For those of you who don’t know, we introduced a new project to our lineup, coined “Project Two Face” late last year. Two Face is a ’92 Ford Ranger, and it came equipped with a very underpowered four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission. The pickup was recovered from a farm in Southern Missouri, where its only job was to carry tools and equipment into the fields. It’s a little rough around the edges, but that is exactly what we wanted: something that had a little shine and ruggedness.
We’ve already got a TCI-built Powerglide transmission and a 5.3-liter LS engine getting put together for it, so the slow life for this Ranger is coming to an end. With plans to occasionally drive this on the street and tear up the dragstrip every weekend, we were going to need a dependable rear differential, and thanks to Moser Engineering, we’ve got it.
What’s In Store
We want to compete in street-style classes with this truck, meaning factory suspension is a must. Sure, a four-link would probably be a fun upgrade, but as we’ve seen in the past, just because it has leaf springs doesn’t mean it isn’t fast. This engine combination isn’t going to make a ton of power, but the truck is light.
We fully anticipate this engine to be the first of many because the parts we have backing this build (transmission, chassis upgrades, and differential) can handle way more than what this little 5.3 can do at the highest level. We’re looking for the best upgrades that can handle street abuse as well as back-to-back passes on the strip.
We have two objectives with this project. Our plan is to be competitive in the street categories at typical street/strip nights, and also race at the highest level in bracket racing. We would also like to enter and document our experience at one of the SFG Million events. So, without further ado, what is the big upgrade? We partnered with Moser to make sure that we have a rearend that will never leave us stranded. From the second this unit showed up, we knew we had parts that would last.
The Moser Difference
One of Moser’s hottest product lines is its Muscle Pak package rear differential kits. Ordering one is easy, as you select your application from among a host of popular makes, models, and years, determine your measurements, and it arrives at the door ready to go. You have the option of brakes (or no brakes), finish color, gearset, etc. Is it just that easy? Typically yes. But we had to be different and use a Ford Ranger. Unfortunately, the Muscle Pak line doesn’t cover the Ranger so that idea was nixed. There is good news, though.
Moser has produced differentials for everything you could possibly imagine in its time, from common to one-off custom. The company has its parts list figured out well enough that all you really need to do is make your part selections, take an axle measurement, decide on a third-member, and you’re ready to go. By making these selections, Moser will box and ship everything you will need, leaving the assembly and installation all to you.
Moser instructed us about where and how to take measurements off of the factory rearend. Measuring from the axle flange to the end of the axle, the tape read 27-5/8-inches. We relayed this to Colton Bartlett, one of Moser’s specialists, and he assured us that this would work. “Both axles are pretty close to the same length, but one that you will receive (driver’s side) is slightly longer for the Wavetrac.”
To ensure proper fitment on our wheel and tire purchase, we needed to have our axle tubes fabricated to the right length. For those of you who don’t know how to do this, there are specific points to measure from. Making sure we did this correctly, we worked closely with the team at Moser where they instructed us on where to put the tape.
Our measurements were taken on the factory rear end on both sides. Placing a tape measure on the outside of the axle hub and measuring from there to the centerline of the u-joint is how we came up with our tube lengths. On the front, although that didn’t matter for our rear end, we went with a set of 17-inch by 6-inch front-runner wheels and tires. On the rear, we mounted up a set of 15-inch by 10-inch wheels and had them wrapped in a pair of 315 radial tires.
We wanted this project to have a DIY theme, and thanks to Moser’s measurement guidelines, we were able to take the necessary steps to get exactly what we needed. Once you factor in the parts you’ve selected and the labor of having Moser build it all (like with the Muscle Pak) you’re looking at a higher price than if you did it yourself. So that was indeed an advantage for us in this scenario. There’s a lot of value in going with either option and it really is dependent on your needs. This isn’t an extensive install, either, as you only need basic tools. The great part about all of this is the third-member already comes pre-assembled and set up for optimal performance. You bolt everything together and it’s ready to race.
In our correspondence with Moser, we gave them our axle measurements and they cut our tubes and axles to fit. Everything shipped safely to our location where the assembly was completed.
- Ford 9-inch axle housing
- Moser heavy-duty 35-spline axles
- Built-to-order 9-inch third member
- Fill/Drain plug
- Weld-on spring perches
- Bearing package
- Rear parking brake kit
- Motul gear lube
Our third-member is the beefiest part of the pile. Moser’s custom-built center sections are completely assembled and ready to rock and roll. Instead of using weak crush sleeves, it utilizes solid pinion shims. Because they want to ensure the utmost accuracy and calibration, Moser uses “Torque Guns” to assemble these. This means no impact guns are used that typically would hammer and flat spot bearings.
We knew instantly that this truck was going to get some sweet upgrades, so as soon as it arrived, we began tearing into it, with any unnecessary parts that weren’t there for a race vehicle disposed of. The back of the truck was narrowed down to the basic frame rails.
Since the truck came equipped with leaf springs, and factory suspension is a must in the street-style classes, we ordered a set of Calvert Racing split-mono leaf springs and traction bars for the rear. As you can see, the factory springs and axle weren’t going to be good for anything and we wanted to start with a bare, clean slate.
Split mono leafs went in and once this new differential is assembled and secured to the truck, we can complete the traction bar install. In combination with our tire selection, we’re sure that this setup is going to work perfectly for what we want to do. We want to ensure traction on all surfaces and the adjustments the traction bars offer will result in what we are looking for.
Some Assembly Required
Once all of the parts arrived, it was only a matter of time until it all started to go together. We had plans to assemble the rearend and then deliver the truck and the rearend to a local chassis shop where they could get our pinion angle dialed in and then finish welding on our perches. Unfortunately, their waitlist was long. In the meantime, we’re going to get this assembled and under the truck at least until that time comes.
We sat our powder-coated housing up on some jack stands and started to plug-and-play with our parts. This third member was the most serious piece of the puzzle. We selected a Wavetrac, 4.57 gear for our all-aluminum, bolt-through case. This case, and the gearsets available, make this great for street and/or strip use. Before this could get installed though, our studs needed to be installed. This is where those “basic tools” come in.
After pulling the knurled studs into the bare housing, our third member was gently placed down into its new home where it was secured with the provided hardware. The third-member comes with the backlash already set. All it requires is axles, brakes, and gear lube before you’re ready to go. The bearing set, brakes, and axles came into play next.
After carefully mounting the Wilwood brakes and parking brake kit to the axle, the bearings, and Moser 35-spline axles were slipped into place. This project is very exciting — with a combination of this new 9-inch axle upgrade, a TCI-powered Powerglide transmission, and our plans of upgrading the LS engine, this thing is sure to make some steam on race day.
Stay tuned as we come back from the chassis shop with a finished, completed product. Once we’ve got everything in and secured, we’ll start plumbing the truck with fuel and wiring and hopefully, we can have a first fire date and get it prepared for the 2022 drag racing season. To find out what your car or truck needs for a rear differential, head on over to the Moser Engineering website.