KonaBoss
KonaBoss Reader
7/13/20 1:48 p.m.

Hello again everyone,

I'm back to no good with panther platform vehicles again! After telling myself I was done with the panther platform after the last one I sold (4th one I had owned), I decided I'd venture into a whole new world with the V70R project. While it was a fun project and was interesting to work on something that was actually rare/unique, I started to miss the simplicity of the ol' body on frame crown vic. I have done alot of different things with these cars, ranging from rallycross, autocross, gambler 500, and just about everything in between. So, this next one is going to be something different that I haven't done with one yet, an off-road dedicated build! Back when I owned the last one I had, I was on the verge of going down this rabbithole.. So it has been on the list of things I have wanted to do for a while. As far as a donor vehicle goes, I have the perfect one in mind. About 3 years ago I bought my first crown vic from a friend of mine who had a little "incident" with it. Lets just say it met a guardrail on the highway in the rain. Other than the resulting body implications, the car still ran and drove just fine and my friend took excellent care of it before the incident. When I bought the car from him, I replaced the front header panel, bumper beam, frame standoffs, rear bumper, and taillights. A little before/after:

When I brought it home:

And after a new front end:

The car is from from perfect, but is presentable. From there, I wound up using that car for alot of new forms of motorsport I had never explored before, due to the fact that I wasnt afraid to beat on it. I rallycrossed it, went ice racing with my brother in it, and took it to the Michigan Gambler 500 (failed miserably there, was severely lacking ground clearance for the deep sand). Some pics from rallycross a couple years ago:

After owning it for about a year or so, I passed the car on to a friend of mine who had always wanted to try out the crown vic scene. Turns out I was able to convert another loyal follower, and he now owns my old car and another one as well.  He has rallycrossed and autocrossed the car regularly. However, his attention has been turning more towards restoring the other one he bought, since it is a much nicer car all around. I asked him what his plans were for my old car and offered to buy it back from him. He mentioned he will sell it to me, so I'm happy to have my old car back again (no matter how ratty it is). Like I mentioned above, plans for this one are an offroad-centric build so that I can go wheeling with some of my friends (that have rigs that can recover me) as well as claim redemption at the gambler 500 after my poor performance 3 years ago. Plans are at the moment:

1. 3" front and rear lift spacers - These are from one of the common donk kits, and involve 3" spacers for above the strut assemblies in the front end and 3" spacers for underneath the coil springs in the rear (between the spring and the axle)

2. Extended front upper control arms to help correct some of the suspension geometry issues that arise with this kind of lift (and so that I can acutally align it without positive camber/excessive upper ball joint wear)

2.5. Extended rear shocks to work with the increased travel necessary (apparently front struts from a '92 Jeep wrangler do the job, as well as 4x2 F150 shocks from the early 2000's)

3. 31" tires, probably 265/70/R16's in as aggressive of a tread as I can find (would like to find some jeep take-offs, and will likely wind up running a spacer of some variety)

4. Rebuild the rear traction lock differential, preferably with the GT500 carbon clutch kit for increased locking bias. Also potential for some kind of locker if I'm really feeling spicy

5. Potential re-gear of the rear end (4.10's) depending on how bad performance suffers

6. Front "pre-runner" style bumper with incorporated skid plate and winch mount

7. Other miscellaneous offroad equipment (light bar, roof rack?)

8. Side pipe exhaust of some variety would be nice

At any rate I know I'm not the first to do this kind of conversion on one of these cars, but I'm excited to give it a shot and keep you all in the loop. Would also like to keep it somewhat street-able so I can daily it in the winter if I so feel inclined.

03Panther
03Panther HalfDork
7/14/20 10:39 p.m.

I didn't fall fot the panthers till I started driving my MIL's 03 Grand Marquis a few years ago. With only 35K on the clock at the time, and every option short of the Ultimate trim, I'm really liking it. I driven a few earlier generations, and they left me blah, but either the 03 up improvements, or the luxury options, this one is quite the cruiser. 23-26 on the hwy,  20 combined here in the country. Was only getting 11 - 13 in S Fla. I checked avg. speed there... 14 MPH!!! Including a few high speed trips on FL Tpk. No wonder. I'm glad it up here in Lower Al'bam. now.

Where you hail from?

I've no clue how bad the Donk lifts adversely affect handling... I cant imagine its good! I do like the thought of larger off road tires.

NoviceClass
NoviceClass New Reader
7/15/20 12:11 a.m.

 

This thread is relevant to my interests.

I have a 98 Grand Marquis, with under 100k miles, that a family member hit a mailbox (obliterated a brick mailbox) with, and some guys have started up a rallycross track just about an hour or so south of me. Thought it might be a good candidate.

 

Will be curious how the lift works out for you; as well as how much, if any, you need to cut the fenders.  Also wondered how best to handle shifting, mount a floor shifter to help mimic a manual? 

Concerned the frame on the one I have is slightly askew from going over the curb to get to the mailbox. The passenger front corner of the car seems to be a bit high, and not sure if minor frame straightening would be doable as an at home project.

In. Awesome!

KonaBoss
KonaBoss Reader
7/15/20 8:03 a.m.

In reply to 03Panther :

This car was definitely the one that got me started on the panther platform. I dont get near the fuel economy as yours due to the lightbar/push bumper/police gearing (3.55's), but I can usually still average around 20 mi/gal on the highway. My brother has a '00 crown vic with the highway gear (2.73's) and gets similar fuel economy to yours. I have come to really appreciate the simplicity of these cars, and their general bulletproof characteristics. 

I'm in the metro Detroit area.

As far as the affects of the donk kit on handling, I'm not expecting any miracles by any means. I'm going with the extended upper control arms for the front of the car to help with front geometry issues. Also, the 3" lift kits just have coilover spacers for the front suspension and lift cups that go between the rear axle and rear spring. Spring rates stay the same as factory, so I'm definitely anticipating more roll in the corners due to the higher CG, but hoping most of the other handling characteristics remain relatively similar. Also planning on running some wheel spacers to help widen the track width a bit. 

KonaBoss
KonaBoss Reader
7/15/20 8:10 a.m.

In reply to NoviceClass :

Hey there, man they really got that mailbox! If you are thinking rallycross, I'd stay away from lifting it. Like I mentioned I ran mine in rallycross on the stock police interceptor suspension, and it did great. If you are thinking about going that route, maybe hit up the local scrap yards and scavenge a full on police interceptor suspension setup (springs, sway bars, dampers, etc). As far as the damage on the car goes, its is really pretty simple to pull the front end of these cars apart so I'd encourage removing the front bumper, bumper beam, header panel, headlights etc to really get a good look at the damage in there. Nice thing about the panther platform is that parts are exceptionally easy to come by in the scrap yards. 

In regards to fender cutting, my research leads me to believe that if I stick with the 3" lift and 31" tires and make sure the offset on the wheels is right, I shouldnt have to do much cutting if any. 

As far as shifting goes, I have acutally always liked the transmission calibration in the police interceptor cars. They are actually fairly eager to downshift and do a good job at holding gears most of the time. However with yours being a civilian '98 model, the trans cal is probably much less aggressive.. I have always deliberated doing a manual swap, but I'll wait till the auto in mine grenades itself to go down that rabbit hole. 

KonaBoss
KonaBoss Reader
7/15/20 8:10 a.m.

In reply to wheelsmithy (Joe-with-an-L) (Forum Supporter) :

Thanks!

03Panther
03Panther HalfDork
7/15/20 7:22 p.m.

To be fair on the MPG I get, I admit to extra effort into driving style to get that... and good country roads for good mpg. I got better than anyone else in the family when it was still in S. FL, but mid teens was bout its best there (combined)

My MIL would always pick on me 'bout driving so careful; my wife had her tell me to "drive it like I stole it" - so I left a light kinda hot! I can still hear her cackling!!!

KonaBoss
KonaBoss Reader
12/2/20 1:54 p.m.

Alright, so this project was a little long coming... Amid the whole coronavirus thing and saving to buy a house it took me a bit longer to buy the car back than anticipated, but it officially back in my hands. 

I wound up getting some free push-bumpers from one of the local police departments, so I decided step #1 was to pull the old bent push bumper off the car and install the new one. Turns out the brackets they gave me must be for a taurus or something, they definitely didnt fit... So I picked up a set of used CV brackets locally and now it fits perfect.

Next step was to upgrade the lighting since I daily drive this car. I was a bit skeptical of putting LED bulbs in reflector halogen housings, but I did some reading and wound up with Morimoto's new 2Stroke 3.0's for the car. The LED chips on these are designed to replicate the light pattern of a halogen bulb and with some careful aiming of the headlights and orienting of the lights I'm happy to say that the beam pattern on these is actually really good! No blinding of anyone else, good light output, and pretty simple to aim. I also wound up picking up a set of the Diode Dynamics SS3 Pro pods in the SAE fog pattern, amber color. These are more for the offroad look than anything else, but I am looking forward to trying the amber as fog lights since we get a fair amount of snow here in Michigan... Some pics with the morimotos:

I also wound up picking up a set of tires for the car. I went with 245/70/17's on stock crown vic steel wheels. After reading a ton on the offroad CV pages (yes they are a thing...) that seemed to be the best tire size that doesnt require a ton of cutting on a 3" lift. Some pics below:

Lots of beef! Not exactly the tires I wanted, but walmart had a black friday blowout on them... They were $50/piece for brand new tires shipped to my door in the right size and close to what I wanted... Hard to refuse.

So as of right now that is where things stand. I picked up the last of the parts needed for the lift kit yesterday (F150 rear shocks), so looking forward to kicking this project off. I'm currently debating wheel color... I think I want to go with a satin bronze of some variety

03Panther
03Panther Dork
12/2/20 2:59 p.m.

Fantastic deal on those tires! I just put new tires on all three of our roadworthy vehicles. Sam club for wife’s highlander, Walmart online for 03, and local mom and pop shop for f350. 

My only financial plan right now, is when the economy collapses, every one else will be as broke as me, and my wife and I won’t notice so muchsmiley

KonaBoss
KonaBoss Reader
12/7/20 2:31 p.m.

Some updates from this weekend..

Step 1: Mock up skidplate... Very large skidplate...

So the side and rear mounting points line up to existing holes really well. The side arms mount to the frame, and the rear mounts to the transmission cross member. The front however... Are like 6" out in space away from the frame rails. After some research, apparently there are brackets that are welded onto the frame that these mount to. The guy I bought it off of neglected to tell me that fact, so I'll be fabbing some brackets myself. So had to shelve that project for the day and move onto some lighting projects. I received those Diode dynamics SS3's in the mail and got those wired up and mounted. All I can say is wow... Amazing light output and really nice products. Some pics:

Mid-install:

Night glamor shot:

And driving, a brief test with just the fogs. Dare I say almost as bright as my normal headlights:

Up next will be the part we have all been waiting for, the lift! Stay tuned..

KonaBoss
KonaBoss Reader
12/16/20 7:53 p.m.

Alright, finally to the point... The lift has been installed.

Where it started the day:

And where it ended:

How we got there:

Step 1: The parts stache. Spring spacers front and rear, F150 rear shocks, and extended front upper control arms.

Step 2: Tear front suspension apart and remove UCA's and spring/strut assemblies. Attach spring spacers to front strut assemblies.

Had to trim down the original studs on the strut top hats so that I could use new hardware to bolt the top of the strut spacers to the shock towers in the vehicle. For the record, I used 5/16" 1.75" long grade 8 zinc coated bolts to bolt the top of the strut spacers to the strut towers in the vehicle. Took some researching to figure that out, so I figured I'd make it public record here for anyone going down this path.

Step 3: Reassemble front suspension and check clearance of UCA's. I'm running 1.5" wheel spacers all around and still needed to trim the top of the end of the UCA ball joint cup to clear the stock 17" CVPI steelies.

Step 4: Trim up the ends of the UCA's and check fitment post-trimming

Post trimming, fits like a charm:

Step 5: Tighten everything up on the front suspension and transition to the rear suspension. I had some friends over helping so unfortunately I didn't get a ton of pics of the rear process. The gist of it goes:

A. Support rear axle with a jack

B. Unbolt rear shocks

C. Loosen up upper and lower control arm bolts and allow springs to drop out

D. Use spring compressor to compress rear springs, slide lift cups and springs back into place

E. Bolt new F150 rear struts in place

F. Loosen brackets for rear brake lines, rotate brackets so that rear brake lines get more slack when at full droop

G. Loosen up watts link bolts, lower car down to ride height, and torque all bolts at ride-height

A pic of the finalized rear suspension:

Something else to note in the rear, the shock eyelet on the F150 rear shocks is not as wide as the ones from the Crown Victoria. I wound up using some 5/16ths ID aluminum spacers from McMaster Carr to make up the difference. 

Step 6: Tack weld rear spring cups to axle housing. This may not be totally necessary, but I plan on wheeling this car pretty hard and would hate for them to fall out

And finally, the finished product:

This thing really has some serious ground clearance now! Off to the alignment shop on Friday to get the front end somewhere back close to stock. Toe is a bit out at the moment, and going to see if I can get the camber back to somewhere near 0 degrees or even a slight bit negative. Overall the car rides just like it did before the lift, maybe a bit smoother from the large sidewall on the tires. I really like this thing... Up next, skid plate completion and raptor digital mud stickers!

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