By on September 22, 2010

In the magical half-fortnight festival of full-size Fords known to all and sundry as Panther Appreciation Week, the most fortuitous things can occur for the True Believers. The obstacles before our durable front suspensions are laid low and the rough path is made smooth before the live axles of our minds, which is how I found myself rolling through New York Tuesday afternoon in a 2010 Town Car Signature L.

“Something happened a few years ago,” my driver, Leo, said. “They ain’t as good as they was.”

“I can explain why,” I said, and I meant it. But first, a word about wheelbase.

The Panther platform has always been a relatively short-wheelbase car compared to the B-body GM cars and various German “D-segment” vehicles. The original Panthers came in two sizes:

  • 114.3 inches. This underpinned the LTD/Crown Victoria and Marquis/Grand Marquis sedans and coupes, and was also used for the Lincoln Mark VI coupe.
  • 117.3 inches. This was what you would find under Continentals/Town Cars, Town Coupes, and Mark VI sedans.

By contrast, the B-body (Caprice, Delta 88) was 115.9 inches and the C-body (Olds 98, Cadillac deVille/Fleetwood) was 121.5. Across the pond, the standard-wheelbase Mercedes S-Class was 115.6 and the LWB was 121.1. The Jaguar XJ6 was 112.2 inches. A BMW 733i was 110.0 inches. The kind-of-new-for-1979 Chrysler R-bodies (Newport, Gran Fury, Imperial) were 118.5 inches. Regardless of what the Panther player-haters out there say, Ford was right in the middle of the market.

Furthermore, the United States is a nation of owner-drivers. While it may be perfectly true that everything bigger than a Toyota Yaris is chauffeur-driven in India, China, or Russia, the vast majority of Town Car owners never sat in the back seat even once. If the Panthers were a little tight for rear-seat room, it didn’t really matter to their real-world demographic.

As the Panther platform entered its fourth calendar decade of production (!!) it became apparent to Ford that two of the three variants — namely, the Vic and the Town Car — were being purchased largely by livery operators. Those people wanted more room for the back-seat passengers, so Ford obliged. Since 2001, the Town Car has been available as a long-wheelbase variant at 123.7 inches. The LWB Crown Victoria is a 120.7 inch wheelbase car sold to taxi companies here and to private buyers in the Middle East. To my knowledge, if you want a LWB Grand Marquis you’d better start with a LWB Crown Vic and the relatively few parts which distinguish the Ford and Mercury cars. I can’t find any proof that there was ever a LWB Marquis.

Some livery companies in the New York area run both SWB and LWB Town Cars; I asked Leo the driver why this was so. His opinion was that the SWB cars held up better in extreme service. He did not venture an opinion as to why, but I would imagine that the SWB car is more rigid and therefore handles the miserable Manhattan roads better. He indicated further that the SWB car was much easier to park.

We then discussed this matter of recent declines in Town Car quality. Leo was careful to note that the basic mechanical bones of the Town Cars continue to be reliable to 300,000 miles and beyond. His gripe was with interior quality, parts falling off. His company runs cars 18 hours a day and there isn’t always a chance to make the cars look perfect before the next shift. He was emphatic that the 2008-2010 cars were the ones with the issues.

As any true Panther aficionado knows, the Crown Vic and Grand Marquis have been assembled in Ontario since 1992, but the Town Car was a product of the Wixom, Michigan plant. This changed on May 31, 2007, when the last Wixom-built Town Car rolled off the line. A few months later, production restarted in St. Thomas. The Canadian Town Cars are apparently not built as well as their Michigan predecessors. My personal Town Car is a product of the St. Thomas plant; we will see how the interior looks at 300,000 miles.

All LWB Town Cars have a center armrest in the rear seat which contain climate-control temperature, fan speed, volume, seek/scan, and “next track” buttons. There’s also a switch to move the right front seat forward out of Mr. Wall Street’s way. Presumably there are people out there who feel empowered to mess with the radio from the back seat. Your relatively humble author is not one of those people.

During my drive out to the Palisades, I wondered what could possibly replace the long-wheelbase Town Car in the livery biz. Interestingly, Leo confounded one of the Internet’s favorite chestnuts of received wisdom by indicating that he had seen the invoice for five Signature L Townies purchased by his firm. They were $47,000 each including tax, so figure the “deal” was $44K. That’s well below the $52,195 MSRP of the vehicle, but far about the $30K number knowingly repeated by teenagers on Web forums. What can you get for just north of forty grand that will run for well over a quarter-million miles, can be serviced by (un)trained monkeys, and is capable of hitting a New York pothole at 70 miles per hour for eighteen of those hours every day? I suggested to Leo than a full-sized SUV might be able to do it.

“You know,” he said, “I like those new Suburbans. We got some. Nicer than this inside. Ride better, even. Super nice. Let the guys drive ‘em for six months. Then they fall apart. Don’t seem like it would be that way. But they don’t last.” The Panther has lasted, in one form or another, short wheelbase or long, since 1979, but its time is up.

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50 Comments on “Panther Appreciation Week: Wheelbase Wackiness, Wixom Wistfulness...”


  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Memo to me.  Do not purchase a Town Car built after the 07 model year.
     
    Thanks for the info, Baruth.
     
    Legend also has it that the Willow Run Assembly B-body GM cars were better put together than the Arlington, TX cars.

    • 0 avatar
      philadlj

      After less than 100K miles, our Arlington-built ’95 Chevy Bubblewagon had shed two power windows, the retractable antenna broke, two door panels slipped off while opening the door, the pull-out ashtray’s plastic tracks snapped, every soft-touch button on the Delco AM/FM cassette player came off…and the mouse-fir headliner came loose from its inadequate adhesives. Granted, this was a car with three kids going wild in it, but that’s what it should have been designed for: durability. The front power seats proved bulletproof, perhaps because it was presumably the same technology as in my Dad’s ’78 Delta 88 Royale.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    “LWB Crown Victoria is a 220.7 inch wheelbase car”
     
    Uh, I think you meant to say 120.7 :).

    To the assembly plant issue, my hunch is that the old Town Car plant was long managed with an eye towards serving the luxury car customer’s expectations while the Crown Vic plant built a less expensive car for a less demanding clientele. Perhaps when Ford moved the Town Car tooling, they neglected to also move the “we build luxury cars” viewpoint along with the machines.
     

  • avatar
    86er

    Hi Jack,

    While you probably didn’t mean to construe it as such, I wouldn’t blame STAP for the declining interior qualities of the Town Car.  Ford has been purposely stripping these cars since at least 1998 while continuing to milk them mercilessly for profits. 

    I believe that STAP would live on, except that federal mandate (pedestrian crash standards and 40 airbags) would require Ford to invest into the platform to keep it around, and as you know, that dog won’t hunt.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Suburbans disintegrate after 6 months of livery use? Are you telling me that GM still builds short lived garbage? No way!

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I think the implication is that livery (and cop) use is a very, very specific niche, much like, oh, F1 or LeMans.  It’s nothing at all like how normal people, even contracts, drive their cars.
       
      The Panther has been slowly-but-surely becoming a very good livery car as it’s evolved.  It’s kept a crude but easily repaired set of mechanicals, developed a massive parts and expertise pool, avoided features that add cost and/or break, etc, etc.
       
      The platform has had to give up a lot in order to get there, though.  The kind of suspension  that lets you hop curbs and crash over potholes with impunity has real drawbacks elsewhere.  That unstressed V8 has urban fuel economy measures that absolutely suck, and not everyone can afford a CNG station to compensate.  And then there’s crash and safety regulations, which a platform like this is going to have problems meeting.
       
      And this leads to where I disagree with Sajeev: Ford couldn’t update these cars and keep those virtues mostly intact, and attempts to try would just cause (or exacerbate) cost problems.  Fleet managers are already squeezing the margins on these, so why add money where doesn’t really matter?
       
      His gripe was with interior quality, parts falling off

      This is why these cars, even in the “good old days” models, make poor daily drivers.  Most people don’t use their cars in such a way that they’d benefit from the Panther’s advantages, but it’s weaknesses are something that they do notice and would be subject to.

      It would be nice if they could have spent the money to make a top-tier interior, but I’m sure that fleet managers wouldn’t support the margin to do it.

      Ford isn’t stupid: they know they can’t make money off this niche anymore.  It’s worth noting that somehow livery drivers in the whole rest of the world don’t need a car whose front suspension can take this kind of abuse: perhaps if cabbies and cops learned to drive?

    • 0 avatar

      And this leads to where I disagree with Sajeev: Ford couldn’t update these cars and keep those virtues mostly intact, and attempts to try would just cause (or exacerbate) cost problems.
      I disagree, but the problem is neither of us has empirical data to prove our point.  If Ford can sell tons of F-150s to Fleet and Retail buyers with varying trim levels and wildly different price points (Platnium? Seriously?), what stops from them doing it on a niche product that has ridiculous margins in Lincoln Town Car form?
      How this could not make money over 2-5 years is beyond me.

    • 0 avatar

      FWIW, the Lincoln Mark LT, though universally hated on the blogs, sold very profitably in regions like Texas. And their resale is far higher than regular Lariat Ford trucks. And they did just great in Mexico, where the LT still lives.
      If those cases could be applied to cars, there’s another slam dunk for the Panther. And the Town Car, specifically.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      Most people don’t use their cars in such a way that they’d benefit from the Panther’s advantages…

      Psar, since we’re using selective examples, I’ll give you one of my own (and I can’t let you off the hook that easily :) )

      My partner and I recently took a 3000-km round trip through Alberta in my Vic, and I can’t imagine anything else that would’ve melted the miles away better.

      This was preceded by a 1700-km round trip to northern Saskatchewan, where the roads were, um, sometimes this side of non-existent.  Still, no complaints from my back or from the passenger.

      I don’t even mind driving the Vic around town.  It drives smaller than it is, and parallel parking is a breeze with the 8 window design.

      So, I suppose what I’m saying is that I went into the purchase of this vehicle with my eyes open.  The tint on my glasses isn’t rose-coloured, nor was I delusional about anything (to my knowledge).  It’s highly insulting to be suggested otherwise.  I adopt a live-and-let-live approach, and as such don’t even bother reading threads about small cars or anything else that doesn’t pique my interest, let alone commenting disparagingly.

      I find it abhorrent that this continent produced these cars, which were indeed “purpose-built” – they were designed for this continent, and now we can’t wait to bury them and climb back into our Toyotas.  Where’s the pride?  What a pathetic, throwaway society we live in.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      @Sajeev,
       
      Ford can make F-150s in a zillion trim levels profitably because they sell hundreds of thousands of them.  On the other hand, if you add up TC + CV + GM, it’s still a very small number (and I’m not convinced that the margins are particularly high); re-engineering these to last another 5-10 years may just not make financial sense.
       
      But it will be interesting to see what the livery operators switch to.  Neither Taurus nor Avalon are particularly luxurious, and DTS will be history, too.  Maybe the new-for-2012 Lucerne, at least in less hostile environments than Manhattan?  For airport livery operation, the fuel economy does matter, too, and the current Lucerne is 5 mpg better than the Suburban.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      86er:Psar, since we’re using selective examples, I’ll give you one of my own (and I can’t let you off the hook that easily :) )

      Fair point, but your usage pattern isn’t typical.  Most people drive under 40 miles (hence the Volt/Leaf/etc range targets) and so so two to three times a day.  They don’t go bombing through an urban wasteland like New York (or Toronto, or whatever) and they don’t cruise for thousands of miles on end.

      For that purpose, a Camry is a better car for most people.  Or an Accord, Fusion, Malibu or whatever.

      You’re right that you went into your purchase eyes-open, though, and your car works for you, which is good.  It’s the same reason that I’m not going to say most people should be driving CDI Smart Fortwos, and yet we pick on Smart buyers far more mercilessly for buying a “niche” car.**

      Fair disclosure: I almost bought a Smart, but I needed at least a notional back seat.

      86er:I find it abhorrent that this continent produced these cars, which were indeed “purpose-built” – they were designed for this continent, and now we can’t wait to bury them and climb back into our Toyotas.  Where’s the pride?  What a pathetic, throwaway society we live in.

      Are they really designed for this continent, though?  Again, most people just slog through a daily commute, and this isn’t the car to do that in.  Those Toyotas do that slog better and cheaper, and I’d hazard that a lot of people run their Corollas until their wheels fall off***.

      It’s unfortunate that we’re losing automotive diversity, but it’s truly because this car is just not the best tool for the job.  If it was, it’d sell better.

      Sajeev:what stops from them doing it on a niche product that has ridiculous margins in Lincoln Town Car form?

      If I were to guess, it’s that the margins aren’t that high because a) the volume is much lower than the F-150 and b) that fleet buyers are squeezing the margin anyway. That the cost to meet upcoming standards would eat those margins up is the “nail in the coffin”.

      I am sorry if it seems like I’m picking on the Panther. I don’t hate them, I just enjoy playing devil’s advocate. I’d buy one (a Town Car, probably 2001) just to keep it around if I had that kind of disposable income, but I can’t justify one as a family car, not when our Sienna beats it six ways from Sunday in family-friendliness.

      Actually, no, I lie, I’d totally get a 300M Special instead. Sorry.

      ** Mind you, mocking Smart buyers for other, more egotistical reasons is fair game.
      *** Or, in my case, until the coolant stopped circulating at a really inopportune moment, but it was nearly half a million kilometers, so fair’s fair.

    • 0 avatar

      @th009 valid point. My only counter to this is just how traditional (SUVs and CUVs) American car buyers are, and how strong the Panther’s sales were for years…if not decades. Re-engineered Panthers (i.e. look at the new Mustang) won’t touch a Camry’s mileage, but they can (in theory) spank any SUV, on par with many hi-po V6 CUVs. Those people can easily come back…just like they did with the Chrysler 300. Only the Panther won’t die off and be pigeonholed as a gangsta ride like the Chrysler.
      Point is, while certainly not F-150 sales numbers, this thing could easily steal back its premium car buyers, SUV fans, and whatnot.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Point is, while certainly not F-150 sales numbers, this thing could easily steal back its premium car buyers, SUV fans, and whatnot

      Yes, but in order to do that, it would have to drive more like a modern car, be packaged like a modern car and have a high hip point and easy ingress/egress like a modern car and so forth.

      At which point, it’s not a Panther anymore.

      If we were lucky, it’d be a Five Hundred.  What it would actually be is a Camry-a-like, and wouldn’t that be worse?  A Crown Vic or Town Car badge on a Fusion or a Taurus?

      Arguing that this car could work is like arguing that diesel will work in North American passenger cars.  It won’t, really: if it could, you’d see more manufacturers trying to, but it’s a market that just doesn’t exist.

      It’s unfortunate that the landscape is pretty much populated with front-drive bubbles, but it’s what people like.  You may as well wish strawberry ice cream would outsell vanilla.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      Psar, you’re mostly correct, and as such I’m not telling people to get into the Panther overtly or implicitly.  I’m merely defending those that choose to. 

      That choice will soon be gone.  Some of us will dance a jig, but I instead will give it the Marc Antony treatment.

      If Japan was losing Toyota or Germany its Mercedes-Benz, the requiems would be gratuitious and plentiful.  While Ford *the company* remains, a piece of its heritage, and by extension American heritage (no homage to Charlie Wilson there), is leaving us.

      As Sajeev states, the empirical evidence isn’t there for either argument, as the manufacturers abandoned the segment in pursuit of easy SUV and truck profits, and now we’re running a fool’s errand comparing modern platforms to something that was hardly tossed a bone in three decades. 

      In truth, the Panther has no peer, no competitor.  It is the last vestiage of the American car.  Let’s not kid ourselves, pretty much everything else (apologies to W-Body) is international in form and function.

      That’s just the way it is.  Maybe the Panther had to die, because we declined to “hold our lead” and became lazy and complacent, like all other cultures that reach the zenith of their prestige, prosperity and influence. 

      I just hope they put a Lincoln Town Car in the Smithsonian, with an inscription on the plaque reading: “Once we built cars, and we were not ashamed.”

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      “Once we built cars, and we were not ashamed.”
       
      Now if I buy a Panther, a B-body, or a D-body I know what I have to get free-hand pinstriped across the trunk lip.  Although how many drivers in traffic will even appreciate it?

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, but in order to do that, it would have to drive more like a modern car, be packaged like a modern car and have a high hip point and easy ingress/egress like a modern car and so forth.
      I disagree.  My argument is a risk, but it’s calculated and has a proven business plan behind it. More to the point, if we all followed the leader, Ford would have never made the Model T, Model A V8, Falcon/Mustang, Fairmont, Taurus…all of which were huge successes for the company.
      A revitalized Panther is almost as lofty, just not a clean sheet redesign.
      Here’s the risk: High hip points and gigantic-boxy-buffalo-butts are so 2005. Thanks to DONKS/Boxes/Bubbles, etc, the hard points/proportions of the Panther are unique and interesting to young people now…just like a CUV was 10 years ago.  Even if you don’t care about that stuff, old is now new: I learned that with my 1988 LTC road test when I put it “out there” for random people to look at.
      A modernized Panther will appeal to a huge cross section of young people, and old people won’t need much coaxing into the old ways and the good old days.
      No way this sh*t can fail. :-)

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      psarhjinian: Yes, but in order to do that, it would have to drive more like a modern car, be packaged like a modern car and have a high hip point and easy ingress/egress like a modern car and so forth.

      What, you mean like a Tahoe?

      I think what a lot of people on this board do not realize is that a still-sizeable chunk of the N. American population has never gotten behind the wheel of a Miata, Civic, Rondo, or anything of that ilk. 

      I think Sajeev’s point is that if one could coax Tahoe owners down from their shiny, “up-to-date” steeds and back into an American car, then there would, theoretically, be a 200,000 unit market opened up.  I share your skepticism because you can lead a horse to water…

      Why bother attacking each other’s points on the historical record?  We know what happened, and what didn’t happen.  Predicting all the what-ifs is just more theorizing, and as such equally valid.

      I have my own theory, which involves the Japanese eating us alive and the Detroit automakers rushing out to make carbon-copies of what Japan was offering, with varying degrees of success.  With their war chests depleted, they turned to Fortress Truck and have manned the ramparts successfully, putting up moats so good that the Tundra quivered in its presence and its tailgate snapped with trepidation (true story).

    • 0 avatar
      jpcavanaugh

      Sajiv:  I agree with you.  Two of my teenaged sons have driven “Grandma’s purple Crown Vic” as their everyday commute to school car for the last 3 years.  All of their friends consider it the nicest, smoothest, fastest and most luxurious car of any available to them.  Mind you, this is in comparison to 90s Accords, Rangers, Tauri and Malibus, but you get the point.  The Vic is unique and cool. 

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      Dan,

      Well, if you’ll pardon the political and perhaps non-applicable analogy, it took 125 years for historians to re-evaluate the administrations of U.S. Grant in a somewhat more positive light, so…

    • 0 avatar

      “Suburbans disintegrate after 6 months of livery use? Are you telling me that GM still builds short lived garbage? No way!”

      Way. Between the cheap leather and plastics inside, paper-thin sheet metal outside, and Chinese-sourced wiring and electronics behind the dash, the GMT900s are nowhere near as durable as two generations ago. They’re overpriced junk.

      (You may “recall” the news several months ago about the sharp chrome trim peeling off GMT900 door handles, leading to cuts on owners’ hands.)

      To be fair, this is hardly a Government Motors-exclusive issue.

    • 0 avatar

      I shouldn’t reiterate, but I will anyway:
      psar: At which point, it’s not a Panther anymore.
      When I talk about modernizing this platform, I suspect the scope of my project is far smaller than yours.
      pasar: If we were lucky, it’d be a Five Hundred.  What it would actually be is a Camry-a-like, and wouldn’t that be worse?  A Crown Vic or Town Car badge on a Fusion or a Taurus?
      Haven’t we shamed enough famous Ford names (Taurus, Explorer) with this platform and its ugly “hard points” already?  And since you mentioned it, remember this design was supposed to replace the Panthers in 2005.  And, aside from a few exceptions to the rules, the Panthers outsold the D3s…sometimes by disturbing margins.
      Don’t mess with success, baby. Just update ‘em.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    I was on a trip to Chicago about 4 years ago and noticed the LWB Crown Vics for the first time.  I wondered what the story was on these, and now I know.  Kind of interesting that they did not use the long wheelbase on the Grand Marquis – in the 70s, the Mercury was always on a longer wheelbase than the Ford.
    I will be the first to agree that the rear leg room in the 114 wb Crown Victoria is not really very much for a car of its overall size.  Remember that even a 64 Chevelle was on a 115 inch wb.

  • avatar
    CarGuyDad

    Jack, I love the Panther Appreciation Week. My step-father used to run a car service in NJ in the early 90’s. The Town Cars were well built, smooth as butter and did last 300k miles with good maintenance (and Engine Restorer) , except for the transmissions which needed to be replaced between 80k and 120k miles.
    One thing about wheel bases – when the LWB became available (some say it was due to NYC Taxi passengers complaining, as the partition takes away a good amount of leg room), NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission would promise incentives and higher fare rates to cab companies that switched to LWB cars. That never happened, but New Yorkers got the extra room they asked for.

  • avatar
    npbheights

    In 2007 The Wixom Town Car plant was producing the least defective cars in the world, according to JD Power.

    Fords response: SHUT IT DOWN.  Excellent.

    See the link.  scroll halfway down to Assembly Plant Awards.

    http://businesscenter.jdpower.com/news/pressrelease.aspx?ID=2007088

    Pulled from the link:

    “For the first time since 1999, a North American assembly plant receives the Platinum Plant Quality Award for producing vehicles yielding the fewest defects. Ford Motor Company’s Wixom assembly plant in Michigan, which produced the Lincoln Town Car, averages just 35 PP100. Plant awards are based solely on defect counts.”

    • 0 avatar
      MadHungarian

      Not the only award Wixom received.  See http://media.ford.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=26103.  It’s a bit ironic that Wixom became the last stand for the BOF luxury sedan, because it was originally set up in the late 50′s to build unibody Lincolns, namely the 1958-60 “boat Lincolns” and their uber-elegant suicide door successors.  The post-Wixom Town Cars have that feeling of playing out the string, like 1965-66 Studebakers.

  • avatar
    Alex L. Dykes

    I hate to say it, but the most logical thing for Ford to do would be to keep the Town Car going. Do one last refresh to change the logo from Lincoln to Mercury, the now dead brand and just make Mercury Town Cars until nobody wants anymore. There could be a stripped police version and a livery version. Having the TCs on the road would still make money for Ford since the tooling and R&D is long since paid for, the companies that buy them are still happy, and by consolidating to one model you save on the costs associated with a more complex lineup. If Lincoln is going up market, they need to ditch the Town Car because of the image which is understandable, so just shift it to the side and keep going. If they really felt like having a laugh, just drop the 3.7L 300HP V6 and the 6 speed auto from the mustang in the old panther.

  • avatar
    msquare

    I know it’s nitpicking, but the GM big cars actually came in three wheelbases:

    115.9″ for Impala/Caprice, Bonneville, LeSabre, Delta 88, and wagons

    118.9″ for Electra and 98

    121″ for Cadillacs
     

  • avatar

    Aren’t the LWB cars manufactured much the same way stretch limos are, with the original parts sliced and extensions welded in? If so, this might explain why they don’t hold up as well.

    • 0 avatar

      IIRC, the press material said it was a unique floor, roof and doors…which would imply differently. Plus, I thought that a welded (real welds, not spot welds) panel was just as strong as a single piece?
      I’m sure LWB cars are worse for the same reason Dachshunds have more back problems relative to other breeds.

  • avatar
    obbop

    Gorilla Glue for interior attachments?
    Sheet metal screws?
    Rip out the offending pieces not needed to maintain the propulsion system?
    To offend those annoying nose-in-the-air back-seat riders set the radio to the local Tex-Mex Spanish language radio station then disable the tuner. Alternative: the local irate Arab radio station.
    Glue a pic of your face upon the rear-view interior mirror so it appears you, the driver, are continuously staring at the passenger.
    Ask the rider to ignore any noise that sounds like somebody in the trunk is shouting and/or kicking the interior thereof.
    This ends the contribution from the Disgruntled Old Coot in the shanty amidst the riff-raff of the hillbilly herd who mainly dell in other shantys that sell for less than half of the cost of the car in this article.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    “The Panther has been slowly-but-surely becoming a very good livery car as it’s evolved.  It’s kept a crude but easily repaired set of mechanicals, developed a massive parts and expertise pool, avoided features that add cost and/or break, etc, etc.”

    This is an interesting observation and you wonder if Ford made a specific, conscious effort to keep it this way by listening to the fleets when they found something that broke or degraded regularly and it significantly affected the vehicles ability to remain roadworthy.

    It would also explain the deterioration of the interior. A livery/service vehicle just isn’t going to get the long-term attention to the interior bits that a personally owned vehicle might so it’s an easy place to start flying on the cheap.

  • avatar
    phantomwolf

    Having once owned a Panther a few years ago, it was a good car, and it was tough.  However, its time was long ago, and this is why I love my Caddy, its a better driving car.  Now if Ford would make a lower riding SUV with a durable V6, tranny and suspension bits, that would be something.  And this one is for Ed, if only Ford would start making a lower riding truck…..

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    i guess I’ll have to go looking for TTAC….i keep hitting the TTAC link on my’favorites’ list, but I keep coming back to “The Truth About Panthers”….

    • 0 avatar
      wmba

      Same here. I’d argue for a Panther Deprecation Week as rebuttal, but I`ve read all I`ll ever need to on these old sleds, and don`t want to encourage more paeans to mediocrity.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      One out of six articles this week is about Panthers, and one out of four of <i>those</i> is Paul crapping on them.
      Is it really that much of an imposition? I’m asking honestly.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    That rear seat cushion looks painfully short.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    The Chrysler 300 has a 120″ wheelbase (on a 196″ car), and once Sergio’s men somewhat re-content the interior and the Pentastar V-6 becomes the base engine, the livery trade might give a base model a serious look. Sergio would probably be overjoyed to take fleet orders at $44k a pop.

  • avatar
    tklockau

    I’ve said it several times here before, but I want to get one of these eventually, and I’m definitely not in the TC’s ‘target market’, being 30 and only having owned Euro cars.  Ford is foolish to discontinue these cars.  So many of the costs have been amortized, and it wouldn’t take much to freshen the current model.  It’s funny there are about eight F150 trim levels and only two Town Car levels, fleet and retail.  Remember in the 70′s there was the Continental, Town Car, Collectors Series and Williamsburg Editions?

  • avatar

    Wixom did build some quality cars.

    My 1967 Thunderbird was made at Wixom. It’s 43 years old, has never been rebuilt or restored, and is still solid as tank.

  • avatar
    phoenixChicago

    Wixom built the Mark VIIs, too. The great forgotten car.

  • avatar
    ajla

    ChryslerCo’s fleet division does offer a 126in wheelbase version of the 300. They obviously haven’t caught on much though.
     
    And, what the hell do livery businesses do to their vehicles if a Suburban only lasts six months?


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