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Ford Explorer
In the beginning...
The story of the First Ford Explorer

Information for this article was provided by:
Derek Elliott, Former Ford Body & Electrical Engineer


This is the first Ford Explorer to roll off of
the Louisville production line. Sept. 1990

  • The FPV (Financial Planning Volume) objective was 250,000 units per year over a 10 year cycle. From the projected FPV the profit margin goal was set.

  • After all the financial & political mess had been sorted out we could now start the task we had been trained for, design engineering, safety, durability & meet FMVSS, (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards) for certification and sign off by our legal office.

  • Back in Dearborn we got to work with the HAD to get the clay model to a point of feasibility that satisfied styling & all BMDs, (Basic Manufacturing Divisions) as well as outside suppliers.

  • Once the clay model is fully feasible we have reached the first mile stone. The model is then scanned electronically providing engineering with the vehicles outside shape.

  • At clay approval you are telling top executives that you are an an 80% confidence level that can build the UN46 at a given production rate (84 per hour) by the Job #1 date, and that date is set in concrete.

  • My task now was to ensure that we could meet both the timing and feasibility through to Job #1 i.e.

  • Prove out the vehicle ergonomics
  • Package the driveline, engine & suspension
  • Make sure that the vehicles structure will meet both safety & durability requirements.
  • keep the styling theme on track
  • meet all European standards for export units
  • Design/Engineer into the UN46 all safety requirements i.e. restraints both passive & active.
  • Build prototypes in line with PERT timing objective PERT (Program Evaluation & Research Techs)
  • meet the Job #1 timing - less excuses
  • Maintain program cost objectives
  • After 18 months into the program the following changes were asked for by management:

  • Generate a two door sports model
  • Meet 2 1/2 MPH bumper impact without damaging any sheetmetal skin. At 2 1/2 MPH the bumper deflected .75"
  • Mazda Corp. wants a two door sport vehicle restyled to Mazda's image. 
  • We met with Mazda management in LA & worked out how we could meet Mazda's wants without upsetting the UN46 program.

  • We made Job #1 for both the Explorer & the Mazda Navajo at a build rate of 84 units per hour, instead of meeting the objective FPV of 250,000 units per year we have built over 400,000 units since 1990.

  • Prior to Job #1 I was told I had caner of the lung which put me out of action for 6 months.

  • 1995 UPN - (Utility & Pickup of North American Operations)

  • Major facelift to the body styling

  • Add SLA front suspension (short arm - long arm) & delete the I beam front suspension.

  • Redesign the Ranger wit ha major facelift

  • Per Mr. Trottman our new CEO replacing Red Poling he wanted the 302 V8 packaged in the Explorer design & design a new cargo box for the Ranger Sports Pickup

  • And so we start all over again, but this time we had to have all of the engineering done & go to Job #1 in less than 36 months from clay approval.

Derek Elliott

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