6.6 litres of Du­ra­max V8 make this the king of all Rangers.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - WORDS DAN EVERETT PHO­TOS NATHAN JA­COBS

US AUSSIES love things big: deserts, beaches, ba­nanas and utes. It’s the rea­son Ford’s Ranger has been a run­away suc­cess from the older PJ and PK mod­els. Big styling, the largest en­gine in-class and a body that dwarfs al­most all its peers; it’s also the rea­son WA na­tive Ant first got be­hind the wheel of a first-gen PX1 Ranger.

“They’ve got heaps of room in­side,” he told us with an un­mis­tak­able West Aus­tralian drawl. “They’re an awe­some car to drive; they per­form off-road and have a strong driv­e­line.”

The only prob­lem is, de­spite the 3.2 Du­ra­torq mo­tor be­ing the largest in its class, it’s not ex­actly renowned for its re­li­a­bil­ity. “We started play­ing with the per­for­mance side of things,” Ant said. “Larger tur­bos, larger in­jec­tor noz­zles, tun­ing, etc., but be­ing a PX1 they were quite dulled down on en­gine safety sys­tems. I went through three mo­tors, two tur­bos and a trans­mis­sion.”

Where a nor­mal punter might take the chance to slap a mo­tor in it and jump ship to some­thing else, Ant fig­ured he’d dou­ble down and build one of the most bad-ass Rangers we’ve ever seen. You see, de­spite Ant cur­rently swing­ing the tiller on a Ranger, he’s ac­tu­ally built him­self a cult fol­low­ing for his Du­ra­max kits and con­ver­sions at Oz­max. When your play toy is a Du­ra­max GU, your wife’s runaround is a Du­ra­max GU, and you sud­denly find your­self with an en­gine­less Ranger and a heap of Du­ra­max en­gines look­ing for a home, it be­comes pretty clear what needs to be done.

For those un­fa­mil­iar with the Du­ra­max range of en­gines, they’re the holy grail of diesel V8s, with 6.6 litres (402 cu­bic inches) ca­pac­ity, iron blocks, al­loy heads, four valves a cylin­der, and a whop­ping great


turbo nes­tled in the V. The en­gines are built in Ohio with a joint ven­ture be­tween Chevro­let and Isuzu and power ev­ery­thing from Chevy Vans right through to huge medium-rigid trucks from GMC. In their low­est stan­dard tune they pushed out 250hp and 624Nm – just a hair un­der the twin-turbo LC200 – right up to 397hp and 1037Nm in later years. Put sim­ply, it’s one of the big­gest and bad­dest en­gines you can buy, and it’s pur­pose-built to haul any­thing you can put be­hind it.

De­spite all that Ant reck­ons it’s al­most per­fect for con­vert­ing into the com­par­a­tively pint-sized Ranger. “It was ac­tu­ally pretty straight­for­ward,” he said. “They’re a com­mon swap into Pa­trols, but this was ac­tu­ally a lot sim­pler.”

To kick things off Ant ditched the idea of mat­ing the bent-eight to the Ranger’s box. It sim­ply couldn’t cope with a more than a 100 per cent jump in torque. The old 3.2 came out, as did the fac­tory six-speed and trans­fer; in their place went a huge six-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion from Us-based Al­li­son Trans­mis­sion and a New Process NP263 trans­fer case. Due to the IFS ar­range­ment, Ant was able to use the ex­ist­ing sump, help­ing to sim­plify the process. Then it was on to mak­ing it run.

“The com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tem on the PX1 Ranger isn’t that smart,” he told us. “We wired the Du­ra­max ECM in as a stand-alone unit then sent a few sig­nals into the stock set-up so the speedo and tacho still work. As far as the stock elec­tron­ics are con­cerned, there’s still a 3.2 un­der the bon­net.”

While the stan­dard diffs are more than up to the task, Ant had a pos­i­tive side ef­fect swap­ping out to the new trans­fer case and con­trol unit. “It now func­tions a lit­tle like full-time 4WD. If it senses slip be­tween front and rear, it’ll kick it­self into 4x4.”

Ant ex­plained that drive-in, drive-out con­ver­sions with all the parts sup­plied would roughly be a $30K job; although, he’s blown away with the re­sults, av­er­ag­ing around 13.2L/100km around town and up to 17.2L/100km tow­ing his 3400kg boat. At twice the ca­pac­ity of the stock 3.2L, the Du­ra­max puts out an un­godly amount of power, too. Ant was able to run the Ranger up to 468rwhp and a mind-melt­ing 1320Nm on a re­cent dyno-tune;

that’s a 180 per cent gain in us­able torque.

“You can’t even tell the boat is there,” Ant said with a laugh. “It’s 8.3 me­tres long. I lined up against a bloke in an LC200 with a tinny and blew the doors off him.”

The big con­cern of any en­gine con­ver­sion like this is weight dis­tri­bu­tion; throw­ing an ex­tra few hun­dred ki­los over the front axle can not only knock around springs and shocks, but dras­ti­cally af­fect han­dling.

“It ac­tu­ally only dropped 10mm on the stan­dard springs,” Ant said. “The 3.2-litre and six-speed is a heavy com­bi­na­tion, and the NP263 trans­fer case is mag­ne­sium which keeps weight down with the con­ver­sion.”

With goals of a pre-run­ner-in­spired build, Ant fig­ured the Ranger could do with a tickle un­der­neath. It’s run­ning heavy-duty XGS two-inch-lifted springs up front to deal with the slight weight in­crease over stock, and they’re wrapped around Iron­man Foam Cell Pro shock ab­sorbers. The rear has a match­ing com­bi­na­tion; although, there’s a 50mm body lift, bring­ing the over­all ride height up and al­low­ing Ant to slot the big Al­li­son au­to­matic in the trans­mis­sion tun­nel with­out any body mod­i­fi­ca­tions. A set of To­tal Chaos up­per con­trol arms were also given the nod to get the align­ment back into spec.

As Ant built the Ranger to be more of a pre run­ner-cum-tow tug, the heavy­duty bar­work is left to the twin Pa­trols in the garage. In­stead, the PX1 is sport­ing a clean de-badged look with a bunch of colour-cod­ing, a huge four-inch snorkel, stock bar­work front and rear, and 35-inch tyres in the guards. Ant’s rub­ber of choice is the ever-pop­u­lar Nitto Terra Grap­pler, which gives the per­fect com­bi­na­tion of soft side­walls for beach work and longevity. He’s wrapped them around 16-inch Brutes from Al­lied Wheels.

On the in­side are a hand­ful of off-road mod­i­fi­ca­tions; although, with the Du­ra­max Ranger set up for tour­ing, Ant’s opted for the bare ne­ces­si­ties for beach fish­ing runs with mates. There’s an Aeroklas canopy cov­er­ing the rear end, while a brake con­troller teams up with sat-nav in­side. Hid­den in­side the glove­box is a UHF, while the aerial is also hid­den to fin­ish off the clean look.

There are plenty of peo­ple who’d throw the cat­a­logue at a 4x4 be­fore be­ing happy, but Ant’s a prime ex­am­ple of a new breed of off-road­ers. A pur­pose-built rig for get­ting out there and do­ing the job, a bunch of style thrown into the mix, and a driv­e­line that puts a grin on Ant’s face from ear to ear ev­ery time he stomps on the loud pedal.

The con­ver­sion is an es­ti­mated $30K job, but the ben­e­fits speak for them­selves.

A com­mon swap in Pa­trols, the Du­ra­max en­gine con­ver­sion to the Ranger was a straight­for­ward and sim­pler af­fair, we’re told.

Think twice be­fore you pick on this Ranger at face value. It can tow a 3400kg boat-mo­tor-trailer combo and still blow away al­most any other 4x4.

XGS two-inch-lifted springs up front cater for the weight hike.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.