By on September 1, 2010

Here at TTAC, we just love to talk about the Panther-based Town Car. I’m personally a big fan, but the rest of the staff is not as fond of the last full-sized Lincoln.

Whether you love or hate driving a TC, however, you have to admit that they are very durable vehicles. It’s no surprise, then, that “Charlie The Town Car”, a 2004-vintage model used daily as a cab in Austin, Texas, wasn’t laid low just 9,211 miles short of the half-million-mile mark by mechanical failure. No, it had to be rammed by a truck.

A July article in the Austin Statesman tells the tale:

McClung, 48, a native of Bangs, a hamlet just west of Brownwood, said he properly paused at a four-way stop in East Austin (on the way to pay his weekly $235 lease to Austin Cab) and then pulled out. The other guy, in a maroon Ford pickup, ran the stop sign to McClung’s left and slammed into Charlie’s left rear…

And the odometer (the car, sadly, won’t start now and required a jump to get enough juice to light up the electronic reading on the dash) sits frozen at 490,789.5 miles. Just 9,210.5 short of half a million miles. And maybe done.

Any old Ford hand knows that’s the inertial fuel pump at work. Press the button in the trunk (or, in some Fords, the glove compartment) to reset the fuel pump and away you go. I looked for an update to this story and couldn’t find one. I’d like to believe that Charlie’s frame wasn’t bent too badly and that a junkyard door put him back on the road. It’s more likely, though, that the insurance company called time on the whole endeavor and sent Mr. McClung looking for his next Townie.

This kind of mileage is exceptional for any vehicle, but during many trips to Orlando, FL I regularly saw the Town Cars operated by Mears Motor Coach looking quite spiffy with 200,000 miles — or more — showing on the odometer. There’s plenty of evidence that Toyota minivans and the like can’t quite cut the mustard:

“The minivans, the fleets really discovered that they were just not holding up,” said Michael Woloz, spokesman for the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, an industry group.

In the long run, no modern car seems to last quite like a big Panther. It can be an attractive purchase for anyone, from a 24-hour-a-day cab company to a club racer… but that’s a story for another time.

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49 Comments on “Town Car Comes To A Halt At 490,789 Miles...”


  • avatar
    krazykarguy

    I was in a Panther taxicab in Miami this spring with 325k on it, and it showed. The transmission hardly shifted, and when it did, it slammed back and forth between what I assume to be 2nd and 3rd. The “O/D Off” light was flashing during the entire ride. It still got us to our destination, though.

    I do think that this Townie is done for, however. :-(

  • avatar
    ArBee

    As a Grand Marquis owner who loves these cars, I always hate it when one dies. However, I can’t wait to what the club racers are doing with them!

  • avatar
    mikey

    What a shame. That old CAW built Ford, {sorry guys I couldn’t resist} made Mr Mclung a good living. I’ve talked to cabbies in Vegas and Miami ,Orlando and Toronto. They all agree the Crown Vic rules.

    I talked to a owner/driver in St Thomas V.I He had a pristene 96 Mercury 200+ on the clock. Somebody must of imported it from the US. It belonged jointly to him and his brother in law. He was the driver, and his brother in law the mechanic/detailer. Detailed,it was, as good, or better than I can do.

    It wiil certainly be a sad day when the last one rolls of the line.

  • avatar
    obbop

    If scrapped will the metal travel the ocean to mainland China to be processed and used in the airframe of an anti-ship missile intended to impact a USA aircraft carrier patrolling the Taiwan Strait east of Quemoy and Matsu islands or is the rendered scrap more likely to sit upon a store shelf posing as, perhaps, a crock pot or an electric skillet or a slicer and dicer or a ricer (the kitchen-type ricer, not an Asian conveyance…. dern’ kids today) or any of a multitude of Heche en China goodies swarming across the ocean aboard the fleet of container ships descending upon our once-sovereign country?

    Anybody recall a couple decades or so ago when China publicly inquired of the USA government if we (the USA) was willing to lose Los Angeles to a nuclear barrage if the USA actively used our military to defend the island from being absorbed by mainland China?

    Just curious.

    Active minds tend to wander.

    If I had some discretionary wealth I would seek out a used Marquis or Town Car for scurrying around the burgh and leave the pick-up parked, saved in case of eventual need to live within it as the USA steadily declines economically, culturally, socially and a myriad of other ways and the depression sends the commoners spiraling down economically to become the new serf class to serve our oligarchy owning masters and the brave new 3rd-world status overwhelms masses, huddled, grateful for a fresh-found tossed-out burger in the dumpster.

    Curious minds wanna’ know.

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      Yes I do remember China saying that. In street terms “don’t f–k with us”

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      @obbop that’s just reactionary crazy talk. I mean, remember when the USA sold all that scrap metal to Japan back in the 1930′s, and cynics like you were saying that it would be to our detriment, and in 1941 the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force was nice enough to return all that metal to us, free of charge, at Pearl Harbor, and ………never mind.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick

      obbop, I liked that post.
      Sadly, the part about vehicles being scrapped and shipped to China to be turned into shoddy crap is painfully true.  I have a whole set of pics of an old junkyard I used to visit to take pictures.  Awesome place.  1000s of cars from the 20s to the early 70s.  Went back a couple of summers ago and GONE.  Every last one scrapped.  And there was a much smaller, eccentric collection in a nearby community of trucks, such as old firetrucks, Divco delivery trucks, and sundry cars.  I guess they scooped all them up at the same time.  The only old vehicle left unmolested is an old Studebaker tow truck in a different field that will probably succumb sooner or later.
      Pity really.

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    None of the new Ford appliances can take the kind of abuse the Panthers can take.

    The new Taurus PI and Explorer PI will be the second coming of the Intrepid squad…they won’t last half the time the Panthers did.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Yup, one thing I’ve noticed over the years is how cars get less reliable and durable with each redesign. I remember, back when I was a boy in the 70s, you could buy an LTD or a Comet and it would go 200k or 300k miles with little more than an oil change.

      Oh wait…

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      One of my frustrations as an engineer (wireless hardware, not automotive) is that I don’t get to make anything better anymore. The main goal of every redesign is now cost reduction. Another engineer guessed that the best time to buy a new car is in it’s 2nd model year after the manufacturer has fixed the new model bugs but before they cost reduce it with the mid model run refresh.

  • avatar
    armadamaster

    Well said Silvy.

    Another testament to the Panther platform, Ford is stupid to give it up.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

    • 0 avatar
      Sinistermisterman

      “Well said Silvy.”

      First time I’ve ever seen that typed on here…

      But (I can’t believe I’m writing this) he’s got a point. The Panther platform is paid for and every car sold is very profitable. Ford are just using the new EPA laws as an excuse to ditch ‘old’ technology (old isn’t cool any more). They could quite easily fit one of their newer fuel efficient V6′s in there instead of the modular V8 and keep on selling them… but hey, you can’t plug your I-Pod into a Crown Vic, so it’s got to go…

  • avatar
    86er

    That door will hammer right out. Be good as new.

    Despite certain someones constantly reminding me that these things ain’t no good for me because they’re just so terribly unsuited for daily driving and I should really be driving a Camry, and oh dear god those window regulators alone are worthy enough to consign this platform to the trash heap of history, I will keep driving these cars for as long as I can keep finding them. At my age, I’ll have plenty of time to drive wrong-wheel-drive unibody same-mobiles ’til my dying breath.

    See? Not even a paean to the last real American car for the nth time which would elicit another trite response for the nth time. I’m learning.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Right here in Ontario, A non ex cop car is next to impossible to find, for a reasonable price.

    My buddy is looking at bringing one up from Florida. We are still working out costs,and the logistics.

    • 0 avatar
      Brendon from Canada

      I’ve bought in the US in the past and imported – drop me a line if you have questions. Buying a CAW produced vehicle from the US is probably the best way to support the Canadian economy (if it sounds like a strange statement, follow the money trail – it’s true!).

    • 0 avatar
      MadHungarian

      If you want non-fleet Town Cars, do your shopping in Texas or Florida. There’s a greater selection overall especially of the higher-option models (which means up to about 2006; after that the option list was grdaually cut to almost nothing).

      Although, there’s something to be said for an all black livery edition Executive L. Rode in one in NYC a few months ago and was thinking the leather is a better quality than the stuff in my civilian edition Signature Limited.

  • avatar
    radimus

    The only current production vehicle I can think of that could match the Panther in longevity would be the Tahoe/Suburban and its siblings or the Expedition.

    Why does Ford see the need to cancel this car when there is still such a demand for it? Makes about as much sense as GM canning the Caprice back in 1996.

    • 0 avatar

      To my opinion, the question is why Ford can’t improve on the design just a little to make it go for another 10 years?
      The problem is, running a Crown Vic in NYC vs Ford Escape hybrid is about 5k saving on gas since they travel so many miles.

  • avatar
    slance66

    I only ever see these cars in bulk in my travels to South Boston, where every male from 16 to 26 and from 46 to 86, drives one (with the occasional aging Caddy). They are seemingly not ideal, as they don’t fit well on the narrow streets and are hard to parallel park. But they travel to construction sites as well as an F150 or Silverado, cost next to nothing, survive collisions, haul lots of your buddies, can run over curbs (handy when pulling up halfway on the sidewalk while getting your Dunkin Donuts fix) and provide the desired low level Irish mob image.

  • avatar
    chris8017

    The Crown Vic NYC Taxi cabs I’ve found myself in have routinely had over 300,000 miles on the odometer. In almost all cases they seemed to shift great and still have a strong engine.

    Impressive considering these vehicles are usually driven to an inch within its (your) life by the cabbies. In my experience, they either floor the gas or floor the brake. Very little in between.

    Another nice feature about these cars is their A/C is always ice cold…even on hot days while stuck in NYC traffic.

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t forget this, these cars change oil every week and to fix them cost peanuts, there are special 24 hrs shops that do brakes and other things while you wait and since there are so many of them, replacing an engine or transmission is a matter of quick visit to one of these shops, Ford made these cars so simple to take care of that it is possible to fix them that quick and for very little money.

  • avatar
    postjosh

    ford should sell the tooling to some one who wants to start the “panther car company?” i’m sure it would be successful in fleet sales. the only hitch is that ford will lose a lot of sales on the taurus based successors to the panther line.

  • avatar

    No doubt these are terrific cars (whether you like to drive them or not), as was the old Chevy Caprice from the bubble series. Nonetheless, I suspect that cab duty is easy duty, at least for the engine. Why ? Because starting from cold, and also never getting fully warmed up are things that wear engines down, and cabs are always on, always fully warmed up. Consumer Reports some years ago compared different oils in NYC cabs, taking the engines apart after 60,000 miles and measuring tolerances. They couldn’t detect any significant wear, or any differences between the cars based on what oil they were using. So the half a million miles in a cab just doesn’t surprise me.

  • avatar
    K5ING

    I’ve always thought that GM should have sold the ’91-’95 Caprice tooling to a company that wanted to update them and sell them for fleet use. I’m sure GM could use the cash.

    I currently own a 2001 VW Golf TDI (bought new) with over 417,000 miles on it. Original untouched engine, clutch, turbo and most everything else. There isn’t so much as a scratch or a door ding on it and the paint is still good. If a truck were to take it out before it’s time came, it would break my heart. Sort of like an active 95 year old man being run down by a drunk driver. Sure, he’s old, but it still wasn’t his time.

    • 0 avatar
      Wagen

      Very impressive indeed. 400k mi on a clutch! Do you do VW recommended maintenance by the book, or modify it in some way? Another data point added to the legend of Diesel engine longevity.

      I once owned a MkIV and I have to say I think those were the pinnacle of the car as far as the body and interior go. It’s been downhill with cost reductions every generation since…

    • 0 avatar
      0menu0

      ….those were the pinnacle of the car as far as the body and interior go…

      I’ve maintained this for years to anyone who will listen.

  • avatar
    Power6

    There is no secret to the sauce here. If you build them the same way for decades, you’ll get pretty good at it. Every car made for decades has had the kinks worked out.

    There are other features of the panther though, being body on frame and live axle RWD does enhance durability.

    I question whether the need is there for cars to last that long anyways. Other than sheer size old cars like this are less safe actively and passively.

    Shouldn’t we be more excited about cars that are the latest technology, use no more resources than necessary to build, and once outdated can be easily recycled into the latest technology again?

    • 0 avatar
      stevelovescars

      I agree in theory that a vehicle line manufactured for decades with only minor updates should be “right.” Then I thought back to the sad saga of the Chevy Cavalier. Didn’t they make those for something like 20 years save for a fascia refresh or three? They never got to be good cars… though the J.D. Power initial build quality ratings were top of the heap for a while. I guess that just meant that the factory workers could put them together straight but the underlying components were crap.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    There was a 69 car accident on I-10 in Phoenix a few days ago. IIRC about 8 people were hospitalized, and a dozen treated at the scene, but none of the injuries were life threatening. The freeway took hours to clear, because over half the cars were undriveable and had to be towed.

    Without even knowing the year/model of the cars involved, the injury report is startling, considering the number of cars colliding at freeway speeds. You might draw the conclusion that cars are much safer now, but the crush-zone strategies used to protect passengers result in severe damage to the vehicles, to the point that you throw them away after all but minor fender-benders.

    Outside of major accidents, might one conclude that the same life-saving strategies, particularly the design of FWD components, could have a hand in modern cars not holding up well to regular, long term use, no matter how well they’re maintained?

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      Unibody construction, FWD with transverse engines, and other common factors in most new mainstream cars result in lighter, more fuel efficient, and more space efficient vehicles. If you look objectively at a panther, like a Grand Marquis, vs something like a new Fusion, the Fusion has more hp with either V6 than the Merc does with the V8, plus better fuel economy, and even though it’s close to two feet shorter, has similar interior passenger space. Now, the Merc with its old school BOF contruction, RWD, and V8 will take more abuse and neglect, and can be thrown up on a frame straightener if you do wreck it, but following basic maintenance on both cars, either one will last as long or longer as an average family would expect a sedan to last, and the tradeoffs for usability vs durability are worth it for most people, so they pass over the panther.

      In a service vehicle situation, where the car is going to get beat to hell, brought back fro the dead and bear back to hell again repeatedly, a panther makes a lot of sense. Nothing else on the road is as cheap to maintain, with as long of a potential service life, and as much potential to take abuse. Unfortunately, those aren’t attributes that most people put a priority on for a family car.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      @Nullo

      Are you the Ford salesman that wouldn’t let me look at the Marquis until I got wheel time with the sad-sack Five Hundred? :P

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Since I say the same thing in every Panther thread, I’ll just not say anything at all, save for “I agree with Nullo”.

      Any car can make 500K. I personally did it in a front-drive Corolla. I know more than a few Saab owners who did it, too. It has less to do with the fundamental soundness of the car (remember: Saab) and everything to do with the owner’s dedication. Panthers have the advantage of being really cheap to keep up, and thusly appeal to the kind of people who like keeping cars a long time.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      86er –

      I actually love Grand Marquis customers, they are generally some of the nicest and easiest people to work with in the world. Plus, I can show them the, the brand new Grand Marquis with a $30K sticker, walk them across to the used lot where I have a ’09 Grand Marquis with 15K miles and a $20K sticker, and have them leave happy that they saved money and me leave happy that I made money – it’s a win win, and the depreciation on the panthers makes them incredible used car deals.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      @ Nullo

      All right then, I nearly had you taken for one of “those” people.

      Of course, you and Psar are technically correct about these things, but damn it, how can anyone feel pride in making an 85% as-good car as the Camcord? Traversing a grand continent like ours, seems to me that those thinly-disguised skinny little platforms that were clearly designed to squeeze between 6 rows of Kei cars and European cobblestone streets are a sick joke. There’s nothing objectively wrong with them, perhaps, but boy I have to laugh when I see what Ford and Buick and the like are passing off nowadays.

      Is it any wonder why SUVs and half-tons are so popular? Maybe it’s because they still embody some singular qualities that N. Americans identify with? Who ever said we had to like all this globalized stuff, anyway? All I know is they’re not giving us a choice.

      Where’s that jurisb guy to articulate this better for me? A bloody Lithuanian could express American cars for us better than we can, how sad is that?

      @ psar

      500,000 km or 500,000 miles in a Corolla, regardless, you sir are a masochist.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      @ Nullo

      All right then, I nearly had you taken for one of “those” people.

      Of course, you and Psar are technically correct about these things, but damn it, how can anyone feel pride in making an 85% as-good car as the Camcord? Traversing a grand continent like ours, seems to me that those thinly-disguised skinny little platforms that were clearly designed to squeeze between 6 rows of Kei cars and European cobblestone streets are a sick joke. There’s nothing objectively wrong with them, perhaps, but boy I have to laugh when I see what Ford and Buick and the like are passing off nowadays.

      Is it any wonder why SUVs and half-tons are so popular? Maybe it’s because they still embody some singular qualities that N. Americans identify with? Who ever said we had to like all this globalized stuff, anyway? All I know is they’re not giving us a choice.

      Where’s that jurisb guy to articulate this better for me? A bloody Lithuanian could express American cars for us better than we can, how sad is that?

      @ psar

      500,000 km or 500,000 miles in a Corolla, regardless, you sir are a masochist.

      @ Lorenzo

      Sorry for hijacking your comment thread, mate.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      @ Nullo

      All right then, I nearly had you taken for one of “those” people.

      Of course, you and Psar are technically correct about these things, but damn it, how can anyone feel pride in making an 85% as-good car as the Camcord? Traversing a grand continent like ours, seems to me that those thinly-disguised skinny little platforms that were clearly designed to squeeze between 6 rows of Kei cars and European cobblestone streets are a sick joke. There’s nothing objectively wrong with them, perhaps, but boy I have to laugh when I see what Ford and Buick and the like are passing off nowadays.

      Is it any wonder why SUVs and half-tons are so popular? Maybe it’s because they still embody some singular qualities that N. Americans identify with? Who ever said we had to like all this globalized stuff, anyway? All I know is they’re not giving us a choice.

      Where’s that jurisb guy to articulate this better for me? A bloody Lithuanian could express the essence of American cars for us better than we can, how sad is that?

      @ psar

      500,000 km or 500,000 miles in a Corolla, regardless, you sir are a masochist.

      @ Lorenzo

      Sorry for hijacking your comment, mate.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      86er – glad you like the large Detroit products. I’m glad to finally have a choice b/c I have little love for the standard Detroit products. I’ve long preferred the “rest of the world products” and have spent my money on them. When I drive a domestic SUV, truck or large sedan I really can’t wait to get back into something smaller and sportier. Note that I drive everything from delivery trucks to microcars and motorcycles. I’m glad that Detroit might be developing an interest in catering to the traditional Detroit customer AND customers like myself who have had to turn to the imports for vehicles that interested us. In this case it isn’t about quality, features or MPG – I simply have no interest in a large Buick (prefer the Opel version), the Panther platform products (Focus for me or better yet – the Volvos), or curvy Impalas of the 90s.
      Size is the first problem, all the others come after that.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      Joeaverage:

      People who prefer the small cars are cool by me, and my affinity for the big iron is in no way to diminish or disparage that. 

      My whole theme is about choice, and there’s next to no choice left for people with traditional tastes.  Our market is (or, was) unique and no amount of cars designed for other continents will change that. 

      Size is a matter of perspective.  I grew up around 4 door longbox crew cab trucks on farms and my dad worked for a farm implement dealer, so “size” doesn’t faze me.  In fact, I was just looking out my window at the Vic last night and lamenting the obvious sacrifices they had to make in pinching the wheelbase to 114 inches and giving up rear seat space for trunk room and the live axle.

      Someone will jump up and tell me that the Panther can’t continue because of forthcoming crash standards making the amortized platform argument moot, and I can’t disagree.  We all know the sad tale of Ford and GM moving aggressively to SUVs and neglecting or canning their large cars so I won’t repeat that again. 

      In sum, where you see choice I see choices shrivelling up despite a 30 mfgr. market.  I’m not advocating for a return to the 1950s where your choices would’ve been a little MG or a Tucker or some such thing.  You got what you wanted, more power to ya.  Now where’s my piece of the market?

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      86er – I completely see where you are coming from. Detroit and imports in some ways still putting all their eggs into little baskets. I guess that is what happens in a world where profit is the #1 concern.
      I’d like to see continued diversification without losing cars like the Panther style cars. Seems to me that there will always be a use for large H.D. cars.

  • avatar
    0menu0

    ….those were the pinnacle of the car as far as the body and interior go…

    I’ve maintained this for years to anyone who will listen.

  • avatar
    B5234T

    I work as a cab driver and I own a 2001 Townie. it has 327569 miles on the clock

    runs perfect no complaints except for the occasional fuel pump failure

    my car runs non stop 7 days a week from 6PM to 6AM

    i tried a 2004 toyota sienna POS every week either as sensor goes out of whack or the alternator or the power steering or the radiator

    the only vans that can take the abuse of a taxi driver and the workload are Pentastar’s vans especially Dodges.

  • avatar

    I’m not convinced that recycling a car is all that easy, environmentally sound, or rewarding of an endeavor. Comparing a Town Car to a new LS460… the Townie weighs less, contains less mercury and other technology-related chemicals, is easier to disassemble, and uses fewer resources to build, operate, and transport to the United States.

    The LS460 is faster, quieter, rides better, and has more gimmicks.

    To calculate the true cost to the environment and the consumer across a fixed mileage for both is beyond my ability, unfortunately.

  • avatar

    club racing a panther???


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