Piston Slap: The Barber Shop Coil Spring Swap?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap the barber shop coil spring swap

Loooongtime TTAC Commentator Nate writes:

My barber is another Yankee-to-West Coast transplant and he brought a low-mileage 2003 Mercury Grand Marquis. It’s very nice but every now and then the air suspension decides to get wonky and the car settles down as he’s driving along. As a barber he doesn’t have much $ to throw at it, and he asked me if I knew what to do.

I think this is a Panther chassis so any old cop car or taxi’s coil springs and shocks should be a fairly easy air suspension-to-coil springs retrofit but I’m physically not up to the job. How do I find one of the myriad hole-in-the-wall shops that fixes up old cop cars for the movies and TV?

I’m sure they’d have the parts and knowledge on hand and be affordable to boot. Once this is fixed he’ll consider replacing the weepy AC evaporator deep inside the dashboard (shudder).

Sajeev answers:

You think this is a Panther Chassis?

How poorly have I been educating everyone about Panther Love?

Of course it’s a Panther, hence why any shop can do the air-to-coil conversion with a donor (i.e. 1998-up, avoid cop car spring rates unless you do all four) with springs, rubber seats and this video. Or, if they don’t venture out to junkyards, the conversion kits are very cheap. Even the kits that include new shocks are cheap, for most.

But the cheapest way is to recruit someone (i.e. free labor) to pull junkyard springs, rubber seats (hopefully still intact) and watch that same video for the install. Convincing someone to help might be tough if Mr. Yankee has no able-bodied family or friends in town.

Since it seems neither of you are in a position to get used parts, I’d recommend ordering springs and rubber pads online (WESTAR could work, I’ve had good luck with their air springs on my Mark VIII!) and call around for the best price on installation. Someone’s gonna take the job, and then we can all love this Panther.

[Image: Ford]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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7 of 36 comments
  • -Nate -Nate on Nov 01, 2019

    THANK YOU ALL ! . I knew I'd get the straight skinny here . #1 : I maybe should have said "I know it's a Panther Chassis" but someone would have picked that to death so I was trying to be polite . Scout Dude really nailed it except as soon as he said 'computer & app.' it was out of my league / interest . He'd $pent some $ having the air bags checked for leaks, they said they were fine and that's where he stopped as no one would even look further for less than $800 ~ $1,00 plus parts . In the end the very first place I'd suggested, Tyermans Frame & Alignment on Magnolia in Burbank, Ca. fixed him up with coil springs and shocks for $200 and he's loving it . I've been using Tyerman's for decades, they've fixed several vehicles for me that had steering idlers and worse simply rip out of the frame . Now to see if he'll fix that weepy AC Evaporator . I never did find any of the many old cop car / movie prop shops . -Nate

    • See 3 previous
    • -Nate -Nate on Nov 04, 2019

      @Scoutdude As a lifetime Journeyman mechanic and ex shop owner / dealer Mechanic I can tell you it's *very* common even to - day . My business partner used to get *so* pissed off because I'd fix things cheaper and so hopefully gain long term Customers . He was a very typical New Yorker full of braggadocio and B.S. (yes, he was a good mechanic too) who'd always rather cheat / steal than do a good job . -Nate

  • Incautious Incautious on Nov 04, 2019

    there are companies that make kits for replacing the air suspension. Cheap and takes about an hour or so. Had a 1990 TC used it to hot shot deliveries to customers(big trunk) did the spring swap and WHAT A DIFFERENCE!

    • -Nate -Nate on Nov 04, 2019

      I only see my Barber once a month or so, last time I saw him he was well pleased . I'm due again so I'll ask him next time I'm there . -Nate

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