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BIG BRAKE UPGRADE FOR 91-97 TOWN CAR AND 92-97 GRAND
  MARQUIS/CROWN VIC

Submitted by Charles A. / 02-17-02

  
Even though this article is focused on the Town Car, the process can also be applied to any '92-'97 Grand Marquis or Crown Victoria.




BACKGROUND


This upgrade can be attempted on any 1991-1997 Town Car and also any 1992-1997 Grand Marquis or Crown Victoria. These cars are built on what Ford calls the "Panther" platform. Most performance upgrades are generally available only for the Crown Victoria, but because these cars all ride on the same chassis almost any such parts can also be installed on the other Panther vehicles.

Even though a new body style debuted in 1990, underneath the sheetmetal the Town Car was still pretty much carryover from the previous year. In 1991 the front suspension was redesigned, and no major chassis changes were made until 1997 when the steering system was revised. In 1998 a new body style debuted again and there were significant chassis improvements.

Specifically, in 1998 the front brakes were heavily upgraded, the steering revised again, and the rear suspension was completely redesigned. As a result, the car handled much better than in previous years and stopping power increased significantly. Fortunately for older TC owners, the front brake parts are basically a bolt-in swap -- with some additional parts needed. But, unfortunately, the "Watts linkage" rear suspension required substantial frame modifications so it's not considered a practical retrofit for older models IMO.

SPECIFICATIONS

The 1991-97 Town Cars had 10-inch front rotors and single-piston calipers. The 1998 and newer models are equipped with 12-inch rotors and dual-piston calipers. The bore of the newer calipers is actually smaller, but there are twice as many and the calipers and rotors are much larger so stopping power is significantly increased. Having driven both the older and newer models, I can say that performance is far better with the newer brake configuration.

*(For the ULTIMATE brakes on your Town Car, die hard enthusiasts might want to consider using 13" Mustang Cobra front rotors and accompanying calipers. These require modifications, however, to bolt onto Panther vehicle, including the use of even larger wheels. This upgrade is beyond the scope of this article. Check out CrownVic.org for more information.)

OVERVIEW


This is a practical DIY (do-it-yourself) project if you have experience working on brakes. If not, then you should have a qualified shop do the work. Unfortunately, many shops may shy away from modifying brakes due to liability issues, so you might have to look around to find someone who is willing to tackle it. Just explain to them that all the parts bolt on without modifications and everything involved is factory stock for 1998 and newer models.

Keep in mind that upgrading the front brakes on these cars requires replacing some other related parts which will add significantly to the cost. In order to provide proper clearance for the new calipers and rotors, for example, you MUST replace your front hubs/bearings and front brake hoses. The hubs/bearings are different in 1998 and also improved, so this is a worthwhile investment. You must also have 16-inch wheels installed to clear the new hubs. If you have 15-inch rims now then the cost of new wheels and tires will be substantial (approx. $1000 or more depending on where you get the wheels).

I purchased "take off" wheels for my Town Car. In researching this project I quickly learned that buying used OEM aluminum rims is a crap shoot as many are either scratched, gouged, or bent. I checked with a few used wheel dealers locally and online and the price range I got for the rims I wanted was $150 - $180 each. Brand new they were over $400 each so that didn't sound too bad. Then I stumbled upon a dealer on eBay who was selling "take off" rims. These are brand new wheels that get dismounted at the dealership before the car is sold. In most cases these have only been mounted once and are generally in "like new" condition. The best part is that these rims cost me just $100 each including shipping, and they looked brand new!

There are two ways to do this upgrade:
  1. Buy the entire front brake assemblies from a wrecked '98 or newer vehicle at a junk yard and overhaul them
  2. Buy all the parts new
It's hard to say which option is best because it depends on your circumstances. Considering that used parts might run $250 and overhaul by a shop another $250-$300, there might not be much difference in cost between overhauling used parts and simply buying new ones unless you are doing all the work yourself.

I am told that the rear brakes are basically the same in 1998 and newer models as they are in the older Town Cars. So the rears can be left stock. This also applies to the master cylinder and proportioning valve. Of course, if you are going to the trouble of replacing your front brakes you should probably also overhaul the rears (which is what I did). You may, at your option, choose to replace the booster and master cylinder when you do this upgrade but it is not required. Remember, however, that you MUST replace your front hubs.

NOTE: The rear brakes may vary from model to model. For example, Crown Vic police vehicles may have larger rear brakes, as may cars with the High Performance Package (HPP) option.

PARTS NEEDED

Here is a list of parts required for this upgrade. These are factory part numbers for the front brakes only. Prices shown are the "list prices" I was quoted for this job. Since I frequent this dealership, I usually get a nice discount off list for all parts. If you are a regular visitor to your local dealership or shop, don't hesitate to ask for a discount.
  1. N801052*S100 BOLT M10X1, 5X24.9 HEX FLG HD ( "Banjo Bolt" ) $ 6.65 4 required
  2. F8VZ*2C396*BA BRACKET ASSEMBLY, FRONT CALIPER MOUNTING $ 84.87 2 required
  3. F8VZ*2B121*AA HOUSING ASSEMBLY, FRONT BRAKE CALIPER LEFT $135.00 1 required
  4. F8VZ*2B120*AA HOUSING ASSEMBLY, FRONT BRAKE CALIPER RIGHT $135.00 1 required
  5. YW7Z*2001*AA KIT, BRAKE SHOE AND LINING FRONT (PADS) $ 75.00 1 required
  6. F8AZ*1104*AA HUB & BEARING ASSEMBLY, FRONT BRAKE ANTI-LOCK $ 78.88 2 required
  7. F8AZ*2078*AA HOSE ASSEMBLY, FRONT WHEEL BRAKE LEFT HAND $ 15.00 1 required
  8. F8AZ*2078*AB HOSE ASSEMBLY, FRONT WHEEL BRAKE RIGHT HAND $ 15.00 1 required
  9. F8VZ*1125*AA DISC, FRONT WHEEL BRAKE (ROTORS) $128.10 2 required
  10. EOAZ*2149*B WASHER 3/8X.64X.09 FLAT BRASS $ 3.40 3 required
In addition to the above, you must also upgrade your wheels and tires to 16-inch. The new Town Cars ride on Michelin Symmetry whitewhalls. If you currently have 15-inch rims with 225/75R15 tires and want to avoid any speedometer calibration issues, have 225/60R16 tires installed. These are the same outside diameter and will not adversely affect your speed readout. Anything larger may require the installation of a new speedometer driven gear.

CONCLUSIONS

So, how much did this cost? Total parts for the front brakes came to $829.95 with my discount, and labor was an additional $500.00 In addition, I purchased 5 new wheels and tires at a cost of $1100.00. I also had my rear brakes overhauled which included rebuilding my rear calipers and replacing my rear rotors. This came to $385.00. So overall I spent about $3000 on this project.

Remember, though, I used only factory parts and had a dealership do the work, so I paid through the nose. Because of my unique circumstances, that was OK for me in this situation. You could do the work yourself and substitute less expensive aftermarket parts thereby reducing the cost considerably.

The way I looked at it was this: I had to buy new tires and overhaul my front and rear brakes anyway. Five new tires would have cost me about $500, and the front and rear brakes with new rotors all around would have been about another $700. So I was out at least $1200 no matter what.

Considering that I got the new wheels I have always wanted (which look spectacular on this car BTW) and much improved stopping power and performance, it was well worth the extra $1800 I invested IMO. And minus the price of wheels and tires, the net additional cost to upgrade my front brakes as opposed to simply overhauling the old ones was actually about $600 -- and that was using new factory parts and having a shop do the work. Not bad!




Special thanks to Ronman and the guys at CrownVic.org for their help in figuring out some of the details needed to complete this project (like whether or not you have to replace the front hubs).

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