The Ford Ranger is both the official vehicle of TikTok and 70-year-olds everywhere who just want an honest pickup. Even with its place in meme culture and hardware store parking lots, it's sort of an uncommon enthusiast platform—especially the third generation. At least one owner is treating it as such, though, and he built maybe the most tastefully modified example on the road or off it.
It's a 1998 Ford Ranger XLT with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder and M5R1 manual transmission. Again, the original spec isn't anything noteworthy, but owner Stephen Weglarz has turned it into something special with meaningful mods. After buying it off Craigslist in 2012 with roughly 112,000 miles on the odometer, he's tinkered with it all the way to 188,000 miles. These tweaks start with the suspension and go way beyond.
"The inspiration is a mix of '90s sports truck and modern pre-runner," Weglarz told The Drive. "Keep it functional and make sure it looks good, ideally with some chrome and other retro cues."
Up front is a mid-travel kit from BTF Fabrication. It wears Fox Racing 2.0 shocks and provides about 10 inches of travel—still short of a new F-150 Raptor, but way better than stock, I promise. The rear is suspended by Deaver F31 leaf springs in tandem with Fox Racing 2.0 smooth body shocks. Thanks in part to added lift spindles, Weglarz says the front sits seven inches higher than stock, while the rear is about four inches taller.
The stance is really pulled together by 33-inch Yokohama Geolandars and those wide wheels, which Weglarz calls "a wicked Facebook find." They're 15- by 10-inch Eagle Alloy Series 117 rollers that have apparently been discontinued. They do the most for that '90s sport truck look he envisions, along with the Faction Fab spare tire carrier, Go Rhino sports bars and fog lights in the bed.
Peep inside and you'll see rich brown Tanaka seats and a Hurst short-throw shifter. That's something else you don't see every day in a Ranger. What you wouldn't know unless you were told is that the interior has an extra layer of sound deadening underneath, which compliments the bass cabinet built into the back of the cab. It's got to be a pretty serene ride when you're not banging gears or bumping subs.
Everything has taken time to do the right way. Weglarz says the front suspension alone was a 60-hour job, and the frame has been completely repainted. That's the perk of owning a vehicle for a little more than a decade; over time, you can make a lot of progress if you're persistent.
There's more to come, especially since Weglarz's daily these days is a 2019 Ranger. That allows him more freedom to wrench on the '98 and build its drivetrain next. You can expect the engine to be modified with the same overall concept in mind before long, at which point it'll have the speed to match its simply sweet style.
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