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Brian1's Twin Trail Build (Lift, Gears, TTB Mods, Bumpers, Sliders, Cage & More!)

Brian1's Twin Trail Build

1991 Ford Explorer 4-Door XL 5-Speed Manual 4x4

Project Background and Goals:

I bought this Explorer at a Police auction in August of 2015. I really didn't know what I was going to do with it when I bought it but I couldn't pass up the great deal I got. I stored it away for a bit while deciding to part it out, build it up or just flip it. In the end I decided to build it into a cheap trail truck and use it to R&D some new ideas I had on how to build an Explorer and develop some new parts.

The goal of the build was to do it cheaply while keeping it low, lightweight, and simple. Another goal was to completely transform the Explorer into a trail machine and debut it at the 20th anniversary forum run in Moab (May 2016) while keeping the entire build a secret.

The build has already been completed and made its successful debut in Moab. I will be adding to this thread as time permits of what I did.

Table of Contents - Modifications

to be filled in as the thread progresses for quick access

1" Body Lift
Rear 8.8 Swap and Build
Rear F150 Hybrid Leaf Springs
Front Daystar 2" Coil Spacer & F250 Shock Tower Conversion
Corbeau Seats Pt1
Corbeau Seats Pt2
Rear Shock Bar Pin Eliminators
Dana 35 TTB Beam Boxing
Hybrid Dana 35 Beams with Dana 44 Outer Conversion
Extended Radius Arms
Dana 35 Diff Build with LockRight Locker
Power Steering Cooler
Cutting the Rocker Panels Off
Rear Bumper Build
Front Fender Cutting
Rock Sliders Pt1
Rock sliders Pt2
Front Winch Bumper Build
Extended Breathers and Fuel Pump Access Panel
Rear Fender Cutting
Cage Building
Fabricated Door Panels/Skins


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Brian1

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1991 XLT
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KG5BAQ
Power Steering Cooler

When I was at the junkyard grabbing springs and a rear axle I also grabbed a transmission cooler off an Explorer to convert to a power steering cooler. My power steering pump had a leak around the reservoir so I priced out my options at rockauto for a seal kit but found a brand new (reman'd) pump would only be roughly $15 more after I returned my core so it was a no brainer to just buy a new pump.

I cut and modified the cooler brackets as well as made some new ones to fit the cooler. I got it installed and plumbed to the old pump so I could flush the fluid out before installing the new pump. I bent the factory return line forward and then ordered 2' of new hose to run to the pump. I placed the cooler so the top of it was just below the pump filler neck to eliminate any trapped air that could cause foaming.

It worked great in Moab and my pump seemed to be happy the entire trip with no noise. The extra capacity and cooling really help a power steering system.

old bracket removed on left and new bracket I made that was a copy of the remaining factory cooler bracket laying on top of the cooler in photo

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reapereviltwin

Keep on wheelin John Rock
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This is an awesome thread build, Brian! Would of loved to of got to see it in person at Moab! Subscribing!!
 




turboranger91

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I wish I had a fraction of the equipment and skill you have! This is so cool!
 








bats

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Glad to see people still working with the TTB. Wicked build!

Any plans to reproduce any of the D44 knuckle conversion stuff? I'm just about done doing a similar conversion on my BII except I redrilled the D35 knuckles to accept the D44 spindle. Would have been nice to have the full knuckle but I lack time and tools.
 




Brian1

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Thanks guys! Stay tuned, lots more fab work coming up (and more fab equipment is used!)

Any plans to reproduce any of the D44 knuckle conversion stuff? I'm just about done doing a similar conversion on my BII except I redrilled the D35 knuckles to accept the D44 spindle. Would have been nice to have the full knuckle but I lack time and tools.

Sweet! Not a lot of info out there, glad to see more people doing it. Unfortunately no, the camber bushings would have to be priced too high to make it worth my time machining them and then if I would have to ream the beams and do the other stuff it just makes the whole thing too expensive. I have "outsourced" some parts I designed in the past for a company I worked with and I have a little experience doing it but I don't even think there is a big enough demand to make a run of them.
 




Brian1

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Cutting the Rusty Rockers Out

The rocker panels were full of rust. Being a trail truck there was no need to repair them, cutting them off would give more clearance! I did 98% of the cutting with a 4.5" cutoff wheel on my grinder and only used a sawzall and plasma very briefly. I basically cut the rockers off right at the bottom of the door. IIRC the inside cut removed about 5" of body! With the rockers gone it really gives the Explorer a more aggressive look. I removed about 15lbs of metal from each side which really helped for the lightweight goal.

In cutting the rockers, the bottom fender attachment is removed so I welded a small tab on the body that worked with another hole in the lower part of the fender and simply reused the stock bolts with the threaded clips and thick washers.

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Brian1

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Rear Bumper Build

For my rear bumper I wanted something lightweight, simple, high clearance, strong enough for recovery or jacking, and hopefully good looking. I decided to make a bumper using 1.75"x.120 wall tube and 1/4" frame plates. The frame plates were cut on my cnc plasma and then I used laminated construction for the recovery point. That's basically using thick weld washers to increase the thickness of the metal around the shackle hole. The tube is 1 piece and passes through each plate so it is captured. I added side body protection bars so I didn't wind up with a dent and broken light like the ones it came with already. Those tubes are 1.25" and are 1" away from the body at the top - they angle out from the main tube slightly.

Some brackets are easier just to make manually without having to draw them and then program the cnc. I did cheat and used my iron worker to cut them out and shape them. These brackets are the front frame tie-ins to gain extra strength in the bumper. They are also gusseted.

The bumper sticks out maybe 1/2" past the door knob on the hatch so it is tight to the body.

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Brian1

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Front Fender Cutting

I had already removed the inner plastic fenders and rough cut the back of the fenders to be able to steer with the big tires. Now it was time to make the final and finished cuts. I drew a line that followed the stock fender curve that was 2" offset and cut it out with a cutoff wheel on the straight parts and a jigsaw on the curves. I lined the fender with painters tape to make the marks and prevent scratches and paint chipping. It worked out well. I decided not to roll a lip under so I used a deburring tool to make sure the fenders were not sharp.

I also sliced the body seams inside the back of the fenders and hammered them back/flat with a small sledge to get as much room for the tire as I could.

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Brian1

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Rock Sliders Pt1

Now that the fender was trimmed and the rockers cut out I could measure and build my rock sliders. I decided to keep it simple and lightweight yet again and just go with 1.75"x.120" round tube. I drew them up in Bend-Tech which gave me a print out of the cut lengths, bend locations and angles. I bent it up, notched them and welded them. I mocked them up to make sure everything looked good before setting them aside. I would wait until I do my cage to finish them up for reasons you will see later :D

IIRC the centerlines are 5" apart and the inner straight tube centerline is inline with the bottom of the door. The front and rear angles are about 50 degrees which allow forward or backward progress against any obstacles instead of an abrupt edge.

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Brian1

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Door Hinge Pin & Lock Replacement

When I got the Explorer, both front doors were sagging so I ordered 2 hinge pin kits made by Dorman. This was one of the easiest projects I did to it and took about 2 hrs total for everything. I marked the hinge locations and then removed the door, ground the heads of the pins off and then hit them out with a punch.

I also ordered a new set of door lock cylinders with keys (eBay ~$25 a pair) since all I got with the Explorer was the ignition key that didn't work anything else. Pop the clip off and then swap them out, put the clip back on and snap in the door rod to the lock.
 




jrgaylor

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Great thread Brian, I like your approach for fitting the 44 knuckles.
 




Brian1

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Front Bumper Build

With less than a month to Moab I still didn't have a front bumper, cage or even the seats mounted yet. :eek:

Design goals for my front bumper were to be as light as possible, fairly simple (not a lot of pieces, angles, etc.) and high clearance. I picked up a Warn M8000 on craigslist and got to work making the winch mount first. After lots of fitting and measuring I had some sketches to transfer to CAD and then to my CNC. I made my frame plates very similar to the rear bumper with tube pass-throughs and laminated shackle recovery points. All 1/4" steel.

The bottom of the winch plate is even with the bottom of the frame. I also cut dual fairlead mounts in case I ever wanted to use it for a suck-down winch in the future - and it lightens up the plate a bit.

I again used 1.75" x .120" tube with 4 bends to keep it fairly tight to the body. The tube passes through but I had to cut it and slug it this time since the frame plates were now unable to move to "thread" the tube through with the bends.

I put in some tube gussets and a 1.25" x .120" hoop to protect the 12" LED bar. I tossed the stock LED bar mounts in favor of some tabs I welded on.

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Brian1

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Extended Diff Breathers and Fuel Door

In between big projects I tried to do a few smaller things like run extended diff and t-case breathers and cut an access hole for easy fuel pump servicing (see the sticky post in body forum)

I bought some cheap breather filters on ebay and a 25' spool of 5/16 hose and a few brass fittings to join the filters to the hose. I ran the rear diff breather to the top of the driver side taillight and the front diff and t-case to the corner of the driver fender near the clutch fluid reservoir.

For the fuel door I cut out the body using step bits for rounded corners and a 4.5" cutoff wheel between the holes in the corners. I placed a piece of sheetmetal over the top of the tank to protect the pump and lines from sparks and accidental cuts. I made a cover from 16ga steel and bead rolled it for strength and to match the factory roll so it would fit over the bead in the floor and lie flat. I used rivnuts and 1/4" bolts to hold the cover in place. It is sealed up with some weather stripping foam.

I also found the Explorer had a newer fuel pump installed although the last sucker had to drop the tank! If I ever have problems in the future it is a 20 minute job at the most now. I do carry a spare fuel pump with me just in case.

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Brian1

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Corbeau Seats Pt2

21 days to Moab...

When I ordered the seats I looked up the part # on Corbeau's site for the seat brackets and found a listing for the 91 so I also ordered brackets instead of modifying the stock ones. 91 Explorers have a different bracket and floor configuration than the later Explorers. The brackets that showed up said Bronco on them with the same part numbers however they didn't fit! Their customer service took care of the issue and I sent them the dimensions of my floorboards and the bolt locations. Turns out the Bronco II brackets were the correct ones so hopefully Corbeau corrects that part # discrepancy on their site. The correct part #s are D854T & D799T for the 91s only.

When I bolted the Baja XPs to the brackets and then bolted them in they sat way too tall and the steering wheel was in my lap and I was looking into the top of the windshield. It could be the Baja XPs have a thicker/taller bottom and other seats work better with the brackets, I don't know. I wound up cutting 2" out of the brackets and rewelding on the mounting feet. The passenger side went easy but the driver side took much more time to get them realigned because the feet are staggered and at different angles. Once they were in, they were the perfect height.

I cut and bent custom brackets to adapt the harness to the factory seatbelt bolt in the floor. the harness belt tabs needed to be vertical but the bolt was in the wrong orientation. The inner bolt was fine. The shoulder harnesses would be mounted to the cage bar behind the seats

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Brian1

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Rear Fenders Cut

I needed to take 2" off the back of the rear fender for tire clearance when stuffed. (I actually needed more in the front too but didn't find that out until the 1st day on the trail :hammer: )

I traced the fender opening on a piece of cardboard and then cut it out. I slid it back 2" and then traced it onto the painters tape so I would get the same factory radius on the fender. I wound up cutting a hole into the inside of the passenger tub and had to patch it with silicone and an aluminum Dr Pepper can :dpchug:. The driver side was different and I only had a small hole to silicone closed.

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Brian1

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Cage Building

At this point I had already stripped most of the interior out, no need for carpet in a trail truck. I also took all of the plastic panels off and I really debated about removing the headliner too but in the end I left it to try and keep the roof and interior cooler and some of the noise down. My plan for the cage was to make it simple and the minimum to be safe. I would tie it into the frame and body and try to be tight to the sides for plenty of headroom and leg room as well as easy ingress/egress.

Step 1 was measure for the b-pillar and bend it. Step 2 was drilling holes in the floor to run the tube through. Step 3 was measuring and bending the A-pillar tubes. This is where Bend-Tech really came in handy as it took 3 bends at 3 different rotation angles to make it tight to the body and bend-tech software did all the tubing calculations including total length, bend locations and degrees of rotation between bends. I did mess up the measurements and the first A-pillar I bent was off so I wound up recycling it into the center bar and bending it more for the hoop around the dome light. Step 4 was fitting the top X-bracing in the B-hoop and fully welding them on the bench and then putting it back into the Explorer. Step 5 was rolling the upper windshield bar to follow the lines of the roof which would allow the sun visors to function (...mostly). My home-built tubing roller put curved the tube out around 4" in the center and then I notched the ends to fit the a-pillar tubes.

Step 6 was putting everything together and welding all the joints as much as I could. Step 7 was dropping the entire cage through the floor to access the top of the joints to weld them. At this time I added some 1" tube for handles and that somewhat gusset the bend in the A-pillar. I also painted most of the cage, especially the top that would be against the headliner and the front against the windshield. Step 8 was raising the cage back up and fitting and welding in steel plates around the tubes to cover the holes up. Step 9 was cutting and fitting the lower X-bracing in the B-pillar hoop and welding them in. Step 10 was cutting and fitting the rear diagonal down bars to the back plate and welding them up along with 2 weld-on tie down loops that I keep a supply of for various projects. Step 11 was cutting out and welding some tabs to mount the B-pillar hoop to the seatbelt bolts for extra strength, both for the cage and body itself since it was all going to be tied together. Step 12 was to finish the sliders and tie the bottom of the cage tubes into the frame which will be in another post later.

I didn't see the need for a dash bar since the down tubes at the A-pillar are fairly straight down and they are captured between the door and dash with nowhere to move. For a high speed desert truck, sure, but for a low-speed trail truck I think it will be fine. If the windshield ever gets removed I will likely add plates that tie in the body A-pillar to the A-pillar tubes. I also never plan to put the rear seats back in obviously. That area will now be for storage.

B-hoop, diagonals and rear down tubes are all 1.75"x.120". A-pillars, front roof bar and center bar are all 1.5"x.120". I used around 40' of 1.75 tube and about 30' of 1.5" tube.

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mounty71

It's green, not gray.
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This thing is turning out really nice and thought-out! On your radius arm mounts, are those square cuts to register tabs for a transmission crossmember? Could you post a picture of that? And how far below the frame do they put the heim? The ones I got space the heim pretty far down and they may end up hanging down farther than I want them to. Thanks.
 


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Brian1

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This thing is turning out really nice and thought-out! On your radius arm mounts, are those square cuts to register tabs for a transmission crossmember? Could you post a picture of that? And how far below the frame do they put the heim? The ones I got space the heim pretty far down and they may end up hanging down farther than I want them to. Thanks.

Thanks! Good catch, that is exactly what those holes do, they index the tabs into place. Heim is 2.25" below the frame at the center of the ball/bolt. Total bracket drop is real close to 3.75" below the frame. They hang lower than I wanted to but it allows a bolt head to go up through the frame without the head being ground down to fit.

Here is a photo Rick got in Moab:

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