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Back in the day, automakers competed with each other by making some of the weirdest cars on the market. But, those automakers also competed by creating some of the most powerful cars on the market, too. So, when GMC rolled out the GMC Typhoon, Ford wanted something to compete with it. 

Setting the stage for the super SUVs

Steve Saleen and his company, Saleen, have been making sports cars and other high-performance concept cars for decades. Saleen doesn’t build its cars from the ground up, though. Saleen, like many other high-performance car makers such as Hennessey, takes a regular car and then upgrades it for mass production.

According to Jalopnik, this is exactly what Saleen did with the Mustang, which Saleen was able to modify to be even better than what Ford’s engineers could do. This was the early ’90s though, and the Ford Explorer was the new big thing in the car world, both literally and metaphorically. 

The Explorer was a big SUV that had a decent sized engine at the time, but the GMC Typhoon was even more powerful. The first generation of the Explorer had a 4.0-liter V6 that generated about 155-hp and 225 lb-ft of torque. The Typhoon, on the other hand, had a 4.3-liter V6 that generated 280-hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. This powerful engine made the Typhoon extremely fast for its size.

The making of Steve Saleen’s super Ford Explorer

And so, Saleen turned his attention to making powerful Ford SUVs that could compete with the Typhoon. Because of Saleen’s relationship with Ford, the natural choice for the SUV that would get souped-up was the Explorer. As a result, Saleen, as Jalopnik said, took an Explorer and dropped a massive engine upgrade on it, among other things.

This new high-performance Explorer, which Saleen called the Explorer XP8, had, as its name implied, a V8 engine. This 5.0-liter V8 engine delivered about 222-hp and 298 lb-ft of torque. This powerful engine made the Explorer XP8 far faster than the regular Explorer, and it also made it competitive with the Typhoon in terms of speed and acceleration.

Other than a powerful engine though, the Explorer XP8 had other upgrades. Jalopnik said that the Explorer XP8 had a new suspension system, new brakes, and new wheels. Saleen also offered some options for the Explorer XP8.

These options included a supercharger, all-wheel drive, and an improved interior. That said, since this wasn’t an official Ford car, Saleen’s name is plastered on everything instead of the Ford name.

If you bought your Explorer XP8 with a supercharger, then Jalopnik says that it’ll get a significant boost in power. The supercharger bumps up the Explorer XP8’s V8 engine to 286-hp and 333 lb-ft of torque. That supercharger made the Explorer XP8 slightly more powerful than the Typhoon’s engine. 

The Saleen Ford Explorer was just a fad


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As it turns out, there just wasn’t a big market for high-performance versions of regular cars. And so, the Explorer XP8 suffered the same fate as the Ford SVT Lightning did and Saleen stopped making the car.

That said, this wasn’t something that only Ford and its allies experienced. The Typhoon didn’t sell well either, and after a few years, GMC stopped making it. But, since Saleen was making the Explorer XP8 rather than Ford itself, there aren’t that many XP8s on the road.

Jalopnik says that, between 1997 to 2001, Saleen made about 125 Explorer XP8s. In comparison, the Typhoon was in production for a handful of years as well, but GMC managed to make over 4,000 Typhoons. So, while the Explorer XP8 never really took off, at least it’s still a nice collector’s car for Ford fans.