I'm all into easy and cheap as long as it makes the required power and is reliable. That is not a combination that usually happens with normally-aspirated setups. The 460 or small-block stroker can make the power without too much sweat to hit the 9's. However, going stroker means immediate cash flow, and 460 means using some of your HP to fight weight increase. If I were doing a hot Ranger (which I and a couple others on this forum are), I'd go with a 351W and almost stock performance rebuild, and use a power adder. On mine, I'm doing a daily-driver streeter boosting with a single turbo, bone-stock 5.0 but only looking for 500 FWHP for street and weekend drag fun. A 351W with new pistons and rod bolts, with a set of decent but cheap heads, intake and boost, will easily make far more power than that and enough to hit the 9's on a bad day and do it year after year.
An NA stroker can certainly do it, but at greater expense and less reliability, as it needs to spin higher, and your launch will have to be harder to get your times. The power-adder version can have considerably more HP, and so would not have to launch as hard to pull the same time slips consistently. This is important on the street as a showoff 9s NA hard launch on DOT tires from a stoplight is near impossible, where a soft boost or delayed N20 launch will easily outrun it. Just a thought, and a direction that many racers are moving in for better power with better reliability. While often considered 'cheating' in the past, it has swung around to become the 'smart' way to make power. But, like building and feeding a good NA race engine, you have to learn what to do and not do.
James302 has an induction article in the Tech section where he's using a stock short block 302 and cheap turbos to hit 9s in a 3200 pound Fox. Your Ranger should be lighter and faster than that, but I'm suggesting the 351W mostly for solid reliability without spending more than a 3 thou on the whole engine package. If you aim for something like that, without experience projects always cost twice the budget, so keep that in-mind.
Finally, as mentioned your chassis will suck the lion's share of the money. Your first concern is safety and track rules. Running faster than 10s at any track will require a lot of specialty safety gear and mods than do not make you faster, but keep you safer. It's not only smart - they will not let you run a 9 without it. In-spite of that, $10k should cover the whole project with careful planning and shopping, and you doing all the work. You can easily double that on bling and cool stuff that isn't necessary for the time slips. That part is up to you and your budget. Plan carefully, build smart, and make decisions based on the end-goals.
... pick two. Usually.
- High Power
- High Reliability
- Low Cost