By on May 30, 2013

Ross writes:

Several years ago a friend suggested to me that I had an old soul. I pretended to not understand what he meant even though I watched old television shows, saw old movies and listened to the big band sounds of the thirties and forties.

I’m beginning to come to grips with my old soul though and I need a bit of advice.

A few years ago I bought a 2003 Kia Rio sedan because it was the cheapest car available with the least mileage and most warranty left. I’ve taken the poor thing from 40k to 130k miles on the clock and its just about worn out. At the time I simply commuted to and from work but my job has expanded and I now have to drive about 500 miles a month to and from various stores on the interstate.

I’m now in a position to replace the car for about 3 grand and I’m leaning heavily toward a panther platform because it satisfies my old soul and because I want to be gently wafted along the highways of Texas without arriving at my destination pounded to a pulp by the drive. I prefer the styling of the Crown Vic, but the selection of Grand Marquis’ seems better and priced better in this market. I’ve pretty much discounted the Town Car as being too pricey and/or complicated for the same amount of use.

Most of the cars I’m looking at seem to be about mid ’90s vintage with about 100k on the clock. Is there anything specific that that I should look for as I shop?

Sajeev answers:

You always look for a stack of service records.  Always.

Aside from a stack of receipts and clean fluids (especially the transmission), the only big problem with Panthers are the plastic intake manifolds from 1996-2001: the replacement has an aluminum crossover tube from the thermostat (at the bottom of the radiator hose on the intake) and that means you are golden.  If not, you need a new intake, sooner rather than later.

Other problems show up in a vehicle this old: worn brakes, bad tires, busted/frozen shocks, fried speaker cones, dissolved window lift motor plugs (video here),  tune-up concerns, cloudy headlights, etc.  Luckily most of these problems, as part of Panther Love, are somewhat easy to fix and won’t leave you stranded.  You can fix these as time permits, while enjoying the ride.

I’d recommend the pre-98s for their superior interior/exterior design and fit/finish: I call them the Fat Panthers because of their “fat content” opposed to the thin and skinny beancounted models afterwards.  Just look at the Crown Vic’s rather expansive use of glass in the greenhouse. Even if it lacks the suspension and brake upgrades of the 1998+ models, this right here is a road car.

So is this really an old car?  Perhaps…it’s a spaceship like the Jetsons’ retro Mid-Century past, not from our future. But who gives a shit, enjoy and be proud of your Old Soul.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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75 Comments on “Piston Slap: Coming to Terms with an Old Soul...”


  • avatar
    -Nate

    Good post ~

    If you look hard , many Companies and Munincipalities have Panther based cars with well under 100,00 miles coming on auctions ~ typically for well under $2,000 and all have AC and the rest of the good stuff .

    I was told I had an ‘ Old Soul ‘ in the early 1960′s as I liked pre war vehicles and swing music back then .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I still like big band music, and jazz artists still record the standards and they sound better than ever!

    As for old cars – well, that’s a different story, because too often, you’re staring at a restoration project that’ll empty your wallet in a hurry if you don’t know what you’re doing or up against.

    In other words, BE CAREFUL but have fun!

    FWIW, the top photo of the box panther coupe is one of my absolute favorites cars of the 1980s… we owned its smaller cousin – the K-Car Plymouth Reliant coupe! After all, they were originally designed by Ford.

    Oh oh… I think that makes me a kind of panther-love man, right, Sajeev? Right?…

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    Sounds like you want a 90′s Grand Marquis or Town Car with working air suspension, or at least fixable air suspension. Sajeev is right about pre 98 models, they were designed more for passenger comfort rather than being heavy duty cop cars. Also take SUV’s into consideration, pretty much all Lincoln Navigators (and some rare Expeditions) have air suspension. Let’s not forget about the Chrysler 300 for something more modern. If you’re willing to suffer some oil leaks, Northstar Caddies might be perfect.

  • avatar

    Sajeev, you dropped another rabbit hole in my path with that video link :)

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Perhaps Murilee Martin can help, he’s been digging-up Country Squires all week. My father just got rid of his 2001 Grand Marquis with 30K on it, would have been perfect for you. and just think, you wouldn’t have to worry about what to drive in your later years when your body caught up with your soul, you’d already be in it

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Well done on demonstrating the manifold problem. I would suggest only buying a car with the newer manifold already installed, unless the seller of the vehicle is willing to substantially discount the price of a non-updated car.

    While I agree the ’95-’97 aero cars are really nice, especially the handling package versions, they’re getting up in age and unless the everything has been replaced, Ross will need to replace the odd age related item perhaps on a monthly/bi-monthly basis with the amount of driving he does.

    For anyone with a bit of mechanical ability, this won’t be a problem on a Panther, but I’m not sure what his abilities are. Although for 3 grand, pretty much anything he gets will fall into the category of needing age related repairs. IMO the real sweet spot is ’03-’04 with the suspension and brake upgrades, some can be had in that price range.

    But if a 90′s Vic or Grand Monkey is what you want, there aren’t many better cars from the era!

  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    I’m almost 11 years into a very rewarding affair with a 1996 Grand Marquis. Best damn car I’ve ever owned, and I can routinely push 26 mpg on the highway if I set the cruise and don’t encounter much traffic. Parts are plentiful and cheap, and they’re very simple cars by today’s standards.

    If it hasn’t been already, you WILL end up replacing the intake manifold if it’s one of Ford’s lovely composite ones. It’s the only time the car has broken down on me in 11 years of service. Also, the window lifts will break as all 4 of mine did. I only had the front two fixed as the rears do stay up on their own. Headlights will yellow too, but the Mother’s powerball takes care of that. I too am an old soul, and when I bought this at age 26, my mother made fun of me for buying “an old man’s car.” Now she respects it for it’s reliability. She’s a “Honda only” kind of gal.

    I’m suspecting that for the next decade or so, well taken care of Grand Marquis will be hitting the market as their owners die off or end up in nursing homes, and their Camcord driving “children”, well into middle age themselves, don’t want anything to do with these rear drive beasts.

  • avatar
    Syke

    And another person will soon discover the true definition of the term “overrated”.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Agree 100% So many better things out there, so few worse. No one should have to drive a panther who isn’t wearing a uniform.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I tend to agree with you and Syke at being “overrated” but depending on the price point and driver’s experience it can present an interesting opportunity. So say you are poor/young/unemployed and your budget is a max at 5K, what are you buying?

        • 0 avatar
          kjb911

          “I tend to agree with you and Syke at being “overrated” but depending on the price point and driver’s experience it can present an interesting opportunity. So say you are poor/young/unemployed and your budget is a max at 5K, what are you buying?”

          allow me to show you some nice Pontiac Fieros :-)

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Do you have a bridge for sale in Brooklyn too?

          • 0 avatar
            kjb911

            no but I have some grade-a pristine waterfront property at fabulous Lake Chickamacomico for pennies on the acre!

            My Fiero was the most reliable car I have owned and managed to eek out mid 30s mpg…with how cheap they are right now and most have had all recalls fixed or modified to where its a decent little car for the era

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          My stock recommendation is the nicest Corolla or Camry you can find for the money you have in hand. This is assuming you are uninterested in cars and driving enough to consider a panther in the first place.

          I have been driving these turds occasionally but regularly for as long as I have been renting cars for work. 18 years now. They all sucked when new, I can’t imagine age improves them any. Thank Dog they are just about gone from the rental fleets. I don’t CARE how cheap they are to run, life is too short, and gas is too expensive. I call BS on anyone claiming more than very low 20s out of one. Denver to Carson City in a Grand Marquis with the cruise on 74 yielded 22mpg for me. And a raging back ache.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I haven’t driven too many and when I did they were either early mod motors or 5.0s. The one I did own was a 5.0, and it would do 15/25 with almost a dead even 20 in 70/30 hwy/city mixed (my old commute). For what its worth, its a wallowy cruiser, if the Graf Spee were a car, it would be a Panther. Camcords and the like probably present a better overall choice but finding one in that price range means a very beat and/or very old model year.

            Personally if you make me chose between say a ’97 Camry I4/150K+ and a grandpa special ’97 Panther/70K-90K, I’m going with the Panther and then talking them down a grand for maint because demand on these is nil. Sure I’m driving the Nimitz and I’ll be uncool but sometimes you just need clean wheels. Most of the cheaper Camcords I’ve seen look like taxis when they come up for sale, some people abuse them.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      Ladies and Gentlemen, put your hands together for Statler and Waldorf!

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      At Skye: Have you owned a Panther or known someone who had one?

      I think they’re decent budget mobiles in the single grand range, but for $3000 you can get better rwd luxury cars.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Better luxo cars for 3K? I’m curious… such as what?

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          Mostly Volvos, but you can get BMWs and Benz’s in that area. Chevy Caprices are an alright alternative too.

          Though I’d be very careful about model and year since some are real complicated turds.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            In my experience the past few years either the good stuff (Benz W124s, Volvo 240/740) is just getting too old or the newer stuff is just junk (97+ 7 series, X308 jags with nikasil issues etc) which is why those Euro specials are at such a price point. Caprice is a fine choice if you can find one.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          The only rwd Volvos that aren’t too old would be the 940 series, basically the 740 but improved. I can’t say that the S80 was all that great.

          But otherwise Panthers are better 3k luxury cars in terms of how they hold up, I don’t know about Lexus’s nor Infinitis to compare them but I do know that they’re often neglected and driven dry, like Camrys.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    FYI if your budget was $5000 instead of $3000 the selection would be much nicer. You are correct in stating that it seems to be easier to find the Grand Marquis over the Crown Victorias but then again it is usually easier to find a nice LeSabre over the other cars that shared its platform over the years so maybe its a “near luxury” thing that more of them survive.

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    As a financial advisor, I would stop and think about a gas guzzling V8. The OP is in a financial situation where he can afford his dream car, a V8 panther for around $3k. On the other hand, anyone who can only afford $3k probably will live on the edge when gas prices go up even slightly, or if asked to do more highway commuting.

    If you can cut back in other areas, and you’ve max’d out your emergency fund and have enough cash flow to invest, and you haven’t raid your kids’ braces fund, go ahead and live the dream. But buying too much car is like buying too much house: there’s status in it, you get lots of space, but you have to have the cash flow to service your “investment”/”asset”.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      The 2003 Rio is rated at 30mpg highway, while the Panther gets 25. In his 500 miles a month of driving, even at $4 a gallon, it will cost him only $13.36 a month more to drive his dream car.

      That ain’t bad.

      At this point, the repair costs between the two cars would likely end up being a wash, barring anything unforseen.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I would still roll with the Panther in his case because a Kia is getting worn out or dying at that mileage. Panther was made to suck up miles in harsher driving conditions.

      • 0 avatar

        You know what? My 1999 Grand Marquis LS with leather and digital dash (no HPP or air ride) but with traction control regularly got 32.5 mpg on the freeway at 60mph cruise. With 250k miles. So you can STFU with your crap about the mileage being a crapshoot. Even AFTER the intake started going around 255k I still got 28.5 average on the highway.

        The ’98-’02 models will achieve phenomenal gas mileage and the digital dash models offer an instant mileage readout that my replacement ’03 Grand Marquis ULTIMATE EDITION doesn’t offer. I may only get 25 on the hwy with my ’03, but the every-option features make the slight hit worth it.

        (Long story short my dad rear-ended a guy in the ’99 recently and the slight damage wasn’t worth fixing considering the insurance payout & a rear axle bearing was also in need of repair.)

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          *shakes my head* How do you lose an “instant mpg” reading in your trip computer in a car with no real changes for at that point about 12 years.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            Most cars are a “crapshoot” with getting the rated gas mileage, I think that 28.5 is what it got from the start to be honest.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            There were dozens of “real” changes over the lifetime and one of those that was changed more than once depending on the model was the dash. Cars w/o the digital dash do not have a trip computer and the 2001 digital dash does not have instantaneous mpg.

            Having racked up somewhere near 300K in various Panthers I’ve never seen more than 26.5 MPG which was in my “light” aero 92 CV.

            The other thing to factor in is the changes to fuel over the years. Back in the day E10 was not nearly as common as it is today and that can cause the MPG to drop 10%.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      But, no payments go a long way towards a higher gas bill. Who can really say what the OP’s financial position is. I could easily finance something nice and new if I wanted to, but I buy inexpensive cars for inexpensive amounts, and save thousands/year on insurance and payments.

    • 0 avatar
      Compaq Deskpro

      Panthers do not guzzle gas. They typically get mid 20′s, some accounts put cars with the longest gear ratio all highway at 30+. The combination of torque, meaning very low RPMs <2000 are needed to accelerate moderately, and very very long gears, first gear goes to 50 MPH, make for a surprisingly efficient boat. Now the 90's Caprice with the 350, that beast guzzles gas, expect high teens max.

  • avatar
    86er

    This was me, about six years ago.

    The stack of service records is very important, especially as many of these vehicles are now getting up in age. I learned so very much about the previous (original) owner’s habits, such as his tendency to bring it to the Ford dealership long after the warranty expired (inertia?). But hey, Genuine Ford parts.

    I learned that besides a fussy automatic climate control system that he brought it in for a few times, nothing drastic was ever done to the car. I have now put another 60,000 miles on the car (100,000 at purchase) and nothing has been opened up. I changed tranny fluid as a preventative not regular maintenance measure, and have never opened the diff or even replaced steering components beside a tie-rod. I can’t believe, with the roads I traverse, every time I get the mechanic to look it over and they come back with nothing that needs replacing.

    These are basically your last bullet-proof drivetrains that today have more in common with trucks than passenger cars. For me, who only owned trucks up to this point, it wasn’t a steep learning curve. This is similar for the B-Body cars, especially the 91-93 vehicles that have the truck motor.

    These are not modern vehicles. They will not corner or accelerate to the standard that most drivers today expect. But your old soul already knows, and appreciates that. Comparing them to any modern sedan is rather beside the point. They exist in their own automotive stratum.

    This is running long, so I would close by adding that if one of these vehicles has north of 150,000 miles, but available service records show a well-maintained ride, don’t be afraid of it. Your budget isn’t high, but if you look hard enough and long enough you’ll find a good one in the sweet spot of your budget. Keep in mind, even if you have to go over your budget a bit, choosing between a car for $4000 with a fresh tune up and new tires versus a $3000 one with sketchy maintenance and bald rubber, it’s worth it.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      I’d rather have one with bald tires so I can choose decent ones than it having fresh, bargain basement, not quite round, Chinese tires. The last GM I bought the almost new tires were removed after a couple of weeks since they would not stick to the road if there was even a hint of moisture in the air, the traction control activated constantly. With quality tires you actually have to try to get the traction control to step in.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        thats the truth being spoken, Scoutdude…I’d much rather have to buy tires and get a few bucks off that to have trash rubber that is new. The sellers usually get insulted when you discount the new tires as junk that needs to be replaced immediately, yet they know that when they bought them they asked for the cheapest thing that will hold air.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Hold out for a HPP car. That gets you the air suspension with the higher rate bags, stiffer front springs, 3.23 rear gears, bigger sway bars, quicker steering ratio and the assist dialed down a touch and dual exhaust for a few more horses. Makes for a much better freeway cruiser and actually helps the MPG in most cases because the car can stay in OD rather than downshifting on grades like the steeper geared non HPP cars do. The better aerodynamics of the 6 window 97 or older CV also helps the hwy mpg a bit. On the other hand the GM and TC do come with a higher amount of sound deadening insulation than can be had on the CV.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Old Soul does not mean you like Old Things. An Old Soul means you have the wisdom, maturity, common sense of someone much older than your current age. Old Soul can also mean you are a reincarnated soul, again implying you’ve already been here, done that, and have a life understanding beyond your years.

    So with this wisdom beyond your age, is the wise choice an old Panther?

    Maybe it’s an used, well-maintained Camry or Accord instead?

    Maybe it’s a brand new car, with zero problems, and free (0% APR) financing? One that’ll take you 10-15 years into the future with little fuss or muss?

    Again, Old Soul does not equal Old Things. It implies a wisdom and understanding of All Things. Keep your mind open, Grasshopper. Do not fixate. Consider all avenues, points of view before you decide.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “Maybe it’s a brand new car, with zero problems, and free (0% APR) financing? One that’ll take you 10-15 years into the future with little fuss or muss?”

      I’m actually contemplating this for myself as a replacement for my beater. In Obama/Bernanke’s economy it makes more sense to buy new-used @ ZIRP than to buy actual used for cash.

      • 0 avatar
        Domestic Hearse

        If you are a “keeper” or intend to become one, buying new right now will be the money-saver over another beater.

        First of all, the initial, major cash outlay. You can avoid that with new. With a 10+ year old beater, you’re either buying it with cash on the hood, or if financing, at buy-here-pay-here rates…those are, um, not good.

        Second, dealer competition. Pick what you want and shop. Apples to apples. Get the dealers competing for your business. They’ll take a deal as thin as their floor-plan hold-back in many cases.

        Third, factory initiatives. Many cars now are offering 0 APR along with regional cash back. The regional cash back is your down payment assistance, the rest is borrowing for free. Free money loaned lets you keep your cash where it belongs – earning you interest somewhere.

        Fourth, maintenance. You are covered by the new car warranty for the first part of your ownership. Or, if you buy an extended warranty, for even longer. Even still, with the quality of most every new car these days, you’re looking at many years before (or if) you have a major repair bill. With a 10+ year old beater, you may be looking at a major repair before you get it home.

        If it’s basic transportation you want, go back and read Baruth’s two Sentra write-ups. You could drive off the lot with a ’12 Sentra, use the bonus cash as your down, 0% APR, and a deal so thin the dealer is making nothing but holdback. Tada. Ten years, no muss, no fuss. And that three grand you’d have spent for another beater is earning you interest (not much, but still, better than none).

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          Sounds like an interesting plan here, how much money would one have to pay for a base Sentra using your method?

          At 28: From my hectic experience with beaters your best keeping a good one once you get it and patch the bugs up, getting even a brand new car is a bit of a gamble.

          Then again that might just my Volvo bias speakin’.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @Ryoku75

            I think post-2010 getting the new car is a def gamble simply because were in a transition period from perfected technology (4spd auto, multi-port FI) into “new” relatively unproven technology (90 spd transmissions, CVTs, direct injection FI). However in the used markets alot of your tried and true stuff is stupidly expensive and finding clean models is actually getting difficult (Panthers might be an exception to this). I’d love to buy another 3800 (in any model) simply because you knew what you were getting and didn’t sweat owning the car for any length of time. Trouble now is you buy most cars today, you almost have to buy that 2K+ extended warranty because who the frack knows what it might do in the first 100K repair wise.

            I can’t speak for a Sentra, but right now ’13 Impala LTs with 1-10K are doing mid fifteens at the auction. Heck some dealers have rental ’12s with 10K otc retailing at 15K, If there was ever a time for cheap wheels with standard V6 power, it is now and once it ends it will probably never come back. I called my credit union, they will finance a used ’13 as a “new” car for 2%/750 credit as long as its under 12K miles. Do a seven year payment on a 15K note @ 2% and you’re looking at $226/mo for a car you own that’s nearly brand new. I’m contemplating a purchase at the end of the summer once the ’14s start hitting the block.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        At 28: Well you have a point there, from what I know those Impalas were surprisingly good cars for the time, despite the dated platform and engines.

        But then again, “dated” in the car world often means that the bugs have been worked out.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          When you are looking for a primary car, dated… or proven… is the way to go IMO.

          I find it interesting Toyota is starting to fall into the dated area with Camry (really how different is XV50 from XV40?) and is turning the Corolla (2007) into the new old ass platform du jour yet they never seem to get the same Panther/Wbody/Hbody is old and sucks flak from the peanut gallery.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            Are you kidding me? Toyota never gets flack for the Corolla being dated from the peanut gallery? A day doesn’t pass on any US automotive website without someone whose advice should be avoided like lice commenting on the ridiculousness of buying a Corolla or Camry just because they sip fuel while pumping oil that’s 100% past its useful life and running on two tires that barely have enough air to stay on the rims. 90% of the time these ignorance peddlers are spreading their bigotry in the comment section for something completely unrelated to Toyota products too.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            Good point, however I’ve heard numerous blogs criticize Toyotas 4-speed automatics.

            I’ve been in several new carsvanscuvs with plenty of gears in their automatics and I frankly prefer 4-speeds, they don’t shift everytime you slightly adjust the gas.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I don’t really hang out on anything else automotive than this site, and even if I did I tend not to believe the mainstream automotive press as I see them as too biased. If C&D wants to bash Corolla/Camry as shocking as that is to me, good for them to actually hide the bias for once.

            Sure there are some folks like me who point out the age of the platforms and personally I see nothing wrong with dated and evidently neither do tens of thousands of Toyota customers. But for the vast majority of plebs “old” Camry and Corolla *do not* have the same negative connotation as Panther/Hbody/Wbody, and its in this hypocrisy I make my case.

            I bought a 2008 Pontiac at the auction in 2010 long before I knew of TTAC. Two different people asked me when I mentioned a new car “what did you get, Toyota, Honda, or Nissan?” and this is in Pittsburgh’s South Hills, a traditional GM holdout. From my fellows in the IT crowd it was “what did you lease, finally get the 3 series?”. These queries speak volumes about the perception of non-enthusiasts, if only you could have seen the facial expressions when I mentioned a Pontiac it was as if I contracted leprosy. I wanted nothing else but to say “I’m not a rube with my money like you” but I simply smiled and pointed out my loaded Pontiac cost less than a used base model Camcord and I thought it was a better deal. I applaud Toyota for taking the conservative route and still delivering what their customers expect but I point out some of the same folks who buy these bash other older designs. Oh and Panthers and Hbodies end up just as hooptified 100% longer than their service life as Camcords.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Heres my biggest concern with buying a Panther quality issues aside, fire by rear-end collisions akin to the Ford Pintos issue.

    In the 90′s when Ford added crumple zones to the Panther platform (which dates back to the 60′s) they didn’t test it out with a full load (suitcases, police equipment), so in a serious accident you’re risking a pretty bad fire.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      To be fair, the incidents that caused the fuel tank fire hoopla occurred when law enforcement was stopped on the side of the freeway and were rear-ended by cars going ~75mph while their cruiser was stationary. It takes a LOT of energy to crumple the big crown vic booty enough to crush the fuel tank mounted upright behind the axle.

      This eventually led Ford to add fire suppression systems as an option on PI units. Really, any car being rear ended while stationary by another car going 75mph will have a liklihood of fuel tank rupture. It was just that Crown Vics were operated under conditions vulnerable to those circumstances more often than other cars. Under the same conditions, they’re hardly any more vulnerable than any other car.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Correct, which happened to Florida State Trooper in 2001ish and IIRC he was killed in a fire after being rear-ended during a traffic stop. Ford’s response was to put some kind of trunk fire extinguisher system in the P72 version MY2003ish onward, but according to this article police officers are still paying with their lives in severe rear end collisions (or people are just driving way to fast in Florida since it keeps happening in that state).

      http://www.palmbeachpost DOT com/news/news/popular-police-cars-crown-victorias-prone-to-explo/nLszC/

      This is particularly damning:

      “In 1971, Ford did a cost analysis on another of its models: Engineering the placement of the fuel tank above the axle would cost $9.95 per car.

      Even so, when Crown Victoria Police Interceptors started rolling off the production line in 1979, the gas tank was built behind the axle, not the above-the-axle location suggested years earlier by Ford’s own in-house safety division.”

      Even if the figure was $995 per car today you spend the fracking money and add a surcharge if need be, how much is a man’s life worth? … especially one with X amount of dollars in training costs an experience. This kind of shortsighted, lack-of-integrity, and asinine thinking really grinds my gears.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Rolling Explorers from bad tire choice, burning Pintos from bad design, and then theres that story.

        Its poor cost-cutting business decisions like those why I keep away Detroit cars in the 1970-2001 range, the quite common plastic manifold incidents stemmed from this same train of thought.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Detroit for the most part was treading water from the 80s to really until recently. SUV’s kept the lights on but everybody domestic was having money trouble esp in the 90s. I read in Time around 1998, a retired GM exec was quoted as saying from 1995 on the goal of the GM’s board was to simply keep the corporation going, profit was no longer even a top priority. Ford in the same period had issues with domestic models such as Taurus and Contour, and the CEO was busy acquiring niche European marques with the cash they did have on hand. Chrysler may have been the only one with good books, but they certainly took Daimler for a $28 billion dollar ride IIRC.

  • avatar
    ajla

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/09/panther-week-comparison-1988-vs-2006-lincoln-town-car/

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/09/panther-appreciation-the-stairway-to-the-stars-in-an-mgm-coupe/

    Read these articles, look at these pictures, and tell me you wouldn’t rather have a box-style Panther.

    If you want to go old, then do it with gusto.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Trouble with “old school” Panther is the DOA, er AOD, transmission (unless there is some aftermarket hack?).

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        The 88 and newer models had all the updates that turned it into a 300K transmission and those updates can be applied to any AOD.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          Regardless of year, there was a small plastic bit in the transmission that would usually break at 100k, once it broke the transmission would overheat.

          You can replace it with a cheap Ford-made brass bit, but its still a a bit of work to get to.

          That and you still have to deal with rust issues on the frame with these old ones.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            That “small plastic bit” that breaks is not inside the transmission it connects the throttle valve linkage to the throttle. It costs under $5 and takes all of 2 minutes to replace. They often last much longer than 100K I never did it in my first CV that I had for 203K. My first GM (that my friend now owns)has over 300K on the original. It did break in the second CV I had at 180K or so.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      The problem with the box Panthers is they lack the stiffer frame, revised spring rates, improved suspension geometery, improved brakes, standard rear sway bar (until 2000 or so) and of course the 4.6 and it’s better MPG.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        I’d rather have a Windsor than the 2v mod motor.

        A rear sway bar for a box is like $25 and I don’t care about the rest of that stuff enough to overwhelm the charisma of the boxes.

        Personally, I’d actually ENJOY owning a box. An aero CV or GM would just be purchased out of necessity because it is tough and cheap.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      Get the Panther based Continental from the early 80′s with the brick styling and opera window OR

      The Brick Police Package with the 351W and the horizontal 140 MPH “certified calibration” speedo.

      I will say the brick coupes are pretty sweet too.

      The only of the newer ones I like was the first year with no grill.

  • avatar
    jimbob457

    I am all for Panther love. I live in Texas and wanted an interstate cruiser. Just bought a 23,000 mile ’99 Grand Marquis a few months ago. I recommend this kind of weird combination, BUT you have to appreciate that whatever Mr. Friction has spared (23,000 miles), Mr. Oxidation (15 years old) has done his evil deeds. Hoses, belts, tires, filters, fluids and even some seals and bushings have needed replacing.

    The source of much Panther love is the car’s incredible durability. Like the Mercedes 240, the Mercedes 300 sedans and a few Volvos or maybe some Honda Accords, it is a 300,000 mile car if properly maintained. You can’t just tell an engineering staff to design such a car using normal parts and at a cost low enough that customers will buy it new. Only the passage of time tells if somehow you have done it. The Panther did it, and 11 million were built and sold.

    With the 35 year old Panther basic design, you can have decent handling or a comfy interstate ride, but not both. A few months ago I drove my comfy version from Dallas to San Antonio and back (600+ miles)-like driving the living room couch with almost no fatigue – got 24-5 MPG.

    Only problem was that at 75-95 MPH in traffic the handling did need improving. Bought and installed a set of aftermarket sway bars, the right tires and some aftermarket shocks – problem solved. In the older cars, you may have to spend $200 to $300 for a new sound system that includes hands free. I did all this and now have $8,000 invested, total.

    At a lower price point, you can still get a helluva bargain and what you want and need. Don’t get the P71 cop car Crown Vic (rides too rough and recent models may have been through Sandy). Otherwise there are a few civilian Crown Vics, lots and lots of Mercury Grand Marquis (best deal), and quite a number of Town Cars (plush, but late models are overpriced). 2004 and newer models are slightly better as vehicles since they have the final tweaking of the platform. Earlier versions are just fine, though.

    You just need to find the right example at the right price. Good luck. Look on MSN auto. There are literally hundreds of possibly suitable cars within a 200 mile radius. Maybe a thousand total in the US.

    P.S. If you get a pre-2002 example with some mileage on it pay attention to the intake manifold deal. You will need to replace it. Nice thing about mass produced anything – if a component breaks for one, it breaks for all – very democratic.

    • 0 avatar
      Compaq Deskpro

      This is true, used police Vics usually need pretty much all of the front suspension parts replaced, and even when fully done with all the right heavy duty stuff, they still ride like an F250. They completely lack sound isolation, so road noise is pronounced, Eagle RSA cop tires are hard and noisy and generally stink. I’m okay with these quirks, but I wouldn’t recommend it for other people.

      For 03 and later, watch out for the exhaust manifolds (this also goes for the trucks and vans with the mod motor) they can break crappy studs or rot out (Northeast problem) and develop a nasty leak. It’s a major flaw with this engine, and it applies to all cars and trucks that have this engine (the Mustangs don’t seem to have this problem).

      Watch out for 03′s, they have a few specific problems. Cars made in the first half of 03 have these improperly hardened axles that can crack. The paint chips off in 03 Vics as well as other Ford products of this year. They had a problem with cracking wheels. Wheels and axles had a recall.

      If you want the absolute best reliability, go for 02. If you want the fastest and best handling, go for 04+. 03′s are odd, but they are still solid cars. I hear 2000 cars had an awful factory tune. Honestly, the problems are few and far between.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Rright now I’m just waiting for someone from carsurvey to show up and say:

    “I’m 22 and I own a 1991 Lincoln Town Car! Its been the best car I’ve ever owned with 156k miles and not a single problem! I’ve installed custom sway bars, a K N filter, de-cat kit, and an ecu! Now it gets 35mpg!”.

    • 0 avatar
      jimbob457

      Let’s face it: ‘you are what you drive’. I don’t mind driving an old man’s car because last time I looked….. well shit, it beats the alternative.

      My youngest son is 28. He showed me an internet video of an outfit in Florida called CM Autowerkz that does high end cop car P71 Panther reconditioning. They call them Nightstalkers. They showed a very cool presentation where they were doing some serious burn outs in the parking lot with some very appropriate background music.

      The boy is looking at some rather large student loans (his choice), so such a car with any kind of genuine cool selling for $8-14k appeals to him a lot. He likes cool cars. His college graduation present was a BMW 325. After it wore it out he blundered by buying an old Audi Quattro 1.8 with a turbo at auction – great (briefly) when it was new but a real horror as a used car.

      My point is that one can shape a Panther to appeal to a lot of different markets, and it will keep going for 200 to 300k miles. I have even seen it (in pictures) with thuddy rimz. Looked pretty good.

  • avatar
    michaelfrankie

    Coils go bad around 100k. 100 bucks a pop as I recall. Poor side impact protection. As a past owner of a P71 crown vic, it was a nice car to commute in.(especially with carpet delete). I got tired of the parade of cars behind me thinking I was a state trooper.

  • avatar
    Rosso

    Thanks for all the advice. I had actually forgotten I had written this and it’s interesting to see all of the thoughtful responses. I’m particularly intrigued with the advice to get a Camry or a Accord

    As it happened, between the time I wrote this and the time that it posted I bit the bullet and made a choice. And I’m happy to say that I found my dream car. A 2003 crown Vic sport. After the Kia it is the most wonderful car I have ever owned. It isn’t perfect.mit isn’t modern (comparatively). But it does what it does with such comfort and style that now, when faced with one of my long drives, my response isn’t “I have to drive to Waco today” but rather “I get to drive to Waco today.”

    At the end of the day a car choice is an emotional decision as much as it is a practical one. Anything else rationalization for a decision that you’ve already made. I won’t try to justify my decision to buy an old man car with a thirsty v8 but I love, love, LOVE it.

    Depending on your point of view the panther is either ebpverything that was wrong, or everything that was ever right about American cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Good show!

      The one thing I noticed that no one mentioned: You have to drive 500 miles a MONTH? That’s really not that much. It’s going to take you a long time to wear out that car! If you meant 500 miles a WEEK, or 1500 miles a month, that’s a bit different. Any way you slice it, you’ve got the right car for the job.

    • 0 avatar
      Compaq Deskpro

      You got a Sport! NICE.

      You’re going to love that car.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Nice choice the LX sport is a nice ride most of the goodies of a Marauder except the engine, HPP springs out front and standard air bags in the rear. When it comes to put new tires on it ditch the 235/55 and go with 255/50 A little more width for better grip and no ride penalty since they have almost exactly the same sidewall height.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Interesting , this long and involved Panther Love thread is .

    I’m a Bowtie Guy but , as I work with the L.A.P.D. Fleet I’m keenly aware how sturdy they are .

    I was looking at a bin full of brandy new A-Frames yesterday and wondering if out could easily up date the suspension by parts swapping .
    Then I got home and found a battered Ghetto Hoopty Ride Mercury four door sedan parked in my spot and was remembering how some here love those too ~ this one is slightly wrinkled from end to end but still wears it’s original paint and is doing Yeoman Duty , day in , day out ferrying kids and drug dealers over the mean streets of Los Angeles .

    I doubt I’ll ever own a Panther but they _are_ pretty good Automobiles
    even to the haters .

    Question : WHY is it called The Panther Chassis ? no one here nor at any Ford Agency I’ve asked , knows .

    TIA ,

    -Nate

    (still learn
    .ing)

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Who knows why Ford decided on animal names for their platforms in the late 70′s I’m sure the person or persons who dreamed up Fox and Panther have long since retired. Certainly more creative than A,B,C ect.


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