In the hopes of getting everyone’s attention with its all-new, twin-turbo Explorer Sport that rolled out this year, Ford has charged a handful of America’s most award-winning custom car builders with the task of taking this SUV and turning it into four very unique incarnations for the annual SEMA convention in Las Vegas, Nevada. From capable, off-road mud wrestlers to custom canyon carvers, these extreme Explorers are a great way for Ford to showcase its EcoBoost engine, while allowing four very different shops to show off their skills in a friendly head-to-head competition that gives sponsors a reason to rejoice.
Featuring the largest OEM booth in attendance this year with over 50 vehicles on display, Ford is banking on capturing the attention of both potential buyers and future drivers with this fun-filled approach to performance. What’s more is that the Detroit ringleader has opted to not just showcase its cars, but by utilizing what it calls “Ford Out Front,” the manufacturer plans on giving SEMA attendees the chance to ride in many of these custom vehicles on a closed course.
It is almost impossible to mention the phrase “car culture” without thoughts of the Fast & Furious franchise coming to the surface in a torrential rain of tire smoke, chrome, and nitrous. We have covered quite a few aspects of the aftermarket world here at The Cheat Sheet since I started, with performance wheels, free-flowing exhausts, and powerful air intake systems being just a few of the items we have reviewed in a series of “best of” list pieces. Sure, there are far more hideously built rides out there than well done ones, and not every custom car shop is going to have a reputable history or top shelf service, but that is to be expected in any line of work.
I’m all for the customization of a heavier chassis, and the idea of taking a soccer mom-rated automobile and making it look, handle, and go like no one would expect is reason enough for me to like this particular project. All of my cars have been modified to some degree or another, with my first generation RDX, “The Black Pearl,” being the most elaborate of the lot. So bring on the soccer practice, pizza parties, and fruit roll-ups, because it’s SEMA time baby!
1. All Star Performance Explorer
The most rugged of all the custom Explorers being built, the All Star Performance Explorer Sport concept is what everyone should have been driving in the first Jurassic Park film. Lifted, LED-lit, with beefier tires, custom forged wheels, and a roof basket, this unique SUV is hardcore enough to conquer almost any weekend you might have (T-Rex permitting), and we like that it doesn’t sport some massive brush guard out front that covers up Ford’s freshly restyled exterior. Equipped with upgraded audio/video components, custom leather and suede seats, and a winning exhaust set-up, this Sport is something every outdoorsman is sure to enjoy.
Traxda 2.5-inch lift kit
2. Project Wanderlust
The next Explorer Sport making its way to SEMA this year comes to you courtesy of Cars by Kris, and according to Ford, it’s designed to “embody the spirit of ‘Wanderlust’ – the desire to travel.” Rocking more carbon than a dirty diesel and packing more engine modifications than any other SUV on today’s cheat sheet, this extreme Explorer is easily the most potent of the bunch, and even though the wheels and lower air dam found on the fourth contender in today’s list look a lot better, we would still opt for this one due to its power gains and overall balance.
Custom lowering springs
Wilwood 15-inch rotors w/Aerolite six-piston calipers
Axalta Refinish Burnt Orange Metallic paint
Paint by LGE*CTS Motorsports
56° NORD carbon fiber roof box
Carbon fiber wide body fender flares by Rideskinz and Cars by Kris
DinMann carbon fiber body cladding
RetroShop LLC custom LED headlight build
Diode Dynamics LED modules
3. The MAD Industries Explorer Sport
The MAD Industries Explorer Sport takes a completely different approach to modification than the first two, with a heavy emphasis on interior mods and luxury at the forefront. Lowered on Eibach’s track-proven performance package and rolling around on 24-inch forged wheels, this urban artifact maintains a relatively stock appearance, while giving driver and passenger alike a cabin to drool over.
Eibach Pro-Plus performance handling package
BASF Refinish: R-M Onyx Waterborne System — custom Pure White with Jet Black Contrast Graphic finished off with BASF RM System Glamour Clear
Custom roof rack
Exterior plastics smoothed and painted Pure White and Black
PIAA Tera LED Evolution lighting
PIAA Forenza wiper blades
Coverking Stretch Satin custom car cover
Roadwire leather custom seat covers in Black Premium Leather with white contrast stitching and Pure White Leather detail
MAD Industries covered steering wheel in Miko Suede and matching leather
MAD Industries custom interior, featuring Roadwire door panel and center console leather inserts
PIAA Tera LED evolution lighting
SRP Racing Pedals billet aluminum anodized racing pedals
Lloyd custom floor mats
3M Crystalline window film
Focal Audio System designed by Source AV Design Group
Enfotrace GPS tracking system
4. The Spicy Mustard Explorer
The final Explorer on our list today is probably the least modified, yet for some reason, it remains the sharpest looking of the four SUVs attending SEMA this year. With its unorthodox yellow paint scheme, red-pinstriped Nitto sidewalls, rally-inspired front fog lights, and custom front under-spoiler, this is easily the sportiest looking Sport of the bunch. If only they could plug all of the power goods that we saw on the orange Explorer into this one, with that carbon body and custom carrier, then we would have a perfect build.