By on July 7, 2017

1999 Mercury Grand Marquis, Image: Autoblog

TTAC commentator lilpoindexter writes:

Sanjeev (ha-ha),

I am in quite a pickle. I just got my fat tax return and I want to get SOMETHING. I suggested an OG Toyota Sienna to the wife so we could take our bikes out and go bike riding. However, like most women, she wasn’t too excited about a 14-year-old minivan sharing the driveway. So, I was thinking to hell with it — let me get something I want!

One of the cars on my radar is the Mercury Grand Marquis. I understand the (circa) 2004 and newer models are the ones to get because of the upgraded front suspension. The thing is, I think their flat positive offset wheel are ugly AF. I am most interested in the 1998-2003 Marquis with the deep mesh wheels that look like 80’s BBS wheels. It seems like the BBS wheel Marquis almost always came with dual exhaust, digital dash, and automatic HVAC controls.

Is the newer panther really THAT much better than the older one with the beautiful mesh wheels? I can’t get too excited about the little 4.6-liter engine but, with some flowmasters on it, I think it would at least provide a nice soundtrack.

Talk me off the ledge, or kick me harder off it…

Sajeev answers:

Oh yes!  Nothing gets the blood flowing like an American sedan with proper overhangs atop factory-installed, deep-dish lace wheels.

The 2003-2011 models (not 2004) perform better, if that’s what you really want.  The hydroformed front, aluminum suspension bits and modest geometry enhancements were a step up, but it’s still a solid axle beast that makes its presence known at every bumpy turn, especially when equipped with those low(er) profile 17-inch tires. And yes, the 2001 (or 2002?) models got the Mustang’s PI heads, which really wake up with basic modifications (computer tune, remove intake tube restrictions, crush-bend free exhaust, etc.) with little sacrifices in low-end torque — ask me how I know — but to what end?

The last Panther rolled off the line six years ago; they are all performance relics in a world of 260-plus horsepower family sedans with turbocharged engines and six-speed gearboxes. Making a Panther go impressively fast isn’t difficult, but I don’t see you spending tens of thousands to make that happen.

So get that MGM with those wheels (part of a desirable handling package) in an example with the cleanest interior and be happy! My ideal Panther is a 1995 Town Car Cartier with a moonroof and those ivory leather Cartier thrones in mint condition. I totally get it!

[Image: Ford Motor Company]

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33 Comments on “Piston Slap: Deep Dish Panther Love?...”


  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    ALot of guys on this site hate when you talk about Panther platforms however I like it alot. Its a break from the real world..lol

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I don’t get the appeal of a vehicle with the feel and MPG of my old Ford Ranger, with less rear legroom than my old Prius. And let’s not forget that Jack found his to be far less crashworthy than the Hyundai he collided with.

      Let’s not pretend that the Panther is anything other than obsolete.

      Panther Love is perfectly respectable, in the same way being obsessed with any other antique car design is respectable.

      But, if you want good daily transportation, a more modern design would be a better choice.

  • avatar
    RoysRoyce

    I share this man’s obsession with these wheels. First, a bit about my car.

    My car is a 2001 Mercury Grand Marquis LS. It has door panels from an 02 HPP (High Performance Package) Crown Victoria, front and rear seating from an 05 Town Car L (with rear seat Executive Amenities Package) and wheels from a 1998-1999 Crown Victoria HPP. The earlier HPP wheels can be identified by the polished chrome lip. They were forged in Italy by a company called Speedline. Sometime in 2000, they switched to BBS wheels with an unpolished lip.

    I spent months searching. Dodge Charger wheels will fit and there are many aftermarket replacements, but undaunted, I kept looking.

    One day during my rounds of the local junkyards, I saw it. A baby blue HPP with all 4 wheels. A seized lugnut would require several hours to free, but we got the wheels off and home for cleaning. I paid $120 for all 4, including decent tires. I was able to find a single 5th wheel for my spare several weeks later. I wrapped them in 225/65/16 Hanhook Optimo H727 tires.

    This brings me to my next point. These wheels get so heckin’ dirty, it’s ridiculous. Expect to become very knowledgable on brake-dust removal (big fan of Sonax Full Effect or Chemical Bros Diablo Wheel Gel and a nice Mothers brush). To really make them pop, expect to spend several hours with a microfiber, a small screwdriver and some wheel polish. The bends in the mesh are too small to truly finish by hand. It’s tedious but ultimately rewarding work.

    The funny thing; these wheels will most likely fit that Toyota van he wants, as huge numbers of Toyota share the 5×114 bolt pattern.

    Just seeing this post reignited the flame inside my soul for these wheels. I am a huge Panther enthusiast and I wouldn’t put anything else on my car.

    Side note: the newer PI engines can be identified by their having the oil intake cap on the passengers side. My engine has an October 2000 production date and is unfortunately the earlier variant, despite being a 2001 model-year. Okay autism over and out.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    I drove a 2001 Marquis LS for a few years. No it wasn’t fast, but it was a good highway eater. Handling was better than my previous car, a 1994 Roadmaster with the towing packaging. The Roadmaster’s LT1 was a lot more powerful for sure, road softer, and had an 1970s cop show “attitude” that I preferred over the Marquis.

    The MGM was actually fun to drive – but, as I said to others at the time: Imagine the performance of a 4-cyl Camry with the gas mileage of a Mustang.

  • avatar
    notapreppie

    Why not simply get the newer Panther and lace up the old Panther wheels? Or, if they won’t fit, head on over to the Tire Rack or Discount Tire Direct and get a reasonable facsimile.

  • avatar
    S197GT

    i have daily driven a 1996, 1999, 2007, and 2011.

    All drove the same, more or less, to me.

    Quick enough unladen, slow when weighed down, but supremely comfortable, at least in the front seats.

    I’d be most concerned with finding one with a functional LSD if you live somewhere with four seasons.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      LSD yea, in an icey road it saved me more than a few times.

      I do agree on you with the years, I’d worry more about shape and options myself. Just avoid any troublesome years.

  • avatar
    cramerica

    I had a 2005 Marquis LS Ultimate Edition, digital dash, leather, air ride rear suspension, Stainless Works true crossover dual exhaust

    2003+ have superior frame and suspension as mentioned.

    They also have ‘crisper’ shifting transmissions as years go on, and from 2008 or so Ford went to the stronger 4R75. I still dropped the pan in mine, drilled out the separator plate and removed a couple springs as per instructions online to get a good 1-2 kick, rather than the smeary, clutch pack destroying stock settings. If the clutches are in good shape, determined by particle levels in the pan, the consensus is that the modified 4R7x will outlast the stock one. 03+ Panthers also have built-in transmission coolers.

    And don’t fear the Air Ride, mine never let me down and it’s simply the best for towing or full-trunk loading.

    I’d be curious if you can find a newer Marquis other than 2.73 gears, mine was a dog off the line but got about 27 MPG at 70MPH.

    And the electronic traction control is infuriating and useless, for snow I put 300 LB of sand in the trunk and mounted Winterforces on the stock rims.

  • avatar
    427Cobra

    I daily drive an ’08 Mercury Grand Marquis. I find the front seats the LEAST comfortable thing about my MGM. The seat bottoms are too long & too flat… which aggravates the HELL out of my sciatica on any drive over an hour. Short legs don’t help none either. The “aeros” seemed to have a nicer interior than the “whales”, and the de-contenting of the later models is pretty obvious. My ’08, only has 31k miles on it… a sentimental purchase… it was my grandfather’s final car, and I bought it from the estate after my grandmother passed 6 months after him.

    First thing I did was get rid of the 16″ doughnuts. I picked up a set of 18″ Pony Package polished wheels & tires off of a 2014 Mustang on Craigslist for $500. It firmed up the ride quite a bit… and the 18s reduce the visual “weight” of the car… they look like they were made for it. Next up is struts/shocks and dual exhaust conversion from the police interceptor. Have read that the police shocks with the stock springs are a great combo for ride/handling.

    A few cars earlier, my grandfather had one of the aeros with the handling & performance package (and BBS-style wheels)… and I believe it was his favorite. I just wish his last car would’ve been a Marauder!

    • 0 avatar
      cramerica

      Yes forgot about springs! I had a custom set made to the Police spring rates with a 1″ drop (never installed…the front shocks didn’t wear out before I sold it). The great thing about Air Ride is that dropping the rear just requires you to adjust the stops on the position sensor.

      What did the Aero interiors have that the Whales didn’t? Mine had automatic climate control, cruise, power seats, tilt column. Even had a middle seat hip belt for the split front bench.

      • 0 avatar
        427Cobra

        I think the leather quality was better in the Aeros… and the seats were contoured a bit better. Later models (whales) reportedly have less insulation in the door panels & sound “tinny” when you shut the doors.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Those seats are made for slouching. I like them, but I don’t have a sciatic problem.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Yes, the ride and handling on the ’03+ cars is noticeably better, but it’s not a track burner. The ride and handling package on the ’02 back is what you’re looking for and it’ll be adequate for what you’re gonna do with it. When you’re shopping, just make sure the one you buy has the aluminum coolant crossover on the intake manifold rather than the plastic one. There was a warranty extension on this part, but there’s probably still some out there.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      “’08 Mercury Grand Marquis. I find the front seats the LEAST comfortable thing about my MGM. The seat bottoms are too long & too flat… which aggravates the HELL out of my sciatica on any drive over an hour. ”

      This! A thousand times this.

      People couldn’t understand why my parents 08 MGM was so bad for me, oh it rides so nice and it has lounge chair seats. No, it rides like a boat on choppy waters and the seats are midevil torture thrones combined with an intrusive driveshaft tunnel that limits where you can rest your feet, and therefore your legs.

      I’ll take an extra wide console over horrible seats, no foot/leg room and transocean container ship driving experience.

      The acceleration of the 3.5L Taurus that replaced it is far better than the MGM, and it gets high 20s-30s mpg. The lowest average I’ve seen the display read is 25.2 MPG, the *highest* average I ever saw the MGM read was 22.8 (unless you reset it while already doing 70 down hill so it reads 44 avg for a bit, lol), this was what they read after weeks or months of letting it gather data for the average.

      When their Taurus is on a road trip, the average climbs above 30 and its fun to see just how high it’ll get before we hit the mountains out west. Again, the trip taken out there in the MGM was about 22, tops.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Yes, the handling on the ’03+ cars is noticeably better, but it’s not a track burner. The ride and handling package on the ’02 back is what you’re looking for and it’ll be adequate for what you’re gonna do with it. When you’re shopping, just make sure the one you buy has the aluminum coolant crossover on the intake manifold rather than the plastic one. There was a warranty extension on this part, but there’s probably still some out there.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I’m not big in the later flat wheels myself, but it’s a worthy trade off for a nicer frame and a much easier to access starter.

    No matter which Panther you get handling will be a bit clumsy, fun if crude.

    I grabbed an 01 model myself, later years had issues with the rack and pinion steering rusting, not big on electric throttle control either,

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Weren’t the mesh wheels actually made by BBS? I seem to remember reading that. And in the early days of the aero Panther, they sold a version called the Touring Sedan that wore the mesh wheels, and had Touring Sedan emblems on the front fender, behind the wheel opening. Also lots of performance goodies.

    Google search: Hey, there was even an article about it here, back in 2010:

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/09/1992-crown-victoria-touring-sedan-p75-the-one-and-only-panther-truly-deserving-appreciation/

    I’ve seen a few of them in the wild, but that was way back (when they were still fairly new). I used to see a maroon one pretty regularly near where I lived at the time.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    This that 427Cobra wrote:
    “I find the front seats the LEAST comfortable thing about my MGM. The seat bottoms are too long and too flat… which aggravates the HELL out of my sciatica on any drive over an hour. Short legs don’t help none either. The “aeros” seemed to have a nicer interior than the “whales”, and the de-contenting of the later models is pretty obvious.”

    …is very true. My father had a succession of MGM company cars since around 1990 until he retired in 2008. He kept his last one, a 2008 Ultimate, and in 2011 purchased a Chrysler 300. He and I like both cars, but we find the 300 to be the superior one, especially when it comes to long-term driving comfort. My main peeve with the MGM is the lack of a left footrest. It drives me nuts whenever I drive that car. But on the other hand, my father says he doesn’t even notice it, so it may just be me.

  • avatar
    johnds

    I would buy a 2011 model. I have always had pretty good luck with last model year cars because they have figured out most of the design kinks, and it’s cool to say you have one of the last ones ever produced.

    • 0 avatar
      2012JKU

      2011 was fleet and government only. Most of those cars would have had a hard life.

      • 0 avatar
        RoysRoyce

        There are still tons of late-model year MGMs out there. I’ve heard anecdotally that the tooling became increasingly worn out in the later model years. The 2004s are generally considered to be the most reliable model year, with the least amount of decontenting. They were progressively decontented with starting with the 1998 redesign. You can see it in the interior details, materials and elsewhere. I personally prefer the 1998-02s CV LX Sport or MGM LSE.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          yes. the last Grand Marquis I was in was a 2011MY rental. one look at any of the plastic trim pieces made it obvious they got their money’s worth and more from the tooling.

  • avatar
    JEFFSHADOW

    In August of 2010 my dealership took a deep maroon 2006 MGM in trade for a used SRT8 Magnum. The Mercury had only 27,000 miles and had been a rental up to 16,000 miles.
    The wife did not want the car anymore because she said she saw her dead father’s ghost in the rearview mirror while she was driving.
    So I got an employee deal of cost plus $600 ($10,600) and added the POLICE INTERCEPTOR badge to the left rear. I had to purchase the entire “Grand Marquis LS” script because the “L” was missing. So I turned it into a Mercury Grand Marquis SS!
    After three years I traded it in (with 54,000 miles) for $10,000 towards my next Buick Lucerne Super/Wildcat conversion.
    Since the car had been certified by the Ford/Mercury dealer that originally sold it, the warranty package stayed with the car during my ownership. I had the $1,200 AC dash system replaced for a $100 deductible.
    Overall a GREAT car and it was fun cruising with other police cars. People thought our car was driven by a detective. The best thrill was scaring lowlifes in their speeding HermaphroHondas and ToyBoyotas. Once they saw the shape of the MGM in their Chinese mirrors, they would slow down and drive safely for a while. The idiot speeders would turn off their lights while they tried to escape but were too stupid to realize their brake lights lit up when they slowed.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      I love me some good ol’ American MGM, but you do realize that some of the most “non-Chinese” cars on our roads come from Toyota and Honda. And they have some of the highest American-made content of any vehicle on the road.

      But yeah, I have loved when I wound up with a MGM or Crown Vic as a rental back in the day. Watching other drivers react was usually priceless.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    I share some of the writers obsession with panthers although I have managed to abstain. My last were two brick LTCs. I found the cars to be comfortable and versatile. I even did moonlight jobs with a small trailer (rolling toolbox) hooked on behind but that was another life. It wasn’t as good a work car as my 77 Impala wagon but it did ok. Almost 4 years ago I needed to change cars and the panther was on the list. The faults like the plastic manifold that leaked coolant and the cures were all well known. I knew they had the power to pull a small camper trailer or a work trailer for my small farm, but living in the country made me wish for 4wd as well. That was an itch the panther couldn’t scratch.

    This situation screams for making a selection based on appearance, getting rid of any known problem spots, and driving a long time. They are still common but not too long before they will be the rare. That’s when it become enjoyable.

  • avatar
    Panther Platform

    I still have my 2003 Grand Marquis LSE. The August 2017 issue of the magazine Collectible Automobile featured it in the “Cheap Wheels” section. They stated “No MGM was an excitement machine, but it was unapologetically big and comfortable While the LSE equipment doesn’t sound terribly compelling on the surface, everything it adds improves this basically capable car.” I agree. They also note that it just a “used car” and has little value. So true but I like mine!


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