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My 97 Exploder Pre-runneresk Project...

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I'll give you a couple tips before I ask a couple questions because I am very curious as to why you're extending the track width so drastically. First off where you lower control arms bolt into the sub frame weld unplated washers on the front holes. The frames always rip apart there even without wide arms. Secondly use a piece of 1.5 or 1.75" OD tubing preferably 0.120 wall at least to make a crossmember to brace the aft lower control arm mounts because those push inward towards each other as well. Lastly, For the upper arm gussets weld some 1/8 or 3/16 plate cut in small triangular pieces that weld to the front of the mounts and go down the frame a little. All 6 rangers/explorers I have had crack there. My first 2 peeled completely up and off the frame. I am glad you are not taking the constructive criticism in the wrong way intended, but you need to seriously rethink how wide you are making these arms. I am not saying that it wont work because it may for a while before they fatigue and bend/rip/break, but what size shock are you running? Any reason for going so wide in the front because inversely from what you may think you will end up losing stability and structure at that width plus I doubt you will get any more wheel travel due to your limiting factor most likely being your shock. Having the vehicle sprung at the extension of a factory LCA is pretty sketchy. Are you familiar with suspension design at all? Did you alter the angle of the lower control arm balljoint during your extension to achieve proper geometry? Anyway, I feel like I am kind of picking on you now and I don't intend to. I just don't get what you are trying to do by this project. Especially if you just have some gravel roads and mud pits. All the luck to your project.

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I intended to run the Stock angles so there wouldn't be any added stress on the ball joints. But by extending the arms I would get more stability as well as a bit more travel and ground clearance. All the things you pointed out except for the bar thing on the crossmember I planned on doing. I will be sure to do that as well. I am also planing on doing some bracing on the frame rail itself because in extreme cases I have seen them split and start to tear. I doubt that would happen to me but I might as well while I am in there. I have spent a lot of time looking at long travel kits for the rangers and other trucks and I have seen varying designs from all new parts using all new heavy duty joints to kits running a lot of extended OE parts and joints. Kits have ranged from 3"-7" of extension but are using a bigger longer travel coilover. I am only using a 6.5" coilover but like I said I don't need massive amounts of travel. Just a few inches more then stock. I know my LCA will be strong enough to handle anything I am going to throw at it when I am done. It will have a bunch of bracing internally and then it will be capped on both sides with steal that will be welded to the braces on both sides as well as a second set of walls to connect the 2 pieces on the side. I took another measurement and I decided to shorten the arm to 6" because it looked like the tire was going to run into the door at full lock. I thought about moving the spindle a couple inches forward but its a lot of work to do that.

Given what I have seen online I feel like this kit is going to be no less efficient then some of the cheaper (2500 w/o shock) range kits. Plans to strengthen the front structural portions of the crossmember and frame. I am not sure what spring I am going with the shop I ordered them from said they would figure it out for me. They are also going to send me a one step softer and stiffer so I can dial it in and send what I don't need back. They are working with be and are very helpful.

The stock setup in my truck was actually pretty good for what I was using it for. The joints that where in it have never been swapped and it was working fine for what I was using it for. But the spindle is shot and I can feel that the joints are getting a little looser. I am looking to make a longer track/ travel setup that its stronger then the OE stuff but like I said it dosen't need to be bomb proof. I wouldn't way I am a poser but there just isn't that crazy of stuff to do around where I live and I don't have time to drive long distances. My truck sees far more dirt then most around here but it will spend most of its time on the street during the winter months when my cars are getting worked on. There is a lot of crawling and mud trails around here but w/ 2wd I can't really play. This truck will see a lot of gravel service roads, snow, mud (not to deep) and gravel parking lots/ rock quarries. I will treat it as if it has the same limitations as stock and if the time comes that I want to pursue this and do more crazy stuff I will sell this kit off (provided its a success).

I take all of your advice with great consideration but I guess what I would like from you is to just put a little faith in me. This could very well be a flop but I highly doubt it. Again I am no expert when it comes to pre-running or building things to withstand the strain of that type of driving but I believe with the skills that I do have I can build a truck that can more then take the abuse I plan on giving it. I will have a bunch more updates in the next week as parts get fabed and installed.

I would also say that I am not a fool. If I see something that isn't going to work of that I am worried about I will stop till I feel comfortable with it. I am not to type to just say #### it keep going. So if I have to go back to the drawing board or alter a piece here and there then so be it. I would never get behind the wheel of a vehicle that I didn't fully trust.

Johann @ Girodisc
Going to pick up some metal tonight so I can finish boxing in the arms and then start adding the bracing. I might get the upper and lower caps cut tonight as well but for now I have to work in tandem with my Subaru so I can make sure it gets done in time for the next race on the 10th.

Johann @ Girodisc

Johann @ Girodisc

Okay so I managed to get all my other stuff done so I can get some time to work on the xploder.

I finished boxing in the LCAs.


Then I took one and started doing all the bracing un the underside. I ended up running our of metal before I could finish so I am going to get more so I can finish the one and get the other one done as well so I can put the finish them off the top and bottom caps.


So with all the work I could do to those done I decided to get the Tie Rods out of the way.

Cut them and make the extension pieces


Welded them together:


Made the Sleeves:


Then welded it all together. It looks nice and stout.


I was going to start on the UCAs but I think I am going to need to fab them on the truck because they don't seem be the same on ether side and I worry that they might need some adjustment so I can going to mount them and then extend them. Finish welding them. Double check their fit, and then cut the mounts on the rail so I can redo them.

That's all for now.

Johann @ Girodisc

For the adjustment on your uppers you should use 3/4x3/4 heims. You weld the bungs in as part of the UCA and you thread the heims in and out to adjust alignment much more than elliptical alignment shims. So did you stick with 8 " over. The lowers and the tie rods look massive. Usually you build the lowers and bolt the spindles and lowers on the truck and take measurements for the uppers and then after the uppers are done and back on the truck you make the tie rods to accommodate.

7" Since the Arms and Tie Rods are OE spec extending them the same will allow for the same adjustment as OE. These are "Heavy Duty" grease-able joints and look far superior to stock which are holding up fine. Heim joints are overkill for this build but if these fail I can always swap over. Many of the lower cost long travel kits re-use them with an extension piece so I am pretty confident that these will work for my needs just fine.

The Upper Control arms I am going to fab on the truck to make sure it all fits together correctly before I cut off the UCA and Shock mounts to redo them to run the Dual coilover and helper shock setup.

I am going to try and finish one of the LCAs at least tonight. After that I will need to start buying hardware for the shocks and stuff so I can get all the fab pieces to make the upper mounts and get the truck ready to be taken apart. I am hoping I can get all the fab done and pieces painted on a weekend so the truck will only be down for about a week while everything is getting put together.

When I start pulling the pieces off I have a lot of work to do to the frame rail and crossmember to beef it up a bit.

Once the Suspension system is finished and installed I will take it out to a little place down the street and test it out before I make the new fenders and work on the exterior stuff. I won;t be able to drive it to far because I am sure I would get pulled over for the wheels sticking out so far past the fender.

Johann @ Girodisc

Heims are not overkill at all. Two 3/4 heim kits are like 75 dollars. All this talk about beefing things up and you feel that heims are overkill? Maybe dual coilovers are overkill but not the strength and endurance as well as adjustment ease a heim will offer you. Not trying to be negative but your decisions baffle me a little.

Also just because you extend the lowers 7 inches doesn't mean the tie rods should be extended that exact amount as well. OEM Geometry is okay at the factory 7-9 inches of suspension travel but when you add 7 inches of width per side everything is going to grow exponentially. Most likely your steering knuckle pivot will need to be elevated to tune down the bump-steer and you lower balljoint angle is not going to be a the proper angle even if you are shooting for a couple inches additional wheel travel. You know longer have any OEM specs on the front end so you cannot just factor out number and guess that it will work. I hate to sound so negative cause I realize it kinda does but I'd suggest buying a suspension book online on and learning a little before you make a bigger mistake than you are able to anticipate.

My suspension isn't going to see any angles greater then stock. The extended arms are for stability and increased travel due to the longer stroke of the arm. 45 degs of moment on a 6" arm is 4.59" of lateral travel. If that arm is extended to 10" at the same 45 deg of movement the amount of travel is increased to 7.65" Since the suspension is utilizing all the stock points and angles and is just merely being extended the arms can be extended the same length and the adjustment about 1/2" in or out will be able to aline the wheels to function as the original suspension did.

Also there is only one coilover per side. I opted to use the shocks I already bought with them because I can't return them and the guys I bought my coils from said it would help.

There might be a little added travel do to the coilovers travel but the angles won't be increase a huge amount. Yes at fully compressed and fully extended the angles might cause some changes to the toe, bump steer, but as I said, I am not going to be driving this thing at the limits all the time so under my normal street and even off road use those angles are not going to be an issue.

Also when it comes to "beefing" up the suspension if you notice all the things that I am doing are just with metal to make sure the arms and rails/ mounts will be strong to be dependable and not cause issues. As I said the stock joints are fine and the ones I bought should work great. I added strength in the areas that the added length of the arms are going to put stress on. The extension pieces in all the suspension components, the X member, and the frame rail. Yes hiem joints are nice, I have them in my Auto cross car for my lateral links, trailing arms, and sway bar links. My suspension setup has limitless adjustability and I spent the money on that car because it was needed. However this project, does not need they type of adjusability and 75.00 on a few joints is still 75.00 on a few joints that aren't needed. I could spend 7000 on just the suspension alone if I wanted to but the point of this whole project is to make an effective upgrade to suite my needs and at a relatively low cost. This is my winter driver/ fun in the mud/ utility truck. I have other projects that also need funds so there has to be some give and take.

I appreciate your input but at this point I feel like I am having to defend myself a little bit and its getting to the point that just back and forth between you and I. With the utmost respect I acknowledge your points however, I do know what I am doing and this thread was made to show people my project. With that said everybody has their way of doing something and ours are clearly not the same. This project should be finished in a couple weeks and with that all the parts for this project have been bought with a bit left over int he budget for unforeseen issues so lets get on with some progress pics.


Finished up the bracing on the LCAs and replicated it to the other side. Got the first lower cap drawn out so I'll cut it and weld it up tonight. I am going to try and make a big push to finish the LCAs completely tonight.

Also after a long wait my coilovers are here. Looks like they set me up with some King 650lbs springs so that will be a good starting point. I will make the upper and lower mounting brackets for these but wait to weld them on till after the arms are done so I can make sure they are put in the right position.


Johann @ Girodisc

I understand your feeling of defense. I was trying to stay away from that so for that I apologize. I will stay out of it and check out your progress. Good luck. I know all about spending an incredible amount of money on a front end. I am actually in the process of rebuilding mine as well, But for very heavy desert abuse. Have fun and working on your own ride is all that matters anyway.

So fortune cam my way and I bought a car of my friend that later this winter is going to be turned into a dedicated auto x/ track car. However this made it so I could get the exploder in the shop and start getting stuff done while I drive my new project.

Got one side of the stock stuff off and it was actually really easy. No rust on the truck what so ever. Got the Lower control arms on and the spindles and then checked to make sure they fit because they were a bit funny looking. Made a jig off the stock arms and welded in the extension rods that I slipped inside the cut tubes.



So with it all together I could finally start looking at measurements to double check and make sure everything was going to work. Angle of movement on the arms is same as stock but I am getting an additional 9" of lift/ ground clearance and my travel increased from about 6" to 10.5 with the arm stopping at the original bump stop.

After it was all set in I used the shocks I originally purchased to go with the torsion idea to set the shock position. I made some standard thick gauge tabs for the bottom and some more elaborate upper mounts that were fitted inside of the stock shocks cup. The to pieces were welded all the way inside to make basically to big gussets to strengthen the original mount and are also being welded into the rail as well as getting boxed in. (Pics of that later this week)

So here is the shock fully extended:


And resting on the bump stop:


As you can see I have about an inch left in the shock with is perfect because it should even touch the shocks bump stop even with the body bump stop flattened out. But it looks like on the wheel its another 1 3/4" if the body bump stop was flattened out.

So the coilover was about 3/4" longer then the then shock and the spring was a 14" so I can get a bit of pre-load on without loosing any lift. With the coilover set and just jacking the arm up at the spindle it lifts the truck off the jack stand with 1.5" of compression so with minimal pre-load it will have about 2" of droop. Once everything is finished I will get it on the ground and take it for a drive to see how it drives. If its to soft I can add more pre-load and if its still softer then I want I am considering throwing the torsion bars back in to help. Since alone that can't hold the weight and the arms angles are the same I could use them as a helper which will require less pre-loading on the coilover and allow for easier left to right adjustment. Time will tell.

Here is a pic of everything lightly installed:


So with the driver's side pretty much done I will be finished welding the last couple pieces onto the LCAs. I'll get the UCA all welded up and then its on the beefing up the frame rail and x-member. I am hoping by the end of the week I should have both sides installed for good and painted and the x-member all done. I will be gone this weekend so next Monday I will get the bearings, rotors and brakes on so I can put the truck on its own weight and give the system its first test. Once its dialed in to the way I like it I will do the SOA conversion to the rear and made the fender flares.

More to come!

Johann @ Girodisc

I would change your lower shock mount. Make the tabs longer so they dont sit right next the the lateral weld closest to the wheel mounting location. You are creating a sheer point with the shock mounted right there on short tabs. Even though you have underlying vertical plates running close to the length of the LCA you may see trouble right there at that weld where the tab stops. Just make a new set that are about an inch or so longer so it welds over that sheer point and doesn't terminate there. Surprisingly it will add much more strength there.

Oh another thing. You may want to add some fish plates on the sides of the arms to cover the area where the new material is mated with the factory arm steel. That way the stress of compression will not create cracks in the starts and terminations of you vertical welds.

Okay I will make a new set.

Yeah there is going to be some side pieces that run the entire length of the arm with a top plate and a lower plate to help tie it all in. When its done the sides will like like a complete piece in the shape of an I beam. The top place was going to have a hole cut in it where the tabs were and then be welded to them that should help them from trying to move. I also plan to ass some angled seal to the bottom of the mount and extend all the way across the extension and help add some additional bracing to the arm. So it will be the original LCA layer, a second cap that's one solid piece, and then a couple pieces of angled steal that run the entire length to help with any flex. The underside will have a bunch of plat seal that are cut to fit each cavity from the bracing. Then they will all be welded together to connect all the the bracing and protect if from rust. Also I wanted a flat smooth underside so there are no snag points. These LCA are still a good 4 hrs a piece from being totally finished to the way I wanted them.

Johann @ Girodisc

Use thinner plate for all your overlay parts and fish plates so you don't add a ton of un-sprung weight. Instead of holes in the top plate covering the top of the arm you can cut slit/slots to weld so the plate doesn't bow and create a cavity between the top of the arm and your top plate.

Yeah the top plate was going to get slots.

One more thing. On the underside of the arm where the torsion bar goes into the LCA at the mount. There is a plate that runs right next to it. Weld the torsion retainer to the plate. It makes the arm much stronger there.

here's how I did my lowers. Just so you don't think Im pulling this stuff out of my ass. I have done it before, and that's how I know from experience haha



And my uppers



Okay update time:

Got my new lines. They are skyjaker lines for a ford w/ 8" lift so they are perfect for me since I have a 7" extention. I got a 4" lifted line for the rear for my SOA kit.


Got a nice chunk of work done last night. I finished the left side upper control arm (minus grinding)


There is a rod that is welded inside the UCA and then a pipe that was cut in half was welded to the 3 pieces. As you can see the lower part overhangs onto the oringinal UCA. The the upper piece was welded to the lower to make a beefy sold piece. I added the cross bar to help with strength since with this type of suspension the wheels like to pull a part so its just a little added insurence.

and I finished the shock mount, added some strength to the rail and bump stop arm. This is definetly overkill for my setup but I figure why not incase I get the bug to upgrade.


I am going to make a big push to finish at least one LCA tonight so more pics tomorrow.

Johann @ Girodisc

What are you welding with? The upper looks a bit precarious

MIG, they are stitch welded. I need to grind them and then fill some of the low spots.

Looks like mild steal pipe that was sand blasted.

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Are the splices just butt welded?

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