I have always loved the outdoors. Ever since I can remember I have been out camping. One of my earliest memories are of camping with my family where we used to pan for gold.
With that, we have always had a truck. Whatever truck it was would take us there and back and as I grew up I wanted to have my own truck. I think that just happens. I have gone through a few vehicles over the years but so far this Ford has been my favorite.
This truck is a 2004 Ford Explorer Sport Trac XLS. With a 4.0 Liter V6 engine mated to a 5 speed auto and 4 wheel drive. There is even a transmission cooler in front of the radiator. It is a body on frame construction and has Explorer axles and diff breathers. The bed has a 12v outlet. If it was spring over axle it would have been perfect. I don’t mind IFS for my application.
The truck came with 235s on 16″ wheels. I quickly threw on some 265 75 16s. That is also the current tire size. Eventually I changed from the stock wheels for better back space. These are Vision wheels I bought at Discount Tire. About 400 bucks mounted. The wheel offset is 0. Better offset stopped the front tires from rubbing on the sway bar.
Next up, a torsion bar twist in the front followed eventually by some extra leaf springs for the constant weight and longer shackles. (Warrior shackles) The leaf springs are long leaves for a Jeep Cherokee.
Up front, I have a Black Horse Customs brush guard that I bought through amazon. I have done some modifying to include adding tow hooks and some extra support that attaches the push bars to the under bumper. Nilight LED pods have been on the front for a few years and you can’t beat them for the price.
If you’ve been paying attention you’ve noticed the small battery near the radiator. That is the dual battery system I built. The small battery powers the aftermarket lights and the CB radio. I built an solenoid into the system in order to run the LEDs while in camp and not drain the starting battery. I also relocated all of the fuses to their own panel under the hood.
Link for the battery set up that I used.
Along the sides and rocker panels you’ll see rock sliders. I cut out the plastic trim and painted the body lines where the trim covered with bed liner from Rust-Oleum. All the trim and rear bumper has been painted the same way. The rock sliders are also painted with bed liner. I made the rock sliders with parts ordered from Trail Gear as well as stuff from the local steel yard.
On top of the cab are a 52 inch curved light bar with custom mounts I fabricated, as well as a custom roof rack that I also fabricated. All of those have been painted with bed liner.
Moving to the bed, I built a rack for holding the tent and anything else I can fit back there. I receive the most questions about the rack. It took me 3 tries to build a rack that I really liked. The first one was a chopped up ladder rack for a Ford Ranger. I sold that one and it ended up in Arizona somewhere.
The next rack I built is part of the current rack. I built half of it mounting into the stock bolt holes on the sides of the bed. I only made half of a rack to be able to still open the tonneau cover. After a summer of not opening the cover and some desire to relocate the RTT, I added on the rest of the rack and made it into the current configuration. Later I added Nilight LEDs to the rack as well, which serve as our camp lights.
I don’t have blueprints for the rack, but I can tell you that the height of the legs are 22”. Also, the base of the legs are cut to 90 degrees. The base is 2 inch angle iron and it is 49.5 inches long. The horizontal bars that are oriented driver to passenger are 46 inches. Also, there is a cut where the angle iron bends to conform to the shape of the bed. I only cut one side of the material just to bend it, then welded that section into the new position.
Inside of the bed I also fabricated a rack with 4 QuickFists. This holds the shovel and axe.
Once you open the doors its plain to see that I have messed with just about everything in there. When we go on trips we live inside of the truck for days and days on end. Which means we need a lot of storage and functionality.
The center console that was originally inside of the truck left a huge useless space where there was nothing. I made a box out of wood and upholstered it to replace the tiny piece of plastic trim and create a whole new catch-all storage space. On the higher end of the console, I removed the storage bag that came stock and used sheet metal to create walls for the otherwise poorly utilized space. This also generated a lot more space, especially compared to the bag.
Near the driver’s left knee, I installed the switch panel that controls the aftermarket lighting and dual battery system. It shows my voltage and runs the isolator. There are 2 additional USB power ports as well.
I exchanged the stock bulky radio for a regular sized unit which allowed me the space to put in a CB radio below it.
There is a net along the headliner above the rear passenger area for things like coats and hats.
I removed the back seats after a few trips with our dogs, Cooper and Floyd. When the dogs were in the back, it meant there would be no storage for hardly anything else. Instead of having seats, I thought a platform would be much more beneficial. That would allow us to double the interior storage and keep the dogs happy.
The platform is made of wood with wooden legs as the supporting structure. It’s sturdy enough to support 180 pounds without making a sound. The platform is attached to the stock hinges that were part of the OEM seat design. This not only keeps the platform from moving around but allows it to flip up into an access position or down in the happy pup position.
That arm rest is made of a 2×6 and was upholstered. I did not make it, but found it in a junk yard.
I painted the wood to match the tan interior. Then added some foam padding I bought at Home Depot. The pad that is supposed to be used under carpet. I realized this was not soft enough, I bought a sleeping mat from Walmart and added it on top of the other pad. The whole thing is upholstered with a dog seat cover.
I think that about covers it for “mods”. Otherwise I have been performing the maintenance keeping the aging truck on the road. Current mileage is 184k. I have included some extra pictures just for fun. After all of the adventures this truck has been through, I have grown to love it.