Diesel Survivor: 1983 Ford Ranger

Talk about an extinct species: this 1983 Ford Ranger pickup is a small hauler with a diesel engine, a breed that automakers lost all interest in building eons ago. It’s a shame because light-duty pickups are just as useful for weekend hardware store runs as a full-size behemoth, and the diesel engine will likely outlive the body panels that surround it. The seller has done a nice job of updating the truck with fresh paint and new wheels and even attempted a grease car conversion before going back to the original configuration. Find it listed here on Barn Finds Classifieds in Winchester, Connecticut for $6,500.

The seller picked up this Ranger from the son of the original owner. While mileage wasn’t able to be documented by the DMV due to the truck’s age, the story the 51,000 miles is genuine because the truck never really left town. Of course, with the Perkins diesel under the hood, you wouldn’t be going anywhere fast, so long-distance trips likely weren’t too tempting. The seller has put some real money into this Ranger, including repairing the broken tail housing of the transmission. Other improvements include new carpeting, battery, wheels and tires, seat upholstery, spray-in bedliner, and a replacement electric cooling fan.

The interior looks quite tidy, even though there are some blemishes. The top of the dash looks to have some cosmetic flaws, and the seller notes the temperature gauge got wonky, so he installed an auxiliary setup; however, that one also has gone haywire as the needle immediately pegs the hot zone on the gauge when the truck is cold. There’s a short somewhere that the next owner will have to sort out, but thankfully, they won’t have to deal with fitting new upholstery or carpets. The Ranger is also blissfully simple inside, with the only comfort feature of note being power steering – there’s no A/C to charge or power windows to find a new motor for.

The seller chose to respray the Ranger in its original shade of blue, or at least a color that’s close to original. The aftermarket wheels are a sensible upgrade, but the seller notes there’s some surface rust developing. The grease car kit was a temporary fascination and the seller did use it, but after finding out how hard it was to find used vegetable grease, he went back to the factory setup. The seller also installed a custom exhaust header. The grease kit will come with the truck, along with shop manuals, a grease car kit book, extra transmission parts, and an original 2” exhaust manifold. Be sure to get in touch with the seller via the form and check out all of the pictures in the gallery.

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  1. FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972 Member

    I like the looks of this Ranger a lot but the diesel engine kills it for me. The inline four was barely adequate so I’m sure this little diesel is a real slug. The early Rangers were a good looking little pickup, perfect for those who didn’t need a heavy hauler and wanted decent MPGs. This one looks to be in pretty good shape and unusually sound considering it resides in my rust-prone home state.

    I like the Ford Rangers and I’ve owned three. My first was an ’88 I bought new and drove for 25 years, than a ’97 and finally an ’04. The first two were basic, no option Customs but dependable and dirt cheap to run and maintain. The ’04 was a loaded XLT Supercab with the V6. It was a nice truck but I didn’t care for the Supercab as I’ve always preferred the regular cab with a regular sized bed. The little Rangers were great trucks and I’d love to have another but just not this one.

    Like 1
  2. flmikey

    It blows my mind why they can’t build small sized trucks like these anymore…at least for the USA…I would imagine a small, inexpensive, easy to maintain truck would sell like hotcakes…I have 94 Ranger that I bought new, and other than oil and fluid changes, tires, two sets of brakes, a timing belt, and a can of Freon every year or so, the thing just keeps on running…

    Like 10
    • Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

      Stay tuned to what Ford will begin producing within the next year or so.

      Like 6
      • Bhowe Member

        I think the new maverick is another car based unit. Not really a pickup. Now if they were to re release the 83 ranger not kidding I would order mine tomorrow

        Like 11
      • Pistol Pete

        I was hoping Ford would call their upcoming Maverick pickup a Ford Courier. That was their smallest pick up (yeah, I know, it was a Mazda underneath) for years so why name their newest truck after a car? They must have marketing gurus that know more than me. I was also hoping it would be really small, like a Courier was. Oh well.

        Like 1
  3. Jack M.

    You had me scratching my head at grease truck. I was picturing some greaser from the 50’s like the group Sha Na Na. In Canada we refer to it as waste vegetable oil. Nobody gives it away anymore for free. It is a big business now recycling it.

    Like 5
  4. Engident

    My granddaddy was the parts department manager at the Ford dealership in Spartanburg, SC for many years through 3 different owners. The shop truck was an 80 something red Ranger with a stick. I have fond memories of riding around the Roebuck backroads in that then-new little truck, windows down, Papa casually rowing the gears with a Winston on his lip and Motorcraft trucker hat on his mostly bald head, Merle Haggard on the radio, tree frogs bringing the background music.

    Like 11
  5. Alan Nelson

    Never knew they put a diesel in a ranger. As an ex-Ford dealership mechanic and Ford lover in general, I’m not sure how that slipped by. I do however remembea a diesel Escort. As a tow truck driver i had to find the battery for a jump, took me a while to find it in the drivers side rear 1/4 panel.

    Like 1
    • Howard Kerr

      I believe Ford actually offered 2 different diesel engines in the Ranger, depending on year. A Perkins and a Mazda diesel engine were used. A Mazda diesel engine was also offered in the Escort/Lynx and the same engine was offered in the Tempo/Topax.

      Like 1
      • Gus Fring

        A Tempo and a Topax = a Tempax.

  6. James Cobb

    I drive my 1994 XLT Supercab Ranger 47 miles each way to work everyday. 215K miles, 2.3L backed by a 5 speed manual. About 75 mph is all she will do with 2 grown men in the cab. Turn on the a/c and it adds 10 minutes to my trip. Reliable as the day is long, I would jump in that thing and drive it across Country with 100% confidence.

    Like 7
  7. alphasud Member

    I believe the diesel in the Ranger was supplied by Perkins. Then there was the 1980 Scout that had the Nissan Diesel engine and recently I saw a CL ad for a 78 Dodge truck that had a Diesel engine, not Cummins but a Mitsubishi Diesel engine. Also super rare but they do exist GM had a 4.3 diesel V6 that went into their front wheel drive platform.

    Like 3
  8. Tom

    Had an ‘87 S model with the 2.0L engine, 5 speed, no power anything, including no power steering or power brakes. Slow (but could get up to 75-80 eventually) and frightening to drive at first with no power assist brakes, but once you got used to driving it I loved it…was super dependable and great on gas. Got 160k before selling it, wish I never did. They don’t build them this simple anymore.

    Like 3
  9. GCS Member

    I had an 85 S-10 and raced a beautiful girl with this exact truck, daily through King Of Prussia PA. We both had underpowered junk but would be doing 70mph until we got stuck behind a nasty smelly oil burning Lance truck that topped out at 25mph. I tried to see where she worked one day but she kept going and I would have been late to work. I still wonder who she was and her story…

    Like 3
  10. Steve Clinton

    Wow, nice little clean Ranger at a reasonable price…wait, it’s a diesel you say? Never mind.

    Like 1
  11. Bunky

    I like it! I’ve had a few Rangers. The best were 4 cylinder/5 speed. Sold a ‘95 with about 360k on it. Somewhere along the way it got a junkyard transplant engine, but the rest was original.
    Here in Central Washington there are a lot of tractors with Perkins diesels. They run a significant portion of forever if supplied with fuel, lube oil, and coolant.
    Slow, yeah, but who says you have to go fast to be cool? 😎

    Like 1
  12. David Miraglia

    Always wanted a Ranger and I don’t care if it has a gas or a diesel under the hood.

  13. chrlsful

    altho later models were nice (4WD, 5 speed, peppie, extended cab) I like these. If not for the softer springs alone (DD difficult as U got bounced around) also the look. Plenty of veg oil (what Mr Diesel invented for anyway) and bio diesel round here, I’d want 2 tanks – start up/shut dwn on the diesel, run on bio, its important to keep clear lines/fuel pump here…

    For me?Perkins 4.018 is the top’o da line. I’d get the truck just for that…
    Somebody’s gunna score a nice one. In my neighborhood (just wonder what auto would take that tq?).

    Like 1
  14. Lincoln B Member

    In 1988 I was looking for a good used 4cyl diesel pickup and the pickens were slim as they never sold well here, ending up with a 1984 Mazda B2200. At the time I had been told the early Rangers had a Mazda diesel and by 1986 a Mitsubishi turbo diesel. This Ford has the same engine as my Mazda, which was bullet proof. Does anyone
    know the history?

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