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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Building a Mark VIII for the sand

For the last 5 years, this 97 Mark VIII has been my daily driver. With now 278,000 miles on her, I thought it would be time for retirement and I picked up a new DD this weekend (another 97 Mark VIII :wink2:).

With this car done with regular driving duty, I want to try something different- setting it up to run on the sand dunes. The current plan is to completely gut the interior- carpet, seats, headliner, sunroof, console, dash, back window, trunk upholstery, front bumper, and remove both doors. Weld in door bars (Jeep style), bolt in 4 poly race seats, and put the 2 biggest truck tires that will fit in the back.

I think that will the extreme weight removal, I should be able to pull 800 to 1,000 pounds out the car. Beyond this, I'm no sure what to expect. I will be trying her on the Silver Lake sand dunes in Michigan sometime this summer, and I will be making progress updates here as the transformation happens.

I am open to any thoughts on this project, and I hope that it will at least be a worthwhile experiment.

I will also be selling that parts that I take off at the marketplace to help finance this project.
 

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Are those wheels chrome or painted?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
They are not chrome. Just the base clear finish.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
The interior is black and the seats are leather. The only bad parts are the drivers seat being stuck at full recline and the cupholder/ ashtray area is cracked and broken. I think the only things I'll be keeping from the interior will be the gauge cluster, main wiring, and steering wheel. Let me know what you need.
 

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1997 Thunderbird 4.6, 1998 Mark VIII LSC
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You don't want the headlight switch and trim? :tongue:
 

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Discussion Starter #8
O ya. I'll want to keep the headlight switch too.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I drove the Mark VIII onto the CAT scales this morning to get a benchmark weight. The car was cleaned out, and this is the honest road weight with just under half a tank of gas, spare tire in the trunk, and me out of the car. I'm not sure if I can trust the weight split between the front and rear end. The car was about 8 inches forward of center between the two weight pads, and I'm not sure if that would matter. I want to lighten the car as much as possible, but for sand, I am also conscious to keep good weight over the back tires. I can always add ballast if need be.

I am still planning on removing the back glass for maximum weight removal. Would anyone know how much the window adds to the rigidity of the car? I know that front windshields are considered structural, but I don't know if I should expect any bad body flex issues after removing the back glass...
 

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1997 Thunderbird 4.6, 1998 Mark VIII LSC
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I'm not sure if I can trust the weight split between the front and rear end. The car was about 8 inches forward of center between the two weight pads, and I'm not sure if that would matter.
Nope, 60/40 weight distribution sounds about right. With a full tank of gas you'd see a little more weight distribution towards the back.

FWIW my 97 MN12 tipped in at 3980 with a full tank and me in it (about 200 lbs more than a car without me in it and with only 1/2 tank). I was all on the first pad though so I didn't get distribution (I probably should re-do it so I do...).
 

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Discussion Starter #11
We started ripping on the Mark VIII this Saturday. We cut the doors off, pulled the seats, removed most of the trim and insulation from the back seat, removed the center console, pulled the carpet, gutted the trunk, popped the back glass out, removed the front bumper, and cut off the exhaust right after the diff.

Driving it around in the yard after doing all this made me realize that the lack of weight over the tires is really going to hurt our traction. At this point, the money that was going to be spent on wider tires will be going towards getting a limited slip.

The last big things that were going to be removed are the headliner/ sunroof and the dash. The thing that I'm worried about right now is hanging the steering wheel if the dash is completely out. At this point, I think that I can remove the basic inner structure from the dash and use that to support the wheel. Any thoughts? I need the steering to be secure and stable enough to drive down the highway at 75 with confidence.
 

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Are you planning on putting a cage in the car? If so, you can make a bracket to hang the steering wheel from the dash bar on the cage. If not, you will likely need to reinstall at least part of the dashboard.
 

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If you are going into the dunes, I'd put a proper cage in the car. Or at least a rollover hoop in addition to the doorbars planned. Considering this is a unibody car, a full cage would go a long way in making it more rigid.


I think it would be hillarious to cut away the fenders and see how much tire you can fit on this car though.

And, it would give you a good place to attach proper belts (vs twisting the seatbelts and clicking in).
 

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Discussion Starter #14
The current plan for this car is to try something I haven't seen before for as cheaply as possible and have fun doing it. In the end, I am holding onto this car to harvest the diff and the LCAs and put them on my Thunderbird. In the mean time I am willing to spend about $600 to see if it works on sand. Because of this, I am not planning on putting a cage in it because of the cost of the bender and the tube. If I throw a traction lock, spare set of 3:73s, bucket seats, and a little bit of steel into it and it works, then I will strongly consider making a cage for it and doing everything to make it nice. But for now, I am keeping this extremely low budget and just seeing if it works. And I hope that everyone here will like following along.
 

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I think it would be hillarious to cut away the fenders and see how much tire you can fit on this car though.
How do you think the body would hold up if I cut the read fenders? The fronts could always be cut or removed, but I did not think I could start cutting the back fenders without really affecting the structure.
 

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Cutting the quarters wouldn't really hurt the structure, as long as you don't go too far, and as long as you leave a complete perimeter. Even without a cage though, I would strongly recommend welding in a piece of roll-bar tubing as a rear shock tower brace, especially since you pulled the back glass, and this would also help offset any loss of structure from cutting the quarters. Given what you are using the car for, I would also recommend lifting the suspension at least a couple inches, and remove or at least disconnect the sway bars to get some more articulation out of the suspension. Also, and I only mention it since they aren't out already, those quarter windows are pretty easy to remove and that is some easy weight there.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
I like the recommendation on disconnecting the sway bars and I will give a serious look at running the brace for the shock towers.

How do you suggest I lift the suspension? I thought of a few crazy ways to lift the rear, but nothing reasonable or simple.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
I was able to work on the Mark VIII for a few hours this weekend. Pulled the headliner, sunroof, quarter windows, and I'm two bolts away from the steering wheel and the dash coming out. The plan is still to remove the dash and all the hvac stuff; but keep enough of the wiring harness to work the gauge cluster, key, and headlight controls.

I picked up a free set of all terrain tires with 40% tread left. 235/75-15 Big-O BigFoots. This means that I will have to run 15" wheels in place of the factory 16"s. I bought a set of PBR calipers from 96PRLBRD on Friday and those will be going on my Thunderbird. The full break setup that is on my bird now will then go into the Mark VIII in order to clear the smaller wheels.

I'm hoping to drop the diff this coming weekend and have 3:73s and a new traction lock put in.
 

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I'm pretty sure the 15" wheels will clear the PBR brakes. You may be better off putting the PBRs on the Mark, then the Mark VIII brakes on the Bird.
 
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