The 344kW ‘Aussie Raptor’ (Ford Ranger) was a hit with MOTOR’s readers before we even spoke to the people who built it.
We’re fixing that now, after having spoken to Diesel Leaders in Queensland, the people committed (or brave… or crazy!) enough to build something like this.
Our point of contact was Gary Coleman, one of the diesel mechanics there, who said the project got off to a rocky start.
“This build took a lot longer than expected. I'm not sure exactly how long it was but it was at least 6 months, maybe more,” Coleman told MOTOR.
“It wasn't so much that we had setbacks, it just took a lot more engineering than we first expected, the gearbox being a prime example.”
“There were a number of people we knew were capable of doing it but none of them wanted to take the risk on such a big job.”
The team eventually found the help it needed in the form of Phil Weeks at Rage Engineering, who was “more than happy to marry the Ranger transfer case on to the V8 gearbox”.
“Absolutely everything about this build was difficult. I can’t think of any one piece that we were able to fit without having to modify it somehow.
“V8 conversions are fairly commonplace and we didn't want this truck to be looked at in that light, which is why we went with the quad cam, supercharged, Boss V8.”
It was a struggle, but we’re glad they took it on.
“As for how we got the engine and gearbox in and running, there is just far too much to list, even just getting the V8 into the engine bay was a mission, it has to be one of the tightest fitting engines I've ever seen!”
“Everything had to be custom made, engine and box mounts, drive shafts, all the original Ranger engine bay ancillaries, (battery, intake, power steering, etc.) are all on opposite sides to the V8 and had to be swapped.
“Add to this the fact that at the beginning of the build the owner had requested that to the best of our ability we make it look like a factory V8 which meant that we couldn't use parts that were obviously aftermarket.
“So rather than use an aftermarket thermofan, we modified the FPV fans to go on the Ranger radiator and then re-shaped the Ranger cowling to hide the fans altogether to keep the Ranger looking factory.”
Even once the engine was in, Coleman says the wiring became the next hurdle that the team at Diesel Leaders had to overcome.
Keep in mind this was all happening while they ran the regular business, too.
“As it turns out, an Aussie V8 doesn't speak the same language as a Euro Ranger so we had a performance wiring guru from Sideshow Wiring come in and sort that side of it out for us, along with the guys at Real Dyno.”
So, with the Ranger all put together, we asked how the thing actually drives.
“It's f**king fast!!!”
“Not only is it fast but its smooth. This ute drives like it came off the assembly line like this,” Coleman says.
“We haven't had an opportunity to test it off road yet, we're still putting some finishing touches on it but I can’t imagine it would be any different off road.”
And after six months of sweat and six years’ worth of swearing, a drive in the finished product would have to be one of the most satisfying feelings on Earth.
And Gary Coleman certainly sounds like he feels that way.
“It’s very rare that you get the opportunity to be involved in a project like this, especially as a diesel mechanic.
“So to be able to see this through from conception to completion, and to be able to build this truck without compromising quality and to keep it looking factory, has been a real pleasure.
“I'm not ashamed to say that we have created something to be proud of.”