With all the excitement this week about leaked images of the upcoming Broncos it’s a good time to level set and remember that Ford used to make modest-sized AWD wagons like today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe Explorer. Let’s see if this one’s price has you bucking those Broncos.
Being unfamiliar is not the same as being different. Yesterday’s 1994 Mazda Proceed Marvie was a JDM truck that you likely have ever seen before, but it was similar enough to existing models like the Toyota 4Runner and Nissan Pathfinder that, after some initial confusion, it likely would just blend into the background. That’s bad news for a seller trying to tout uniqueness as a selling point. In the end, the $7,750 price wasn’t doing it any favors either, and it fell in a narrow but decisive 57 percent Crack Pipe loss.
It’s been a heady week for Ford fans here in the States. The company has two new, eagerly anticipated models on the horizon—the Bronco and Bronco Sport—and both were leaked via grainy shots on a fan forum just a few days ago. Initial responses have been positive, with each of the trucks appearing capable of fulfilling expectations and effectively continuing the venerated Bronco lineage. Do you know what I say to all that? Meh.
Look, I’m sure the new Broncos will be capable and “built Ford tough” as they like to say, but I’m not in the market for something that’s going to set me back thirty or forty grand. I just don’t have the wherewithal to do that, nor the need. The thing of it is, Ford built another small and fairly capable AWD wagon a few years back and those today are… well, more in my wheelhouse. Let’s see if you agree.
Here we have a 1997 Ford Explorer XLT and as you’ve seen in this post’s headline, it’s absolutely a shit-ton cheaper than any new Bronco will be. Could that old adage that “you get what you pay for” apply here?
The Explorer debuted in 1991 and immediately became a monster sales hit for the House of Blue Oval. Initially built on a chassis adopted from the compact Ranger pickup, the Explorer exorcised many of the demons from that platform’s earlier SUV iteration, the Bronco II.
The second-generation Explorer arrived for the ’95 model year wearing a rounder nose and a number of under the skirt changes to make it a bit more civilized. The most important change was from the old Twin I Beam/Twin Traction Beam front suspension to an independent A-arm set up. In 1997 Ford expanded to the Explorer’s engine option list too, adding a SOHC version of the 4.0 Cologne V6.
That’s what this one has under its hood, and that means 205 horsepower, just five ponies short of what the top of the line 302 V8 was making at the time.
Here that hotter V6 is backed up by a five-speed automatic and electrically shifted AWD. The seller says in the ad that the truck comes with a recent service that included all the important fluids. The tires are also claimed to be in decent shape and everything is said to work as it should.
Aesthetically, this Explorer has its pros and cons. Overall it looks to be solid and without major issues. There are some paint challenges here, however. Those include some fading on the black part of the hatch surround and some actual topcoat popping on the off-side rear door. Magic 8 Ball sees a rattle can in this Explorer’s future.
The interior is also a bit of a mixed bag. The seats look perfectly serviceable as do the dash, door cards, and load area. The driver’s door handle has ‘L . S’ inked on it, obviously for ‘left side.’ That indicates it to be a junkyard replacement. How tough would it have been to clean that off before taking the pictures?
The steering wheel—you know, that one thing you have to touch—is torn and grimy. How are you all with stitching covers? This edition of the Explorer came with front airbags so it’s at least reasonably modern when it comes to crash protection.
There are 115,000 miles on the clock and the truck comes with a clean title. The asking price is $1,995.
There it is—$1,995. Holy cow, that seems cheap, doen’t it? But is it really? Here’s the thing, Ford sold these trucks by the thousands. It was like printing money for them back in the day. That means parts are going to be easy to source for the truck, but it also means that the supply of these older units still meets demand, and likely will for a while to come.
There’s also the issue of the Firestone tire debacle hanging over the model. It’s been a number of years but it’s likely U-Haul still won’t rent you a trailer if you show up with one of these. All that has driven values of these early Explorers to rock bottom levels, and that means trucks like this can present pretty good deals.
With the new Bronco Sport seemingly almost ready to fill a similar role in Ford’s lineup it makes sense to look back on these and decide if an old Explorer might be an acceptable, and far more frugal, option for Ford Fan Bois.
What do you think, is this Explorer worth that $1,995 price tag? Or, is even that asking too much to explore?
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