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1997 Ford Expedition - Dynamic Demo

Like We Used To Have Back In The Day

Joe Greeves
Aug 1, 2009
Photographers: Joe Greeves
Photo 2/11   |   1997 Ford Expedition right Front Angle
Chris Rawlins, from Pooler, Georgia, is the manager for Kimball's Mobile Electronics in Savannah. At age 37, he has been an active enthusiast for the last 20 years and finds it difficult to drive anything that doesn't boast a world-class stereo. For the last several years, his '97 Expedition has been the perfect family vehicle but there was a problem. Even though his daily driver was `bagged on 22-inch wheels, the truck was missing one crucial element to satisfy Chris' need for some genuine concert hall entertainment. The solution began innocently enough when he contacted JBL for some equipment. When the components arrived, they looked so good that he decided they were worth a slightly more elaborate install and, as you can see, that one small step turned into a very long walk! The 20-month build departed considerably from the original plan but the results were worth it, producing the show-winning custom you see here.
Chris embarked on the project, deciding to build a truck in a style popular years ago. "Back in the day," he recalled, "stereo shops would have a dynamic demo vehicle out front, cool enough to make you want to take a closer look. Their showcase vehicle would display the talents of the shop and convince you that they were the ones to modify your truck." Chris' goal was to create a truck that would stop traffic!
He started with an advantage since his truck was already 'bagged, but more was needed to get it to the next level. Suspension mods were the first step in lowering the profile. He C-notched the rear framerails for additional clearance and installed DJM upper and lower tubular control arms up front, along with new Brembo rotors on the factory calipers. The air suspension system uses 2,600-pound `bags, 8.5 Blitzluft valves, -inch lines, and a pair of Viair 480C compressors that fill the 5-gallon chassis-mounted reserve tank. Extra capacity comes from the nitrous bottle that adds an additional two gallons of reserve air. The 10-switch box on the console gives the truck all the moves.
In his quest for a full custom, Chris contacted the team at Smitty's Collision Center in Garden City, Georgia. They handled the bodywork, shaving the door handles, hood squirters, antenna, emblems, roof rack, rear wipers, and tailgate. The Grant Customs three-piece roll pan replaced the original rear bumper and the truck now runs a front end from an `02 Ford Lightning, complete with clear headlight assemblies, clear corners, and HID lights. Once all the changes were complete, Chris took the vehicle to Chad Chambers Customs in Daytona Beach, Florida, for paint. Using a combination of white with House of Kolor Majik Blue Pearl and Tru Blue Pearl, accented with realistic fire and airbrushed skulls. the Ford looked great. Todd Fisher from Volusia County Customs followed up, adding the lime green and orange pinstripes to separate the colors.
To provide a central location for the rest of the audio/video additions, Chris built a new center console that holds a 12-inch Directed monitor and a smaller monitor for the Harman Kardon Guide and Play portable GPS 810 navigation as well as the Harman Kardon Drive and Play iPod interface. The dash was modified to accept the new 7-inch Directed monitor and the Pioneer DEHP8MP head unit, as well as the Panasonic DVD player, now located where the passenger airbag used to be. Above the dash, gauges for the air suspension reside in a custom housing that Chris created, using an aftermarket A-pillar gauge enclosure. The seats were reupholstered in Katzkin gray leather with dark gray suede inserts. Suede headliner and carpet, along with custom paint accents on the new fiberglass pieces, completed the interior.
Although the build took longer than anticipated, the results were worth it. The 20-month project was completed just two days before our photo shoot at the Perry, Georgia, Blood Drag show where Chris captured the Best Audio/Visual trophy. Future plans include an equal measure of driving his new custom Expedition and parking his dynamic demo vehicle out front in the hopes of reestablishing an old favorite stereo shop tradition--his own personal traffic jam!
Once suspension and bodywork was complete, the next priority was Chris' specialty--the elaborate audio/video system inside. The first step was insulating the truck with Dynamat, followed by creating the 20 individual fiberglass pieces and the steel framework that made up the system. Loaded with carefully arranged components, the rear hatch became the stereo focal point of the truck. Four 15-inch JBL subs in a custom enclosure guarantee plenty of bass, energized by the large JBL Crown GTIA3000 amp in the center. The pair of smaller, motorized JBL P300.4 amps power the twenty mids and highs positioned throughout the cab. Just for fun at shows, a pair of 7-inch Directed monitors respond to both the DVD player and rearview camera. Looking at the hatch from inside shows even more intricate detail, beginning with the welded steel rack that holds five Stinger 1-farad capacitors running the width of the truck. The twin Audio Control 30-band mono equalizers are visible when the rear seats are folded down and they're used to perfectly tune the audio to Chris' delight. All four doors were outfitted with JBL MKII 6.5 and 5.25-inch component sets in custom fiberglass enclosures that rounded out the front stage.



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