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2015 Ford Ranger custom 4x4

May 19, 2023May 19, 2023

The dual-cab ute has taken over Australia. Every suburb. Every beach campsite. Every outback pub. Every construction site. Every single one of them is swarming with dual-cab utes. It makes sense – they’re designed for us.

The ultimate work rig, family runabout and play toy all in one car spot. An open ticket to adventure, while still feeling like you’re making a practical choice.

For Newcastle local Aaron Brown, or Azventures as the internet knows him, this all rings true. A chippy by trade, an adventurer by heart and now part of the crew at MITS Alloy, his 2015 Ranger is the perfect rig for work and play.

It didn't come that way from the factory, though. Aaron's adventure machine is the result of years of hard work, with plenty of trial and error thrown in to the mix in his attempt to build the perfect work toy for the 9 to 5, and the adventure machine when he's off the clock.

Supporting the whole affair is a tricked-up chassis with some wild suspension components front to rear. Leading the charge up front is a 2.5-inch lift to bump the Ford's altitude up without affecting ride quality or handling.

To achieve the new height, a set of Fox 2.0 struts have been fitted either side. They’re slung in to SuperPro replacement lower control arms, while Tough Dog tube uppers rein the alignment back in to respectable limits.

Huge G.O.A.T. Offroad tie-rod ends have beefed up the steering department, a common weak point for people pushing the T6 platform to its limit. A full suite of Bendix brake upgrades also got the nod – its Ultimate rotors backed up by trick pads and braided brake lines all-round.

Moving rearwards and Aaron has completely ditched the factory leaf-spring suspension set-up. In its place, a Superior Engineering coil conversion has been welded in, giving a smoother ride and huge improvements in off-road articulation.

Similar to the rear suspension in a LandCruiser, the new set-up uses four heavy-duty adjustable link arms holding the diff fore and aft, while a matching Panhard rod keeps things moving down the road in a straight line.

After spending the GDP of a South American company by experimenting with spring rates, Aaron's finally settled on a set of springs from Lovells for the perfect combination of ride quality and handling, while a set of Fox remote reservoir 2.0 shocks keep the whole arrangement behaving itself.

The combination provides ample room to shoehorn in 315/75R16 Maxxis RAZR tyres wrapped around steel wheels.

Motoring the set-up down the tracks is Ford's 3.2 Duratorq five-cylinder turbo-diesel. It breathes a little easier, thanks to an Airtec snorkel by TJM feeding cool air down through the factory airbox.

A spicy tune from the guys at Legendex has ramped up the power output, before its three-inch turbo-back exhaust has spent gases rocketing backwards.

Sending drive to both axles, the 6R80 six-speed transmission has an external cooler kit from Wyong Automatics fitted, while both driveshafts are mated to lockers at each end – the factory electronic locker in the rear housing, with an aftermarket unit from Harrop Engineering up front.

Back on solid ground and Aaron's spec’d the Ranger up with armour from front to rear. Heading up the package is the aggressive-looking Chaser bullbar from TJM. Constructed out of tube and plate, the prerunner-style bar sits tight to the body and houses a matching TJM Torq 9500lb winch.

Moving backwards and a full set of TJM bash plates have been installed to protect the Ranger's soft undercarriage components, with a few DIY mods required to make them fit around the Roadsafe diff drop.

Along the flanks, Legendex rock sliders protect the sills and doors, while a Front Runner alloy roof rack provides storage up top.

There's an awe-inspiring amount of light pointing forward thanks to a Stedi light bar on the bullbar, gutter lights mounted at the bottom of the A-pillars, and five more Stedi LED lights up top.

Up the back, a sleek MITS Alloy canopy rounds out the package. Not surprising, considering Aaron hung up his circular saw to go join the MITS Alloy team full-time.

Expertly welded together out of lightweight aluminium, the MITS Alloy unit is a two-piece combination. The canopy and tray package is perfect for the worksite or touring, while the canopy lifts off leaving just the tray to cop a hiding should Aaron decide to test the Ranger's twin-locked capabilities.

With the canopy fitted, Aaron has enough goodies to last for weeks on the tracks without needing to duck in to civilisation. A huge Enerdrive electrical set-up is the brain of the beast; powered by a KickAss lithium battery, the set-up provides ample power for the on-board water tank, inverter, on-board air and TravelMate fridge. There's even enough left over to fire up the Travel Buddy pie oven.

The passenger side of the canopy is decked out with a heap of Crashpad soft storage solutions, as well as a pull-out pantry and prep table, while a trundle tray underneath provides huge storage for all the track-side tools you could ever dream of. Up top, solar panels are accessible via the rear-mounted ladder.

Moving in to the cockpit and Aaron's kept things simple but effective. To increase storage room even further, he yanked the back seats out and fitted a false-floor section with slide-out tubs underneath. They’re the perfect place for overflow food and cooking items, while clothes bags live on top. It also provides a convenient mounting point for the GME Personal Locator Beacon within easy reach of driver and passenger.

Up front, a GME XRS takes pride of place, while a ScanGauge provides up-to-date readings on everything from coolant temp to battery levels. A Thrust Monkey throttle controller lets Aaron dial throttle sensitivity way back for maximum control when off-road.

If you’re looking for chrome wheels and marble-finished bench tops in Aaron's rig, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. It's the definition of go, not show. Purpose-built to tow a two-tonne trailer to the job site Monday to Friday, then head off to cross deserts on the weekend.

For most of history the debate between coil and leaf springs has been fairly one-sided – leaf springs were better.

In all fairness, that's because, despite leaf springs being around since Roman times, coil springs are only about 250 years old. Despite that, coil and leaf springs are still both common today on anything with four wheels. The reasons are straightforward, and they both have pros and cons.

Leaf springs are tough, simple to design and engineer in to a vehicle and affordable to manufacture. So why did Aaron yank them out, and why are so many 4WDers spending thousands to replace them with coils?

In short, coils offer superior ride quality, easier tunability and, with correct link geometry, can out-flex most leaf-spring set-ups. If your primary goal is to tackle challenging 4x4 tracks or ride in comfort, then coils should be on every corner of your 4x4.