Posted: January 14, 2013
Ego-Boosted Ford Explorer
Auto designer Neil Tjin customizes a Ford Explorer to fit the active lifestyle of a new generation.By Dan Sanchez
Adressing the next generation of truck and sport utility buyers is a big concern for automotive designer Neil Tjin. Both he and his brother Gene have designed and built a variety of cars for the SEMA Show, as well as for various auto manufacturers, including Honda, General Motors, Ford, and Scion. While Tjin’s reputation spans more than 15 years, his design experience have been in creating sport compact and late-model muscle cars, not SUVs. So it was challenging to come up with a concept for Ford’s 2012 Explorer.As a young family man who enjoys being active, Tjin simply looked within his own lifestyle, to come up with a cool concept that fits both his family and an alter ego set on performance tuning.
To begin with, Tjin lowered the vehicle 1.5-inches with a set of Eibach springs. He then added blacked-out IForged 24-inch diameter wheels mounted on 274/35R24 Falken tires to easily alter the Exporer’s attitude. To accentuate this further, Tjin, had the factory ground effects and fender flares customized to add a more muscular look to the SUV’s body lines. In addition, a blacked out grille and a set of Light Wurkz headlights and taillights were added to further accentuate a performance look. Then the Explorer was painted with DuPont Battleship gray with blue pearl by L&R Autobody in Orange, California. Some subtle pinstripping was added by artist Jeff Styles, who outlined the body lines and hood in sunset orange. When it was done the SUV had the look of a mean sport compact that looked fast just sitting in the driveway.
The Ford V6 engine already provided plenty of power but Tjin’s sport compact demon prompted him to add a Magnaflow exhaust and a nitrous oxide injection system. With less rolling resistance and some added power, Tjin felt he needed to upgrade the factory brakes to a set of Baer six-piston caliper units that utilize 15-inch front and rear rotors.
Not satisfied with the Explorer’s basic interior upholstery, he had L&R Interiors in Orange, California, stitch up some black leather upholstery with orange stitching to extend the subtle performance appeal to the inside of the vehicle. The two-tone steering wheel was created by Ace Steering wheels and Tjin augmented the Ford audio system with Scosche FX amplifiers and subwoofer.
While most performance enthusiasts might have shaved the roof rack for a clean, smooth appearance, Tjin knew that young SUV owners appreciate the outdoor active lifestyle. So a Thule bike rack was installed, and at the 2011 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, the SUV was on display in the Ford booth with two mountain bikes sitting on top.
Tjin, was successful in creating an SUV that looks great and draws attention. But once you realize that it didn’t take much more than a few aftermarket components and some paint, it’s easy to see how anyone could walk into a truck accessory shop and accomplish a similar makeover that fits the family lifestyle, but won’t hurt the performance ego.