Project Papa J


Freshmeat

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My grandfather ordered his truck in 1993 as a 1994 year model truck. First year of Ford owning Mazda and he was so excited about all the great new things that would come of it. He was always very simple. It's a STX package with manual windows/locks, manual transmission, etc. I'm pretty sure the only option he ordered was the air conditioning, so my grandmother could ride in comfort.

He ordered the truck exactly as he wanted it and told them he wanted it without the STX stripes. So of course, it showed up with the STX stripes. He's always laid back so he dealt with it and drove it home. At first sight my grandmother told him it was hideous and he had to take it back immediately. Obviously it didn't happen and it simply grew to be Papa J's truck.

He remains the greatest man I've known to this day.

Fast forward a bit... in 2005 my mom came barging into my house without a knock. She was famous for it and I always fussed at her, but with her came a sense of urgency. My grandfather had fallen unconscious and they'd not been able to revive him. I turned a 55 minute drive into a 20 minute drive and arrived at the hospital just as the nurses were informing my grandmother they couldn't do anything else. He was gone.

I needed to get back home for work and had taken my brother's car out there (he rode with my dad) so I needed a ride. My grandmother asked me to take Papa J's truck since she couldn't look at it without crying. I drove it for a few years with very few problems, but it had a constant exhaust tick. I went to replace the exhaust gaskets and snapped a few bolts in the heads. Pulled the motor to do it right and cracked the passenger head while extracting the bolt.

I was very short on cash due to custody battles with my son, so the truck sat for over three years at my parents' house with the engine out, waiting for me to have the time to do it. Since then I've gained custody of my son, married, and bought a house. I also have a solid job with slightly more than comfortable income. I'm not rich, but we don't go hungry.

My dad called the other day asking if I was going to do anything with the truck. His homeowner's insurance is giving him fits about it being on the property and he needed it gone. He'd been wanting to do the restoration himself (Papa J was his father) but he's having serious back issues and is in the middle of restoring a 28' Ranger sailboat. I made a few phone calls and picked it up the next day, just planning to park it in my yard for probably a few more years. Well, that didn't work. As soon as I opened the driver door all the memories and emotions came flooding back.

Thus launched Project Papa J. I'm going to do a mild restoration with either a newer engine or a bottom rebuild and new heads. All new suspension and body bushings (assuming I can find them new), possibly new exhaust. I want it all the way Papa J had it, but I'm adding my own little twist in that I'm trying to find wheels like what are on the truck, but in 15". I'll also be adding level coils up front and the tires will be in the 30-31" range so it will stand more like a truck.

I realize the investment will be more than the truck is worth pretty much as soon as I put a wrench on it, but the cost is not the issue. This truck can not be replaced. It will not be sold. I want to have it as a memory/tribute to my grandfather. Money will not really be a concern in terms of resale value because it will not be sold. That said, I can't afford to waste money, so I won't be buying stupid junk that I don't really need.

First line of business is going to be either finding a good motor or at least a good set of heads. This motor had great compression, no smoking, no knocking... so if I get some good heads I plan to toss them on this short block and run with it. If I get a good price on a complete used low mile motor I'll just go with that.

Here's a picture of my grandfather the Christmas before he passed. It's honestly hard to look at the pictures of him. At the time I wasn't wise enough to appreciate all the things he knew and was willing to share. Now I just do my best in life, hoping that in the end, he'd be able to say he was proud of me.



Here's the truck, at my house. That's Papa J's boat in the background. I just finished some engine work on it and as soon as I finish the wiring it'll be back in the water...



So I'll take a moment to thank you if you made it this far. I apologize for going so deep in the explanation, but for anyone following along, I'd love to share the stories and help you understand my reasoning for putting this much work into an old Ranger.
 


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getrdone52

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Your grandpa sounds like a good man. I'm happy to see it staying in the family and getting restored. I think it would be cool to get a tribute paint job on the tailgate to your grandpa. Are you going to daily drive it once its done?
 

Freshmeat

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I'm not into the tribute paint jobs. I think it would take away from the truck at best.

I do plan to drive it regularly once everything is done, but of course on nice days I'll be in the Jeep with the top and doors off.
 

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Really nice to restore it....and I know how ya feel about the sentimental aspect of it....

as for the bushings.....you can get them all new....

and yes those rims are available in the 15" size.....as for 31" tires, that is what mine came with stock.....

l8r, John
 

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Is there a vendor here who would be a good source for the bushings?
 

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Trying to figure out what to do for cylinder heads. The bottom end is good, but I cracked the exhaust flange on the right head and have two broken bolts in the left head.

I could get reman heads for ~$250 each. Or I can get junk yard heads for (a few hours of work plus) $100 and then pay ~250 to have them redone at the local head/block shop. Or I can get ONE head from either venue and have the head/block shop extract the broken bolts then redo both.

Too many dang options- it's like trying to figure out whether I want to shoot my big toe or the little one.
 

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Finally got the engine off the garage floor today. As you guys can see, I've been in no rush on this project. We've been staying incredibly busy with work and family stuff.

The flooding immediately following Hurricane Isaac almost claimed the truck's interior, but stopped about 2" short. It rose a little more after this picture was taken, but I didn't get a shot of the max depth, as I was too busy figuring out what should get stacked first in case the water got into the house.



Now that the engine is on the stand I'll figure out what I'm going to do as far as either replacing only the heads or having the long block rebuilt while it's all out.

I pulled the flywheel and clutch assembly to get the motor on the stand. The flywheel looks good, but I'll likely have it resurfaced just to freshen it up. The clutch will be replaced, as it has over 200,000 miles on it. We had a very random bolt floating around my garage that didn't seem to match anything at all… I threw it away, then dug it out of the trash bin because I was nervous it would be important and I'd need it. Sure enough, I only had seven out of eight pressure plate bolts. Dug around for the mystery bolt from several weeks ago and sure enough, it was a match.
 

Freshmeat

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Diving into this all over again...

Back in 2012 I rebuilt the top end with all new accessories (minus A/C), new clutch and hydraulics, and new brakes... and gave it to my dad for Christmas since it was his dad's truck...

I had tracked down some 15" Explorer wheels that matched the original 14" STX wheels so I could get to a better tire size and bought a set of Michelins which were way bigger than original, so once it's fixed up again I'll regear it to something in the 4.10 range.

A tree fell on their house about a year later, missing the Ranger by a few feet, but ran them out of the house for a few years while they rebuilt, so the truck stagnated all over again.

I have it back in my possession and have been getting it cleaned up and ready for some repairs. I'm currently waiting on a new starter cable, as the original has corroded pretty badly and thanks for Ford's design, I can't make a new one with the spools of cable I have in the shed.

Once it's running I'm going to toss in a set of leveling coils up front with new shocks while I work my way through ball joints, tie rod ends, brakes, etc... then I'll work on getting the A/C fixed up again.

I'd like to get it back to daily drivable condition to reminisce on the days of driving all over the state running errands with my grandfather when I was younger.
 

PetroleumJunkie412

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Watching.

I enjoy vehicles with stories, and have fallen victim to them twice now - my Ranger (full details in my build thread), and my 1953 Coronet that has a rather ugly past.
 

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I remember being in high school (6', give or take) and my brother, who had 3-4" on me... we would both cram into the jump seats in this thing to go places with my grandparents.

These days, my wife won't even discuss the possibility of my 6yo sitting back there. Hahaha
 

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It runs!!

Turned out to be the positive battery cable, as expected.

It has a tank of really old gasoline (estimating 2 years) but it's actually running perfectly fine, so I'm going to run this down, then change the filter and put in some fresh fuel. Dropping the tank to clean it out is on the long list, so I'm not terribly worried about running the old fuel. Wouldn't be the first time the truck sat for a few years with old fuel, anyway.

I have a parts list together to replace every ball joint, tie rod end, bushing, hose, caliper, bearing, etc in the front end. I'll order the Skyjacker leveling coils (assuming they're still in production) and a set of shocks through the shop and I'll tear down the front end and do it ALL in one giant motion. It sound so easy on paper, right? Haha- I'm genuinely terrified, even having performed a bunch of work on the front end over the years as it is... just want to get all the bushings back to square one.

The plan will be to also replace the rear end; going to build a 8.8 with TrueTrac and probably 4.56 gears. It'll be slightly deep for the 31s, but I prefer to keep things geared low and the factory 3.45s were almost too high on the stock tires. When I do that, I'll go in with leaf packs from a newer truck or I'll find some OEM replacements and swap them a the same time. I'm thinking I'll keep the drum brakes because it's simple and I'm not doing anything crazy with this truck at all.

Now to get insurance and plates set up, then start figuring out how to get the old truck smell out of the carpet.
 

DannyG

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I too have issues with sentimental attachment. This is why I still have my '92. I am glad it is running.
 

Grumpaw

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It runs!!

Turned out to be the positive battery cable, as expected.

It has a tank of really old gasoline (estimating 2 years) but it's actually running perfectly fine, so I'm going to run this down, then change the filter and put in some fresh fuel. Dropping the tank to clean it out is on the long list, so I'm not terribly worried about running the old fuel. Wouldn't be the first time the truck sat for a few years with old fuel, anyway.

I have a parts list together to replace every ball joint, tie rod end, bushing, hose, caliper, bearing, etc in the front end. I'll order the Skyjacker leveling coils (assuming they're still in production) and a set of shocks through the shop and I'll tear down the front end and do it ALL in one giant motion. It sound so easy on paper, right? Haha- I'm genuinely terrified, even having performed a bunch of work on the front end over the years as it is... just want to get all the bushings back to square one.

The plan will be to also replace the rear end; going to build a 8.8 with TrueTrac and probably 4.56 gears. It'll be slightly deep for the 31s, but I prefer to keep things geared low and the factory 3.45s were almost too high on the stock tires. When I do that, I'll go in with leaf packs from a newer truck or I'll find some OEM replacements and swap them a the same time. I'm thinking I'll keep the drum brakes because it's simple and I'm not doing anything crazy with this truck at all.

Now to get insurance and plates set up, then start figuring out how to get the old truck smell out of the carpet.
Check out a web site, NOS Parts Ltd. One of those companies that buy's out nos parts. I believe they carry a limited supply of nos parts for the Rangers like yours. Even looked up for a forum member and found the side swoopy decals like you truck has, and they were in stock.
Grumpaw
 

Freshmeat

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Check out a web site, NOS Parts Ltd. One of those companies that buy's out nos parts. I believe they carry a limited supply of nos parts for the Rangers like yours. Even looked up for a forum member and found the side swoopy decals like you truck has, and they were in stock.
Grumpaw
Holy shit, man- that's good intel right there! Thank you for the lead!!
I'm hoping they may have an overflow/windshield bottle, as I shattered mine putting it back in the other day. Oops!
 

Grumpaw

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Weird about the overflow/washer container.
LMC lists replacements for all except the 1993 / 1994. Wondering if one for a 1995 would work.
They list one on page 114 of their Ranger catalog.
Grumpaw
 


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