The Ford Ranger was a compact pickup truck manufactured and marketed by Ford Motor Company for the North American, Chilean, Argentinian, and Brazilian markets for model years 1983 through 2012. The "Ranger" nameplate had previously applied to a premium styling package on the Ford F-Series full-size pickup trucks, beginning in 1965. In 1983, the Ranger was introduced as the replacement for the Ford Courier, a re-badged version of the Mazda B-Series, in a segment largely defined by the pickup trucks from Datsun and Toyota. From 1987 to 2004, the Ranger was the best-selling compact pickup in America.
Re-badged variants of the second-generation Ford Ranger were marketed by Mazda as the B-Series with Mazda using engine displacement for their model designation: the B2500 had the 2.5 L I4 engine and the B4000 has a 4.0 L V6. For 2002, the B-Series was renamed to simply Mazda Truck in the United States.
The Ranger and Mazda B-Series were manufactured at Ford's Twin Cities Assembly Plant in St. Paul, Minnesota until 2011, at Louisville Assembly Plant in Louisville, Kentucky until 1999, and at the Edison Assembly plant in Edison, New Jersey until 2004.
Declining sales of the compact truck segment as a whole and the closure of the Twin Cities Assembly Plant led to the cancellation of the Ranger after the 2011 model year; a small, final run of 2012 models were produced exclusively for the fleet market.
Ford began development of the Ranger in 1976, focusing on quality and fuel efficiency. The intent was to build a truck that was as capable as the full-size F-Series, but in a more economical package. The compact Ranger had a similar styling to the full-size Ford F-Series, used a similar architecture, and was offered with a four-wheel drive capability. This ability allowed the Ford Ranger to haul a four-foot-wide (1.2 m) sheet of plywood, which is a common standard for a pickup truck. In the compact Ranger, however, the space between the wheel wells was less than four feet; Ford designed the box with provisions to allow hauling of a standard sheet of plywood.
1983 Ranger production began January 18, 1982 at the Louisville Assembly Plant, hitting showrooms in March. Available engines were the 72 hp (54 kW) 2.0 L and 82 hp (61 kW) 2.3 L OHC four-cylinders, a four-cylinder 59 hp (44 kW) 2.2 L Mazda/Perkins diesel, and a 115 hp (86 kW) 2.8 L Cologne V6. In 1985, a Mitsubishi-built 2.3 L turbo-diesel with 86 hp (64 kW) replaced the Mazda diesel engine, and in 1986, the 2.8 L engine was replaced with a 140 hp (104 kW) 2.9 L Cologne V6. The Super-cab was introduced in 1986, offering an extra 17 inches (432 mm) of storage space behind the front seats, with a pair of jump seats available as an option. A lot of the parts of the interior such as the steering wheel and the window cranks were similar to those in other Ford vehicles like the Bronco, Escort, and the F-Series.
Mid-year 1986 saw the introduction of the Ranger GT. Available only as a standard cab with a short bed, it had a 2.9 L Cologne V6 with either a 5-speed Toyo Kogyo manual transmission or an optional A4LD automatic transmission putting power to a Traction-Lok differential with a 3.73 gear ratio. Inside, the pickup was equipped with special bucket seats, full instrument cluster, and an optional center console. Front and rear sway bars were installed, and 14x6 aluminum wheels completed the package. A long bed option was added for 1987, and a new ground effects package was introduced in 1988.
The truck received a facelift for 1989, which included flush composite headlamps, new front fenders, hood, and grille, along with some upgrades to the frame. Inside, there was a modern new dashboard and steering column.
The new steering column included, on automatic transmission-equipped models, a column-mounted gear shift, and key removal on manual transmission models became a simpler, one-handed operation. Manual-equipped 1983–88 models had the key release button beneath the column on the left-hand side, requiring drivers to use both hands to remove the key.
Rear-wheel antilock brakes were added, and a 21 US gal (79 L; 17 imp gal) fuel tank was now optional on extended-cab models.
The 2.0 L engine was discontinued, and the 2.3 L now had a distributor-less ignition system with two spark plugs per cylinder, giving it a 10 hp (7 kW) boost and better fuel economy. The three-speed automatics were dropped, leaving only the A4LD. The new 155 hp (116 kW) 4.0 L Cologne V6 was added to the option list for all models in 1990. It was introduced to replace the 2.9 L Cologne in rear-wheel drive and 4x4 trucks. With the new engines, the only manual transmission available was the 5-speed M5OD-R1.
The Ranger GT was discontinued, although the Ford Truck Public Affairs office did build a prototype for 1990 powered by a 3.0 L SHO V6.