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2000 Ford Explorer V8 - Join the Alliance

Posted in Features on August 31, 2006 Comment (0)
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Photographers: Travis Siflinger

"There's a motocross lifestyle, a surfing lifestyle, a skateboard lifestyle. I see off-roading in trucks that way. It's more than just a sport. It's a whole scene. It's a lifestyle."

Such are Travis Siflinger's words of declaration. Travis decided it was time to put an exclamation point on the off-road lifestyle by creating a company that captured its essence. That company is Dirt Alliance.

Under a microscope, off-roaders tend to be individualistic. We don't follow the crowd, because the crowd stays on the pavement. The crowd's definition of sport is culled from athletic activities that end with the word "ball." We might dabble in ball sports and realize that the pavement is a necessity of modern wheeled travel. Just the same, in the end we want the dirt, and we want to experience it on our own terms. Dirt Alliance wants off-roading to be seen as a lifestyle but realizes we don't want to appear as clones or drones.

As for the stealthy black Explorer on these pages, "I wanted to do something a little different," Travis explains. "Not everyone builds an Explorer, but it's a great off-road truck. It's got plenty of power, room for more than just two people, a sunroof, and leather seating."

The Dirt Alliance flagship wears several hats, serving as everyday transportation, hauling merchandise to shows and events, and being a weekend machine.

Adjusting caster and camber with the stock eccentric bolts can be a hassle, so Blitzkrieg nixed them altogether in favor of rod ends; the alignment is now adjusted via the threaded shanks of the rod ends. We're also impressed with the Blitzkrieg gusset kit that ties the factory upper control arm tabs with the vertical face of the factory frame.

The Explorer was factory-equipped with a 5.0 V8 and ample seating but was sorely lacking the off-road speed equipment needed to traverse desert and dune. Enter Nate Hanson of Blitzkrieg Motorsports. We'd seen Nate's bright orange '72 Blazer multiple times at Rialto Off-Road Raceway and at the SoCal Stadium Grand Prix last year. Close inspection of the big Bow Tie revealed that Nate had ditched the front leaf packs on the four-by and replaced them with a King-shocked radius-arm-and-coilover suspension. Hanson subsequently tied the Blazer's chassis and suspension together with a cleanly built rollcage. Nate applied his truck-building talents to the Dirt Alliance Explorer with a quartet of custom A-arms up front and a long-travel cantilever shock setup out back. Blitzkrieg's work gave the Explorer the weaponry it needed to be a contender in the dirt.

Soooo... what's the Dirt Alliance all about? Travis's vision includes a team of trucks and their drivers, including Ray Butcher, Nick Brion, James Holguin, and Tim Shedarowich. T-shirts, stickers, and events round out the rest - think short-course truck demos, music, and food. Dirt Alliance also has a full-length DVD soon to be released.

Is off-roading a lifestyle? We think so. The off-road industry manufactures and sells billions of dollars' worth of products every year. From the Baja 1000 to Easter Jeep Safari to club-organized trail runs to a single truck making tracks in the fading light of a Mojave afternoon, people are taking to the dirt more and more. It's time to join the Alliance.

Deaver leaf packs have few peers in the leaf-spring world, so they were a natural choice for springing the Explorer's tail section. Since an SUV has a heavier tail than a pickup, the spring rate was matched to the application. A spring-under configuration is less prone to spring wrap compared to a spring-over. Another benefit of spring-under is more bump travel because the leaf pack doesn't take up space on top of the axle, and the springs can travel farther upward before going into a spring-fatiguing negative arch.

Travis claims the Glamis dunes as one of his favorite haunts, so he needed something substantial under the hood to move the Expo' through the power-robbing sand. Fortunately, the Explorer came stock with one of Ford's most beloved powerplants: a 5.0 V8. Unfortunately, the original engine died a rocking, knocking, pinging death on one of Siflinger's frequent desert trips. Fortunately, the motor was brought back to life with a quality rebuild. Of course, the rebuild was an unfortunate pain in the wallet. A Blitzkrieg engine cage surrounds the 5.0 and gives the upper end of the Kings a home.

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