Home » David Found A European-Spec Ford Explorer And It’s Both Familiar And Very Weird

David Found A European-Spec Ford Explorer And It’s Both Familiar And Very Weird

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Remember last week when I told you that David, currently in Germany, would be sending us some pictures of interesting cars he spotted? Unusually, I wasn’t lying, and to follow up the wonderful Amphicar we saw last week, today we have five more amazing cars, all spotted on the streets of, I think, Nuremberg, Germany, a place noted for their trials, Albrecht Dürer, David’s mom, and a kind of hot dog with three hot dogs in it. Also, some very good cars, including a deeply strange and familiar one, and the one I’ll start with because I know it’s the one David was most excited to see, the big dummy.

Here’s that car: a Ford Explorer!

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Yes, a first generation, early-to-mid 1990s Ford Explorer, but what must be a quite rare Euro-market car. Who was buying an Explorer in Germany? It’s fascinating to see the minor differences that were needed to make it meet Euro-market specs, most of which seems to be in the lighting. Look at this:

Expl Front

I’ve included a U.S.-spec Explorer inset in that picture so you can see some of the differences. That front end with the low-bar grille and that plastic front bumper with the integrated foglamps looks the same as the one on the Ford Explorer 4×4 Limited edition – the regular face you can see on the inset car there – though this Euro one has sealed-beam rectangular headlamps instead of the composite lamps used on American market cars. The sealed beams may have already been adapted to Euro standards, and the composite ones not? That’s my only guess there. Also, there’s an indicator repeater just aft of the front wheelarch.

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Expl Rear

Around back things get weirder taillight-wise, with the three-section taillights of the US models getting their reverse lamp replaced with an amber rear indicator, and the reverse lamp, now working alone, relegated to the rear bumper, where it has an inset nook, a parallel nook on the other side providing a home to the rear foglamp. Also, the longer European license plates are now mounted on the tailgate under a nice wide license plate lamp, and the original American license plate location is just left bare, an un-stimulating backdrop for that tow hitch.

I can’t imagine too many Explorers of this generation were sold in Europe, really. These were positively ubiquitous in America, but I think this is a rare, lucky sighting on David’s part. I bet whoever has it thinks it’s pretty cool, though!

Look at this little charmer David found: an Autobianchi A112 Junior!

Autobianchi

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Because this one has that little “JUNIOR” badge (filling a hole that, in some markets, would be a front side marker lamp) I know that this has to be at least a fifth-generation A112, which would put it between 1979 and 1982. I don’t think it’s a sixth-gen one because the rear side flow-through air vent is black, not body colored, and the turn indicators are on the body, not integrated into the bumper. I really like the detail of the row of vertical body-colored vents under that grille, too.

These cars were based on a truncated version of the Fiat 128 platform, making them sort of like Italy’s AMC Gremlin, but I think a lot cooler. Engines were a bit over 900cc and made about 42 hp, but there were options for up to 70 hp engines in the hot Abarth variants, and from everything I’ve heard, those were an absolute blast. I’ve always thought of these as a sort of alternate universe Mini, kind of like another Italian translation of the Mini formula, like what Innocenti did with their Mini.

As it is, these are really charming and practical little city cars, very well adapted to their environments, and David got to drive this one, so I’m nice and jealous.

Speaking of interesting little city cars, check this guy out:

Multipla1 Cc

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That’s a Fiat 600 Multipla, a brilliant packaging experiment where Fiat took the rear engined 600 two-door sedan and saw what would happen if the driver sat over the front wheel and stretched a big box all around everything. It’s sort of the same formula as the Volkswagen Type 2 Microbus, just on a smaller scale. But you could fit six people in that thing, across three rows of seats! I think this is a later 600D Multipla, with a 767cc engine, probably from 1965 to 1967 or so? Just a guess.

It’s a brilliant design. I’m not sure why this one is painted up like someone took every Live Laugh Love-type inspirational wall art from a Michael’s and slapped it on the side, but as long as they’re having fun in that thing it’s fine by me.

Speaking of crap written all over cars, look what we have here:

Tr4a 1

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A lovely British Racing Green Triumph TR4A, probably hailing from the same years as that Multipla, covered with a nice dust coating that has allowed for a lot of expression to be applied to that hood. There’s the old staple of hearts containing paired initials, various letters and names and some German words. I hope somebody had the dignity to draw at least one dick on there. Did they?

Tr4dick

Yes. Yes they did. All is right in the world.

Also interesting about the TR4A: this version got an independent rear suspension, but for some reason there was demand from the American market for an old, live axle-and-leaf-spring version, so the US had that as an option, too. I guess we just like archaic things? Also, note that there’s a starting crank hole there! I wish more cars had those. Oh, and I love those overly complicated-looking sidelamps that burst from the chrome trim and have amber side markers on them. So good.

Trabi

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Finally, we have this humble symbol of a departed Germany, the East German people’s car, the Trabant! This is an absolutely immaculate-looking Trabant 601, a car that gets wildly maligned all over but is actually incredible. Yes, it’s crude, and yes it has a Duraplast body made from old Soviet underpants and goats would eat it and yes it’s got a smoky, underpowered two-stroke engine with a gravity-fed fuel delivery system and yes driving these is a little mind-bending, especially when it comes to the Escher-like shifter.

But, I don’t care about all that. What I care about is that this humble little car was built with minimal support from anyone, minimal resources, and yet somehow they managed to build four million of these things and put East Germans on wheels. It’s a hell of an achievement, and I won’t stand for anyone badmouthing these humble little workhorses who did the best they possibly could.

What a batch of fantastic cars that David found! It almost makes up for him running off this week when we’re already short-staffed! Almost!

 

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Fred Fedurch
Fred Fedurch
1 month ago

My father use to start up his Rover TC2000 with the hand crank every once in a while for S&Gs.

Sundance
Sundance
1 month ago

“…Ford Explorer,…what must be a quite rare Euro-market car.” It was not a rare car back then, at least in Germany. Who did buy this car in Germany? Those who wanted a SUV and couldn’t afford a Range. End of the 90ties I considered to buy one, but they had no diesel, so I imported a Suburban (yes, that was rare and cool) from Canada.

EricTheViking
EricTheViking
1 month ago

“Euro one has sealed-beam rectangular headlamps…”

Well, it’s not exactly a “sealed-beam” as one can change the bulbs on those ECE headlamp capsules.

The taillamps on European Explorer (1993–1995) came from the 1991–1994 Mazda Navajo with the reverse lamps tinted amber and repurposed as turn signal indicators.

Mazda Navajo taillamps

When second-generation Explorer was introduced in 1995, it received the proper composite headlamps for Europe.

https://img.classistatic.de/api/v1/mo-prod/images/c7/c77595f0-b223-4492-a81a-707620c1eed1?rule=mo-1600.jpg

Chrysler and General Motors did the “headlamp capsule” route with their vehicles during the late 1980s and early 1990s, too. The second-generation Voyager, 1991 Pontiac Trans Sport, first-generation Chevrolet Beretta and Corsica, and amongst others got the fleet-special headlamp capsules for the European market. Eventually, the sales and interest were strong enough to splurge more money on the proper headlamps and taillamps for Europe-bound North American vehicles.

Chevrolet Beretta

Chevrolet Corsica

Chrysler Voyager

I still couldn’t figure out where the headlamps that were fitted to 1985–1991 Cadillac Eldorado and Seville came from (My best guess might be the facelifted 1979–1982 Audi 100 Typ 43, C2). Then, General Motors wised up and prepared the proper T84 export headlamps for European-bound vehicles.

Cadillac Seville II with mystery ECE headlamps

Cadillac Allanté, Eldorado, and Seville with proper T84 export headlamps

About the headlamps and rear bumpers, the early Explorer and Probe were imported by a very large Ford sales centre in Cologne and remanufactured to comply with ECE regulations. Thus, “cheap-arsed” modifications to the headlamps and rear end. When the sales took off for both of them, Ford Europe took over the importation and made lot of significant changes to both models as to eliminate the “grey import look”.

PS When will we ever be able to post the images here? It is royal pain in the arse to search for the photos with links that might have half-life of a gnat. Jalopnik and Curbside Classic allow this. So, why can’t you?

Last edited 1 month ago by EricTheViking
Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
1 month ago
Reply to  EricTheViking

This needs to be pinned. Or they should just let you write an article. My faves are all the Chrysler products sold under different names in Europe, like the Chrysler GTS and the Chrysler ES.

M0L0TOV
M0L0TOV
1 month ago
Reply to  Vetatur Fumare

Chrysler Saratoga is another one.

EricTheViking
EricTheViking
1 month ago
Reply to  Vetatur Fumare

Then in 2011, Chrysler vehicles were rebranded as Lancia Voyager (actually Dodge Voyager), Thema (300), and Flavia (200) in the continental Europe in hope of extending the expiry date for the Italian brand further.

The Britons have the very long memories like Americans and diesel engines. Lancia was automotive persona non grata in the United Kingdom due to its prodigious rusting and stunningly lacklustre support from FIAT. So, Chrysler stuck with Chrysler brand there for a while.

AutoPartsGuyBuffalo
AutoPartsGuyBuffalo
1 month ago
Reply to  EricTheViking

I’ve always wanted one of those front ends for my 90 Explorer. I’ve searched but haven’t found any on the European “craigslist” sites. Anyone got a lead on those parts?

EricTheViking
EricTheViking
1 month ago

The best bet is the junkyard and strippers (not the ones in slutty bikinis who twirl around the poles).

In Germany, they’re called Autoverwertungsbetrieb (more specific than Schrottplatz, which can include anything).

Perhaps you have better luck with this guy in Cologne area who’s parting out his Explorer:

https://www.kleinanzeigen.de/s-anzeige/ford-explorer-1990-1995-u1-4×4-v6-europa-version-in-teilen-teile/2483560222-223-2004

AutoPartsGuyBuffalo
AutoPartsGuyBuffalo
1 month ago
Reply to  EricTheViking

Thanks!

Harvey Park
Harvey Park
1 month ago

I wonder if Americans who’ve never seen one in person can truly imagine how TINY that Autobianchi is. It is so very, very smol.

Máté Petrány
Máté Petrány
1 month ago
Reply to  Harvey Park

That Junior looks mint. Very nice, and I’m glad Dave could drive it. 42 hp is not much, but it is enough, and regular A112s only had 48 anyway. That blue works well.

Myk El
Myk El
1 month ago
Reply to  Harvey Park

Thanks to an Italian brand car show, I am one of probably not many Americans who have seen one. A little more of that BMW parked behind it would help for scale.

Citrus
Citrus
1 month ago

I remember an article in Automobile Magazine around that era where they got their contributors from Europe to give their opinions on popular American cars, and they all pretty much shat all over the Explorer.

Mikan
Mikan
1 month ago

Looking at the comparison of the European and American Ford Explorers it’s fascinating thinking about how car styling is culturally relative: the chrome bumpers and upright chrome grille probably looked ‘rugged’ and ‘formal’ to Americans of the time, but would probably have looked awfully old-fashioned and agricultural to Europeans.

For an example closer to home, the Holden VE Commodore was considered a bold and sporty design in Australia in a market dominated by more conservatively styled Asian and European cars, so it came as a surprise to see the Pontiac G8/Chevy SS being considered bland and boring in the US (though against designs like the Camaro, Challenger and all your pickup trucks, it makes sense).

Nlpnt
Nlpnt
1 month ago

Every new Trabi had perfect panel gaps in at least one place, between the doors and fenders. They trimmed those particular Duroplast panels in the rough, installed them on the car, and only after the considerable amount of “body German” needed to get the steel structural door adjusted in the frame was applied did someone take a special double-bladed electric saw and give the panels their final trimming, resulting in a perfect panel gap.

A wide one – this was a problem with Dustbusters and Saturns and still is with Corvettes too. Plastic body panels simply need more space to expand and contract with temperature than steel does.

LTDScott
LTDScott
1 month ago

There was one of these at the last Radwood show in Texas. It even had a neat contoured front bull bar that I’ve never seen in America.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
1 month ago

That’s a nice looking Trabant! Considering some YouTubers took two across much of Asia and fixed them by basically hitting them with rocks, they earned a lot of respect.

Harvey Park
Harvey Park
1 month ago

That’s basically how they were made in the factory, so it makes sense they would respond well to percussive maintenance.

Top Dead Center
Top Dead Center
1 month ago

I had an expat assignment in Belgium in 2002. At the time had a new Corvette C5 back home that I got months before I was sent over to Belgium. On one hand it was exciting to live / work on a companies dime, but I also had generally lame lease or rental cars. So I looked at importing my C5 there for my assignment, taking an allowance and selling there when it ended. The tax scenario was super weird, but that’s a whole other lame discussion… But onto the interesting, import requirements:

I worked with an importer in Belgium who gave me a detailed listing. The car was generally complaint from the factory but had to retrofit some things. Had to swap in euro C5 tail lights (red/amber) easy, also had to add rear fogs – and was a bit vague if it was like cut a hole in bumper meh or just take one reverse light and make it a rear fog, the headlights I had to swap in euro spec/aimed and add leveler control with motors, cut in side turn indicators on fenders, mirrors were ok because they folded from the factory, plate they had a hideous front adaptor for the wider one, back same or do a US style stacked. Cluster could easily go into Kmh. The biggest thing seemed to be lighting changes…I also recall their this control technique inspection thing, TUV ish I think? Also general emissions check on inspection. This was 21 years ago so I would assume if anything it’s worse/stricter now? I always loved seeing random US stuff over there. Weirdly in Germany I’d see a decent number of muscle cars or quite strangely giant land yachts in some of the Nordic countries. Roll around in a mint 1987 Caprice woody wagon in Stockholm, people would notice…

NAMiata
NAMiata
1 month ago

I bet an electrified Trabbi would be an absolute blast. Imagine shocking some BMWs and Audis.

Drad
Drad
1 month ago

We got the second gen? Or facelift of the first gen? Explorer in RHD in New Zealand. Apart from the rear lights, I think its pretty well the same, except we didn’t get a column shifter, ours ALL had floor mounted shifters – I don’t think we got manuals either, I think they may have in Australia. I remember really wanting my parents to swap our 4Runner for one because they had the headphone jacks and radio controls in the back! The 90s were a simpler time. Aside I know that 4runner we had is still on the road, and I highly doubt there are many ’96 Explorers running around.

Space
Space
1 month ago
Reply to  Drad

Can’t speak for 96′ specifically but I see a handful of 1st gen Explorers around, almost as much as 2nd gens, and most are being worked hard.

Nlpnt
Nlpnt
1 month ago
Reply to  Drad

IIRC an automatic floor shift was available for Explorers in the US through the whole run. It’s not surprising at all that Ford would specify it for RHD markets rather than developing an RHD column selector for such low volumes.

EricTheViking
EricTheViking
1 month ago
Reply to  Drad

The second-generation Explorer had the same headlamp design for the US and international markets except for the light diffusing patterns and type of bulbs.

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
1 month ago

The Explorer just wanted to get back to its roots (engine wise, that is).

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
1 month ago

That Multipla is great. Looks like an escapee from the Michael Caine original of “The Italian Job.”

Abdominal Snoman
Abdominal Snoman
1 month ago

that hurts my brain… it’s like an AI was fed a bunch of pictures of Ford Explorers and Oldsmobile Bravadas, both labeled SUV, and asked for a picture of an SUV.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 month ago

!!! There was one of these at Radwood Austin that won an award. All kitted out with tons of extras, same color, in impeccable shape. Dude imported it from Europe. I’ll drop some pics in Discord, I guess. (Comment section photos when?)

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
1 month ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

So is this a game? Guess which one of the five was at RW Austin?

OK, I’ll guess Trabant.

LTDScott
LTDScott
1 month ago

Explorer

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 month ago

D’oh, Explorer. The one in the title that led the post.

LTDScott
LTDScott
1 month ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

Dammit, shoulda read the comments before adding my own.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
1 month ago

Starting crank. LOL.
I love the optimism.

John Adams
John Adams
1 month ago

Now I want some hot dogs. Actually I want those hot dogs

OverlandingSprinter
OverlandingSprinter
1 month ago
Reply to  John Adams

Those look like bratwursts. In Wisconsin, a double brat is commonplace at backyard BBQs and tailgate parties. A triple though, whoa. That’s next-level artery clogging there. America better reflect on its sausage serving game to keep up.

Last edited 1 month ago by OverlandingSprinter
MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
1 month ago

Unless the person holding it is Andre the Giant, then it looks like the wursts are the size of a finger, so not that much more artery clogging than your basic ‘Murican brat.

Hoonicus
Hoonicus
1 month ago

“I’m not sure why this one is painted up like someone took every Live Laugh Love-type inspirational wall art from a Michael’s and slapped it on the side, but as long as they’re having fun in that thing it’s fine by me.” This is why I spend way too much time on your site.

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