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Advice for new Explorer trailrig project

About a month ago I bought a 92 Explorer for the sole purpose of offraoding it. Vehicle cost was $300.

Here's the details; 1992 Ford Explorer, 4.0L V6, 4x4, automatic, four door, power windows/locks, burgandy, bone stock grocery getter. Dana 35 TTB front, 8.8 rear, 3.27 gears. This rig got rolled onto it's side (not top) about two years ago. The roof is smashed pretty bady on the drivers side, the left rear door is bent on top with no glass, flat spots in front fender and rear quater panel. The drivers door is perfect, I adjusted the left rear door to close correctly. No other damage on the vehicle ever. The drivers side rocker panel is completely rusted out. It drives great on the highway (took it to 70MPH, no problems) and has fairly new brakes. Autohubs are not working, otherwise it seems to be all good mechanically. Exhaust makes some noise due to some holes in it, but it passes IM. Even the interior is nice. I have a clear title in my name for it, the previous owners and thier son were still driving it most every day.

Here's what I know is going to happen; The roof will be cut from the B pillars back, the tops of the back doors will be cut off and glass removed to make half doors, the top half of the rear hatch will be cut off to make a tailgate, new bumpers front and rear with reciever mounts and pull points, rock sliders in place of the rocker panels. Dash, doorpanels, center console, remaining headliner and all seats (with vinyl covers) will stay, everything else interior will go. Floor and bed area will be rhinolined.
The burgandy paint will be sanded down and a navy blue/grey blue/dark grey/black camoflage will be rattlecanned on. I've already swapped out the front bumper, grille and headlight sorounds for a black set from my freinds 1990 Ranger. (His truck looks sharp with that chrome Ex front! Mine looks more badass. :cool: )
A rollcage will definately be added, I like Msuperteks. I don't plan on daily driving it, but it needs to stay street legal to get to the trails and mall :cool: .

Where I am hanging up is how I should go about lifting it. I'd like to run about six inches of lift and an aggressive 35 inch tire for dirt/rocky trails, mud/marsh, gravel/rocky beaches. I have no problem cutting the fenders, but I don't want to run a body lift, with the lack of reinforcement from the roof. I do not want to run full width axles under it. I'd like to have a WMS around 58"s-60"s.

If I lift using the stock axles; SOA the rear, and likely a Skyjacker 6" kit in the front. (Skyjacker seems to be the recomendation) 4.56 or maybe 4.88 gears and carriers would need to put in, front and rear traction devices, Warn manuel hubs. If I can get the third members set up, I can do the rest of the work myself.

I am also consider a solid axle swap, based on cost, durablility, and improvement of the driveline as a whole. Rear will stay leaf sprung, and the front will likely be coil sprung/extended radius arm. Early Bronco axles (the whole suspension setup really) is appealing for it's simplicity and correct width, but I am weary of having a low pinion front axle. Full size axles (most likely a 5 lug D44/9 or maybe the HD D44/60 with 8 lug pattern from a late 70's F-250) would give me a high pinion, be stronger, but would have to be narrowed with shortend axleshafts aquired. It would make the Explorer easier to align and lift. With a front axle out of a full size my bolt pattern would change, the current rear axle would need new axleshafts with the new bolt pattern, or the whole rear axle changed completely with a narrowed fullsize one to match the front. (I'm leaning toward the latter)

I haven't ever done something like this, but I have been reading and researching for a long time and understand the processes pretty well. I'm pretty mechanically inclined and eager to start in on this Explorer. Half the reason for the rig is so I can learn this kind of stuff.

Anyway the pressing question; do I invest in the TTB as described, or go straight to a SAS? Cost is always an issue, but I have no problem spending money to do it right. Any thoughts, question and comments on anything I posted are welcome!
 


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Jefe

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Being that its a trail-only rig, I wouldn't even spend money on the TTB. . . unless you aren't planning to run anything difficult enough to want to lock the front.

Just search for the right front axle & accesories and do some homework and start piecing it together.

What is your reason for not wanting full width? If I was to do it over, or start from scratch I'd rather go with full width.
 




Name Brand

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I would like to run a limited slip or something similar up front. I think that I will find enough difficult trails to make it worth having.

Most of the trails up here are pretty narrow, this weekend I was barely able to get my Ranger (stock with 31's) around a sluffed section of trail. I had about 4 inches less that my the width of my tire tracks to work with. No way I could have done it on full size axles. Also alot of the trails here are farily overgrown, I'd like to have as much 'elbow room' as I can.
 




brnbomr

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thats the way to go, all out. go with the sas it is not all that difficult and will save you more money in the long run.
 




Hokie

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Name Brand said:
I would like to run a limited slip or something similar up front. I think that I will find enough difficult trails to make it worth having.

Most of the trails up here are pretty narrow, this weekend I was barely able to get my Ranger (stock with 31's) around a sluffed section of trail. I had about 4 inches less that my the width of my tire tracks to work with. No way I could have done it on full size axles. Also alot of the trails here are farily overgrown, I'd like to have as much 'elbow room' as I can.

I'd say go with the EB D44 setup. Radius arms with a wrist pin seems to be a very straightforward/simple/reliable setup. Heck you can get most everything you'd need from James Duff and then just fab it on to your truck
 




Name Brand

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I've given it some thought, SAS.

I decided I don't want the low pinion front on the EB D44. Steeper driveline, lower ground clearance, weaker gears, less cool factor...

What the current plan is;
Rear axle will be a 9 inch from a 77 Bronco. (I have a lead on a 9 inch and a Dana 20 I would have to pull from the rig, maybe even free or trade for a day of light construction work.) Rear axle WMS will be about 58", and should be the large bearing design. With the Dana 20 TCase I can run matching U-joints on my rear driveshaft. Sprung under the Explorer leaf pack.

Front axle will be a Dana 44 from a 77-79 F-150 Supercab. It will be narrowed about 6", resulting in a WMS around 60". This is a high pinion axle with disk brakes, a 5 lug pattern to match the rear, the heavy duty axle tubes which are 1/2" thick, leaf spring mounts (good for attaching coil buckets), and I believe it shares the F-250 steering setup which should have flattop knuckles (for highsteer). I just need to find one now! Radius arms/trackbar and coil springs for the suspension.

I think this is my best route, the rear is pretty simple, the front is harder, but I want to learn. I can also upgrade this setup by changing the Dana 44 front to 8 lug and running a narrowed Dana 60 in the rear. That might not ever happen, but it's nice to know it could be done.

I'm thinking that a 4.88 gear would be good for a tire about 36". I may try to use radius arms from a F-series or have some fabricated with a trackbar; I do need recomendations for what springs to use in front; and anything else I'm forgetting to mention.
 




snowburns

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homer and anchorage, eh? homer's a sweet little town. where do you plan on takin this?
 




Name Brand

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Sweet, another Alaskan!

As far as around Homer, Watermelon Trail, Head of the Bay/Fox River Valley, Caribou Lake Trail, maybe even Rocky River Road (behind Seldovia), Oilwell Road (out of Ninilchik), Anchor Point Beach and of course Bishop's Beach.
 




Mbrooks420

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You may want to consider ditching the auto tranny if this will ever see abuse. The stockers are very weak, and just don't hold up well.
 




Name Brand

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I would like to upgrade the transmission at some point, but it will wait for now. I've heard that the stock units are pretty weak. I will stay with an automatic though.
 




Mbrooks420

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If you want to stay with an auto, I think the only thing that will work is a C-3, and you will lose overdrive. For some $$$ you can buy a conversion kit to use a Chevy 700r4.
 




brnbomr

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the stock ones do fine, mine is still going.
 




Mbrooks420

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Tell that to all the people who have had them rebuilt prematurely, or several times(including myself) These are light duty trannies, not meant to move the wieght of the the Explorer, or take any kind of off road abuse.
 




Blaine122300

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Get with AlaskaJack, He is in your area, and he is pretty much doing the same with his sport. Look him up!
 




Name Brand

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Thanks for the reference Blaine; I do know him from a local 4x4 board. Have not met in person or checked out his rigs though.
 




JoshC

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Just curious to see if anything has changed. Sounds like an awesome plan.
 




Name Brand

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Thanks for the interest JoshC!

As far as my situation- out of the old apartment and into a hose with a garage, internet finally got connected yesterday after two and half weeks!

As far as the Explorer; I've removed the interior plastic from the rear and the headliner from the B pillars back. (I'm keeping the door panels and plastic trim up front). All the carpet has been removed from the floor and even the door panels. Center console is and the airduct underneath it is out and will be replaced with a big locking ammo can bolted to the floor. I'm slowly removing the side trim from the exterior (which is easy, but the adhesive is the real slow part of that job.) I've pulled out all the glass from the B pillars back. I've removed everything but the lock and latch mechanisms for the rear hatch (don't need a wiper motor or latch for the glass anymore). I stripped the passenger side rear door of the entire window assembly (track, brackets, power window motor) and with the exception of needing a new interior handle have put that door back together. Drivers side still need to be done. (without those motors, brackets and stuff the hatch and doors get really light!) I've taken the computer unit (behind the drivers side rear door) and pulled that to the front. I plan on removing the now excessive length of wire and installing it into the dash where the cigarratte and ashtray where. (I pulled that unit out and will install the plastic cover from it to fill the hole and hide the computer.) I also installed a new starter solenoid. Today's plan is to buy a new battery, do the electrical work as described above, strip the drivers rear door, go to the junyard for a door handle and radio, and I might even cut the roof off today!

Being back online now, I hope to get some axles as soon as I possibly can and start doing suspension work on this thing!
 




Robb

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Sounds like a pretty good plan.

Narrowing the RC44 is definately a stronger setup than the EB LP44, although more expensive obviously. Finding a Supercab 44 would be great, but they are HARD to find. Unless you are already have a line on one, I wouldn't count too much on finding one. IF you find one, Congrats!! :)

I don't know about the Dana 20, but as I as I know, it won't bolt up (I dunno if it is divorced or not).

Coils, best bet is some 3.5" or 5.5" JD or WildHorse flex springs.

Good Luck with it, and keep us up to date. :bounce:
 




Name Brand

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The roof is now cut (everything from the B-pillars back including the door tops and top of the hatch). I had already removed all the wires, windows, etc so cutting it only took about half an hour! I did it with a sawzall in my driveway and scared the neighbors! I couldn't resist cruising the neighborhood in it.
 


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JoshC

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That's awesome! You have got to get some pictures up here for us so we can follow your progress.
 




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