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What's Your Experience with the Ford Ranger, Bronco II or Explorer?

Ford Ranger Ford Bronco II Ford Explorer Mercury Mountaineer Ford Ranger forum Bronco II forum Ford Explorer forum Mercury Mountaineer forum

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#1 Moses Ludel

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Posted 25 June 2013 - 08:59 AM

The first new vehicle we ever bought was a 1985 Ford Bronco II.  It had a unique option package with factory limited-slip units front and rear, a nifty 5-speed with overdrive and the 2.8L V-6—with carburetor. 

 

Handling was actually okay despite the higher center of gravity, Ford did a good job with the miniaturized Twin-Traction Beam front axle and the solid rear axle with ladder frame!

 

Had we waited another year, the 2.9L MPI V-6 would have added both performance and fuel efficiency, yet the 2.8L is noted for its reliability and respectable torque.  For the time, Ford put forth a great 4WD compact vehicle, and there are many who would agree that the Ranger and Bronco II did their job.

 

I'd like to hear your views about these Ford pickups and SUVs.  If you have troubleshooting or upgrade questions, I'll join that conversation, too!

 

Become a member and help build a forum discussion around these Ford 4WD vehicles...

 

Moses



#2 Rocket Doctor

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 04:53 PM

I test drove one of the first to show up on a dealer's lot back in 1984.  I liked it, even was allowed to take it out to the diversion dam and use it a bit on sand berms, loose gravel hill climbs, not much 'heavy duty' wheeling, but enough to get the impression that it was definitely NOT a 'get Momma to the market, church, and soccer game' rig.

 

I couldn't afford one back then, but when they started showing up used, I managed to buy three of the things.  BII's, that is.  All were carbureted 2.8's with five speeds.  Single biggest problem I had with them was the electronically managed carburetors.  Pure junk, as far as I am concerned. 

 

I'd played around a bit with the 2.8 prior, in a 72 or 73 Capri.  THAT little rig hauled butt, so I knew the motor had potential. 

I owned a 72 Bronco, bought it in 1973, with 2000 miles on the odometer.  I don't recall that the little BII couldn't go wherever the original Bronco went, at least in stock form for both vintages.  The TTB front end was a lot more comfortable to drive, and with good shocks, even seemed to manage lumpy, bumpy, gravel roads better than the solid axle D44. 

 

I never got 'round to swapping in a 302, but it was high on the list of "want to do that" upgrades.  In fact, I bought a really decent 302 with rear sump, a C4 auto, and found a 4X4 Ranger with blown motor for a hundred bucks that yielded an 8.8" rear axle.  Before I could get 'round to doing anything with the pile o' parts, I was offered too much for it, and the parts and it went down the road, and I ended up with the first of a few Cherokees.  Don't get me wrong, I really, really like my Cherokee, but I do believe that going down the road, at Interstate speeds, anyway, the Bronco II seemed to handle a bit better, and was more comfortable, with more room for my large physique! 

 

My son bought one from a fellow worker over in Wyoming, with the injected 2.9, and has decided that he doesn't want to mess with it, so it's possible that I'll end up with that.  My best friend bought one of the first EFI 2.9's when they first became available, and got tired of it several years and 260K miles later, and gave it to his son in law.  Jim and I took that little bugger into places that I'd have hesitated taking a 2A into!  We did end up on the side of the road dead in the rig, though, when the 'hot' line to the fuel pump somehow ended up on the exhaust pipe, and shorted the whole shebang out.  We were both "points and carburetor" guys, and after a tow, and mechanic's bill, he ran it for the rest of the time with only regular maintenance and tires.  I like 'em.  I've wondered recently, though, about using a 4.0 with five speed instead of a 302/5.0, after driving Dad's "Exploder"..........



#3 Moses Ludel

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 07:25 PM

Insightful, Rocket Doctor!  I very much enjoyed and could identify with your Bronco II path.  I mentioned the front and rear Trac-Lok axles, a real factory novelty that I haven't seen since.  Apparently, Ford saw some merit in making this a Bronco II option.

 

On that note, I'd like to share a Bronco II tale related to this automatic locking axles arrangement.  Our youngest child, Jacob, was around 4 years old at the time, and we wanted to drive the new Bronco II into some backcountry.  I was contributing editorial and the tech column to Argus' OFF-ROAD Magazine at the time, and this 4x4 deserved a good test.  We drove into the upper bench country at San Diego County, noted for clay-like mud when it rains—and it had!

 

On a two-track, graded road of this reddish clay stuff, we were driving along when the camber of the road shifted abruptly.  I was already in 4WD high range, stock tires, and as the two automatic lockers did their intended duty, all four wheels starter spinning in concert.  This, of course, caused the Bronco II to drop toward the low side of the off-camber road, and before long, I found that no amount of steering wheel moving, throttle, no throttle, use of higher gears to reduce wheel torque, finessing or any other trick, learned over two decades of four-wheeling at that time, could contribute a solution. 

 

I knew we could keep moving forward, but the ultra-slick clay surface and stock all-season tires meant that the Bronco II could not climb to the center of that road!  This went on for around 3/8ths of a mile or more until the road camber leveled, at which point the Bronco II could be steered readily to the center of the road—and stay there!

 

For any who wonder why I have promoted manual lockers for off-camber icy highway and clay mud roadways, leaving both axles "open" for vehicle directional stability, you can thank that 1984 Bronco II.  Prior to that time, I owned only one 4x4 with a factory rear locker and was not thrilled.  Without lockers at either end, I got a stone stock CJ-5 F-head model over the Rubicon Trail in 1967 without so much as a tire spinning.  At Nevada's high desert, where I learned to four-wheel in the 'sixties, a traction axle was a novelty.

 

I also had impulses to shoehorn a 302 V-8 (5.0L HO version from that era) into a Bronco II.  In considering the stock track width, center of gravity and roll center, it's probably best I didn't.  Wider, beefier axles and chassis mods, large tires, a World Class T-5  (even an NV4500 in a much later era), and the Bronco II might have been a keeper!  Ford built a substantial frame under the Ranger and Bronco II, as stout as the CJ-7 and CJ-8 Jeep models of that period.  The Bronco II and Ranger axles and wheel hubs, however, were hardly as ample—but that could be remedied!

 

Thanks much for sharing, Rocket Doctor... 

 

Moses



#4 biggman100

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Posted 27 February 2014 - 06:29 PM

Id like to add some personal experience with both the 2.8, and 2.9l bronco II's. I have owned several of the 2.8l, mainly 5 speed, 4x4 bronco II's, and have found them to be very capable on and off road. I dont beat on my dakotas, but i have owned a couple 86 BII's that i literally pounded on, and found them to be able to hold up really well. Off road, i was able to go places that other bigger SUV's and full size pick-ups couldnt go, as well as saving gas while doing it. During the years i had such a fascination with the Bii and ranger, i was not big on even routine maintenace, and they still seemed to hold up pretty well. The one issue i seemed to have with them was the fiberglass tailgate. It didnt always hold up well to extreme off-roading. Until a tree fell on it in a storm, i had a beat up, blue and white 87, with a 2.8, 5 speed, that i would take mudding with friends on private property, and i could go through the mud with ease in 2 wheel drive without getting stuck, where others would have to be in at least 4hi. After the tree fell on it, which crushed the air cleaner, and actually broke one spark plug tower out of the distributor cap, it still started and ran, and i even drove it down the road. The one and only 2.9l Bii i owned, an 89, 5 speed, 4x4, i bought from an older gentleman originally as a plow vehicle, and even though he used it to plow with, he was very strict about performing maintenance on it, and yet, i was always still having issues with it. It blew a head gasket with only 66000 on it, the water pump went several times in the 3 years i owned it, it would eat up front brakes, it had issues shifting in and out of 4hi, it didnt like to idle if it was below 20 degrees out. I actually traded it for my first dakota in an even up swap. I also have several friends who own rangers, that run the same engine, and they had similar issues with the first generation 2.9's. I attached some pics of both my blue and white 88. Unfortunately, the only pics i have of it are after the tree hit it, except the one of it sitting on the other side of my brother in laws nissan, and a pic of my baby blue 89.

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#5 Moses Ludel

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Posted 04 March 2014 - 11:52 AM

Ouch, that tree hurt!  The 2.9L was a nice departure from the carbureted 2.8L in our '85 Bronco II.  EFI is always a horsepower and torque boost.  The engine that impresses me is the 4.0L V-6, also a Euro-Ford design, that actually was the most reliable of the bunch.

 

Ford EFI and emission components on either of these engines (2.9L and 4.0L V-6s) are a challenge, they create the symptoms you describe and can eat big holes in your wallet over time!  The good news:  A 4.0L Ranger can last for decades without major rebuilding if simply maintained properly.

 

Moses





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