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New Member: 1991 Ford Explorer XL 4X4 ("The Papa's Truck")

bnbader

New Member
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March 14, 2020
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City, State
SEATTLE
Year, Model & Trim Level
1991 Ford Explorer XL 4X4
Hi All,

I have been utilizing the forum as a resource for years now but haven't posted anything to this point. I first of all want to say how much of a help and a resource this forum has been and I feel like I should at least contribute something to the forum after years of using it!

In any event, my story starts with this Explorer when I first was learning how to drive. The Explorer was my grandpas truck since new in 1991 and when I got my learners permit at 15, my grandma taught me how to drive on it. I have been in love with the truck ever since. When my grandpa passed away in 2015, I was gifted the truck and kept it up to snuff but it kept it completely stock. I recently decided to build it up in his honor and did the following:

Exterior:
Full detail -- paint correction
Roof Rack
42" Light Bar
New LED Headlights

Performance:
Custom Catback Exhaust with Magnaflow Muffler
Performance Spectre Air Filter

Lift:
4" Tuff Country 24864k Radius Arm lift kit with Bilstein 5100's in the front and Skyjacker Black Max's in the back
33X12.50-15 Thunderer TRAC GRIP M/T Tires
Cragar #365-5812 Wheels
Size: 15" x 8"
Bolt Pattern: 5 x 4.5"
Rear Spacing: 3.75"
Offset: -19mm

Gearing:
Stock 3.27 with 5-Spd Manual

This is the one of the cleanest 1st gen Explorers I'm aware of as it has ~87,000 original miles, has been garaged it's whole life and absolutely zero rust. My family and I have used it over the years primarily as an over-lander, off-roader and ski commuter and it has performed flawlessly!

I am excited to share this with you and am happy to honor my grandpa with "The Papa's Truck".

Look forward to hearing what you guys think. For next steps I'm thinking lockers, maybe change out the Auto hubs, continue to work on some of the imperfections in the paint, second battery + solar panel, figure out how to install a winch while maintaining the stock look... Not sure but am looking for suggestions.

Ben -- WA

Lifted Photos:

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2.jpg


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5.jpg


6.jpg


7.jpg


Stock Photos:
Stock (2).JPG


Stock.JPG
 
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allmyEXes

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Ben, Nice, nice, nice! it's encouraging to see your '91 in such great condition. My '91 is almost identical to yours, except for condition. Mine has a front bench seat. Does yours? I can't tell from your pics. Later, Greg
I need to work on mine later this spring. Here is a link to my pics.
allmyEXes 1991 red pics etc
 
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410Fortune

Truck Season!!
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B2 "Slightly" Modified
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FOURTEN
man I love the first gen's
Square nose Fords are the best looking Fords
Too bad they didn't keep the wing windows in the gen I Explorer

Thanks for sharing, shes gorgeous!
I'm wanting to build a first gen as soon as I can get my hands on one
 
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bnbader

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1991 Ford Explorer XL 4X4
Ben, Nice, nice, nice! it's encouraging to see your '91 in such great condition. My '91 is almost identical to yours, except for condition. Mine has a front bench seat. Does yours? I can't tell from your pics. Later, Greg
I need to work on mine later this spring. Here is a link to my pics.
allmyEXes 1991 red pics etc

Hey man,

No I have seats that I've actually never seen on another explorer. They are vinyl bucket seats greyish color. I'll try to snipe a pic today if I can.
 
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Mike65

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Horsepasture, Virginia.
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00 Ranger 4x4, 99 Sport.
Ben, welcome. Nice looking Explorer.
 
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BrooklynBay

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bnbader

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1991 Ford Explorer XL 4X4
Welcome to this forum! It looks like it's brand new.
Haha took a little work but its getting there. Now thinking about manual hub vs. auto hub conversion (I have auto hubs but completely new), lockers, and how to fit a winch utilizing the stock bumper (I like the stock look)...
 
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Rick

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'93 XL Pumpkin Edition
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That's definitely a great looking Explorer. Welcome to the forum:chug:
 
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TrackAire

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City, State
Vacaville, California
Year, Model & Trim Level
1989 Bronco II
Ben,
Welcome and thanks for posting your Gen 1....I'm working on accumulating parts to try and make mine look as nice as yours.

I definitely have questions!....please let us know what you think of the Tuff Country lift with the extended radius arms. Let us know about the fitment and performance on and off road. Not sure how I missed that Tuff Country had extended radius arms. Also, what specifically did you do to raise the rear.....it looks like you're still spring under axle.
The stance looks really good. And yes, square bodies FTW.
 
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BKennedy

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1994 XLT
Very clean Explorer. I remember when mine looked like that. As far as next modifications, I would get manual hubs, front sway bar disconnects and a rear locker. I would suggest a Detroit because mine has been trouble free for 15 years, but they are expensive.
 
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bnbader

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1991 Ford Explorer XL 4X4
Ben,
Welcome and thanks for posting your Gen 1....I'm working on accumulating parts to try and make mine look as nice as yours.

I definitely have questions!....please let us know what you think of the Tuff Country lift with the extended radius arms. Let us know about the fitment and performance on and off road. Not sure how I missed that Tuff Country had extended radius arms. Also, what specifically did you do to raise the rear.....it looks like you're still spring under axle.
The stance looks really good. And yes, square bodies FTW.

Hey,

So the ride so far has been good on and off road. The rear is lifted via add a leafs but I feel like the two add a leafs that come with the kit could use a third to level out the back and front (is slightly higher than the back). In addition, if adding the add a leafs, I'd highly recommend adding a leaf spring bracket that keeps the full stack of leaf springs together as I had some potential issues with errant leafs popping out of the stacks.. In terms of the overall kit... Its not manufactured perfect... No doubt you'll have to make some modifications to your truck and to the kit itself. It was certainly not an easy plug and play operation. The extension radius arms were particularly difficult to install and I suspect one is maybe 1/2" too far back (on the drivers side) but hard to say for certain.. I took it to the alignment shop and they were able to get it close but not perfectly aligned.. Not sure how much money I want to dump into that but highly recommend going to a good alignment shop and not Firestone like I did... Hope that helps. Spent the day today detailing the truck after some off roading fun. :)
 
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bnbader

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1991 Ford Explorer XL 4X4
Very clean Explorer. I remember when mine looked like that. As far as next modifications, I would get manual hubs, front sway bar disconnects and a rear locker. I would suggest a Detroit because mine has been trouble free for 15 years, but they are expensive.

Thanks! Would you get the Warn manual hubs? They are something around $300.. I am rubbing a little on the front sway bars at full lock, do folks ever run just permanently disconnecting the sway bars? How does that impact the steering/handling? I installed an aftermarket steering stabilizer which has been a nice addition. I have seen the Detroit lockers and they seem pretty stout, you'd run a rear vs. front locker? Thanks for the info.
 
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TrackAire

Member
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1989 Bronco II
Hey,

So the ride so far has been good on and off road. The rear is lifted via add a leafs but I feel like the two add a leafs that come with the kit could use a third to level out the back and front (is slightly higher than the back). In addition, if adding the add a leafs, I'd highly recommend adding a leaf spring bracket that keeps the full stack of leaf springs together as I had some potential issues with errant leafs popping out of the stacks.. In terms of the overall kit... Its not manufactured perfect... No doubt you'll have to make some modifications to your truck and to the kit itself. It was certainly not an easy plug and play operation. The extension radius arms were particularly difficult to install and I suspect one is maybe 1/2" too far back (on the drivers side) but hard to say for certain.. I took it to the alignment shop and they were able to get it close but not perfectly aligned.. Not sure how much money I want to dump into that but highly recommend going to a good alignment shop and not Firestone like I did... Hope that helps. Spent the day today detailing the truck after some off roading fun. :)

Thanks Ben,
After seeing your kit I called Tuff Country to talk to them about the kit. They claimed the alignment cams they use in the drop brackets make getting the alignment correct much easier. I'm not 100% sure if the James Duff or Skyjacker use a similar system on their radius arm kits....I'll have to look into that.

I'm fortunate to have a spring shop local to me that can build our my rear packs...I think I'm going a combination of bigger pack and slightly longer shackles. I've never had the best luck with add a leafs for long term use.

I hear you on the Firestone alignment, lol......alignment is 99% the person doing it. A good alignment guy is worth his weight in gold on unique suspensions like the TTB.
 
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BKennedy

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Thanks! Would you get the Warn manual hubs? They are something around $300.. I am rubbing a little on the front sway bars at full lock, do folks ever run just permanently disconnecting the sway bars? How does that impact the steering/handling? I installed an aftermarket steering stabilizer which has been a nice addition. I have seen the Detroit lockers and they seem pretty stout, you'd run a rear vs. front locker? Thanks for the info.
I have always purchased Warn hubs for everything, but I know there are others out there that are just as good. I have had good luck with Warn's warranty on hubs and winches so I stick with them.

Thanks Ben,
After seeing your kit I called Tuff Country to talk to them about the kit. They claimed the alignment cams they use in the drop brackets make getting the alignment correct much easier. I'm not 100% sure if the James Duff or Skyjacker use a similar system on their radius arm kits....I'll have to look into that.

I'm fortunate to have a spring shop local to me that can build our my rear packs...I think I'm going a combination of bigger pack and slightly longer shackles. I've never had the best luck with add a leafs for long term use.

I hear you on the Firestone alignment, lol......alignment is 99% the person doing it. A good alignment guy is worth his weight in gold on unique suspensions like the TTB.
These 1st Generation Explorers are difficult to keep aligned and its hard to find someone who knows how to do them correctly. I used to call around and ask alignment shops if they have any experience with modified suspension Ford TTB's. You need to find the oldest, crustiest alignment shop around and there will usually be some grouchy old man in there who will do it right. If you off-road it, six months later he will need to do it again.

I had a custom set of leaf springs made for my Explorer because I had specific issues and needs that were not able to be rectified with standard springs and I do not like add-a-leafs. My Explorer is a multi-use off-road vehicle. I needs it to do everything good and some things very good. It needs to carry a load for expedition type trips, needs to be able to cruise down the highway, needs to bomb down a dirt road, and needs to crawl with the best of them. It does all of that but its been a long road. If the shop knows what they are doing, they can figure out what you need and you should not need longer shackles if getting custom leafs. Be prepared to spend well over $1,000 for a custom set. Mine were right around $1500, but worth every penny.

Sway bars: Depending upon your suspension, you can do without the rear, but there needs to be something up front for highway use. Especially with modified TTB type suspensions. You can purchase generic sway bar disconnects and make them fit, or modify your struts. Driving without a sway bar up front can cause serious death wobble, at least it did for me and several others.
 
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bnbader

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1991 Ford Explorer XL 4X4
Yeah... If I have the funds there is definitely quite a bit of work to still do to make it even better. I slated these mods as the first step and will hopefully have a great summer in the truck and will start on the next stage of projects next winter.
 
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bnbader

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1991 Ford Explorer XL 4X4
The Papa's Truck will be featured in a new Youtube Channel: Overtime 4x4.

Check out the first episode and consider subscribing. Lots of Explorer and Suzuki Samurai content headed your way.

 
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