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Sport-Tractor: Ted Shinn’s 2001 Explorer Rolls on Rockwells and 54s

Posted in Features on September 5, 2018
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“The truck was never intended to be as big as it is,” Ted Shinn shouted down from the cab as he turned the key, bringing to life his diesel-powered ’01 Sport Trac. Later on, once the dust had settled, Ted told us that his rig was built to be a “fun family wheeler for mild local trails.” Somehow, we didn’t quite feel right using “mild” to describe Ted’s truck.

Rewinding the clock on this “mild” build by roughly seven years, the heavy equipment tech from Eureka, California, started out with an ’84 F-250. The truck was lifted 6 inches, locked front and rear, and the transplanted Dana 60 frontend had a bad habit of coughing out pieces of broken axleshaft. Ted faced a decision familiar to many 4x4 owners—continue to replace broken parts, or upgrade.

“I decided it was getting Rockwells,” he told us, and his train of thought had only just left the roundhouse. “If I was going to put Rockwells in, I might as well four-link it. If I four-link it, I might as well build my own frame, and if I do all that, I should toss the regular cab and get something I could fit the whole family into.” While scouting for parts at a junkyard, Ted happened upon the ’01 Ford Explorer Sport Trac, and the project came alive.

Only some of the powertrain from Ted’s old Ford graduated into this build. The 6.9L International V-8 sends its diesel power through the C6 automatic transmission and into an NP203/205 Offroad Design Doubler, giving the rig a final reduction ratio of 3.92:1 before the power goes to the axles, which maintained the stock 6.72:1 gears.

Ted told us he started this build with Four Wheeler’s Top Truck Challenge in mind, so hence his choice of beefy Rockwell axles. After a bit of bartering, he was able to save two separate deuce-and-a-halfs from the woods, harvest their steering axles, and sell what was left of the trucks to fund the next step of the project—wheels and tires. Ted might be the third owner of the 54-inch Interco Super Swamper TSL Boggers, but they had never been used until they went on his truck. Military-style double-beadlock wheels hold on to the rubbers, even when aired down to single-digit air pressure. To make sure the axles were ready for abuse, Ted looked to Ouverson Engineering & Machine for 16-spline chromoly axleshafts and an automatic locker for the rear axle. An ARB Air Locker keeps the front tires moving in unison, even if one breaks traction.

Ted can precisely control both steer axles with dual PSC Motorsports 2.5-ton Rockwell 3-inch Double End Steering Kits. The front axle can be aimed via the steering wheel, while the joystick-mounted controls steer the rear axle and allow it to return to center with a simple trigger pull. Because it is difficult to find a spotter to work beneath the truck, Ted has a pair of cameras relaying a video feed to his dash-mounted monitor. He can toggle freely between live views of the axles and the obstacles around them.

The truck’s frame comes from neither the original F-250 nor the Explorer Sport Trac. Instead, Ted built it from 5x2-inch, 3/16-inch-wall rectangular tubing, only beginning the list of custom parts slated for his truck. Ted custom-built a single-triangulated four-link system for the front and a double-triangulated four-link for the rear, suspending the behemoth axles from the frame with 2-inch, 0.250-inch-wall DOM upper links and 2.25-inch, 0.375-inch-wall DOM lower links all around. Ballistic Fabrication 3-inch Forged Ultra Duty Ballistic Joints and link brackets mate the links to the frame, while Fox Factory Series 2.5-inch remote-reservoir coilovers, PAC Racing Springs coils, and Fox Factory Series 2-inch bumpstops help the rig to devour bumps and flex over obstacles.

Staying true to his original goal of hauling his family around the trails, Ted fit the Sport Trac body onto his creation and reinforced it with an internal rollcage, which is bolted to the frame. The bed of the truck was dovetailed to keep the Boggers from touching the body, and it now houses the radiator and the signature of a diesel truck—the exhaust stack.

PSC Motorsports 3-inch Double End Steering Kits on the front and rear axles of this truck help maneuver all four 54-inch Boggers over and around obstacles with ease.
Common for seventh-gen F-250s, not for Explorer Sport Tracs—the 6.9L International diesel V-8. Ted opted for more torque and horsepower with a combination of a Banks Power Sidewinder Turbo and his own custom intake and exhaust. Next in line is the fixed-yoke C6 automatic transmission with a Broader Performance torque converter and full manual valvebody.
To increase low-range reduction, Ted divorced an NP203 transfer case and linked it to an NP205, with the help of a Doubler from Offroad Design. To help with spotting efforts beneath the truck, Ted mounted forward- and rear-facing cameras to the undercarriage. The video feeds appear on his dash-mounted monitor.
The front 2.5-ton Rockwell axle was dragged from the woods and salvaged for this project. Ted kept the 6.72:1 gears inside the axle, but he added traction with an ARB Air Locker and extra strength with Ouverson Engineering & Machine 16-spline chromoly axleshafts. Instead of a pinion brake, Ford F-550 brake calipers and B-700 bus rotors work with the ’88 Super Duty brake booster and master cylinder to tame the speed of the 54-inch Boggers.
Another rescue from the woods, the rear 2.5-ton Rockwell steering axle was treated to a set of Ouverson Engineering & Machine 16-spline chromoly axleshafts, an Ouverson 16-spline locker, as well as some custom fabrication work to hold the PSC Motorsports ram in place and shield the axle boots from assaulting rocks.
Fox Factory Series 2.5-inch coilovers, Fox 2-inch bumpstops, PAC Racing Springs coils, and the Sway-A-Way sway bars with 35-spline collars afford the truck’s four-link suspension enough travel to stretch easily over boulders (or a small car).
The medley of custom work on Ted’s rig begins with the frame, which he built from 5x2-inch, 3/16-inch-wall rectangular tubing. The Sport Trac body received a coat of Estate Green Metallic paint, and the pickup bed was dovetailed to make room for the flexing tires. On the off chance a rock makes it that high, the rocker panels are guarded with custom-fabbed sliders built into the frame.
The bed holds 30 gallons of diesel in Ted’s custom-built fuel cell, a rear-mounted radiator with dual fans and a custom shroud, a Warn M10000 winch, and a tall exhaust stack.
The interior of the Sport Trac has room for his family, and it’s a lesson in functionality. The dash is handbuilt from diamond plate and holds all the rocker switches necessary to command the truck. The Winters Sidewinder shifter is topped with a SureGrip handle that Ted wired to operate the rear-steer axle. The monitor for his dual undercarriage cameras resides on the dash.

At a Glance

Vehicle: ’01 Ford Explorer Sport Trac
Owner: Ted Shinn
Stomping grounds: Eureka, California
Build time: 6.5 years

Engine: 6.9L International diesel V-8
Transmission: Ford C6 automatic rebuilt w/ Broader Performance rebuild kit, torque converter, and reverse full manual valvebody; Winters Sidewinder Gated Automatic Transmission Shifter
Transfer case(s): NP203/205 Offroad Design Doubler, divorced
Low range ratio(s): 1.96:1, 2.0:1, 3.92:1
Crawl ratio(s): 32.40:1, 33.06:1, 64.80:1
Front axle/differential: Rockwell 2.5-ton, Ouverson Engineering & Machine 16-spline chromoly axleshafts, Ford B700 school bus brake rotors, Ford F-550 calipers/6.72:1 gears, ARB Air Locker
Rear axle/differential: Rockwell 2.5-ton, Ouverson Engineering & Machine 16-spline chromoly axleshafts, Ford B700 school bus brake rotors, Ford F-550 calipers/6.72:1 gears, Ouverson Engineering & Machine 16-Spline locker

Front: Custom single-triangulated four-link, Fox Factory Series 2.5-in remote-reservoir coilovers, PAC Racing Springs coils, Fox Factory Series 2-inch bumpstops
Rear: Double-triangulated four-link, Fox Factory Series 2.5-in remote-reservoir coilovers, PAC Racing Springs coils, Fox Factory Series 2-in bumpstops

Tires: 54x19.5-20LT Interco Super Swamper TSL Bogger
Wheels: 20x11 military-style double beadlock

Steering: Front and rear PSC Motorsports 3-in Double End Steering Kit w/Hi Flow P Pump, PSC Motorsports High Steer Arms, PSC Motorsports Charlyn Eaton Orbital Steering Valve, dual custom power steering pump mounts, and SureGrip joystick handle
Lighting: 10-watt single LED rock light for each tire, LED light cubes in front and rear
Armor: Custom-fabricated rock sliders
Cool stuff: Front Warn M12000 winch, rear Warn M10000 winch, dual undercarriage-mounted cameras w/monitor on dash, 1.75-inch, 0.120-inch-wall rollcage, 30-gallon fuel cell, Poly Performance Quad Wrapped Ultra Strength limit straps, Sway-A-Way Off-Road Sway Bars, Estate Green Metallic paint

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