By on November 6, 2013

cv

When you think of a cop car or a taxi, chances are this vehicle will pop in your mind.

Now think of the cars that old people drive. No not Camrys! Get that thought off your mind right now mister!

Well, come to think of it, that’s a big part of the problem. If any car out there is stuck in the netherworld of wholesale heaven at the auto auctions, it’s this one.

This morning I was looking through an endless array of old Crown Vics that had been used as donor cars for the local government fleet.

The prices seemed right. $200 for a parts car. $500 for a whole car with higher miles. $1500 for the cop car of your dreams.  The numbers all seemed wondrous to a car guy like me who buys cars wholesale nearly every day of the week.

Except there’s a problem on the demand size of this equation. These cars don’t sell well anymore. Even the best of them have trouble getting so much as a glance from the general public.

crown vic

Why? Well it may have a bit to do with the price of gas. Or the fact that cop vehicles go through an ungodly amount of abuse, even here in the South. Or even that those who need a car still won’t take one with rear vinyl seats, and more holes and exposed wires than a redneck version of a smoking KISS guitar.

crown vic2

But it’s even more than that when you look at these cars from a retailing perspective. The truth is that every portion of the population has a great excuse not to buy an old school full-sized car.

Young people are too broke to own one. Whenever I get a sharp looking one at my lot, young black males are surprisingly the most common gawkers. The Oldsmobile 98’s and Caprices that were all the rage 15 or so years ago for this enthusiast demographic, were replaced large with Crown Vic Police Interceptors, from the mid-2000’s up until about a couple of years ago.

unclebillsgarage

Crown Vics were cheap, plentiful, not an SUV (which is what mom and dad usually drove), and reflected a bit of toughness thanks to the cop car rep and the utilitarian nature of the beasts. The interiors may have been given the unfortunate overload of cheap, amortized plastic and vinyl materials. But everything from the thunkishness of the door closing, to the Mustang sharing V8 under the hood made these cars a hot commodity.

trunk

You could seat five, haul as much stuff in the trunk ans you wanted to, and,  if you were out just cruising around, fuel economy was bound to suck no matter what car you used. So throw in a dirt cheap price and a penchant for withstanding the worst of road, and Crown Vic Police Interceptors became quite popular. That is  until young people became too broke to own and insure one.

The older family car, whether it’s an extra one or shared, has taken over this market.

Copy this url: http://forums.radioreference.com/pictures-your-shack-mobile-setup/205356-2005-crown-victoria-lx-sport-setup.html This guy did a wonderful job on his road warrior.

Copy this url: http://forums.radioreference.com/pictures-your-shack-mobile-setup/205356-2005-crown-victoria-lx-sport-setup.html This guy did a wonderful job on his road warrior.

Middle aged people? Some liked em’. But the good credit folks are usually looking at the newer stuff, and the bad credit folks don’t want a V8. They will buy a V6, or even an SUV. But a V8? Too much. Even the Grand Marquis, which had once represented the right mix of luxury and space for many of these folks, has now gone into the unmarketable firmament of, “Too big! Too old! No V8!”

BZR Edition

BZR Edition

Old people have, by and large, been herded onto the four cylinder compact and mid-sized buffet thanks in part to the prior gen Toyota Camry which offered the unusual combination of an easy to drive car with the interior space of a full-sized car and a four cylinder under the hood. Luxury to this group means never breaking down, 30 miles per gallon, and as few buttons and knobs as possible.

Along with 20 to 30 Camry alternatives, the market now offers cars that usually have more interior space than the Panthers, better lumbar seat support, and unbeatable fuel economy for a monthly payment that feeds in well with the monthly retiree check. For a low sub-$300 payment in many cases, that fixed income buyer can now have a new car instead of a 10 to 15 year old relic that averages 15 miles per gallon around town. Even the formerly credit challenged among them can line right up and get their spoonful of modern transportation.

Picture Courtesy of donksnob.com

$700 down, $60 a week, 24 months.

The Panther cars may no longer work in the marketplace. But they still remain a personal favorite when it comes to operating a used car dealership.  I have financed a ton of these vehicles over the years to folks who didn’t have access to the new car buffet. Five years ago, a customer would be overjoyed with getting any Town Car, Grand Marquis or Crown Vic with leather for $1000 down. These cars had earned their bulletproof reputation, and a lot of folks who were trying to get out of their family SUV or minivan found these cars to be an outstanding compromise between the unibody sedans with minimal grunt, and the full-sized SUV’s that consumed gas like a modern day BMW eats fuel pumps.

SONY DSC

They were great cars to finance because once you put them on the road, they stayed there. Yes, I had to repo a few. But true to their reputation, these cars could handle the worst of customers and still be given minimal reconditioning before they were put back on the road.

tc

I fondly remember a 1995 Lincoln Town Car  (<— old Hammer Time) that I bought for all of $1600 that I took up to Jersey (<—  another old Hammer Time), and then put out on the note four times before selling it for $1500 cash (<—- boy did I write far too much about this car back in the day!).

The car got scraped on the sides. Nearly all suspension parts replaced. The antenna broke. The headliner fell down, twice. The window regulators were cheap pieces of plasticized under-engineered garbage, and the car had an alarm system that sometimes seemed to have a mind of it’s own.

Oh, and it only came with a cassette until I repoed it for the second time.

I named the car Lucky.

lucky

Lucky was the least popular car at the lot. But if someone had only $500 to their name and a credit history like Donald Trump, then the customer could either have Lucky with a leather interior, or their sneakers in rubber.

Lucky was popular. So were those other Panther vehicles for a while at the $500 down level. A Grand Marquis was 90% of a Town Car, and it sold for 60% of the price.  The Town Car was… well… often times harder to sell than the Grand. Even for the same price. The last Town Car I sold, a 2000 model Signature Series, spent all of five months at my lot which is longer than nearly anything I have sold over the past five years with the sole exception of the famed Barnacle Bitch (<— expensive car from hell!). A 2002 Mercedes S500 bought for $5000 under rough book right after the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

They both had the same problem. The customers had already gone elsewhere and the ones that were left, couldn’t afford to keep the vehicle on the road. So I spared them of that misery that comes off from biting off far more debt than you can chew, and shucked the Barnacle off to a cash customer during tax season.

00tc

That 2000 Town Car with the burgundy paint and tan interior was the same exact deal. The car was an absolute creme puff and had been dealer maintained since day one. A great ride. The used car sales manager at the nearby Ford dealership even put it in their fleet for a year before he retired and got replaced with a guy who was 40 years younger.

So I bought it, and got to driving it around for a bit. In all honesty, I never warmed up to the car. Eventually it got sold  to a lady whose late husband had owned… a Ford dealership. She wanted to relive the old days and within a week of buying it, she wound up painting the poor thing a ghastly silver. Her living at home son had also convinced her to throw Flowmasters onto the thing.

What a waste.

It was a sad ending for an unpopular car… but ever so reminiscent of what happens when a car’s core audience moves on to other rides.

No, the hood latch isn't on the side. Keep looking!

No, the hood latch isn’t on the side. Keep looking!

You either get folks who are true hardcore enthusiasts. They may consider themselves clever ones since they almost always buy the so-called cheap price car that comes loaded with those things they value. On paper, many of these guys seem to find their edge in a marketplace where popular cars go for a premium.

But in truth, most of them are picky, cheap, mechanically inept, and they honestly think you give a shit about the car you’re selling when you really don’t.

They tell stories about these cars. Endless stories about trivial opinions about old junkers that have already been recycled into Chinese washing machines.They are stuck in nostalgia-land which is fine,until you get subjected to the seventh story about the rolling piece of mediocrity in front of you.

You listen, and then eventually in the back of your mind you say, “Look. either buy this fucking car or leave me alone. I really don’t care about the fact that your Aunt Ethel had one of these 20 years ago.”

Then there are the broke ones… who are completely oblivious to the realities of the marketplace. They will piss you off  by ogling the car and then saying, “I love these things, but they eat too much gas. Do you have a Toyota or Honda with leather?”

“I do… but they are a thousand down.  I have about four of them with cloth that are around $700 down.”

“I really want leather but I only have $200 to $300. I can catch up on the payments?”

“Okay. When do you think you’ll have $1000?”

They will first tell you a week. Then a couple of weeks. A few minutes later it will turn into a month. Then finally you’ll see their bank statements or utility bills which are riddled with negative balances, overdraft charges, and late fees.

These folks are not bad people. Most of them are nice. They are just used to living beyond their means and you don’t want them as customers.

old dog

As for Panthers? They’re nice in a way that any old dog car can be endearing and lovable. But in the end I’ll stick to what sells, and old dogs don’t sell.

Which reminds me… I still have two at my lot. Want one?

 

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145 Comments on “Hammer Time: The Rise And The Fall Of The Panthers...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Great article.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      This is like the textbook entry to really understanding these cars, that and like other beaters it helps to dissect a few at the junkyard.

      Speaking of which I should’ve taken some pictures of a junked Prius I found sitting amongst neglected Camrys, I hope they’re as easy to recycle as the neighboring Ford Probes.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    It’s a shame young people are such divas over what they want as their first ride, even if the alternative is nothing at all. This is the closest you can get to driving for free. After telling my boss for months to look for a CVPI or unloved creampuff minivan for his kid, he finally relented. I showed him multiple 2008’s for less than $2000 on CL. He decided to ignore my advice partially, and got suckered on a rusty $3000 ’97 in a “friend” deal from a used car lot.

    Still, it’s been a rock solid car for the boy. He doesn’t even have a real job. Gigs and money from friends keep gas in the tank.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      It’s true, used CVPIs are a sure fire way to get the absolute latest model year car at the lowest price. I’d take a newer car with higher mileage over an older car with lower mileage any day.

      Town Car or MGM interior swaps aren’t even hard to do!

    • 0 avatar
      harshciygar

      How is not wanting a beat-up, abused cop car being a diva?

      First off most young people can’t afford a car that gets, at best, 18 mpg in average day-to-day driving.

      And as Lang points out, most of these cars are abused to no end. Reputation for reliability aside, most young people aren’t going to take a chance on a car that looks like it’s been through Hell.

      Most young people just don’t need a car in the same way, so why suffer through a beat-up POS?

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “How is not wanting a beat-up, abused cop car being a diva?”

        I know few outside of spoiled rich kids whose first car didn’t have at least one foot in the junkyard, so yes the kid should wise up but he won’t until he ages and gains experience.

        Regarding your next point what’s the realistic difference between say a J-car @ 24mpg avg city and 18 avg Panther? Sure its six miles and roughly 14c/mile vs 18c/mile (at $3.30/gal), but at 24 cents extra its going to take a lot of driving to be losing out between grandma’s MGM for say 3K vs a Civrolla for the same money. What sort of small car and in what condition can you buy a kid for 3K?

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        When dad’s buying, any complaining could be considered diva-ish behavior.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I agree. MGMs and CVs aren’t quite that cheap in my region, as a matter of fact here’s an ’07 CVPI 130K for almost 8 grand. But for the financially challenged young driver its a thousand times better than the used up K-cars common when I was first driving.

      http://altoona.craigslist.org/ctd/4046309890.html

      This CVPI may be worth your time at $7500, I’d pull the carfax to be certain but there’s a good chance this one was used to cart kids around.

      http://pittsburgh.craigslist.org/ctd/4148791357.html

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        There are much better deals at the $8k price point. Old Ford Escapes are under valued, for instance and could be had for $5k-ish a couplke oif years ago.

        I’d spring for a Camry or a Ranger before a CVPI at $8k. Seriously, every time I goit in a Crown Vic, I wondered why someone bothered to put a car body on a Ranger – cool project car, but normal FWD unibody cars are better at actual car stuff.

  • avatar
    vvk

    Seems like a lot of old people drive Kia Soul and Honda Element. At least around here they do.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      The Scion Xb and Nissan Cube are also favorites of many modern milkshakes. Faux-youth instead of faux-luxury?

      • 0 avatar
        brettc

        +1000 for the milkshake reference. Well done, sir.

        There’s a house in our subdivision that recently acquired a state police blue ex-CVPI. They even put a whip antenna on the trunk recently. This house is also in serious disrepair with the front brick stairs collapsing and currently unusable among other things. Whoever lives there also has a late 90s Mustang that appears to have recently been Maaco’d. So I guess maybe CVPIs are now for people that have given up on life but still need a cheap car?

  • avatar
    danio3834

    It’s true, these cars are outdated and out of step with modern trends in motoring. They still have their rightful place and are great cars for people who give them a chance. Clean, late model Town Cars still seem to fetch reasonable money.

    My wife actually asks me when we will get another Panther. She loves the good visibility and big, safe feeling in a vehicle that isn’t quite as unweildly as our crew cab 4×4 truck. The trunk space can’t be beat.

    My mother drives an immaculate ’05 Town Car Ultimate, pearl on tan. My wife says if she ever gets rid of it, she wants it. Are there any other hot young woman Panther enthusiasts out there?

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Let them know the line forms here, Danio.

    • 0 avatar
      harshciygar

      I’ve considered buying one, but every time I get behind the wheel the size of the vehicle is too much. I’ve become spoiled, driving a compact car that can fit down near anywhere.

      Trying to park a Town Car in a crowded garage is an exercise in patience and steering wheel magic.

      If I am going to drive an big, old, cheap car, it is going to be something out of the 60s.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        THat’s understandable. For me cars are like pairs of shoes. I own many for different occasions. I realize most people can’t or don’t want to do that, but it lets you appreciate the finer points of any automobile by using them where they fit best.

        These things are best out on the highway.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        I don’t mind their size, but everytime I get behind the wheel of one I find myself wishing that the seats had better support, and that the general interior materials were a little better.

        I did try on a 90’s “Fat” Panther Town Car as well, probably the only Panther I’ve seen with an interior I genuinely liked save for the “couch-like” seating position that encourages zoning out.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Having had many a nearly new TC, CV, or MGM as a rental from Hertz over the years (they have a warped idea of what constitutes an “upgrade”) , the appeal of these arks is completely and utterly lost on me. The don’t ride well, they don’t steer well, they don’t stop, they don’t go. They have seats made for some sort of alien creature, and appallingly little room for their size. They get awful gas mileage. They have a level of creature comforts last seen in 1988. Their only redeeming feature seems to be that they can jump curbs with wild abandon.

      Good riddance to bad rubbish.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      That safe feeling is pretty misleading — by modern standards, these cars don’t crash well.

  • avatar

    Here in Baltimore, most of the taxi fleet is owner-operators, and they still love Panthers. While there are a handful of other vehicles as cabs (including a growing number of Pruis “clean air hybrid” cabs), poorly painted ex-police Panthers are still the vehicle of choice, and that keeps up the price of used ex-cop Panthers.

  • avatar
    missmySE-R

    Perhaps down South this isn’t a factor, but how off-putting is rear wheel drive to your younger customers?
    Going to high-school in Wisconsin the late ’90’s, very few peers had anything rear wheel drive unless they had a Mustang/Camaro. I remember a friend of mine giving me a ride home one day and thinking how dangerous it was that he drove a RWD car (Crown Vic!) and couldn’t understand how his parents let him get away with it. The general perception of me and my friends was that RWD was just an accident waiting to happen in the winter. I’d wager that perception was based on a complete lack of familiarity with RWD cars, and hence there was a healthy fear of the unknown.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Personally, I’ve had more issues controlling FWD understeer and unpredictable snap oversteer in the snow versus RWD where oversteer is fairly predictable.

      I’ve jumped more curbs and plowed more signs to the ground in FWD cars in the snow than RWD. FWD does have a traction advantage, but in situations where friction is too low to make a difference what wheels are dirivng, I’d rather have RWD.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      If you go back a few years, everyone drove RWD cars, including in the snow belt. It’s not dangerous. It does help to have true snow tires, and a couple of 50 lb bags of sand in the trunk are doubly useful.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Which kids won’t buy (snow tires), and their parent’s won’t tell them about the sand bags.

        • 0 avatar
          davefromcalgary

          A coworker of mine just bought an 11 RAM Hemi R/T 2WD Regular Cab Shortbox. Some Goodyear Wrangler Silent Armor on 17″ Ram steelies and some sandbags (I am trying to convince him to use sidewalk slabs) and he is laughing at winter.

          • 0 avatar
            ThirdOwner

            Dave, look at the date of your post… for most of the people on this site the winter is still a month or two away.

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            We’ve got snow on the ground, its likely to stay. Generally in the Canadian prairies once Halloween hits, you need to be ready for winter.

            Point is though, I was replying to missmySE-R’s comment about RWD in winter, regardless of when it starts, that RWD in winter is fine so long as you properly equip your vehicle.

          • 0 avatar
            ThirdOwner

            I know, Dave, I was just rubbing it in. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            Haha, gotcha. My sarcasm detector must be running poorly in the cold…

      • 0 avatar
        duffman13

        I DD an S2000 and had grown up on FWD and AWD cars. I just want to say I can confirm this, throwing 150lbs in the trunk of the S2k makes it super-manageable in the winter weather.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I’ve found myself hating FWD whenever a ball joint or something needs replacing up front, save for that I prefer a well weight distributed RWD to generally front heavy FWDs for any terrain.

      Plus FWDs can be a bit scary going up hill in slick terrain, even scarier down big slopes.

  • avatar
    Numbers_Matching

    CVPI: I never see anyone whom I would consider ‘normal’ driving these things. They usually attract the fringes of society, who have created an automotive sub-culture complete with facial tatoos, $7/hour fast food employment and thrash/death-metal/’call of duty’ references pasted on the bumper. Once a vehicle is associated with this kind of lifestyle it becomes a non-entity in the *normal* market place.

    At least CVPIs are one step above conversion vans – perhaps the all-time leader in creepiness factor.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    There’s a new Mobil 1 commercial that highlights Panther durability, it interviews a taxi fleet mechanic that prepares CVPIs after their first life a a cop car into cabs, and then watches them rack up another 200k miles. His personal car was a matte black CVPI with matte black Torq thrusts.

    One of these days I will own one of these, perhaps a “fat” 95-97 “aero” grand marquis, or maybe a later “whale” crown vic. I love the funny names that the panther community comes up with.

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    I had exactly zero interest in Panthers up until I started visiting this site and now I am considering selling my Mazda 3 and picking up a mid-late 2000s Grand Marquis. Thanks Sajeev!

    Due to the fact that Phoenix has a huge population of retirees well-kept low mileage examples can be found easily in the high 4 figures. If nothing else I’ll be able to tell my electric egg driving grand-kids stories about the Last Great American Car.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Great article. This should be read by everyone who seems to think that Panthers are the solution for everything…because they aren’t. True, a dirt-cheap, reliable car can often overcome expensive repairs, but Americans place a lot of value on styling and features…categories that the Panthers mostly fall short on.

  • avatar
    Scott_314

    Great article. I understand the appeal but I was never a big fan. I found them small on the inside and unstable at high speeds.

    On the Gardner in Toronto there is a bridge joint on a bend at the top of a small hill. When I used to take taxis home, the way they wiggled and yawed over that bump I always hated it and thought we could crash. A Corolla is about 50 times more stable and safe.

    Here’s the coordinates if you want to paste them into Google maps: 43.62763, -79.4819

    • 0 avatar
      Numbers_Matching

      - you nailed it about these things…
      They have poor high speed stability and control and always feel that the body and suspension are barely connected. And these are impressions of the many low mileage examples I have rented from Hertz – when they formed a big part of their fleet.

      For everyday driving – give me modern technology any day..the basic structure for the Panther was designed in the mid-late 70’s (although updated for ’91).

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        And very significantly updated for ’98 and ’03. The ’03+ cars I dare say handle fairly good.

        • 0 avatar
          Nichodemus

          I have an ’03 Grand Marquis with about 100k miles. It handles ok. It likes to cruise on the interstate at 70. Once I got 27 mpg out of it (all highway driving). And parts are fairly cheap and easy to find.

          But if I crashed it today, I probably wouldn’t look for another one. It’s big, but a same year Taurus has more trunk space. There’s really not much rear foot room. It’s just all around not a great car. Yet, I’ll probably drive it until it dies for good.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          The CVPIs are tolerable — a bit floaty, but tolerable.

          The regular cars were very, very bad, right up until the end.

          I’ve had the misfortune of renting more than my share of “Ultimate Edition” Grandmas from National. They can be sort of entertaining when you are deliberately trying to slide them around, but they are the worst-handling car I can remember. Total disconnect between body and tires, horrible damping, severe cowl shake.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            I agree, the base ones without any sort of handling package hardware are wallowy by modern standards. I suspect that’s one of the reasons why so many walking corpses bought them over and over again. Back in the day, that was a “luxury” feature.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        …and 200 series Volvo dates from the mid sixties, your point?

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          But the 240 was properly designed in the first place.

          IMHO, a Volvo 7/940 is a Panther that is designed and built properly.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          I’ve driven some cars that you’d expect to be pretty unstable, several rear-engined VWs, Citroen 2CV, but a ’91 Marquis took the cake as far as terrible stability goes, just 20-30mph and I had experienced enough.

          And its not because its body on frame, I’ve driven a battered early 80’s Toronado which had the Marquis soft ride but much better stability.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      I seriously doubt a flimsy Corolla is safer than a Panther. And they do not handle worth a crap either.

      • 0 avatar
        84Cressida

        Well, seeing how you drive the worst handling car sold today, the W Impala, you can’t talk. And a Corolla is built on a far more modern structure and is a lot more nimble and stable than any CV or Impala you can throw at it.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Corolla until MY14 debuted in 2006 as MY07, 3rd gen W-Impala debuted in late 05 as MY06 so excluding the one that was just released Corolla isn’t that much more “modern” in any way. I haven’t driven one in ages so I can’t really remember how it handled, although I do drive a W Gen 3 Grand Prix which handles very well. I imagine they both best Panther in terms of handling. YMMV.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_Corolla

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GM_W_platform

      • 0 avatar
        Scott_314

        Honestly my wife’s 2006 Corolla non-sport-model, barely maintained, can handle bumps at 80mph on a bend without that sickening wiggle. In my books that’s safer, but yes, in a head-on at 35mph I’ll take the Panther.

        Now I might be biased because my experience is Toronto taxis which are probably 300K plus miles, and so poorly maintained that they didn’t bother to clean the garbage from the floor of the back seat.

        But the terrible handling seems like an agreement.

    • 0 avatar
      jimbob457

      Pre-2003 non-cop car Panthers wallow like a $3 whore and are mildly unsafe on the interstate at modern speeds – eg. 90 mph in traffic. The fix is a front and back set of Addco sway bars for $600 all in. This nearly eliminates the wallow with almost no loss in the cushy ride. I can personally attest to this, as I did it on my own ’99 Grand Marquis.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Funny whenever a clean 2004-2011 Panther of any kind shows up on a used dealer lot with a reasonable price tag and low miles it doesn’t last more than a week in Upstate, NY. Perhaps the area your in has an aversion to Panthers.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    The Panther’s demise is simple enough: most everybody who wants a big car that rides like a truck will simply buy a truck, which will most likely have more spacious seating (crew cab) and a better interior than the industrial-grade work-truck stuff that the late Crown Vics got.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    I sometimes think of my 2000 Lexus GS as the “Japanese Panther.” Big, understressed V8, relatively simple systems, parts-binnned with a lot of reliable Toyota parts, now finding a market among some “interesting” folks.

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    The Panthers represent a very odd market that is mostly dips with few peaks. Well-preserved MGMs and Town Cars do very well wholesale, especially around this time of year as what’s left of the older Snowbird population returns to Southern climates for the season.

    I avoid CVPIs like the plague due to two reasons – subprime lenders don’t finance branded titles and I don’t finance anything in house. Its also very hard to compete with a local outfit in Largo, FL about 15 miles away that does an absolutely outstanding job of reconditioning and offering these type of cars to those type of customers. When you’re dealing with a niche market product and there is such strong competition, why bother? My two 2003 former Brooksville PD P71s I played with three years ago sat…and sat…and sat…and sat.

    I’d rather invest the same CVPI money in an older Buick or MGM for a demographic that actually has money to purchase a car. Or really, spend the cash towards reconditioning more sellable inventory. Speaking of which, anyone want a ’99 Grand Marquis LS w/88k miles that I took in trade and similarly can’t give away?

    And that’s another heartache part of the business Steve touches on – there are cars you like and there are cars you like because they SELL. Most of the time, there is little overlap in the two.

    P.S. Know what brings more money than a well-kept Grand Marquis or Town Car at the sale? A well-kept hard-loaded low-mileage Buick. LeSabres (esp Celebrations) Park Aves, and especially ’05+ LaX and ’06+ Lucernes break the bank every time a clean one runs.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Yes those Buicks with the 3800 motors are comfortable and reliable cars that always seem to fetch more than you expect. Being a bit more contemporary than the Panther, more people seem willing to look at them.

    • 0 avatar
      jimbob457

      I showed my 28 year old the Largo outfit’s website. He really liked the idea of a halfway cool, reliable ride for 10 grand, plus or minus a little. Mom drives a Porsche 996, but he only gets to borrow it on special occasions. Maybe, you ought to consider some way of arranging to send them the occasional customer in return for a modest referral fee.

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    I’m pushing my mom to get a Grand Marquis to replace her rusty Taurus with the rocker panels falling off. If my beaten old cop car that looks a lot like the car in the first pic with the wires hanging everywhere has been a rock solid if rough car, an old lady kept Grand Marquis must be perfection.

    Also, anyone who says 18 mpg has never owned one of these, these will go well into the 20’s, which is not any worse than all the V6 Maximas and Accords.

  • avatar
    kenwood

    Too bad one of them isn’t another creme puff 2000 TC. I’d love one of those.

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    Darn it. I’ve been thinking of selling my 10 yr-old Olds Aurora (only 80K miles!). Steve’s article is discouraging in many ways.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    I have owned and driven them. Mostly I drive on the highway (2 lane blacktop) and the mileage was good. Was looking for another when I backed into buying something else that is AWD and hopefully will last a long time.

    My second car or farm car must be a worker and the panther graded well. I have a hard time understanding the aversion that some have to them. Guess they are folks who want stylish people movers. I haul a trailer and beat them up. Panthers, to me, represent much of the same value as a pickup but with a back seat. I think a commenter above was right. The japanese will have the next panther. I also considered a V6 camry which would tow 3k lbs.

    One thing for sure when discussing cars. YMMV

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    I’d rather have a Crown Vic than my Buick…but it’s surprisingly hard to find the damned things for sale around here, same with old “box” Caprices. People want to hold onto them until they’re completely worn out.

  • avatar
    Freddie

    I’d be nervous driving a vehicle that is so strongly identified as a cop car. Seems like asking for trouble in one way or another.

  • avatar
    April

    I have a question. What kind of work usually goes into a “reconditioning”?

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      It all depends on the vehicle and the dealer. It could be as simple as a through detail. in other cases it may be buffing the paint or a spot touch up, getting the paint-less dent removal guy to pop out a few door dings or the upholstery guy to spray a little dye on the leather. It could also include some new but crappiest tires that can be found.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    @28: Same, if I find 700s on Craigslist, they’re almost always non-turbo sedans.

    http://philadelphia.craigslist.org/cto/4130485887.html

    Know anyone looking for an Amazon project?

  • avatar
    84Cressida

    I have some respect for these due to their durability as cop cars and taxis, and the operators seem to love them.

    However, as a civilian, these cars suck. The only reason some enthusiasts like them is because of the way they’re built, which went out of fashion for a reason. They handle downright terrible, they were made well past their sell-by date, acceleration is weak given how big the engine is, interior is cheap and not put together well, lumbar jams your back, and aside from trunk space they lack any sort of interior volume. If I had to ever buy a Panther car, I’d avoid an abused and beat up CVPI and would only buy one that had been owned by grandpa. My neighbors down the street actually have one, IIRC it’s a 2006 or 2007 they bought brand new.

    Funny how the Camry gets mentioned. The Camry does many of the attributes the Crown Vic is supposed to do far better, yet that car is trashed to hell by brain dead “enthusiasts” day in and day out, yet the CV somehow gets a pass. I love hypocrites.

  • avatar
    ChallengerDeep13

    Every time I see this criticism of the panther platform’s handling, I am honestly baffled. These were never marketed as BMW alternatives. I’ve driven probably about a dozen panthers at least in my life, starting with my buddy in high school’s 89 Grand Marquis. Once upon a time in said car a deer ran out in front of me on a wet road, hit the brakes and they locked and I went sideways, let off the brakes, counter steer and I was on my merry way, I was 16 at the time.

    At age 26 I now own two ’76 Lincolns and a 2013 Challenger R/T w/track pack. The Lincolns still aren’t ‘scary’ in comparision to the Challenger or anything modern, even though many would ostensibly say so. I occasionally induce throttle oversteer on the Lincolns when conditions permit, and never once has it been ‘scary’ or difficult for me to correct.

    In many of these comments on multiple articles about the panther platform the over arching theme could almost be “Booga booga, full size RWD V-8 car is gonna get ya!”

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I’ve always been amazed how fast the seats in the cop versions wear out. On eBay even with the sellers who specialize in cop cars the seats on the CV always have wear at the hinges in the back or the lumbar switch popping out. It doesn’t seem to matter if the have 80,000 miles or 200,000 miles the story is always the same. Fleet cop Impala’s on the other hand usually have interiors that hold up. I’ve never understood this.

  • avatar
    punkybrewstershubby aka Troy D.

    I have to agree with “wstarvingteacher”, YMMV.

    Last year, I purchased a 2011 Crown Vic with 34K on the clock. A former Hertz rental car from Chicago. A year later, its still has the original Michelin LX4’s and is perfect. Not a scratch.

    Sure it may wallow a little, but this 45 year old loves its Light Ice Blue paint. When I run E85 it runs like a rocket. (YMMV).

    Absolutely love it.

    My two young daughters (9 & 10 y/o) love it too!

    My wife. not so much.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    @28: Dammit 28, you’re a genius!

    Of course, if I’m buying a Panther, I’m buying an old box Panther and giving it a cop car look with minimal trim, no cloth/vinyl top, and black steelies with dog dishes.

    Listen all of y’all, it’s a sabotage!

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Not for a DD, remember I had a 5.0 Panther which gave me much facepalm. Like many old cars buy the owner… if you track a 5.0 down that has been routinely maintained, AOD replaced at least once, and driven regularly its a maybe but sense should prevail. Get $4K together and seek a MY00+ Panther, but be sure to drop off that Skylark in the 15210 area code when you’re done.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        Well I was going to use the money saved buying an old-ass Panther to try and find an ’03-up subframe to improve the handling and braking…but maybe just buying an entire ’03-up Panther would be a smarter idea.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Seriously toys/mods and other weird stuff come later, buy the most solid DD you can for the money.

          Computers are no different, in the Thinkpad community it was just announced a group in China is releasing a modern motherboard for the T4x series Thinkpad, price $130. So if you buy the board, new/used Core i5 intel processor and new DDR3 memory, you’ll spend about $300 give or take to have a modern laptop wrapped in a 2004/05 Thinkpad chassis. Thinkpad enthusiasts (like me) salivate over this, but you can also buy an 2009/10 R500 off ebay for as little as $74 with shipping AND a working battery, add $15 used hard drive later you have a similar spec’d machine for just under $100 (which I just sold to a customer for 2).

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Well if I can haggle this guy with an ’89 Caprice Classic Brougham down to like 1500 bucks, it’s gonna be mine. TBI 305 for easy starting, nice big engine bay to make repairs easy, it’s a car that’s common and has something of a following so parts won’t be too hard to find…

            Problem with the Skylark is that only the mechanicals are identical to other GM cars. The doors might be the same as Grand Am and Achieva doors, but the rest is Skylark specific so if I break, say, a tailight, I have to go hunt down a junkyard Skylark because GM probably doesn’t make stuff like that for their cars any more. Also the interior is unique so I can’t save it from its decomposition without finding another Skylark with the same interior.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Devil’s advocate… so you buy the B-body and while you dick with it over the winter the Skylark won’t pass inspection, You just blew your savings on buying the B-body and it still needs a few things to be “done”, so what say you on a solution?

          • 0 avatar
            Compaq Deskpro

            Thinkpads are the Panthers of laptops. Understyled, too big and heavy, extremely durable, and whiny consumers don’t like them, preferring to buy some rediculous gimmicky thing with a touchscreen that will completely fall apart in a year. Like Vics, they are designed strictly for work, and nothing else.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          Unless if you get a Panther for free they’re not really worth investing much money into outside of maintenance, you’ll be better off with that B-Body.

          Imo the box Panthers were sad cash-ins whipped up just to compete with GM’s B-Body line-up.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        I’d probably DD a box Panther. I would just keep one of my 3800s around for a backup. That’s what I did when I had my Diplomat (which was actually more reliable than my Bonneville).

        Then again, I’d rather have a box B-body overall.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          So would I. But I would want to be different and roll a ’84/85 LeSabre or a Parisienne.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Easy to DD it when you have a reliable backup be it a 318 Dippy or a 3800.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            My Buick passed inspection, its only current flaws are a high idle speed and a power steering fluid leak. But of course, there seems to be something wrong with the brakes because the stopping distance is poor and the car pulls to the right when I stop…

            At least if I had something that went fast and made awesome noises, I could easier rationalize fixing it on a regular basis!

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Always with the “driving fast”. Back in my day we had 86hp crap but dammit we made it go fast and we walked 18 miles to school through a snowstorm on a near daily basis.

          • 0 avatar
            Compaq Deskpro

            NoGoYo, probably a stuck caliper.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    @28: Fast doesn’t have to mean powerful, of course, a smallish car that doesn’t even make 200 hp can still be fast. And I made my ’87 Nova do 80 mph, but that probably killed the transmission…

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    “They tell stories about these cars. Endless stories about trivial opinions about old junkers…”

    Good grief this has to be the worst part of Panther ownership outside of the cars shortcomings, behold as I share a few random anonymous tales from carsurvey!

    “I bought a 2000 P-71, and it handles like a dream. The stiff suspension is a little rough at times (They’re working on fixing the roads here), but other than that, not a problem. Every Police officer in town knows me, and has commented that I got a great deal on this car…”

    “I have owned a 95 Towncar with the 4.6 V8. The car showed 267K miles when I sold it. It ran awesome and used a quart of oil in 3 months.

    I now own a 2000 CVPI with 140K miles that runs great. The engine knock could be worn timing chain guides. Could be a spark knock from the misfire.

    I drive mine everyday. I bought this car with 102k. I received complete service records since car was purchased new by a police department.”

    “Wow, my ’96 crown Victoria is a real tank, size and durability! I have over 350,000 kilometers (218,000 miles) on it and it takes little things (power window motors, my power steering pump recently went, transmission needs a rebuild, finally) If you can afford the gas in the beast, there a real keeper!”

    “I just bought a Crown Vic 2003 LX Sport Today. I am the third owner and I paid 10K for it. What do you think about the price?

    It is my first car and I always love CV.. They are awesome.”

    “Right on brother! I’m 21 and own a beautiful Victoria and I will NEVER sell it. You can see my review Under: 1998 Crown Victoria LX, it’s the one with 511 words. Enjoy your Panther!”

    “Hey there folks, Just bought a new 2006 Crown Vic and I love it, love it, love it, I traded in my 1998 Chevy Lumina for this car, my Lumina had only 78000mi on it, but was starting to reide rough. I took m…”

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    I like the Panther, but my two biggest problems were:

    1)Cramped back seat. For a car this large, the rear seat has about as much legroom as a Mustang. It should be like a limo back there.

    2) You look like you’re driving a taxi

    But I don’t think you can take away that the full size, RWD sedan is dead. The closest thing to a Panther is a 300C, and almost everyone would consider it a home run for Chrysler.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I’ve seriously considered a decent Town Car over the years but the more research I did the more sore I became, let me share what to expect with each “era” of these cars:

    Box: The best looking ones but the worst in terms of gas mileage and performance, they loose stability at 30mph, barely get 25 over the highway, have 5-digit odometers (yes even in the early 90’s), have poor acceleration (don’t even try a highway pass), and thanks to a $2 plastic part in the transmissions they often overheated at 90k miles. You can fix this issue with a $5 metal part from Ford, but its still an issue that shouldn’t be there.

    Phat: The most bearable of the bunch, handlings improved but still understeer-heavy, the 4.6 can be found in most of these for tolerable MPG but still poor overall performance, interiors vary with digital guages in some and analog in others. Styling isn’t half-bad save for the Vics lazy face-lifted grille.

    Whale: The stupidest of the bunch, unless if you get a fleet model you need to set aside some money for when the plastic intake manifold breaks at 115k, also that handling? Okay for the cops, but thanks to Fords awful bean-counting of the time a few critical components were cheapened out if not outright removed. So what you get is a car that can’t handle, is limited to just 115mph due to a cheap driveshaft, eats brakes, wears out on the inside quick, looks tackier the more “up market” you get it, rides worse, and in general is best suited for hobbyists and fleets.

    Oh I almost forgot, be ready to loose control of your “whale” at some point on the highway, thanks to Fords value of their budget over our health, the steering shaft can corrode and completely eliminate the cars steering.

    In short either get a cop car “whale” or pass up Panthers and get a decent B-Body, GM used cheaper materials for the cars bodies but they have better drivetrains and general design.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      @Ryoku

      Box T/C ended in MY89, MY90 was the Aero T/C and had a six digit odo.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Right, the first yea of my favorite “fat” Panthers, I always thought those TCs were just the right blend of classy boxy-ness and modern aero, though I can’t help but notice a few similarities with the Volvo 700’s of the time.

        Once ’92 hit a few 5.0 Frankenstein Panthers escaped with a 190hp 5.0 in them, once of these days I’ll have to try one of those to see if that 40hp boost helps the then 5.0’s lackluster top end.

  • avatar
    Panther Platform

    I’ve had a 97 Town Car, a 99 Vic, and currently have an 03 Grand Marquis LSE. My commuter car is a 2011 Focus which frankly is a very impressive car and is perfect for commuting. (Ironically it has a softer ride than the Mercury. The LSE is a Marauder-lite and handles surprisingly well). I drive the GM on weekends and trips. Let me tell you the GM is an absolute joy to drive. With its 239 HP and more aggressive gearing (vs. the regular GM) it will move and the car is very comfortable. To me a big rear wheel drive car with a lazy V-8 is the ultimate driving experience and totally old school.

  • avatar
    50merc

    Panthers are cheap? Not in central Oklahoma, unless you’re talking about CVPI’s that were used in Demolition Derbies. I’ve driven an unmarked PI that had non-cop interior. That was nice, but rarer than hen’s teeth. I’d like a clean ’03 MGM with under 150K miles, but they still go for close to $5K. It’d be cheaper to buy a Town Car, but I don’t want leather. Maybe I should shop in Atlanta.

  • avatar
    bikemobile

    I spent many cold night shifts in my 2010 CVPI. My car partner and I put 110,000 miles on it in 3 years. Lots of -20 degree morning callouts too. They were great cars. The charger has replaced it at my department. Faster, better brakes and better gas mileage but you still cant beat 10 hours in a vic. Cross country traveling car from the start.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    Well, the Grand Marquis was easily Ford’s most profitable car (not truck) for years, probably up to the time they discontinued it. Nothing they have now even comes close. No wonder you can’t sell them as used cars any more; they are trashed and respectable people don’t want them. That’s noteither a mystery nor a knock on the car. The things were rock solid, mechanically. That counts for a lot.

    That said, a couple of things: The Panther cars are horrible on snow. I don’t particularly attribute that to their RWD, but they are horrible on snow. They also have annoyingly wide turning radius. Much like a fairly large SUV. After the redesign their still commodious trunks were kind of weirdly shaped. You would have great difficulty in fitting three bodies in the trunk like the first gen. Youalso can’t fit a folded wheelchair back there like you could. An important issue for MGM buyers. I reject the canard that they get bad mileage. a MGM got only a mile or two less than a Taurus.

    So why all the puzzlement for the success? A significant number of people in the sunbelt see no need for an SUV. Is that unreasonable? Enthusiasts complain about the handling, but compared to what? A Chevy Tahoe? It will hang with say, a VW Toureg any day. What is the modern alternative to a Panther? A minivan, but those have s stigma for younger buyers, and another less-known stigma for older drivers (Next stop: A Hummaround).

    I think they still hold some appeal for the head-bangers. After a sale of a fleet of black and whites, one guy carefully repainted the shield on the side to a yin and yang symbol. Very cool.

    • 0 avatar
      chicagoland

      Lots of elderly people these days drive FWD sedans or Crossovers. The G Marquis glory days were 18 years ago.

      Example: Local older guy traded in his 1998-ish Marq for a brand new Fusion SE. Looks like Ford kept some “loyal” customers after all.

      Has anyone ever shown proof of how much profit the car did? By 2008, they were fleet queens, new Marquis with bar codes, were seen all over Maui on a vacation then. Loyalists don’t see the forest for the trees.

      • 0 avatar
        Panther Platform

        As a loyalist I agree that the Panther glory days are long over and actually agree with some of the typical Panther criticism. Nevertheless I intend to have at least one the rest of my life, although it won’t be my only car. With humans emotion often trumps logic, but you are probably thinking how can you be positively emotional about a Panther! :)

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    History Channel show “God, Guns and Automobiles”, it’s about a small town family run dealership. One episode they had trade ins to “get rid of”, and their wholesaler said of a 97 Town Car, “We can’t sell these old style cars”. So, even with low income buyers, Panthers are out of style.

    The dealership on TV ended up having a demo derby. But don’t fret Panther Mafia, they also trashed a 2000 Taurus and 98 Grand Am.

    Panthers are passe’, even in the ‘working class’ areas.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    The modern day Panther is the F-150 Super Crew. It does everything the Panther did, but better in every way. From creature comforts, huge leg room, truck like ride, big motor up front and rear drive out back.

    Drive a Panther then an F-150 back to back. You’ll see exactly what I mean.

  • avatar
    Pebble

    Out of style: don’t care. Tech outdated: not an issue for me. Abundant and cheap: Yes. Panther is still your best value for cheap driving. If I had the $ and a garage to store them in, I’d collect half a dozen Police Interceptor CVs, mid-90s Town Cars and Grand Marqs and keep them around to always have one at hand. Take that, Camry! *raspberry*

  • avatar
    taxicab

    I get very good deals on them. Plus they are easy to repair. I have sold a lot of them that then become taxis. I hate the seats my back can take no more than a half an hour before the pain starts. I hate when I forget my special Pillow that I have for the just driving them.


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