The Ford Ranger is no slouch, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have more. Like, say, a su­per­charged FPV V8.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - WORDS JUSTIN WALKER PHO­TOS NATHAN DUFF

LET’S PUT a V8 in it.” Gary Cole­man of Diesel Lead­ers doesn’t of­ten hear a sug­ges­tion from a client along those lines, es­pe­cially when they’re dis­cussing a Ford Ranger. It may well have been said out of ex­as­per­a­tion, though. Gary’s client, who wishes to re­main anony­mous, was try­ing to fig­ure out what to do with his Ranger after it had blown its stan­dard 3.2-litre in­line five-cylin­der en­gine.

Maybe it just popped into the owner’s head that fit­ting a Ranger with a V8 petrol mill would make it a lo­cal equiv­a­lent to the Ford USA off-road mon­ster that is the F150 Rap­tor, but we’ll prob­a­bly never know the real rea­son. In­stead, we can ad­mire this tough rig for what it is: an ex­am­ple of how plenty of time, loads of pa­tience, and ex­em­plary en­gi­neer­ing can trans­form a reg­u­lar off-roader into some­thing unique that re­tains a factory look.


WHEN Gary first saw the Ranger it had been rolled in with a blown en­gine, and the owner was hav­ing dif­fi­culty get­ting it re­placed un­der war­ranty; so the con­ver­sa­tion was struck up re­gard­ing op­tions of fit­ting an­other en­gine. The owner sug­gested the op­tion of a V8, and the con­ver­sa­tion went from there.

“So we de­cided to put a V8 in it and had a think about what kind of en­gine we wanted to put in there. He [the owner] wasn’t too fussed,” Gary said.

How­ever, he had one stip­u­la­tion: the trans­planted en­gine had to look factory, which meant for Gary and the team that it had to be a Ford en­gine. Even though the temp­ta­tion was there, they weren’t al­to­gether keen on go­ing too crazy, dis­miss­ing the idea of a big-block en­gine in favour of a su­per­charged Ford ‘Coy­ote’ V8 that, in stock form, pumps out 335kw and 570Nm. This en­gine was read­ily avail­able in Aus­tralia, as it had been fit­ted to a num­ber of high­per­for­mance Fal­cons. Gary also de­cided to stick with the Fal­con’s six-speed auto gear­box to make the job as easy as pos­si­ble. Then they just had to make it fit, be­fore look­ing at fur­ther mods needed to com­plete the job.

Sur­pris­ingly, the en­gine bay didn’t need much in the way of mod­i­fi­ca­tion.

“To get the en­gine in, we just had to cut the top off the ra­di­a­tor mount. That was the only thing we had to do to get it in [the en­gine bay],” Gary ex­plained. “Then it was just a mat­ter of fab­ri­cat­ing en­gine mounts and gear­box mounts. For the en­gine bay mounts, we could re-use the en­gine and gear­box mounts.”

The team had to man­u­fac­ture new match­ing mounts for at­tach­ment to the en­gine block and the gear­box, to marry to those in the en­gine bay.


THE idea of fit­ting a Ford V8 petrol en­gine into a Ranger isn’t new, but few have wanted to tackle it. The se­ri­ously large en­gine is light, so weight isn’t the is­sue, but phys­i­cally fit­ting this big bop­per in the Ranger en­gine bay is no easy task as there isn’t much room.

“The problem is, the en­gine is so big there is only one spot that it fits. You can’t lift it up, or lower it, or move it forward or move it back; it has to sit in the ex­act spot that it’s in,” Gary said. “Move it down, you can’t get the ex­haust on; move it up, it hits the fire­wall; move it back, the heads hit the fire­wall; move it forward, you can’t get the ra­di­a­tor in. Where it is, is the only way it can go in there.”

The en­gine’s snug fit was just one jug­gling act for the Diesel Leader team. Fit­ting the Fal­con’s trans­mis­sion to the Ranger trans­fer case was also a mas­sive job, and a job few en­gi­neer­ing com­pa­nies were will­ing to risk their rep­u­ta­tion on.

“We strug­gled to find some­one who would do it. We knew a few ma­chin­ists who were sort of ca­pa­ble of do­ing it. They had the equip­ment and the ex­per­tise to do it, but no-one wanted the re­spon­si­bil­ity of do­ing some­thing like that; to rely on their ma­chin­ing to put such a gear­box be­hind such a big en­gine. We even­tu­ally came across a com­pany in Nerang, Queens­land – Rage En­gi­neer­ing – and they had to do it.”

This task took a cou­ple of months. The en­gi­neer had to map out then digi­tise the gear­box, be­fore ma­chin­ing a back hous­ing to fit the Ranger’s out­put shaft into the Fal­con gear­box. This big job was due to the fact that, al­though the Ranger and Fal­con gear­boxes are sim­i­lar – and, in­deed, look vir­tu­ally the same – they’re not. This meant the rear hous­ings didn’t line up, which then meant the en­gi­neer had to ‘fill in’

“You get in and drive it and it feels like it is right out of the factory”

the original mount holes, weld a new ‘base’ around it, and then drill new mount holes. The en­gi­neer­ing work had to be per­fect, and the aim was to en­sure there were no vibrations or any­thing that could cause dam­age to the driv­e­train. The owner and Gary are both happy with the re­sult.

“He’s done a fan­tas­tic job. You get in and drive it and it feels like it is right out of the factory,” Gary reck­oned.


THE en­gine and gear­box mods weren’t the end of work­ing with con­fined spa­ces – the ex­haust is also a work of art. The cus­tom­made head­ers took a fort­night to make; the two-piece man­i­folds had to wrap around the steer­ing shaft that runs be­tween them, be­fore then bend­ing up and over the front drive­shaft and around the side of the gear­box. This job was also farmed out to a lo­cal com­pany with favourable re­sults. It was this fine tol­er­ance work that de­fined this whole project, with all work fo­cused on match­ing trans­planted parts with stan­dard fit­ments.

“There was noth­ing that fit. Noth­ing,” Gary said. “Noth­ing lined up with any­thing, ev­ery­thing had to be mod­i­fied. Be­cause he [the owner] wanted ev­ery­thing to be factory, we couldn’t fit af­ter­mar­ket bits that looked ob­vi­ously

af­ter­mar­ket. We ba­si­cally used ev­ery­thing we could off the Fal­con and adapted it to the Ranger.”

Some of these mods in­cluded cut­ting and re­shap­ing the Fal­con air box so it would fit in the Ranger’s en­gine bay. This air box was moved to the op­po­site side to the stan­dard Ranger one, which then ne­ces­si­tated swap­ping the bat­tery and power steer­ing reser­voir to the op­po­site side.

“If it wasn’t such a cool ute, yeah, I would say it was a night­mare of a job, but I just love it to death,” Gary added.

One Ranger item that stayed was the ra­di­a­tor, owing to it being a larger size than the Fal­con ver­sion and the fact it mounts on the op­po­site side, which gave the engi­neers more room to work with. How­ever, this still copped some mods to fit. With no room for a fan, Gary fit­ted the Fal­con’s thermo-fans at an an­gle to the ra­di­a­tor (they’re ac­tu­ally wider than the Ranger ra­di­a­tor) and then cut and re­shaped the Ranger’s ra­di­a­tor shroud to fit over the top – again, for that factory look.


WHEN we asked Gary how much time it has taken to get the Ranger to its im­pres­sive fi­nal ap­pear­ance, he laughed rue­fully.

“I’m sort of the only guy who worked on it. There were a cou­ple of guys that did a few hours on it, but I think the boss said some­thing like 300 man-hours or some­thing like that over about six months or so, not in­clud­ing all the stuff we out­sourced.”

What about the owner? Well, he’s had to be pa­tient. Ini­tially, Gary es­ti­mated the project was go­ing to take around a cou­ple of months at most.

“It’s been here for al­most a year, and the owner’s been re­ally good. You know, he gets a bit up­tight ev­ery now and then, but through the process we’ll get him in to have a look at it, show him what we’ve done, and, yeah, once he’s heard it start up, he’s got a smile on his face,” Gary added. “When it got dyno’d out at Real Dyno he drove it back from there and he just loves it.”

The Ranger’s sweet-sound­ing V8 punches out 344kw ac­cord­ing to a dyno sheet Gary has. Orig­i­nally, the tuners had it pro­duc­ing even more power, but they backed it off in the in­ter­est of longevity and the fact it has to push around larger-than-stan­dard tyres and more weight. The Diesel Lead­ers team usu­ally take on the chal­lenge of one or two of these pro­jects each year to break up the monotony of their reg­u­lar truck fleet main­te­nance and heavy-diesel re­pairs, and to keep the crew sharp.

This power-packed Ranger has left Gary par­tic­u­larly proud of the end re­sult. “I am stoked, mate. The owner, he just wants to re­main anony­mous, and he owns it. But that ute is mine. I built it, that’s my ute,” he laughed. “He can take it away when we’re done with it, but I love it.”

Look­ing at the end re­sult of all that hard work, it’s easy to un­der­stand why.

The owner of this V8 Ranger might have a hard time get­ting the keys off Gary when the time comes.

The only shop brave enough to fit the Fal­con trans­mis­sion to the Ranger trans­fer case was Rage En­gi­neer­ing in Queens­land.

The tricky part of the V8 trans­plant was fit­ting it in the Ranger’s en­gine bay.

Once the FPV V8 was nice and snug, the next chal­lenge was shap­ing the cus­tom-made ex­haust.

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