A History of Ford Ranger Pick-ups

Updated July 13, 2018

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.

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About the Author

Dan Ketchum has been a professional writer since 2003, with work appearing online and offline in Word Riot, Bazooka Magazine, Anemone Sidecar, Trails and more. Dan's diverse professional background spans from costume design and screenwriting to mixology, manual labor and video game industry publicity.