On any given Sunday, if you're in the Glendale, Arizona, area and you need a partner to show you some unbelievable rockcrawling trails and wash areas, then Rick Horwitz could be your guide. Should you have trouble finding him, all you have to do is look for the bright-orange '93 Ford Explorer XL that is crawling over any rock in sight. A Web site developer by trade, Rick also hosts one of the most comprehensive and informative sites for Ford Explorer owners. One click to www.explorer4x4.com and you'll see just how serious he is about off-roading. As a matter of fact, the Web site assisted Rick with creating the work of art you see here.
Wanting a rig that would be able to live up to the trail names that he drives (The Terminator, Raw Deal, and Predator), Rick called upon Fabrication Suspension Technology (FST), a division of the famous Fly-N-Hi Off-road stores in the Phoenix area. Between Rick and fabrication guru Torrey Porter of FST, the entire front and rear suspension of the Explorer was redesigned from the ground upward. On the engineering board for the frontend was a custom four-link solid-axle conversion incorporating a Dana 44 front axle with 4-inch Superlift coil springs. A pair of Rancho RS 9000 shocks was chosen because of their ability to be adjusted for whatever type of trail Rick is running. The rear has an equally impressive lift setup. Wishing to keep the factory 8-1/2-inch rear axle, a set of custom arched National Spring 5-inch leaf springs was installed over the axle for additional clearance then attached to the strengthened frame by custom-built shackles. FST-fabricated custom shock mounts in the rear accommodate the Doetsch Tech 3000 shocks. The rear antisway bar was also relocated to help gain a few more inches of clearance when rolling across those Arizona-sized boulders. With the suspension completed, the truck has a ramp travel index score of 911 on a 24-degree ramp. Just for comparison's sake, a factory Explorer of the same year has a ramp travel index of 440 on the same 24-degree ramp. The 40 inches of wheel travel that the Explorer has is more than enough to make it through some of the rough stuff, as Rick puts it.
An elaborate suspension is only half of the equation to having a fully capable rockclimbing rig. Being able to distribute and apply even amounts of power to the 35x13.50x15 Mickey Thompson Baja Claw tires mounted on 15x10-inch steel wheels is the responsibility of the Advance Adapters Atlas II 4.3:1 Ultra Low Range transfer case, which is joined to the factory five-speed manual transmission. The front and rear differentials sport identical 4:88 ratio gearsets with ARB Air Lockers, which are attached to dual ARB compressors with a custom-fabricated FST Air Source CO2 tank. To protect these key components, FourXDoctor skidplates cover the front and rear differentials, the transfer case, the transmission, the engine, and the fuel tank. For increased protection from breakage and warping, the stock axleshafts were replaced in the rear with a pair from Moser.
One of the most necessary items to have when climbing is a bulletproof brake system, since at times the trail must be approached literally inch by inch. Opting for an aftermarket four-wheel disc system to replace the factory calipers and rotors, Rick enlisted Applied Rotor Technology in Glendale to design a state-of-the-art system that could handle the intended use, but also be low maintenance. Enter an '85 Ford Mustang SVO brake setup for the rear and an '80 Chevy Blazer system in the front. To prolong the lifespan and to minimize brake fade and corrosion of the key components, Applied Rotor Technology cryogenically deep-froze the rotors and the hubs in nitrogen. After this process was complete, the rotors were slotted to help dissipate heat and then plated with cadmium. The factory brake lines were replaced with braided steel lines from Superlift.
Even though Rick chose to stay focused on the truck's suspension, he couldn't help but make a few modifications to the stock 4.0L V-6 with EFI. For better breatheability, a Pro-Dyno custom exhaust system was installed along with a Hi-Flow catalytic converter. Following these items, a KKM true reverse intake kit was put into place. Finally, the computer system was given an update courtesy of a Hypertech computer chip.
Always one to keep his fellow off-roaders in mind, Rick installed a 9,000-pound Ramsey Pro winch to the custom-made FST front bumper, should the need arise to rescue someone less capable on a trail. To support the power that is required by the winch and dual PIAA lights, Rick replaced the factory single battery with dual Optima units. In back, FST fabricated a spare tire carrier, as well as a custom rear bumper, with an integrated gas can carrier and a set of 1/4-inch walled, 2-inch rectangular nerf bars. To update the overall appearance of his truck, Rick called upon Perry's Fab & Fiber of Phoenix to install a '98 Explorer frontend clip along with pre-runner-style front fiberglass fenders for additional wheel clearance. When all the body and fiberglass work was completed, the bright-orange paint with clearcoat was applied.
The interior of the rig was basically left stock with the exception of the communication system, which Rick installed himself. Consisting of an ICOM 2800H VHF/UHF transceiver, an ICOM 706 HF transceiver, and a Garmin GPS III Plus system, you can bet that this is one Explorer that knows where it has been and where it's going. In addition to the communication equipment inside, there is also a plethora of other goodies such as spare hoses, strobe lights, extra parts, a Hi-Lift jack, and even canned and dry food.
You know, come to think of it, the next time anyone is driving through Arizona, we think it would be a good idea to stop in and visit Rick. Who knows? Maybe, you'll get a chance to take a quick peek at his creation and get some ideas for your own 'crawler.
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|Vehicle ||: ||'93 Ford Explorer 4x4 XL |
|Owner/hometown ||: ||Rick Horwitz/Glendale, Arizona |
|Engine ||: ||4.0L Ford V-6 EFI |
|Exhaust ||: ||Pro-Dyno exhaust system; Hi-Flow catalytic |
|Transmission ||: ||Ford five-speed manual transmission |
|Transfer case ||: ||Advance Adapters Atlas II 4.3:1 Ultra Low Range |
|Axles/differentials ||: ||Dana 44 front axle; 8-1/2-inch Corporate rear; |
|4:88 ARB gears; ARB Air Lockers (front & rear) |
|Suspension ||: ||4-inch four-link front suspension with Superlift |
|coil springs; Rancho RS 9000 shocks (front); |
|5-inch lift National Spring leaf springs (rear); |
|Doetsch Tech 3000 shocks (rear); custom- |
|fabricated shackles |
|Wheels ||: ||15x10-inch steel wheels |
|Tires ||: ||35x13.50x15 Mickey Thompson Baja Claw |
|Other ||: ||Dual Optima batteries; Ramsey Pro 9,000-pound |
|winch; PIAA PRO 50-Series lights; custom gas |
|can and tire carrier; Garmin GPS III Plus |
|navigation system |