Dave Vanek of Explorer Express set out to create a rolling showroom for his company's products and services, little did he realize the final result would be the gem you see here. The Explorer X Concept vehicle is a satisfying mix of performance add-ons, aftermarket creature comforts and some stylish additions.
Explorer Express specializes in Ford Explorers, supplying service and aftermarket parts to owners of these popular SUVs. The company grew out of Dave's Z Doctor business, which has focused on Nissan Z cars for over 20 years in the San Francisco Bay area. "The Explorer X concept demands improved performance with no pain - ride and noise qualities must be maintained at acceptable levels," says Dave. "The Explorer X is a high performance daily driver, as comfortable cruising the freeway as it is clipping back-road apexes."
This '94 Explorer, like others of its kind with the standard 4.0-liter V6 was a bit sluggish in the performance department, due to the SUV's high mass and the rather anemic 160 horsepower output. To remedy this situation, Explorer Express, has addled a potent array of power enhancers to increase the Explorer's response and acceleration abilities. On subsequent vehicles, Explorer Express will be offering the performance additions as staged packages, from mild Stage 1 improvements to wild Stage 3 improvements that bring horsepower up to a whopping 228 ponies. Performance offerings on this Explorer include a K&N air filter, JET custom-programmed module, Borla stainless-steel cat-back exhaust system and headers, a Vortech 65mm mass air sensor and the most impressive power enhancer, a Vortech V-1 supercharger pumping out six pounds of boost. All power packages have E.O. exemptions and are 50-state smog legal.
"The heart of the X, however, is the suspension package," explains Dave. "We've experimented with many different shocks and sway bars to achieve the best possible balance of ride and handling." Custom wound progressive rate front springs were developed in conjunction with Eibach Springs. Rear stock overload springs are replaced with composite adjustable rate springs. Moog heavy-duty radius arm bushings round out the package. Monroe Sensa-Trac front shocks and rear Ford Motorsports shocks also smooth out the ride and an Explorer Express sway bar helps to reduce wallowing and body roll. The Explorer sits on impressive rolling stock - Goodyear Wrangler RT/S tires of the 265/70-16 variety wrapped around softly-styled 16x8 Superior painted tribar wheels. Stopping power has been magnified with upgraded rear disc brakes from Stainless Steel Brakes.
With new-found power and a suspension package able to handle the torque and the twisties, the remainder of the Explorer was outfitted with an expressive array of stylish amenities, creature comforts and trick parts. The exterior has been spruced up with DeflectaShield's sportend fender flares, side window deflectors, runningboards and rear mudflaps, Ford side moldings and rear bumper, V-Tech tail covers and Explorer Express front airdam and billet grille. The DeflectaShield flare/running board package consists of paintable side moldings and color-keyed "Explorer X" die-cut decals. For more seeing power, a set of Catz MSP fog lights have been installed in the front airdam and Catz XSL back-up lights have been flush-mounted in the rear bumper. A set of Explorer Express hood lifters makes popping the hood an easier affair.
Interior additions include a set of Flofit front seats, Grant steering wheel, Saddlebags console storage extender, Husky Liner floor mats, Auto Vent Shade scuff plates and Trimmaster carbon fiber dash and door control panel trim. Some trick pieces include an overhead console from Infiniti that houses a radar detector, dual lights and storage areas and an electronic compass/thermometer mirror from Mito. In the back storage area a Laydon Backdrawer cargo drawer is now on duty to handle rear cargo. The drawer conveniently slides forward to allow easier access to luggage, groceries and other cargo. A remote power door lock control from Design Tech gives the keys a rest from unlocking duties.
The variety of parts installed on the Explorer you see here acts as a rolling catalog for Explorer Express. All the parts included on the SUV can be purchased separately or as a package from the company. "All parts are specially designed to fit Explorers and can be easily installed with normal hand tools," Dave explains. "The most high tech installation equipment required is a 1/4-inch electric drill."
This decked-out Explorer recently paid a visit to our Huntington Beach offices for a photo shoot and test drive and we took the opportunity to personally check out the SUV's appeal and driveability. Settling in behind the wheel our first observation was the extra grunt of the Vortech enhanced powerplant. Acceleration was crisp and sharp and the Explorer definitely got up to speed when the right foot got heavy. We broke out our trusty Vericom computer to clock off some 0-60 times and in three runs we averaged 10.17 seconds with a best run of 9.96 - an excellent improvement over Ford's published 0-60 time of 12.2 seconds. Braking after those hard runs was also an improvement over stock, as the Stainless Steel Brakes upgrade was noticeable in enhancing binding power. Ride was firmed up with the suspension package, but not too firm. Cornering lacked the stock sway and the beefier wheel-and-tire package seemed quiet and grippy. The resulting driveability of the Ford make it one of the best handling Explorers we've tested.
The host of interior amenities was impressive, making us wish for more prolonged driving time rather than a far-too-short test drive. Styling-wise, we found the Explorer to be clean and sleek with the right touch of upgrades without appearing overburdened or flamboyant. If polled on whether we liked the vehicle and its upgraded packaging we would definitely have to put an "X" in the yes box.
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