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photography FORD MOTOR CO. ahd ALI MANSOUR

AS ONE OF THE BEST-SELLING

and most popular compact trucks on the road, the Ford Ranger has won over the nation for nearly 30 years. Launched in 1983, the Ranger was intended to be a domestic answer to the poplar import mini-trucks. Available with either a four-of six-cylinder engine, each 4x4 platform received a Twin Traction Beam front and leaf-sprung solid-axle rear suspension. With much of the competition opting for a more traditional IFS (A-arm) setup, the Ranger's TTB front end stood out as a more durable and easily modifiable suspension system.

The coil-sprung TTB front end served the Ranger until late 1997, when it was replaced by a torsion bar and A-arm configuration. While Ford has continuously improved the power and performance of the Ranger, the basic platform of the truck has remained the same throughout its long run. The most notable change arrived in 2002 with the introduction of the FX4 package. The FX4 and FX4 Level II packages were more than just sticker options. They fitted the Ranger with a grippy all-terrain tire, a Torsen limited-slip rear differential, skidplates, Bilstein shocks, and a 31-spline 8.8-inch rearend.

Though most any Ranger can be built into an off-road juggernaut, some of the compact Ford platforms will get you more on- and off-road performance right out of the box. Compiled here is a guide of what items we think are the most desirable in the Ranger platform. And while we may not have placed your super-rare four-cylinder diesel Ranger at the top of the list, we feel our picks best suit someone looking for an easily buildable Blue Oval compact.

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