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Paul Sabin's 
1991 Ford Explorer Sport

Perched atop Arch Canyon

I bought my 91’ Sport in the spring of 1993. I kept the Sport bone stock for the first few years, primarily because I was not yet afflicted with the "build-up bug". Off roading was limited to the beaches of North Carolina and local ORV trails. The Sport performed well, but would be a stellar performer with a few upgrades.

The first modification was the installation of the Borla Headers and Cat-Back Exhaust system, installed in 1995. The Sport was towing our other vehicle from North Carolina to our new residence in Washington State and felt it was the ideal excuse to add some bolt on performance. At this time I also added the K&N filter, and swapped out the original rubber with 30x9.50x15 Firestone ATX tires. The tires fit fine and the stock 3.55 gearing was adequate to compensate for the size difference. 

Although the truck was still largely stock, we still enjoyed taking it to the area beaches and limited 4x4 trips throughout Washington State. The only modification was the Smittybuilt dual tube bumper (after backing into a telephone pole). It was not until this past year that the build-up began in earnest.

In September of 1998 I had the Rancho 2½" Lift Kit installed. My rationale on the 2½" kit was based on the thought that I wouldn’t go bigger than 31" tires and didn’t want to have to lengthen brake lines, install heavy duty brakes, or upgrade to lower gearing. I chose AR 767 steel 15x8 rims with 4" of backspacing. Although I could have kept the original rims, the stock 5¼" backspacing on the 7" rims caused the front tires to rub the Rancho extended radius arms short of full steer.

For tires I went with the 31x10.50x15 Firestone RMT (Radial Mud Terrain). They are similar to the BFG Mud Terrain, but the tread pattern is not quite as aggressive. The on-highway ride is fine. To date I have been impressed with their performance in mud, slick rock, loose gravel, and sand. The 4" backspacing gave the Sport a wider stance, but at the cost of exposing the front tires outside of the fender well. The solution was Bushwhacker’s Extend-a-Fenders, which fit perfectly.

After the switch to the 31s I added the Jet Performance Chip. Although the gains did not seem significant, any small bit to increase horsepower is welcome. At this time I ordered the James Duff Pre-Runner style front bumper. I had the rear tubular style and wanted to mirror the same style up front. After about three years the Smittybuilt was showing it’s age, so before mounting the Duff bumper I had both front and rear bumpers sprayed with Line-X, a commercial truck bed lining. This gives the bumpers a textured rubberized coating that to date has stood up well to off road driving conditions. The Duff bumper had light tabs so I mounted Hella 500 fog lights up front. Both bumpers look great, and the new front bumper allowed me to mount GM tow hooks to the frame. I like the GM hooks because they are flat, keeping a yank strap from sliding off as well as being a great jacking platform for the Hi-Lift. I also created a drop bracket from squared steel tubing to mount GM tow hooks to the rear of the vehicle, which again makes a great jacking platform. 

Next was traction control and gearing. By now I really had the build-up bug and wanted to get great traction without sacrificing on-highway performance. I looked at all conceivable options: Limited Slips,   E-Z Locker, Detroit, "Clutchless" and of course the Air Locker from ARB. Since my truck is a daily driver, lockers front and rear would probably be too hard on the drive train. I could not find a limited slip for the front reverse cut Dana 35- - but I’m sure they are out there somewhere. The final outcome was the ARBs. Most expensive of the bunch, but the first climb I would have not made with limited slips would have made wish I’d dropped the extra money for the ARBs. With traction improvement I also went to lower gearing, settling for 4.10s. Although my initial intent was not to swap gears, I found the 3.55s lackluster with the 31s. Additionally, I plan to go to at least 32s, so I figured the deeper gears would be better suited for future upgrades. 

I’ve recently added a Con-Ferr roof rack, Warn Lock Out Hubs, and the KKM filter element.

Future upgrades include armor for the front and rear differentials, and rear shock mount skid plates. Additionally, I’m planning to fabricate a storage system for the rear cargo area.

Only regret (or "If I had to do it all over again") I would have probably gone with a 4" lift kit in lieu of the 2½" kit. I have a very capable off-road vehicle, it would be more so with 33" tires. 


  Engine  - 4.0 L V-6
     KKM Filter
     Jet Power Chip

  Suspension - Rancho 2 ½" Suspension Lift Kit
     Rancho RS 9000 Adjustable Shocks 

  Transfer Case - Borg-Warner 1354, Electronic
     Warn Lock Out Hubs

  Axles  - Front: Dana 35 reverse cut, 31 spline shafts
     Rear: Ford 8.8", 31 spline shafts

  Exhaust  - Borla Headers
     Borla Cat-Back Exhaust

  Gearing  - U.S. Gear - 4.10 Gears

  Differentials  - ARB Air Lockers

  Tires  - 31x10.50x15 Firestone RMT

  Wheels  - American Racing 767 Steel 15x8

  Bumpers - Front: James Duff Pre-Runner
     Rear: Smittybuilt
     Both sprayed with Line-X textured bed liner

  Lighting  - Hella 500 6" Fog Lights

  Electronics - Radio Shack CB 

  Miscellaneous - Con-Ferr Roof Rack
     Bushwhacker Extend-a-Fender Flares
     GM Tow Hooks front and rear 

Contact Paul:

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