TBT: Ford Explorer Makes Electric Big Screen Debut in ‘Jurassic Park’

Feb 08, 2024

While an electric Ford Explorer recently joined the company’s lineup in Europe, the pioneering SUV wore an EV disguise more than 30 years ago in its biggest Hollywood role, and created one of the most iconic movie vehicles of all time in the process. 

“When it came time to cast for the record-breaking movie ‘Jurassic Park,’ the producers wanted heroes,” reads a 1993 Ford advertisement. “They wanted rugged types. Basically, they wanted Explorers. Maybe it’s because Ford Explorer has a sense of adventure limited only by the imagination. But then again, this is the best-selling sport utility vehicle on earth. And we built it to be a big hit with just about any audience.”

Hollywood comes calling

Explorer was just two years removed from joining the Ford lineup, but it was already a hit by the time filming began for “Jurassic Park.” A fleet of seven 1992 Ford Explorer XLTs served as the basis for the memorable lime green, yellow and maroon SUVs used to chauffeur guests around the prehistoric park, and they played an integral role in the terrifying sequences that transpired once the park’s residents went rogue. 

The modified Explorers also continued the suspended reality when it came to their propulsion systems. The vehicles in the film appeared to be guided through the park by an electrified track that MotorTrend speculates could have been meant to imply it represented an inductive charging system for the SUVs, which also gave the appearance that they operated on a backup battery when the power at the park goes out.

Self-driving illusion

The Explorers not only created the illusion they were early EVs, but also appeared autonomous in the film. They were modified for filming in part by the famed customizer George Barris, whose handiwork included creating the illusion that the Explorers were the world’s first self-driving vehicles. Unlike the mystery around the SUVs’ powertrain, the explanation around their operation is more obvious: The vehicles were built with an additional set of controls in the cargo area so they could be driven by a human operator. 

Other modifications included the addition of brush guards, auxiliary lighting, sensors, cameras and video monitors, but it was the Explorer’s clear bubble top roof that took center stage during a vicious T. rex attack.

‘Jurassic Park’ Explorers in the wild

The Explorer was featured at a time when product placement in TV and movies was still a relatively new avenue for advertising and would end up being immortalized in toys, books and video games. But perhaps the vehicle’s most enduring legacy can be seen in the countless real-world one-off reproductions, one of which was even featured at the 2022 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Many of the re-creations dutifully adhere to the standards of their colorful cousins.

The tribute vehicles are so numerous, in fact, that there is even a site dedicated to the accuracy of creating the clones. If you want to see one of the original Explorers from the film, two of them reportedly now reside at separate Universal Studios theme parks.

Despite Explorer’s hiatus from the big screen, the SUV is still America’s best-selling of all time, with more than eight million sold. Ordering for the new 2025 Ford Explorer is now open, while vehicles are expected to start shipping in the spring.

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