer leaf 2.jpg
 

gradan07

Member
Joined
Mar 13, 2018
Messages
39
Reaction score
2
Points
8
Location
pa
Vehicle Year
1991
Make / Model
Ford
Engine Size
2.3 turbo
Transmission
Manual
build log 4

I went ahead and ordered some U bolts for the front dana 30 and fabricated the top plates. At the time I also used some heavy wall box tubing and fabricated some spring pads. Later in the build I switch these out for a nice set of anti wrap units. I have access to lots of various steel sizes at my job so I was able to buy material drops for a reasonable price.

spring mount 1.jpg
spring mount 2.jpg
spring mount 3.jpg
spring mount 4.jpg
spring mount 5.jpg

The top plats were made from 5/8 thick steel if I recall correctly . I made sure to round the contacting edge to avoid stress concentrations. I used a Bridgeport mill to put the holes in but you could do the same if you are careful with a drill and your measurements.

top plate 1.jpg
top plate 2.jpg
top plate 3.jpg
 

gradan07

Member
Joined
Mar 13, 2018
Messages
39
Reaction score
2
Points
8
Location
pa
Vehicle Year
1991
Make / Model
Ford
Engine Size
2.3 turbo
Transmission
Manual
build log 5

At this time I removed the TTB and gave it to my cousin for his 88 ranger project. His truck only had the dana 28 so this was perfect for his James duff lift
TTB remval.JPG
tare down day

mikes raner.jpg
where the TTB lives now

Then I spent a lot of time looking at axle under versus axle over for the leaf position.

IMG_2575.JPG
first time the leafs were on the d30

I wanted to keep the truck height as low as possible. I was well aware of the limits that a leaf spring front and I wanted to limit axle wrap so axle over leaf was my first choice. I found the dana 30 hp will fit under ranger and if centered correctly can maintain an almost stock ride height. The steering linkage would also be very simple to take from the xj as it would all clear above the leafs. However the upward movement of the axle is very limited. I don’t have the exact number but I would have only had maybe 3 inches of upward movement until the differential housing would contact the engine cross member.

IMG_2932.JPG
clearance from diff to engine cross member in axle under config

I have seen trail rigs work well with small up travel and all droop. This set up also is not great for ground clearance with leafs and bolts hanging low. The trails in PA I run have lots of rocks and ground clearance is at a premium since I only plan to run 33 inch tires.

I also used some heavy wall pipe material to make a half round skid plate for the dana 30 axle tubes. i have seen d30s fail after denting a tube on rocks. I wanted to try this a cheap insurance from rock damage. I sized the u bolts to fit the od of the skik material. These were later welded on as well.

IMG_2586.JPG

IMG_2823.JPG
IMG_2827.JPG
IMG_2837.JPG
IMG_2847.JPG
truck with d30 under it in leaf under axle config
 

BlackBII

Ranger Custom
Article Contributor
OTOTM Winner
TRS Banner 2010-2011
Joined
Aug 14, 2007
Messages
7,364
Reaction score
117
Points
63
Location
UT
Vehicle Year
1989
Make / Model
Ford
Engine Type
4.0 V6
Transmission
Manual
2WD / 4WD
4WD
Total Lift
5
Tire Size
33
This is looking really good!

:icon_thumby:
 

gradan07

Member
Joined
Mar 13, 2018
Messages
39
Reaction score
2
Points
8
Location
pa
Vehicle Year
1991
Make / Model
Ford
Engine Size
2.3 turbo
Transmission
Manual
Thanks a lot! I have had alot of fun with this build. I will be posting more of the fabrication work in the next few days.
 

gradan07

Member
Joined
Mar 13, 2018
Messages
39
Reaction score
2
Points
8
Location
pa
Vehicle Year
1991
Make / Model
Ford
Engine Size
2.3 turbo
Transmission
Manual
build log 6

To overcome the up travel limitations I moved towards the axle under leaf configuration. This greatly complicates the steering. The leaf spring ends up directly where the steering linkage wants to sit with the stock xj knuckles. A lot of guys end up running S shaped drag links to overcome this however the amount of S shape required seemed excessive. More on this later. The axle under configuration fixes the ground clearance issue and seemed to put the truck at a nice ride height.

frame dims.jpg
leaf design 1.jpg
leaf hitting steering.jpg
steering clear.jpg

The next big questions were width of the leaf spring spacing. The obvious answer would be to use the standard leaf spacing used on YJ front dana 30s or at least a common spacing used on other bigger axles in case I wanted to upgrade in the future. Turns out this is really not easy to pull off on a ranger. The front frame spacing on TTB trucks is narrower than that of a YJ jeep. And the spacing used on say a ford dana 60 front leaf is much too wide to allow any turning radius on a dana 30 hp from an xj or yj. So I ended up compromising on a width that would allow full turning with a 33” tire and matched well with the ranger frame. In the future if I upgrade the front axle to run larger than 33” tires I will likely install a 3 link and coil spring at the same time. If someone wants to know the spacing I can measure.

rear mount.jpg
 

gradan07

Member
Joined
Mar 13, 2018
Messages
39
Reaction score
2
Points
8
Location
pa
Vehicle Year
1991
Make / Model
Ford
Engine Size
2.3 turbo
Transmission
Manual
build log 7

The last questions were where to run the shackle. I much prefer rear shackle front leafs due to keeping the front leaf in tension under hard front impacts while wheeling. It’s a lot harder to buckle (fold up) a rear shackle leaf set up. I looked at a lot of ways to do this on a ranger with my spring spacing. Ford F250s from the early 2000s do it nice with the shackle going around the frame.

rear shackle.jpg
F250 rear shackle with front leafs and d60

This could also be done on a ranger but would require that the shackle be pretty wide. It would also require an accurate hole be drilled in the frame and a DOM bushing sleeve be welded in. The accuracy of this hole and bushing would need to be spot on to avoid having the axle sit strange in the truck. The big problem I found with trying to make this work on the front of the ranger frame was the rake angle that you would end up with a rear shackle. The front of the leaf ends up high in the vehicle and the rear ends up extra low. To fix this you have to lower the front point even more subsequently raising the ride height even more. You will often see this angle on front leaf setups that are done at home. I don’t think the on road manner with this angle would be good but I could be wrong. My final decision was to run the shackle at the front of the leaf to achieve the right leaf positioning in the truck and keep ride height as low as possible. I know the type of off road driving I will be doing and my own tolerance for beating up trucks. So this will work well for me but I can’t say if you are the type of person who likes to get into the big rocks and ledges this would be a good solution. You would likely want to at least carry a spare main leaf for when you flip the shackle on rock and buckle the leaf. Double wrap military style leafs would help with this too. In defense of this solution there are many iconic 4x4s that run this set up including wagoneers, jeep yj, and classis land cruisers.

front shackle.JPG
 

gradan07

Member
Joined
Mar 13, 2018
Messages
39
Reaction score
2
Points
8
Location
pa
Vehicle Year
1991
Make / Model
Ford
Engine Size
2.3 turbo
Transmission
Manual
build log 8

At this point I needed to start thinking about the leaf spring mounts for the front. I got a set of leaf spring mounts from barns 4x4 as a starting point and fabricated the required plates and braces to achieve the correct leaf spring spacing. My goal for the front end was to have everything bolt to the frame. This would allow me to remove and change the design if I didn’t like how the final product drove.

bracket design.JPG
welding mount .JPG
on frame .JPG

With the rear mounting point installed I was able to look at shackle length and front cross member design. I ended up removing the two front body mounts and created a cross member that integrated the cab mounts, leaf mounts and would provide a solid foundation for a winch mount later on. The front cross member required the frame horns be trimmed down and I attached the factory brackets to mount the stock bumper for now. The main member is 3x3 0.250 wall tubing and the angle plates was about 3x3 0.190 wall. The front leaf shackle is also from barns. I extended length of the bracket and added more bolts to better react the bending moment introduced from the shackle load. The shackle length ended up being same as a rear shackle from a ford explorer. I am still running the stock shackle. I was thinking that when I broke it I would make heavy ones but they have held up well so far.

front mount .JPG
cross member .JPG
cm welding .JPG
in truck .JPG
in truck 2 .JPG
 

gradan07

Member
Joined
Mar 13, 2018
Messages
39
Reaction score
2
Points
8
Location
pa
Vehicle Year
1991
Make / Model
Ford
Engine Size
2.3 turbo
Transmission
Manual
build log 8

With the front axle under the truck a moved my attention to the rear suspension. I ordered all new leaf spring mounts from advanced auto parts. I removed the bed to get better access to the frame.

removal 1.JPG
removal 2.JPG
removal 3.JPG
removal 5.JPG


At this point I decided the bed was a total loss from rust damage and I cut it up to move to the junk yard easier. More on the bed solution later.

bed choped.JPG

I performed the well documented chevy 63 inch spring swap using chevy lowering shacks from advanced auto at the rear. I went with the shackle in compression since I’m not looking to do any long travel desert pre running. This lifted the rear of the truck but I still ended up needing a 1.5 inch lift block later in the project to get the truck level.

rear shackle.JPG
leaf in place.JPG
on wheels.JPG

I used this time to clean up the frame and prep for paint

I also wanted to improve rear break over angle so I removed a few inches from the rear of the frame and installed a new rear cross member. In total if you count the bumper length I removed 17”. This was about the maximum amount I could remove and still have room for the shackle brackets.

frame chop 1.JPG
frame chop 2.JPG
frame chop 3.JPG
frame clean 2.JPG
 

gradan07

Member
Joined
Mar 13, 2018
Messages
39
Reaction score
2
Points
8
Location
pa
Vehicle Year
1991
Make / Model
Ford
Engine Size
2.3 turbo
Transmission
Manual
build log 9

I inspected the frame everywhere and identified any areas where rust had compromised the thickness. There were three areas that I cut out to full thickness metal and welded back in with stock thickness material. In all cases these were areas where brackets had been riveted on.
frame 1.JPG
frame 2.JPG
frame 3.JPG
frame 4.JPG
frame 5.JPG
frame 6.JPG

I know the size of the holes cut look intimidating but I worked on the side of cutting back until i was sure i was at full frame thickness metal. The new plate were burned in nice and i have had no issues since.

With the frame in good shape I put down some POR 15 paint to keep things from rusting in the future.

paint 1.JPG
paint 2.JPG
 

gradan07

Member
Joined
Mar 13, 2018
Messages
39
Reaction score
2
Points
8
Location
pa
Vehicle Year
1991
Make / Model
Ford
Engine Size
2.3 turbo
Transmission
Manual
questions

Can anybody tell me what to do when i reach the attachment limit of 10mb here on the ranger station? Do i need to use a 3rd party website? I only have a little data left until i run out.
 

ericbphoto

Old Redneck just wingin' it.
Supporting Member
U.S. Military - Veteran
TRS 20th Anniversary
Joined
Feb 7, 2016
Messages
2,459
Reaction score
377
Points
83
Age
55
Location
Wellford, SC
Vehicle Year
1993
Make / Model
Ford Ranger
Engine Size
3.0L
Transmission
Manual
2WD / 4WD
4WD
Total Lift
6"
Tire Size
35"
My credo
In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are different.
You got it. 3rd party hosting is the next step. Or just sit back and have a celebratory beer.

Sent from my SM-G920V using Tapatalk
 

BlackBII

Ranger Custom
Article Contributor
OTOTM Winner
TRS Banner 2010-2011
Joined
Aug 14, 2007
Messages
7,364
Reaction score
117
Points
63
Location
UT
Vehicle Year
1989
Make / Model
Ford
Engine Type
4.0 V6
Transmission
Manual
2WD / 4WD
4WD
Total Lift
5
Tire Size
33
That image will probably work if you put it in bbcode; surround the direct link with



https://www.phpbb.com/community/help/bbcode

That image is huge, so you'll want to resize it to 1024-1200 in width.

Nice bronco
 


Top