Ford Ranger 2.3 Turbo

One might assume, that since the Ford Ranger came from the factory with the 2.3 “Pinto” engine, and the turbocharged SVO Mustang also used a 2.3, that it ought to be a simple matter to just scrape all the turbo stuff off of a Mustang or Thunderbird Turbo Coupe (or Cougar XR7 or Merkur XR4Ti), slap it onto a Ranger and be done with it.

Well, it’s not quite that easy. The main difference between the turbo and non-turbo engines were the pistons. The cast pistons in the NA motors really aren’t good for much more than 5 or 6 pounds of boost. Most people don’t bother with that and end up at least swapping the pistons out for some forged ones, if not just dropping the whole turbo motor in which I’m assuming this guy did, judging by the valve cover.

I’m sure Rangers are fairly light, and that 6 pounds of boost may seem like enough to really wake the motor up, but it starts to seem kind of lame when you consider that the turbo motors were putting out 15 psi stock and the early models were capable of around 25 psi with not much more than a $25 eBay manual boost controller. 1984-86 turbo 2.3s came with a Garrett T3 which was capable of more boost than the later models which used an IHI turbo that was not quite as desirable.

One thing the later turbo motors did have that was nice however, was an intercooler, although it was mounted in the least ideal place ever- right above the hot ass exhaust manifold. Most people don’t leave this intercooler there for long before switching to a front-mounted unit though. I actually used to own an ’84 Thunderbird Turbo and when I got it, it had what I was told was a pretty rare Spearco/Ford front mount intercooler on it, but this was years ago. Back then, the main option for adding a FMIC was to take one off of an Isuzu NPR diesel or a Volvo. Nowadays, much better intercoolers are a dime a dozen on eBay so I’m sure it’s not as big of a deal any more.

A front mounted intercooler, a boost controller and a better flowing exhaust (or at least a better flowing downpipe) ought to bring any turbo 2.3 motor to the point of being a lot of fun, but after that, things start getting pretty extreme. There don’t seem to be a whole lot of performance parts for the 2.3 that don’t involve more boost, and that’s why people do crazy things like fit DOHC Volvo heads on them.

Anyways, back to the Ranger. It’s exactly what I want to see when I go to a car show. It looks like someone built it to have fun with and for no other reason. The blow off valve is a little flashy, but I can overlook that. The rest of the truck makes me believe that whoever built this thing really isn’t trying to impress anybody. If he were trying to appeal to anyone aesthetically it would be slammed to the ground with ghost flames on it or something lame like that. And if he were trying to impress anyone with his Earth-crushing performance, there would be a V8 in it. The fact that this truck has neither of those things when it so easily could have makes me like it that much more.

The Ford 2.3L turbo engine in a Ranger is a pretty common swap, but it’s still a hell of a lot more interesting to me than most of the stuff at the Pavilions these days, which lately seems to consist of handful of old guys with new Corvettes, some “stanced” bullshit something or other with a bunch of swag fags crowding around it, and several dozen early 2000’s Chevy SUVs with huge wheels but otherwise stock. It’s getting old.

Hopefully people keep doing things like this.

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About Mike Ross

I love anything you can drive. But I love it even more if it has a small block Chevy or Ford motor, a turbo, four wheel drive, is a hatchback, or was made in the 80s. My ideal car would be a combination of all of these things, and I'm working on building a time machine so I can go back to the 80's and convince Chevy and Ford to collaborate on a twin-engine, single turbo 4x4 XR4Ti/Fox Mustang/Third Gen F-body and hide one in a mineshaft for me to recover in brand new condition. Look for a blog post about it just as soon as it happens. Or maybe it already did, and I've already posted about it in the future and the internet just needs to catch up with it. Okay, my head hurts, never mind.

9 thoughts on “Ford Ranger 2.3 Turbo

  1. I love turbo engine swap I had for a couple of years looking for a 2.3 turbo ford and finally I got one of them from an 86 merkur, Im so excited I cant wait to get it into my 86 ranger

    • Why not put a late model 4.0? You can pick them up from the salvage yard pretty cheap and its a direct bolt in. I just found one for $1,700. Its a 2011 Ranger 2×4, extended cab, with the automatic transmission. The truck was rolled but the engine, transmission and wiring harness are in perfect condition.

      • because then you have the same thing anybody could have bought from the dealer. the whole point is that different is the goal for a lot of us.

  2. Currently working on a ’88 Turbo-Bird drivetrain into my ’86 Ranger. Wiring is bit hairy, but going along smooth! Can’t wait to get her going!

  3. Putting 88 mm holeset on 99 ranger went back to 2.3 not 2.5 obtained motor from 97 ranger figure with 6 or 8 lbs of boost ill kill the m5od before the diff then we goto the t5 trans not sure what ratio im gona use yet as they came in everything hopefully i find a tremec instead of a warner then we will kill the diff and replace it with the 8 and a half ring gear from an explorer as i get an extra leaf with the springs and if im correct certain modles have 2 lateral shocks programing i will do myself i figure by then ill have the money to build the bottom right and mabe run the volvo head also in the end im lookin for 600 ponies and about 26- 28 lbs of boost which means 8 sec 1/4mile times and 205MPH ON TOP BECAUSE THE HELLCAT CHARGER RUNS 204 ON TOPSO ILL PROBABLY HAVE TO DROP IT AND MANUFACTURE SOME KIND OF FRONT END TO KEEP THE AIR OUT FROM UNDER IT I ALSO THOUGHT SOME FLAPS LIKE NASCAR TO GO WITH THE CAGE MIGHT BE HELPFUL SO IF I EVER TURN IT AROUND AT 150+ it might stay on the ground im curious about the diff in cams for the 2.5 in the ranger its a weird grind but it works well think im going to either grind my own cam or regrind a 2.3 cam to my specs been researching this for about a year just bolted up turbo today so its about to come together so i can break something gotta be fun

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