Car Thoughts: The Last Jurassic Park Ford Explorer

It’s not uncommon for theme parks that leverage movie properties to create replicas of items to put in theme parks. Often artifacts from summer blockbusters and tentpole films are too intrinsically valuable to a franchise to sacrifice to the wear and tear of theme park display, however this Jurassic Park Ford Explorer bucks that trend.

Universal Islands of Adventure Jurassic Park Ford Explorer

…this Ford Explorer from the 1993 film Jurassic Park appears to be the real deal.
Installed in Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure theme park roughly 18 years ago (accounting for construction and soft opening), it has undergone a couple of rehabs in its time.
In its early days, it retained the original curved bubble roof and its side windows were still transparent and likely still glass. The side windows were later converted to plexiglass and painted black on the inside to discourage people from both peering in the vehicle, and smashing the glass to take home a souvenir from the film.
The bubble roof eventually succumbed to warping, discoloration, and leaking and was replaced with a hastily formed sloping roof that did not match the the shape of the original. I speculate that this is because Universal theme parks (at the time owned by the Blackstone Group investment fund and NOT Universal itself) failed to pay for the tooling or moulds used to make the roofs along with the SUVs themselves.

That’s right, there was no connection to the movie studio and the theme parks for a long time. Comcast has since bought the theme parks back from Blackstone.

Eventually, the replacement roof went tool and the truck has since had another roof put on, this time opaque fiberglass that was bonded to the body of the car (ie no longer sealed with weatherstripping), and painted black to appear tinted.

But there are way too many words, and not enough pictures here, so let’s continue:

Universal Islands of Adventure Jurassic Park Ford Explorer

The evolution of this vehicle is subtle, but noticeable . It has probably been repainted twice over the years, and the color scheme is more muted than in the original film. A decision was made to repaint the front bumper and strip (or paint black) the bumper trim. Odd to say the least.
While in the movie, the vehicles rode on BF Goodrich tires, this one has had its tires swapped for Goodyears. They are likely filled with cement to prevent leaks or flats.
Getting back to the bubble roof, it appears that Universal gave up on the transparent roof altogether, replacing it with molded fiberglass and painting it black. They also covered the hole in the roof. Perhaps these were attempts at preventing further leaks and sun damage to the interior? We may never know…

The undercarriage shows a typical level of wear, tear, and corrosion from having lived most of its life in humid tropical climates (whether its beginnings on a car lot where it was damaged by a hail storm and deemed unsellable (and thus sold to the production), to its time in Hawaii on set, to its return to sound stages and being drenched by sprinklers, to a brief respite in the arid Los Angeles climate, and finally, in 1998, Florida.

  • Jurassic Park Ford Explorer Underneath

Many question the provenance of any such prop featured in a theme park (to be fair, most are replicas…even if presented as authentic). At the Universal Studios theme park in Osaka, Japan, they didn’t try particularly hard to convince people:

  • Universal Studios Osaka Jurassic Park Ford Explorer

Getting back to Florida,  despite painting the windows black on the Florida Explorer, the paint budget apparently didn’t stretch to the tailgate, because you can see in, and you can see this (apologies for the bad photos)

The remnants of the crude blind drive system are still in there. That had to be exceptionally uncomfortable for the driver. In the film, you often see a hastily tossed cloth over the stunt driver. There appear to be cables on the left side that may have been for brake and throttle pedals, and I’m not sure what the torsion beam or the pulleys affixed to the wheel wells accomplished, but decision (or lack thereof) to allow a view into the Explorer was a good one as it ties this vehicle directly back to the great 1993 film.
If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend it.

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