LEVELLING up

BIGGER, FASTER AND LONGER; IS THIS THE RANGER FORD SHOULD HAVE BUILT?

WORDS DAN EVERETT

AUSTRALIA has an obsession with all things large; itís in our history, our geography and even our fast food orders. Name another country thatís built a giant fibreglass sheep with woollen bollocks the size of a VW? Saying weíre obsessed with large things is like saying the Deni Ute Muster is a party in a paddock, an understatement of flannelette-wearing, biblical proportions.

That attitude goes right across fourwheel driving as well. You donít have to look far to see weíre making 4WDs bigger in every possible meaning of the word.

Theyíre higher with suspension lifts, wider with flares and chunky tyres, and packing more grunt under the bonnet thanks to a plethora of engine swaps, performance upgrades and turbo setups strung higher than Charlie Sheen on a trip to Bangkok.

The masterpiece of metal youíre currently ogling with impure thoughts is the very embodiment of that path to... well, big. Itís a Ranger, just bigger in every single way. Starting with a PX1 XLS Ranger, owner Jesse Endenburg spun spanners and wielded grinders with reckless abandon until it measured up a full 300mm longer than the Rangers grouped in your local shopping centre carpark.

ďMy dadís been stretching Land Cruisers for years,Ē Jesse told us with that tone of respect reserved expressly for dads who know how to get it done. ďIíd always wanted to do it to a Hilux because thatís all that was worth buying 10 years ago; then when I got a Ranger for work I called up my dad and we got stuck into it.Ē

With Jesse on the spanners and his dad wielding the gas-axe, the pair cut the chassis behind the cab and stitched in an extra 300mm of chassis rail, pushing the rear axle back in the process.

This ainít a one-trick pony, though, and the story doesnít start and end on the loud end of a grinder. While the super-sized wheelbase has drastically altered the look of the big rig, itís also given Jesse a monster-sized tray prime for fit-out. When youíre a builder who lives in south-east Queensland, a ute needs to be able to head straight from the job site to the beach site. The backbone, so to speak, is an elaborate framework Jesse knocked together using builderís racks which serve as the skeleton for a one-off canvas canopy draped over the whole affair, providing easy access to his gear and protecting it from the elements. The tailgate is lockable and, with two panels that drop down in front of the Titan drawers, Jesseís got himself a secured setup for tools and camping gear alike.

A CLOSER LOOK

01 EXTRA POWER

The rear of the tray contains an impressive array of 12V outlets and lighting switchgear readily at hand.

02 FRIDGE DRAWER

Tailgate acts as a rest for the pullout ARB Elements weatherproof fridgefreezer.

03 WHEELS

The tyres chosen are 35-inch Mickey Thompson MTZ rubber on Method Race Wheels.

04 SWITCH PANEL

Immediately to the right of the tiller is a switch panel for extra lighting and the diff lockers.

05 GAUGES

In clear view is the SAAS Pyro and Boost gauge bundle to the side of the main instrument panel.

JESSE GOT T HE BALANCE JUST RIGHT WIT H A FOUR-INCH SUSPENSION LIFT FROM SUPERIOR ENGINEERING

A monster body like that would look like a stretched 1990 Ford LTD without the right set of legs underneath, and Jesseís Ranger doesnít disappoint the suspension gurus. Right off the bat the cab and tray are now sitting 50mm higher thanks to a body lift from Queensland-based Performance Suspension Racing. After chopping and changing between various setups, Jesse got the balance Ďjust rightí with a full four-inch suspension lift from Superior Engineering. The monotube arrangement has all the high-tech goodies of big-dollar shocks, like a remote reservoir, eight-stage compression adjustment and complete rebuildability. Superior Engineering upper control arms help rein in caster angles and replace the maxed-out ball joint with spherical rod ends. A PSR diff-drop kit was installed, too, lowering the front diff centre and putting the CV joints on the equivalent angle of a 50mm lift.

Jesse made the most of the six inches of extra room in the front and rear wheel arches by stuffing in huge (for a Ranger) 35-inch Mickey Thompson MTZ tyres.

Theyíre wrapped around Method Race Wheels ĎStandardí model alloy wheels and provide plenty of floatation across the soft sand Queensland is notorious for.

Keeping the 35s motoring down the track is Fordís biggest-in-class 3.2-litre fivecylinder Duratorq turbo-diesel donk, which has been pushed to its limit by remapping gurus, Just Autos. Itís fed a diet of cool-clean air thanks to a HDI intercooler and a fourinch stainless steel snorkel from Queensland locals Fabulous Fabrications. From here, power is sent to all four wheels through the six-speed cog swapper via a one-off custom NPC clutch. Ditching the spent gasses is a trick through-body exhaust system, a custombuilt unit with a three-inch pipe running off the back of the turbo, through a high-flow muffler, before exiting the driverís side body right before the rear wheels.

Big tyres, big lift and big power might be the hallmark of a mall crawler, but Jesseís Ranger is anything but. With regular wheel lifts and gnarly tracks around the Glasshouse Mountains, the big armour box has been well and truly ticked.

Leading the pack is none other than ARBís Deluxe bullbar up front. The plate-steel unit protects the front end from animal strikes, but also serves as a mounting location for the Domin8r 12,000lb winch. Protecting the Rangerís supple flanks is a set of custom built rock sliders from Elite Engineering. They wrap up just shy of the tub, with Jesse eventually planning a canopy setup.

Rounding out the protection package is an Ironman 4x4 steel rear bar, which sits on a set of custom brackets to suit the two-inch body lift. It was then sliced and diced to accept a one-off rear tyre carrier, getting the spare up and out of harmís way.

Up top is a mammoth 50-inch light bar sitting proudly on a set of Bullseye brackets fixed into the A pillars. It teams up with the 22-inch Stedi offering on the front bar, to light up the length of Double Island for those late-night summer beach runs. Theyíre kept powering late into the night thanks to a combination of a Redarc 1240 BCDC charger and a 170amp/h KickAss slimline battery behind the rear seat.

FOR GNARLY TRACKS, THE BIG ARMOUR BOX HAS BEEN WELL AND TRULY TICKED

From the captainís chair, the Ranger copped plenty of track-ready upgrades. Off to the righthand side is a switch panel; the factory rear locker switch has been relocated next to the switch for the new Harrop ELocker up front. Jesseís able to survey all that is his, too, thanks to the EDS Engine Data Scan system, as well as the SAAS Pyro and Boost gauges monitoring engine vitals.

If a Ford Ranger is a cheeseburger, Jesse built himself a Big Mac, threw in some bacon and ordered a sundae on the side. It might not set out to prove anything, but itís the right tool for the job, no matter what job is at hand.

MORE IS MORE

HOLD up a minute, you canít just go cutting a ute in half and making it bigger. After all, manufacturers spend a gorillian dollars making sure everything works perfectly... right? Well, not exactly. The options vehicles are fitted with in Australia are just that, options. Different markets get different trims, different wheel and tyre combinations, different power outputs, different suspension tuning, and, in many cases, different wheelbases. It all depends on what the manufacturer thinks will sell in that market, and what they have access to in the supply chain. Itís not uncommon for a ute in other markets to be offered as short or long wheelbase variants, in both single- and dual-cabs. When the manufacturer offers a long wheelbase dual-cab ute, all the individual components are typically the same, just with a longer chassis holding them together and a big olí driveshaft connecting the front to the back.