Ian's 91 XLT Franken-Restoration | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

  • Register Today It's free!

Ian's 91 XLT Franken-Restoration

Hi all,

I just became an Elite Explorer and just (mostly) finished my semi-restoration of my 91. So I thought I would create this registry and give my story.

I lived in Northern California and owned a Honda Prelude (with 4-wheel steering). It was a blast to drive around in the redwood forests but I longed to go offroad sometimes. Then circumstances required that I move back East, so I sold my prelude, bought a nearly pristine 91 E250, and brought all my stuff back to NC.

Fast forward several months and I am looking for a 4wd, setting aside dreams of converting my van to 4wd. I lucked out and found a guy looking to trade two manual 91 explorers for a van! One (the blue one) did not move (but engine ran) and the other (the red one) drove great but had a smashed up passenger-side rear quarter panel. I went ahead and did the trade.

I drove the red one for a long time, while the blue one sat in my driveway. I tinkered with it and determined that the trans was torn up, so I took it out. Sure enough, gears were shredded all over the place, so I scrapped the transmission. BUT, the blue one had a manual transfer case, a straight body, manual hubs, a smoother running engine, and tighter steering and suspension. While the red one had beautiful paint, the quarter panel was unrepairable and rust was starting to bring the beast down.

So a few months ago, I decided to start my restoration of the blue one, using good parts from the red one. The plan was to use the tranny from the red one in the blue one. After two days and a few bloody knuckles (and un-quantifiable help from this community, the swap was complete and the blue one roared to life!

This is where I started photographing.

These images were taken right before the red one went off to the scrapper (I lucked out and sold it as pictured for $400 - without the transmission).


  • IMG_20120127_144125.jpg
    116.7 KB · Views: 479
  • IMG_20120127_144238.jpg
    109.9 KB · Views: 485

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!

91 Franken-restoration continued

So, with the swap complete, the good parts I figured I may need from the red one removed, and blue one on the road, I set out to improve it. Luckily, there is very little rust on this vehicle and other than replacing the driver side front 1/4 panel, the body was pretty much perfect. And the fuel gauge works! Below, you will see a before and after photo of the effects of the load-leveling shocks. They raised the rear 1.5 inches over the old shocks. I also swapped in the seats from the red one as they were in better shape. Grey seats in blue interior really doesn't look bad.

After the shocks, 1/4 panel, heater core, various hoses and belts, sensors, bumpers, etc... The blue one was ready for paint!


  • IMG_20120602_165750.jpg
    96.8 KB · Views: 468
  • IMG_20120212_112057.jpg
    149.1 KB · Views: 428
  • IMG_20120212_140831.jpg
    139.5 KB · Views: 447

Franken-Restoration (Cont'd)

Just for clarification, yes, the red one looked great besides the smashed 1/4 panel, but underneath, it was very rusty. Even the valve covers were flaking rust. Also, the steering was way loose and the rattles were severe. The fuel gauge didn't work, it leaked oil and steering oil, it needed calipers, rotors, drums, brake lines, etc... etc... The only thing that truck had going for it was the pretty paint, the tinted windows, the transmission, and the fact that i didn't care about it, so i had a little more fun with it. So I don't want you guys to say "hey, I could have used some parts," I did save the best parts but they are my spares. However if you're interested in an electronic transfer case or extension housing, I will be selling them.

Anyway, back to the blue one... It was about to become Rustoleum Smoke Grey.
I bent two 20' lengths of 3/4 pvc pipe in half, stuck the ends in the ground, attached them out in front of my tin-roof awning, and covered it all with poly sheeting. I live under a lot of dropping sap and pollen, so covering was a must. I thinned the paint with about 50% Acetone but should have gone thicker probably. Prepping took so long, it was dark before I could paint and my light wasn't good enough. But it was do or die (had to give the paint time to dry before returning to work on Monday). So i went for it. Shot it with a high-pressure pneumatic sprayer. Just one coat and I only used 1/2 gallon. I only primed the red fender.

Below are the money shots:
1. The next morning
2. after re-installing the grill, etc...
3. Ready to go!


  • IMG_20120605_113551.jpg
    124.8 KB · Views: 449
  • IMG_20120604_154941.jpg
    64.7 KB · Views: 425
  • IMG_20120604_120128.jpg
    57.8 KB · Views: 446


Painting Lessons:

- Better ventilation = less overspray
- Seal it better and paint during the day to prevent bugs from landing in fresh paint
- Better light = increased paint application uniformity
- 200 grit sand paper feels smooth after sanding, but is not fine enough
- I will never be fully satisfied as I am always improving

I didn't like how plain the truck looked and still needed to paint the door pillar things, so I got back into it a few weeks later.

I painted the door pillars and upper rear hatch with black semi-gloss spray enamel. Came out great but I wish I would have bought the $5 paint rather than the $3 paint, application was not real smooth. I also painted the grill and bumpers to get this:


  • IMG_20120617_140930.jpg
    124.8 KB · Views: 448

Nice work! :thumbsup:

The End, for now

I still wasn't satisfied... So yesterday, I extended the black on the bumpers, across the body. I painted the trim and below with two $5 cans of flat black spray enamel.

I think it looks really great (especially from 15 ft away ;) ), but I may decide to go flat black on the bumpers too, it came out better than I expected.

This forum has helped me get familiar with Explorers better and quicker than I ever could have alone! It's so great to have such a huge community of people that have a collective knowledge that I'm sure exceeds even the designers' knowledge of this vehicle! I've had the chance to see my vehicle in many different configurations without having to actually do it! Its inspiring, supportive, and entertaining to say the least!

This is why I decided to purchase an elite membership. The help is free, but the infrastructure that organizes it is not. Plus I hate adverts... And Rick (the site owner) has to make a living!

Here is the end result:


  • IMG_20120626_154428.jpg
    119.5 KB · Views: 448
  • IMG_20120626_154515.jpg
    116.7 KB · Views: 450

Thanks Joe!