Completed Project - Brian1's Twin Trail Build (Lift, Gears, TTB Mods, Bumpers, Sliders, Cage & More!) | Page 9 | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

  • Register Today It's free!

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

Use this prefix for completed projects that are not "How to" articles or threads asking for help.
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
Doubler Install


Join the Elite Explorers for $20 each year.
Elite Explorer members see no advertisements, no banner ads, no double underlined links,.
Add an avatar, upload photo attachments, and more!

Did you find that Element 50 extinguisher for any less than $79.95? Seeing them for the first time here and now I need one for each car. Also link to the mounts you used?

Join the Elite Explorers for $20 each year.
Elite Explorer members see no advertisements, no banner ads, no double underlined links,.
Add an avatar, upload photo attachments, and more!

Did you find that Element 50 extinguisher for any less than $79.95? Seeing them for the first time here and now I need one for each car. Also link to the mounts you used?

Yes, but it was a Black Friday sale at Northridge4x4. I got 3 at around $65-70ea IIRC. Before that I even looked into buying a case and going in with a few friends but you dont save too much. Element has a pretty tight lock on lowest advertised MSRP it seems like.

Each one comes with a single plastic clip/mount which works fine, I just wanted a little something more robust. part # 1723A24 is a pack of 10.

My stock 5-speed shift knob split out the bottom and became loose so I ordered a new replacement one on ebay for cheap, equivalent to Ford Part # 5L5Z-7213-AA. It weighs more than the stock knob and has a little different feel but its pretty nice for the price. I had to smack it on with a rubber mallet to get it to seat on the splined shifter rod.

New on Left-


Looks like the stock shifter knob on my 2011 Ranger - - a decent replacement, but quite the downgrade in materials and appearance from the 90's. . .


In November 2020 I bought a used shorty doubler somewhat locally to me. The doubler had some internal issues with a shift fork piece coming loose which gouged up the inside of the housing so I did a full tear down of it removing all the bearings and planetary for a complete cleaning and inspection. (Seller was upfront about this so no issues there) The company who made it at this point had all but vanished including their website and the instructions on how everything went together so I had a lot of figuring out to do. Luckily I was able to use another website which could pull up historical/cached websites to find the assembly directions and how the doubler clocked to the t-case.



While I had it apart I figured I better make some measurements and drawings in-case I ever needed replacement parts because good luck getting them anywhere else! I drew up most of the assembly in Solidworks but I still have to finish up a few things in my model if I actually have to use it.

1354 doubler assembly-B1 Watermarked.jpg
1354 doubler assembly 2-B1 Watermarked.jpg

The doubler came with both 6-gear planetaries however my manual 1354 case must be a 91 because it had a 4-gear planetary. I attempted assembly with the 6-gear (stronger version) but I could not get it to seat correctly so I wound up reassembling it with the 4-gear from my case and it bolted together fine. I got the front plate sealed to the t-case and then moved on to clocking the rest of the doubler. Note the stock shift lever - it rubbed and wouldnt fully rotate so I made a little more clearance with a flap disc to the aluminum. As it turns out I didn't reuse the stock lever - more on that later. Also, the bearing tolerances were questionable to me so I assembled them with a few drops of Loctite Press fit assist so hopefully the bearings wont spin their races.


Images on the companies site showed the shifter pointed towards the 1354 shifter so I figured that must be right. With zero write-ups I could find on any forums I figured that must be the way it is made to fit a RBV. Well that didn't work at all! The cable shifter was nowhere near being able to fit in that configuration due to the floor. I do have a 1" body lift and even once I got it to fit I would never want to attempt to install this without a minimum of a 1" body lift. I had to unseal it and reseal it with the lever clocked to the upper passenger side which wound up working pretty well. The unit all assembled, note the clocking holes I planned to use marked with black sharpie, I pretty much had 2 options only and I dont recall which ones I finally used, it only fit well with one of them.


With the doubler finally installed I turned my attention to the rear driveshaft so I could move the Explorer under its own power. I got both driveshafts in the deal that was used with a 4-door Explorer but with my lift and setup they just wouldnt fit. I took my spare shaft which was not too great to begin with (and a 1310 vs 1330) and chopped it up myself to shorten it.

1st cut


I cut the weld off in my lathe on the yoke and removed the tube so I could reuse it. Mockup and measuring for length:


Final cut:


I had to heat up the driveshaft tube to insert the yoke then clamped it down to my welding table so it would be in-phase once it cooled and locked down. I rigged up a way to measure runout and got to tack welding. I got it to within around .025", good enough to use as my spare. I fully welded the joint and then slung it under the Explorer.


Old vs "new" shortened shaft


The doubler came with a cable shifter. I didnt really like the shift lever mechanism itself. It was big and had the pattern backwards from what my preference was. I like to pull towards me to engage low just like the t-case, the shifter it came with was push to put it in low. It took LOTS of figuring out, trial and error and some more guesswork but I came up with my own shifters that work awesome and look almost stock. I made my own lever arm for the 1354m that is straight. I also made all my lever arms with multiple holes to get the right adjustability. I also shortened the supplied shift arm for the doubler (not pictured). Long story short, if you make your own, make the gearbox lever short and the shift lever long which minimizes the stick movement through the floorboard. Even more important with a body lift! I used the factory shift bolt in the transmission and made my own bracket to attach the cable shifter to as well.

The levers:



The bracket for the cable on the side of my trans (excuse the Moab dust :) ) :


Under view:


Top view:


I had to notch the hat channel under the floorboard to pass the cable through and I used an Adel clamp to secure it to the floor and keep it off the driveshaft. Plenty of room even though the picture makes it look like the cable is riding on top of the driveshaft.


I also had to remove some of the heat shield (around 1.5"-2" off the side for about a 6" long portion) to fit the end bracket on the t-case and make room for the cable as well.


With a custom shifter I made my own floorplate and decided not to hack the stock plate. I also went back to using the single trans shifter bezel and bought a double shift boot online and then cut out my own bezel for that. I cut a chunk out of the trans bezel to fit over the t-case shifter bezel and boot. I think it came out pretty nice.




I reused my speedo cable for a little bit but it was very tight and had a sharp bend at the t-case. I ordered up an Aerostar cable that is about 18" longer and ran that to replace the old cable. Its a little long but should work better in the long run. I also measured for a front shaft and went through Tattons in Utah who had the best price using quality parts. Unfortunately that took a month to get but I had it in with plenty of time to spare for Moab. I was concerned I might have to modify my custom transmission crossmember but it had plenty of room on droop. Also this Mac's pit mat / work mat is the real MVP of this whole process. So nice lying on it to work under the vehicle than bare concrete.



I also took my good rear 1330 driveshaft into a local shop to get it professionally shortened and balanced. I got it back the afternoon before leaving to Moab and installed just before loading up to leave.

With the t-case now moved back the stock skidplate was worthless. I sorted through my metal rack and found 2 pieces of plate I welded together to make the bottom and then some additional strap for the sides and flanges to the frame. I got it all welded then had to put it on the milling machine to slot the holes on one side because it warped a little more than expected. I didn't get any photos of the build process but here it is installed. It is just a little higher than the stock skid was and is near the same height as the transmission crossmember in front of it.



Looks like it has a Atlas. Very clean install work. I have been looking at NWF's iBox, but haven't had the need for lower gears than what I have currently. Only real benefit is it would move the transfer case back 4", which would make the front driveshaft longer and the rear shorter.

Another Pre-Moab mod I did was to make a cup holder. I had a nice dual cup holder on my center console but when I installed the manual case it didn't fit anymore. After I finished the doubler install I made my own cup holder out of some scrap metal and a magnet. I couldn't find anything else aftermarket that I liked but this turned out great and worked perfect.

So for today's installment of unnecessary fabrication is my cup holder project :D

First step was to square up a piece of 16ga I cut from a skeleton sheet left from my plasma table. The shear made quick work of it


Next was to form the flat plate into a cylinder on a slip roll. After a few passes it looked like this-


I welded the seam and a cap on the bottom then sanded it smooth. I chucked it into the lathe and drilled a small hole into the bottom for a bolt.


Next I bolted on a magnetic base from Harbor Freight.


Finished it off with a rubber bottom insert and the magnet holds it down firmly wherever there is metal. This is where it will be 99% of the time


Very nice! I love how you rolled it your self. I would never think of doing it that way. I would have just found a piece of tube to started with that. But that's because, I don't have a roller.

Now the big question...does it hold a big gulp? 😆

I didn't have any scrap tube that big! Would need to be about 3.5" exhaust tube.

It fits a large McD's cup but not a Gatorade bottle.

I bought the slip roller years ago and this is actually the first project I used it on

I can't believe that this build is still ongoing. It seems like you are having fun with this project.

Join the Elite Explorers for $20 each year.
Elite Explorer members see no advertisements, no banner ads, no double underlined links,.
Add an avatar, upload photo attachments, and more!

Cant believe I went over a year in this thread without updates! So here is the 2022 update-

End of July I had an epic day of local wheeling following some friends around in their rock buggy as part of an organized event. It is a large area with scattered obstacles connected by dirt canyons and wide sand washes. It was monsoon season so we had to be mindful of flash flooding but it also made for some awesome photos!

IMG_20220730_144700403_HDR (Medium).jpg

IMG_20220730_150114591_HDR (Medium).jpg

After a day of wheeling I went back to the event headquarters for the offroad show where I took home a Best in Show trophy for the Ford category. Sweet!

Trophy (Medium).jpg

And on the way home is when things took a turn for the worse. My Explorer was T-boned by a small car who blew through a yield sign at a high rate of speed and struck me perfectly square in the passenger rear tire sending me into a 180 degree spin on pavement and then the same car hit me again along the side and impacted the same passenger rear tire. The teenage girl driving fled the scene on foot but the actual car owner who was the passenger stayed with the car. I'm not going to go into more details on a public forum but long story short their insurance finally paid up in full after I fought them for 3 months even after they accepted full responsibility right after the crash. If you know me, you can ask me about it sometime.

I got really lucky and I'm glad for my bolstered seats and 4 point belts that kept me safe and for the Explorer being low and stable, being able to do a 180 spin on pavement without flipping even without a rear swaybar. Just very minor body damage I fixed with a hammer and my passenger rock slider saved the body from damage on that side. It now has a long red scrape along the length of the slider from the car. The major damage was all mechanical: cut tire sidewall, broken leaf spring center pin and a bent axle housing. I'll go into the repair in the next post.