Ur-Turn is your weekly opportunity to contribute to TTAC. Every Weekend we select a piece submitted to our contact form, and publish it as a showcase for the diverse perspectives of TTAC’s readers. Today’s contribution, from Jag Singh, reveals that, for an Indian immigrant in post-9/11 America, love of the Panther chassis could hold hidden dangers.
Coming out of India two decades ago, I had a broad experience with 2 wheelers of various types. But, my experience with 4 wheels was limited to micro Suzukis that still rule the road over there. When I bought an old Integra it was everything I could ask for, and provided more hoonage possibilities than I could muster courage for. I used to travel every week, and Taurus was my default weekday rental car. Soon I had a gold plated card from Hertz, and could walk into the rental car lot to pick up any car available there. There were always some Town Cars or Grand Marquis’ in the lot, most people seemed to ignore them. And so did I, initially. Jaguars were rare, but Maximas quickly became my favorite. I tried Mustangs but did not like the rattling noises or the cheap plastics used. Also, they felt way underpowered compared to a Maxima.
I was forced to use a Panther one day, when the options in the rental lot came down to: a Hyundai smelling of stale cigarette smoke, or a shiny new Town Car at the end of the lot. I was immediately hooked. Panthers made me appreciate the finer points of the RWD experience. For the first time I understood the meaning of torque steer, for it was totally absent. With traction control light blinking like a Christmas tree, I got taste of the warm and happy feeling of oversteer on hot turns. The fact that the traction control was protecting me from my own stupidity was a lesson that would come later. From then on it was only Panthers for me, and since most people ignored them I was always guaranteed of one. Thank you, Panther.
This is when the 9-11 tragedy happened. With all the flights cancelled, and a new baby at home, I decided to drive the rental Grand Marquis I already had, from Dallas to Chicago, non-stop. It was a revelation to find it doing 120, floating effortlessly, on the almost empty and endless interstate. You do NOT understand Tedious, unless you have driven across the vast expanse of the Midwest. I had to slow down as the night approached, unable to keep alert to look out for the cops. I gained confidence as I crossed Illinois border, as I was back in my home state (of the time), where people drive way over the speed limits. What I forgot was that I was sporting Texas plates on the rental car. As soon as I spotted the cop car brake lights, I hit the brakes hard, and let them go as soon as I crossed the cop car. I was still doing 85 on the 65 section. The fact that I had Texas plates probably made the cop stop me. The fact that I am from India, which makes me look like a Middle Eastern, ensured that it was early morning before I was let go. Minus my driving license. Oh well. At least I was back home. Thank you, Panther.
Back at work, the cost cutting started almost immediately. I moved out of the Mariott and took a lower end apartment close to the work site. What I did not account for was that my rental Panthers stood out like sore thumbs in this apartment parking lot. Few weeks later I got a call from FBI, they wanted to talk to me, at my apartment, 6PM sharp. Special agent Todd showed up at the door with a padded jacked, one hand extended in greeting, other behind the back. I could see other agents standing outside, wearing ear pieces, providing backup. Special agent Todd was very polite, and after he was done with the questions, he told me that the neighbors had called the FBI to report on me because I was driving all these “suspicious” looking big cars every week. So long, Panther.
Not willing to give up on RWD totally, I picked up a Mustang next week. Next day it started to rain and I took a turn, fast, as usual. A Panther’s traction control would have saved me, but I would have never learned about the consequences of throttle lift off. Also, my knowledge of counter steering was limited to motorcycles. Before I could realize what was happening, I was sitting on the side of the road with a broken axle, the wheel almost falling off. It was time to go back to Taurii and Maximas during the weekdays. Missing you, Panther.
For weekends, I sold the Integra and got a Miata. I still have it today. Farewell, Panther.