By on August 31, 2011

Hey, it coulda happened!

 

TTAC commentator HeeeeyJake writes:

Hey Sajeev,

I love the column and I’m a daily TTAC reader, though I rarely comment. We have been a Panther household since the mid nineties, and have had great luck with our vehicles thus far. My parents had two ex-Budget rental Town Cars, a white ’93 with blue interior, and a medium willow green ’96 with that greyish-beige. I had a pearlescent silver ’91 in high school with black interior and a black canvas top (I added ’02 Cartier wheels , P71 front springs, and a dual exhaust with turbo mufflers). All were zero-problem vehicles. Which brings us to our current Town Car, an ’07 Signature Limited, fresh out of warranty, which is also an ex-rental, but I do not know which company.

The vehicle currently has 30k on it, and has developed a couple of problems. The first is fairly straight-forward: warped rotors. All of our Town Cars seemed to develop warped rotors, but no other vehicles we own ever develop this. I have read that in the 90s, the TCs with 10in brakes were under-spec’d, and saw several sites/forums at that time that recommended swapping out the 12in brakes and caliper from the later models. But with the 07 developing this problem, I’m wondering if all TCs just don’t have enough brakes. The car is driven pretty easily at all times. What is your opinion on that? And what is the best solution? Keep feeding it OEM rotors and pads, swap to P71 calipers/rotors (will they fit and what are the costs involved?-we can do the work ourselves), or is there a good aftermarket rotor that is OEM replacement but is maybe slotted or vented that you recommend for better cooling and to avoid future warping?

The second problem is a weird one. The memory seats/easy exit feature (where the driver seat slides back when the key is moved to the off position) is acting completely bonkers! All seat adjustments work just fine, like tilt, recline, etc. but the fore/aft movement only works about 10-20% of the time, and when it acts up, the seat stays back in the “exit” position with no ability to adjust the seat forward with the power controls on the door. When the memory buttons are pressed, all adjustments take place except fore and aft. It will make a brief and normal noise like it is about to move but doesn’t move. It is textbook intermittent and has no rhyme or reason as to when it decides to work. Is this a common problem? Is it likely the control module/computer has malfunctioned, or is the motor only working intermittently? What should I do here?

My last query deals with suspension tuning. Every since the TCs went to rack and pinion steering and 17inch wheels, they seem to have a sharper steering response. My belief is that they tuned the suspension to the steering response, and they now have too much damping in the shocks and not enough spring. In other words, the driver feels every bump in the road, unlike the older ones, but when bumps are sufficient to cause major suspension travel, they cause a lot of wheel movement, more than the initial dampening would suggest. So it seems that their is a poorly tuned suspension in the new ones, with a bad spring/shock combination. I know you and Jack Baruth have experience with these latest Town Cars, and I’d be interested in both of your thoughts on this issue/theory, if I’m crazy, and what you might recommend to add balance to the suspension tune without sacrificing ride quality.

Thanks so much for your time, I know this is a long one, but that’s Panther love, and when it bites, it sinks its teeth in.

All the best!

Sajeev answers:

Round these parts, rambling on and on about Panthers is falling out of fashion. But a Panther type of platform is a priceless source of knowledge for mechanics, hot rodders and curious onlookers alike.

Question 1: there’s no such thing as Police-specific brakes for Panthers. The forums say that maybe the calipers have steel bores instead of phenolic material, but that’s about it. If you are burning through rotors, maybe a huge batch of them were duds. There’s no logical reason that OEM parts would fail you, and they have yet to fail my Dad’s 2006 Town Car Designer.

More to the point: on a street car, aftermarket slotted /drilled rotors are either negligibly better (if you really cook them on a racecourse) or a complete waste of your money. And forget about the cheap drilled rotors which usually crack if you look at them funny.

Question 2: As far as the seat memory system, check to see if it will also crap out if you activate the fore-aft feature repeatedly from the seat switch. There’s a slim chance that there are relays for the seat motors. If so, odds are the relays are overheating, shutting down and working once again after they cool off. This is a bigger problem in the summer months.

More to the point, this is where you need a factory shop manual. Did you buy one yet? You better!

Question 3: Opinions on suspension systems are like butt holes…everyone has one. But only engineers involved in the game know the hard facts behind the “what” in a platform shall explain the “why” in your quandary. And as if that wasn’t confusing enough, here’s a hybrid of the last two sentences:

My opinion is that the newer Town Cars (the “skinny” ones from the Nasser Era and beyond) have too much spring with not much change in the dampers. My only basis for this is a single data point: a dude who put the soft (front) springs from a “fat Panther” onto his skinny model, removed the rear swaybar and was happy enough to say the end result was a modern Town Car that rode like a proper Land Yacht.

More to the point, you need to dig up the spring rates of all Town Cars. The information is there, somewhere, in specification books for coil springs. If you want softer, you have one data point that sounds credible. If you want the opposite, you have the Mercury Marauder and 1992 Crown Vic Touring Sedan for that.


Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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32 Comments on “Piston Slap: Relevant Lessons taught by Panther Love...”


  • avatar
    kenwood

    Can’t fathom a “skinny” Town Car. What years were “skinny” and what years were “fat”?

    Thanks,
    KW

    • 0 avatar

      Well, skinny and fat in terms of content, R&D, etc. The fat ones were anywhere between 1986-1996, because of their gadgets/EFI systems/luxury features/etc…the lost luxuries in 1997 was the first year where the “skinny” started to rear its ugly head.

  • avatar

    Sajeev, is the photo a concept of what a next generation Panther could’ve been? I can’t say I’m in love with it, but at least I can’t call it boring. I actually happen to like the whale teeth look of current Lincolns.

    As always, great information from the Panther gurus. I feel like I’ve learned all this info about the cars without ever having driven one! I really need to go and grab a rental and try it out myself.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    I’m not sure about the TCs but the lesser last gen Panthers had 3 different front spring rates. 265 lb/in base, 285 lb/in HPP, 330 lb/in P71 and Marauder, each with their own shock valving. Go over to Crownvic.net and ask someone with an HPP car what the spring code is on their data plate and order some of those and some KYB shocks. Because they are coil overs you’ll need a strut style spring compressor to mate the 2.

    For the brakes yes there are police specific parts, in some years (early) that meant steel pistons in the front calipers and a different pad design. In all years a specific friction material was used for the P71s. The warping problem can be cured by Raybestos/Napa Reactive slotted rotors or the their Police spec rotors which have a different vent vane pattern. They can be used with either the standard or “fleet” pads. I recommend the fleet pads they’ll last longer and can stand up to more abuse. At Napa you can buy the police kit that includes the rotors and pads in one box.

    As to the seat issue it sounds like the gear box for the fore/aft motor is binding.

    Sajeev, There is nothing “special” about the touring sedan other than it’s 2 tone paint and touring sedan badges on the front fenders. They are nothing more than a loaded CV with HPP. Plus the 92-02 spring design is completely different than the 03 up coil over set up. Nothing special about the Marauder suspension either. It’s the police front springs and shocks teamed with the HPP bags and springs out back and HPP sway bars all around.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    regarding warped rotors, I had a simiilar problem with my ’92 SHO, which, like many Fords of the time, was substantially under-braked. Happily, there was a SHO specialist shop in my neighborhood who proposed two alternate fixes for the problem: the expensive one, which required replacing the spindles to accommodate the slightly larger brakes of the V-8 SHO which would then be installed, or replacing the factory discs with some better quality metal discs of the same size (no drilling, slotting or other fancy stuff). I choose the cheaper option, which was quite satisfactory. No more problems with warped rotors. Not being a total maniac, I knew not to over-drive the SHO’s brakes; compared to the brakes on my previous ride (a 1987 Mustang 5.0), they were a revelation.

    Perhaps our guy can locate some higher quality discs. It certainly would not surprise me to learn that his Panther is a bit under-braked, even for normal use.

  • avatar
    Thinkin...

    “on a street car, aftermarket slotted /drilled rotors are either negligibly better or a complete waste of your money”

    Funny, when the discs on my 2002 Impreza went south, it was considerably cheaper to replace them with slotted Brembo’s than it would’ve been to replace them with OEM units. Strange but true. I wasn’t tracking the car, but was certainly happy with both the performance and longevity of the Brembo discs.

  • avatar

    Sajeev – I’ve talked to any number of limo operators who are really pissed that they will no longer be able to buy these cars, as they apparently are cheaper to operate by far than any possible replacement. Do you know what finally killed them? I’m wondering if there might be a business in remanufacturing them for another 15 years, to keep them on the road. Maybe Ford should look into doing so on an official basis…

    • 0 avatar

      Ford killed them years ago. I dont know if it was a Nasser minion, Mulally himself, or someone with “Ford” in their last name, but the decision to mutilate themselves to profitability was done years ago and only now are we (or in this case, fleets) gonna pay for it.

      A Panther reman company? I should ring up Bertel on that…we could get rich! (Or not.)

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        A Panther reman company? I should ring up Bertel on that…we could get rich! (Or not.)

        Why not? There’s at least two companies I know of that do it to Jeep Grand Wagoneers and there have to be a heck of a lot more Panthers out there. You guys could even do custom jobs like Town Cars with P71 suspension, or a GM plane jane GS with a supercharged 4.6V8, manual transmission swaps, the works!

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Disgusted with the announcement of the end of the Panther and the performance of the Charger a local PD is re-maning their own CVs. They do a pretty through job from the piece they did on the local news. They don’t just rebuild it to stock specs. They do intake and exhaust mods along with a tune. Upgrade to the Addco sway bars and poly bushings for the suspension. Power slot rotors for the brakes. Top it off with fresh paint and new Recarros. The first was done in honor of a fallen officer who pushed to reman the existing CVs since he didn’t like the Chargers. They supposedly inscribed his badge number on all the internal parts that was practical. Pistons, rods, ring and pinion ect. All told the spokesman claimed they were spending about ~20K to do an almost frame off resto-mod.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    And commenters call the W bodies out-dated!

  • avatar
    SP

    Question #1:
    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if 12″ rotors are a little too small for a behemoth like this.

    However, if you have repeated brake warpage, it’s likely that the hub faces aren’t flat. That will cause the rotors to develop localized heating, harden the high spots, and give you pedal pulsation. To solve it, you need to either buy new hubs (and hope they are flat), resurface the current hubs (after removing the studs), or resurface the rotors with an on-car brake lathe (which takes the imperfections of the hub into account).

    Bad metallurgy could also account for this (the proverbial bad batch). A change in brand might be in order. Motorcraft is usually pretty good – BUT the parts are often different from, and cheaper than, the OEM parts on the vehicle. “Motorcraft” doesn’t necessarily equal “OEM Ford.”

    The Thunderbird, Cougar, and Mark VIII suffered from a propensity to warp brakes as well. The hub runout was often the problem, although it happened with flat hubs as well.

    Question #2:
    Lube the seat rails. It may take some minor disassembly to get to them. Since this car is a rental, the seat front-to-back adjustment probably got a lot of use and wear. (Little old ladies and big old guys alternating driving time. Haha.) There is a chance that the gearbox may just be worn out as well. If the gearbox is worn out, it might be best to swap the seat tracks out entirely, for a set from a 1-owner car that didn’t need the seat constantly adjusted.

    Question #3:
    Didn’t the Town Car have air springs? If not, consider swapping in a set. Adjustable!

  • avatar
    spinjack

    So, Marauder and Police Package gear will bolt on to a Town Car? I wasn’t sure since the TC seems substantially different than the Crown Vic or Marquis.

    I’m looking for a full size “performance sedan” without the reliability and repair and acquisition costs of an S-class or 7-series, or even a Lexus LS. A TC with upgraded suspension seemed to be a probable choice.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      The suspensions are the same at their core, the TC just came with standard air suspensions. The frames of the TC are different because the wheelbase is 3in longer on the TC for greater rear-seat room (unless you’re talking about a Town Car L which has a 9in greater wheelbase over a standard CV or GM.)

      TC + Suspension Upgrades + a little engine work = American 7 series BMW = WIN!

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Uh, no. Not in this universe anyway. Have you ever actually driven a 7-series?

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        Lighten up. Have you ever driven a P71 Crown Victoria? (BTW I know which one of those two cars will have a lower maintence bill over a 20 year period.)

        Besides I know which one I’d rather have. Hmmmmmmmmmm over-rated German car that no one wants to keep a day out of warranty, or the last honest to god American style car? Hmmmmmmmmmmm such a hard decision.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Yes, I have. In fact I have driven an actual Ford Crown Victoria Interceptor police car, complete with lights, sirens, shotgun, and a couple hundred pounds of crap in the trunk. Same question to you – have you driven a 7-series? Any generation? Because if you had you would know how completely ridiculous your statement is.

        I really could care less what the TCO is over 20 years – why in God’s name would you want to keep a Crown Brick that long? The TCO of an early ’80s RWD Toyota Corolla with crank windows and no A/C would probably be cheapers than either if you can keep it from rusting into dust. And I have no interest in owning one of those either.

        As to the over-rated part, well, you are certainly entitled to your own opinion, but the rest of the world seems to have a different one. Sometimes you do actually get what you pay for, and if all you can afford is a dinosaur Ford, that is also perfectly OK. Enjoy it. But no amount of hot-rodding is going to make anything on a Panther chassis even in the same universe as one of the top 4-5 sedans money can buy.

        I actually enjoy driving, so I prefer cars that are actually nice to drive, even if God forbid they need to have some money spent on them occasionally. Of course I live in a place where the roads have bumps, hills and corners, often all three at the same time, so my definition of “nice to drive” may be different from yours.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        Thank’s for what was a respectful answer to a smart ass question. And you’re right, to each his own.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Yes the suspension pieces will interchange between all the Panthers. So yes you could put P71/Marauder springs on the front and HPP/Limo bags or P71 coils on the rear. However I wouldn’t suggest using the P71/Marauder springs on the front and certainly not the P71 coils on the rear.

      The P71 suspension will lift the car about 1″ and the rear will be too stiff to track well on rough roads unless you are going to carry 300lb of junk in your trunk all the time.

      If you want to build a hot rod Lincoln the best deal would be to find one of the HPP equipped TCs. Then cut the front coils 1/2 turn to stiffen them a bit, or 1 turn to stiffen and lower it. Adjust the height sensor in the rear to level it out. Alternately you can the HPP springs to a regular version. Then add some Addco sway bars. 255/50’s if you are keeping the 17’s 255/45’s for 18’s.

      Exhaust will get you an easy 10-30 HP, depending whether you are starting with an single pipe or the HPP’s twice pipes, while keeping it quiet unless you are on it.

      Gears, and a “posi” while you are in there, will make a big difference in the off the line performance, significantly if you are starting with a 2.93 car. Depending on what you want it to do 3.55s to 4.10s.

  • avatar

    6000 SUX

  • avatar
    Trend-Shifter

    If you do not care about crisp handling, try reducing your rim diameter to 15 or 16 inch while getting tires that are the same diameter as before. The extra sidewall really smooths out the ride. I am sure with a little research you could identify a rim that would work and then get a set at a salvage yard. Visit the tirerack.com online and search for measurement tools. Understand lug center spacing, hub diameters, offset, width, etc.
    Link: http://www.tirerack.com/about/techcenter.jsp Scroll down to wheel tech and select the various subjects.

    Maybe searching Crown Victoria could yield good results on smaller diameter rims.
    You may even want a set of aftermarket wheels!

  • avatar

    Wow on that concept car. Really too bad the closest thing today is the Navigator.

    Lincoln is the shame of the industry.

  • avatar

    I love the interpretation of the grille.

    Makes me hate the Lincoln Flex thing even more.

  • avatar
    Bimmer

    Try Ate PremiumOne® Rotors for rotor warp issues. Worked on E34 that was constantly chewing OEM rotors.


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