Sandbox2.000 | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

  • Register Today It's free!


It's about time I created a registry for my '00 Sport!

It all started in October 2020 when my '97 XLT, the 97Sandbox, burned up its second 5R55E in 5 years. I tried all the fixes I could without a full trans rebuild, but ultimately couldn't get overdrive back. After a couple months of inner turmoil, I decided it was time to move on from my childhood family hauler/first car and get a manual replacement like I always wanted. For the next several months I watched online car marketplaces for manual Explorers and started accumulating parts for a build.

Come July of 2021, I found a 2000 Sport in Michigan that had recently been moved up from Texas. It was virtually rust free, but had been neglected and had over 250k on the odometer. Coincidentally, it had the same medium prairie tan interior and a similar tan exterior color as my '97 and I felt like it was probably meant to be. I got the owner to cut his asking price nearly in half and drove the Sport home to Wisconsin.


Introduction of the Sandboxes.

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!

After a good teardown and cleaning, I began grafting all the good parts from my '97 onto the Sport. The whole rear end moved over, replacing the 3.27 open 8.8 and mono leaves with a 3.73 L/S and multi-leaf packs. I also installed poly bushings.

At this point I decided it would be fun to build the '00 as a sort of tribute to the '97, swapping over as many parts as feasible, but also building the Sport into everything the XLT never could be. I swapped in a lot of nice interior parts and decided to make the '00 look like a '97 by swapping grilles, bumpers, tail lights, and tailgates.

Once I had exhausted the '97 of its useful parts, I reluctantly scrapped it (I sort of regret that now, but at the time I had nowhere to store a parts car). It was time to fully commit to the Sport.

I started by refreshing all the mechanical bits, and ultimately severely injured my 4.0 OHV by not bleeding the coolant well enough (whoops!). The full saga is in my 4.0 OHV Refresh thread.

After continuing to drive the Sport for a few months with no catastrophic failure, I decided I would keep limping along the 4.0 and forge ahead with a suspension overhaul in fall of 2022. You can read the full build thread here, or just read highlights below:
  • Coilover conversion
  • Addco swaybars
  • Energy Suspension poly bushings everywhere and Daystar poly body mounts
  • '01 Sport spindle swap for 12" rotors
  • Belltech lowering blocks
  • 17x9 Saleen knockoffs with 275/55R17 tires
  • Lots of other little stuff along the way


After the suspension overhaul, I tried to just enjoy the Sport and stuck to tackling smaller jobs throughout winter 2022/2023.

I finally reinstalled the full interior for the first time since the initial teardown:

And I even made my own version of a two-door leather passenger seat because I couldn't find one.

I reinstalled the black side trim and added some period-correct mud flaps:

In spring of 2023, my wife and I decided to say goodbye to city life and left Milwaukee for rural Nebraska (to be near family -- I promise there's nothing interesting in rural Nebraska). I pulled the Sport the whole way on a dolly behind a 26' U-Haul.


The Sandbox2.000 adjusted to farm life pretty well.


Busy unpacking and learning to keep up with a farmstead, I didn't do much on the Sport in summer 2023 other than install a Lund Windjammer I had snagged before leaving Wisconsin.

Oh and I picked up an M5R2 as well for eventual 5.0 swapping.

Later in the summer, I picked up a leaky, code-throwing '99 Mountaineer as a 5.0 donor. As I spent more time around the Mounty, I realized it was in better shape than I had thought and I also didn't have the time or proper space to execute an engine swap. Naturally that meant it was time to build the Mounty into a farm rig...right?

In the meantime, the Sport kept limping along and made it to a couple car meets

First car meet of 2024. Finally got black bumper trim everywhere except the valence.