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#2519217 - 05/08/12 07:16 PM Dave's 2003 LX Sport: The Cheaper Sleeper
MrBosworth Offline
Rookie

Registered: 09/23/11
Posts: 68
Loc: Seattle, WA
Back in November of 2011, I decided to get rid of my prized heavily-customized 2005 Mercedes-Benz SLK-350 due to my anger at having to pay $650/month for insurance. On a perverse whim, I decided to change course entirely and go for all-out practicality. My goal was to build a sleeper street beast that could cost no more than $4k, insurance must be less than $100/mo (not easy considering my history), and should not attract the attention of law enforcement.

After a great deal of research, I chose the Ford Crown Victoria LX Sport, and began looking for a low-mileage 2003-2004 model. I've always been enamored with the Mercury Marauder but that is out of the price range, so I went for second-best with the LX Sport. Every true muscle car should have the floor shifter, so that pushed me toward the LX Sport, plus I figured it would make a good base for my planned mods.

My girlfriend and my friends do not understand why I'm doing this. I make great money and most of my friends are obsessed with impressing others by driving german cars, etc. As one friend said, "Why would you sell that gorgeous Benz and buy this piece of sh*t??"

For me, this project is a labor of love. I come from a family of gearheads and rat-rodders, and all of them favor the Blue Oval. My uncle has a barn full of Model A's in Eastern Washington that are all sporting exotic Ford iron, including one with a supercharged 383 stroker (as he says, "you can feel Death's breath on your neck when you drive it"). My dad has a mint 1965 Ford Galaxy 500 w/ the 427 as well as a number of classic older Fords, and my brother built a handful of 50's F-series lead-sleds back in the day. I learned to drive on my grandpa's 1969 Ford F250 Camper Special (w/ the stick shift!) and my first car was a 1989 LX notchback that ended up wrapped around a tree. Long story short... this build is intended to be a return to my roots, a no-holds-barred love note to Ford muscle cars. There is nothing cooler than a Blue Oval sleeper and I don't care what the doubters think about that.

Anyway, back to the car... I bought my 2003 LX Sport back in November. It had 100k miles, was in fairly good shape, and only cost $3500. It fit the bill perfectly so I bought it, and how here we are.

Next post will contain pictures...

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#2519225 - 05/08/12 07:21 PM Re: Dave's 2003 LX Sport: The Cheaper Sleeper [Re: MrBosworth]
a_d_a_m Offline
3 Orange Whips
Posting Addict

Registered: 10/25/05
Posts: 16197
Loc: 44077-3545
Originally Posted By: MrBosworth
Next post will contain pictures...
Yeah, we're waiting..........................
_________________________
Originally Posted By: aknox077
Originally Posted By: a_d_a_m

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#2519371 - 05/08/12 09:57 PM Re: Dave's 2003 LX Sport: The Cheaper Sleeper [Re: a_d_a_m]
cragantler1 Offline
Over the Hill

Registered: 11/19/07
Posts: 1785
Loc: Fla. Cracker in Southern Maine
panther
_________________________
2004 Arizona Beige P-73


Click to reveal..
2004 P-73,113k+
Performance & Handling:
P-71 H-pipe with Flowmaster 50s/Rear Meow delete/ADTR P&P plenum/70mm TB/Marauder swaybars/MZT/BOC tune/J-Mod/ 2006 P-71 rear coils/Gatorback belt/2005 17" Mustang GT Premium rims with Pirellis/ FRPP 3.55's / FRPP Trak-Lok
best time, pre-gear change: 15.4 @ 91.6mph

Appearance:
Honeycomb color matched grille/lower grille mesh mod/S-55 tail/reverse lights mod/bumper tuck/window chrome and wood dash delete/black reflective rear fascia/side marker mod/15% rear, 35% front tint/Marauder gauge cluster/1999 Lincoln Continental console and floor shift/Marauder gauge pod with "real" Autometer gauges/ Ford Focus driving lights with 5000K HID's wired to Marauder light switch for factory operation/repaired LCM/Marauder corner lights


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#2519455 - 05/08/12 11:45 PM Re: Dave's 2003 LX Sport: The Cheaper Sleeper [Re: MrBosworth]
NGreen0807 Offline
Over the Hill

Registered: 08/17/09
Posts: 2700
Loc: Rock Hill, NY
Pics would be nice...

(I don't know why but SVT_CVPI keeps popping into my head)
_________________________
-Nick

1999 CVPI. TR3650, tiny turbo, Ect.
2004 LX

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#2519481 - 05/09/12 01:06 AM Re: Dave's 2003 LX Sport: The Cheaper Sleeper [Re: MrBosworth]
coqui5 Offline
Over the Hill

Registered: 03/11/10
Posts: 2380
Loc: Connecticut
No pics? wtf2
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#2519484 - 05/09/12 01:22 AM Re: Dave's 2003 LX Sport: The Cheaper Sleeper [Re: MrBosworth]
MrBosworth Offline
Rookie

Registered: 09/23/11
Posts: 68
Loc: Seattle, WA
Sorry for the delay with the pics! Man, I really pissed some people off with that! Ha ha ha!

OK, so my car is in the shop right now, having a new rear axle assembly installed, with 3.73's, trak-lock, Heinous control arms, and the aluminum driveshaft with extended tailshaft housing. So I can only post the pics I took earlier as I don't have access to the car until it comes back from the shop tomorrow. For now, here are the only pics I have from when I first bought the car:







Edited by MrBosworth (05/09/12 01:28 AM)

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#2519489 - 05/09/12 01:42 AM Re: Dave's 2003 LX Sport: The Cheaper Sleeper [Re: MrBosworth]
MrBosworth Offline
Rookie

Registered: 09/23/11
Posts: 68
Loc: Seattle, WA
The first modification to the car was having custom door panels fabricated out of fiberglass to hold the speakers I ripped out of the Mercedes when I sold it. I had spent well over $2k on the speaker system, a Hertz Mille 3-way setup with custom crossovers, and felt it would be a waste to sell them with my old car. So I ripped 'em out of the Benz and put them into the Crown Vic.

My hope in this thread is to be honest with all my costs for all work done, so people will have an idea what it might cost to have similar work done.

So, for the custom door panels and speakers:

Hertz Mille speakers and crossovers: Free (pulled em out of my old car)
Custom Door Panels and speaker/amp install: $1000
Arc Audio KS 300.4 amplifier: $400

Total: $1400

The custom door panels were made for me by SpeakerLab in Seattle, WA. They do great work. Jeremy handled the entire build, and did my amp and speaker install, as well as building the door panels. He did everything from running power cable to the battery, with the fuse, to installing the amp in the trunk (attached to the back of the rear seat), running all the wires, etc. I've never enjoyed doing that part of a stereo install, so having a professional handle it was well worth the $1000. He did a great job, and I can't recommend him highly enough.

My main goal with the door panels was functionality. I wanted it simple, and easy to pull the door panels if needed. This is good because I had to swap the passenger rear mirror within a month of owning the car, after a light pole destroyed my rear passenger mirror while I was backing out of a parking lot.

The entire bottom half of my door panels have been removed, and replaced with sealed subwoofer boxes. Jeremy then covered this with dark gray vinyl to somewhat match the factory grey interior. I went with the cheapest vinyl because I don't give the slightest crap how it looks, I just wanted it built well and discreet. He did a great job and the speakers sound absolutely incredible. I'll need to go back in later, however, and add some sound dampening because when the 8" drivers kick in during bass-heavy tracks, my doors rattle like nobody's business.

Pics to be posted here, as soon as I get my car back from the shop tomorrow.


Edited by MrBosworth (05/09/12 01:51 AM)

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#2519495 - 05/09/12 02:08 AM Re: Dave's 2003 LX Sport: The Cheaper Sleeper [Re: MrBosworth]
MrBosworth Offline
Rookie

Registered: 09/23/11
Posts: 68
Loc: Seattle, WA
The next step was replacing the suspension.

When I bought the car, it drove like a whale on a trampoline. I climbed under the car with a flashlight, and the front passenger shock had a huge dent in it like someone had bashed it with a hammer. They were the original factory shocks, and they were covered in oil. Ugh. No wonder the dude had sold it to me so cheaply. The car bounced dangerously at any speed over 40mph, so this had to be fixed ASAP.

Following the input on this forum, I purchased the KYB Gas-A-Just shocks and Eaton Detroit 1" drop springs. When ordering the springs, I went with the P71 springs because I wanted stiffer springs. They still aren't stiff enough for me, but they're a good compromise - solid handling without any loss of comfort. And they're quiet. I'm happy.

Total costs -

Eaton Detroit 1" drop springs: $200
KYB Gas-A-Just shocks (all 4): $350
Install: $500

Total cost: $1050

I had the installation done by Tru-Line Frame & Wheel in Seattle, WA. They did excellent work. Dropped the car off at 9am and had it back by 4pm.

I haven't seen anyone mention it in this forum, but it's worth mentioning: the Eaton Detroit 1" drop springs are low enough that the installer said we might require a camber kit. They had to go kinda extreme with the alignment to get it setup properly, and said I should have the tire wear inspected a few times within the next 2-6 months. They want to monitor it to see how it wears. They'll handle that for free and said they'd give me free alignments for the life of the suspension. They also allowed me to supply my own parts. I'm very happy with their service and would recommend them to anyone looking for quality affordable suspension work. They also install wheels/tires from tirerack.com.

I'll post some pics here tomorrow of the car to show what it looks like after the 1" drop. I would not recommend going lower than 1" on the Crown Vics, as the 1" drop puts the wheel well awfully close to the tire, and lowers the front airdam enough to have it rub on parking lot curbs, etc.

The performance improvement from the KYBs and Eaton Detroit springs is excellent. It handles as well as the Bilstein PS9 coilover setup on my old SLK-350, which is saying a lot. I think the combo is perfect and am grateful to CVN for hooking me up with the inside scoop. This forum is priceless.

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#2519499 - 05/09/12 02:48 AM Re: Dave's 2003 LX Sport: The Cheaper Sleeper [Re: MrBosworth]
MrBosworth Offline
Rookie

Registered: 09/23/11
Posts: 68
Loc: Seattle, WA
After the suspension work was completed, I drained the oil and filled with Mobil-1 5w30. I used the Motorcraft FL-820S oil filter. I then dropped the transmission pan and refilled that with some fresh Mercon V. I also bought some wiper blades, a cabin air filter, and did the standard fluid check. Glamorous? No. But at least I'm good on oil for the next year.

Altogether, the maintenance cost about $100 for everything, maybe a bit more.

The next modification was to complete the stereo system. I'm regularly on-call for my job, so bluetooth is not an option, it is an occupational necessity. I would need to find a stereo that would sound great, offer bluetooth and iPod/USB hookup, and I didn't really care about anything else. Sound quality was of upmost importance, as I enjoy my classical music as well as hip-hop and all kinds of other crap, and I wanted to hear it over the obnoxious Flowmaster 40s on my car now (soon to be changed).

I didn't want a double-din navigation unit, because I use Google Maps on my Android for navigation and it does far better than any car unit. I also wanted to avoid the double din units because I live in the ghetto and don't want my car broken into. Simplicity is key in this build. I want simple low-budget stuff and bang for the buck is my ultimate goal.

Ended up buying the new Pioneer DEH-80PRS stereo. It is from the same lineage as the Pioneer Stage 4 stuff, which is the best hi-fi sound quality gear you can buy right now. Best part is that the stereo is only $350. It offers amazing sound, automatic EQ and time alignment, 2 USB inputs, 1 aux input, iPod/Pandora, bluetooth, and a bunch of other crap.

I installed the stereo myself and it was easy thanks to the work done by Jeremy at SpeakerLab. I ended up splicing the rear speaker wires to some speaker wire that connects directly to my amp, and am only using the 5v preamp outputs to my Arc Audio amp in the trunk. It sounds incredible and the factory rear speakers do a great job of filling in the sound. I would challenge anyone to build a better sounding system in a Crown Vic. I'm absolutely blown away by the sound now, and have literally sat in my parking lot for an hour just listening to the stereo, hearing details I've never heard before in some of my favorite music.

So here are some pics of the stereo install. Again, I apologize for not having a lot of pics, I'll post some more as soon as I get my car back from the shop. If anyone's interested, I can also give further detail about how to install a custom stereo upon request.

Costs:

Pioneer DEH-80PRS: $350
Speaker wire (for rear speakers): $10
Ford wire harness: $30
Metra install kit for Crown Vic: $40

Total: $430









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#2519630 - 05/09/12 10:52 AM Re: Dave's 2003 LX Sport: The Cheaper Sleeper [Re: MrBosworth]
a_d_a_m Offline
3 Orange Whips
Posting Addict

Registered: 10/25/05
Posts: 16197
Loc: 44077-3545
Nice detailed description and pictures!
_________________________
Originally Posted By: aknox077
Originally Posted By: a_d_a_m

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#2519643 - 05/09/12 11:13 AM Re: Dave's 2003 LX Sport: The Cheaper Sleeper [Re: MrBosworth]
NGreen0807 Offline
Over the Hill

Registered: 08/17/09
Posts: 2700
Loc: Rock Hill, NY
So what's going to make this a sleeper? I'm confused.

Nice car nonetheless.
_________________________
-Nick

1999 CVPI. TR3650, tiny turbo, Ect.
2004 LX

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#2519652 - 05/09/12 11:32 AM Re: Dave's 2003 LX Sport: The Cheaper Sleeper [Re: NGreen0807]
MrBosworth Offline
Rookie

Registered: 09/23/11
Posts: 68
Loc: Seattle, WA
Originally Posted By: NGreen0807
So what's going to make this a sleeper? I'm confused.

Nice car nonetheless.



No external modifications. Nothing fancy on the outside, no visible performance upgrades, no loud mufflers, etc. In fact, I'm trying to make it look as ghetto and cheap as possible. Eventually, I'll be tearing out the Flowmaster 40s and replacing them with something with better flow characteristics and quieter sound. Also, right now it has mis-matched wheels and the mirrors don't match either. And it's going to stay that way. There are paint blemishes and chipping, and scrapes and scratches on some of the body panels - those will all be staying as-is. As well as the door dings. I don't care at all how the car looks, and in fact, the uglier the better. When I scrape the front airdam on parking lot curbs, I don't care. If someone kicks my door, I don't care. I ran into a light pole, and left a huge scrape down the passenger side rear quarter panel... don't care.

Once you get inside, however, everything changes. The leather interior is in great shape, the stereo sounds incredible, and the handling and engine performance will be a priority.

All modifications to the car are for performance reasons only. I want far better performance than stock. I want to be able to smoke a stock Mustang GT off the line. Which is why my recent mods have focused on rear gearing, transmission improvements, torque converter, MZT, tune, etc. I think it's hilariously silly when people will spend $300 on a crappy "Hot air intake" kit like the K&N before they've done the rear gears. What's the point? Who cares about 10 horsepower? Someone who doesn't understand torque and how that relates to hp, that's who.

Rear gearing and torque converter should give the biggest improvements in acceleration of anything other than supercharging. So I won't be wasting time on small improvements or cosmetic changes. I'll drop serious coin on doing the rear end right, putting in the right gears and 31-spline axles, and getting the best tune, but I'm not interested in spending money on a ported plenum or any of those mods that provide extremely small improvements or reduce performance, like a 75mm throttle body with stock ring and pinion still in the rear. Pointless. Practicality and results are the bottom-line goal. And once I feel that the performance has been improved to within 90% of its possible ceiling (without rebuilding the engine), I'll stop modifying it and just drive it for 300k miles. Dings, dents, and all.


Edited by MrBosworth (05/09/12 11:47 AM)

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#2519686 - 05/09/12 12:17 PM Re: Dave's 2003 LX Sport: The Cheaper Sleeper [Re: MrBosworth]
MrBosworth Offline
Rookie

Registered: 09/23/11
Posts: 68
Loc: Seattle, WA
And on that note, I'll move on to the next modification.

After getting the basics in order, my next focus became the rear-end gearing and open diff. One wheel spin is fugly. And the 3.27s that came stock on my car makes it feel heavy and boat-like, with unacceptably sluggish acceleration. Even worse is that it only gets 15mpg in primarily city driving (I live in the city... this IS an urban assault vehicle). Best way to fix those issues and also get a big jump in performance: new ring and pinion, and track-lock.

Making the choice even easier was the rear end whine that developed shortly after I fixed the suspension. The guys at Tru-Line confirmed my suspicion that at the least, I had carrier and wheel bearing problems, and most likely some axleshaft damage. Research on this forum confirmed major problems with the 2003 rears and axle weakness. Screw that, I said, it's time to upgrade to the 31-spline axles.

So, I made some calls and found a rear axle assembly from a 2009 P71 with 30k miles for $600. I then turned to Summit Racing for a new 3.73 ring and pinion and the axle and posi rebuild kits. Since I'm swapping the rear, I'll also be doing the rear control arms and the driveshaft. I was able to score the aluminum driveshaft from the same 2009 P71 for $60, and picked up some Heinous control arms from ADTR for about $400 after shipping. The shop handling my rear-end rebuild said not to worry about the extended tailshaft housing, they can source one. So I'm not sure the price on that yet.

Worth noting to others considering control arms:
The Heinous control arms come with zerk fittings now so that you can grease the bushings. Handy feature. Oh, and these control arms are beefy as hell! Anyone worried about tensile strength and durability, fear not. I'll bet these bad boys could easily handle 800-900 rwhp with a few hundred pounds in the trunk.

King's Transmission in Seattle, WA is handling the rear-end rebuild and swap. They quoted me 8 hours shop time for everything, which is a great deal. I wouldn't trust anyone who quoted less. And considering my car has been in the shop overnight, I think they gave me a break on the shop rate.

About the clutches for the track-lock: after talking to some Mustang friends, I'm thinking the standard clutches will be best. Carbon is great if you plan on track racing the car. For street use, I've been told they clatter under cornering, even when lubed properly (with Ford's friction modifier AND with Royal Purple, regardless of age and mileage). My buddy as a 2003 Cobra, and says he wishes he could go back to standard clutches in his posi. He drove me around in it and I heard the clatter. It is annoying. So decision made: standard clutches for the LSD.


To summarize the work being done again:
New rear axle assembly being rebuilt from wheel bearing to wheel bearing - all new parts. Track-lock will be rebuilt with standard clutches. 3.73 ring and pinion being installed. Heinous control arms being installed. New rear swapped on. Aluminum driveshaft and extended tailshaft housing being swapped on at the same time, at no extra charge.

Here are the costs for the rear rebuild:

2009 P71 rear axle assembly (from autowrecking.com): $600
Heinous control arms (from ADTR.net): $400
3.73 R&P and both rebuild kits (from Summit Racing): $350
2009 P71 aluminum driveshaft (from autowrecking.com): $60
guesstimated cost of ext tailshaft housing: $100
Shop Labor for rebuild and install (King's Transmission): $900

Total: $2410

I should have the car back today, and will post some pictures and videos, as well as "seat of the pants" report on improvement.

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#2519696 - 05/09/12 12:30 PM Re: Dave's 2003 LX Sport: The Cheaper Sleeper [Re: MrBosworth]
MrBosworth Offline
Rookie

Registered: 09/23/11
Posts: 68
Loc: Seattle, WA
Immediately following the rear-end rebuild, my 2003 LX Sport will require a flash of the PCM to fix the speedometer and shift issues caused by the new 3.73 final gear.

So, before dropping my car off at the rear-end shop, I called up Lonnie at Blue Oval Chips to discuss tuning. I'll say this right now: Lonnie is one of the best in the business that I have spoken to. This guy REALLY knows his stuff. All those hours on the dyno with the Crown Vics and other Panthers has given him an extreme edge on understanding all the various upgrade paths and how they will ACTUALLY impact performance. In the real world. Not in theory, but in actual practice.

Lonnie and I spent a few hours over a few days chatting about my planned mods, and how that would impact the tune. I thought I would need to re-tune for the torque converter I'm planning, the J-Mod, etc. Not so. And I'm so glad I talked to him first.

I've purchased the SCT X3 tuner and a custom 91 octane tune from Blue Oval Chips. I purchased the MZT (Marauder airbox and 2004 zip tube) at the same time so that I can save $125 by not having to buy a new tune later.

Worth noting about the MZT that I have not seen here elsewhere: Lonnie tells me that with the 2003, you don't need to splice a pigtail to use the temp sensor on the Marauder MAF. You can simply drill a hole in the Marauder airbox and use the existing temp sensor without splicing anything. I'll be going this route.

So, total costs on the tuner and MZT:

SCT X3 with custom Lonnie/BOC tune: $425
MZT upgrade from BOC (airbox and zip tube): $350
70mm throttle body from E350 (Y2CU-BB): $50

Total cost: $825


Closing note: After discussing the torque converter with Lonnie, I've decided to go with a 10" Stage 1 TC instead of the 9.5" Precision Industries I was looking at previously. Lonnie says the 9.5" are rather rough for street driving.

Lonnie will be building my tune with the torque converter upgrade in mind, so that I don't have to buy a new tune later. He also said this generally shouldn't be necessary. Just to let y'all know, you shouldn't have to buy a new tune after a TC upgrade.


Edited by MrBosworth (05/09/12 12:32 PM)

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#2519709 - 05/09/12 12:49 PM Re: Dave's 2003 LX Sport: The Cheaper Sleeper [Re: MrBosworth]
Fairlane500 Offline
Best new member: 2012
Climber

Registered: 04/03/12
Posts: 514
Loc: Ohio
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