It’s month two of our ute comparison series and this month we’re turning our attention to the legendary Ford Ranger.
Two best sellers emerged in 1982: the first, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, went on to become the best-selling album of all time. The second, Ford’s now ubiquitous Ranger ute, rolled off the production line in Louisville, Kentucky and into showrooms across North America.
It wasn’t until later that Australia got hold of the Ranger but we quickly made it our own with the bigger, tougher, more safety-conscious Ranger T6.
Related: Read our rundown of the other top-selling ute, the Toyota HiLux here.
The First Ten Years
Unlike many cars of its era, the first-generation Ford Ranger was in production for almost a decade. From 1983 to 1992, the Ranger was sold in America in four- and six-cylinder models, with the six-cylinder option topping out at 115 horsepower. Pretty meagre by today’s standards, but back then the idea of a light truck was relatively new to America and there wasn’t a whole lot of reliable competition.
Other than a front-end facelift and upgraded rear ABS, it remained more or less the same until a major revamp in 1992.
The Ranger Gets an International Audience
The newer, sleeker second-generation Ford Ranger featured a quintessentially 90’s silhouette. The square body was replaced with a lower curved look and a slight flare added to the fender. Under the bonnet there was a lot more going on; the 2.9L engine was discontinued to make way for 2.3L, 3.0L, and 4.0L powertrains ranging from 98 hp (73 kW) in the four-cylinder to 160 hp (119 kW) in the V6.
Around 1998 the Ranger badge started appearing outside of North America, replacing the phased-out Courier (although the Courier remained for sale in Australia). We held on to the Courier name until 2006, well into the third generation of compact truck which began production in 1998.
The Ranger Comes to Australia
We finally got the Ranger badge in Australia in 2006, more than 20 years after it was introduced in America. By that time Robson Bros had been the favourite Ranger service centre in Perth for more than a decade, only we were servicing Rangers under a different name!
The models rolled out in Australia from 2006-2011 were closer to the second-generation Mazda BT-50, owing to the Ford-Mazda partnership that lasted from 1974 to 2015.
In 2011, Ford of North America decided to discontinue the Ranger name. Third-generation Rangers from 2011 onwards were designed and produced right here in Australia, creating a generation of utes built for work and family life in Australia.
The Aussie Ford RangerWe have a way of making things larger than life in Australia. That’s exactly what happened in 2012, making the ‘compact truck’ bigger and more powerful. Called the Ford Ranger T6, the beefier engines now come in 2.5L five-speed and 3.2L six-speed petrol, or 2.2L six-speed diesel varieties.
Designed with outback ruggedness in mind, the current Ford Ranger features a swathe of safety specs for Aussie families. An electronic stability system gives superior control on and off the road, with features like trailer sway control, hill start assist, descent control, locking rear differential, and adaptive load traction control. To cope with our wet season the standard models have 600mm wading tolerance, up to 800mm on the Wildtrak variant.
We can’t decide which ute we prefer – and neither can our customers – but one thing we do know for sure is that nobody takes better care of your trusted machine than Perth’s favourite Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux service centre, Robson Bros 4WD.