It’s one of the greatest “will it, or won’t it?” questions of the century: Will Ford bring back the Ford Ranger? Depending on the day, you could find any number of definitive “Yes, it will!” articles and an equal amount of “It will never happen, ever!” posts. Regardless of these differing opinions, Ford should bring the Ranger back, and here’s why.
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A Brief History of the Ranger
The North American version of the Ford Ranger was introduced as a 1983 year model, replacing the Courier. Ford offered the Ranger in two-wheel drive initially, but a four-wheel drive option shortly followed. Styling for the Ranger was heavily based on the F-Series pickups, and it had more interior room than similar import trucks on the market.
Initially, the Ranger only came with a 2.3L, 80 horsepower engine, but a more powerful option came along quickly. Transmission options included a standard four-speed manual, optional five-speed manual, and optional three-speed auto.
Even though the Ranger was small, it could haul a respectable 1,600 pounds, if you had the 4x4 version. The four-wheel drive Rangers also had independent front suspension and 15” wheels that offered nearly the same ground clearance of an F-150 4x4.
Base, XL, XLS, and XLT were the four trim levels available. Base model were pretty basic. XL models were a little dressed up with chrome, and color-keyed headliner, floormats, and seat belts. The XLS models were sportier, with blackout trim, tape stripes, bucket seats, and full gauges. XLT models were top of the line with bodyside moldings, pinstripes, brushed aluminum tailgate trim, vent windows, and a more luxurious interior. 1984 was a rollover model.
In 1985, the transmissions were updated as the five-speed manual became standard, and the optional automatic was now a four-speed. The engine was also improved, gaining fuel injection and 10 horsepower. Ford added an STX trim with a sport suspension, larger tires, two-toned paint, and bucket seats.
1986 was a year that brought a lot of changes, like a new engine and the much larger and more powerful SuperCab model. In 1987, the High Rider STX 4x4 was debuted with HD shocks, off-road tires, and increased ride height. Ford also made the more powerful V6 option standard for all Rangers.
The STX got new alloy wheels in 1988. The manual transmission was updated, and the GT was introduced as a street truck. 1989 was a year of functional and cosmetic changes for the Ranger; it was easy to distinguish these from the prior year models. The engine got 10 more horsepower, standard antilock rear brakes, and this would be the last year of the Ranger GT.
In 1990, an optional 4.0L V6 was made available with 160 horsepower. A new HD automatic transmission option was available as well. 1991 welcomed a Sport model to the lineup, which was a basically an appearance package. Two wheel drive versions had access to an optional 2.9L V6. Changes in 1992 were minimal.
After 10 years, the 1993 model was made over inside and out. In 1994, Mazda borrowed the Ranger platform for the B-Series truck. Small changes were once again made in 1994 for the Ranger as well. In 1995, the safety features were beefed up and power was increased. Rolling changes continued over the next few years until 2011.
What Happened to the Ranger?
The disappearance of the Ranger (and small truck market in general) comes down to two things:
- Larger trucks were taking over. They were nearly as affordable as the smaller versions and were getting better and better gas mileage.
- Smaller trucks were getting bigger and more expensive than ever, and the market was starting to turn on them.
It seemed like we all woke up one day, and the Ranger was no longer for sale in America. Although warning was given, it was still shocking in 2011 when the Ranger moved overseas.
It’s currently being made in 180 foreign markets, and Ford won’t import any of those overseas-made models into the U.S. due to the 25% tariff on small trucks.
Overseas, the Ranger is doing quite well. It even recently outsold the king of the small trucks, the Toyota Hilux, for the first time ever in Australia.
It Is Time to Compete in the Segment Again
When the Ranger was snuffed for U.S. sale, small trucks weren’t having a great time. However, the smaller pickup market has seen a huge resurgence . Ford is leaving a whole segment open by having no small truck offerings. It’s hard to think that one of the world’s largest truck manufacturers would leave a whole category behind.
After the Ranger disappeared, the Toyota Tacoma didn’t waste any time working its way into U.S. garages. GM also wanted a piece of the pie, rebooting the Canyon and Colorado models, a move that everyone thought would wake up Ford to bringing the Ranger back.
2015 has been a great year for small trucks in America, and we'll likely see an even bigger comeback when 2016 rolls around. Imagine what would happen to small truck sales if the unpredictable oil market caused gasoline to skyrocket once again. The small truck would be a king, but Ford would be vulnerable to crashing sales without a product to offer.
Americans will always love their trucks, and offering a well-rounded lineup is the best way to capture their loyalty. The Ranger is a truck for all kinds of drivers and has appeal to most demographics. Bottom line: the Ranger is a proven brand with continuing loyalty, Ford has a spot to fill, and it should definitely be filled by the Ranger quickly.