Did you know that BMW's Formula 1 engines of 1980-83 were built with engine blocks taken from used street cars?
It was discovered during early testing that the 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder screamer could better endure the stress of producing 1200 horsepower if the block was "aged" by about 60, 000 miles of regular driving. The process somehow relieved internal tensions in the casting, making the blocks more durable.
This fact has absolutely nothing to do with the Ford Ranger Edge Plus SuperCab 4x4 pictured here. We just wanted to give you something guaranteed to suck the air right out of your next dinner party. We also wanted to make the case that even though the Ranger doesn't have 1200 horsepower, there are tangible reasons to choose Ford's compact pickup over a Brabham-BMW BT50 F1 car.
For one thing, the Ranger has headlights. For another, the Ranger can be seen from behind the hood ornament of a Grand Marquis, even by people looking out between the dash and steering-wheel rim.
The Ranger's cockpit can also accommodate more than one five-foot-seven Brazilian. In fact, it can accommodate four such Brazilians, although the ones in the back will have to squeeze into two folding jump seats nestled in a paltry 13 cubic feet of space. At least there's an extra pair of doors to access that space, which brings up another glaring omission by the Brabham's designer-doors.
Tell the dealer you want a Ranger Edge SuperCab 4x4, and he'll show you a Ranger XL gussied up with body-colored bumpers and wheel-lip moldings, front and rear anti-roll bars, mud flaps, cloth seats, a CD player, and a textured vinyl floor that resembles sneaker treads. Specify the "Plus" trim, and for another $2485 you'll get a six-disc CD changer, cruise control, various power widgets, remote locking, and larger tires on 16-inch alloy rims. Tell the dealer you want a BT50, and he'll point you to the nearest Chinese buffet.
At the risk of belaboring the point, the Ranger's optional 4.0-liter SOHC V-6 lacks relative vitality. But it can make all 207 horsepower and 238 pound-feet of torque for more than three laps of the Caesars Palace parking lot without ejecting its pistons. Absent the optional $295 limited-slip differential, the V-6 punted our 4020-pound Ranger to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds and through a quarter-mile in 16.5 seconds at 84 mph, respectable times considering the turbo boost control was set to "nonexistent."
The Ranger's automatic gearbox has five ratios to choose from and does its deeds with reasonable fluidity. The two-speed transfer case features no electronic brain, just a solenoid to engage four-wheel-drive high and low at the command of a dashboard rotary knob. Unless you opt for the limited-slip axle, the open differentials will generate nothing more than wild wheelspin in mud, making the Ranger best suited to off-road adventures on hard surfaces.
Edge Rangers all sport the 4x4's extra 0.7-inch axle clearance (for 7.4 inches total). The extra altitude considerably hampers the Ranger's ground effects, although chassis stiffness and cabin isolation were both improved in the model-year-2000 redesign. The live rear axle still hops around on corrugated surfaces, but with less punishment meted out to the occupants.
A BT50 comes with enough space behind the driver for a small drink bottle, whereas the Ranger has enough space for a fish pond. The box is stamped with depressions in the sidewalls so a four-by-eight-foot sheet of plywood slides in above the wheel wells. The $195 for the optional bed extender, a removable cage of aluminum tubes that rotates out over the open tailgate to lengthen the load floor by 16 inches, represents money wisely spent.