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ExplorerTom's Explorer

ExplorerTom

Well-Known Member
I've never been one for giving a name to my cars, but nevertheless, I present my '97 Ford Explorer XLT:

Here it is basically when I bought it:

Pretty standard stuff: 4.0L V6 with a 5 speed auto transmission and the automatic 4wd transfer case.

I bought it reasonably cheap and spent several weeks bringing it back up to par maintenance wise. I worked at a Ford dealership during the summer while in college and have always liked 2nd gen Explorers. I owned a '98 V8 AWD Mountaineer when I lived in KS but I didn't do a thing with it and only owned it for 11 months. And in KS, I didn't even know where to take it to have fun with it.

Like I said in my intro post, I bought it with the intentions of daily driving it and towing a popup camper.
 

ExplorerTom

Well-Known Member
To improve it's towing ability, I swapped out the 3.55 gears to 4.56. With the 30" tires, it had a great deal of low end torque. It towed great. But camping like this became a pain and we used it less and less. We recently sold it and I couldn't be happier that it's gone.

With a plan in mind I began modifying the rig to be better offroad. I know I wanted bigger tires to increase clearance and "smooth out" the trail. And I needed bumpers that weren't totally useless. To start my rig down the path that I laid out, I needed a mild body lift so I pieced together a 2" lift. The body lift needed to come first for what I had laid out to follow.

I upgraded the tires to 33" and got wider wheels. I had to do a little trimming but they fit pretty well:


While doing some 4wheeling around Yankee Hill, I hit the factory steps a couple times. I figured since I didn't use the steps, I might as well remove them and get something more useful. So I got some custom sliders built:


Next came the front bumper and some KC daylighter lights:

I also had a 2" receiver added with the intentions of using a tray winch. But so far I've only used it for the Bumper Dumper:


Next came a rear bumper with a swing out tire carrier and Jerry can holder:

(Gas can not pictured)
 

ExplorerTom

Well-Known Member
While at this point my rig was pretty setup, I still wasn't happy with the clearance and IFS. I was scraping on lots of rocks and the open front and rear diffs limited my abilities (although it was rewarding when I finally cleared an obstacle). I contemplated doing a front coilover swap to get rid of the torsion bars, but that would just improve the ride- not do anything about my clearance. I needed to go bigger.

So I went with a SAS/SOA:

The front axle is a Dana 30 out of a Jeep XJ. It's been trussed and the C's have been gussetted. The diff has been fitted with an Eaton Truetrac. The rear axle is the stock Ford 8.8 but set up with Chevy 1500 leaf spring on top of the axle instead of under it. The rear also has an Eaton Truetrac.

Now I've fixed my flex and clearance problem. Flex before:

Flex after:



I've pretty much got the exterior sorted, at least for awhile. Next I need to focus on improving the interior. I hate my current storage setup. I need to unpack everything to get access to anything while on the trail.
 

Overland1

Administrator
Staff member
I really like what you've done. You don't see many explores setup like this and it takes real drive to do more then simple bolt on stuff. I can't wait until we get out and run it a little.
 

ExplorerTom

Well-Known Member
Yeah, the uniqueness of it is pretty cool. But it would nice to be able to order upgrade parts out of a catalog instead of getting everything custom built.

Peak 10:


Red Cone:



Mosquito Pass:


Champion Mill:


Weston Pass:


Kingston Peak:


Lefthand Canyon:


Keystone Gulch:


Mini Moab:

 

ExplorerTom

Well-Known Member
I actually don't use the yellow covers anymore. I have clear covers. I want to be able to use the lights without having to remove (and store) the covers.
 

ExplorerTom

Well-Known Member
Got some new toys installed today. Remember how I said I hated my storage setup? A couple posts up.....

I think I've fixed it.

Going in:


All done!!!!


I went with one roller floor and one non-roller floor:


Install was...... interesting. Not hard per say. Brian stopped by and helped. We sorted through some issues (one really bizarre fastener issue) and I couldn't have done it without his help. The drawers close with a very solid "thunk" and there's no slop in the drawer sliders at all. I'm really satisfied with these. Obviously they are ARB drawers. I ordered them through Slee in Golden. I haven't loaded them up yet- just ran out of time tonight.
 

Overland1

Administrator
Staff member
Looks good. Organization is so nice, I'm a big fan of a place for everything and everything in it's place.
 

nuclearlemon

Active Member
like it....i need some sort of roller for my fridge, it's too tall to really open the door, and something like that would be perfect. just askeered of the price tags
 

CCH

New Member
That is a heck of an Explorer! I've always liked that generation, but haven't seen one so set up to wheel.
 

ExplorerTom

Well-Known Member
Yeah, sorry. I didn't know we were doing show'n'tell. I drive 150 miles a day so it's not my daily driver.

If I'm in town for next month's, I'll bring it. Or if you catch me on the trail at one of the upcoming trail runs.

We could have checked out my Mariner. That thing is.... sa-wheat! It's pretty stock- but I have driven it from CO to FL and back and slept in it 4 nights while doing so. So I guess it is a sort of overlanding vehicle as well.
 

ExplorerTom

Well-Known Member
While my sway bar end link trail fix (from the Goldbelt/Bonanza trip) was rather stylish and genius, I knew I was eventually going to need that 15mm combination wrench.

Trail fix:


Part of why I didn't disconnect them for the trip was because they were a pain to disconnect while on the trail. Here's the result of the other end link removal:

I should probably add a hacksaw to my tools.

JKS TJ end links:


The previous end links were also from a TJ, but the subtle difference between a TJ and mine do not allow for the quick disconnects to be disconnected as JKS intended. But even though I need to remove a fastener, it's still much easier than the factory TJ links I was using (even before the 15mm wrench).
 

Overland1

Administrator
Staff member
Disconnecting sway bars is great. The Rubicon's have a neat little switch you hit and it disconnects automatically, the downside is the circuit board tends to fail and most say it's just a matter of time.