Bullfrog12 New Reader
4/15/23 4:53 p.m.

I want to buy and set up a Ford Ranger for track days.  Besides telling me I am nuts, I am looking for advice on what year, what engine, what transmission, etc., would you recommend?  I haven't bought the vehicle yet but I am leaning towards a Regular Cab, Short Bed, 2.3 Liter engine, manual transmission, and a 2004-2011 model year unless somebody tells me there is a better year/years I need to be considering.

One huge question I have...is an automatic transmission worth considering?  I am concerned that it may shift in the middle of an Apex and upset the chassis if I am running an automatic but I have no idea if this is a legitimate concern.  I have found a bunch of automatic vehicles and only one manual transmission and the one I found with a manual transmission was black...and Black is not an option where I live (too hot).

Advice is requested and appreciated from anyone...Thank You.

stan GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
4/15/23 5:14 p.m.

 I drove my Ranger as a daily for years and will watch this thread with great interest. Will you have a build thread also?

gumby GRM+ Memberand Dork
4/15/23 5:37 p.m.

You will be mostly on your own for performance suspension upgrades. The lowering kits available are fine to get ride height down, but they don't take geometry into account beyond the ability to stay within factory alignment specs. I'd raid the circle track catalog here.

The m5od manual trans will be fine for all the 2.3 can put thru it. The auto could work just as well once tweaked.

Most of the decision making and advice giving will be dependent on your goals. Starting with a SLA front suspension on a ladder frame with leaf springs out back, once you dive deep into modifications there won't be anything left that is Ranger specific besides the shape of the body.

Bullfrog12 New Reader
4/16/23 11:18 a.m.

My tentative plan is to work on the handling and braking first...I listed them together because larger brakes may require larger diameter wheels which could affect what lowering kit will work the best.  Once the handling and braking are decent, then I'll work on a little more power and making it sound better but for the most part I plan to keep the engine virtually stock except for headers and an exhaust plus some sort of free flowing intake.

I have to keep reminding myself...this is a low budget build so concentrate on handling and brakes! 

Just FYI, I do plan to start with a coil spring front suspension and not a torsion bar.



paddygarcia GRM+ Memberand Reader
4/16/23 12:33 p.m.

Have you checked with your likely track day organizations to see if a truck meets their rules?

gsettle New Reader
4/16/23 9:27 p.m.

I track a GMC Sonoma (S10) with auto trans and it's a lot of fun. When I finally let the smoke out of the trans, I'll probably put in a manual.
It would run in T5 if I'd left it stock but the mods I've done ( cammed 5.3 mainly) puts me in Max1 for SCCA TT. PRETTY SURE I'll never be competitive in that class as it's usually dominated by bad ass vettes and such. Im not out there to win so I'm not to worried about it, but be mindful of the mods you make if you're trying to win a trophy.
Some tracks don't allow trucks at all... like Road America, which sucks because I'd love to take it there. 
Also, not sure who you're running with but SCCA says track width has to be wider than the car is tall. Stock, Sonoma was 5" the wrong way so I fixed that by lowering and running wheel spacers. 
I've done big brakes on the front, aftermarket then modified control arms, locker in stock rearend, fuel surge tank, and to numerous to list other mods with a huge to do list still to go. Maybe one day it'll be "done", but I doubt it lol. 
I've only tracked it for the last 2 years and I'm still learning how to drive. 
I've ran a 2:36 at NCM, 1:25 at Putnam Park, and 1:52 (IIRC) at Gingerman, so I have numbers to beat this year

Bullfrog12 New Reader
4/17/23 8:48 a.m.

In reply to paddygarcia :

I haven't checked with all of them yet but I plan to before making a purchase...Thank You.

Bullfrog12 New Reader
4/17/23 8:49 a.m.

In reply to gsettle :

Basically, I want to do the same thing only with a Ford Ranger.  If I come across a S-10 with the 4.3 liter engine and a manual transmission, I'd have to seriously check my "Ford" loyalty.

jimgood Reader
4/17/23 9:19 a.m.

You might want to consider that the stock seat is going to suck. It's hard to drive when you're wallowing around in the cockpit trying to use the steering wheel, you're knees and left elbow to brace yourself in the seat. And once you change the seat, you either need to find compatible belts or harness. If you want a harness, it needs a harness bar (maybe you could get away with bolting through the rear bulkhead in a standard cab, I don't know). If you're not solo qualified already, you'll probably have to match your set up on the passenger side for instructors.

Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
4/17/23 9:48 a.m.

I thought of this thread when I was at the Amelia Island autocross yesterday. 

Ranger50 MegaDork
4/17/23 12:42 p.m.
Bullfrog12 said:

In reply to gsettle :

Basically, I want to do the same thing only with a Ford Ranger.  If I come across a S-10 with the 4.3 liter engine and a manual transmission, I'd have to seriously check my "Ford" loyalty.

Don't be the nv3500 is a steaming pile of long shift throws and hating anything resembling fast shifting. Not saying the m5od-2 is any better...

gsettle New Reader
4/17/23 12:44 p.m.
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) said:

I thought of this thread when I was at the Amelia Island autocross yesterday. 

It that a Goblin in back? There is a guy in Indy that has one with a Supercharged Cobalt SS motor in it.

gsettle New Reader
4/17/23 12:54 p.m.

This happens when you enter turn 2 at Gingerman too hot.

Here it is staying on the pavement.

jmabarone Reader
4/18/23 7:54 a.m.

SN95 Mustang discs are an easy bolt on for the 7.5" axle.  You can get a LSD from an 80s Turbo Coupe or maybe a newer Mustang.  

Not sure if the spindles would take it, but I believe you can put on Explorer Sport Trac rotors/hubs on the front and fab up a spacer for your factory calipers to get bigger front brakes.  

The beauty of that Duratec engine is that you can get the Mazda MZR and bolt it in.  

Stealthtercel Dork
4/18/23 7:40 p.m.

Not sure if you know this, but the 2010-2011 Rangers came with rear disc brakes (because they also got stability control.)

grpb Reader
4/19/23 2:39 p.m.

You should be clear on what you want, seat time or a ranger that is capable of track work.  It's not realistic that you'll have both in any kind of short time frame.  If you spend lots of time building a ranger only to take it to the track and realize you don't enjoy it that would suck.  If you get an EZ button trackday car now that you can use while you build your ranger, you will probably decide to either ditch the ranger because seat time is fun, or ditch the trackday car because you like building better than driving.

I have an 03 reg cab short bed 2wd 2.3 M50D and it's great fun on the street.  It will rotate on trailing throttle, it's predictable, tossable, moves around alot, never settled, and very very SLOW.  The slow part is what makes it fun, the limits are so low that you can actually have fun without being a menace.  And it is a real truck, so it hauls mulch, 4x8 sheets/drywall, engines, bicycles, motorcycles, whatever.

But I would not use it at a trackday, the brakes are nowhere near adequate for the track, the steering is super slow, the balance at higher speeds is too pushy, it needs real seats, and I suspect overall that many things would start to fail if you carry any kind of fast track pace.  All of these are fixable of course, just as anything can be fast and reliable with enough time and money thrown at it, but for me that level of investment isn't worth it.
For reference my spec is very simple, any more and my feel is that it gets out of hand:

Front - 3" bell tech springs, PRO hobby stock 2nd gen camaro dampers, I have the bell 1-1/4" stabar but I think it would push to much with it and haven't tried it.

Rear - 8.8 explorer disk brake positrac (flipped), stock leafs with new bushings/shackles, AFCO shocks outside the frame rails, howe aluminum driveshaft to fit the 8.8

Also if you use it as a real truck things get ugly over time, my rear shock mounts looked like this new (before paint), but now after a few midwest winters they look so old and cruddy that they could be OEM.  Feels bad man.

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