The Ford Ranger traces its roots all the way back to 1972 when the Ford Courier became the first compact pickup truck sold by Ford. Ford had noticed the success of Toyota’s and Datsun’s compact trucks due to rising fuel prices, and they wanted a piece of the pie too. In order to break into the market segment more easily, Ford partnered with Mazda to re-brand the Mazda B1800 under Ford. It was the beginning of a longstanding relationship lasting until 2008. The Ford Courier was manufactured in Hiroshima, Japan and imported to the United States. This practice allowed Ford to get their feet wet in a new market without putting too much skin in the game.
The Courier took its design cues from the F-Series pickups. It shared similarities to the Ford F-150 such as “FORD” lettering across the front of the hood, a silver grille, and round headlights. The Courier continued to be imported from Japan through 1982. Beginning in 1976 however, Ford laid plans to manufacture a compact truck domestically. In 1982, Ford’s assembly plant in Louisville, Kentucky began production of the Ford Ranger.
First Generation Ford Ranger
The first generation Ford Ranger launched in 1983 after tremendous development work. Not only did Ford transform the Courier into a larger, more Americanized work truck, they also went to lengths to ensure the Ranger was as fuel-efficient as possible by utilizing strong and lightweight materials such as magnesium for the clutch housing, clutch pedal bracket and brake pedal bracket, and aluminum for the transfer case on four-wheel drive models. The Ranger also underwent rigorous aerodynamics testing to minimize the drag coefficient.
All-in-all, the two-wheel drive standard cab model with a 2.2-liter four-cylinder diesel motor and a four-speed manual transmission averaged an impressive 26 miles per gallon. Despite this, a four-wheel drive Ranger still managed to achieve a payload capacity rating of 1,600 pounds, which matched the Ford F-100. To put these numbers into perspective, the 2020 Ford Ranger achieves up to 26 miles per gallon highway and has a payload rating of 1,609 pounds on the two-wheel drive models. The Ranger was off to a strong start.
The first generation Ford Ranger used a body-on-frame design, like a true pickup. Along with this, styling cues, and suspension, the Ranger shared many commonalities with the larger F-150. The Ford Bronco also used a shortened version of the Ranger chassis and much of the same interior. Originally a 2.0L four-cylinder motor, 2.3L four-cylinder motor, 2.8L V6 motor, and 2.2L four-cylinder diesel motor were offered. Later in the generation, the diesel motor was replaced by a 2.3L turbocharged diesel motor and a 3.0L V6 motor became available for rear-wheel drive models. A four-speed manual transmission was standard, with a five-speed manual and three-speed automatic transmission available as options.
Four trim levels were available ranging from S, to XL, XLS, and XLT. A Ranger GT was briefly offered from 1987 to 1989 which included a sporty 140 hp 2.9L V6 motor, anti-roll bars, a limited-slip differential (LSD), and high-performance tires.
Second Generation Ford Ranger
After a ten-year long run of the first generation, the second generation Ford Ranger was finally released in 1993. It utilized the same chassis, but underwent a complete redesign otherwise. It featured all-new body panels and an interior to match. It took on a modern, aerodynamic design. For the first time, a flareside version became available. Ford introduced “Touch Drive” which allowed drivers to electronically switch the transfer case into four-wheel drive by utilizing electronic locking front-wheel hubs. In 1995 a four-wheel anti-lock brake system (ABS) became standard for Rangers featuring four-wheel drive or the larger 4.0L motor option. The diesel motor option was dropped and only the 2.3L, 3.0L, and 4.0L engine options remained.
The exterior body lines were softer, more rounded, and aerodynamic. The hoodline was lower and the doors were taller, featuring flush-mounted glass. To further help with aerodynamics, the large metal sideview mirror brackets were ditched in favor of sleeker car-like mirrors. The cab was also widened by about three inches, making the truck closer to a mid-sized truck than a compact truck.
The interior of the Ranger did not change as drastically as the exterior but it did receive new seats, door panels, and instrument panel. It was further updated in 1995 when the Ranger received a refresh. Controls became more ergonomic, and a 8”x4” (double-DIN) head unit was added, driver’s side airbags became standard, and a passenger’s side airbag was optional. The base trim level was discontinued and the XL trim took over as the lowest trim. A Ranger Splash model debuted in 1993 which was a sporty version of the flareside Ranger. Two-wheel drive versions had a lower stance and chrome wheels. The Splash edition featured unique graphics on the sides and tailgate.
The Ranger underwent an update in 2004 and 2006. The 2004 update brought a new grille, hood, bumper, and seats. In 2006 the grille was updated again along with the side marker lights and taillights.
Third Generation Ford Ranger
The third generation Ford Ranger was released for the 1998 model year. The wheelbase was lengthened, along with the cab, to provide more interior room. The long-standing twin I-beam front suspension was updated to a wishbone suspension system borrowed from the Ford Explorer. The frame was strengthened by switching from a C-channel style to a boxed frame. Although the exterior was updated with new headlights, taillights, a new grille, hood, and front bumper, it retained many of the styling cues from the previous generation.
Ford released an FX4 Level II trim in 2003 which was equipped with offroad hardware such as an 8.8 rear axle with a Torsen limited-slip differential (LSD), skid plates that protecting components on the underside of the truck, beefier tow hooks, 31” all-terrain tires, and Bilstein shocks. It also featured an amenity-filled two-tone interior. An FX4 off-road trim level was also offered which was a slightly less aggressive version lacking the 8.8 rear axle with LSD and also forewent the front skid plate. Production of the FX4 off-road and FX4 Level II ran through 2008.
Ford stopped domestic production of the Ranger on December 22, 2011. Ford had redesigned the Ranger for the international market and decided the design was too similar to the F-150. At this point, it would make more sense for domestic buyers to simply opt for a base trim level F-150 with the smaller V6 motor. Sale of the Ranger continued internationally.
Fourth Generation Ford Ranger
After a long hiatus, Ford unveiled the return of the Ranger to the US market at the 2018 North American International Auto Show. The Ranger would now be a mid-size pickup marketed to buyers wanting a smaller, more maneuverable alternative to the F-150. It was designed and marketed toward private owners, rather than commercial work truck buyers. The Ranger returned to the Ford line-up for the 2019 model year and is assembled at Ford’s Michigan plant.
The new Ranger stuck to its roots by offering respectable towing, hauling and offroad capabilities while still maintaining economic gas mileage. The truck boasts up to 21 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. With top engine and suspension options, it can tow up to 7,500 pounds and has a max payload of 1,860 pounds. The new Ranger comes in both SuperCab (extended cab) and SuperCrew® (crew cab) configurations. Three trim levels run from XL to XLT up to Lariat, similar to the F-150. As of right now, only a 2.3L EcoBoost® motor paired with a 10-speed transmission is available, but it is offered in both two-wheel and four-wheel drive.
As with the third generation Ranger, an FX4 Off-Road package is offered which includes tuned monotube shocks, off-road tires, an electronic-locking rear differential, skid plates, a Terrain Management Sysyem™ and Trail Control™. The Terrain Management System™ allows drivers to select between mud/ruts, sand, grass/gravel/snow, and normal terrain. It automatically adjusts driving dynamics depending on the road conditions, or lack thereof. The Crawl Control™ feature acts as low-speed cruise control for offroad trail driving, which allows the driver to focus on navigating around obstacles rather than throttle control.
Ford also offers advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) features including their Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), which alerts the driver to objects around them which they may not see otherwise, and adaptive cruise control.
If your Ford Ranger is in need of a windshield replacement, sidelite replacement, or slider back glass replacement, use Glass.com to help you locate a local and reputable auto glass repair technician to get your glass replaced and quickly get your Ranger back on the road.