Since 1983, Ford's Ranger series of pickups has served as the company's compact truck. Ford's smallest truck, the fuel-efficient Ranger stands alongside the larger "F" series, such as the F-150 and F-250. Throughout its history, the Ranger has remained a best-selling model, sporting a variety of four-cylinder and V-6 engines and a wide variety of trim levels.
The Ranger label first appeared as a trim for Ford's "F" series of pickups in the 1970s, but the compact truck's history began in the 1983 model year. Until 1983, Ford had been selling the Mazda-produced compact truck known as the Courier in North America. The first generation of Rangers featured four-cylinder diesel and four-cylinder and V-6 gas engines. Automatic and manual transmissions were available. Horsepower ratings ranged from 59 to 72 and beds measured 6 or 7 feet long. In 1985 alone, Ford sold 232,000 units. By 1988, Ford offered Super Cab and two- and four-wheel-drive Rangers in standard, GT and Sport trim levels.
In 1989, Ford modified the Ranger's body, adding halogen headlights and a flush-mounted grill. The engine received an update as well; the base model featured a 2.3-litre, twin spark plug, fuel-injected four-cylinder engine rated at 100 horsepower. A V-6 offered 140 horsepower. Options included 60/40 split bench seats and various trim packages. The SuperCab remained available throughout the second generation of Rangers.
A more rounded body style defined the third generation of Ford Ranger pickups, which featured wider doors, flared fenders and a contoured front end. The new 1993 Splash trim featured aluminium wheels and neon graphics. A 3.0-litre 145-horsepower V-6 replaced the 2.9-litre V-6 of the 1992 Ranger. Inside, the new generation featured AM-FM cassette radios or CD players as well as streamlined dashboards. 1994 saw a slight redesign of the truck, which featured a flareside bed. By 1997, the Ranger offered the 5R55E improved-performance five-speed automatic transmission.
The 1998 Ranger introduced new under-the-hood improvements, including a bump from the standard 2.3-litre four-cylinder engine to a 2.5-litre engine with increased torque. Body-wise, this generation of trucks featured a new grille and lowered hood line. A short lived EV -- or Electric Vehicle -- Ranger also debuted in 1998. The XL, XLT and SuperCab trims remained available, and a sportier Edge model with a higher ride height appeared in 2001. Throughout the 2000s, the Ranger remained the best-selling compact pickup in the states. 2004 saw a slight cosmetic upgrade, including a new grille and interior with an MP3-compatible stereo. In 2011, Ford advertised the Ranger as the compact truck with the best-in-class fuel economy. The standard 2011 Ranger with the 2.3-litre four-cylinder was rated at 27mpg.