Finally had a nice day, and got the hitch installed on Project Colony Ship.
The front bolt holes didn’t line up at all, so I had to cut a slot where the bolt hole was, then weld in a reinforcement across the end of the slot. My awesome partner actually did the welding on that. She also welded the bolts to metal plates to make the pieces to insert into the frame.
While she was at that I drilled the front holes in the frame, ground the terrible factory Ford welds so the frame bottom was flat, and primed & painted that area. Next up comes wiring in the hitch plug.
I’ve been doing further research on the Explorer 5.0 V8 swap. Looks like 2wd V8 ‘96-’01 Explorers are rare in the Northeast. But it looks like I can get a V8 AWD donor truck for the engine, wiring harness, ECU, etc. Then get a Crown Vic 4R70W 2wd transmission, which will actually have the correct tailshaft for the speedo cable.
I also bought a replacement radio on sale at Pick & Pull today, which was sadly a fail. My radio doesn’t play cassettes. When a cassette is put in this one, it emits a deafening tone from the RF speaker.