Have a read here: The Ford Ranger 4-Cylinder Lima Motors - The Ranger Station
'88 or earlier would be better but distributor hole was still there until '94.
The better part is that the changes made require different parts, so, for example, when ordering an oil pan gasket you would need a '90 part number as the '83 pan gasket wouldn't fit, not a big deal but it can be a PITA when an engine is Frankenstein'ed outside of identical years.
Yes and no on the transmission, you for sure need a trans from Lima engine(2.0l/2.3l/2.5l) because of the unique bell housing bolt pattern, but a 4WD trans has an output shaft for transfer case not Drive shaft.
You can change the output shaft and tail housing but you would need a 2WD trans for those parts, the 2WD trans for parts can be from any engine size since all you need is the rear parts.
But if you can find a 2WD 5-speed from a 2.3l you would be better off, you will probably need the drive shaft as well, as the length of the transmissions may be different
Here is a link to manual transmission used in rangers, it has some lengths: http://www.therangerstation.com/tech...smission.shtml
And you can see the side by side pics of 2WD and 4WD tail shafts