By on September 20, 2010

“Hipstamatic” photo by Adam Barrera, taken in front of the Thurman Cafe

This is my 2009 Lincoln Town Car Signature Limited. I bought it from Josh Lewis, the long-haired North Carolina socialite who runs Raw Autos.

This is “Panther Appreciation Week”, where I (and perhaps *cough* Sajeev *cough* others) will discuss our history with Ford’s perennial little big car platform and the many ways in which it has had an impact on American car culture. I will start, by talking about what the Town Car means to me.

In the spring of 1982, I was living in the heart of Upper Arlington, Ohio. I’d grown up on the East Coast and was alternately fearful and contemptuous of the children around me. In the “day schools” surrounding the cities of New York, Washington, D.C., and Boston, children were relentlessly drilled in etiquette, verbosity, academic excellence, pushed ahead as quickly as the system could take them. I was eleven years old in the eighth grade; had my father not put a halt to the process, I’d have already been a high-school junior, which was our educational consultant’s straight-faced suggestion.

My classmates were three years older and a foot taller than I was. Loud, bumptious, casually racist, mostly stupid beyond anything I’d imagined would be possible. Our school had one computer — a TRS-80 Model II — but they’d also left it unsupervised and available to whoever could fight for it most effectively. I convinced my parents to let me take a few months of Kenpo from a rather terrifying fellow named “Jay T. Will”, and eventually managed to get in front of the terminal long enough to learn BASIC and the Radio Shack assembler. In all other respects, my new life in the Midwest was fairly miserable.

My father was not a sentimental man, nor was he terribly interested in the affairs of children, but even he could see that I was extremely discontented. His solution was to take me out in the early evenings, to tour the car dealerships and obscure restaurants of Columbus. We would fire up his Sky Blue 1982 Town Car Signature Series, complete with blue velour interior and “Premium Sound” door speakers, and roll quietly down the streets of a city that had mostly closed its doors by six o’clock. I could barely see over the doorsills. The power windows had a fantastic feature: when you pressed the switch the vent window would drop first, followed by the main window.

“Stop doing that,” my father said.

The “old man” (he was thirty-six) commanded the instant respect of car salesmen everywhere; perfectly fit in an era before it was popular, he was just making the transition from Calvin Klein and Yves St. Laurent to this new fellow, Giorgio Armani. He did not dress casually away from the Salesian Boys Club where he played basketball in the late evenings. He was the product of Notre Dame, the Marine Corps, and New York society. As we pulled up to a dealership, be it the MG shop that was in the process of closing or the chandelier-lit Buick/Rolls-Royce cathedral in the middle of Downtown, I could see men throwing cigarettes into their trash cans and hopping up from their desks.

Dad would tell the men, “We’re just looking,” saying “We” specifically to cover me with his aegis, for I was already in the cars, opening the hoods, looking under the dashboards for interesting wiring. In this era children were still expected to shut up and stand behind their parents. Rarely did anybody mention that perhaps I shouldn’t be doing this stuff. Once I took a Mercedes 380SL out of Park, just to learn about the then-unusual shifter configuration; it began to roll softly across the dealership carpet. The salesman began to shout; my father stared him down and I got the Benz stopped before it bumped the ever-present metallic-red 240D that made up the bulk of their inventory.

These were the good times for me. I knew that every few days I spent listening to my idiot teachers misinterpreting Western history or playing the trumpet in perhaps the most atonal school band ever assembled there would be a blissful hour among shiny new Porsches, Datsuns, or Oldsmobiles. My most vivid recollection from those days is of a white Camargue surrounded by actual velvet ropes; a car that was at once beautiful, repulsive, and bewildering.

Our rides were quiet; I knew better than to bother him with endless chatter about computers or my various little collections — pens, Atari cartridges, models of World War II tanks. There was no phone to interrupt us. Dad was a man of relatively few words. He would lay out the dealerships within his available travel radius for the evening, I would pick one, and he would pick dinner without consulting me. When we returned home he would read the newspaper and fall asleep in his recliner.

This was the American Dream, the life to which we were all told to aspire. I knew early on that it wasn’t for me. I never really wanted a house in the suburbs or a Town Car. I have them both now, perhaps because they don’t mean to me what they meant to others, or perhaps because I wanted them more than I thought I did.

That Sky Blue Lincoln lasted barely two years in the driveway next to our yellow MG Midget and Mother’s Cutlass Supreme. Dad could sense that the Town Car didn’t command the respect it used to. He switched to a panoply of Bimmers, Jags, Audis, and multiple Infiniti J30s. American cars were old news, and he never owned one again.

I called him a few weeks ago. “Dad. I sold my Audi. I’m driving too much. Bought a Town Car.” There was silence on the other end of the line, but I am used to that. Then,

“A Lincoln Town Car.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“I had one of those, when you were young.”

“I haven’t forgotten.”

“They don’t seem much different.”

“They aren’t.”

“You sold your Audi.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Sounds very fiscally responsible.” This phrase, rarely used by him in connection with me or my activities, implied approval.

“I think I will enjoy it.”

“I think you will, too.”

And I will.

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85 Comments on “Panther Appreciation Week: The Way We Roll Now...”


  • avatar
    86er

    Yup, I think you captured it.

    Welcome to the Panther Mafia.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    And that day, Jack became a grownup.  (Or at least as close as he’ll ever get to being one.)
     
    (I only rib you Jack cause I’m one of the B&B who actually likes you.  My mother was out to see me this summer and actually referred to me as “Her little Outlaw.”  And it was not affectionately.)

  • avatar
    Russycle

    I personally would never buy a car with white leather, but that back seat sure is pretty.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Some of my favorite interiors are the old Town Cars and DeVilles with dark carpet and light leather.  I know it’s very gaudy but so… “classy.”  :P  One of my faves is the “Black Tie” edition 90s Town Cars with black carpet/dash and white leather seats with black piping.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      It’s major upkeep.  I speak from experience.

      But you can get black in bloody well everything made today, so if you’re going with a Town Car, might as well complete the experience.  Plus that light interior gives the cabin an airy feel aided by the bench seats and tumblehome.

    • 0 avatar

      Upkeep aside, it really is a great look. It’s a very British thing, actually: you see the light/dark combo often on older Jags, Bentleys, etc. It wasn’t sold on this side of the pond, but I think the Rover 75 was available with a similar configuration.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Any chance we’ll get a “Cougar” appreciation week?  Some of those 43 year old Cougars are very fast and very awesome….  ; )

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe later.  Stare at my Avatar in the meantime.

    • 0 avatar
      majo8

      A Cougar appreciation week….heck……even a day, would be cool.
       
      Lots of interesting models to cover — from the GTE with it’s 427 V-8 ( an optional engine that the Mustang didn’t get ) to the Boss 302 Eliminators.  Ford even made two Boss 429 Cougars for the drag circuit.
       
      Of course, this was back when Ford still knew how ( or at least still tried ) to differentiate the Mercury brand.

  • avatar
    segfault

    Nice pictures…  All that’s missing is a bottle of Geritol in the cup holder.

  • avatar
    BrunoSaccoBenz

    Jack-
    I love your writing and this article is an excellent read; however I cannot extend my love to the Panther cars.  I know it’s not fair to base my opinion of them from all the stinky, sticky rattle-trap taxi rides I’ve taken in old Crown Vics.  But two years ago I booked a spotless, nearly new Town Car to take my new bride and I to the airport for our honeymoon.  I have to say I was very not impressed with the mediocre fit, finish and material quality.  What really blew me away was the cold draft coming from the area around the door pull.  They can’t even seal the doors properly!  I thought this was inexcusable, especially given the typical livery use of these cars.  Nope, those Panthers are an emblem of the bad old days of American auto mediocrity and outdated engineering - coasting on old reputation and old school buyers who don’t understand or appreciate real quality.  If you wanted to indulge your nostalgia, you should have sought out one of those 240D’s you nearly hit with the SL.  At 28 years old it’s a better car than any Panther.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Let me guess… you love a… Benz.
       
      The Panther’s are not perfect.  But there are the “last man standing.”  (Remember the 300 and Charger are unit-body.)  If GM had continued the B-bodies and  continued their development, who knows what sort of cars they would be by now.  But I have a soft spot in my heart for the Panther’s because of their inexpensive ubiquitous-ness and overall durability.

    • 0 avatar

      ditto,again

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      One reason these old Merc’s hold together so well after 28 years is also because they were seriously over-engineered, and in my opinion just to rough and tractor like as new. I almost bounced right off the seat in an E124 with less than 100k on the odometer. To me those cars start to get pleassant to ride in only after 200k , if all the seats have been used on a daily basis. (rear seats in a 123 rarely ever get pleasant at all)
      The sound when you close the door on a 28 year old merc is awesome though :)

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      My W126 diesel has 424k mi and the doors slam with the reassuring thud of a Swiss bank vault.
      The way I look at it, when I want fast, I get on 2 wheels :p

  • avatar
    chainyanker

    “Loud, bumptious, casually racist, mostly stupid beyond anything I’d imagined would be possible.”
    Funny, because I would use those same words to describe most people I’ve met from the East Coast. Oh, but with one addition – elitist.

    • 0 avatar
      sastexan

      +1

    • 0 avatar
      thebeelzebubtrigger

      He could have been describing the public school population in N.E. PA, where I grew up. Coming from a family possessed of above average intelligence isn’t “elitism”, though there’s certainly no shortage of insecure people who will insist otherwise. It’s very tiresome.

      Then again, JB did bring it on himself by breaking a cardinal rule of our fine society: we’re supposed to pretend not to notice how stupid most people are.

       
       
       

    • 0 avatar
      chainyanker

      thebeelzebubtrigger:

      Above average intelligence – Congratulations! That places you in an exclusive group consisting of half the population! Being intelligent and recognizing stupidity aren’t elitist but using two paragraphs pointing these things out in article about a buying a Town Car is unnecessarily snobbish.

      Here’s an interesting story of my own. One Halloween when I was a kid my dad scared one of my friends so bad that he passed out and hit his head. Oh, did I mention that I graduated a year early and was invited to the White House for academic excellence? Anyway, my friend was fine.
      See how unnecessary that was?

      I’ll give the author’s father points for one thing though – he was smart enough to move his family away from the East Coast.

    • 0 avatar
      thebeelzebubtrigger

      “I’ll give the author’s father points for one thing though – he was smart enough to move his family away from the East Coast.”
       
      Ok, I get it now — you’re projecting.
       

    • 0 avatar
      chainyanker

      Only vomit.
       
      From all of the superciliousness.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      For the record, gentlemen, I made a conscious decision to stay in the Midwest as an adult and I consider myself a Midwesterner now.

    • 0 avatar
      chainyanker

      And we’re proud to have you.

  • avatar
    friedclams

    A man who truly knows how to write about cars, and the emotions they evoke.

  • avatar
    relton

    Every time I ride in a Panther car, it seems like a Chevy Caprice that’s a little bit off. I think the only reason people buy these things is because they can’t get a Chevy or a Cadillac any more.

    Bob

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    My dear 82 year old dad would breath a sigh of relief if I bought a proper Lincoln Town Cars.
     
    With the popularity of full-size trucks in this country, it’s a shame that Ford has been unable to invest in a platform that will carry the largish rear wheel drive forward.   I’ll guess that the last effort, the Lincoln LS, proved to be too small of platform.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Panther appreciation week? I guess this is why I wasn’t invited:
    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/curbside-classic-1985-lincoln-town-car/

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      Picking on the Panthers is like picking on the (developmentally-challenged) kid in school. 

      Too easy, too cruel.

      Or, to put it another way, it’s like self-flaggelation for us North Americans to repeatedly cane a car that was a unique species to our continent. There’s nothing wrong with a critical eye, but it goes too far.

      Like I’ve said before, for a car that was last relevant in 1985 we sure do talk about it a lot 25 years later. Someone wrote on here that the Panther platform was nothing but tangibles and if all consumers cared about was tangibles, we’d all be driving old Crown Vics. I respectfully disagree. There’s a lot of intangibles about these cars, and I think it comes a bit from a place of shame that the Japanese scared the bejesus out of us so throroughly that we abandoned all traces of what made our vehicles on this continent special in a mad rush to lamely imitating theirs.

    • 0 avatar

      Nah, you nailed it, Paul.  Some vehicles become legendary if only because they’re the Last Man Standing.  But more to the point, you need to embrace your inner-Panther and have a Pimp Stick in your xB.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    My Town Cars were white with light gray leather interiors because that is the kind we bought for Budget. I got to keep them for six months at a time, or until 4000 miles, whichever came first. My dad loved them. They were used for Bridal rentals every weekend. I drove them for years until I returned to college.

    In hindsight, I suppose they were fine cars, but they were just big cars with big interiors and big seats. They really didn’t meet my expectations except in handling. They handle very well and don’t seem to be as sloppy as I imagined they could have been. Other than that, there really isn’t much in my mind that makes me wish to have one now.

    I also remembered them as being ghastly overpriced. The idea of paying $15,000 more for a TC over an Crown Victoria seems ridiculous. TCs are great used cars, if you want someone else to take the hit for depreciation. Old folks selling their TCs are always shocked at how little their luxury cars are worth once they drive them off the lot. Within the 60 months they paid off their luxury car, it depreciated by what seems to be about 75%.

    So, when you see a white TC with a gray leather interior, then consider it having once been purchased to carry virginal brides to their weddings as rented cars from Budget or Hertz. Because they probably were. Also consider them to be rather reasonably priced as used cars go.

  • avatar
    pb35

    My dad was a car salesman on the east coast growing up. He would take me to work on Saturdays and I would have a field day sitting in all the new ‘Cudas, Road Runners and GTXs (not to mention the Dusters and Valiants too).

    I’ve been known to cruise the lots too when I get bored. I can’t wait till my boy is old enough to enjoy it with me as well. Great story, Jack. Now I want to trade my G35 for a Town Car.

  • avatar

    Looking at that Gibson, in the back of a Lincoln, I’m reminded of Marshall Chess’ comments that the thing that the musicians who recorded for his dad at Chess Records wanted most was a record on the radio because that meant they could play for $450 a weekend and drive a Cadillac with a fine woman at their side. I think the B.B. King has driven Caddys, there a reference to one at the Petersen Museum, and I’m pretty sure that John Lee Hooker drove Caddys too

  • avatar

    The first Panther in our family was a 1985 Country Squire.  It was my mother’s car for years; we went everywhere in that thing, including one memorable three-week road trip that took us from North Carolina up through Michigan, Ontario, New York, and then back home.  I drove it for about six months while in high school after the demise of my ’78 Country Squire.  What I remember about driving is that the 302/AOD combination in the ’85 was much quieter – and much slower – than the 351/FMX in the ’78.  The big ’78 remains the car of my childhood; the ’85 was always something of an interloper to me.
     
    I think that’s the only Panther I’ve ever driven.  My father now has an ’02 Crown Victoria LX Sport; my grandmother has driven assorted Crown Vics for years.  A good friend here has a Town Car.  I periodically lust after a Marauder, but with two Miatas and a truck (plus my fiancée’s Honda) there’s just no room.  Maybe someday.

    • 0 avatar
      jpcavanaugh

      Theodore, I also spent time in an 85 Crown Vic.  This was my mother’s first Ford product of my lifetime, and was an excellent car for her.  I bought it from her in 1993 when she replaced it with a 93 Crown Vic (which I also bought from her in 2005).  My recall is like yours.  I hated the 302/AOD combo.  That upshift in to 3rd gear/lockup made my life miserable after every traffic light.  When mom bought the 85, I was driving a 77 New Yorker with a 440/Torqueflite.  I remember thinking: “What a cute little big car.”  It was a nimble handler, something that could not be said of the prior generation of LTD (though my New Yorker with heavy duty suspension and 70 series TAs was the best handling big car I have ever owned).  All together, the 93 with the 4.6 and the electronically controlled transmissions solved all of the drivability issues of the 80s version.  I liked a lot about the 80s panther, and always maintained that there was nothing wrong with it that a 390 or a C6 transmission would not cure.

    • 0 avatar
      fastback

      http://www.maplewoodonline.com/classifieds/zoom.php?qs1=17123753brecra70

      like this, Theo???

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Apologies in advance for urinating in the cornflakes.
     
    I’ve used the analogy before: the Panther is like a living fossil.  It’s the last of it’s lineage and does well in it’s niche but is utterly useless outside of it.  Everyone else grew lungs and feet and moved on.
     
    I’m all for people getting a) misty-eyed or b) arguing that, yes, they make excellent taxi and cop cars, and c) that they’re robust in a special sense of the word, but the idea that they’re better for most people’s use than a modern unibody is a little delusional and very much a “rose-coloured glasses” situation. If I had the money I’d buy one for interest’s sake, but that’s about it. I’d certainly prefer, say, a Fusion for day-in, day-out use.
     
    The other logical fallacy is that, if Ford had just invested in them, they’d be perfectly capable modern cars.  The fallacy is that, had Ford invested in them, the result would be something like GM’s Zeta platform or Chrysler’s LX: both of which are proving too costly for mass-market use**, have packaging disadvantages and, as a “bonus” wouldn’t be the mechanically simple cars that Panther enthusiasts know and love.
     
    I’ll say this: I’m sure taxi fleet owners preferred the Panthers, but as someone who used totake a lot of taxi rides, I preferred the Chrysler Intrepid to the Lincoln Town Car eight days a week.

    ** (or at least mass market use below a certain price point or with decent interior materials)

    • 0 avatar

      Dude, we’ve been going back and forth on the for a long time, but now we got Fallacy #2 to discuss: nobody ever said that investment would make the Panthers into a mainstream “mass market” success like a Fusion, LX or Camry.  The whole point of R&D is to continue to give the bare minimum to fleet buyers, but give a ton of options to retail buyers who have no slipped over to premium Toyotas, Nissans, etc.
      The Panther isn’t a Zeta or LX, it has a built in clientele that didn’t stray…the products from GM and Chrysler strayed from them.  The investment would have kept those people, kept the fleet buyers, and brought modern buyers (thanks to hip-hop music videos and other things) all together quite nicely.
      Risk vs return…this investment woulda been cheap, and would both sustain (fleet) and grow (retail) buyers of these cars.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      OK, I started it, I’m obliged to respond.
       
      I don’t think Ford could have invested in the platform and kept it “true” and more than a coelacanth could have grown legs and lungs.  The two goals are pretty much mutually incompatible, technically and in terms of market viability.
       
      To “keep it real” you’d need to stick with body on frame and a fairly simple suspension, which would mean designing a platform that couldn’t be used anywhere else.  You couldn’t just lower an F-150 and make it work without serious modifications.
       
      The other alternative was already tried: the Lincoln LS.  I loved the LS, by the way, but it’d have to sell for more than the Town Car in order to make money and it still wouldn’t have been as simple and robust.  It’s the same problem the cop Charger is currently facing: too cramped, suspension’s too fragile, cost is too high, etc.
       
      That built-in clientele would have dropped the car in a hot minute if it strayed.  At best what Ford could have done would have amounted to window dressing, which would have been unappreciated by fleet buyers and not enough to bring in new buyers.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      Incidentally, Crown Vics make lousy taxicabs, at least for tall passengers.  I much prefer minivans when in NYC, and the ideal taxi for the city would be a hybrid British taxi or Checker.
      I never had problems with the legroom in a LTC though, and for cop cars I’m sure that prisoner comfort is relatively low on the list of feature requests..

    • 0 avatar
      Silvy_nonsense

      Sajeev, I see your point but support Ford’s decision to spend only the bare minimum. The retail market for the Town Car, for example, keeps getting smaller. I don’t think its because the car is old and under-developed, I think its because the clientele is dying of old age. Buying a big, top of the line 4 door sedan is an ego maneuver. Americans under 60 these days are addressing those ego issues with super fancy full size pickups and SUV’s. I think tastes have changed and that is more responsible for the decline in retail sales than Ford’s lack of development of the Panther platform.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    Jack, your memories of your dad’s 82 Town Car jogged memories of my dad’s 80 Town Coupe.  I am a bit older than you, I was in college when my dad traded in a beautiful 78 Town Coupe for the 80, which was the first year of the then-new panther platform.  I know why the 82 was your dad’s last Lincoln – every time I got in (or even looked at my dad’s 80, my face was being rubbed in the fact that Lincoln was no longer making a proper luxury car, or even a car that could play one on TV.  In retrospect, the biggest problem that the car had was that we all remembered the better ones of the recent past.

    That said, I have become a panther fan, so congrats on your new TC.  At some point, I will be buying one of these.  Until that time comes, I am still wringing life out of the 93 Crown Vic that I bought from my mother about 5 yrs ago (when it had about 63K on it).  Over its life, this car has exhibited an almost Honda-like reliability.  I have long said that the only things wrong with the Vic are taken care of by the addition of a Lincoln star on the hood.  Those are some nice seats.

    I will now sit back and enjoy Panther Appreciation Week while you enjoy the quiet and smooth travel from your Town Car.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I guess the (good) story explains why you picked the Town Car.
     
    But still, why not get the Grand Marquis? It is not only an example of the last of the Panthers but also the last of the Mercury brand. Plus, it doesn’t have the Town Car’s ghastly rear end styling.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      I too prefer the back end of the Marquis to the TC, but then I prefer the front end of the TC to the Marquis.  To each their own.

      However, the Linc has the advantage of a longer wheelbase, which when you’re talking about these types of cars, is most relevant in terms of rear seat room and ride.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      I actually like most of the Panther rear ends, I can stand the front end of the Town Car from 1998 to 2002.  Far too areo.
       
      A neighbor has a late 80s Town Car sitting in the drive.  Bright white, 1/2 vinyl roof, and deep red velor interior.  Driven rather occasionally.  What I’d love is that body style with the modular 4.6 and current transmission.  But if that sucker suddenly has a “For Sale” sign in the window suddenly, I’ll swoop in like a vulture.

    • 0 avatar
      jpcavanaugh

      3 reasons:  Wheelbase, wheelbase, and wheelbase.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Yea, but isn’t the “Signature Limited” the SWB one? Doesn’t it only have like 2 inches on the Grand Marquis? I guess that could make a decent difference. I still like the Merc more though.
      _________
      Come to think of it, I haven’t seen a LWB Town Car in long time.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Come to think of it, I haven’t seen a LWB Town Car in long time.

       
      Try finding one on “Autotrader” or eBay motors.  It’s pretty hard to locate one, although I saw many when I was in Chicago a year ago (in livery service of course.)  I even glimpsed one in CarMax’s inventory but that was a long time ago.

    • 0 avatar
      jpcavanaugh

      Alja, IIRC the Grand Marq/Crown Vic wheelbase is 114 inches, while the standard TC was 117 in the 80s.  It may have stretched an inch in more recent years.  My kids who used to ride in the back seat would be the first to tell you that going from a 119 inch wb Cadillac Brougham to a 114 inch wb Crown Vic was a major loss of rear leg room.  Remember that the last big Ford on a 114 inch wb was the 1949-51.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    “I could barely see over the doorsills.”
     
    The more things change, the more they stay the same…

    Oh, and also… fantastic piece, Jack. For me, the car bits were almost incidental. It’s not going to do much to quiet those who’ve accused you of being a trust fund baby, though…

    Also, I approve of any general-audience writing which uses the word ‘bumptious’.

  • avatar
    Chris L

    I don’t much care for Town Cars myself, but that’s hardly the point, is it?  This is a nearly perfect evocation of the peculiar triangle that can exist between a son, a father, and a car. 

    I moved from exile in London to back to the US at the age of ten.  Before we left England my dad asked me — already a passionate autophile – what kind of car I thought he should buy when we made it Stateside.  I dragged him to a used-car showroom up the block to look at a 1954 Bentley.  “Maybe”, he said.  When he picked us up at the dock in a cordovan Rambler Classic 550 wagon, my disappointment knew no bounds.  Foolish me.  Later his hectic career took us to north central Louisiana — a new job for him, unlimited loneliness for us kids.  More Ramblers, followed by a succession of Fiats.  I never had the pleasure of visiting a car showroom with him; he couldn’t have cared less.  In this sense Jack was lucky.

    I saw that wagon again — now clad in a period sea-green — a month ago at Lime Rock.  And the Bentley too.  An oddly moving experience.   

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      I don’t know – I just don’t understand the fascination with new car dealers and their new cars. I walk in to buy parts when I have to and find myself telling three salespeople I don’t need any help (not buying a car today).
      If I’m going to buy a car I do my research ahead of time and come drive what I want to see if it meets my expectations. I can’t rely on the salespeople to tell me anything truthful about the car I’m interested in and I usually know more about the car than they do. Unfortunately I catch them in lies. Repeatedly. Yes sir – the pollen filter will catch skunk smells too. One actually told me that. Another told me repeatedly that a five speed wasn’t built for that model until I twisted his arm and threatened to walk out. Another literally had a bugged office. Could see the microphone and camera hidden on his bookshelf. Tested it with a comment to my wife and of course he tried to use that against us in a round about way. Why would I want to go into a dealership voluntarily?
      My father/sons bonding process is taking care of the cars we have through washes and interior detailing. Through camping trips and car shows. Through road trips and fixing them when they need attention. Through restoring one of our two antiques. Through sweeping up the garage before the next stage of the project.
      I’m close to buying a new car. Maybe this year. Maybe next. And I dread dealing with the lies and the hungry eyes and the sales tactics designed to get as much money out me as possible. Oh sorry sir, we’ve lost your keys… Or the dude that ran my credit without our permission during the last debacle eleven years ago – even though we didn’t intend to finance.
      I’ve purchased and/or sold nearly 50 cars over the years wheelin’ and dealin’ on the side. Yeah I know the games and find zero entertainment in them. I certainly prefer to be on the selling side.
      Let’s get this deal done.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    A 2009? So you actually paid real money for this barge? I guess I can see one as cheap and ironic wheels, but this one is a bit new for that. I’ve never driven the Lincoln, but having had several Grand Marquis rentals from Hertz I can only hope the driving experience is an improvement, as there is nowhere to go but up. I suppose the longer wheelbase means it even has decent legroom, which the Marquis lacked fore and aft.

    I like the light interior, my Saab has the parchment leather and it is nice and airy. And a PITA to keep clean.

    I’m driving a slice of Americana myself this week, Hertz in Philly decided that a screaming orange Camaro was equivalent to the Nissan Sentra I had reserved. I see the Lincoln has the same nasty grade of American soft-sticky plastic all over the inside of it. Blech.

  • avatar
    dastanley

     In the “day schools” surrounding the cities of New York, Washington, D.C., and Boston, children were relentlessly drilled in etiquette, verbosity, academic excellence, pushed ahead as quickly as the system could take them.

    I must admit, as a GA native currently living in NM, that when I spent 4 1/2 years at Ga Tech,  the kids from the Northeast and from Asia usually did the best there academically.  Of course, the kids from the NE would laugh at the hicks from the Southeast (like me) with all of the usual stereotypes, but then they would “discover” the South, realize that the culture wasn’t so backwards after all, and sometimes stay and settle in after graduation. 

  • avatar
    dolo54

    Although I can’t say I’m a fan, they did earn my begrudging respect in their ability to eat up NYC potholes. Not exactly sophisticated, but they sure are comfortable.

  • avatar

    Yes a 2009! I paid good money for these outstanding autos. I don’t need; sport seats, nav screens, gun slit window openings, neon accents, paddle shifters, headroom robbing sunroofs, or so many little knobs its a distraction to change radio channel. My 2009 Grand Marquis weighs only 4024 lbs. The new Taurus weighs the same. Progress? I have added big sway bars, and the handling is very tight. Wait till you have to call for help in your techno laden car in some small town. Every mechanic in the country knows how to work on a Panther.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Still don’t understand why Ford is killing the Panther. They will regret it someday, just as I’m sure GM rues the day it discontinued the B-bodies.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      Good point. Why can’t the car companies sell a few different kinds of cars instead of the same car rebadged 5 different ways? I know it comes down to profit but it seems to me that they’d catch more customers if they offered something more than a four door FWD automatic with multiple grilles.

  • avatar
    sfdennis1

    Enjoy your retro ride…I get the appeal, nothing like a soft American luxobarge for long distance travel…and the Town car is the the ‘Americanest’ of ‘em all, an old school survivor and truly the last of a kind.

    My only question is why you went with an ’09….Though I assume you got a good deal, a low-mileage 2003-2004 ‘grandpa’s special’ is functionally the exact same car (maybe it doesn’t have a tach?) and probably could have been bought for half the price….and you could’ve maybe added another classic Porsche (an early 80′s 911SC? a mid-80′s 928?) to the stable for the same total $$ outlay.

    But then again, given the horrors of Porsche maintenance costs that you’ve already shared, maybe a nice, virtually brand new numbout-mobile is exactly what you need to sooth your jagged nerves from the effects of Porsche addiction.

  • avatar
    gessvt

    Superb, Jack.
    My Dad, a Ford powertrain engineer, leased Panthers yearly from about 1979 until 1987.  All Grand Marquis.  I’m about the same age as you, and I always tried to influence what options he checked.  He preferred velour seats and wire hubcaps in much the same way he preferred 6 cylinder Mustangs earlier in his career.  I got him to order leather, the Town Car style padded 1/2 roof with the “privacy” rear window, and the finned cast aluminum wheels on the later versions.
    He evolved to Mark VII LSC’s, Merkur Scorpios and Continentals towards retirement.  Now he drives MKZ’s, but I think *my* next ride might be a Marauder.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      He probably only evolved into the Scorpio because Ford was putting all of them they could into company service of some sort – management lease cars, zone cars, department pool vehicles and so on. It allowed them to write them down and blow ‘em out at the auctions and the B-lot.

      That said, the Scorpio was quite a nice car – I should know…I’ve owned two of them (still have one). Sublime leather, amazing seats, nice interior quality, smooth ride but still sporty and “tossable” when the urge strikes, and tons of features the even many modern cars still don’t have.

  • avatar
    tklockau

    Congratulations Jack, hope you enjoy it.  I still really want one of these, I’ve driven several and really like them.  This from someone who’s owned nothing but Volvos.  The Town Cars are a whole different experience, but in a good way. To the folks questioning the cost of getting an ’09, they are selling in my area (northwestern IL) for around 25K. Not bad when they’re 48-50K new.

  • avatar
    Dukeboy01

    Hate on the Panthers all you want but consider this: There are hundreds of cars that are faster and more powerful than a plain silver, tan, or white Ford Crown Vic. In this day and age of Interstates backed up with construction, speed traps, and geriatric “left lane bandits” in Winnebagos there is no car that you can easily drive at 10, 15, or 20 mph over the limit with the cruise control on.

    Fly up behind granny in her Town Car, or better yet, behind a bunch of rednecks in an F-150 sitting in the left lane while you’re driving  a red Corvette, silver BMW, or lime green Audi. Jam on the brakes as you close on them and then flash your brights. “Chuck you, Farley.” They ain’t moving. Granny puts on her hazard lights and drops her speed another 10 mph. The rednecks brake check you. “Suck it, yuppie scum. I pay my taxes. This lane is mine, beatch!” 

    But get yourself a three year- old Crown Vic, preferably one of the horrific olive green ones that only a government agency would buy or one of the colors listed above. Then you set the cruise control and just approach slower moving traffic with authority. Not super agressively, just fast enough to let them see that you’re coming and mean business. Traffic parts for you like the Red Sea.

    Crested a hill and see a State Trooper parked in the median? Just throw up your hand to him as you continue on your way without slowing down.  

    So blow your wad on a superexotic $250,000 Ferrari or Lamborghini. Get Jay Leno to loan you his McClaren F1. Wheel out the latest twin- turbo ass- engined Nazi slotcar Ruf or some other hypertuner has built. Pick any road legal 200 mph monster built in the last 30 years.

    Let’s race from Miami to Chicago, as fast as you can get there. The only two rules are that we can only drive during daylight hours and that I can set my cruise control in the 120K miles young Frigidaire white Crown Vic I bought at the municipal auction for $2,500 no higher than 90 mph.

    Who do you think would win?  

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      Then you set the cruise control and just approach slower moving traffic with authority. Not super agressively, just fast enough to let them see that you’re coming and mean business. Traffic parts for you like the Red Sea.
       
      I was hurtling away from NYC on I80 a few years ago, and noticed traffic slowing significantly and diving for the right hand lane. As I moved along, I found the cause: A white Crown Vic with stripes across the side… and on them, big text saying, “SPCA”. I LOL’d.
       
      “Jesus Christ, guys! Get the hell out of here; it’s the Humane Society!”

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      In this day and age of Interstates backed up with construction, speed traps, and geriatric “left lane bandits” in Winnebagos there is no car that you can easily drive at 10, 15, or 20 mph over the limit with the cruise control on.

      And now we know why Jack bought a Panther.  It’s nothing to do with the comfort, feel, heritage, fiscal responsibility or such, oh no.

      It’s just another step towards Maximum Street Speed.

  • avatar

    What I like most about this story is the portrayal of the father-son relationship around the automobile.

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    While the TC got a major upgrade to the interior along with a much needed exterior refresh in 2003, my favorite will always be the 1997 TC Signature or Cartier. These were the high water mark for material quality, feature content and comfy seats.

    The ’98 that replaced it was an absolutely dreary car with flat, uncomfortable seats and abysmal fit and finish, especially around the headlamps-to-hood interface. I swear you could shove a hot-dog in that gap. A buddy of mine who worked on Panther platform used to have an audio recording of Wolfgang Rietzle (newly appointed head of PAG at the time) doing a walkaround critique of the ’98+ Town Car, and I tell you it was absolute hilarity listenting to him tear apart every awful detail of that car in his thick German accent.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    I guess light trucks will be the last remaining BOF vehicles once Panthers go extinct. Won’t be that hard to convince my parents to trade up to an F-150 considering a Lariat offers things the Town Car never did, like stability control, side curtain airbags, navigation, bluetooth and cooled/heated captains chairs, as opposed to bench seats that only heat on the Town Car. Plus available ‘shift on the fly’ 4-wheel drive and ability to modify for handicap access. I’ve seen F-150s and Silverados converted with driver/passenger ‘ejector seats’ that swivel and extend completely outside and downward. Try that in a Panther.
    I know parking visibility could be an issue for my folks. Since rear view cameras are now commonplace, front and side cameras shouldn’t be to far off (as factory options).

  • avatar
    segfault

    I never really wanted a house in the suburbs or a Town Car. I have them both now, perhaps because they don’t mean to me what they meant to others, or perhaps because I wanted them more than I thought I did.

    “Remember, son, I didn’t sell out, I bought in!”

  • avatar
    441Zuke

    the car is nice but the Gibson ES-335 is better. Is it a reward for your financial responsibility?

  • avatar
    bunkie

    I live in the land of the Panther, NYC. If you buy one for personal use, expect to be grilled by your insurance company because they are convinced that you are running a gypsy cab business on the side.

    They are not the most comfortable of taxis. On Thursday nights when I’m headed home from band practice, I much prefer an Escape or a Sienna taxi instead of a Crown Vic because it’s a royal pain to haul both my ass and my guitar(s) out of the back seat of one. It was even worse a few years back before the long-wheelbase Vic came along.

    Seen on the FDR drive one night a couple of years back: A black Vic with a NY plate that read OFF1C1AL. Priceless…

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I was grilled by both the bank and the insurance company.
      “Are you using this for your business?”
      “Absolutely.”
      (pause)
      “We have a concern with that.”
       
       

  • avatar

    Great writeup and gorgeous photos to go along with it.  A neighbor down the street washes her 94 Town Car every weekend.  Her husband is the original owner and they keep that white paint as shiny as the day they bought the car.  Before I knew about it, I thought it must’ve been a car from the 80s when I saw the skinny steering wheel and undecorated center stack.  I’m not sure if it’s leather or not, but the seats looked like they were this blue vinyl material.  I never see them drive it, but they baby it like a member of their family.
    Someday, I’ll own a panther and take that roadtrip across the US, but unfortunately I don’t see it happening soon.

  • avatar
    FJ20ET

    I’m more interested in the Z31 300ZX in the background.

  • avatar
    Alcibiades

    Congratulations.  I had a 2004 Ultimate for a while, and really liked it.  It’s the last of the breed, and a very nice car.


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