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post #1 of (permalink) Old 05-23-2000, 08:46 AM
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Questions for any new SUV owners (1999/2000)

Hey guys, as most of you know, I'm a Ford engineer. I am working on a future Explorer project, and am trying to gather information on how to improve the vehicle. If any of you own a current model Explorer, or a vehicle from the competition, please email me why you chose it over the Explorer, or how the Explorer can be improved. If you know of anyone else who owns, or is thinking of seriously purchasing an SUV, I welcome their comments too. I can be reached at "[email protected]". Thanks!

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post #2 of (permalink) Old 05-23-2000, 12:08 PM
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Re: Questions for any new SUV owners (1999/2000)

Ron, I have an '88 Bronco, but I would like to provide you with some feedback. About the only criticism I have with Ford and basically the majority of the US manufacturers in their inconsistency with basic parts. Meaning, why should a fuel pump, brake calipers, catalytic converters, etc…. differ from year to year and not perform as expected. The only answer I can come up with is that they change manufacturer (of the part) to save a few pennies (which means a lot when volume is the driving force). This is OK, but quality and customer satisfaction takes a back seat. I would like to recommend that Ford develop a product and leave it alone. Fix the bugs and let time take care of quality control. Also Ford is notorious for having several different parts for the same application. Not good. I bought my Bronco because I enjoy the comfort and power of the rig. But I tell you, I owned Chevy's ('70 models) and I've had Toyota's, I currently have a '91 Honda and a 1998 Toyota Tacoma and I never had an issue about repairs, longevity and quality. I can't say the same about my Fords (I also had a Mercury Topaz). I can't even fix a simple brake problem on my Bronco and believe me I've done everything to the system (Ford refused to provided any assistance and the dealers are useless). When I come up against these barriers I end up with a bag of mixed emotions. Good luck on your project.

post #3 of (permalink) Old 05-23-2000, 03:08 PM
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Re: Questions for any new SUV owners (1999/2000)

You haven't mentioned anything that alot of us have been complaining about through the years. As a die hard Ford enthusiast, I had an eye opening experience when I came to this company. Some changes I saw a need for, but others were just plain bad. The emphasis for Ford and the rest of the Big Three up until early last year was cost reduction. Ford is now going after customer satisfaction big time. The company is also going "green", meaning emissions and fuel economy are big driving forces. This new direction will probably take a few years to get right, but I guess I'm just glad to see that the customer, rather than the bottom line is the main priority. This is why I've posted my message on the board. The comments I get from here will go right to the program management team (I have a bad habit of stepping on toes when I tell the truth). If you know anyone that has purchased, or will purchase a vehicle, I truly want to hear from them. We are currently arguing over the smallest part to make sure it is something the average person would want. Everyone's input is important. This includes things like adding a trash bin in the compartment, to adding a real Detroit locker (yes, the argument is raging over this one between us off road types, and the pavement pounders). Thanks for your comments!

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post #4 of (permalink) Old 05-23-2000, 07:05 PM
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Re: Questions for any new SUV owners (1999/2000)

I bought a 99 4runner SR5 to replace my 88 Bronco. I've taken it on a few trips on moderate rock trails in the CA sierra Mountains. The 99 runner easily out wheels my 88 Bronco. Narrower and better clearance. Better articulation AND an elec rear locker and 4.30 axle ratio. Even with the diffs open, the runner does better than the bronco. Bronco is a 351 EFI C6 with 373s. Bronco has 32s, runner has 31s.

This is my second bronco (used to have a beater 78), but it's too big, too wide for trails. Is great for open areas and wide trails but...

Anyway, I looked at explorers because of the greater towing ability with the V8 and determined that in no way would an explorer be acceptable. Too low, too soft, no aftermarket mods, the list goes on. The interior was not as refined as the runner. the stereo was a yawner, tires were puny. The runner has 265/70-16s. This is what I see on Expeditions.

What I liked about the 4runner was 1) my wife was willing and happy to drive it (so much she has since made it "hers") 2) it pulls the Ski Nautique just fine, great for snow trips to Tahoe, and an all around great rig. Not quite the pull that the 351 had, but the brakes are much better.

What I don't like is the stock skid plates are not strong enough, the rear bumper is too flimsy to withstand the rig dropping on it when coming off a rock, and the gas tank will be crushed on a breakover climb if the center drags. I also don't like the fact that there is not a diff relocating lift for the Inferior Front Suspension so the most lift without destroying CVs is 2 inches. No manual hubs are available because Toyota selected a different front hub than both the Tacoma and the Tundra so to put manual locking hubs would require a new set of spindles, 1/2 shafts and a bunch of $$. I know I'm talking about a toyota, but I'm sure explorers have similar issues.

So, what would I like to see built?

A medium short wheel base (100 inch) 4 door SUV with either a peppy V8 or a Kick Ass six and a bullet proof drive train. Solid front axle -- D44 up front . Fix the 8.8 rear end so it doesn't have a C-Clip design. keep the 31 spline axles. A 5 speed tranny like an NVG 4500 tranny would be great. Make sure the tranny will easily mate to marlin crawler type transfer case so the crawl can be improved. Disks brakes on all corners.

1) standardize on one frame platform for this new rig and the grocery getting explorers and matching F-series or Ranger line so that the aftermarket companies can focus on one thing to build upgrades for. Make sure the axles have an upgrade path for lower (numerically higher) gears. Make sure that an ARB or a soft locker is available for the front. Make sure a detriot or an ARB and or limited slip is avail for the rear. Give us options for upgrades.
2) put oversize brakes on it. have an option for disableing ABS which SUCKS when you are on dirt roads.
3) move the shock mounts on top of the axle so they don't get torn off.
4) develop a real off road upgrade package that includes an mild lift, electric locker, sway bar disconnects and a Hi-Lift jack mounted inside or underhood. Hell, partner with the after market gang and make a special package using after market parts, but built at the factory. Kinda like a "shelby mustang" type explorer, but direct from FOMOCO.
5) make the running boards easy to take off and put back on. Make sure the flares don't look dumb when the rockers are removed. Here's a bizarre Idea? build the running boards so they can go on the roof and become part of a Safari Rack for back country action, and running boards for city action. Ok, its a dumb Idea, but I've had to remove the running boards on a trip so I wouldn't destroy them and ended up with them inside...
6) build a very strong rear bumper that will hold the weight of the truck when it drags on a rock. Have an option for a swing away spare.
7) Build inside or underhood storage for a highlift jack (Oh I said this already) Must mean I really want this.
8) strong factory roof rails for aftermarket racks like Yakima and Thule
9) I really like the power window lift hatch on the 4runner. Nice to be able to open the back window from the driver cockput, but still have a lift back.
10) make the fender openings big enough for 33x1250s without cutting.
11) room up front for a second battery.
12) six disc,in dash CD changer and room for big, deep speakers in the doors.

Ok, its just a rambling, and I probably still wouldn't buy one but its a start.

99 4Runner (wifes grocery getter)
88 Bronco XLT * FOR SALE *
post #5 of (permalink) Old 05-23-2000, 07:50 PM
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Re: Questions for any new SUV owners (1999/2000)

Oh, and make an option for an all fiber glass roof that is removable like the old K5 blazer or early broncos so I can run topless in the summer. AND
make this available in a two door as well, but keep the wheelbase the same as the 4 door.

99 4Runner (wifes grocery getter)
88 Bronco * FOR SALE *
post #6 of (permalink) Old 05-23-2000, 07:55 PM
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Re: Questions for any new SUV owners (1999/2000)

Between my father and I, we've owned virtually every line of 4x4 truck or SUV out there. Nothing competes with the size and power of domestic SUV's, but unfortunately the same thing cannot be said for longevity and quality. Having also worked for Ford for 6 years in the finance sector, I used to share your enthusiasm for Ford products until having actually owned them and experiencing several years of poor dealer service and repairs, as well as poor customer service with repetitive complaints. The basic consensus that I see from folks who unwittingly end up with a shoddy product is after the basic warranty is gone, Ford leaves people high and dry, since many times the fault was discovered before the warranty expired, but was not diagnosed/fixed properly. I think Ford's biggest challenge in the future will be to reclaim customers long ago pissed off with noncommittal customer service attitudes....I honestly believe that Ford knows some of their products are inferior and will not do the task they are designed for...the E4OD is an excellent and recurring example. Defective brakes are another. Allocate the the millions of marketing $ to real quality control and customer service and alot of the problems will go away. I recently bought a 99 Burb 4x4 for my father not because I thought it had superior features than the Expl. or Exped., but rather because I was determined not to repeat all the problems I had with the 95 Bronco thats parked in my garage on its third or fourth t-mission and second third member and 2nd drive shaft, and 2nd set of hubs, and second brake rebuild, etc etc (most before the first set of tires were worn out!!)...Complaints to Ford Customer Service go like this, "Tough Nugs, Buddy!" Ron, do Ford's shareholders a favor and rebadge a Tundra 4x4 as a Ford. Sounds bad, but its not so much the features that people want, but rather the ability to go where they need to go and knowing their truck will bring them back without falling apart....and in the odd event that a lemon does get by, knowing Ford will for once stand up and deliver. Ford has the habit of talking this talk, but appears rather blind and crippled when it comes to walking the walk. Physical improvements: Real (lever) transfer engagement, heavy duty transm., HD front recovery hooks, HD roof racks (skis, mtn bikes, canoes...take a look at Nissan or a HD Thule system), rear A/C and ventilation for my dogs (hey, I'm in Texas), enough wheelspace and lift for 33's, double shocks up front to handle the winch and TX bumper. 4 wheel Baer brake set up (anything beats Ford's warpy rotors and iffy calipers). A way to keep the truck running for A/C, while unattended, but theft proof (dogs again). Good luck on your project and hope I didnt come across too asked!

post #7 of (permalink) Old 05-23-2000, 07:59 PM
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Re: Questions for any new SUV owners (1999/2000)

Thanks for the ideas. I actually think the running board/roof rack idea is a good one. I'll let the packaging people in on this. It may be too late for my year I'm working on (2004/2005), but you never know. And about your other ideas with the top, etc, you may just be surprised at what comes out...

post #8 of (permalink) Old 05-24-2000, 01:45 AM
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The List

I too will make a list:

1) Solid Front Axle w/coil springs that could easily handle tires 35 or higher.
2) Swing away tire rack that attaches to HD bumper and can hold a 35 tire. No body mount!
3) Big wheel wells that could fit a.... guess what, a 35 inch tire. No bumper interference with front tires!
4) Diesel, V10, and 5.4 option of motors, backed by a HD transmission.
5) Rear axle option of 8.8 or 10.25.
6) Definitely a removable top like the LMBs.
7) Undestructable automatic hubs (if you can't make them, stick with manual), and air lockers like ARBs.
8) Deep speakers is a good idea Dan-H. Deep speaker openings = free air subs in stock locations.
9) HD four wheel disc brakes that could stop a Semi (exaggeration, but you should get the point).
10) Sway bar disconnects.
11) Duel gas tanks or one big gas tank, that can hold 40 or more gallons of gas.
12) Parts are either based on the English or Metric system. NOT BOTH! Preferably Metric.

I'm not going to trash talk Ford, because I actually like Ford. My family has owned Chevy, Ford, Dodge, and a couple Asian cars. We have had more problems with Chevy than any other company combined, and we haven't had any major problems with Dodge trucks. Ford is kind of in the middle between Chevy and Dodge, and our Subarus haven't had any problems. I like the durability of Asian cars, but I am throttle happy and they have no power, plus I heard they can't handle anything much bigger than stock (don't know from personal expierence). So basically, I am satified with Ford, but almost every company out there doesn't build trucks with upgradeability in mind. As you can see from my list, I would like to see a heavy duty truck that can be upgraded easily without having to worry about durability and strength. I would also like to be able to customize and have more options when it comes to buying a new truck. For example, a choice for the rear axle and wide range of engine options. My list might build a mini Hummer at a premium price, but if you give more options, you could build a truck to your own price range. Hopefully Ford is listening to the consumers, because they are the ones in demand. I believe that the company that has the most consumer interaction, will make the best automobiles.

Expect many updates to my list as the come to me.

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post #9 of (permalink) Old 05-24-2000, 03:24 PM
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Re: Questions for any new SUV owners (1999/2000)

yo Ron,
How about the basic items too?
Such as the old rubber floor mat system that is easy to clean? I think the new explorer whatever has it now.
a steel security console, such as what Tuffy produces.
on board air pump
built in aircraft style fans for all seats (the small swivel types)..MUCH cheaper than rear a/c.
options such as the police/military REAL push bars,, such as Setina produces..I added alum tubes for fishing rod holders to the cross bar)
carog area tie downs for common and heavy, but lethal items (we were hit in our Bronco, the heavy duty flashlight acted like an Abrahms 155mm du shell)
I like the other ideas too posted...esp a stronger bumper syatem and tow hooks all around.
A fire extinguisher and first aid kit built-it in somewhere.

But, the fully loaded Excursions, Explorers, and Expeditions will continue to drive Ford and others to producing the sos; lounge chairs, thick pile carpets, video systems, etc.
Thanks for the opportunity to comment.
Good Luck there Ron!

post #10 of (permalink) Old 05-24-2000, 05:20 PM
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Re: Questions for any new SUV owners (1999/2000)

<font color=purple>Not a big Ford fan (especially Explorers), nor a Superduty fan, but right there's the basis for an SUV many people crave. Chop the Excursion down to 110" wheelbase, 2 doors, removable rear 1/2 top, same current drivetrain. Someone here had a picture of the 1/2 top Excursion from the SEMA show that they modified by making it look shorter. If I can find the picture, I'll post it. Big & Brawny w/o requiring a 40 acre field to do a U-turn. I think it would sell & you already have the platform on which to build.</font color=purple>


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