This 1996 Ford Explorer Gives Jeeps a Run for Their Money

    More-a of Dora

    Harry WagnerPhotographer, Writer

    Mitch Bergstom has built a host of Fords over the years, but not the high-dollar Early Broncos or Raptors that are commonly associated with off-roading. Mitch’s budget led him to build a Bronco II, a first-generation Explorer, and a Ranger before bringing home this 1996 Ford Explorer. It wasn’t long before the IFS was torched out and Mitch had a set of Super Duty axles slung under the Explorer. With a full frame and a 5.0L V-8 engine under the hood, very little else was necessary once the axles were added.

    Since he has built several Explorers, Mitch already had a good idea regarding what works on the trail and what’s unnecessary. Money was spent on upgrading the axles to maximize strength to stand up to the biggest tires he could fit.

    After that, he turned to the suspension. Mitch started with leaf springs at all four corners, but the leverage of the 40-inch tires kept eating front springs. Mitch and his friends built a three-link front suspension with King 14-inch travel coilovers to solve that issue, and he hasn’t looked back since. With a factory V-8, a full frame, and a low purchase price, the 1996-2001 Explorer makes an excellent platform for those looking to build a rig that stands out from the crowd without going broke in the process.

    Tech Specs
    1996 Ford Explorer
    >Drivetrain
    Engine: 5.0L V-8
    Transmission: 4R70W 4-speed automatic
    Transfer Case: BW1356
    Front Axle: Dana 60 with 5.38 gears and Yukon Grizzly Locker
    Rear Axle: Sterling 10.5 with 5.38 gears and Yukon Grizzly Locker
    >Suspension
    Springs & Such: 3-link with King coilover shocks (front); Alcan leaf springs and Skyjacker shocks (rear)
    Tires & Wheels: 40x13.50R17 Nitto Trail Grapplers on 17x9 Raceline Renegade 8 rims
    Steering: Toyota pickup steering box, Tractor Supply ram, TC pump with Wild Horses bracket, Jesse Haines Fabrication Super Duty steering arms, 1.5x0.250-wall tie rod and draglink
    Other Stuff: Smittybilt XRC 9500 winch, custom front bumper with Trail-Gear winch mount, Battle Born Outdoor Products LED light bar, custom rock sliders, RuffStuff differential covers, custom transfer case skidplate