Episode 38. Ford Explorer. S273 RJN. (Part 2).

After a month or so with Dora our relationship has come to an end. Some cars I want to keep forever, and some I'm ready to let go almost as soon as I get them, and Dora the Explorer falls into the second catagory. I think that if it towed as good as it looks than I would probably forgive its drinking habit, but the fact is, that for towing Dora is just not that into it, infact like one of my ex-girlfriends, all she wants to do is drink. Anyway, to wrap things up a little here is what I thought of her... Erm, Dora thats is, not the ex-girlfriend, I thought she was a nightmare and that's why she's the ex! So settle down with a nice cuppa... Here we go!


As I've already said, when I wasn't towing, or hanging out at the petrol station life with Dora was good. I've never wanted an Explorer, it's not that its an ugly car, or a bad car, or anything like that, it's just not my type of ride. I quite like Range Rovers, and so far I've had two of them, and I liked my Frontera, and I think at some point I'll get another one of those too, I've even had a couple of little Rav4's which were hugely entertaining, but Ford Explorer was never on the list of 4x4's to own some day. But having now owned one, and now sold it I must say that really, I really enjoyed it!


Although possibly not the best looking 4x4 in the world it definately has a look of an American 4x4 of the 80's/90's about it, which of course is what it is! It's fairly safe to say that it's not the most handsome car, but it was innoffensive enough I guess. Although I must say that I think it might have looked better if the part in the grille that looks like it should be all headlight, was actually all headlight!


One thing that did come up a couple of times when I was chatting with friends, and co-workers, was how dangerous the Explorer is, and how many people have gone off the road because their tyres just exploded! Well, to be fair to them, that could well have happened to me given the state of the tyres that it came with, but it wasn't something I even thought about when I bought it. I was far too busy thinking, In this monster, I really will be KING OF THE ROAD!! Anyway, for those of you unaware of what I am babbling on about, I am talking about the whole Ford and Firestone tyre controversy that took place waaaaaay back in the nineties when there was a period of unusually high amount of tyre failures on the Ford Explorer, Mercury Mountaineer and even the Mazda Navajo which were equipped with Firestone tires. Luckily for me I have fitted BF Goodrides! Anyway...


In May 2000, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration contacted Ford and Firestone about the high amount of tyre failures on Ford Explorers et cetera which were fitted with Firestone tyres. Ford investigated and found that several models of 15-inch Firestone tyres had quite high failure rates, especially the tyres that were made at Firestone's plant in Decatur, Illinois. Joan Claybrook, who was the president of the public advocacy group Public Citizen and previously an Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said before the Transportation Subcommittee United States Senate Committee on Appropriations on September 6, 2000, that, "there was a documented coverup by Ford and Firestone of the defect". Also Clarence Ditlow who was Executive Director for the Centre for Auto Safety said in his statement before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation in Washington D.C., on September 20, 2000 that "Emerging Information shows that both Ford and Firestone had early knowledge of tread separation in Firestone Tyres fitted to Ford Explorer vehicles but at no point informed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of their findings!" (Bad old Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone!) Apparently, the failures all involved tread separation, that is to say that the tread peeled off whilst it was being driven obviously, which was then followed by tyre disintegration. This was possibly caused by heat build up in the tyres. This was because the company engineers at Ford recommended changes to the vehicle design after it rolled over in tests prior to introduction, however other than a few minor changes, the suspension and track width were not changed. Instead, Ford, which sets the specifications for the manufacture of its tires, decided to run the tires at a lower pressure, and lowered the recommended pressure to just 26 psi. This lower air pressure lead to increased heat, and this heat build up is what damaged the tire, leading to tread separation, and ultimately tyre failiure. If this tread separation happened while the vehicle was running at speed, there was a possibility of the Explorer, with its high center of gravity rolling over. Over 240 deaths resulted from these failures. Although to be fair not every single death occurred in the Ford Explorer/Firestone tyre combination. It is estimated that 3,000 catastrophic injuries also resulted from this issue. So it was pretty bad! However I have to say that I never felt like it was going to fall over at any minute, not even when Mrs Clint was 'drifting' it around a roundabout (On a private test track obviously!)


Nope, driving the Explorer felt, safe, and predicable. It didn't have the handling of a sportscar oddly enough, but as long as you realised that you were a long way up, and drove accordingly it was fine. And yes, 'drifting' was very possible and it was happy to do it at the drop of a hat, that 4.0litre engine could light up the tyres very easily indeed! Not that I would recommend doing such a thing, that would be pure hooliganism surely! But having said how safe a predicable it felt on the road, remember however that I was riding on low budget BF Goodride tyres, and not Firestones!


Driving it off road was also pretty good to be fair to it, roaring around this farmers field was a real blast, and pretty soon I had used the best part of half a tank of fuel, and the field looked like there had been a doughnut festival there! So much for the nice shiney bodywork then! But I never felt like I was being shaken about in my seat, the suspension soaked up the bumps and humps in the field, and we even did the odd little jump! Yes, they were quite little, this aint the Dukes of Hazzard y'hear! But it was all in the name of research, and not at all about just hooning about in the dirt! Besides, it wasn't my fault, I like to blame Fred Williams and his Dirt Every Day show, he inspired me!


Inside the cab it was all leathery and lovely, comfortable? Yes very! A commanding view of the road was what you had from the front seats, and I enjoyed looking down upon those commoners with their Range Rovers! I really did feel like I was riding in something very luxurious indeed, something that I never felt in either of my Range Rovers, but it had to be said that my two Range Rovers had been very used! One of then had spent ten years being used as a kennel for a farmers dogs!


In the back my two little monsters said that they were comfortable, and had plenty of room. Infact they were so far apart in their seats that they needed to unplug their seatbelts in order to hit one another! Why we can't go anywhere without them punching each other is beyond me! Moving further rearward!


The cargo area. There is only one word needed to describe this part of the Exlporer... CAVERNOUS!! It is easily as big as the bed on my Chev-suzu, and swallowed up, shopping, ebay purchases, five BF Goodride tyres, bikes, or whatever else you wanted to put into it with ease! AWESOME! To the front!


Under the bonnet, the Ford Cologne V6 4.0 litre engine kicked ass, while it sucked gas! Well, petrol actually being in England! The engine when new would have kicked out about 200 brake horsey power, and to be honest, it felt like not that many of those horseys had escaped! Acceleration was brisk, cruising at speed was effortless, it was just easy peasy driving... As long as you have enough money in your pocket to keep up with it's drinking habit! Pushing your foot hard into the Axminster the monsterour Explorer took off at a rate that something this big had no right to do. But honestly if I filled a petrol can and just tipped it out the window I still wouldn't have used as much fuel as I did just shoving my foot into the floor... Thristy? Yeah, like Oliver Reed remember?


But there it goes! Off to someone who hopefully has deeper pockets than mine! Will I miss it? Well, after my bank account recovers which could take a while! Probably yes! Would I have another? Well, probably not! I might have an earlier, squarer one if one came along, but it would have to be properly cheap! Or free! To offset what it was going to cost me to run! But it wasn't a bad thing to have, and I'm really quite glad that I've had one, and added it to the list of cars that I've owned, even though I didn't actually know I wanted to have one in the first place! It was just a lovely big wafty old barge, but I have one of those already, and it's 4.0litre V8 looks like the most economical engine in the world next to the Explorers 4.0litre V6, and if I'm honest I prefer driving the Jaguar. But as I said before, the Explorer kinda put me in mind of an old girlfriend I once had who liked the odd drink or ten! She was a lovely old comfortable thing, but drank too much and you always thought that one night she'd kill you, and rob you blind... Just like Dora the Explorer!

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