Dreamin' of places off road | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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The Backstory:
Howdy! My name is Sebastian (Left). Excited to post to these forums! I've been lurking for around 6months, and have learned a ton.

Bit about me: Grew up in Texas, moved out to Denver about 3 years ago. I'm a caretaker for my dad (right) who is a stage IV cancer patient. As a kid, we used to daydream about what kind of project car we could build together. As time went on, that dream became more and more of a pipedream, but hopefully we'll be able to knock that one off of the bucket list. We moved West because he used to be a forester, and wanted to be in the mountains. I used to drive a RWD sedan, but didn't enjoy it much in the snow. Found a '94 Ford Explorer 2dr 4x4 up in the mountains earlier this year for $700, and I'm finally wrapping up the bonded title process, so started wrenching.

The Goal:
For as reasonable a cost as possible, restore a well mannered daily, and build it up to be capable of mild overlanding / mild off-roading. I want to be able to experience more of the ruggedness that Colorado has to offer, and bring my dad with me -- create memories before he's gone. I love astrophotography, and want to be able to get up on some of these peaks to shoot, and listen to stories about how things used to be.

The Beast:
We haven't gotten around to a name yet, but here's the beast in question. 4x4 works well, hubs lock and work well. Guy who sold it to me indicated that the previous owner used to take it mudding on occasion, and had tapped a tree and broke the original rear passenger wheel, which is why the spare is on it. He evidently gave it a decent smack, because the tailgate striker bolt was missing when we bought it, and the tailgate strut on that side is ripped out (although I have noticed that to be a fairly common problem with these vehicles.) Aside from some rust to the rockers, it's an astonishingly rust free vehicle.









The Progress So Far:
Once it was more sure that the bonded title process (do not recommend, PITA) would go through, I decided to start working on it. We changed the oil, which was nasty but nothing beyond just a lot of use. Changed the wiper blades, easy quality of life for driving it around. Tossed some gumout in with a tank of gas, since it had sat for an indeterminate amount of time with the seller and then again for like 4 months after I purchased it. New battery was required, the previous one got me down from the mountains and to a parking space but didn't start again without a jump. New plugs, boy were the old ones old and overgapped. Oh, we also removed the busted up side trim that snow had been weighing down for who knows how long. It was mangled.



What's Next?
Well, as you can see in the picture of my dad wrenching on the oil filter, the oil pan is pretty nasty. It's got around 200k per the VIN lookup at last report, so I'm not sure if that's just typical road grime for 30 years of driving, or if we've got a small leak somewhere. There was a jug of oil in the back when we purchased, so I'm suspecting the latter. I'm sure it's just old seals somewhere. Plan is to give everything a good deep clean, so we can actually see what's going on, and then diagnose a few things. There's an exhaust leak somewhere that I want to address asap before going to emissions, needs a new intake tube either built or bought, and it's got a tiny bit of shake in the wheel over 62mph indicated that I think will be remedied with a tire balance. This may wait though, as I'd like to get some larger wheels and tires for it before getting it aligned/balanced. Ideally I'm thinking 33's would be perfect for the type of stuff I'm looking to do.

The TO-DO List ( (and some questions):

  • Replace the rear tailgate
  • Replace rubber door seals, tailgate seal, sunroof seal
  • Fix drivers outside door handle (doesn't open the door
  • Replace intake hose

  • T-Twist / Shackle lift? I have concerns about daily-use with my dad, since bumpy rides are tough on him and my understanding is that a t-twist will result in a bumpier ride.
    • Would the drop pitman arm from Skyjackers be enough to keep the tires from being chewed up if I do go with just this?
    • I've seen Rough Country kits from 2"-4", but I've read about kits not addressing the steering angle and consequently chewing up tires. Is there a cost effective kit still made which addresses these issues? Is it worth going with a kit over a T-Twist since I don't plan on doing much extreme 4x4ing?
  • 33's / 16s (I've seen some Jeep wheels with the same lug pattern with KO2s on 'em for sale nearby for a good price, would those work?)
  • CB Radio
  • F/R Brushguard / bumper
  • Regear?
    • Would it be needed with 33s?
That's all that's banging around in my skull for the time being, I feel like that would be enough to get me off road and dealing with most moderate trails, get me out into the wilderness. Looking forward to being an active member of the community, which I have already learned a bunch from. Excited to hear y'alls opinions and ready for input on the direction I should take her.

PS - If there's anyone in the Denver/Springs area, would love to go out sometime once I've got her fixed up.


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Torsion twist doesn't apply here, you should have coil front springs.
That being said, 3" body lift and 33" tires, a set of old man emu rear leafs, will have you riding nice on those roads. You'll be able to go just about anywhere.

Good luck you guys, and welcome to the forum.

This build right here


Torsion twist doesn't apply here, you should have coil front springs.
That being said, 3" body lift and 33" tires, a set of old man emu rear leafs, will have you riding nice on those roads. You'll be able to go just about anywhere.

Good luck you guys, and welcome to the forum.
Yknow, I've been under this thing a couple times now and not *once* did I bother to actually check -- despite being able to see them in one of the pictures. I'll take a look at that build you linked. :thumbsup:

A first gen Sport is a great vehicle for what you’re wanting to do with it!
Don’t even think about bigger tires until you check what gears you have in it.

A first gen Sport is a great vehicle for what you’re wanting to do with it!
Don’t even think about bigger tires until you check what gears you have in it.
Thanks! I think it'll clean up nicely.

I checked yesterday, and the axle code is D4 - 3.73 LS. I suppose I'll probably need 4.10 or 4.56?

If this isn't going to be a daily driver, go one gear lower than what you think you'll need. If your thinking 4.10's, go 4.56. It will save you a lot of money in gear changes.

Keep reading through the forum, just about every mod has already been done with the 1st gen Explorers.

Personally, not a fan of body lifts. All they do is make a vehicle taller, they don't make the suspension better. They have their place with vehicles that are hard to suspension lift, but that is not the case here. You can suspension lift a 1st gen up to about 6", but I would keep it under that. There are several lift kits still available. For mild off roading, they do alright in stock form.

You could go with a 2-3" suspension lift, a rear lunchbox locker and regear, and 32-33" tires. That would take you through most moderate trails and more importantly, get you out again. Sometimes trails listed as easy are anything but. Trails can change overnight during a serious weather event. If you like lonely trails and going out alone like I do, you need to build it to handle just about anything.

Recent case in point, starts at post #3138

I installed a Powertrax NoSlip with a limited slip carrier. It was many years ago, before I killed it and went with a Detroit. Powertrax warrantied it, and then I sold it to help fund my real locker.

To the OP. Search the forum for related threads. Take notes and take your time deciding how you want to proceed and how far you want to go with the build. Write out parts lists with pricing for each separate modification. If you are even thinking about doing some major fabrication like a solid axle swap (SAS) in the future, save up and do it. I spent thousands of dollars and countless hours under my Explorer, only to cut everything out and swap in a solid front axle. It's a never ending kind of deal once you get bit by the modification bug. My Explorer arguably wheels as good or better in every terrain than most off road based vehicles, and I'm still looking at improvements: front seats, doubler, rear shocks, air bumps..
Never ends