Panda 2V Vert Build Thread


New Member
Dec 25, 2017
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San Francisco Bay Area/Riverside (University)
I'll do a full build thread, but I figure I might as well introduce myself, for starters.

I'm Tim. When I was 17 in May of this year, I made a terrible/amazing decision. I bought a '99 Mustang GT automatic convertible that (barely) ran from a Pick N Pull for $1,000. It ran and drove from the lot, however not quite as well as I thought.

I thought she was beautiful, except that the convertible top's plastic vinyl window was so dirty that it was impossible to see out of, even after washing it dozens of times.

Being an enthusiast who hadn't had a project before, I was super excited to start doing mods immediately and getting the car into better shape. Then, about two days in, a rod came a-knocking on the engine. I realized I would have to put in a new one, and the next day found that a shift solenoid in the auto transmission had blown out and that there was clutch material in the pan.

I figured that since I had wanted to at some point, there would be no better time to swap the car's transmission to a manual than when the transmission would have to be removed anyways.

$1,200 later, a fresh 4.6 and TR3650 were sitting in my driveway, and my car was thrown on jack stands to start this project.

I had a family friend/mechanic help me with the project, and although he was charging me next to nothing and I was paying him what I could, he had to work 7 days a week to support his household and I ran out of money once the old engine and trans were both out. At this point, the car begins to sit for a few weeks, as I had nowhere near enough knowledge or skill to reinstall an engine and transmission.

At this same point, during this limbo, I rode with my friend to a car meet. He decided to meet up with some friends in a little group on the way so that they can all drive together to the meet. One of those friends, some guy named Frank, also had a sn95 mustang, so I introduced myself and followed him on instagram. He had a really cool car he called the "stealth mare" and I loved what he had done with it. Anyways, moving on.

A couple weeks later, I was not sure what to do to keep this build moving. I couldn't afford a "real" mechanic or a shop, and I couldn't do the project myself even though I had basically all the tools. Out of sheer desperation, I sent this Frank guy a DM hoping he could help me. He was super open to giving me a hand on the project (more accurately me giving him a hand since he actually knew what he was doing, but I digress) and a day or two later we got to work.

Random, but also somewhere in this process I bought a set of Saleen rims off some guy for $100, so the wheels might look different from picture to picture.

Here's a snazzy little timelapse of us once we finally got to the point of mounting the engine/trans into the car.


After around a month's worth of weekends, we finally got everything done. However, I had gotten some misinformation and Ford is evil. I thought that the car would be completely unable to start with the auto trans' computer, and had bought a PCM from Pick N Pull which I had installed. Thus, the car wouldn't start. I loaded the car up on a tow truck and sent it to a dealership to reset the evil PATS system (because I didn't know most locksmiths could do it).


After 4 days of waiting, they said the car still wouldn't start even though the PATS was reset. There was also a decent exhaust leak from a missing nut, you'll understand why I'm saying that soon enough. I got the car towed back to my house in defeat. They told me the car would crank but not start. I was heartbroken, being so close yet so far. After around a day of it sitting on my driveway once again, I dejectedly got into the car because at that point I at least wanted to hear the car crank after all the work I had put in.

However, everything in the car just sounded off. Electronics weren't quite right, and the car didn't do squat when I turned the key. It seemed to me that after sitting for 2-3 months, the battery was out of wack. I took it over to my auto parts store (where it had a warranty, thank God) to get it tested. They gave it back to me and said it tested fine and charged right up. I threw it back into the car, still no dice. I thought something was still wrong, so I took the battery out of my Grandma's Mercury Sable (Basically a rebadged Ford Taurus) and shoved it under the hood. After so much work, I was just desperate to hear the car crank. However, I got a lot more than a crank when I turned the key.


I remember literally shedding a few tears of joy. I texted Frank about our little victory, and he came right by to see our project finally roar to life. To be honest, I wish I could have kept the exhaust leak a little bit because the sound was fantastic.

Unfortunately, it wasn't all that easy after that. Time for less pictures and more problems.

I took the car for a test drive, and it drove great. Except that shifting into reverse was a nightmare. Grinding non-stop and sometimes it just refused to let me shift into reverse. After driving it around for a couple days, fixing the exhaust leak, and getting the required paperwork for move permits (bought the car with absolutely no title) to drive it on the road, I had 2 days to decide whether or not the car would be ready for me to drive it to University, as I would be moving to Riverside from the San Francisco area to start classes.

Sadly, the next day it refused to go into any gear without a battle, and I realized the car wasn't in the mechanical shape to drive 400 miles to school, or to survive in its current state after that. I had to make the super tough decision to leave my newly running car at home to be checked out in my absence by, dun dun dun....a shop.

Sure enough, the transmission that I had gotten from the wrecking yard was trash, the clutch I ordered for it was all messed up, and the valve covers were leaking oil from a crack. I let them go ahead and change out the transmission (family friends, gave me incredibly good rates and did a perfectly fine job), and try to put everything back together.

Then came the issue of timing. After being at school for around a month, the car was almost back together (it took them a while because they were doing it after hours for insanely cheap for me). I wanted to bring the car to Riverside, to finally drive my baby. I was flying home on a Friday, and on the Monday before they found that after trying to patch one of the cracks that was leaking oil, the entire valve cover needed to be replaced. I ordered one from a dealership in my area that could be picked up Wednesday, and I was hoping it would come in in time. Sure enough, it came Wednesday....and was the wrong bolt pattern. Damnit Ford.

I decided then to instead order aftermarket valve covers from Trickflow (10/10 would recommend BTW), as they were the correct pattern, and were a pair of aluminum covers instead of plastic that looked way nicer and cost the same as a single cover straight from Ford. I ordered them on whatever the fastest shipping method was for an extra $50, and they were set to arrive the same Friday I flew in.

My goal, if everything went perfectly, was to get the new valve covers and get them installed Friday, use Saturday and Sunday to stress test the living hell out out of the car to make sure it would survive the drive down to SoCal, and then Monday to take it to my school in Riverside.

Somehow, everything almost went perfectly according to plan. Friday night, I picked up the car in perfect running condition, and proceeded to put ~300 miles on it over the weekend before I was to drive it 400 more to school.

I did mention that I got the car with no title. This meant that to get plates/a title, the car needed to pass a brake/light inspection and a smog test. The Brake and Light was done, but the o2 sensors didn't seem to have all their information dialed in before leaving Monday. However, my 60 day failed smog pass (needed to drive the car on the roads) was about to expire at that point, since I got it before the first manual transmission gave up on life. I thus decided to get the car smogged on the trip back to school, approximately an hour's drive away.

A side note, the car's air conditioning wasn't running at the time due to electrical adaptation issues with the new computer (A/Cstill isn't, rip me but I'll deal with it soon enough). The day climbed to over 100 degrees, and after my stop for my smog check (which I passed) I began to head towards my school.

This was also my first manual car, so I wasn't used to operating a clutch. This meant not only that I was bad at it, but that my leg was not used to the workout that is an SN95 clutch over long drives. I got on the freeway to sit in agonizing, blisteringly hot LA traffic for about 15 minutes before I realized that I wouldn't survive if I tried to do this all the way home. Thus, I got off the freeway and tried to used main roads to make my way to school. I knew it would turn an hour into probably two, but there was little traffic (all based on stop lights, so tolerable for a new clutch operator) and it was much less hot/stressful as the car was actually moving.

Then things went wrong yet again. About 45 minutes (in that traffic) from my school, I was driving through a city called Azusa, when I heard a super loud hissing sound and saw yellowish smoke billowing into the car's cabin. I assumed my car was overheating and that it was coolant, and I thus pulled over and called trusty AAA to come take my car. I wanted to check the cooling system and all, but I had no tools/method at school and thus had a shop pressure test the system to find that everything was alright. In reality, I had melted a piece of a rubber air conditioning line, shooting Freon everywhere. Thankfully, no big issues, got the car back on the road. Went from the picture at the top to this:


(New convertible top)

Once the car came back to Riverside I added the chin spoiler I had been holding on to for over a month, tinted the windows, took the horrible plasti-dip off the rims, threw some SLP Loudmouth 2 mufflers on, sanded/polished the headlights, and boom:


I also shot a video of the car the day I took this video:

Next up was fixing that monster truck ride height, making the car nice and loud/toned with an off-road X pipe, adding some new smoked headlights/fog lights, putting in LED bulbs/switchbacks to add visibility, throwing on a couple of tasteful decals, and here I am now:


And here's a few more pictures of the car when I went shooting with Frank last week, for your viewing pleasure.



So that's the first chapter of my car's story. I hope y'all enjoyed. Plenty more definitely coming soon. Also, while I'm at it, might as well whore out that I make videos on most of the stuff I do to/with the car on my YouTube channel: :)

And again, massive freaking thanks to Frank for helping me so much on this, I never would have come close to getting this project to live without his help.


Mr. Secondary Timing Chain
Sep 22, 2014
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South Mississippi
HEY, HEY, I know that car! lol

You guys went through some hell to get it sorted out. Im glad to hear that youre running and driving now.

And as always, welcome to the forum!


Well-Known Member
Jan 1, 2014
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Welcome to the site, that's one hell of a back story! Looks like Frank is a big help, it's nice to have a car buddy that enjoys helping out that you can help when they need it


Feb 21, 2011
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Your story is why most of us are dedicated here. Someone needs help, we're here to help


New Member
Dec 25, 2017
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San Francisco Bay Area/Riverside (University)
New steering wheel! Put in a 10th anniversary Cobra wheel (shoutout to frank for passing it down to me), was a royal pain because the steering wheel I rented was absolute garbage. But it feels way better and I like the color contrast. Might make it a theme when I redo the interior.





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