I've known for a long time that my car was too tall, but it's taken me a while to do something about it. I've mentioned before that Ford redesigned the front suspension of all the Panther Platform cars (Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis, Lincoln Town Car) in 2003 to make room for the 32-Valve 4.6 engine in the then-new Mercury Marauder, the only Panther car to come with a DOHC modular V8. The Marauder only survived two years of production, but that was enough time for the performance aftermarket to develop speed parts for the car. Because most of that stuff will also work across the board on '03 and later Panthers, I'm in luck. Through extensive message-board searching, I discovered Naake Suspension in Northern California, that developed a bolt-in coilover kit for Marauders. I spent some time on the phone with owner Mike Naake as he walked me through the choices—the company sell kits for the front and rear suspension with double-adjustable, single-adjustable, or nonadjustable shocks (that can be revalved)—and the costs and options for each version. I wanted the versatility of the double-adjustable shocks, but I could only afford the front kit, so that's what I decided on. For good measure, I also upgraded to an Addco 1 1/4-inch front sway bar and 1-inch-drop Eaton Detroit springs for the rear. Here's a quick rundown of how the install went. Front Coilovers Though the instructions didn’t call for it, I unbolted the outer tie rods from the steering knuckle. This frees up some space to get the factory spring/shock combination out, plus it makes it easier to move the steering knuckle around (rather than turning the steering wheel) to get access to everything behind it. Though the instructions didn’t call for it, I unbolted the outer tie rods from the steerin Unclip the plastic retainers for the ABS sensor leads. They will restrict how far the control arms can be spread apart. Unclip the plastic retainers for the ABS sensor leads. They will restrict how far the cont Separating the upper ball joint from the steering knuckle is easy. The stud has a hex-cut on the tip so you can use an Allen wrench to hold it while you turn the nut. The same holds true for the sway-bar links. Separating the upper ball joint from the steering knuckle is easy. The stud has a hex-cut As part of the ’03 front suspension redesign, Ford switched to a spring and shock combination that looks a lot like a coilover. The springs sit on a perch on the shock body and are retained by a plate that threads onto the top of the shock piston rod. You can remove this spring/shock combination as a unit by first unbolting the three nuts on the upper spring mount. . The big nut in the center holds the spring top plate to the shock body. There is tension on the spring, so don’t unbolt this yet, unless you want to shoot the shock out from under the spring. As part of the ’03 front suspension redesign, Ford switched to a spring and shock combinat Remove the large bolt running through the shock’s bottom eyelet in the lower control arm and the spring/shock combination will fall down through the opening in the control arm, resting on the spring perch. It’s a tight fit, but if you spread open the upper and lower arms as far as they will go, you can get the strut out. Here’s a tip: Stand on the lower control arm, pry the upper arm with your left hand, and pull the shock out with your right (or some combination of those three movements!). Remove the large bolt running through the shock’s bottom eyelet in the lower control arm a Out of the car, here’s the factory spring/shock combination next to the shiny, new QA1 coilover. Out of the car, here’s the factory spring/shock combination next to the shiny, new QA1 coi Naake modifies the lower eyelet of the QA1 shocks to fill the mount in the lower control arms. The kit uses off-the-shelf QA1 springs (PN 10GSP450). They are 450-lb/in springs with a 2.5-inch id ground and pigtailed lower end, a 10-inch free length, and a 3.5-inch free upper end that fit the car’s factory upper spring mount perfectly. They are finished with chrome-appearing powdercoating. Note that the factory service manual calls the stock spring/shock combination a strut, though I’m not sure how accurate the term is. My understanding is that a strut not only bears the weight of the car on the spring perch, but it also replaces one (or more) of the suspension’s locating links. McPherson struts, for example, are a spring/shock combination that also acts as the upper control arm in the suspension—the spindle bolts to it. Crown Victorias still have upper and lower control arms. Semantics notwithstanding, be aware when looking up parts that these are called struts. Naake modifies the lower eyelet of the QA1 shocks to fill the mount in the lower control a The Naake’s Marauder kit comes with just the shocks and springs—you can either reuse your original spring mounts and isolators or buy new ones like I did. I bought new mounts (half visible on the right side of the frame) from South Bay Ford, just down the street from our office. The isolators actually consist of the rubber piece I’m holding and the hard plastic ramp underneath it. Shop around for those. The dealer price was more than $100 each, but I purchased them online for about $80 apiece. If you want to reuse your stock spring mounts and isolators, you will need to hold the spring in a compressor to loosen the top bolt. It feels like there is still a substantial amount of pressure on the spring even out of the car. With 160,000 miles on my car, I felt it was worth the money to change these parts. The Naake’s Marauder kit comes with just the shocks and springs—you can either reuse your Few things are as annoying as a creaky suspension. I coated the isolators and spring mounts with grease before installing everything. No squeaks so far, and they’ve been in the car for almost a year. Few things are as annoying as a creaky suspension. I coated the isolators and spring mount Even though the QA1 combination is shorter than the factory strut, the control arms still needed some coaxing to accept the new parts. Even though the QA1 combination is shorter than the factory strut, the control arms still Here’s a tip: Don’t tighten the spring-adjusting collar until the coilover is bolted in. It is much easier to twist the upper mount to align the studs with the holes in the frame without tension on the springs. Here’s a tip: Don’t tighten the spring-adjusting collar until the coilover is bolted in. I When reattaching the sway-bar mount to the steering knuckle, it was helpful to raise the lower control arm a short distance with a floor jack. That caused a change in the relationship between the bar and the knuckle, which helped align the two parts. When reattaching the sway-bar mount to the steering knuckle, it was helpful to raise the l 1 | 2 | » | View Full Article By John McGann Enjoyed this Post? Subscribe to our RSS Feed, or use your favorite social media to recommend us to friends and colleagues!