The Mule's resurrection

A few months ago my wife and I bought a new High Country and decided to retire our beloved Mule. Our 99 Explorer was purchased with 130,000 miles when my son began to drive a few years ago. I drove it 100 miles a day to work and back and took care of it like any beater anyone of you has ever had.


I figured I would keep it around after I bought a Prius to use for fishing and hunting and it worked out well in stock form for a while.

...yes I drive a Prius

A few months ago we bought a 2018 Chevy High Country. It's awesome and we decided the adult thing to do was sell the Mule and reduce our insurance spend now that our two kids were in college.

Then I saw an article on the Gambler 500. We also talked about seeing the mountains and doing some road trips. That would be too easy and reliable in our shiny new truck. Where is the adventure in that?

So we yanked the for sale signs off the Mule and began converting it to an expedition style off roader.

I did a roof rack first, you know to be all expeditiony.

OK, I really did TT and Shackle first and then the rack. All to make room for bigger tires.
You may have notice that I live in the midwest. You may have also notice that 99 Explorer Sports from the Midwest don't have rocker panels....ever.

So I cut all the rust off and began the next phase of the restoration
IMG_0401.jpg IMG_0400.jpg
The goal is to patch in some repair panels and then build rock sliders off of what's there. I'm targetting this weekend for this....stay tuned. Now let go to the interior.

I added a new head unit, satellite radio, and a CB.

IMG_0389.jpg yes the console door closes with the handset plugged in, it's been tested.

That's all for now but I'll keep posting as I make progress. Also, this isn't my first rodeo off road. I've been doing this in one form or another for my whole life. Right before the explorer I had this.
I really miss that truck but I have about half of the money in the Explorer. Besides who needs plentiful bolt on parts and lift kits when you can buy a vehicle with virtually no aftermarket support. Am I right??
The rockers were on deck for this weekend but the transmission had other ideas. Sourcing a reman unit will now be next up, then A/C, then rockers...
off topic, but what lift size, wheel size, and tire size was on the Cherokee? It looks perfect. I used to have a black 2 door sport explorer as well. i'll be following this.
off topic, but what lift size, wheel size, and tire size was on the Cherokee? It looks perfect. I used to have a black 2 door sport explorer as well. i'll be following this.
It was a 4.5 short arm lift from Rough Country and 32" tires. It was honestly the perfect height and set up for what I'm doing now. It had riddler diff covers and that truck never let me down. IMO 97s are the best years as they seem to be less rusty, even here in the midwest, and they have the high pinion front diff. It also had a Hack and Tap with a rebuilt front driveshaft for the rear SYE set up. The guy that bought it sends me pics from time to time of him off roading with it. He takes really good care of it.
So we did finish the passenger side rockers. I learned how to weld in the process. It's not pretty but I did it in my garage by myself and didn't have to pay for it. Again, that Gambler approach to the build. Full disclosure, I learned how to weld but I don't do it well...AT ALL, but the rockers on on and the flares were able to go back on once the bedliner dried. I still have to bedline the bottom of the door but we made some progress


Next up is the transmission. I went with a remanned unit from Shift Rite as they are a local reman company and had a great deal for me and I could just pick it up myself.


Install will take place tomorrow along with new rear main seal, new exhaust, new u-joints and then we'll tackle that drivers side rocker...if I can get the AC recharged in time we might be in for a little post 4th of July test trip! Silver Lake, MI, Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, North Carolina..I don't know...I don't know if there will be time... :)
One of the reasons we hit a stall is that I had to travel for work. This trip was to Albuquerque, NM, and Las Vegas, NV and even though I had Mustangs for rentals, I did manage to hit some scenic areas. Consider this the dance break portion of the build thread.



In the process of changing out the timing chain tensioners I failed to reinstalled new "gaskets" on the front one. This resulted in a massive oil leak...massive. Fixing it require this level of disassembly to access the tensioner again. It appears to have worked as it looks like it is only dripping from the leftover oil that was in the intake valley now. oil leaks are my pet peeve and one of the reason I like this truck is it had never had a leak of any kind.


We are in the home stretch now. All that is left is to do the breather tube extensions, drivers side rocker panels, and then just some routine maintenance. Then it should be ready to seek out some elevation and off roading.

In the mean time, I'm taking my wife to Niagra Falls in our High Country we have nicknamed "The Pearl". We only really have one night planned and route back to Illinois will be fully improvised. You know what they say about all work and no play...
We have reached a waypoint on the build. A list of things done include:
*New rocker panels
*New transmission
*New Exhaust manifolds
*New Exhaust
*TT and shackle lift
*33-12.50-15 Patagonia Milestars on Steelies
*New brakes all around
*New Tstat housing
*New tensioners
**New tensioner gaskets after a massive oil leak because the new ones didn't have a gasket
*New Radio
*New CB
*Satellite Radio add
*Superchips programmer
*New counsel cover
*New cruise steering wheel controls
*New interior LED lighting
*New Apex rack
We are going to put some miles on it now and go out an use it. Then we will see what we need to do next. If/when it breaks, I'll fix it, when it's not broken, I'll drive it. This is a good stopping point now though so we can plan out the next purchase of what is looking like the more expensive task of outfitting the truck with all the "overlandy" items like fridges, RTT, winch, etc. IMG_0606.jpg IMG_0608.jpg
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