My Stock EB Expy to Overlanding 4X4 Build

Vincent Vega

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I am in the process of doing the same things you are. I was going to buy a used Rubicon but didn't want to say goodbye to $30K so I am going to spend $5K instead. My wife and I also want to be able to take family with us on trails and the Expy is the only rig I can think of that can manage it comfortably. I have an '04 XLT and have had the Rancho's and spacers for years and they have worked well. I am about to replace them since I have put about 100K on them. I am also replacing my upper and lower front control arms. On Monday I am taking it to our local fab shop and they are adding fuel tank and trans/T-Case armor, Detroit TrueTrac's front and rear and a winch mount between the front frame rails. I will post photos once it is all done.

I know you haven't been out on the trails much but is your bumper trim seeming to provide the approach angle needed or will you be pulling the lower bumper entirely?
@MissileMech earlier this year I installed F150 coils and Bilstein 5100s in the front and got a 2.5 inch lift. I posted photos and info on here somewhere if you want to consider that vs. the spacers. I had to do spacers (w Bilstein 4600s) in the front, couldn't find anything better. Night and day difference offroad vs stock.
Can you give me an idea what a shop might charge me for the skidplates, Detroit install, and winch mounts? I also have a CO2 tank mount (not sure how that will work yet with the 3rd row seat in the back) and rock sliders on my list. I just have no idea how much it will all cost. Thanks for any help on that.
Which LCAs are you installing? I am leaning toward the Moog LCAs with the pre-installed ball joints and bushings. A few bucks more but I won't have to wrestle with pressing out the old balljoints. Also inner/outer tie rods because its only another $100 (Motorcraft) and will need an alignment anyway after. Next weekend.
 
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OverlandExpy

OverlandExpy

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I am in the process of doing the same things you are. I was going to buy a used Rubicon but didn't want to say goodbye to $30K so I am going to spend $5K instead. My wife and I also want to be able to take family with us on trails and the Expy is the only rig I can think of that can manage it comfortably. I have an '04 XLT and have had the Rancho's and spacers for years and they have worked well. I am about to replace them since I have put about 100K on them. I am also replacing my upper and lower front control arms. On Monday I am taking it to our local fab shop and they are adding fuel tank and trans/T-Case armor, Detroit TrueTrac's front and rear and a winch mount between the front frame rails. I will post photos once it is all done.

I know you haven't been out on the trails much but is your bumper trim seeming to provide the approach angle needed or will you be pulling the lower bumper entirely?
Awesome! If by chance the fab shop makes a schematic or design for the gas tank skid, could you possibly share it? I've been having a hard time deciding how I'm going to mount it and what shape I need. Also can't wait to see the pics! Are you going with bolt on skids or are you going to have them weld it to the cross members?

The front and rear bumper/tow package are all not great for approach/departure angles. I scrape pretty good everytime I go out. Eventually I am going to completly remove both and make custom metal bumpers. Going to possibly rebox my frame too a bit further in on the front and rear.

What are you replacing the uppers and lowers with? If you're going with moog I'd recommend just replacing the ball joints, moog has really fallen off in quality the past few years and the stock ones are probably the best we can do with our limited aftermarket options. (@Vincent Vega)I'm debating about whether to completly fabricate my own or just removing them and gusseting them with my tig welder. Would be nice to change the geometry of them a bit because the 3 inch lift is pushing the limits of what they can handle.

Just curious why you decided to go with the truetracs vs Detroits, will you still be driving it a lot on the streets? I've heard good things about both, but really like the idea of being triple locked with the Detroits. How much you buy them for if you don't mind me asking? And are you planning on regearing too?

Good luck with the rest of your mods! There isn't much out there for us 2nd gen expy owners, but they'll definitely be unique once they're all built up!
 

MissileMech

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Yes we will have the unicorns on the trail but I don't mind the challenge. The armor will be bolt-on. I will get pics and measurements to share. Their fabricator figures it out on the fly so I will have to time my visits. I believe the skids will be 2x4 channel welded and I asked they bring them out far enough to function as steps as well. I am very interested what you do with the bumpers because I think the frame can be trimmed quite a bit to increase approach/departure angles. The rear hitch will have to be moved up so that will be a challenge to get enough of a drop hitch, maybe 10-12 inch drop will be necessary. I am very curious what they suggest for the winch mount and I will share that as soon as the solution is decided. I chose Truetrac so I can have control in the snow. When you lock an axle you will slide and there is snow on some trails in Colorado late into the season and this will be a commuter option during bad weather. I am really hoping the automatic differential braking system on our rigs will play well with the Truetracs and reduce the need to manually brake to get them to lock. For control arms I am taking a risk on Mevotech Supreme. It is hit an miss with most stuff lately but the new parts will last for a while. If you come up with an extended set for off-roading that would be awesome. I would certainly buy a set. Good luck and I will be posting as soon as I have pics.
 

Vincent Vega

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@OverlandExpy None of the "custom offroad fabrication" shops down here were interested, so I found Michigan Metal Works (check their website if interested), who told me they would make extended UCLs for our rigs for $750-1000 with a serviceable ball joint. Another option in case you decide not to gusset the stock UCLs. Not cheap, but I am going to order a pair when my stock pair wear out. I thought they would be trashed by now but they are still tight.
 

MissileMech

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The sliders are on and the fuel tank and transfer case/transmission armor and rear Truetrac are going on over the next couple of days. The Trutrac is installed in the front diff and they also had to replace worn carrier bearings during the process. The front control arms are also installed and three of the new struts. Rock Auto shipped the wrong strut for the rear and I had to source one locally (pricey). The front winch mount may not happen due to the airbag crash sensor being located smack in the center and where the winch would go. They are concerned about frame twisting and the winch causing potential air bag activation. I may have to have an offroad bumper for the F-150 with a winch mount adapted and put in on myself. Another option the shop may be able to do is take my front hitch and essentially flip it over and install it above the frame rails and use a 2" receiver cradle for the winch. That would help the approach angle and I 20221004_161534.jpg20221005_164344.jpgI already have the winch attached to a cradle and that would allow me to use the winch front or rear depending on the situation, or leave it in the Expy out of the weather. Still working through the final design though.
 

MissileMech

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@Vincent Vega - I am interested in the extended arms. Will they be producing upper and lower arms? I saw some extended arms built for the Toyota Taco and it seems simple enough however we have the massive aluminum lower that may make the design difficult to make strong enough with steel tube.

Here are some pics of last weekends adventure....

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Vincent Vega

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@MissileMech thanks, love the photos, beautiful spot. looks like what I would like to be doing. Also the sliders looks awesome. Would love to see the armor too.
I only asked Michigan Metal about the upper control arms, since that is the weak link on our rigs after they get lifted. But I see on their website they also make LCAs. http://michiganmetalworks.com/
What would you be looking for in a custom LCA? Maybe a little more length and heavier duty? It might open up possible new configurations. Not sure if it would work, but you might be able to have them make a custom LCA with the newer (2-bolt) style lower shock mount. Then you could use an off-the-shelf lift kit for later model Expeditions. Alot more and better suspension goodies are available for the newer rigs. Just an idea.
I ended up buying Motorcraft balljoints, inner/outer tie rods. And Moog LCA bushings, only because Motorcraft discontinued them. I read too many recent bad things about Moog quality spiraling downhill, so I ditched my idea of buying a Moog LCA with the pre-installed bushings and balljoints. That means I have to press the old crap out tho.
 

MissileMech

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I picked up the Jolly Green today. A new nickname for my Expy. All the work is done except for the fuel tank armor and front hitch. I may have them add tube to the rock sliders as a step but we are taking it out tomorrow for a trail run to see how everything is working. I am scheduled for the tank armor install to start on the 24th so I can take pics then and post. If I get some opportunities on the trails to evaluate the Trutracs I will let you know what I think. The trails we are going on are easy to low moderate.
 
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OverlandExpy

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I picked up the Jolly Green today. A new nickname for my Expy. All the work is done except for the fuel tank armor and front hitch. I may have them add tube to the rock sliders as a step but we are taking it out tomorrow for a trail run to see how everything is working. I am scheduled for the tank armor install to start on the 24th so I can take pics then and post. If I get some opportunities on the trails to evaluate the Trutracs I will let you know what I think. The trails we are going on are easy to low moderate.
How'd everything turn out?? I'm just getting back from a month long work trip in Costa Rica, haven't touched my expy since putting on the ditch light brackets. Would love to see some pictures of your rig!
 

MissileMech

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Under armor is done. The tank plate is lower than I had hoped but the tank hangs lower than the frame on these so it is what it is. Once I get 35's on it again I should still have plenty of clearance. I have to move the oil and power steering coolers before the front hitch flip can be done. I am going to replace the oil cooler since it is pretty beat up. I am still not sure if I want to pay for a custom bumper with winch mount or just do the hitch mount. I am still working that out in my head. These 2nd gens are unicorns for aftermarket bumpers but I am thinking about adapting a '04-'08 F-150 bumper as an option. The main issue is finding one that isn't a ton of money.

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