I was 22 when Ford introduced the Explorer. I was sitting in my living room watching TV with my girlfriend when we saw our first commercial for it. We were both blown away by how attractive this little truck was, and how useful it looked. We knew that neither of us was in this four-door SUV’s target demographic, but we both could see ourselves driving one anyway.
The Explorer’s front end made it clear that this was a derived from the Ford Ranger and had kinship to the Bronco II, which preceded it. Clearly, this was no clean-sheet design. Yet it managed to look fresh and novel.
So many first-generation Explorers went to that giant junkyard in the sky during Cash for Clunkers in 2009 that I was surprised and delighted to come across this one in the big-box store parking lot. But the novelty had long since worn off. Within a few years of its debut, the Explorer was everywhere. Families abandoned the minivans they never wanted anyway to buy them. They had gathered the full stink of the cookie-cutter family hauler, and my girlfriend and I turned up our noses and looked elsewhere for automotive inspiration.