Reply to "Sticky #1: Dropped Floor Pans"

I installed a set of Kirk's dropped floor pans on my red Pantera (purchased
from Marino Perna). As I understand it, Kirk makes them in a couple of
different drops. Mine were the larger drop (about 3 inches at the rear and
maybe half that at the front). You can see the angle of pans here:

http://www.bacomatic.org/galle...odyshop_005.jpg.html
http://www.bacomatic.org/galle...odyshop_004.jpg.html

and a couple of interior shots of the pans are here:

http://www.bacomatic.org/galle..._Stripped_1.jpg.html
http://www.bacomatic.org/galle..._Stripped_1.jpg.html

These are the big pans that cut into both the fore-and-aft and side-to-side
floor pan reinforcements. This allows for larger seats and permits the seats
to slide fore-and-aft, unlike the drop pans that stay within the boundaries of
the original pan reinforcements. The pans are flanged on two sides. After
removing the carpet, we made a tape line around the perimeter to use as a
guide. A cut-off wheel was used to get started then we switched to a Sawzall.
After cutting out the floor with the Sawzall, we had to trim it in a couple of
spots then the pans dropped right in place. I cleaned all the areas to be
welded with a die grinder and rotary wire brush wheel to ensure a clean weld.
After a bit of hammering, we welded along the entire perimeter of the pan.
You'll need a helper to hold the pan edge flush with the surrounding floor.
The front edge of the pan is shaped so it can be welded to cap off the (now
open) forward section of the longitudinal brace. We capped that off, peened
the leading edge over to form a better welding surface and made filler pieces
(patterned off of cardboard templates) to close off the various gaps (there's
a sizable one around the emergency brake handle and several smaller ones both
inside the passenger compartment and underneath). On the bottom side, we
made pieces that tie the pan directly to the fore-and-aft and side-to-side
frame rails. Oddly, the aft portion of pan wasn't formed by a metal brake.
Instead, it was a separate piece of metal tack welded to the main pan. Under
load, that portion off the pan deflected so we welded along the entire length
and it became very rigid. The pans come with a pair (per side) of very stiff
U-channels that are welded to the floor of the pans, stiffening the pan
bottoms and providing a place to bolt the seats to. Without these stiffeners,
the pans would "oil can" under a heavy load but, with them in, every thing is
quite stiff. The pans themselves are of a heavier guage metal than the
original floor. With every seam welded and the pans tied into the original
frame stiffeners, it doesn't look like I've lost much, if anything, in the
way of rigidity. Jacking the car on one corner will lift it off the ground
with no sag, so it seems quite stiff. Since you weld in the rails, you can
position them a little closer to the centerline for better alignment with
the steering wheel but this will be limited by the width of the seat you use.

One other thing to note. If you have your headliner in (mine is out), the
welder would likely leave smoke stains unless you cover it. We covered the
doors and dash and disconnected a few wires to the gauge console to swing
it out of the way while welding. You may also want to cover the windshield
since the grinding and welding sparks can imbed themselves into glass. Also,
on the bottom side of the welds, you'll need to fill in some gaps with seam
sealer. I ended up stripping the floor to bare metal and re-painting it. On
the bottom, I stripped off all the old undercoating, painted it and
re-undercoated.

Even though the pans are the 3" drop versions, you don't give up three
inches of ground clearance. The aft part of the floor pan is 3 inches
lower than before but wasn't the lowest point of the car. I would not
expect it to scrape on a flat road, even at full suspension compression.
The problem is high centering on things like speed bumps and short trailer
ramps. With longer ramps (some carry boards to use as extensions), the
approach angle is shallower so clearance isn't an issue. You just
need to be wary of speed bumps and alert to stuff on the road.

Part of the reason I went to the drop pans was to fit more comfortable
seats since I take the Pantera on long trips so I ordered a set of Gary
Herrig's seats. I wasn't sure I would fit well in the Corvette seats so
I found a local Corvette to sit in and found I fit fairly well. Whether
or not you fit in a particular seat is as dependent upon your shape as well
as the shape of the seat. The 'vette seats aren't prefect for me but the
edges of the seats are soft enough that I felt fairly comfortable in them,
at least in the 'vette. I ran into a problem with them in the Pantera,
however. The 'vette seats have a fixed headrest that's at an angle relative
to the seat. In the 'vette, the seats recline so the headrest is vertical.
In the Pantera, with the seats slid all the way aft, the headrest pokes me
in the upper back. I have to slide the seat forward several clicks to get
the back reclined enough that the headrest is vertical. The seats use up
some of the headroom gained by the dropped pans but removing the spring
support under the cushion coupled with a reclined position gets some of that
back.

Sliding the seat forward uses up a bit of legroom. I've not done it yet but
I'd like to install a spacer to space the pedals forward. That would be a
nice complement to the dropped floor pans.

Dan Jones
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