FORD’S PX Ranger has been a wel­come ad­di­tion to the one-tonne 4x4 ute seg­ment, as it has pro­vided the first se­ri­ous com­pe­ti­tion for the dom­i­nant Toyota Hilux in that boom­ing cat­e­gory.

The pop­u­lar­ity of the Ranger is good news for Ford and good news for 4x4 buy­ers, be­cause it pro­vides an­other strong op­tion in new­car show­rooms. Its healthy sales num­bers also prick the ears of ea­ger af­ter­mar­ket com­pa­nies, as they clam­our to pro­duce prod­ucts for the flock-favourite four­bie.

All the big tra­di­tional 4x4 af­ter­mar­ket mobs make and sell every­thing you need to kit out your Ranger, while other smaller firms are get­ting in on the ac­tion as well.

One of those firms (al­though not re­ally small) is Mel­bourne’s Har­rop Engi­neer­ing. Best known for its long his­tory in Aus­tralian mo­tor­sport through its founder Ron Har­rop, to­day Har­rop Engi­neer­ing also tai­lors prod­ucts to suit 4x4 ve­hi­cles. Not want­ing to be just a trend-fol­lower, Har­rop prefers to set the trends – its sta­ble of in-house project cars, both 4x4s and per­for­mance rides, are ca­pa­ble and in­no­va­tive. It was only a mat­ter of time be­fore Har­rop ap­plied its tal­ents to the Ford Ranger.

This Ranger is a PXII XLT spec but has copped the pre-run­ner or chase-truck look, which is pop­u­lar in the USA. This look mim­ics the style of the cars that of­froad rac­ers use to ‘pre-run’ tracks such as the Baja 100, and to fol­low and ser­vice the com­pe­ti­tion ve­hi­cles in such events. It’s a strik­ing style and one that is gain­ing trac­tion here in Aus­tralia.

The key piece of gear on this ute that at­tracts at­ten­tion is the chase rack, made by Uneek 4x4 in Mel­bourne. Chase trucks em­ploy sim­i­lar racks to carry wheels, tyres, tools and spares to main­tain the race cars on the pun­ish­ing off-road rac­ing tracks. The Uneek chase rack is com­prised of three dif­fer­ent com­po­nents: the base rack, the spare wheel car­rier and the roof rack. They can be used sep­a­rately or to­gether, as seen in this ap­pli­ca­tion. The base rack and roof rack are Tig-welded in 6061 alu­minium, while the tyre car­rier needs to be more heavy duty and is made from steel. It’s fully pow­der­coated for dura­bil­ity and, be­ing lo­cal, Uneek can make cus­tom-de­signed side plates. This par­tic­u­lar rack wears the Har­rop ‘H’ logo on its flanks.

Method Race Wheels are an­other sta­ple of the US off-road rac­ing scene, and the Ranger wears a set of 18-inch­ers wrapped

in 285/65R18 Nitto Trail Grap­pler rub­ber – there’s a match­ing tyre and wheel on the rack. Along the sills, in be­tween the wheels, you’ll see a set of MCC side steps, while at the front a sub­tle yet sturdy low-cut bar from Rhino 4x4 pro­vides pro­tec­tion and im­proves the ap­proach an­gle.

The front bar is made for a Ford Ever­est, which is slightly dif­fer­ent to the Ranger part. As such, a grille from an Ever­est had to be fit­ted and, like a few other parts around the car, it has been coated in a hard-wear­ing black polyurethane fin­ish.

Har­rop part­nered with Tough Dog 4WD Sus­pen­sion to sup­ply the springs and shocks, and the pack­age is a win­ner. One-tonne utes with IFS are not known for their wheel travel, but the ar­tic­u­la­tion of the Har­rop Ranger sur­prised as it slinked over ob­sta­cles and rough ter­rain. It cer­tainly has more travel than the stan­dard ve­hi­cle, yet it hasn’t lost any on-road han­dling. In fact, it’s a tad firmer than stan­dard

On Har­rop’s in-house dyno, torque shot from 420Nm to 536Nm at the wheels

with­out com­pro­mis­ing ride qual­ity. Im­pres­sive!

De­spite the Tough Dog sus­pen­sion’s in­creased ride height for ex­tra clearance, we still scraped those MCC steps on one par­tic­u­lar hump where we got hung up and the fac­tory elec­tronic trac­tion con­trol wouldn’t get us over. Har­rop has fit­ted one of its Elock­ers to the front axle and its easy, in­stant ac­ti­va­tion made short work of the hump. The Elocker works in tan­dem with the fac­tory Ford rear locker and can be switched to run in­de­pen­dently.

Ford’s 3.2-litre five-cylin­der diesel is a favourite in the

4X4 Aus­tralia of­fice, and the up­dates that came with the PXII made a good thing even bet­ter. Har­rop has taken it up a few notches fur­ther, fit­ting a free-flow­ing ex­haust sys­tem and a Unichip Q4 tun­ing mod­ule to ex­tract a bit more power and torque. On Har­rop’s in-house dyno, torque shot from 420Nm to 536Nm at the wheels, while power jumped from 125kw to 157kw. Sig­nif­i­cantly, the torque now comes on ear­lier with more than 500Nm on tap at 2000rpm, where that fig­ure was closer to 350Nm on the stan­dard tune.

From be­hind the wheel the per­for­mance up­grades don’t feel mas­sive – it’s not a kickin-the-back tune as some of them can be. How­ever, the

Har­rop fit­ted a free-flow­ing ex­haust sys­tem and a Unichip Q4 tun­ing mod­ule to ex­tract a bit more power and torque

torque com­ing in sooner is no­tice­able and it’s there right off the mark where you want it. This makes for a more con­trol­lable off-road drive, as well as more en­ter­tain­ing traf­fic-light du­els.

The per­for­mance up­grades are more in line with Har­rop’s idea of de­vel­op­ing a to­tal im­prove­ment pack­age for what­ever car they are con­cen­trat­ing on. For the Ranger, its on- and off-road per­for­mance is im­proved, its wheel, tyre and sus­pen­sion pack­age is re­fined, and its over­all ap­pear­ance is en­hanced. Sure, the style of the front bar won’t ap­peal to those in the bush, where ’roo strikes can be a daily oc­cur­rence, and the rear rack won’t be every­one’s cup of tea, but the pack­age does show what can be done and how a dif­fer­ent look can be achieved by work­ing with qual­ity sup­pli­ers and an open mind.

JULY 2016 IS­SUE NO.390 $9.95 (NZ $10.95) incl GST

Har­rop’s driv­e­line breather kit feeds from the diffs, trans­mis­sion and trans­fer case to this al­loy block mounted in the en­gine bay and vented to the air­box.

The roof rack is rated to 75kg dy­namic load­ing and 150kg static.

Har­rop has ex­tracted more power and torque from the

Ranger’s 3.2L diesel.

MCC side steps have been added to pro­tect the sills.

Tough Dog sus­pen­sion of­fers a good com­pro­mise be­tween wheel travel and ride qual­ity.

The Method Race Wheels and 285/65R18 Nitto Trail Grap­plers are cov­ered un­der EGR flares.

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