KonaBoss New Reader
10/30/18 3:13 a.m.

Hey all,

After selling the '95 mustang off and transferring the lease on my fiesta, I was in the position of searching for another cheap daily/winter beater/minor project car, since I know myself and the fact that I just cant leave anything alone.. And that is where the panther platform fits into the picture. For those that are unaware, the panther platform dates back to the mid-80's and hosted such legendary cars such as the crown vic, marauder, grand marquis, and town car. 

Through the years Ford did both minor and major refinements to the platform. The cars that are most desirable to us gearheads are the '03+ models, since they got rack and pinion steering (vs the older recirculating ball), an upgraded frame, an aluminum front cradle, and a host of other refinements over the previous cars. 

So what drives me to own a panther? Well, to start off I have had some experience with these cars previously. I had a 2011 ex-interceptor for about 8 months that I rallycrossed and did the Gambler 500 in, so I definitely have a good feel for the abuse that this platform can take. I also owned an '04 Marauder for 2 weeks (long story), which was quite a steaming pile... 

Otherwise, I find that I enjoy the full size sedan ride quality on the godawful roads here in Michigan in winter (and in summer who am I kidding...). Also, other than being pretty hefty and a little underpowered, the panther platform is actually pretty underrated if you ask me. With a solid axle and watts link suspension setup from rear in the factory, and dual a-arms up front with coilovers these heavy beasts do pretty good for their size, especially in police interceptor trim.

So why an LX Sport? Well, other than marauders they are kind of the rare birds of the panther platform. They got alot of the goodies that the marauder got, without the stupid price tag. Dual buckets in the front with the center console and floor shifter, full leather, upgraded sway bars and stiffer rear airbags, dual exhaust, electronic climate control with steering wheel controls, monochromatic paint treatment, and special wheels that came on the LX Sports only. They also got the 3.27 rear gear ratio, although unfortunately not a limited slip. I think final production numbers for '03 LX Sports ended up somewhere in the neighborhood of 4200 or so. 

The car I bought has 150k miles on it, with dealer maintenance documented every 3k miles since new. It does need a few things that I'll have to address before I get to the actual modifications I'd like to do on it. The whole goal of the build on this car is to be stock+, I want to make sure that I keep its ability to be an excellent daily driver. The first couple of things on the list are a new drivers side front fender (rust spot in the bottom of it), new rear bumper cover (paint missing from a small parking lot bump), and replacement of the climate control blend door actuator (extremely common issue on theses). I also have a bit of POR-15'ing to do along the drivers side rocker panel to make sure the small amount of rust that is there does not evolve into anything worse. Enough talk for now, time for pics!

ebonyandivory PowerDork
10/30/18 6:29 a.m.

I need to stop reading about these projects, stat.

(That’s meant as a compliment to you. Every time I lock in a candidate for my next car, a cool project comes up and I start all over again)

Floating Doc
Floating Doc Dork
10/30/18 6:57 a.m.

It seems to me that there has been an uptick in the number of threads about Panthers.

I had a 1979, first-year production, that I drove and modified for 14 years. That was followed by a 93, then a 95 p71.

I really want another one.

KonaBoss New Reader
11/7/18 10:04 a.m.

Planning on taking on the blend door actuator replacement this weekend. Also going to go look at a set of marauder wheels and marauder exhaust off of a wrecked car. I should replace the drivers fender and rear bumper cover first, but hard to turn down somewhat rare marauder bits... Plan is to run the marauder wheels in the summer, with some fairly sticky 255/40/18's on them for summer driving sheanigans/autox. 

As far as I can tell the marauder exhaust is extremely similar to what I have on my car already, but with the nice marauder tips and no resonators. The original marauder mufflers are gone, so I may hack a custom setup together with an X pipe, the stock crown vic mufflers, and the marauder over-axle pipes and tips. Want a bit more aggressive sound from the car, but no drone since the whole point of this thing is the ability to daily it. If it is still too quiet post-exhaust mods, I may consider removing the rear-most set of cats as well.

Kasstastrophy New Reader
11/7/18 9:32 p.m.

Glad you were able to find a decent Panther. I look forward to seeing more of this one. 

stuart in mn
stuart in mn UltimaDork
11/8/18 7:55 a.m.

I didn't know there was such a thing as a Sport version.  Very cool.

Datsun310Guy UltimaDork
11/8/18 8:18 a.m.

In reply to stuart in mn :

Gunchsta HalfDork
11/8/18 8:45 a.m.

I've been daily driving my Panther (2002 Lincoln Town Car) for over 4 years now. It was free from my grandmother and has been an overall awesome car. 


I too can attest to the capability of these hogs, I've autocrossed mine a few times and had boatloads of fun (yes, pun intended). I actually did a winter autocross which involved a significant amount of WOT oversteer which still lives in my mind as the most fun I've ever had in a car. 


Excited to see what you have in store for this one! 

Esoteric Nixon - Jordan
Esoteric Nixon - Jordan UltraDork
11/8/18 9:56 a.m.

Make sure the recall has been done for the lighting control module or whatever Ford calls it.  Also, should you want to use the keypad on the door (trust me you do) but don't have the code, it's usually on one of the trunk hinges. Also also, maybe it's just me, but the rear air ride seems to be sitting low. Could just be the angle of the photos, though. I sold my '04 de Sade LS before moving to Saudi and I kinda miss it. Though shockingly, there's millions of Panthers in Saudi, all seemingly equipped with the HPP wheels or Sport wheels for the `03+. Strange.

GCrites80s Reader
11/8/18 8:26 p.m.

Keyless entry that has you press keys instead of insert keys still shouldn't be called keyless.

Vigo UltimaDork
11/9/18 10:15 a.m.

Thats a nice looking panther for sure! Good starting point!!

KonaBoss New Reader
11/9/18 9:28 p.m.

Thanks for the kind words everyone! @Esoteric Nixon - Jordan, I do believe it still needs that recall done so I'll be sure to get it taken in for that. As far as the keyless entry goes, I went hunting for the code on the hinges but did not see it. I'm going to continue looking through it. As far as the air ride goes, I had the same thought. In that picture it had just come off the trailer though, and it has seemingly leveled out since. Blend door to occur here either  tomorrow or Sunday, I'm getting tired of not having heat ..

KonaBoss New Reader
11/13/18 12:36 p.m.

Alright, blend door actuator has been completed! Sure is nice to have heat again... As far as difficulty goes, the worst part was definitely getting to the screws that hold the actuator down. In my case (thankfully) someone had done a blend door actuator before, and just left the rear 2 screws out. Still sucked to take out the front one that was tucked in behind the center stack, but thankfully I didnt have to do 3 of those. Turns out whoever replaced the last one used an aftermarket one, and it stripped a couple of teeth on the gears. I put the new OEM ford one in and tested it, then slapped the dash back together and called it good. Picture of said stripped gears below (notice the tooth just chilling on the circuit board):

Also, you can just barely see the corner of the blend door actuator below:

I also went junkyard hunting for a bit to see if I could dig up a clean black drivers side front fender or a clean rear bumper cover. No dice on either of those. Lots of clean other colors, but no black ones... I did manage to find one of the slide-out gun racks for the top shelf in the trunk however, so I picked that up. Pretty sweet piece of equipment, nice aluminum bottom and sides, and even has locks for the slides. I'll likely affix a small bin to the shelf and use it to store my road-going essentials. 

I also made steps towards fixing the one-wheel-peel issue. Picked up a brand new Ford 31 spline traction-lock rear differential with the GT500 carbon clutches, and some 31 spline axle shafts to go along with (my current ones are 28 spline). 31 spline diffs are much more plentiful, so I figured why not upgrade to a stronger axle as well... Should have those parts by the end of the week sometime. 

Finally, I spent some time washing up the car and installing the winter tires. I did a partial detail (claybarred the hood, roof, and trunk lid) and then put some chemical guys jet seal over top (Good stuff). Below are the results... Not too shabby for 15 year old black paint. Definitely a 10 footer though, some minor clearcoat bubbling on the roof and misc scratches/small door dings.

KonaBoss New Reader
11/15/18 11:25 a.m.

Came across a really good deal on a set of 2010 GT500 wheels last night that I couldnt pass up. They are the split 5 spoke wheels in the gunmetal grey color. 19x9.5 with 45mm offset and 285 width tires on all 4. Did some reading and should be able to fit them up front, may have to do some slight fender rolling. Should make for a pretty aggressive look come summer time, and plenty of grip for autocross. They do have 9 year old Goodyear Eagle F1 supercars on them, so I'll have to see if there is any grip left in them at all. Tread is at 90%. 

RossD MegaDork
11/15/18 12:34 p.m.

Those wheels look great!

Datsun310Guy UltimaDork
11/15/18 12:47 p.m.
RossD said:

Those wheels look great!


APEowner Dork
11/15/18 2:20 p.m.

Cool car.  I love the Panther platform and I've owned at various times a Lincoln Town Car, a Mercury Grand Marquis a Ford Crown Victoria.  The GT500 wheels look awesome!


mblommel Dork
11/26/18 6:22 a.m.

Those GT500 wheels look amazing on there!

KonaBoss New Reader
1/3/19 1:53 p.m.

Been a long time since update, sorry for the delay. Have acquired all parts necessary to swap in the 31 spline limited slip for the rear. Final pieces I needed were the wheel bearings and seals, picked those up last week. Now it is just a matter of getting into the shop and getting it done, have a friend that is pretty good at doing rear differentials in stick axle mustangs so I'm hoping he will help me shim up and set lash on the new carrier. 

I also finally found a clean front drivers side fender in black after 4 months of searching (hard to find rust-free stuff up here in the rust-belt). Had to drive damn near all the way to Chicago to get it. That will be going on once the weather warms up and the salt is off the roads. Figured the old one is already pretty rusty, so just going to continue to run it throughout the rest of this winter. 

Also wound up picking up the exhaust off the scrapped marauder, turns out it had the highly desirable megs tips with resonators! Was pretty happy to find that out since they are really pricey and not made anymore (original supplier for the tips on the marauder sold these in small batches for a while). I think I'm going to have an exhaust shop fab up a catback for me with these tips, a set of chambered flowmasters, and an x pipe and see how it turns out. I polished up the tips a couple weeks ago, this is how they came out: 



wawazat Reader
1/3/19 2:16 p.m.

Those wheels look great on the car.  Tough, understated, means business kinda look.  Well done sir!

Antihero Dork
1/3/19 2:50 p.m.

hmm....i think a panther has been added to my list of cars to buy

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