Ford Motor Co. looks to extend the shelf life of its aging Ford Ranger pickup line with the addition of a special-edition STX package for ’05.

Ford shows off the Ranger STX at the Washington D.C. auto show, which runs Dec. 26-Jan. 2. The auto maker plans to sell 5,000 annually.

The pickup goes on sale in January with a host of interior and exterior tweaks. The vehicle only comes as rear-wheel drive, carrying a sticker price of $16,020 for the RegularCab, $18,060 for the SuperCab 2-door and $19,225 for the SuperCab 4-door.

Ranger looks to retain its 17-year lead in the U.S. small-truck market in 2004 even as its own sales suffer significant decline – down 25% vs. like-2003.

Ford executives tell Ward’s it is unlikely the auto maker will extend its leadership an 18th year, given the age of the current Ranger and heightened competition in the segment, with new entries from just about every auto maker except Ford. (See related story: Jury ‘In’ on Bronco, Still Deliberating on Ranger)

Through November, Ford’s 147,652 Ranger deliveries outpaced Toyota Motor Corp.’s Tacoma sales by only 6,281 units, or 5%. Last year through 11 months, Ford’s lead over Toyota was 28%, by comparison.