1st Gen Body Swap OR 'Resto' OR ??? | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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1st Gen Body Swap OR 'Resto' OR ???

I currently have a '93 SAS'd using a HP44 on 35's and few other mods etc. Problem is, I am (or maybe the truck isn't) lucky enough to live in a place like Arizona or Southern California that does see things like winter or road salt. As a result, the rust is starting to take a toll on my truck. Major problem areas include:
- lower rad support has disintegrated - rad is basically only held in by the top bolts
- Rocker panels - what are those?
- rear wheel well rusted through on the passenger side
- rusted though in places in the rear hatch area
- Rusted through the floor close to where the rear outer mounts for the rear seats bolt to

Here's a pic as she stands now:

The rust has been annoying me more and more. When I discovered the holes in the floor this spring that was kind of the last straw. It's bad enough that if I pull on the top of the rear seat, I can see the floor flex. I honestly wouldn't feel safe having passengers in the back seat. So it was time to do something about it.

I started looking at repair options. I could go and get a replacement rad support, and rockers, which would run $600-700 CAD but I'd still be looking at having to cut and patch several other locations. I figured I'd try and see what else was available for 1st Gens - so off to Kijiji I went (for all you guys in the US, Kijiji is basically Canada's Craigslist. We have CL too, but I don't know anyone who uses it)

Started a local search and the total number of 1st Gens in my area - 0! I can only assume they've all rusted away to oblivion due to all the road salt that is used here. Returned to the earth from which they came. I checked out a few other local sales sites. One guy had one with a plow mounted on it and it had a manual T-case. I contacted the guy and he's a bit slow to repond, but seems friendly enough I a decide to go check it out. A little over an hour from my place according to Google Maps. Following Google's guidance I head out, cross the river into Quebec and make my way into some of the more rural areas. Highway turns to broken pavement, broken pavement turn to dirt road, dirt road gets progressively worse. No cell service, very few homes and I'm pretty sure I can hear banjos playing in the distance. Finally make it to this guys place. Pretty remote and it's fairly obvious why he's slow to respond - I think he had to answer emails via carrier pigeon.

After checking it out it looks like it had been rearended or had backed into something. A good layer of bondo on the drivers rear quarter panel that was cracking - a fair bit of rust on the rockers and in the same rear seat mounting area as mine. The gas tank was held up by what looked like old seat belts and they had cut away the gas tank skid. While I wasn't expecting perfection, this was just too much of a basket case for me too deal with. Still a step up from mine but just not worth the effort.

So my search continued...

I posted my own add saying I was in search of a 1st Gen and got a few responses. Offers of parts trucks sitting in farmers fields and a few others. But in typical online classified sales fashion, either they don't respond to followup questions, or are unwilling or can't send pictures etc. I'm thinking, "Seriously, YOU responded to MY ad, but you won;t answer my questions????" God - I hate online classifieds!

I even entertained buying something from Arizona/New Mexico or somewhere but $1800 for a 1st Gen with a laundry list of problems. I know there's no rust on it but c'mon - this makes me think that Walter White really is selling some damn good meth down there. Plus it would cost about another $1500 to ship it to Canada - not to mention the pain in the ass importing it would be

So expanding my search I come across one located in Montreal - about 2 hours from me. Pictures look decent, guy is very responsive and sends a bunch more detailed pictures. It's not perfect, I can see some rust peeking out from under the side steps - but again I'm not expecting perfection. So, I grab the wife and we head to Montreal for a Saturday and check this thing out. the guys been driving it. It's clean. It's obvious that they've oil sprayed it - extensively and it's actually pretty solid. Rockers have an issue, rad support is also not great. But wheel wells, rear hatch, floor all seem solid. I negotiate with him a bit, we agreed on $800 and it's mine. I just need to arrange to get it to my place.

By the following Friday - my rig now has a little brother (they're so cute when they're small


...continued in next post...

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So, after getting it home - first thing is to go through and see what's all inside this thing. Previous owner included:
- Full set of all season tires on aluminum wheels (winter tires are currently on the truck)
- brand new muffler - still in the box
- brand new tail pipe (from muffler back
- A brand new set of dust shields for the front rotors
- a couple of extra headlight

I figure I can recover some of my $800 just from selling the tires and rims, plus I already have someone interested in the transmission.

But first things first - I need to start taking it apart. Decided to start with the interior to get a more complete idea of the shape of the body. So I spent a few hours stripping out the interior. Almost everything came out with the exception of the dash and the rear washer fluid tank etc (the pic below was taken before the rest of the trim pieces and the headliner came out:

Exposing the sheet metal underneath revealed two things; 1) more evidence of being oil sprayed and; 2) There are a couple problem spots when it comes to rust.

First the good:

Rear passenger wheel well (that's just mostly dirt you see - on my old one there are holes here):

More rear wheel well (what you see on the panel is the oil spray):

Rear Drivers' Window - no evidence of rust or leaking:

Passenger side - same:

Passenger side footwell - pretty clean for a Canadian:

Passenger side wiring channel - some surface rust here, but nothing a litlle cleaning/grinding/sandblasting won't fix. It's solid

Shackles - seen many of these that were completely rotted out. I won't need them, but I find it's a good indicator:


Driver's side rocker panel - a bit of rust, but overall solid

And now the bad...

Passenger side rocker panel - this will take a bit of work to fix. Need to determine if I want to just buy the rocker itself and replace or just make a patch.


Driver's side footwell and wiring channel. Easily the worst part of the truck. Some major issues here. The wiring channel has several holes. Pretty much has to be replaced from front to back. A few holes in the floor that will need to be patched.


While I'm a little disappointed about how bad the drivers side floor is, I have to say it's not unexpected and overall I'm still happy with the purchase.

For now, the plan is to do a body swap on to my frame. Though who knows, I may decide to just move everything over to this frame.

My next steps will be to get it to the point where I can lift the body off the frame so I can check the condition of the underside of the body. I can already see that it's been oil sprayed, so it's going to be messy cleaning it up to a point where I can actually see what's going on. I won't complain too much since the oil spray has likely made a significant contribution to the body being in as good as shape as it is. But that won't stop me from swearing and cursing as I lay on the garage floor with 22 years of dirt, oil, rust, grime and other crap falling into my face and hair.

Stay tuned....

My vote is to just move all of your "good" parts over to the new body/frame. It obviously in better shape, and then you can part out all the stuff that you remove to recoup some of your time and $.

My vote is to just move all of your "good" parts over to the new body/frame. It obviously in better shape, and then you can part out all the stuff that you remove to recoup some of your time and $.

That's definitely an option. The only reason I'm discounting that is that I would have to take the vehicle for a safety inspection and I'm worried I'd have a lot of trouble getting a SAS'd truck to pass.

By swapping the bodies, I just have to go to the DMV and sign an affidavit saying I changed the bodies and get the VIN updated.

I could get it inspected in stock form first, but then I may be in a position where I have to replace stock parts in order to pass the inspection which I will no longer need when I swap my parts over.

Got a bit more work done on it last night. Pulled the front end and fender, radiator and A/C Condenser, tranny cooler etc. the rad support needs some remedial repair work as well from the looks of things.



I would like to get to the point where I can separate the body from the frame this weekend. After that it'll be a 2 week hiatus while I'm out of town.

Got more work done before I left on vacation. Was able to get the body fully separated from the frame.

I started by lifting the front end up. First attempt was to use some straps hooked to the two holes in the body where the fender supports are. BAD IDEA! Not strong enough and I ended up tearing the steel in that section. This part is just not strong enough to support the weight of the front.


Oops! I'll have to straighten and weld it back into place

I changed up my approach and ended up using a a pair of 2x6s sistered together under where the front crumple zone is. Using straps wrapped around the 2x6s,


I used my engine hoist to get it high enough for my tall jack stands to fit. These stand are great because you can actually put a floor jack under them and use them to continue to raise/lower the vehicle. you can see what I mean in this pic:

Once the front was supported, I moved my engine hoist around to the back. In the back I used some straps in the rear cargo tie down hooks and lifted front there. Got the idea from another thread here. Worked like a charm, but no pictures.

I then worked back and forth, front to back to get the vehicle high enough for the rad support to clear the engine.

Checking to see if I missed any wiring etc.

Even with the front stands maxed out, it still wasn't quite high enough to clear the engine. Letting the air out of the tires gave me just enough clearance so I could pull the frame out from underneath the body. I then used the winch on my truck to pull the frame out from under the body



Now that I'm back at home, it's time to get back to work. I want to start my cleaning up the engine bay area and then move to the underside of the body. Get it cleaned so I can get rid of as much of the rust as possible. then follow up with some POR-15

Managed to spend a fair bit of time working on the truck this weekend. Since I want to move as solid of a body over as possible, I still needed to get all the oil spray and grime cleaned up so I can actually see what I'm dealing with.

Started by clearing out the engine bay removing all the accessories and wiring so I could start cleaning things up. Oil spray is a great preservative, but I couldn't touch this thing without getting grease all over myself. Also, as you can see in previous pictures, the lower part of the rad support is pretty rusted out. I was considering just cutting out the bad stuff and patching it up. But considering that a new one can be had for $160 - and the fact that I'm not an experienced metal shaper - convinced me that I'd be better off to just replace it. So that got pulled out as well.

For the rad support, I didn't get any pictures of the actual process, but I basically drilled out the spot welds in steps (started with a small bit and then working my way up to a larger bit). After that a little bit of work with an air chisel and the sheet metal came apart fairly easily. the picture below show where the various spot welds are that hold the rad support to the fender supports. Two of them can be accessed either from the inside of the engine bay or via the access hole in the boxed section on fender support. On the passenger side, the rad support is also welded to the battery tray so there are a few spot welds to drill out there as well.


And after a whole bunch a scraping, paper towels and degreaser, my engine bay now looks like this:

After that I decided to continue cleaning up the undercarriage. A lot more scraping, paper towel and degreaser and the end result was a greasy dirt shower and a relatively clean under body. I mamanged to get the center part of the underbody between the reinforcement done almost all the way back to the where the rear seats meet the cargo area. Still need to do the side behind the rocker panels and the rear cargo area.








Most of the rust damage is on the driver's side floor pan. You can see where I have already cut out some of the worst rust and I have a few more holes to patch etc. Looks like they didn't do a great job of oil spraying on the drivers side between the transfer case and the gas tank. I think had the previous owner used a good set of Husky or Weathertech floor mats, the drivers side floor pan would be in a lot better shape.

I've decided that once I get everything cleaned up and painted, I've got a friend who does oil spraying who I'm going to get to come over and give the thing a good oil spray before putting the body back on the frame. Particularly getting him to spray in some of the cavities etc that are not normally accessible - such as where the body mount bolts are etc.

Been too long since I updated this. But really haven;t gotten a whole lot done.

Was in Brazil for two weeks, then a buddy had to change a rear main seal on his BMW so he occupied my garage (and my time) for the better part of a week. Then I was off to visit my family for a week. but I'm back at it now.

In order to make room for my buddy's BMW, I had to get my Explorer out of the garage. So we put it back on the frame and rolled it out. I'm not going to complain too much since I can now take the pressure washer to the rest of the underside of the body to get the most of the grease and gunk off rather than scraping and spraying with degreaser etc.

First things first. I wanted to get the drivers side floor patched up, So I started by making patch panels to replace the worst of the rotted out areas.

Area to be cut out and patched:

New patch being test fit before cutting out the old stuff:

There's a lot of pitting and damage on this side. I would have loved to have found replacement floor panels, but I can't find them anywhere. I need to decide how much to cut out and replace vs just sand blasting the rust and sealing it.

Before getting too far, I realized that my MIG was out of gas, and on a Sunday, there's no chance of getting any, so I decided to switch gears a bit and work on the engine bay instead. I sand blasted the rusty spots (which were really only some very minor surface rust along some of the seams. I was thinking of using POR-15, but since that really needs a good mechanical bond and the factory finish through most of the engine bay was still in really good shape, I decide to just scuff it with a scotchbrite and hit it with some rattle can rust paint.

The end result:


The yellow is zinc chromate weld-thru primer. Should protect the metal from rusting until I get to the point where I can weld in the new rad support. And you weld right through this stuff. No need to clean it to bare metal before welding (though some guys will in order to avoid contaminating the weld).

So I need to get some gas so I can finish up the floor. Outer rocker panels etc. can wait until the end. I'd like to get the floor done so I can get this body on my frame.

Figured I'd update this thread before it falls off the front page. Haven't really done a whole lot, life getting in the way.

I wasn't too excited about the idea of doing a whole bunch of patches on the front floor panel, but unfortunately no one makes a replacement floor panel for the Explorer. I ddi however come across the replacement floor panel for the BII and 1st Gen Ranger, which looked remarkably familiar.

It seemed to take about 6 weeks to arrive and it's not an exact replacement, but the overall shape, the large hole at the front for the body mount and the ribbing are pretty much the same. the rear body mount hole is different and the other main difference it eh part near the door. The width is correct, but the Explorer panle bends down to make a channel for the wiring etc, but this panel bumps up. Nonetheless I thought it would be a decent replacement for the rest of the floor.

This is the piece as deliverd:

Here I'm starting to cut away the old floor. You have to be careful, there is a support rib running up the middle that you have to be careful about, you don't want to cut through. Also, the floor pan it self is spot welded to the rub in several places.

Here I'm test fitting the piece as I was trimming both the floor and the replacement panel to fit. I did cut off a fair bit of the back part of the panel. It is designed to come up under the seat supports, but that area is solid and I didn't want to mess with trying to get the panel in between the support rib and the seat support.

Finally, this is the floor pretty much all cut out and ready to accept the new panel. I cleaned, scraped and painted in the bracing where the body mount is etc. you can see in this picture, there's also the bracing etc around where the body mount goes, you have to be careful to not cut through this. And like the support rib, the floor pan is spot welded in this area as well.

Next step is going to be actually getting the panel welded in and then making the new channel where the wiring runs.