Successful Off-Road Ford Ranger Project Ignites the Desert Racing Bug

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Begining stages of this custom 1996 Off-Road Ford Ranger Pickup
Begining stages of this custom 1996 Off-Road Ford Ranger Pickup
You've seen the comedy setup before, three friends sitting around, left to their own devices, and next thing you know they're jamming across country in search of a romanticized perfect burger joint, while in route mischief and frivolity ensues. Okay, this is nothing like that, except for the three friends part and maybe some merriment.
Custom Built 1996 Off-Road Ford Ranger Truck
Custom Built 1996 Off-Road Ford Ranger Truck

"We were sitting in the desert watching all these trucks that were half done, and talking with people that had bought vehicles because they didn't know how to begin to build one. So we decided to venture on building a 1996 Ranger on a $15,000 budget," explains Brian Johnson laughing.

Two years and multiple tests later, and with a revised budget of $35,000, Jeff Itschner, Craig Otto and Johnson had themselves a snarling, totally race-worthy, off-road truck. The three of them built the entire truck from the ground up in a two-car garage.
Jeff Itschner, Craig Otto and Brian Johnson built the entire truck from the ground up in a two-car garage
Jeff Itschner, Craig Otto and Brian Johnson built the entire truck from the ground up in a two-car garage

Was the project tougher or easier than they expected? "Easier, but a lot more time consuming and a lot of geometry," says Johnson. "There were also some hurdles, like getting the driveline setup correctly so it's able to handle the 480 horsepower motor. After three transmissions, three driveshafts and a rebuilt rear-end, all the tests are good now."

Getting the correct filter setup was a whole lot easier and far less time consuming. "BFE Performance in Lake Elsinore, California uses nothing but K&N products on all their motors, and we already knew that they are the most dependable filters on the market. We have been using K&N air intakes on all our personal vehicles for years," says Johnson.

After the first two, expensive, shakedown runs, they've got the truck completely dialed in now. "We had the truck going along a section of four-foot woops all weekend long at 105 mph with no problem," says Johnson. "We love the end results so much that we sold the vehicle and are starting a new, bigger, faster one that we do intend on racing, and we would love to have K&N on-board for the next build."

Stay tuned for the sequel "The Three Amigos Go Huge."

1996 Off-Road Ford Ranger Specifications:

STEREO: JL Audio T21000.1, J2 360.2, (1) PR. OF C2-650 Components, (2) 10W3V3-4, Eclipse Head Unit With Navigation
MOTOR: 383 Stroker pushing 480 Horsepower Built by BFE Performance
SHOCKS FRONT: FOX 2.5 16" Coil Overs and FOX 2.5 16" Double Bypass
SHOCKS REAR: FOX 2.5 16" Double Bypass
SUSPENSION FRONT: Equal Length I Beams with 22" of Travel
SUSPENSION REAR: Deavers with 19" of Travel
OTHER MOTOR COMPONENTS: K&N Air Filter, K&N Filter Wrap, K&N Wrench Off Oil Filter, K&N Fuel Filters, K&N Crankcase Vent Filters
STEERING: Equal Length Steering with Heims
FUEL SYSTEM: Jazz 32-Gallon Fuel Cell with Holley Carburetors
SEATS: PRP Racing Seats and 5-Point Harnesses
WHEELS/TIRES: KMC 15" Beadlocks with ProComp 35x12.5x15 Tires
GAUGES: Autometer Pro Series
TRANSMISSION: TCI Competition Turbo 400 with Transmission Cooler
GRAPHICS: Awthentik Graphics
ADDITIONAL INFO: AV Comm Race Radio, Parker Pumper, Supertrapp Exhaust, MSD Ignition, (8) HID Lights

Find K&N products for your vehicle using the K&N application search then use the K&N dealer search to find a K&N dealer in your part of the world.

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K&N Engineering in Riverside California is the world's leading manufacturer of washable performance air filters and air intake systems. K&N invented the reusable high flow cotton air filter in 1969 and has been perfecting the technology ever since. K&N is a world class filtration company selling air filters, oil filters, and intakes in over 30 countries. K&N sells over 5,000 products designed for cars, trucks, motorcycles, engines, and industrial applications. From their Million Mile Warranty to their Consumer Protection Pledge, K&N stands behind their products and their consumers 100%. The distinctive K&N logo represents performance from one of the original performance companies. For more information, visit