Whitey turns red build thread! | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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Whitey turns red build thread!

Well, I figured this would be a good single source to document my next project. I've just finished a 10 month race truck build and finally got it out of my garage and parked on the side yard so I can start my exploder next!

So here's the info to make this whole project make a bit of sense...

I picked up this explorer, it's considered a '91.


The catch with it though is it's a mutt... It's actually 4 expos pieced together to build something that runs. List of things wrong with it, no cruise control, no heater, no a/c, turn signals don't work, power windows sorta kinda sometimes work, power locks sorta kinda sometimes work, missing a lot of the smog stuff and won't pass smog here in Nevada, doesn't run right, engine/trans/t-case all leak oil, T-case motor doesn't work, and I'm sure there's some more. I bought it mostly for the parts on it.

What it does have... Cut and turned with 4.5" per side widened beams with uniball pivots, extended radius arms on heim joint pivots, plated and braced beam hangers, real beadlock wheels, full fiberglass front and rear, national leaf springs in the rear with some nice custom shackles, rear axle is a newer 8.8 with discs and 4.56 gears.

For conversation purposes, we'll call him "whitey"... Whitey is an auto trans and pushbutton (non working) T-case with manual hubs.

Now let me introduce you to "Red". Red is also a '91, only he's not been molested and abused and raped and pillaged of parts by multiple previous owners. Red is a 5 speed manual and manual transfercase from the factory! (I prefer manual and it took me over 5 months to find this...) EVERYTHING works on Red and works really really good! I have receipts from the previous owner of a ford crate motor installed by ford dealer with less then 20K on it. I also have receipts for a rebuilt 5 speed trans from the ford dealer with less the 15K on it. Red runs great!!! Only issues are inside, he's missing a center console, the headliner looks like it got in a fight with a lion and the dash is cracking.

Nice thing though, whitey's interior is in great shape and is the same color so it's just a matter of swapping out the parts!

Meet red...



So the plan is to take all the fun suspension parts off of whitey and use them to build Red. Along the way I'm adding a few more custom touches and upgrades as well. Is this going to be some long drawn out never finished project? Heck no!!!! I have about 95% of the parts on hand for the entire build and I'm hoping for the entire build to take about 2 months total to finish EVERYTHING wanted with the only exceptions being a c-clip eliminator kit for the 8.8 and a front winch. I'm not saying those won't be done in the next 2 months but they aren't a priority and I'm kinda just waiting for a deal I can't pass up type situation before pulling the trigger on one or both.

So, here's the parts I currently have in my possession slated to get put on Red.

  • 12" king coilovers for front
  • cut and turned D35 beams, widened 4.5" per side, uniball pivots
  • Extended radius arms with heimed pivots
  • front 3rd memeber with 4.56 gears and powertrax no slip
  • custom machined axles for new wider track width, not cut and sleeved but new custom machined axles
  • 2" stroke hydro bumps for the front end to help for the occasional hard hit.
  • National spring leafs for the rear
  • custom shackles
  • 12" stroke king 3 tube bypass shocks
  • fiberwerx rear panels
  • newer ford 8.8 with discs, 4.56 gears
  • Detriot locker new in the box ready to install in the 8.8

Whitey has the 95+ conversion clip on it. While I like it, it's not what I want, so that whole clip is getting sold. Red will keep the classic front square body lines but I have a set of mcneil 6" fiberglass fenders currently on order. I should see them this week or next supposedly.

Also I'll be upgrading the steering and building a single side swing set steering for red to keep the bumpsteer hopefully somewhat minimal.

Now what am I building? Well, with the list of parts above you can tell it should be a fairly capable ride. My intent is to keep the interior 100% stock. No cage, no cutting, no craziness. Inside is going to get a mild stereo system and cleaned up. Because I'm not going to be tubbing the rear wheel wells tire size will be limited to what I can fit in them. I will be either on 33" or 35" tires mounted on champion beadlocks (different then the KMC beads that are currently on whitey).

My intent when finished is to have a clean fairly different somewhat head turning type daily driver ford explorer. I want a nice all purpose vehicle. Something I can cruise comfortably around town, hold a decent pace in the dirt, pull it into 4lo and go show my jeep friends what's up. It's not being built to haul butt or race around in. I actually own another vehicle that's MUCH more suited for that kind of stuff and actually is purpose built for that. I also am partners in an offroad race truck which this explorer will see chase duties for so why would I go out and jump this thing and beat it thru whoops when I own and have access to better tools for that job. It will be setup to handle the occasional hard hit though as you can tell.

So there's my novel!!! Following posts from here out will be mostly picture oriented to document the build and answer any questions people may have or what not so lets get started...


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Day 1 of the build was yesterday! It's not often you take a built vehicle and document it going backwards! LOL


Man it's ugly under those fenders!!!



Hover mode!



Some of the parts off the hoopty slated to see a new life under Red.


And I didn't take pictures but Red got torn down and is in the same hover mode. I'm sure you know what a stock expo with no rear suspension under it looks like anyways. But I did take the stock stuff off of Red and slap it under whitey really quick so that I could put it back on the ground and keep the junkyard look somewhat minimal for my neighbors sake!


So where I'm at right now, I've got the disc brake 8.8 in my trailer here at work out in the parking lot. It's already got 4.56 gears in it but I picked up a detroit locker and it's getting dropped off at the axle shop on my way home for install. I have an appointment for Friday and they said it'll be a single day turn around but I figure the housing is out so I'll drop it off today and maybe they'll knock it out even earlier, won't hurt to drop it off early either way.

Tonight I'll tear down the national leaf packs, wire wheel them clean, put a fresh coat of graphite spray on them and get them ready for reassembly. Before putting them back together though I'll leave them apart and mount just the single main leaf spring. Once I get the rear axle back from the shop I'll temporarily mount it up to just that main leaf and that will allow me to cycle the rear suspension from full droop to bump. I'll do this to figure out the custom shock setup in the rear and get my new king bypass shocks mounted up. At the same time I'll try both 33 and 35 inch tires to see what I'm going to have for clearance issues and address those too. As long as the axle shop has the rear end done by end of the day on Friday my goal is to have the whole rear suspension of the expo built and done and sitting back on the ground by the end of this next weekend. Then I'll work on getting the fiberglass fenders mounted over the evenings next week.

I will keep this thread updated fairly often as like I said, I'm hoping this whole build, start to finish is less then 2 months! I'd like to hit the trails and have it ready for paint by early may. By the way, it's staying that factory maroon color but might have some 2 tone come into the mix. Will see what I decide once it's all said and done on that part though.


That looks like a fun build!!!! Subscribing to see how it turns out:D

Subscribing! Those rear quarters look hideous, was is really necessary for the PO to cut THAT much out?

yeah, they did a pretty hideous job cutting them up for sure! It's actually amazing when I looked at those, then turned around to look at red in the garage with no cut and realizing how much they actually did cut out! I will say though, the tub job they did turned out really clean on the interior portion! I'll grab pictures of that tonight to post up just to show you guys. I actually won't be doing that to mine which is why I might be limited to 33's instead of 35's. My reason for not wanting to tub it is I used to own a relatively nicely built '92 about 10 years ago and I really really liked the fact that I could fold the rear seats down, blow up my air mattress and easily sleep in the back of it rather then a tent when camping. With the wheel wells tubbed it kills that option so that's why I'm pretty intent on the cab interior staying 100% stock other then a quickly removable fairly small spearker box.

It's not being built to haul butt or race around in. I actually own another vehicle that's MUCH more suited for that kind of stuff and actually is purpose built for that. I also am partners in an offroad race truck which this explorer will see chase duties for so why would I go out and jump this thing and beat it thru whoops when I own and have access to better tools for that job. It will be setup to handle the occasional hard hit though as you can tell.

By the way, just to touch on this a bit more really quick here at the beginning... Here's my other 100% home built projects that I hint to in the quote above. I'm building the expo more as a daily driver and crawler with the capability to go fast between the pavement and the trail heads. These are why I have no ambition to really actually use the expo as my go fast dirt ride.

Here's the race truck I built with a partner. I did 99% of the fab work myself solo in the garage.




And then this is my other personal owned play truck. I'm just posting these to kind of give you an idea of my background as far as garage work goes. This expo actually is not intending to end up remotely as extreme as these are built.




Anyways, tomorrow's pictures should involve how to break down a leaf pack, clean them up, and mounting up the main leaf to prep for cycling the rear suspension....

Quick update and will have photos to follow after this weekend. During this week I got the rear axle and detroit dropped off to be installed and should be picking those up this afternoon. I also got the national leaf springs broke down, fully cleaned up and a fresh coating of graphite on them. They're slick as a babies rear now and should ride great! I've got the main leafs and shackles installed on red and am ready to slide the axle under it to start cycling the rear. The point of cycling the rear suspension and being able to go from full bump to full droop is to allow me to figure out the best mounting location for the rear bypass shocks. If all goes well I'll have Red back on the ground by the end of the weekend with the new leaf springs, new axle and new shocks all installed. Next week hopefully will be installing the rear fiberglass and then I can move onto the front end!

Updated photos coming relatively soon!

I might be limited to 33's instead of 35's.
The 35s will fit fine with no trimming in the rear.

The old rig with 4" lift on 33s


Same lift with 35s stuffed and no trimming in the rear. (Rubicon)


Looking forward to seeing this come together! :thumbsup:

Oh really? I remember my old one I had to trim a tiny bit and roll the edge to keep the 33's from rubbing. Well, more like just barely kissing which is why I wasn't sure on the 35's fitting. I'll be stoked if the 35's fit cause that's what I'd rather run! I'd rather keep my toyota on 33's. Basically I've got a set of 33's and 35's to share between my two rides. I can run either on my toyota but actually prefer the 33's on it so I'm "hoping" the 35's will fit in the rear of the Expo! That's good to know!

Outta curiosity, how'd the expo do on the rubicon? I fully intend to run this on the trail maybe this summer but if not, next summer for sure!

(funny thing, that rock you're on looks like the EXACT same one a friend lost some rocker paint on an XJ on last time we ran that trail, funny part of the situation is the paint job was less then a week old and his rocker guards were in his garage at home, we ran out of time to get them installed! LOL)

Progress should start happening REALLY fast as long as the shop has my axle done today. Just stopped by on my lunch and they hadn't started it yet but said it was next to do as soon as the guy got back from lunch that was assigned to it. So crossing fingers on no issues and I can pick it up after work!

Yeah, no trimming on that one. The wheels were 15x8 w/3.75" backspacing. I couldn't roll the back quarters since I had the bushwacker flares on it. They need the stock roll to mount to.

That rig handled the Rubicon just fine...twice. :)
I went with Tom (FAKRWEE) and Paul B. (the other two rigs on Perry's site for glass).

This looks like it's going to be a great story and a great writeup. Im along for the ride!

So I have an issue with saying "no"... I'm one of those people that tends to help others before myself. So today started with fabbing up lower shocks mounts on a '77 jeep wagoneer along with some exhaust hanger work. But after that I got some progress done on the expo. It's a little ugly but don't judge yet cause it's not finished by any means.

As for fitting 35's, it's a go! Not sure how anyone else fit 35's without trimming but for my particular expo, the cut off wheel came out to make some room. Actually, to be more exact, I found that 35's will fit if you're only worried about articulating clearance. They will probably rub the top of the wheel well but they will fit past the lip of the fender. It won't hurt to trim just a little bit off the edge rolled in though if you really want to be 100% rub free on the outter edge during articulation depending on your wheel backspacing. I did find though, under a straight compression situation assuming your wheel offset is fairly centered in the wheel you will probably crash into the outside of the fender lip. Now if this is a situation you probably will never see, I wouldn't worry. I decided to trim though just to be safe since I have the fiberglass to cover up anything I can't make sexy once all finished anyways. LOL

Anyways, I got the axle back from my local driveline shop. It's now stuffed with 4.56 gears that were already in it while installed on whitey but I transferred it over to red. Before tossing it under though I had the shop install a detroit locker. Here's the rear suspension cycled at full bump. I'm happy with this, the leaf spring doesn't look like it should get too trashed from going into negative arch.


So next I put a 33 on the driver side and a 35 on the passenger side. The 33 will clear no problem on a straight compression hit. The 35, not so much. So I came up with a game plan to fix that issue... (everything pictured is with a 35 on both sides, once I committed to clearing for 35's I pulled the 33 off and put a 35 on both sides to work with.)




Here's the drivers side before I cut it with a 35" tire. The axle is still about 1.5" from contacting the bumpstop and you can see my reason for cutting. In a rock crawling articulation situation I'd be fine... I simulated it today to check but I want to make sure if I accidentally fly into some whoops or a washout too fast I'm covered too.


So here's the after shot to show clearance. The axle is stuffed into the bumpstop at this point.


On articulation the tire will totally bottom out into the wheel well and rub but I'm fine with that. Rubbage on a flat surface is fine in my book. I just wanted to make sure all the edges/lips cleared. From here I'll fill in/patch the gaps in the body work created by my cuts and move forward. Just as a super rough refrence, here's the rear fiberglass panel roughly held in place to show the final tuck. My finish work should turn out decent but even if it doesn't, it'll be hidden and covered up anyways!!! LOL


Along with the wheel well cutting, I cut out the spare tire winch crossmember and clearenced another crossmember to make room for my upper shock mounts. I also removed a home made rear bumper/hitch combo which was interesting to say the least. This is how it sits for the night.


If all goes as planned tomorrow I'm hoping to have the wheel well gaps filled in, upper shock mounts fabbed, leafs reassembled and the expo sitting back on it's own weight in the rear so that hopefully I can spend the next couple week night evenings on getting the fiberglass mounted.

Anyways, that's where I'm at. I did some cycling today of the rear end to figure out rear upper shock mounts and I'm happy with what I'm seeing. If it was going to be a purpose built high speed rig I'd go another direction with what I have planned but for a daily driver, crawler, and occasional high speed runner I think it's going to be fine. They're going to be laid back at a bit more of an extreme angle then I'd really like but without going into the cab and the fact I am running 3 tube bypass shocks I think they still will work out okay. I am definitely sacrificing some rear suspension performance with what I'm planning tomorrow but I still think I'll be more then satisfied when all said and done. Hopefully the next updates will show some shocks and it sitting on it's feet for real!

Man you did a ton in one day. I like the lines of your wheel well cuts. They're just the right amount of trimming :thumbsup:

Well, not even remotely the progress I had planned today! Started on it around 9am and by 10:30 am my welder was dead and pretty much everything at this point is dependent on it working! Hoping it's just a liner that died and I'll pick up a new one tomorrow and hopefully be back in business. Bummer part is by killing the entire day today it sets me back probably 3-4 days cause it'll take that many after work evenings to knock out what I was planning to do today. Oh well, it'll still get done one way or another! LOL

Welder seems to be back in business but I didn't do a whole lot tonight cause I want to hit the welding supply shop tomorrow and ask a couple questions to verify everything is right. I noticed something I've never noticed before basically and just want to make sure it's right before burning up too much more wire and possibly hurting the welder. It also seems to be welding a bit hotter then I remember it ever doing before which makes patching sheet metal a bit interesting trying not to burn thru and make large holes. Hopefully tomorrow night I'll have pictures of the fenders fully patched up and maybe some rear upper shock mounts started even! If I get a thumbs up from the weld shop tomorrow my new goal is to have it back on the ground by Thursday night if not wed even! A little bummed with the delay but what can ya do right? The pictures will start up again hopefully tomorrow night and continue pretty steady assuming no more hiccups!

Got the pass side fender patched up last night. Needs a little love with the grinder tonight but it's basically less then 5 minutes from finished as far as I'm concerned. Will decide when I get to body/paint stage on how much effort I'm going to put into making it look good. Probably won't do a lot since it'll be hidden under the fiberglass panels anyways. I mostly just wanted to get some structure back to the body panels and fill in the open wheel well.

I also got a good start to my rear upper shock mounts last night. Assuming I can get some parts plasma cut today I should hopefully be able to button it up tonight. If it was going to be a purpose built speed rig I'd definitely be doing something different then what I am but being a DD and a crawler type rig primarily with a little bit of chase duty for the race truck I think what I've done will be fine. It's similar to how I setup an old expo I had and it did fairly decent with MUCH less shock then what I'm running this time around.

I'll post photos tonight or tomorrow morning once finished with it at full droop and bump. Assuming I can get the parts cut today I'm looking good for setting it on the ground tomorrow night and should be able to spend Sat mounting fiberglass hopefully.

I know, I know, less words, more pictures! They're coming tomorrow I promise!!!


..:shifty_ey...and hoping to supply some spycam pics soon..

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Call me a looser, whatever... I've got the camera in my pocket with pictures from last night on it but guess where the cable to upload the pictures is not at? That would be here at work with me. LOL Doht!!!

But hey, I got shock mounts finished up last night. Had to clearance a little bit here and there for them but all good. Hoping to get some issues with my leaf springs fixed today after work at a shop here in town really quick, pick up some new longer bumpstops to help keep from hurting the shocks or bending the mounts and then if all goes well I'll have it on the ground tonight for sure assuming the spring shop can knock out what i need done really quick for me.