By on April 20, 2011

Across 110th Street,
Pimps trying to catch a woman that’s weak…
Across 110th Street,
Pushers won’t let the junkie go free…

Every racer worth his HANS Device lives for the first corner after the green flag. It’s in that corner that the most complex problems will present themselves to the driver, and it’s in that corner that he will have the least amount of time to make the right decision. Only one car can come out of each corner first, and if you are that car, it doesn’t matter how you get there. There’s no substitute for it. It gets in your blood the way Africa was once said to get into the blood of adventurous European men, and it swims in your veins the way heroin quickens the junkie’s pulse when the needle punctures the skin.

If you’re an off-season racing junkie looking for a first-corner fix, however, there are few that hit finer or harder than renting a brand-new Crown Vic and putting it sideways on Columbus Circle in the process of beating two taxis and a Town Car to that next seventy-eight-inch wide hole in traffic. Call it Spec Panther Street Racing, call it the most terrifying way to do seventy miles per hour in a modern vehicle, or call it a ridiculous waste of resources, but I call it top-notch fun. It’s so much fun that I made a little road course out of Manhattan and drove it for a couple of hours today, taking a little time out to visit New York’s rest home for aging Panthers, across 110th Street.

In one of the pivotal scenes from The Mack, Pretty Tony accuses the movie’s protagonist, Goldie, of being a “rest home for hos”. Harlem is a rest home for many of the livery industry’s ex-working girls, Town Cars with well over 300,000 miles, some of which are still working the beat in second-tier service. I wanted to see as many of these old Panthers as possible, but it would have been disrespectful and depressing to take a Lucerne or Chrysler 300 into Harlem, right?

It’s still possible to rent a new, or nearly new, Crown Victoria. Dollar Rent-A-Car just picked up hundreds of them, and at least two friends of mine have found their “Premium” rental slot occupied by a Vic with under five thousand miles. I had the choice of eight such vehicles and selected an alloy-wheeled “Law and Order Blue” LX model for my NYIAS trip from sunny Powell, Ohio. I averaged 26.2 mpg running a conservative 76 miles per hour across most of Route 80. Once in Jersey, I found myself being tailgated at all speeds below ninety, but of course the Ford has no difficulty running into triple digits where required. Compared to my 2009 Town Car, the Vic is light on its feet thanks to coil-spring rear suspension, a shorter wheelbase, and a few hundred pounds of missing insulation, but compared to anything else it’s such a barge it should be flying a Liberian flag of convenience.

As Sajeev Mehta will tell you, the finest years for Panther interior appointments were the early years of the “Aero” cars. A mid-Nineties Crown Victoria compared favorably with the competition, but today’s model has had all the cost and some of the charm cut out. Still, the seats are good for long trips and the materials are at least durable. Ask anybody who has sat in the Camry or Prius taxis: it isn’t as easy as one might think to make cheap, washable interior panels that hold up to constant abuse. This is a hard-wearing automobile.

I’m not a frequent Manhattan driver, since I rarely visit the island more than once or twice a year, but I’ve learned enough to pass along some tips to those of you who have never crossed the Lincoln Tunnel. Start with this: forget the lane markers. The de facto lane width is the width of a Crown Vic. If there is a space of that width available, it will be filled. The de facto lane gap is the length of a Crown Vic plus one foot. If you’ve left that much room ahead of you, it will also be filled.

Although I’ve driven some fairly expensive vehicles around New York, doing so will put you at a disadvantage. Bumper rubs and small impacts don’t get reported, and the taxi that hits you may not stop to chat. Buses have the right of way and they will move directly into your path. Parking garages aren’t liable for wheel scrapes or door dings. When I took my green Audi S5 to the Village two years ago, I paid a hundred bucks to have it levered into the air on a free-standing parking lift, all alone in a small corner lot. I worried about it all the way through two sets at the Vanguard. Not a great idea.

Better to fire up a Crown Victoria or Grand Marquis. For the sporting among us, this also guarantees you equality with the taxis. Anything you can do, they can do, and vice versa. I’ve also noticed that fewer taxi and livery drivers will give the absolute chop to a Panther than they will to, say, a Porsche 911. You might be a cop, you might be a city employee, but you’re certainly not a rich jerkoff, right?

Vodka McBigbra, my partner in crime and co-journalist, once found my determination to beat every taxi in New York to the next open spot a bit terrifying, but she now encourages me to make the most aggressive moves humanly possible. My goal is to find myself in a situation where I’ll have to put two wheels on the curb at full speed. It hasn’t happened yet, but with enough time and effort, anything is possible.

We were supposed to attend a couple of new-car introductions today, but all the embargoes were blown early enough to justify skipping those introductions and running up to 149th Street for some fried chicken. The conventional dividing line between midtown and Harlem is 110th Street, as immortalized in the film and soundtrack of the same name:

Today, the 110th Street area is quite expensive, franchise-laden, and purposely cheerful, but not all of the area has been ruined by yuppies.

Here’s a battered old soldier, still running and working despite a demolition-derby-style hit to the rear.

And here we have four old Townies in a row, waiting for their next customer or mission. This far north, it’s possible to park on the street for seventy-five cents an hour and wander around a bit. There’s good food to be had and no enormous neon signs to be seen. We couldn’t stay up here forever, though, so with no remorse whatsoever we rejoined the Fifth Avenue fray, brake-torquing from the lights, using a brief swipe of the left foot to settle the nose over rough pavement, and holding throttle just a half-second longer than the guy next to me. Tomorrow, we’ll spend the day looking at new cars. Some will be destined for success, some will underwhelm, but how many will last as long as any of Harlem’s Panthers?

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74 Comments on “Walking With A Panther: A Vic-ious Trip From Ohio To Harlem...”


  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    When many of those new models you are going to see are on their way to becoming a toaster and are long forgotten, many Panthers will still be roaming the streets starting their 2nd, 3rd or 4th 100K.
    I do have to disagree about the coil springs, HPP or even non-HPP CV, GM or Rauder bagers handle better than their coil spring brothers or the non-HPP TC cousins. It is more due to the weight, length and softer shocks, bushings, and sway bars.

  • avatar

    Judging from the spotlight holes, most Crown Vic cabs are ex-cop P71s, which means they have better suspensions than the rent-a-Panthers. However, a much smaller volume of bodily fluids has been released into the rental versions (i estimate 418 cubic feet per cop car/cab over its lifetime), which gives them the driving-enjoyment edge.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      In New York they’re mostly the long wheelbase P70 or P72 Taxi versions. For much of the rest of the US yup they are retired P71s.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      Elwood: “It’s got a cop motor, a 440 cubic inch plant, it’s got cop tires, cop suspensions, cop shocks. It’s a model made before catalytic converters so it’ll run good on regular gas. What do you say, is it the new Bluesmobile or what?”

  • avatar
    Xeranar

    Growing up in the late 90s and early 2000s driving an ex-detective P-71 followed up by a surprisingly faster Grand Marquis GS (only later did I find out the original owner switched in the steel mustang manifold) I loved those cars.  They were responsive and drove honestly like a much smaller car then they really were.  The sheer size of those cars is unheard of today without going for a Tahoe or some freakish SUV.
    The trunk was deep and oddly shaped but could hold luggage, bodies, other cars.  The engine bay was so vast since it was designed when Ford used something larger than 302 and 289 to fill it that I could see the ground when I opened the hood.  Hell I think I could have replaced everything but the tranny without taking the motor out in there.  The interior wasn’t as spacious once they switched to captain buckets instead of the plain bench but three full-size adults in the back seat was always nice, not great leg room…but who cared?  You could have held a tennis match back there.
     
    Driving a Scion xB and Nissan Maxima now has left me changed.  I still miss my Crown Vic but I don’t really mind it.  The xB is about as fast as the P-71 was (sad to say how the 90s was a really slow decade) and the Maxima just blows the doors off of it.  The xB handles like a box though, I would kill for it to simply be able to take the floppy punishment that that old Crown vic could, I used to aim for pot holes just to mock other drivers as I careened blissfully over them because I had sidewalls with series numbers higher than the average life expectancy of a tortoise.  I don’t even think tire companies keep them around anymore, they were like 245/1000000000 series.  (ok, 245/70)
     
    On that note, I wish I could rent a Crown Vic and simply drive it to the brink one more time..Guess I’ll have to settle on a dodge Charger.

  • avatar
    MenacingLlama

    You really like advocating the breaking of traffic laws and driving like a dick in general, don’t you?  Your glorification of extra-legal speeds and reckless driving permeates nearly every article you write, whether it’s an editorial or a “review.”
     
    What gives, man?  Does your ego not allow you to drive like a normal human being?  Is there any time when you don’t have to wax poetic about your driving prowess or how many female auto journalists you’ve “bagged?”
     
    Christ dude, give it a rest.  Your braggadocio (yet, unfortunately, well-written and witty) mars what is otherwise a pretty damned good automotive blog.

    • 0 avatar
      michal1980

      Jack is an ass, oh wait I might get banned now because people here cannot stand the TRUTH about their writers.

      In one article he writes about driving like an ass, and in another with seemingly straight face he complains about cops driving like asses. can someone say hypocrite?

      Look Jack, your driving style might fly on race tracks, but keep it off public roads.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        Here in the Northeast, Jack’s driving would probably qualify for a safe driving discount. For example not far from where I live, there’s an intersection where most drivers have a left turn tactic that even Jack probably wouldn’t try. They stop at light with nose of their vehicle to the left of the double yellow line to block oncoming straight traffic from passing when the light turns. Then, as soon as the light changes, they’ll make the left onto the wrong side of the road, then cross over after about 50-75 ft. if there are no cars occupying the oncoming lane. It’s so common I’d say it happens at least every 5 light cycles – almost every cycle during commute hours.

        Then there are the rotaries, one lane bridge signs that are ignored, active (legal to drive in) breakdown lanes, setting the cruise control to 80 and not even gaining on the four lane wide block of traffic ahead.. I could go on and on. Jack’s driving may shock some people, but for some of us, it’s pretty mundane.

      • 0 avatar
        vbofw

        michal1980, I’d suggest shifting your readership to Readers Digest, no shortage of mild mannered short stories.

        great writeup Jack. my fave, which should strike close to home for anybody who spends time in manhattan cabs…

        so with no remorse whatsoever we rejoined the Fifth Avenue fray, brake-torquing from the lights

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        ” Is there any time when you don’t have to wax poetic about your driving prowess or how many female auto journalists you’ve “bagged?””
         
        Crap, somehow I missed the bit about bagging the female auto journo.  Jack must have expurgated that to spare Llama’s sensibilities.  Was it a 3some with Vodka?

      • 0 avatar
        MenacingLlama

        @ Russycle: Sensibilities?  Every other “article” he’s written for this site has touted his prowess with the female side of automotive journalists (I’m not going to bother to look it up; you can do it yourself).  That has nothing to do with “sensibilities” and everything to do with injecting unnecessary bits of bullshit (along with name dropping, how many races he’s won, what kind of cars he’s driven, which member of Jalopnik’s staff he’s beaten around whatever track, etc) into what is otherwise an entertaining read.
         
        It’s the same as saying “Here’s my GIANT penis, everyone!  Look at it, marvel at it — you’ll never see another like it!  It’s the best there is, and I’m a better man than any one of you because of it!”
         
        If you feel the need to try to impress everyone with your life’s accomplishments (on the Internet, no less), you might need to take a deeper look at your life.  Good writing is appreciated, but humility when doing it is appreciated even more.

    • 0 avatar
      ufomike

      And thats what make Jack’s articles fun and entertaining to read. If I want to be bored out of my mind reading about cars I can pickup a copy of Car and Driver. If Jack really bothers you so much then just dont read his articles.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      In English lit-speak, it’s called a “persona”: that is, a character adopted by the narrator of the story.  In this way, the narrator put himself into the story he is telling . . . and leaves the reader guessing as to how reliable a truth-teller he is.  An example with which you might be familiar is Huckleberry Finn, which is told in first person by Huck, who also is a character in the story.  Is Huck a truth-teller?  Can you trust him?  Or do you have to look behind him to figure out the truth?
      It’s all part of the fun.
      Regarding driving in Manhattan, it’s pretty much as Jack describes.  It’s not something I do by choice with my own car.
      I’ve seen worse, but not in the United States.  As I recall Lisbon, Portugal in the early 1970s was worse . . . and I’ve never been to Asia.

    • 0 avatar
      econobiker

      ML,
       
      Have you ever driven in NYC? Just askin’

      • 0 avatar
        MenacingLlama

        What does driving in NYC have to do with “My goal is to find myself in a situation where I’ll have to put two wheels on the curb at full speed.”  Why would anyone have to do that anywhere in the world?  Care about pedestrians much?
         
        To answer your question, no, I have never been to NYC.

    • 0 avatar
      Sinistermisterman

      Consistent, law abiding and dull do not make for good reading. In a world of corporate suits, playing it safe, brown nosing and party-line towing greyness, it’s the people who drink too much, drive too fast, play music too loud and ‘do’ too many women/men who make life colorful and interesting. Sure, they pay for it in their later years when their bodies give out – but what stories there are to tell!

    • 0 avatar
      dejal1

      Guess which one is Jack
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pKXMcfx1d8
      “Racing” people on the road who have no idea that they are in a “race”.
      I always read, hoping that things would change.   I’m always disappointed.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      No sense of humor.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Yep, that’s how you have to drive in NYC if you HAVE to get somewhere. Me? I took taxis, as I don’t have Jack’s driving “chops”.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    Lighten up, Francis.

    And stay out of the left lane.

    • 0 avatar
      MenacingLlama

      If that was directed at me, what does exceeding the speed limit on a highway in a safe, controlled manner have to do with, again as I quote, “My goal is to find myself in a situation where I’ll have to put two wheels on the curb at full speed.
       
      Colour it however you like, but that kind of driving is flat out irresponsible.  Keep it safe on the streets, and keep the hoonery on the track.  It’s really very simple.

      • 0 avatar

        MenacingLlama, why don’t you just come out with it and just say you don’t like the guy?  Why must you carry yourself like a complete jackhole just to make a point?  Give it a rest and go troll someone else’s automotive blog.
        Geez, what a douche.

  • avatar
    relton

    Been a couple of years since I drove in Manhattan, last time with a new Mustang convertible. The day I was in Manhattan, it might have been nice to have a Panther, but driving cross town on 34th street with the top down made up for it.

    As did driving the rest of the trip, from Michigan, through PA, NJ, and then Connecticut, Mass, Maine, Vermont, upstate New York, and so on.

    I still don’t get Panther love. They feel like a Caprice that’s a little off.

    Bob

  • avatar
    talkstoanimals

    I’ve said it here before, but it bears repeating – but for their leviathan size, Panthers may be the best possible car for NYC driving.  This is in part due to the issues of social signalling and fitting in to traffic gaps noted by Jack, and also due in part to the sheer durability of the beasts.  It wasn’t uncommon for me to find myself getting hauled home late at night in a Panther with 200k – 300k on the odometer and little else besides normal wear and tear to indicate the hard use the car had endured.  Panthers are just tough old tanks.

    If you really want to have some “fun,” try driving an extended cab full size pickup in Manhattan.  Your pucker will tighten every time you have to squeeze it through a lane gap or into a parking garage.  However, it is very satisfying to pull up to a snobbish hotel (one of the mod W hotels, for example) in a huge redneck Cadillac, toss the keys to the over-slick valet and listen to him gasp as he contemplates a) how he’s going to get it out of sight of the other guests as quickly as possible, and b) where he’s going to stash the thing for the next few days.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    Having lived and driven in Manhattan for many years (though no longer), I can assure Jack’s critics that his driving, as described, is simply the norm there. In fact, it was the most accurate description of it I’ve yet read. There’s no way that even the most reckless driver can cause a lifted eyebrow. The 70 mph part may be just a bit of Jack hyperbole, but he actually understates the rest. New Jersey is a close second, but there the speeds are obviously much higher. Enter either at your own risk.

    • 0 avatar
      talkstoanimals

      I’ll agree with Jeff on that score, especially w/r/t NJ.  Used to run I-95/I-80 between the Deleware water gap and the Lincoln Tunnel quite a bit.  Driving at less than 80 mph was actually hazardous for much of the run, unless you enjoyed the idea of becoming a hood ornament on a semi.

      • 0 avatar

        I find that the segment of my trips to NYC that involve that stretch of I-80 through New Jersey to be a bit stressful. To keep up with traffic you pretty much have to risk getting a ticket. People in Michigan drive fast too, but the Michigan State Police tend to give you about 10 mph before they’ll pull you over. And, yeah, Jack’s right, the NJ highway patrol drive like asses.

  • avatar
    relton

    Actually, the one hassle of having the red Mustang convertible in Manhattan on a sunny day was that the kid from the parking garage took it for a 40 minute joy ride on the way to deliver it from the garage 2 blocks away.

    I didn’t give him a tip.

    Bob

  • avatar

    A lot of the gypsy cabs in NYC are “second life” TCs — a friend of mine there has a favorite Sikh-driven gypsy Townie that’s never let her down (it helps that her tips are legendary when given good service).

    And having driven in Manhattan enough times to have a feel for it, those of you critiquing Jack’s driving should back the hell off. You do the Casper Milquetoast routine in Manhattan and a) you won’t get off the curb, and b) you’ll be the ball in a game of rollerball. While driving a Panther gives instant street cred on visuals alone, you’d better back it up with your best combat driving technique or the yellow sharks will quickly cut you out of the school and have you for lunch. I’ve been at NASA races that had less “incidental” contact.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    My paternal grandparents (late grandfather, extant grandmother) were odd creatures who’d regularly switch allegiances between the Big (at the time) Three: In the late 60s, they experienced Chrysler Newport pleasure, but by the time I was born they had a copper downsized ’77 Caprice. They’d downsize still with a burgundy ’88 Bonneville, which my 4-year-old self thought was pretty futuristic-looking.

    But nothing could have prepared my 8-year-old self for what would come next: a powder blue ’92 Grand Marquis. It was so…rounded! Like something out of BTTF:Pt II. It wasn’t my first Marquis – my great aunt had an ’84, but this was an amazing transformation. The trunk could fit an entire family, while the interior was a sprawling expanse of exquisite ash-colored mouse fir upholstery. Compared to the rough corduroy-like seats of my parents’ ’87 Pontiac Safari, the Marquis was like sitting on plush stuffed animals…inside a bigger stuffed animal. I loved it.

    I miss that car. After a decade and ~100K miles of service, they went back to GM, trading it in for a steel blue LeSabre with leather seats. It just wasn’t the same. If I didn’t live in a neighborhood with a restrictive cutthroat parallel-parking situation saturated with feral, draconian meter maids, I’d have a Panther in a heartbeat.

  • avatar
    HalfMast

    Nice piece, decent writing.  But “Vodka McBigbra”??  Really??

  • avatar
    econobiker

    “once found my determination to beat every taxi in New York to the next open spot a bit terrifying,”
    My red-head born and bred in KY 2nd wife about came unhinged the first time we drove in NYC- and she ever visited NYC. And this was actually on a very low traffic Sunday of a Memorial Day weekend with everyone out of the city and at the Shore. We were in a fairly new V6 Hyundai Sonata that had good power/acceleration  – rental of course.

    It didn’t get any better than when I took a cell phone call while at an accelerating 35mph BETWEEN two NYC Panther cabs and all three of us were racing for a two wide gap. She about melted down in the passenger seat and all I said after getting off the call was “What’s the problem? Traffic is actually light today.”

  • avatar
    artvandelay

    I love the NYC Stop Light Grand Prix. Nothing like it in the world. The rented part is key. I once had an appropriately named rental 5th Ave that I put through countless races fighting for the pole position at the next light. Driving my own car was alway different. Brings back great memories. Your best work Jack.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    FTR, living in Philly, driving to a city where cars are frowned upon isn’t the only option. SEPTA will get me to Trenton, thence to Penn Station (what’s left of it) via NJ Transit. It isn’t the most fun, and it’s not a straight shoot, but it does bypass traffic and its hella cheaper than AmCrack.
    That said, driving in NYC sounds incredibly fun, as long as the car isn’t yours and the owner doesn’t care what happens to it. ;)

  • avatar
    mcs

    My first choices for Manhattan are the trains (Acela) or the occasional stretch limo piloted by a crazed Russian ex-fighter pilot (when a client is paying.) However, when I’ve had to drive in myself, I’ve found that a heavily modified Cooper S wearing it’s 15 inch steel winter wheels without hubcaps works well. Sometimes I’ll work the curbside lanes between the delivery trucks borrowing a little of the lane to my right when I have to squeeze past the trucks. Being small I find it much easier squeezing into traffic gaps a panther could never dream of taking.

  • avatar
    mistermau

    It’s absolutely how contagious the Panther Love around here is.  Y’all have made me consider looking into one more than once!

    If only it came in a wagon…

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      1991 was the last year for that.  Look hard and carefully, they are out there and usually you can still find one that has been pampered like a baby. 

  • avatar

    Manhattan Island (and the rest of NYC, to a lesser extent) has been defined by the Panther Chassis for at least a decade. It is part of the scenery, maybe even the culture…if what Livery drivers are saying about customer disapproval of the Lincoln MKT Limo. (looking for the link to that one)
    Nicely done Jack, you captured the essence of this story and shown us all Panther Love. (including myself)

    • 0 avatar
      philadlj

      I agree that it is a definitive cultural icon of the city. The visual mass of yellow amongst NYC traffic is like nowhere else. It’s kind of similar to the Toyota Crown Comfort cabs of Tokyo, which are everywhere, but aren’t all the same color, and so affect less force.

      When the Panthers are totally replaced with ponderous Kursan V-1s, it simply won’t be the same.

  • avatar
    msquare

    Try NYC in a Mk1 MR2 or an early Miata, in which you have to be aggressive or no one will see you. Contrary to popular wisdom, a manual transmission in traffic is a lot of fun and often gives you a jump on the cabbies while they wait for their sluggish slushboxes to kick down. Imagine getting frustrated because they’re going too slow.

    It might not be quite as crazy as everybody says, particularly when traffic is snarled, but indecisiveness gets you either hit or unable to move as the traffic works its way around you.

  • avatar
    skor

    Ooh!  Driving a car in Manhattan is proof of manly braver!  Come on back after you’re ridden a bicycle in Manhattan.  These dudes are my heroes.
     
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=au0Zjn3eB9k
     
     

  • avatar
    H Man

    My “reality is no object” road trip at age 21 took me from Eugene, Oregon to NYC.  I intended to move there.  *cough*  However, I did rather enjoy the Manhattan driving conditions.  I had a tiny 85 Nissan hardbody with tight suspension and steering, so maneuverability was very sharp.  Cabs became my instant target;  pass as many as closely as possible.  I had so much fun that when I got to the end of the island, I turned around and went back for a second run.
     
    Having the Mahavishnu Orchestras “Birds of Fire” on loop was a perfect soundtrack.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    Given that one has to produce a driver’s license in order to rent a car, how is it that the name Jack Baruth is not red-flagged at every rental counter in the US?

  • avatar
    JJ

    Every racer worth his HANS Device lives for the first corner after the green flag the standing start.

    • 0 avatar
      JJ

      darn I crossed through ‘after the green flag’ in the above post but it didn’t work.

      OT; Having a lot of problems with this WP 3.whatever in general…logs out on me all the time, can’t edit comments. Already looked at the usual suspects, but so far haven’t found any reason why it would do this. Anyone else have similar problems?

  • avatar
    GeeDashOff

    Meh, Ohio plates in the NY metro area immiediately paint you as yet another visiting tourist to avoid. Most out of state people like yourself compensate for the congestion in Manhattan by driving like D-Bags, sounds like you didn’t let down any stereotypes.

    The #1 driving tip for Manhattan is: Go With The Flow.

    The lights are timed so that racing at every stoplight is pointless. That right lane is empty because it turns into a right turn only lane and all the locals know this. That left lane is empty because it turns into an exit only lane and all the locals know this.

    You just look like an ass weaving in and out of traffic not going any faster than the rest of traffic. Locals aren’t impressed by out of state drivers acting like D-Bags, we see this every time we get in a car.

    Oh, and BTW, if you’re being tailgated on 80 in NJ odds are you’re in the fast lane and you should GTFO, people have places to go and you’re holding them up.

    • 0 avatar
      BlueEr03

      Oh, and BTW, if you’re being tailgated on 80 in NJ odds are you’re in the fast lane and you should GTFO, people have places to go and you’re holding them up.
       
      Complete BS!  You will get tailgated when you are going 80 on 80 passing people; you will get tailgated going 70 in the right hand lane, even when the left is open.  Basically, the only way you don’t is if you have red and blue lights on your hood.  The NJ turnpike (95) is even worse.

    • 0 avatar
      thestigsamericancousin

      Spoken like a true New Yorker. I’ve learned to avoid out of town plates just because none of them know how to drive in the city. And odds are in NJ if you’re being tailgated at any speed, move over. You’re going way too slow. Speed limits aren’t the rule there, they’re more of a suggestion.

      • 0 avatar
        SP

        I thought the rule was, if you are being tailgated at any speed, move over … because an unbelted Jon Corzine is about to crash into you!

      • 0 avatar

        I just love how provincial New Yorkers are. Since only a fraction of Manhattan residents have drivers licenses, the idea of a New Yorker telling out-of-towners that they don’t know how to drive is pretty funny. I cut my teeth driving on the Lodge freeway so I figure that I can drive anywhere. It took me just one left turn when a cabby cut me off turning left from the right lane for me to figure out how to drive in NYC.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        Chicago ain’t much better.

    • 0 avatar
      dror

      GeeDashOff:
      “The lights are timed so that racing at every stoplight is pointless. That right lane is empty because it turns into a right turn only lane and all the locals know this. That left lane is empty because it turns into an exit only lane and all the locals know this.”
      I drive in Manhattan every day, I don’t really know  where did you collect all this info about the right lane and the left lane, if you are on the one lane streets, there is only one travel lane, on the avenues, it depends what street is next, if it’s Park ave, you are not suppose to be on the left lane if the next street is one way to the left. There is no one rule for driving in Manhattan, besides, in the last 5 years or so, there are so many bike lanes that you are left with a single lane for cars, most of the intersections are getting an additional left turn lane and light, so no problem with driving on the left lane.
      About the timing of the lights, it works nice driving 30 mph on Sunday morning, try do that on Friday afternoon, if you “go with the flow” you get nowhere, you have to be on alert all the time and keep switching lanes as necessary.
      I can write a small booklet on which lane to drive at what time in the day on what street, there is no one rule, no way. 

       And BTW…..the next time I go down 5th ave, I rather have Jack with his out of state plate in front of me than you “going with the flow” (:-)

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      For the record, I was born in Brooklyn, New York. I am a native New Yorker, as the song goes, I just have no desire to live there.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      GeeDash:
       
      Other than the NJ bit and the turning lane bit, your comments are correct.  Driving in NYC is not that big a deal.  NY does not even come close to having the biggest jerks behind the wheel.  When I drove in Boston, I saw the worst driving ever!  A guy passed me by driving onto the sidewalk!!  My friend, now a resident of Sudbury, MA calls people like that “Massholes”…

  • avatar
    slance66

    Get a grip people.  I’ve driven in Manhattan and this is pretty much it.  Boston has its problems as well, and different solutions.  The worst I’ve seen is Rhode Island.  Go with the flow would be fine.  The crazy cab driver approach espoused by Jack would be fine.  Instead you get the chaos theory of driving.  Slow down, speed-up, start to change lanes and then change your mind (with no signal), off ramp signs beyond the off-ramps, for crazed last second exits over the triangle.  It’s like everyone has one good eye, is on hallucinogens and has a seizure every 2 minutes.  If someone is driving steady and safe, they’re probably the drunk drivers.
    As for Panther love, South Boston is swimming in them as well.  It’s the official “Good Will Hunting” underemployed urban white male vehicle.  I wish they made a car the size of a Focus, with the toughness of a Panther.  That would be a prime urban vehicle.
     

    • 0 avatar
      FuzzyPlushroom

      I think an old Volvo 240/740/940 with the bumper covers stripped off would be a fair compromise. My 740 wagon has gone under a Silverado (cut off by a woman on her phone) – hood, turn signal lens, grille, plastic trim, last two are optional anyway (and I straightened the hood with a three-pound hammer). The 244’s survived intact so far despite last autumn’s spate of frequent Lowell-area no-holds-barred driving mayhem.

    • 0 avatar
      KitaIkki

      “I wish they made a car the size of a Focus, with the toughness of a Panther.”
      Ford Transit-Connect?

  • avatar
    tallnikita

    the most fun you can have in Manhattan is on a bycicle:
    1. Pick those yellowish NJ plates on either an expensive car or a shiny oversized SUV
    2. Ride your pace until you pass them because they are afraid to get around a truck that is parked between lanes
    3. Ride in your empty lane and hear their engine roar as they accelerate to the next light
    4. Hear them honk you, because you are an obsticle for them to get to the next red light.  
    5. Move over to let them pass, watch $$ fly out of their exhaust as they accelerate that overweight pig.
    6. Pass them as they are jamming brakes in front of the red light, slowly, peek inside to see if they have the Ipod going at the center console
    7. Repeat ad nauseum

    But it sure would have been ironic if Jack rear ended a horse in his Columbus Circle antics.  There he is, with horse’s ass planted firmly in front of his face.

    ps, to answer the question, yes, those Crown Vic will never die, ever.

  • avatar

    Much as I hate the “Maximum Street Speed” cockrock pufferfish BS, I have to get out my pom-poms and cheer for this article.

    As someone who’s been to the city in a car more than 1x, a piece about driving a Vic in NYC has got to be an Instant Classic.

    A piece with Jack driving in NYC has also got to be an Instant Classic.

    If you drive anything you care about, be prepared to have a 16-hour anxiety attack while you’re there and get pushed around A LOT.

    -Even by Merc’ drivers who get by on sheer Habsburgian-scale “Dieu et mon droit”, and actually would get upset if you did hip-check them.

    As Jack hints, there is NOTHING like driving a car you truly do not care about on the streets of Manhattan, your jaw would drop at who gets out of your way; -basically everything short of a city bus.

    Don’t try any of that in Afghanistan, -I mean Newark though, where the ‘laws’ are about as tight as those in Naples, Italy and you’re likely to get shot;
    like 12 times. 

    I’ve only driven there but a few times, advise heartily against, and am amazed the traffic court can function at all.

    • 0 avatar

      While driving uptown from the Brooklyn bridge I was squeezing into spots much narrower than I’d ever try without a rental. At one point, a box truck passed me on my left so closely that every rivet holding the cargo box rattled across the edge of my side mirror.

  • avatar

    Oh, 

    -btw, @Jack, If you want a pretty clear stretch of road where you CAN attain Maximum Street Speed in NJ, try 287 North between Mahwah and the Tappan Zee Bridge, and also 287 between Morristown and New Brunswick outside of rush hour.

    -Though you should watch for the dirt paths onto the center divider and the usual spots one might look for, the smokies tend to camp every ~3-ish miles on that southern part. There are almost Zero onramps or campout spots on the northern part.

  • avatar
    Neb

    So if the Checker gave way to the Panther, it sounds like New York is the place to watch to see what the next unkillable car is.

  • avatar
    KaneShadow

    Fantastic.  For anyone that doesn’t believe it, every word of it is living truth.
    Once you spend a few months driving in the city you learn the rhythm of it.  Yellow cab drivers are serious business, but the real psychos are the black Towncars.  Not the guys to play chicken with if you’re driving a compact car.  They will eat you if they have to.

  • avatar
    essen

    Cool song by Bobby Womack. Forgot that it was on my iPod.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    When I drive  down to NC  for   my  annual old  BMW fix, I dont   take  I95. I avoid I 95 south  of  Providence and  Richmond.  Instead  I sneak across  the  Tappan Zee  before  7 am  and   head  the  wrong way through  Jersey, bound  for  I 81 and a mellower   drive  south.  With  my son  doing most   of  the  driving, we made   Mt Airy in 10.5 hrs  from  Hartford in  his  83  533i.  I havent  been  on  Manhattan  for  40 yrs  and  have  no  desire  to  go  there.  Keep  up  the  stories  and  Panther love   JB!


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