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Paul's '91 Sport

Three ashtrays, two doors, one cup holder, and zero Air Bags”

As it sits today. . . (December 2023)
Rig Large (DEC 23).jpg

As it sat last year. . . (2022)
Snow Sport.5 (DEC 21).jpg

Edit: From here on down was the write-up I did for my first Explorer before it was totaled in a commuting accident in March 2017. The write-up for the new (to me) Explorer that was acquired in May 2020 starts on page 2, post #31.

I am the second owner of this vehicle, purchasing it in April 1993. It has been a daily driver, crisscrossed the States multiple times, sat for a few years in storage, and now is dedicated to four-wheeling trips, camping excursions, and hauling the motorcycle to various “track days”. It is not a hard-core rig, but is set up well for the types of four-wheeling I enjoy, and has certainly seen its fair share of difficult trails. It has a number of modifications, with more planned for the future, but is by no means “Done”.

As it used to sit: (2016)
Front Oblique (P).jpg
Rear End.jpg

Here is the run-down of the modifications and when they were installed (or re-worked). . .
- Borla Headers and Cat-Back Exhaust (1995)
- James Duff Pre-Runner Front Bumper (1998)
- Bush Whacker Extend-A-Fender Flares (1998/2016)
- ARB Air Lockers, front and rear (1999/2008/2015)
- 4.10 Gears (1999)
- “SupeRancho” Hybrid Lift, approximately 4” of lift, with SOA (1999)
- 33”x 12.50 Tires (currently Toyo Mud Terrains)
- Con Ferr Roof Rack (1999)
- SuperLift SuperRunner Steering (2000)
- Ramsey REP 8000 winch in Duff Bumper (2002), Warn Synthetic Line (2016)
- Rock Sliders (2002)
- Atlas II Transfer Case (2005)
- ViAir On-Board Air Compressor (2009/2014)
- Modified ¾ Doors (2009)
- Early Bronco fabbed Rear Bumper, “extra modded” to fit the Explorer (2009)
- Rear License Plate Frenched (2009)
- Outback Solutions (ARB) Drawers with fabbed pull-out shelves (2012)
- Corbeau Heated Seats (2013)
- Internal Roll Cage (2013)
- Shelf/Box/Switches (2013-2015)
- Lights – Raptor/Fog/Roof Rack/Rear/Squatch/Interior Hatch/Hood (2013-2016)
- Dual Battery installation (2014)

I'll document most of the projects in subsequent posts with pictures and links to various threads. . .

'91 Sport

Edit: End of the road in April 2020. . . Read on for the wreck and renovation/restoration/gear swap to new 'Sport'. . .
Fork (APR 20).jpeg

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Front Bumper

I bought a James Duff bumper in 1998, and coated it with Line-X. Back then, Duff did not make a winch compatible bumper that fit RBVs. So after a few years and the realization that a winch would be a requirement for the rig, I bought a Ramsey REP 8000 winch and had a local welder modify the Duff Bumper to fit the winch between the frame rails.
Here's a picture with the old roller fairlead, circa 2002.
Old winch.jpg

I have in-cab controls for the winch, but also have the control box located behind the grill, accessible to plug in (seen above in lower passenger side portion of grill) if I have to manipulate the winch from outside the vehicle.
Was a late convert to synthetic winch line, but once the steel cable was worn out, opted for the Warn "Spydura" in 3/8. Here's a recent picture, with hawse fairlead.
Front End (New).jpg

Rear Bumper
In 1998, I mounted a Smittybilt dual tube rear bumper, and a few years later (2002) added a swing-away tire carrier, and here's a picture of that effort.
Old rear bumper.jpg

Although not a terrible option, it was not hardy enough to withstand the rigors of off-roading, and failed a few years later. The Smittybilt really did not have the strength to support the extra tubing and weight of the 33" spare tire.
In 2009 I contacted a guy in Colorado that built bumpers for Early Broncos, and convinced him to build one for my Explorer. . . I sent the measurements and a few pictures and ended up with this:
New Bumper.jpg

Like the front, I had it covered in Line-X. Not much doubt that this thing has no issues carrying a spare tire. . .
New Bumper Support.jpg

Thread for newer bumper: New Mod. . .

Rock Sliders
I attended my first "Serious Explorations" Run in April 1999 and met up with Rick, Jack Lobdell, Paul Gagnon, and Trace Allen in Blanding Utah - - where I promptly bashed my passenger side front fender. So, rock sliders were in order. A lot of guys mount sliders as "out-riggers" so they can pivot off trees and rocks, but I went with the "tucked-in" option, snugging them up under the body. Initially just spray-painted black, these have been covered multiple times in Hercu-Liner.
Picture from installation in 2002.
Rock Sliders.jpg

Some weld their sliders on, I opted for bolting (note cut-outs for E-brake cable).
Rock Slider Mount.jpg

3/4 Doors
I'm built "low to the ground" so wanted the option of looking out to check the tire line on obstacles. Thought this might work. . .
3.4 door prime.jpg

Once painted and with windows attached.
3.4 door with window.jpg

Still looking good after 7 years; recent photo
Passenger Interior.jpg

Thread for the 3/4 Door project: Half Doors - Latest Project . . . Teaser

'91 Sport

Exterior (Continued)

Frenched License Plate

Between two different bumpers, I had a simply zip-tied the rear license plate to one of the tubes - - no illuminating light, and not very secure.

I took a license plate bracket from a Chevy Astro and modified it to fit (removed a section for the rear door latch), and slathered it in Hercu-Liner

Then I made a few measurements, traced out a template, and started cutting...

Was a pretty simple modification, tapped the illumination light into the rear tail lights so the plate was finally lit up while driving at night.

Thread for the license plate modification: Frogged License Plate. . .

Bushwhacker Flares
I mounted Bushwhacker's Extend-a-Fender Flares way back in 1998. Made of ABS plastic, they covered the wider tires and held up pretty well to light trail abuse. But . . . , they break apart when I hit stuff with them. . . So after 18 years of abuse I recently pulled them off and made some (hopefully) long term repairs. I had "Gorilla-Glued" and Hercu-Lined them multiple times, but this time removed all four and fiber glassed the insides to strengthen them for the long haul. Here's a look at how they were (front flare).
Flare Broken.jpg

After peeling off the old residue, first used some rubberized gutter edging to reform the original shape of the flare.
Flare Plastic.jpg

This is the first time using fiber glass mat and resin - - luckily it's all on the non-showing side of the flares, but think it'll hold up. A look at the mat on one of the rear flares before applying the resin.
Flare Mat.jpg

Once coated with another application of Hercu-Liner, I used stainless steel fasteners and finishing washers for the remount.
Fixed Flare.jpg

'91 Sport

Very well built


Very well built

Thanks - - it's a work in progress.

On Board Air
During the last several years, in addition to multiple trips to Moab, wheeling includes snow wheeling here in the Pacific Northwest and dabbling in Over Landing. The requirements of reducing significant air pressure for snow wheeling (and then re-inflating), coupled with the self-sufficiency requirements of Over Landing made on-board air a necessity.

At the time of initial installation, I did not yet have a cargo storage system, so I opted to mount the compressor, air tank, and solenoid in the void where the OEM spare tire was located. I mounted the compressor in a surplus ammo can in order to protect it from the elements.
Here's a look at the mounted compressor in 2009.

Thread on initial ViAir installation:

I was not satisfied with my own work - - the fittings were leaky, and the compressor never ran as well as expected. So when I put together a storage unit for the rear cargo area, I found an ideal spot inside for the air compressor - - behind the rear seat at the back side of the drawer system. Here's how it sits now. Secure, well ventilated, and out of the elements.

Since the ViAir is a "continuous duty cycle" unit. I abandoned the air tank (for now).

The unit is activated by a switch I placed at the rear hatch area on the deck shelf for drawers and sliders; air hose is stored in the cubby below.

Roll Cage
I stated that although my rig is not a "hard-core" trail rig, I have (through a combination of enthusiasm and questionable decision making) put myself in a few precarious situations while off-roading. Although I'm rarely going fast, the potential to roll multiple times if I did flop over made the idea of a roll cage a worthwhile upgrade. Since my welding experience can be summed up by two letters - - "J" and "B", obviously went to someone else to fabricate this. I had seen Josh S.'s work and was able to convince him to construct a cage for me.
Here's a few pictures of his welding and fabrication skill. . .

Cage mounted to the floorboard. . . nice welds.
cage plate.jpg

I did not want to extend the cage all the back through the cargo area, but Josh added "tabs" in the rear passenger area for any potential future additions.
cage corners.jpg

Thread on Roll Cage fabrication:

Corbeau Seats
After 20+ years, the seats had seen better days, so while the cage was being worked, I ordered up a set of Corbeau seats, with lumbar and heat...

Took me a while to figure out where to wire the switch for the seat heat, ended up here. Easy access for turning the heat on, and I have never regretted this upgrade a few seconds after I activate the switch. Well worth the investment.

'91 Sport

Interior (Continued)

Dual Battery/Inverter/12v Plugs
With the goal of overland exploring and self contained capability, I made a few upgrades to support that effort. First was an auxiliary battery, and I opted for mounting it in the engine compartment. Not much room, so something had to go - - I chose the windshield washer reservoir/radiator coolant overflow tank. I fabbed another reservoir for the radiator and will just "do without" windshield washer fluid. Haven't missed it in two years, so not that important. Here's the battery, driver's side, close to the ARB compressor.

Just in case I need to fire up the crock pot, microwave, or hair dryer, an inverter mounted behind the driver's seat provides alternating current.

I have a few 12v plugs up front to support GPS/Phone/Satellite Radio/etc., but needed a few in the cargo area, so threw back there to support the ARB 37 Qt. fridge.

As previously mentioned, I had mounted an interior switch control for the Ramsey REP8000 winch, and since I had added the Atlas II transfer case, the electronic OEM 4x4 switch area was the ideal place for the in cabin winch control.
winch switch.jpg

LED light bars and spot lights are all the rage, so needed to get in on the action - - big issue though, where to put the switches ? ? ? Not as if there is excess room in the ****pit . . . luckily this website provides a lot of great options, from guys smarter than me, so overhead they went, on some scrap aluminum diamond tread I mounted between two supports for the cage. Here's a look.
Panel with Lights.jpg

Thread for the switch upgrade:

'91 Sport


Con-Ferr Roof Rack
Installed the Con-Ferr Roof Rack back in 1999, and it has been mounted and removed numerous times, depending on whether I needed the additional storage. Like a lot of my stuff, it's been Hercu-Lined a few times. . . Since I've mounted lights to it, even with wiring quick disconnects, it's probably staying up there for the long haul. Here's a picture showing the Hi-lift jack, a pair of forward facing LED light bars, and some tie-down loops for fuel cans.
conferr lights.jpg

The rack also makes a good storage spot for the Hi-Lift - - nothing fancy for the install, just bolts. springs, washers and wing nuts.
conferr jack.jpg

Cargo Storage System
I had used a few different storage solutions for hauling camping and wheeling gear - - Action Packers, foot locker, milk crates, etc., but was really impressed by the ARB sponsored Outback Solutions drawer set. Although not specifically made for the Explorer, I co-opted a set for the Wrangler to fit. Here's a shot of them in the cargo area after I fitted them with a wood deck (carpeted).
drawers plain.jpg

When I purchased these, "sliders" weren't an option on these smaller units, and I wanted something to slide out for a toolbox, cooler, or fridge - - so I sourced some old computer stand trays and fabbed them to fit, using the original drawer "tops". Thought they came out well.
drawer slide.jpg

And with 37 Qt. ARB fridge.
ARB Fridge Open.jpg

These drawers are well built and have virtually no signs of wear after 3+ plus years of use (recent photo).

Thread to Outback Solutions installation:

Visor Shelf
Other than the glove compartment and center console, there isn't much additional storage area for sunglasses, phones, or other items, so I ordered a overhead visor - - they don't list one for the early Explorers, but since the Ranger of similar vintage has nearly identical mounting points (sun visor arms), modified the shelf slightly to fit. Here's a picture (pre-cage) showing the shelf with visors remounted. Sirius radio on shelf, GPS hangs below.

Here's a side view (with cage):
shelf w cage.jpg

Gun Vault
With 3/4 doors and canvas windows, having something lockable in the driver's area was important to me; I don't even have door locks on the doors - - I would rather someone just open the door as opposed to cut the canvas... When Josh made the roll cage, one of the requirements was for him to install the small gun safe. It's located midway between the seats, just forward of the interior dome light.

'91 Sport


Already covered the switches, but wanted to post up a few pictures of the lights I have put in. . .

Raptor Lights
Found this mod on this forum and thought it was a pretty cool upgrade, and the price was right, just a few dollars for the three LED lights. Since I had filled the voids between the grill with mesh plastic a few years ago, the install was easy.
Raptor Lights.jpg

Roof Rack LEDs
Like the idea of more lights, so up on the Con-Ferr the went. Like the fact that the rack protects the lights for errant tree branches. They are set back a bit farther than optimal, but still good enough for my uses.
roof rack LEDs.jpg

Back Up Lights
Back up lights are a nice upgrade, especially on night runs. Not wired to the OEM back up lights, they are activated manually from the switch in the cab.
Back Up LEDs.jpg

'Squatch Lights
Sure, they're good for setting up camp, backing up at night, whatever. . . But nice also to flash if needed for the tail-gater. . . Also activated by an in-cab switch.
'Squatch Lights.jpg

Rock Lights
Plenty of uses for these low priced LEDs, so had to put some in.
Rock Front.jpg

Rock Rear.jpg

Rock at Night.jpg

'91 Sport

Wheeling Pics ! ! !

Fer Chrissake, just realized almost every photo on this thread was taken in the garage or driveway! ! !

Here's a few action shots, all from Moab 2013. . .

Moab Rim, "Z-Turn" obstacle:
Moab Rim B3 Z-Turn.jpg

Green Day, hill climb:
Green Day B3.jpg

Golden Crack obstacle:



Cliff Hanger, coming down the big step:



Although not on this trip, this is the location where I muttered to my ground guide. . . "I'd rather plunge this thing off the cliff
than scrape the hell out of my passenger side sheetmetal. . ."
It's all about priorities. . .

Here's a look at the Cliffhanger obstacle from a distance; it doesn't look perilous until you're looking over the edge from the driver's seat. . .
Cliffhanger Obstacle.jpg

'91 Sport
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2016 Maintenance, Repairs, and Moab Prep. . .

Finishing up some minor items and packing for Moab, and trying to figure out where the time "went". . . I've done plenty of pre-trip late night sessions in years past, but really wanted get everything done with time to spare this year.

I had a list of projects and upgrades that I wanted to accomplish this Spring, and started them in January; we leave this Thursday and as usual, the projects expanded to the time available. . . Some maintenance uncovered new issues, and added upgrades to the list as I went along, but here's what has been keeping me busy:

1) Power Steering Rebuild (gaskets, hoses)
2) Head Gasket Replaced
3) Rear Brakes Replaced
4) Fender Flares Fiberglassed
5) Body Work - Driver's Side "dog leg" and rear hatch
6) Transmission Throw-Out Bearing and Rebuild
7) Death Wobble Fixed - New (to me) leaf springs (Thanks to Phil and Kevin)
8) Rear Shackles Shortened
9) Bumped Front Coils
10) Light & Switch Upgrade
11) SuperLift SuperRunner Steering Drag Link replaced/welded/sleeved (Thanks Kevin)
12) New Drive Shafts
13) Synthetic Winch Line and Hawse Fairlead
14) New Windshield with Tint Strip
15) Herculiner / MonsterLiner on fender flares, roll cage, rock sliders, lower doors, Con-Ferr roof rack, winch, etc.
16) New Fluids - Engine, transmission, transfer case, axles . . .
17) Replaced Auxiliary Battery
18) Replaced Vinyl Windows on 3/4 Doors
19) Fresh coat of Maaco's finest
20) New Rims and Tires - Goodyear MT/Rs in 33x12.5 /15 on Ultra Nomad 15x8s

Already started the list of "To-Do's" for after the return from Moab. . .

'91 Sport

Moab 2016

Probably the best photo of my rig from Moab (taken by Tracy, aka Jeep Girl, or Mrs. RockRanger) while going the wrong way on Strike Ravine. . .
Strike Ravine.jpg

Trip was a good opportunity to re-acquaint the "Better-Half" to four wheeling and Moab; her last visit was in 2000.

Now, on to the post-Moab upgrades. . .

'91 Sport

Paul I read nothing about the most important part of your front bumper! We all know why that front bar is up so high to hold on to. :)

Very nice write-up!

Paul I read nothing about the most important part of your front bumper! We all know why that front bar is up so high to hold on to. :) Very nice write-up!

Ryan! -

Hope this finds you well, and thanks for the comments; as you might expect, it's a "work in progress" - - at least that what 2 1/2 decades of ownership has gotten me. . .

The front hoop does help when nature calls, but haven't used it in that mode for some time, wouldn't want to soil that new synthetic winch line!

Happy Trails,

'91 Sport

Glad to see you still got the humor! I am around, I just really don't post to much anymore. I read all the time but that's about it. Another year or two I hope to get another rig.

Just seen this thread Paul! Your rig is one of the finest, I have ever seen. Your attention to detail is amazing. Looks, capable, safety, and creature comforts, all in one rig. :thumbsup:

Oh, I had no idea you had an Atlas II, or that you painted the rig before Moab. :wtf:

Thanks Greg -

After seeing your rig up close in Moab, the "attention to detail" comment means a lot. . . Definitely think you've done a better job in that area, but after a few decades of ownership, haven gotten most of the bugs worked out - - now just to keep it all working. . .

Atlas II - yep. . . Best mod ever.

Happy Trails.

'91 Sport

What a gorgeous rig! Your time investment as well as the monetary investment have paid off for you. Your rig is more then worthy of a four-wheeler magazine write-up. I would love to see this one in person, and maybe one day I will. I was born and raised in Washington State and used to go 4 wheel-in back in the day. I'll be watching you......(This thread).....

I would love to see this one in person, and maybe one day I will. I was born and raised in Washington State and used to go 4 wheel-in back in the day.

Hey, thanks for the compliments. I've enjoyed the process, and usually find a new "project" every few years to keep it fresh.

Usually in Moab every few years, maybe see you there.

'91 Sport

Well, been almost a year since this happened. . .

Explorer Wreck (MAR 17).png

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I heard about this, is it all back together now? I'm taking some notes for my sport build.;)