1999 Exploder

Exploder_M

Active member
Joined
Apr 18, 2022
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98
Copying this over from that forbidden website.

Sept 1, 2020
So I'm a Chevy guy and always have been. When I was in high school I saw this rad explorer always cruising around town with a major California lift and HID headlights. I loved the look of that explorer and thought that it would be cool to own one but it's a ford and all my friends would talk trash because they all knew I hated fords.


Fast forward to a couple years ago one of my friend's brother in law had a 1999 explorer that was just about ready for the junkyard with multiple problems. We were all sitting at the table and he said "hey Marshall do you want to buy it? How about for $750 bucks?" All of a sudden it seemed like it got quiet in the room and all my friends were saying "Do it!" My friends brother in law and I shook hands, he said "sold!", and that's how I bought my first ford.


Here it is when I first got it
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It had 3 different kinds of tires, 2 different kinds of wheels, check engine light on, ac barely worked, drivers seat and center armrest tore up, interior filthy, multiple oil leaks, when cold it only started if you gave it throttle, the radios screen didnt work, drivers side left speaker didnt work, one door wouldnt open, multiple latch problems, tranny would shudder when shifting into forward or reverse, broken foglights, alignment shot, no spare tire, missing jack handles, all brakes shot, entire front end suspension wore out etc..

The list went on and on, kind of like my sentence. So the first thing I did was maintenance items such as fluid changes and cleaned up the interior. I scanned the codes and found both banks lean. Yanked both upper and lower intake manifolds, replaced respective gaskets, and check engine light disappeared. I spent many saturdays at multiple junkyards to find missing pieces and then got the seat and center armrest re-upholstered. Then I got the windows tinted and slapped in a double din dvd radio with a little boom boom in the rear cargo area.

I drove it around for a few months and It was coming time to get the worn out front end situation sorted out. I got all new ball joints, brakes(both front and rear), and tierod ends. Boy she drove nice and smooth now.

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Yes I represent USA tools and those are USA jack stands too, not no harbor freight cracking junk.

Then it happened, the bug hit, I needed that California lift that I remember seeing in high school. So I called up Brandon at BTF and got the maxtrac lift spindle coming. BTF is a great company with great products and I highly recommend them to anyone.

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Now that we got that out of the way, the tires needed addressing/ a dressing, get it? hahaha

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So after a lot of research of what would fit without rubbing I got some 32 X 11.50 15" bfg all terrains. Originally wanted mud terrains but they dont make them in this size. Now she rode super smooth, straight, and with style.


Of course all the comments started flying at me from everyone saying "you need to lift the back" "its dragging on the ground" etc. In all honesty, I did need to have the back lifted due to the main reason I bought this vehicle that I forgot to mention from the beginning. It has a tow hitch and I had plans for that tow hitch. I had these kinds of plans,

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The way I made this happen was ask my good friend the bodj (he does awesome work) to make me some lift shackles. 10" center to center bolt hole shackles was what we settled on and he tig welded up some beautiful works of art. Even to this day I havent painted them (just some clear coat so they dont rust) so I can look at that fine work.

This was the end of the first major stage. I had a working truck to load my dirtbike on, take it to the desert, and sleep in the back if needed.
 
Stage 2. So Here are the famous bodj built shackles that @the bodj built for me. I drilled the holes out, slapped them on, and that gave me a good 2 1/2' lift in the rear to help make my bike carrier useful and not drag on the ground.

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Around this time I realized having my torsions cranked was dumb due to the fact that I was greatly limiting my down travel and when going over speed bumps the front would fully droop out and the shocks would hit hard internally. So I lowered the front a little bit and oh my goodness what a great decision. She rode like a dream now.

Up next to stage 3, the front bumper had to go. Back again to the bodj built shop for a front bumper.

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Of course I spent some time with the shop dog-my favorite dog of all time.

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And we now have a rad looking and strong well built bumper.


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So here comes stage 4, more is better right? How about we add some more travel to the mix? This is when I decided to contact Brandon at BTF again due to my great first customer service experience with him when I got my maxtrac lift spindles from him a while back. I ordered up the basic ranger edge/explorer longtravel kit. While waiting for the kit I sourced a set of 2.5 x 8" king coilovers with the 600 pound eibach springs and mcneil 4" bulge front fiberglass.

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Back again to The Bodj.

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If someone does great quality custom work and very willing to work with you, why go somewhere else? Every step of the way, The Bodj constantly asked me how I wanted certain things from design, to strength, to fitment. And let me tell you, I was pretty picky. I wanted arched shock hoops and wanted to keep most if not all the stock components in the stock location for now. It was a very tight fit for both hoops but the passenger side especially due to the ac accumulator, ac box, and both the windshield washer and coolant reservoirs.
This is the drivers side.

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This is the passenger side

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5 bends on 4 axis. We needed to have both shocks mount in the same plane in correlation to the frame and I wanted the shock tabs as close to directly on the bottom of the hoop as possible.

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Next came the engine cross brace. I have the 4.0 SOHC and it's a tight fit to fit a 1 3/4" tube across the top of the engine without hitting the idle air control valve and yet still allowing the hood to close.

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And here she be.

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So a minor update, getting prepared for stage 5- the rear. My plan is to run deaver leafs with 2.5 by 16" king bypasses mounted to a mild in cab "bed cage". I got a used set of g50 deavers, flipped the center pin, and installed them. I was not happy with the outcome. It did not lift the rear the 3/4" that I needed to make the truck level, and at the same time the deavers were weaker for carrying a load versus the stock leafs. The G50s are made for a ranger with a fuel cell and a bed cage not a heavy explorer.

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Went to deaver in Santa Ana and spoke to Scott and Jeff to help me get the right spring setup. Jeff gave me a few Ideas, drew up some custom leafs, and I currently have a new leafpack on order to support my current weight and height specs.

Now the right thing to do is to slap in an f150 rear end to get that thiccness but that is a huge jump in the build so for now I will stick with the 8.8 and look to regear it and install a locker in the near future.

For now I decided to go the controversial route and get 2" wheel spacers from Bora/ aka Motorsport-tech. I got them custom made to be hub centric and wheel centric. I would have them mounted right now but it would be like a stancenation honda with the tires slamming into the quarter panels.

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Front track width is 84" from outside of tires. Rear is 74". These spacers will help to make the rear a little more proportional and stable at 78" wide. I test fit one of the spacers and it fit like a glove. Very happy with the product so far.
Next order of business is rear fiberglass which I am currently debating on mcneil or fiberwerx for a black friday deal. More to follow later.
 
-Continuing the repost from DR-
So a quick update, I took everyone's advice and slapped on the 2" wheel spacers, trimmed the fenders up a bit, and installed a spartan lunchbox locker. Been driving it around on the street for a week and it sure ticks pretty good while making slower corners. It doesn't pull or clunk so I am very happy with it so far. Took it in a dirt field and it locked up perfectly.
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So I had something very interesting happen on its first desert trip with the locker. I went out to the #gofastexplorers meet in plaster city and on the first run I went out with the new locker, I was going about 40mph in a desert wash that was super choppy and rutted out. All of a sudden I hear a loud grinding/ ratcheting and lost all forward motion. ABS light came on and I let of the throttle and slowed down to about 15mph. I applied throttle again and rear end sounded fine and ran good the rest of the day.
After I shut off engine and restarted it, the abs light went away. I'm guessing something happened with the spartan locker to where it started skipping/slipping and in turn the speed sensor on the ring gear was reading a much higher speed than the wheel speed sensors. This has me slightly concerned as to the reliability of this locker now.
As I said It ran perfect the rest of the day and locked and unlocked perfectly as it should. Drove it home with no issues. I'm wondering if this is part of a break-in procedure or something I did incorrect installing it. All measurements were correct and within spec according to spartan.
 
So here is stage 5 in progress currently. Got a custom G50 deaver leaf pack that Jeff at Deaver built for about 350-400 pounds of extra weight over a stock explorer. 2.5 x 16" king bypasses. 2.0" x 4" king bumps.

Now what almost everyone said was that explorers with stock rear ends are not able to fit shocks on the outside of the frame. As you can see, The bodj has skills and made it happen. Now Keep in mind im running -28 offset wheels with 2" spacers with 32x11.5 r15 tires.

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The factory shackle mount location in the frame was incorrect for the new longer deavers and the 10'" long shackles. After a lot of cycling the new location was placed slightly forward and up.
*This ford explorer frame is NOT SYMETRICAL. The left frame rail is straight but the right frame rail kicks up so the shackle mount is in a different location. Thanks Ford.
Left frame rail

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Right frame rail

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Bed cage

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This is a 32x11.5 tire which is why the down tubes from the shock mount has that kink in them, to clear the tire.

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The Bodj can throw down beads

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U-bolt eliminator plates

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Next up was a rear bumper, rear fiberwerx fiberglass, some powdercoating, and proper height leafs.

Who doesn't like a Carolina squat? This was the first set of custom deavers and the free arch just wasn't enough for the weight of the exploder. They just weigh so much out back.
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Bumper
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Orange!
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So it took 4 different leaf packs to get the ride height how I wanted it. Now it was very slightly stink butting in the back but I knew it would settle especially with the load I would put on the back.

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Settled nicely with weight out back
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So the maxtrac spindles are only good for about a 33" tire and bigger than that or with harder driving can snap off the snout and the wheel goes with it. I constantly found myself adjusting the front wheel bearings and always had the thought of the wheel falling off in the back of my head. This long travel utilizes a lower ball joint and standard tie rod end. BTF doesn't make a fabricated spindle for this long travel kit, or do they?

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They do now! So these are the brand new BTF 2wd xlt/edge fabricated lift spindles. They run a d35 bolt on spindle so this gives me confidence to run the exploder without worrying of failure. This was the final piece to the puzzle for this stage. I'm trying not to snowball this exploder and just keep it at a happy medium and reliable.
 
I dont know, How about $250. Comes with newish rotors, bearings, dust caps, upper pinch bolts and nuts. Ready to bolt on.
 
So I forgot about one of the most important parts of the build. This stage came just before the spindles. Had @the bodj whip up a cage and slap in my custom ordered PRPs with 5 point harnesses. 1 3/4" DOM, 360* welded.
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A-pillar tube attaching to frame
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B-pillar tube attaching to frame
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D pillar attaching to frame.
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Incorporated into the rear bumper
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Some new stuffs. I got tired of the China light bars on the front so got some lp6s with the help of Bill, the BLGT forum coordinator for Baja Designs. These lights are so bright I can't believe I went so many years without them.
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Also a thicker 3/16" 6061 skidplate. New ADV baker flat top fiberglass front fenders

New rear shackles with cross brace.
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Got a short 2 ft buggy whip for the flag run at the cleandezert cleanup november 2023.

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Now the next thing on the list is skinny 35"s tires or 34"s in metric size. Also, should I keep 15" wheels or go 17" if they have 4.5" bolt pattern in a wheel i like?
 
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I've been cruising around all these years with a stock jack so I finally got a harbors 1.5 ton jack mounted to a TT Motorsports jack skid plate with quick release mount. Thanks Tommy. It fits like a glove right behind the box thanks to the trick brackets that The Bodj fabricated and munted to the cage. It doesn't rattle either. Jack handles are located in between body and right side of box and are wedged in there pretty good so no rattling from them either

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