The Truth About Cars » panther love http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 04 Jul 2015 15:51:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » panther love http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Piston Slap: Panther Love Crashes a Monsoon Wedding? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-panther-love-crashes-monsoon-wedding/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-panther-love-crashes-monsoon-wedding/#comments Wed, 13 May 2015 12:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1066258   TTAC Commentator thirty-three writes: Hi Sajeev, Not sure if this fits into your usual line of questions, but I’m looking for suggestions on renting a car for my upcoming wedding. My problem is that here in Vancouver, BC, I can’t find anyone who rents premium vehicles like a Benz or a Jaguar. Really expensive […]

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True Love = Panther Love (photo courtesy: detroitweddinglimo.com):

TTAC Commentator thirty-three writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Not sure if this fits into your usual line of questions, but I’m looking for suggestions on renting a car for my upcoming wedding. My problem is that here in Vancouver, BC, I can’t find anyone who rents premium vehicles like a Benz or a Jaguar.

Really expensive cars are available (e.g. Ferraris, Maseratis), but I just want a luxury sedan that will seat 5 comfortably. I only need it for one of the five days. Yes, it is an Indian wedding.

Thanks!

Sajeev answers:

Are you sure about that?

But here’s the real question: why can’t I be okay with renting a limo like every other wedding?

What makes your wedding so special?

Well for starters, it’s your wedding. And many Indian communities (especially in wealthy cities with large Indian populations) demand a big deal from their ceremonies. It’s an obligation to friends, family and the community. Special events, top drawer venues, open bars everywhere, international guests, 1000+ attendees for the reception, etc. So wanting a nice car, especially when making a show for family members that care about such things, isn’t really a big deal…right?

WRONG SON: I demand you rent a Lincoln Town Car limo.

How dare you consider true love sans riding in Panther Love?

Even more off-topic: I do not understand the cash sucking, humility negating one-upmanship present in many weddings, especially those of my people. I’m (admittedly) a horrible Indian when it comes to ceremonies, but I digress…your problem has two easy solutions:

  1. Buy a used “premium vehicle” and sell it in 2-3 months. That shows far more commitment to our ceremonies, too! Why, you could have one of those 2+ week ceremonies with the keys to a premium machine in your pocket!
  2. Embrace Panther Love and rent a Town Car Limo. Or an Escalade/Navigator limo if all else fails. Just don’t let me catch you in some abomination like an MKT: Vishnu (or whatever religion applies here) would like, totally, disapprove!

The perpetually single guy demands you rent a Limo, hopefully with white wheels. Off to you, Best and Brightest!

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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Piston Slap: E39 Perfection or Unloved Lockstep Leasing? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-e39-perfection-unloved-lockstep-leasing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-e39-perfection-unloved-lockstep-leasing/#comments Mon, 11 May 2015 13:00:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1065546   TTAC commentator nutbags writes: Hi Sajeev, I have been a long time reader and occasional commenter and thought I might write in for once. How many other readers have experienced this? I know you have Panther love in your system for many good reasons. Have you experienced this? Does this detract from the love? Now […]

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coloribus.com

Except Invincibility! (photo courtesy: coloribus.com)

TTAC commentator nutbags writes:

Hi Sajeev,
I have been a long time reader and occasional commenter and thought I might write in for once. How many other readers have experienced this? I know you have Panther love in your system for many good reasons. Have you experienced this? Does this detract from the love?

Now for the real question: I am a middle-aged guy with a wife and two teenaged kids. Recently the owner of my company, who knows my love of most things automotive and has been paying my auto lease (provided I keep the payment below about $350/month) for about 18 years, gave me a proposition.

He stated that I could lease another new vehicle with the same dollar limit or buy a used vehicle with a limit of about $15,000. The one catch is the used car has to last about 5 years and be my daily driver; I’m not sure why but that is his stipulation. My leases during this time have been some decent rides (’00 Passat 1.8T 5MT, ’03 Accord SE-L 5MT, ’06 Accord V6 6MT, and currently ’12 GLI 6MT) but now it is time for my next vehicle.

The only used car that really interests me is the E39 BMW 5-series. Decent ones seem well within the budget, but would this car make it the 5 years without a huge outlay of cash to keep it running? Or should I just stick to leasing new? New considerations are: GTI, GLI, Focus ST, Mazda3 (5-door), or Mazda6. All can be had with a manual transmission and all have received good reviews. So what are your thoughts, B&B?

Thanks and keep up the great work,
Nutbags

Sajeev answers:

First question: That link refers to the 3V motors, which were never installed in Panthers due to Ford’s insistence on letting this platform rot in neglect. I changed spark plugs on 2V 4.6’s that supposedly strip out their threads, but I didn’t screw them up. My trusted, local wrench agrees, suggesting the motors were “unforgiving to sloppy labor” instead of being a guaranteed fail. I’m changing the plugs in my father’s 2006 Town Car this week, so I’ll report back if I screw it up this time.

Second: you got some nerve to even consider an E39 as a daily for the next 5 years. Job security and any needy 15-ish year old premium car is a contradiction, considering repair costs, service complexity and availability of E39 parts. Because this isn’t even a 2000 Lexus ES, much less a new one.

Granted the E39 (M5 or 540i 6-spd Sport Package) is one of the few sedans from the last 20 years I’d love to own AND look respectable; mostly because a used Panther won’t pass muster with friends, co-workers/customers and random judgmental onlookers. Well, except for the Mercury Marauder.

Whatever: start test driving the future leased vehicle of your dreams. I reckon you’ll get either the GLI or the Mazda6.

They are E39-ish. They will do. Go have fun!

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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Piston Slap: Taking Control of Torque Steer? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/piston-slap-taking-control-torque-steer/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/piston-slap-taking-control-torque-steer/#comments Thu, 12 Feb 2015 14:35:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=997450   M.D.K. writes: Good Afternoon.  This will be my third query to this column, the first being an ill advised plan to put my wife in an old Mercedes hatched in an Afghan Bunker, the Second being for our Afghan Trailblazer that wouldn’t run.  The Benz never materialized (thankfully) and the Trailblazer was made to […]

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big_thumb_45a2698e12f92aa1b49a014e96ffa06b

A-Cord-ing to Dr. Olds… (photo courtesy: www.wallpaperup.com)

M.D.K. writes:

Good Afternoon.  This will be my third query to this column, the first being an ill advised plan to put my wife in an old Mercedes hatched in an Afghan Bunker, the Second being for our Afghan Trailblazer that wouldn’t run.  The Benz never materialized (thankfully) and the Trailblazer was made to run reasonably well with a fuel filter and removal of the clogged catalytic converter (The EPA man wasn’t coming to Bagram).  Sadly about a week after we got the Trailblazer running they collected it in an effort to go to an all diesel fleet.  It was replaced with a TaTa pickup.

This actually pertains to a vehicle in my own fleet, my wife appliance grade 2007 Hyundai Tucson. 

It is a 2WD 2.0 4 cylinder automatic that has begrudgingly earned my respect for the fact that it has gone about its 94,000+ miles with the timing belt and seized tie rods courtesy of upstate NY winters being its only dealer trips.  Tires, Oil, Gas, and brake pads are it otherwise.

My issue now is that it exhibits torque steer like crazy.  Doesn’t seem to be an alignment issue as I just had it done (hence the new tie rods) and it is straight so long as your foot stays off the gas.  But press the gas, even at highway speed and it tries to turn right.

My research seems to point to the lower control arm bushings as the culprit.  I have no suspension clunks or anything though.  The motor mounts also look good and the tires are of the correct size.  The struts were done a year as well.  I know FWD vehicles will exhibit some torque steer but I have had this vehicle since new and this is abnormal.

My plan would be replacement lower control arms since there is some rust on them anyway but I want to make sure I’m not missing something else here.  The car is paid for and has no other issues so I’d like to figure this out.  We generally take it on our long trips so the constant tug on the steering is annoying.   Just want to make sure I am not missing anything.

Sajeev answers:

Thank you for writing again, I do love my repeat customers!

Since you replaced the tie rods, the torque steer’s source is either a control arm bushing or a ball joint. Or maybe both?  No matter, if one side is bad then the other is ready to fail.  Whatever failed, replace it in pairs.

Wow, that ended pretty abruptly.

(crickets)

Bonus!  A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

Always remember that suspension parts go bad with time, but modern cars have it worse for a few reasons. Take the increasingly horrible condition of roads in this country. And oversized wheels with rubber band thin sidewalls: offering no cushioning effect on our (increasingly horrible) roads.

And maybe it’s my family’s two Mercedes products that ate lower control arms with less than 30k on the clock, or my friends with control arm consuming BMW and VAG products from the last decade, or the numerous related Piston Slaps (here, here, for starters)…but suspensions don’t last like they did 20-ish years ago. 

And while suspension lube service intervals must remain in the bad old days of wide whitewalls and “separate but equal” segregation, one must never forget: 

Click here to view the embedded video.

What’s that?  You say video game Panther Love shall never prove my point? 

Well excuuuuuuuse me!

 

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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Piston Slap: Doesn’t Panther Love do Everything? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/piston-slap-doesnt-panther-love-everything/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/piston-slap-doesnt-panther-love-everything/#comments Wed, 04 Feb 2015 13:44:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=993298 Max writes: Sajeev, After following your and TTAC’s collective wisdom regarding Panthers, I have enjoyed four and a half years of somewhat trouble-free $1000 police-auction 2001 Crown Victoria ownership. The Crown Vic is a wonderful first car and I love it dearly, despite – or maybe especially – because it taught me a lot about […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

Max writes:

Sajeev,
After following your and TTAC’s collective wisdom regarding Panthers, I have enjoyed four and a half years of somewhat trouble-free $1000 police-auction 2001 Crown Victoria ownership. The Crown Vic is a wonderful first car and I love it dearly, despite – or maybe especially – because it taught me a lot about the finer points of its drive train, front end etc. as I eventually ended up parking-lot and shade-tree repairing or replacing just about every major component other than the exhaust and transmission. However, it might now be time to look into a successor for my trusty ride.

More specifically, I am looking for a vehicle around $5500 or so that 1). Is generally known to be reliable and have low operating expenses, 2). Gets good highway mileage (let’s set the baseline at upper teens) and is comfortable to drive cross-country – my job periodically entails eating up a lot of miles on the road- 3). Has a four wheel drive or is otherwise off road capable– I need to drive up poorly-maintained remote service roads for work – 4). can tow a small camper cross-country, or a livestock or horse trailer ( for low-speed short-haul work), and can stand up to general farmwork – haul or tow a couple dozen bales of hay or more, manure, rolls of fencing, chickens, calves, half a cord of wood, etc. Ease-of repair and cheap parts are a plus. 5). Is comfortable to sleep in, if need be- also a work possibility- and 6). Front bench seat, and stick shift are preferred.

Even though a pickup might be a good fit, I’m trying to stay open-minded and would appreciate any advice: I am not stuck on any one brand or type of vehicle.

Or maybe I could listen to Sanjeev’s advice and go Mad-Maxize the Crown Vic with a 6″ lift and self-leveling kit, transmission intercooler, towing package, 30” offroad tires and roll cage and keep it forever – what’re your two cents?

Thanks for all of your advice over the years!

Sajeev answers:

Thank you for reading all these years. It’s both exciting and horrifying to hear you’ve taken my our advice to heart!

That said, what kind of Lover considers open-mindedness regarding Panther Love? You, as a Crown Victoria owner, are a stubborn traditionalist with a nearly xenophobic reaction to non body-on-frame platforms.  You remain as “unmodified” as the Panther since 1979: toe the autojourno’s line!

Let’s be serious: anyone needing something for “general farmwork” with a career driving on rural roads needs a body-on-frame vehicle to handle the beating and the towing.  Keyword: Towing.  The truck is almost mandatory, but $5500 makes it hard to get one that isn’t beat to shit, packed with a ton of miles or well over a decade old. Good thing you can get your hands dirty, vehicles at this price need something. Always.

What’s the right move?  Get the cleanest, most well maintained V6 Toyota Tacoma, Chevy S-10/Colorado or Ford Ranger in your price ranger (oops). Good luck finding one with a stick, or lose efficiency and get a full sizer (small V8, automatic) from any of the Big Three for the same price.

The full-size is ideal since you might sleep in there: I slept in my Ranger once, next time I’ll splurge for a hotel.

Click here to view the embedded video.

BUT…there’s nothing like taking a nap in the back of Panther Love. Maybe these YouTube videos are right: stick with your current Crown Vic until you can afford a newer truck with all the things you need (for safe and reliable transport to work) and want (for your hobbies, farm duties, etc).

 

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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Piston Slap: A Primer on Wheel Offset and Backspacing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/piston-slap-primer-wheel-offset-backspacing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/piston-slap-primer-wheel-offset-backspacing/#comments Mon, 19 Jan 2015 13:26:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=984898   Long-time TTAC Commentator 86er writes: Hi Sajeev, Could Piston Slap furnish me with a be-all/end-all explanation about wheel offsets? The more I try to read up on it on the web, the more confused I get. I’m pretty clear that RWD (at least traditionally) went with the low-offset while the FWD revolution made high […]

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Yum. (photo courtesy: www.crownvic.net)

 

Long-time TTAC Commentator 86er writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Could Piston Slap furnish me with a be-all/end-all explanation about wheel offsets? The more I try to read up on it on the web, the more confused I get. I’m pretty clear that RWD (at least traditionally) went with the low-offset while the FWD revolution made high positive offsets the industry standard, at least in passenger cars.

A few years back, I had purchased a set of winter tires on rims for my trusty ol’ 92 Vic and later after research found out that the rims were medium-offset that went on a 4×4 Ranger of similar years. I’ve heard that putting on a different-offset wheel can hurt steering/suspension parts like ball joints, but I’ve never seen it in black-and-white, so to speak.

Sajeev answers:

Let’s cover the basics of both wheel offset and backspacing: offset is the location of the mounting hub in relation to the center of the wheel’s barrel.  This mounting hub goes to flat surface where car’s suspension holds the wheel (i.e. the hub on the spindle).

http://www.fastcar.co.uk/

Image Courtesy: www.fastcar.co.uk

 

A positive offset pushes the wheel’s hub away from center, closer to the outside of the car. Negative offset is the opposite: sucking the wheel’s hub closer to the inside of the car. Zero offset means it’s smack dab in the center.

I question if the traditional FWD/RWD offset difference still holds water.  While FWD wheels often have a more positive offset than their RWD counterparts, all (most?) modern vehicles have flat faced wheels (for aerodynamics and countless suspension needs?) stemming from a more positive offset wheel. Need proof? Look at your own platform: peep the redesigned front clip and the mandated wheel redesign of the 2003+ Crown Vic.

CrownVicFrontSusp05_06_edited

(photo courtesy: http://www.ridetech.com)

Oh wait, the Crown Vic barely changed at all from 1979 to 2011.  It was such an antiquated pile: must remember to toe the autojourno line, never speak of Panther Love! But I digress…

In theory you should keep a close-to-factory offset to optimize steering geometry and wheel bearing health.  In practice, it might not matter: especially for a set of winter tires. You probably can’t drive aggressive/fast enough to care.  Probably…

There’s also the matter of torque steer on FWD machines, mostly for those with unequal length half-shafts. But most modern vehicles use equal length shafts?  (Have at that, B&B!)

You also need to consider backspacing. This ensures the width and offset of wheel you chose will clear your body or suspension, especially on cars with strut suspensions.  Instead of my usual ramble, I think this video really nails it.

Click here to view the embedded video.

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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Piston Slap: Take My (Suspension) Abuse And Like It? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/piston-slap-take-suspension-abuse-like/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/piston-slap-take-suspension-abuse-like/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 12:58:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=949833   Sam writes: Hello, I have a 2006 Mazda 3 S with 120,000 miles on it. I live in Oakland Ca, where the pot holes shoot back. I blew out a front strut a last year and had both front struts replaced. After replacement, one of the struts squeaks like a rusty spring at slow […]

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Or not? (photo courtesy: www.mazda3forums.com)

Sam writes:

Hello,

I have a 2006 Mazda 3 S with 120,000 miles on it. I live in Oakland Ca, where the pot holes shoot back. I blew out a front strut a last year and had both front struts replaced. After replacement, one of the struts squeaks like a rusty spring at slow speeds and is annoying. What is actually driving me crazy is a week ago the other front strut started making loud thunking under acceleration at slow speeds.

My mechanic, whom is one of the good ones, replaced both front shock mounts, assuming this would fix the problem. It didn’t, but one of them was all shredded. Now, I feel like I’m going down the rabbit hole, there are engine mounts and sway bar bushings that can be replaced, but this shouldn’t be so complicated.

My car is supposed to take my abuse and like it.

Sajeev answers:

Excuse me Son, but when in the history of Autoblogging did a (non-Ranger based) high mileage Mazda ever take suspension abuse? Have you not listened to my screeds re: Panther Love?

Stupidity aside, engine mounts are kinda easy to check and it’s likely your problem, as discussed before.  And sway bar bushings are cheap and usually easy to swap. This car is an 8-ish year old non-Panther with over 100k on the clock. Aside from big things like engines/transmissions/etc, be cool with any wear item failing at this point. It won’t happen often, but being “cool with it” is the right state of mind at this age.

Your mechanic is probably doing the right thing.  Problem is, cars aren’t built like they used to.

Bonus! A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

Not built like they used to? Damn right!  No more tune ups before 100k, engines are that good.  Suspensions don’t need regular lubrication, though DIY-ers wouldn’t mind a greasable zerk fitting renaissance. Read the owner’s manual?  Only if I can’t get the dash to talk to my smarty-phone or adjust the clock for daylight savings time.

How does this prove my original point?

Cars are now so good that we set ’em and forget ’em.  Even with tighter suspensions, higher revving engines, loads of fragile(ish) electronics and idiotically thin tires, a modern car with over 100k will be in better shape than one from 25+ years ago. Especially when applying the same amount of maintenance. Hell, good luck getting that older car to even run past 100k with a modern car’s servicing regiment. 

 

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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Piston Slap: The Looooooong Cult of Panther Love? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/cult-of-panther-love/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/cult-of-panther-love/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 13:48:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=948985   TTAC Commentator Nick 2012 writes: Archangel of the Panther Platform – A nice looking 2005 LWB Lincoln Town Car with only 107,000mi popped up for sale at a nearby dealer with a what-I-hope-to-be-optimistic $8,000 asking price. As any follower of the good book of fat Panther Love(tm), I keep my eye out for a […]

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Because SedanLimo. (photo courtesy: forums.vwvortex.com)

TTAC Commentator Nick 2012 writes:

Archangel of the Panther Platform –

A nice looking 2005 LWB Lincoln Town Car with only 107,000mi popped up for sale at a nearby dealer with a what-I-hope-to-be-optimistic $8,000 asking price. As any follower of the good book of fat Panther Love(tm), I keep my eye out for a good one on the local boards.

I took a new position a while back that has me commuting about 65mi a day – about 90% interstate. Going from my comfortable, competent Accord to the extremely comfortable TC would cost me about $10/week in increased fuel costs if I exclusively used the TC (which I wouldn’t do).

For a number of reasons – weekend trips to the lake, grandparents needing a real car with room for car seats, traveling to-from LeMons build sessions, conveying gravitas and refined taste when showing up at friends’ houses, hoonage, and taking stress of the DD Accord that is accumulating mileage like a space shuttle, a third car would be a nice thing to have, even though I’m aware it is probably cheaper to just run the Accord into the earth.

But I miss the cult of Panther and secretly want one and all the fun parts my kids and I could bolt on it. Also, my folks would probably use it somewhat regularly. In my first ‘third car’ experience, they were happy to informally allocate running costs as they used it a lot more than they thought. My Dad’s Focus just isn’t the kind of freeway ride he wants at his age, so I think he’d secretly be rooting for this purchase.  Long term, it might be an appropriate car hauler or cart hauler if Jr is interested in such things.

The LWB is more than I planned to spend for a third car, but not an unreasonable amount. LWB models with well in excess of 300,000 miles seem to go for no less than $4000-5000 on eBay. As long as its not wrecked, I’m figuring that the thing wouldn’t depreciate much if kept in good shape.

Which leads me to my questions:

– Am I self rationalizing about the depreciation and would it be better to scoop up a Marquis/Vic/regular Town Car when one hits the sweet spot for me for less than half the price?
– How much better are the 2003s than the earlier models?
– Does the LWB body bring any special challenges or limit tasteful aftermarket modification?

– anything to look out for with these?

I think the dealer is selling this through the wrong channel and I’m hopeful it’s going to not attract a lot of foot traffic at a retail car dealer.

Sajeev answers:

Well this archangel certainly thinks the LWB Town Car (black on black, if possible) is totally the way to rise up the ranks in the cult of Panther Love. But since most of our readers are of the boring “ZOMG Panthers are horrible” crowd, let’s keep it brief. To your questions:

Am I self rationalizing about the depreciation? : It’s a safe bet that LWB Town Cars (and Marauders) with good paint/interiors will hold their value well.  Not true for other Panthers, but it is The Great American Sedan: even for GM guys looking for a newer ride.

How much better are the 2003s than the earlier models?: they are still “skinny” Panthers (skinniest is 1998-2002, especially 1998), as the 90-97 models (especially 1995) are the Fat Panthers in terms of fit/finish and overall lack of bean counting in everything from dashboards to the number of Lincoln-y tail light clusters.

But the 2003 model has significant chassis (hydroformed bits, aluminum bits), steering (rack and pinion) and electronic upgrades that make them better…even without yesteryear’s plush ride and creature comforts.  They are still better because they soaked up engineering advancements over the years. Except journalists say the Panther hasn’t changed much since 1979, they’d rather not do their homework and shame FoMoCo for neglecting it to death

…what a load of trash! 

Does the LWB body bring any special challenges or limit tasteful aftermarket modification?: Suspension, engine, transmission, etc are all the same.  Honestly they look better than the short wheel base model, I don’t expect any challenges. Even the rear stereo controls are probably compatible with aftermarket stereos, as they have conversion harnesses that work with auxiliary controls (normally the ones on the steering wheel.)

Anything to look out for with these?: Be careful of how awesome you feel after owning a “skinny panther” Lincoln Town Car. But seriously, check for normal wear and tear and the condition of the transmission and ATF.  Everything else is pretty robust, even if a module goes bad, replacement bits are cheap and plentiful.  Also try not to go nuts with Panther Love modifications after you do an SCT engine/trans tune, because that’s one of the few bang for the buck modifications that’ll work.

I think the dealer is selling this through the wrong channel: Wrong!  You think fleet buyers don’t look for cars in your corners of the Interweb? You think their employees don’t have buddies in the fleet car trade that are foaming at the mouth for it? Be it Panther, Land Cruiser, or whatever automotive poison, the fanbois are all over the web looking for it.

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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Piston Slap: An Airbag Light Away From Death? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/piston-slap-airbag-light-away-death/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/piston-slap-airbag-light-away-death/#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2014 13:21:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=947225 TTAC commentator “Stuck in DC Traffic” writes: Hello Sajeev, B&B and your evil doppelganger Sanjeev, I have a 2004 Acura TSX 6MT with 263,000 miles on it. The car runs great, owned out right, still looks good, and is almost problem free except for an airbag light. Being that I live in the DC metro […]

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(photo courtesy: kdeissy.files.wordpress.com)

TTAC commentator “Stuck in DC Traffic” writes:

Hello Sajeev, B&B and your evil doppelganger Sanjeev,

I have a 2004 Acura TSX 6MT with 263,000 miles on it. The car runs great, owned out right, still looks good, and is almost problem free except for an airbag light. Being that I live in the DC metro area and we are rated one of the worst places in the US for accidents, that light makes me nervous. What I want to know; is it worth getting fixed? Or for that matter is it even worth getting diagnosed?

Part of me wants to fix it as the car runs fine, it’s a great commuter and I don’t have to finance anything(read that as I’m cheap). I probably will get it diagnosed at least, but the other part of me remembers a money pit of airbag issue I had in the past. Twelve years ago I had a ’00.5 Audi A4 avant 6MT, but not in brown, that had an airbag light on. The airbag computer had shorted out and I replaced it. Then a seat sensor when out, then the other seat sensor, finally the airbag computer went again. At this point I had a dumped $2k plus into it and was told the only way to find the fault causing the airbag computer failure was to just start replacing every in the system till the issue when away. But in the mean time I could look forward to more new airbag computers while finding the fault. There was talk of replacing the entire wiring system for the airbags. Being 30 at the time, and with no kids, I didn’t think it was a big deal and I said I’ll drive without airbags, but my wife said no. The mechanic told me I should just trade the car and not even both trying to fix it. I ended up trading it because it was more cost effective than dumping money into it.

The Acura has high mileage and I add about 8k per year to it in dc traffic. It burns oil, about a quart a month as all old vtecs do. First clutch went about 135k miles, so I could be looking at another one soon. OBD 2 has told me nothing about the fault so this probably a dealer trip to figure out the issue. The car hasn’t reached hooptie money pit status yet, but it has soldered on enough in the trenches to make me think spending major money on it is just not worth it. Having kids and being in my 40’s now makes me uncomfortable just driving without airbags. SO … should I fix it, and how much would be acceptable to spend on fixing it?

Oh and for Sanjeev … yes LSxFTW would fix anything, but what about a panther wagon with a LSx …now that would be FTW.

Regards,

Stuck in DC traffic

Sanjeev answers:

Evil doppelganger? How dare you!

Look, you are a sweet person but sadly you fell for Sajeev’s pleasant-smelling yet mind-numbing bullshit.

So listen to Sanjeev! He knows that the older and wiser you, now that you have kids and are in your 40s, needs a four-cylinder, front-wheel drive, automatic CUV with leather interior. But Sanjeev recommends adding “The Gold Package” on the outside emblems. Then everyone knows you as a family man on the inside, and a classy man for everyone to appreciate on the outside.

Sajeev retorts:

CUV? Clearly a Mercury Colony Park (i.e. fully loaded Grand Marquis wagon) with LSX-FTW is perfect for your needs. They even came with a driver’s side airbag; what better way to care for your passengers than with a driver’s side airbag?

I bragged about such airbag selflessness once before, reassuring my prom date’s mother with that line…she probably totally didn’t hate me afterward!

Sanjeev says:

Driver’s side airbag jokes before prom? You are such an idiot, get to the point already!

Sajeev concludes:

Soooo anyway, it’s time for a new car.  The super-high mile Acura served its purpose and now you (and your family) deserve a safer car. Why now?

Because this Acura will reach “hooptie money pit status” the moment you fix the airbag light. It’s literally one large repair away from turning into a wallet sucking repair vortex, relative to the money spent NOW on a newer car.  We all know that older Audis (like your story) are huge money pits, but they are premature money pits.  This Acura is how all cars should “die”, so to speak.

And that time has most certainly come.

Enjoy the hunt for a 2011 long wheelbase Lincoln Town Car new machine.

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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Piston Slap: Get Ready to Lose Much More! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/piston-slap-get-ready-to-lose-much-more-c-class/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/piston-slap-get-ready-to-lose-much-more-c-class/#comments Mon, 10 Nov 2014 14:33:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=943113   TTAC Commentator LordMurdoc writes: Sajeev, I’m finally ready to lose my BORING 2002 Geo Prizm. Checking eBay for older Lexus LS or a Mercedes C-class(about 2004-2006) . If I went with the Merc with the gasoline V6, what type of Gremlins might I expect to attack me when my wallet is most vulnerable? The […]

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Know what that triangle is for? (photo courtesy: www.drive.net)

TTAC Commentator LordMurdoc writes:

Sajeev,

I’m finally ready to lose my BORING 2002 Geo Prizm.

Checking eBay for older Lexus LS or a Mercedes C-class(about 2004-2006) . If I went with the Merc with the gasoline V6, what type of Gremlins might I expect to attack me when my wallet is most vulnerable? The Prizm is turning my brain to mush and my right foot is in despair!

Thanks for your excellent advice.

Sajeev answers:

That’s a good question, insofar that I’m answering the question I heard you to ask…not your actual question.

“Why yes, the 2003+ Lincoln Town Car with an SCT tune, a cop car air box/rear sway bar, late model Mustang GT mufflers and a quicker axle ratio is PERFECT for you!  Considering otherwise is foolish, and thank goodness you are no such fool.”

But somewhat more seriously, these questions are fun: the OP knows he’s about to do something stupid.

Like buying a neglected Lexus LS with an explodey timing belt. Or the litany of little things to drive you nuts on most W203 C-class Benzes. Or big things, like certain V6s with balance shaft issues. But, on the plus side, the C240 looks more robust, perhaps even having less body mounted electric gizmos to fail as it’s a lower level model. Maybe even with super durable MB-Tex coverings!

I’d go with the C240, for the stout motor.  The rest of it? Off to you, Best and Brightest.

 

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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Junkyard Find: 1985 Mercury Grand Marquis LS Colony Park Station Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-1985-mercury-grand-marquis-ls-colony-park-woodie-station-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-1985-mercury-grand-marquis-ls-colony-park-woodie-station-wagon/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 13:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938577 The popularity of the full-size station wagon went into steep decline during the course of the 1980s, thanks to competition from minivans and less truck-ish SUVs, and there wasn’t a particularly compelling reason to get a Mercury wagon instead of its near-identical, cheaper Ford sibling, so the 1979-1991 Mercury Grand Marquis Colony Park wagon was […]

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13 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin
The popularity of the full-size station wagon went into steep decline during the course of the 1980s, thanks to competition from minivans and less truck-ish SUVs, and there wasn’t a particularly compelling reason to get a Mercury wagon instead of its near-identical, cheaper Ford sibling, so the 1979-1991 Mercury Grand Marquis Colony Park wagon was uncommon then and near-extinct now. I do see some Ford LTD Country Squires in wrecking yards nowadays— this ’86 woodie and this ’87 woodie, for example— but this Colony Park is the first I’ve seen in at least a decade.
01 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis generation of Colony Park wasn’t quite as majestic as its 1950s and 1960s predecessors, but it also got about twice as many miles per gallon as those barges.
11 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe good old familiar 302-cubic-inch Windsor V8, still fitted with a carburetor in 1985, powered this wagon.
25 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOpera lights!
17 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis fender trim has a very maze-like shape.
08 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAre there little speakers in the steering wheel, or are those holes merely decorative?
10 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Colorado sun has not been kind to these leather seats.

The Grand Marquis kicked some Buick and Oldsmobile butt, to hear Mercury tell it.

01 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 25 - 1985 Mercury Colony Park Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Piston Slap: The Fallacy of Miata Ride Comfort? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-fallacy-miata-ride-comfort/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-fallacy-miata-ride-comfort/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 12:53:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=903449   TTAC Commentator johnny ro writes: Hi Sajeev, So I like my new 2010 Miata Touring (second car and half time daily driver), and picked it because it looked good on the side of the road by my house, low miles (19k), priced OK(mid 14’s), I had the dough saved up for a bike and […]

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photo courtesy: www.flyinmiata.com

TTAC Commentator johnny ro writes:

Hi Sajeev,

So I like my new 2010 Miata Touring (second car and half time daily driver), and picked it because it looked good on the side of the road by my house, low miles (19k), priced OK(mid 14’s), I had the dough saved up for a bike and I am happy with the current Vstrom, and last but not least it is an automatic. The OEM suspension seems firm to me but obviously not race ready. Roads in Northeast are usually not-so-new ranging down to horrible. Miata people say its mushy and floaty, those who want to autocross or race.

It’s body is stiffer than my 1999 was. The 1999 benefited from chassis stiffeners- new frame rails, X-brace underneath, frog arms under the front fenders, door bars. Still a small noisy uncomfortable car for more than an hour. The 2010 is a bit more comfortable. For the 2006-2014 there are also aftermarket body stiffeners and plenty of suspension upgrades all meant to improve track performance.

What I really want is a GT, not a race car. I am not interested in more power.

Question for the best and brightest, should I bother stiffening the body on an automatic Miata?

What suspension would make it more civilized without less comfort?

Am I better off buying a true GT? What GT for $14k.

Sajeev answers:

When someone complains about a stock one, the words “Miata Ride Comfort” make no sense together. Instead do an LSX-FTW swap so you’ll rarely have the time to focus on the punishing ride. And no, I’m only partially kidding.

To wit, a friend once asked if their Miata wouldn’t punish one’s lower back with the upgraded leather slip covers from a Grand Touring model: what a load of trash! Leather seats aren’t magically wrapped around Fleetwood Brougham thrones, or even CamCord thrones. Time to suck it up and buy a more comfortable car.

“What I really want is a GT, not a race car.”

Oh wait, you already admitted that.  Why? Chassis stiffeners cannot cut the impact harshness from a pothole, they help the suspension/steering/braking systems work as intended in spirited driving on imperfect roads.  Which totally isn’t the same thing.

And if there is a softer-than-stock suspension (not likely) it won’t help enough. Considering roadster levels of suspension travel, seat cushion padding, short wheelbase, light weight (to some extent), low-ish profile tires, a quite-modest sprinkling of NVH reducing materials…see where I’m going with this?

Go find a pre-engineered GT car!  A Mazda 3 or 6 sedan is a logical and practical step backward, but perhaps there are too many doors.  Maybe a Mazda 2? Maybe a somewhat used Mustang? Not refined enough.  A fairly used 3-series?  If you know a good indie-BMW mechanic and don’t mind paying them.  A garage-queen C5 Corvette with Magnaride and conventional (not run-flat) tires?  Entirely possible.

 

 

Or just suck it up and maraud your way to love…

 

 

80e940196e_640

(photo courtesy: www.empireautos11.com)

…Panther Love…

…SON!

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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Piston Slap: The Auto-Erratic Transmission? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/piston-slap-auto-erratic-transmission/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/piston-slap-auto-erratic-transmission/#comments Wed, 06 Aug 2014 11:54:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=880922 Longtime TTAC commentator Mikey writes: Sajeev, I bought a 2014 Impala LT with a 2.5 four cylinder, and a 6 speed auto. I’m a 60 year old guy, that’s driven more cars than I can count. I’m still in awe that the engineers have figured out a way to move a car with the weight and size […]

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mm_gal_item_c2_23e2.img_resize.img_stage._3

Longtime TTAC commentator Mikey writes:

Sajeev,

I bought a 2014 Impala LT with a 2.5 four cylinder, and a 6 speed auto. I’m a 60 year old guy, that’s driven more cars than I can count. I’m still in awe that the engineers have figured out a way to move a car with the weight and size of the Impala with a 155 cu. in. engine. I love the car, with its comfort, and size, it suits my needs perfectly. I’m getting great gas mileage, with mostly city driving. Were flirting with 5 dollars a gallon up here.  I’m willing to sacrifice power for economy.

I’m rarely on the highway these days.  However I do find that at highway speeds{ 75 mph or so} the slightest touch of the gas pedal, will cause a down shift. The tach will jump from 2200 up to the high 3000’s in an instant. Does the 6 speed down shift sequentially, 6 to 5? Or will it go back 6 to 4th?

A week or so ago, I think it was “Kenmore” that was talking about a 6 speed Honda?  The discussion revolved around the transmission ” clunking” as it downshifted at below 10 mph. I find the Impala does that under certain conditions.  Is this normal?

Thanks

Sajeev answers:

Occasional clunking is normal until some third-party disassembles a metric ton of these gearboxes, points to a poorly designed part and goes on the Internet saying, “ZOMG Y U ENGINEERS BE SO CHEEP HERE?”

And by that I mean that we shall never know. Regarding the frequent downshifting, I recently rented a four-cylinder Buick LaCrosse, same problem.  Hell, even a V6 Mustang rental constantly shifted when I breathed on the gas. On a mostly flat stretch of highway!

This frustration is why I referred to these units as auto-erratic in my review of the CVT powered Mitsubishi Mirage. People think CVTs suck, rightly so.  But many of today’s self-shifters suffer from computerized analysis paralysis.

It’s not entirely the autobox’s fault: with only 186 lb-ft of torque peaking at a somewhat high 4400rpm, don’t blame the Impala for a 6-5 or 6-4 downshift because you feathered the go-go pedal. That’s just the way it is…unless you get a 74hp/74lb-ft Mirage with a Nebraska-flat torque curve.

But is this a problem? Not really: any auto-erratic box attached to a low-end torque free motor shall do this.  It bothers me too, but I’m spoiled by vehicles with a fatter torque curve. I wager you are too, in your 60 years on this earth. That said…

Bonus!  A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

Let’s consider the epic struggle between horsepower and torque. There was a time when most everything made power like a modern turbo diesel. Back when the battle for peak performance numbers and increasing redlines in boring family sedans and pickup trucks with a 4000rpm torque peak were unheard of.  

The good old days?  Not entirely sure.  But it’d be fantastic to see today’s technology applied to a fatter torque curve instead of sky-high horsepower battles. There’d be a superior driving experience and better fuel economy (less throttle needed), with a modest penalty in full throttle acceleration. Or so says the Piston Slap Guy…

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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Junkyard Find: 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1981-mercury-grand-marquis/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1981-mercury-grand-marquis/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 13:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=875617 Here’s another Junkyard Find that deserves the Sajeev’s Bitter Tears label. It qualifies for the Brown Car Appreciation Society, it’s an early Panther, and it’s a top-trim-level Grand Marquis (owners of which looked down their noses at lowly Marquis Brougham owners). Let’s explore this exquisite example of Late Malaise Era crypto-luxury, shall we? These cars […]

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09 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHere’s another Junkyard Find that deserves the Sajeev’s Bitter Tears label. It qualifies for the Brown Car Appreciation Society, it’s an early Panther, and it’s a top-trim-level Grand Marquis (owners of which looked down their noses at lowly Marquis Brougham owners). Let’s explore this exquisite example of Late Malaise Era crypto-luxury, shall we?
13 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese cars were the same under the skin as the LTD and Continental, and they weren’t bad drivers (by the standards of the time).
07 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOpera lights! Trivia question: what was the last year for factory-installed opera lights on an American car? I’m guessing this feature made it well into the 21st century.
06 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one’s a little rough, though it’s a completely rust-free California car.
17 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSo much trim. So much vinyl.
14 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYou see a lot of police-organization and AAA-related stickers on these cars, which is not surprising given the elderly demographic that preferred them.
03 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSteering-wheel cruise-control buttons showed a lot of faith in Ford’s ability to make a clockspring and/or sliding electrical contacts work.
10 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinFord (and Chrysler) loved these fake vents in the early 1980s. Why?

Created by science!

01 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Piston Slap: SHO me My Next Car? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-sho-me-the-new-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-sho-me-the-new-car/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 12:01:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=869874 Bob writes: Sajeev, Thanks for all the wasted ti…,er reading enjoyment you and TTAC provide. My Q has to do with “plan on keeping, or start looking for a replacement?” Bought my ’93 SHO in 1996, a 5-sp w/28k miles. It just rolled over 140,000 (I’m an over-the-road truck driver). Has been a great, fun […]

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(photo courtesy: http://www.reocities.com)

(photo courtesy: http://www.reocities.com)

Bob writes:

Sajeev,

Thanks for all the wasted ti…,er reading enjoyment you and TTAC provide. My Q has to do with “plan on keeping, or start looking for a replacement?”

Bought my ’93 SHO in 1996, a 5-sp w/28k miles. It just rolled over 140,000 (I’m an over-the-road truck driver). Has been a great, fun car. Only major problem was a radiator leak & attendant CPS failure.

Downers: Headliner and driver’s seat uph need replacing. Clearcoat peeling. Worried about parts avail, transmission (no problems so far, but “maintenance-free ATF?”). Still has original clutch. Car is 22 yrs old. Etc…

Upside: Just had front susp renewed, doesn’t burn oil, still drives great. Etc…

So: used Crown Vic, or used Miata, when the time comes?

Sorry this is so wordy/rambling, but hate to think of you & that cymbal.

Sajeev answers:

Oh yes! The Edelbrock cymbal is still on my drum rack, but I’ve had no time to “work” on it.  And that’s thanks to folks like you!

You have a two-part question, and the first answer is you need a newer car.  While an SHO has a tricky motor (timing belt and valve lash work every 60,000 miles IIRC), any old Taurus won’t be relaxing and reliable: it will always need work, even if it may never leave you stranded without days/weeks/months of advance notice.  You’ll shell out big bucks on the paint and clutch alone.

About your next ride: some will consider the Miata vs. Crown Vic suggestion as insane, but I get it. The SHO is almost halfway between in size, number of cylinders, etc.  And when you’ve already done the middle ground, it’s now time to go to the extreme!

Question is, which extreme?

I’d go for the Miata if you can keep the SHO around to carry people/cargo.  Depending on where you live, a FWD sedan with a solid roof helps in bad rain/snow. If you go Crown Vic, the SHO is pointless.  Which is a problem.

Think about it: the SHO is essentially worthless and the next owner is likely to kill it.  I reckon it will be Chinese scrap metal less than a year after the sale.  Not cool: cars with intrinsically fantastic yet obscure design like the Taurus SHO deserve to live. Having owned this car for almost 20 years now, are you dumb enough to see it my way? To restore this future classic?

If so, you will also be dumb enough to buy a Crown Vic to make a collection of cool yet understated American sedans!  And for those that find this notion silly, I suggest watching this video about 10 times.

Click here to view the embedded video.

What was that about not wanting a collection of Ford sedans? #pantherlove

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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Piston Slap: Keeping A Low Profile on Boston Streets? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/piston-slap-keeping-a-low-profile-on-boston-streets/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/piston-slap-keeping-a-low-profile-on-boston-streets/#comments Wed, 07 May 2014 12:27:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=814810 TTAC Commentator slance66 writes: Sajeev, The B&B helped me choose a car three or four years ago, and now I’m thinking of its replacement, ahead of time. I bought a CPO 2007 BMW 328xi, which has been nearly flawless to 67k. I only drive 8,000 miles a year with a 3.5 mile commute each way, […]

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TTAC Commentator slance66 writes:

Sajeev,

The B&B helped me choose a car three or four years ago, and now I’m thinking of its replacement, ahead of time. I bought a CPO 2007 BMW 328xi, which has been nearly flawless to 67k. I only drive 8,000 miles a year with a 3.5 mile commute each way, so it should last a long time. I love the car and do plan to keep it a few more years, but, I don’t know if it will survive the potholes.

I live in the Boston ex-urbs, and six months of the year we have what some might call roads, and others might call random chunks of asphalt in a rough trail like pattern. I can exceed the front suspension travel in the 3 series just on some manhole covers. Hitting actual potholes produces a major crash/slam. The car is good for dodging them, but you can’t miss them all and oncoming traffic both. It’s not the RF tires either, as I have 4th gen versions that are a big improvement.

Since I buy 2-3 year old used cars, I thought I’d ask now what 2013-14 car, trucks, SUVs would best equipped to survive roads like this? Gas mileage matters a little, so a V8 half ton might be off my list, but otherwise I’m open to most anything if it has four doors, heated seats, is reliable and isn’t smaller than the BMW. Crossovers might fit, but while my wife’s used RX350 feels better on these roads, it’s cost us two bearings and two struts, so durability is a factor in my thinking. Thought the B&B would know what vehicles can really absorb this punishment and not punish the driver. No, not a Panther.

Sajeev answers:

I’ve been to Boston a coupla times, I can see your concern.  That said, no Panther?  No truck?  Really?

Odds are your BMW will not survive Boston without cratering your wallet: to the tune of new lower control arms, struts, strut mounts(?) miscellaneous bushings and who knows what else. If you like the BMW, by all means, replace the worn suspension bits as they fail.  If not…

Well, get over the German tuned suspension for something more Third World friendly.  Seriously, how can you not want a Grand Marquis now? Fine. I can imagine the cold, Panther Love-less world you clearly live in.

And while I’d never live in such a sad place, I’d recommend a Panther-Like world.  A car that’s had a good track record (recently) for cost-effective suspension engineering, proven in fleets of some sort.  Not cop cars, not limos…maybe rental cars.  Maybe a Camry LE with the big sidewalls on 16″ wheels.  Maybe any CUV with the base wheels, with the most amount of sidewall you can find. ZOMG I CAN NO HAZ A RENTAL CAR AFTER MY BEEEMER!

Long story short: remember when all cars came with these things called tires? Their rubber to metal wheel ratio was definitely more Boston-friendly.  I recommend finding a vehicle with more sidewall and a reputation for a more robust suspension.  Even if it isn’t a Panther.

 

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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A Primer On Houston SLAB Culture http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/a-primer-on-houston-slab-culture/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/a-primer-on-houston-slab-culture/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 11:55:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=794826 This well-traveled Houstonian thinks his town is Pistonhead Nirvana, proven every month via fanboi scale and diversity at Cars and Coffee gatherings.  Or with every 1000+hp racer on at Texas2k, every shoestring budget’d LeMons racer and Art Car fanatic: it’s all here. Except there’s nothing like Houston SLAB culture. A confession: I know automotive subcultures, […]

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title

This well-traveled Houstonian thinks his town is Pistonhead Nirvana, proven every month via fanboi scale and diversity at Cars and Coffee gatherings.  Or with every 1000+hp racer on at Texas2k, every shoestring budget’d LeMons racer and Art Car fanatic: it’s all here. Except there’s nothing like Houston SLAB culture.

A confession: I know automotive subcultures, no matter which socioeconomic population nurtures it, always raise the ire of outsiders. My response?  Every generalization about SLABs applies to anyone building a custom, race or show car. We are all the same, deal with it.   

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Like most automotive hobbies, the Houston SLAB scene starts with the belief that the factory’s work needs improvement.  While spec racers turn a depreciated hulk into a track beast, the SLAB rider takes a slice of unloved Americana, bringing it back to a time when Japanese cars were cheap rust buckets that’d never threaten General Motor’s existence! I mean, look at our grilles and look at theirs, right?

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A car that traces its roots back to the 1970s Pimp Rides is necessary to make a modern SLAB: Camcords need not apply. Any Blaxploitation movie gets you up to speed on Pimp Rides, but the Houston SLAB scene uses them as a springboard to something new.

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Depreciated American luxury cars are the norm: Cadillacs, Buicks and certain Oldsmobiles are preferred.  Lincolns/Panthers and Chryslers are cool too, even Jaguars and Quattroportes pull it off vis-à-vis distinctly luxurious proportions.  But don’t break your budget on the ride, GM’s W-body is one of the most common platforms for good reason, as costly modifications are necessary to pay homage to the Pimp Riders while advancing the game:

  • Massive stereos, some are IASCA worthy with a little tweaking.
  • Kitted out power popping trunks, slathered in custom vinyl and personalized phrases in neon/mirrors.
  • Wire wheels much like the Cragar units supplied as OEM for Cadillac in 1983 and 1984, except replacing the fragile tin content with 100% steel. Texan Wire Wheels sells them as “83s” and “84s”, seemingly cornering this niche market.
  • Vogue tires in new sizes for new cars, naturally.
  • Replacement steering wheels, usually with wood grain rims.
  • Candy Paint, just like any vintage rodder.
  • Reupholstered interiors, taking advantage of the latest trimmings on the market.
  • Aftermarket HID lights, custom LEDs, Lambo doors, flat panel TVs and anything else you’ll find in the custom car scene.
  • Oversized brand logos, like the tailgate emblem from an Escalade.
  • Lowered suspensions (often aftermarket Air Ride) for obvious curb appeal.

That stance is at the SLAB’s core: it’s a sweet American luxury sedan ridin’ close to the curb.  Close to the concrete, up against the “slab”…hence the name. Some suggest that SLAB is an acronym for Slow-Loud-And-Bangin’ but that definition seemingly came later.

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But the wheels make SLABs so eye-catching: references percolating through Houston’s music, Houston’s culture.  Originally a re-pop of those Cadillac rims from 1983 and 1984, some are fed pro-baseball grade growth hormones to extend the hub far beyond Cadillac’s factory specification.  Ordinary wires have “pokes” while insanity ensues when you go “super poke.”  While not sure of their origin, odds are that having more poke comes people’s need to out-do each other. Like everything else in this world!

IMG_1759Your taste in poke is subjective, but they are all known as swangas and elbows.

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Elbows are when the hub and spoke of your wheels “poke” out of your body just like your arm’s elbow when perched atop the door sill.  Makes sense, but Swangas?

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Again, not sure: it’s connected to the organized dance that multiple SLABs do on an open stretch of road.  It’s like watching racers warming up their tires during pace laps.  It’s infectious: even the cops do it.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Here’s what I saw at the first annual SLAB Parade, put on by the Houston Arts Alliance.  This cow town’s been good about supporting the art scene, especially our Art Cars and our screwed and chopped Rap artists.  While H-town Rap is a “thing” for the likes of Jay Z and Justin Timberlake, Detroit has yet to embrace Houston’s re-branding of their Camry prey/Rental Car fodder and their highline euro-wannabes. Aside from the Chrysler 300, of course.

So welcome to the Third Coast, the coast that actually likes American cars. How they were: with real names, impressive proportions and maybe even SLAB hugging overhangs, too. And the people who make them?  They are no different than other car nuts.

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No doubt, Houston is the best place to be a car fanatic, mostly thanks to our diverse population.  Love it or hate it, hopefully you enjoyed seeing this slice of Automotive Americana while I avoided the pitfalls of a milquetoast overview of an automotive sub-culture. Fingers crossed on that last part.

 

 

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Piston Slap: In Accordance with Wants and Needs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/piston-slap-in-accordance-with-wants-and-needs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/piston-slap-in-accordance-with-wants-and-needs/#comments Mon, 30 Dec 2013 13:39:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=689154 Matt writes: Hi Sajeev! I submitted a question last year about which SUV/CUV we should buy to replace my wife’s 2005 Odyssey.  I admit that I may have embellished my description of some of her thoughts and feedback during that process when I submitted my question the last time–mostly in the spirit of satire.  Well, […]

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Matt writes:

Hi Sajeev!

I submitted a question last year about which SUV/CUV we should buy to replace my wife’s 2005 Odyssey.  I admit that I may have embellished my description of some of her thoughts and feedback during that process when I submitted my question the last time–mostly in the spirit of satire.  Well, some of the B&B didn’t catch on to that and they ended up flaming her pretty badly.  I was so excited to see your response that I showed the post to her before reading through the comments. She’s more thorough than me and did continue on into the comments.

To make a long story short, it wasn’t pretty for me.  

Fortunately, we’re still married and we replaced the Ody with a 2013 Highlander Limited, initially Steve Lang’s suggestion, and seconded by several commenters.  She’s had it now since March and is generally pretty happy with it.

Since my experience went so well the last time (/sarcasm), I thought I’d submit another one related to my 2001 Honda Accord EX 4 cyl. with 122,000 miles.

I can’t really say anything bad about it.  Sure, it’s on its 3rd transmission, but two of those failures were within months of each other, and since the last one was put in about 7-8 years ago, I’ve not had any problems.  It’s in fine shape cosmetically with no rust, though the alloy wheels are starting to get a bit rough.  At my last oil change, my mechanic said everything looks really good underneath and in the engine compartment and he expects it will live a long time.  The inside is clean, though some of the rubberized plastic on the center console is getting a bit sticky due to UV exposure.  Basically, nothing is wrong with it, and I don’t expect any expensive repairs any time soon.  The only other part that’s needed replacement was the timing belt at 100K.

I use the car mainly as a commuter (13 miles one-way on country back roads through the corn fields) and errand runner around town.  It might take 1-2 longer trips per year (< 400 miles), but that’s rare.  It gets driven much less in the summer since I bought a motorcycle for getting back and forth to work.

Obviously, I don’t need to replace the car for any reason, other than I’ve been driving it for 12 years and am in the mood for a change.  I saw the new Accord, and really liked the looks of it.  That got me thinking about new cars in general.  I don’t honestly know what I would replace it with.  Lots of vehicles on the wish list (Ram 1500, Mustang GT, Mazda 6, Honda Accord, Chrysler 300 V-8, Jeep Grand Cherokee), but that’s not really at the heart of this question.  It’s more about whether I should keep it or move on.

I’m generally a keeper (obviously), and find pleasure in not wasting, whether it’s money, energy, time, etc.  There’s something I enjoy about hanging on to something that has plenty of life left in it.  As long as the thing doesn’t look like a complete hooptie, I enjoy it.  My 9 year-old son is also quite fond of the car and has informed me that he wants it when he turns 16.  Also, considering the way in which I use, it, there’s really no need for another vehicle (though there are plenty of days I dream about how easy that home project would be with a pick-up).

On the other hand…

It seems like cars have come so far in the last 12 years, and I wouldn’t mind enjoying some of the comfort and convenience features that can now be had.  I really am a bit of gear head at heart, and I do tire of constantly reading about (and lusting after) new cars, but doing nothing about it.  As much as I enjoy being a keeper, there is part of me that says “to heck with it, just get that rear-drive car with the manual transmission and V8 that you’ve always wanted!”

Sajeev, I’m conflicted.  What is a man to do?

Sincerely,
Matt

P.S.  I’m pretty sure a panther will not scratch that itch…sorry.

Sajeev answers:

Pro Tip: consider a heavily depreciated Ford Econoline conversion van instead of Panther Love if you put words in your wife’s mouth again…cuz you’ll be sleepin’ in the street, son! 

I don’t recall my previous suggestions, it’s impossible to Google considering the number of cringe-worthy instances when a reader gives an incorrect elaboration on/assumption of the needs of one’s spouse.  (Never mind, the B&B found it, thanks!) And, with your marriage in mind, I can’t tell you to repress/take action on your lust for a newer, more tech savvy, more exciting machine.  Because your Accord sounds like a peach and we got bigger problems in life.

I consider you to be a lucky man to be in such a position. My advice?

  1. Test Drive any car you might possibly want, within the confines of your budget and future expenses.  You know, things like the kid’s college tuition, a new roof, divorce lawyer, etc.
  2. Rent something with all the toys/gadgets for a week.
  3. Ask your wife and do whatever she says.
  4. Get an Executive Decision Maker and run with it.

Click here to view the embedded video.

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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Piston Slap: Do I Need A New Car, Sanjeev??? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/piston-slap-do-i-need-a-new-car-sanjeev/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/piston-slap-do-i-need-a-new-car-sanjeev/#comments Wed, 04 Dec 2013 13:02:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=668250 Cass writes: Dear Sanjeev: (facepalm – SM) As a matter of coincidence most of the vehicles I’ve owned have been covered in previous Piston Slap articles and I’ve noticed a recurring theme: at one point, a point likely occurring far prematurely than hoped, I’m going to have an issue which according to your previous advice […]

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Puzzled male shrugging wearing lab coat

Cass writes:

Dear Sanjeev: (facepalm – SM)

As a matter of coincidence most of the vehicles I’ve owned have been covered in previous Piston Slap articles and I’ve noticed a recurring theme: at one point, a point likely occurring far prematurely than hoped, I’m going to have an issue which according to your previous advice will require either a new engine or a whole new car. 

(BTW I’ve noticed this seems to be be the number one prescribed solution – could you just sum up all future articles as “get a new engine or a new car” that way then?)

So quickly to my question – should I just go ahead at looking at replacing my cars right now? Yeah, it’s a bit premature but I feel like the sooner I start, the better prepared I will be, financially and work-load-y, to go shopping for a new one when the time comes.

And also, how the heck do I prevent this in the future? Do I just have phenomenally bad luck at picking a long-lasting car or is that the just nature of the automotive world today – a world where planned obsolescence means I’ll be switching out rides at 60k miles no matter what I buy?

Sanjeev answers:

It’s true, that Sajeev jerk gives advice that turns into a new engine (usually of the LSX-FTW variety) or a new car (usually a Panther) because he’s an idiot.  I look forward to the day when I can permanently replace him here at TTAC and shame his parents for giving him such a silly, silly name. Wait, you give that keyboard back YOU CANNOT TAKE THIS AWAY FROM SANJE…

Sajeev answers:

Aside from misspelling/autocorrecting my name, your letter “sees” everything in the wrong light.  Overly generalized concerns do not compute, especially with absolutely nothing outside of abstract notions to discuss. Make, Model, Year and problems encountered?  No, none of that is necessary! But I digress…

Perhaps your notion on planned obsolescence is a summation of your concerns.  While a genuinely worrisome manufacturing/engineering defect shows up with every manufacturer, that’s the exception…not the rule: the majority of cars available today could drive 200,000 miles with minimal expenses outside of basic maintenance.

My point?  You should lease a new car every 3-4 years. Think about it: the vehicle is always under warranty, the money factor in many leases is essentially zero and you never worry about anything.  It’s like renting an apartment versus buying a home. I’d budget accordingly and start leasing as soon as possible.

Or just get a clean Panther with good service records.  Obviously: TAKE THAT SANJEEV, YOU AIN’T THE BOSS OF ME!

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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Piston Slap: Travel Well, Work Well? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/piston-slap-travel-well-work-well/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/piston-slap-travel-well-work-well/#comments Wed, 16 Oct 2013 11:54:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=623265 TTAC commentator wstarvingteacher writes: I have been lurking on this site for at least three years. Comment some but mostly subscribe without commenting. I have been spending some time thinking about what I’m going to buy for my “jack of all trades” second car. Life changes so your needs change also. I live on five […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

TTAC commentator wstarvingteacher writes:

I have been lurking on this site for at least three years. Comment some but mostly subscribe without commenting. I have been spending some time thinking about what I’m going to buy for my “jack of all trades” second car. Life changes so your needs change also.

I live on five acres just north of Houston. I have had a standard cab pickup that I like a lot more than I ever thought I would. The problem is that we have a need to send my Granddaughter off to school in another state. She said she wanted to buy my truck and with some trepidation I agreed. Now I have to replace it. I think I needed to anyway. Have grown tired of stolen spare tires and tools so I need something with inside storage. I figured a king cab truck would work as would many SUVs. Thought about a minivan but it seems they all have fragile transmissions. I tend to keep cars a long time.

Just to complicate things my wife has a car with a CVT transmission and a trailer hitch voids her warranty. Because of that we need to take longer trips in mine if we need to take anything (canoe etc) along. We will be taking an increasing number of trips. Therefore, mine needs to get over 20mpg on the highway and be able to tow 2000 lbs, (bare bones minimum) locally or highway. I am getting to the age where my eyes dictate I pay others for most of the work I do on vehicles. Therefore, dependability is very important.

I owned Lincoln Town Cars in the past (5.0 models) and they did all that I asked very well. I will have about $6k to spend on this second vehicle. Having a huge trunk while getting over 20mpg and being able to tow over two tons is a strong combination. I know that the Panthers run a long time and there are lots of parts. I also know that the CV(PI or no) and MGM frequently show up for low dollars. My truck will disappear next month and I can get hay or whatever, delivered for the short term. I guess my question(s) is/are:

  • What years panthers should I avoid for known problems such as spitting plugs and plastic intake manifolds?
  • Am I just looking at the panther because it worked for me in the past? Am I missing a good working, long lasting, cheap to fix, long trip vehicle that can work?

Seems like some vehicles travel well and some work well. I can’t think of anything that does both as well as a Panther. I think it is probably the last second car I will buy. Has to last for about 5 years when we will buy another first car.Hope the B & B will see this as fit to chew on for a while!

Sajeev answers:

So you want something that’s durable, gets over 20+ MPG highway, and can tow at least 2000lbs on a somewhat-regular basis. I can hear the Panther Haters among the B&B cringing already. If they even bothered to click on this article…but I digress.

There’s a chance that a minivan (if maintained right) or similar unit-body CUV with a V6 could fit the bill for both towing and efficiency, but they are a bit risky for a long-term owner. You could bite the bullet and buy a real body-on-frame truck or SUV, but they are rather expensive/valuable here in Texas. And their fuel economy stinks, even the compacts/mid size models with the necessary V6 power for your requirements.

Which begs the question, how could you NOT get a Panther? Set the cruise control to 65 mph and you can break 25 MPG, my best is 27 MPG with the A/C off on a 2006 Townie with an aftermarket computer tune. Add a big transmission cooler + trailer brake controller and it’ll safely tow just about any load implied by your letter.

I recommend getting a 2003+ model (doable with your budget), as they come with non-explody intake manifolds, better steering/suspension, hydroformed chassis bits and most will be new enough to avoid excessive wear and years of neglect.  The big brakes came in 1998, so you are set there. I don’t believe the 2003+ models ever spit spark plugs, that was a problem with congested Ford truck engine bays, sloppy tune up work (i.e. not a problem when carefully installed) and a different cylinder head design.

Go ahead and find the Panther with the most service records you can find.  It’ll travel better than anything else, and it can work hard when needed. Man, I miss not seeing this platform in new car showrooms/rental car lots: it really did it all, even with complete and unrelenting neglect from its maker.

 

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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Piston Slap: Say “Audi 5000″ to your Tow Vehicle! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/piston-slap-say-audi-5000-to-your-tow-vehicle/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/piston-slap-say-audi-5000-to-your-tow-vehicle/#comments Mon, 16 Sep 2013 12:17:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=518609 TTAC commentator Trend-Shifter writes: I have a 1984 Audi 5000S Avant that is used as the wife’s car and our traveling/towing vehicle. Here is my dilemma… The air conditioning works as designed in 1984 (still using R12) but it is not to the standards of a modern “Merican” car. It is only comfortable at freeway […]

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TTAC commentator Trend-Shifter writes:

I have a 1984 Audi 5000S Avant that is used as the wife’s car and our traveling/towing vehicle. Here is my dilemma…

  1. The air conditioning works as designed in 1984 (still using R12) but it is not to the standards of a modern “Merican” car. It is only comfortable at freeway speeds and without too much sunlight in that expansive greenhouse. The wife complains loudly all summer!
  2. The engine is only 110 horsepower. So when the air is turned on it dramatically impacts drivability. If I pull any kind of grade I need to turn the air off as not to impact drivers behind me.
  3. Right now I tow my jet ski with the car. It pulls it great at any speed as long as the air condition is off. (Refer to item 2, Wifey is not happy when the air is off!)
  4. I also have an 18 ft boat that I will need to tow in 2~3 years as my Grandsons get of age.

So based on the fact that the Audi 5000 Avant will not pull the boat, I think my best plan is to replace the Audi 5000 Avant in the next two years to fix all the problems I identified rather than modify the air conditioning or the engine.

I have looked at various SUV’s for towing. I want just real RWD, not some wannabe FWD disguised as AWD. The big ole freighter SUV’s are really expensive, not good at high speeds, and suck a lot of fuel. So I started to lean towards a 2006~2009 Cadillac SRX with the Northstar V8. (engine issues resolved in 2005) I think a 2000~2010 low mileage (under 40,000 miles) Lincoln Town Car is the best choice for all my problems. (Can’t handle the Grand Marquis & Crown Vic styling)

The Lincoln Town Car is RWD, has a V8, sits lower, cuts the wind, is very reliable, and gets decent mileage compared to other RWD frame SUVs. A set of plus wheels, Michelin Pilot Sports, and a transmission cooler should complete the package.

Does this sound crazy –OR- crazy as a fox (I mean Panther). If you agree, what years are the best?

Audi 5000 pair

BTW… My other car is also an Audi 5000. It is an 1987 Audi Quattro. (I drive it 110 miles round trip everyday to work on the Deeeetroit freeways) So the RWD Lincoln can sit in the garage on those snowy days.

Sajeev answers:

I’m impressed with your Audi 5000 collection (sorry I couldn’t do a Vellum Venom remotely) but I had no clue der avant was a tow vehicle! Good to hear this rig is saying Audi 5000 to THAT job! And your wife has the patience of a Saint to put up with situations that inhospitable for 110 horsepower. But I digress…

“The Lincoln Town Car is RWD, has a V8, sits lower, cuts the wind, is very reliable, and gets decent mileage compared to other RWD frame SUVs.”

I found this quote interesting, as I should also find it appealing. So you need a tow vehicle for bulky things, but you want one with a design aesthetic as your 5000. Longer, lower and wider than an ordinary truck?  More fuel-efficient too, right? So why not?

This is a fool’s errand. You WANT a bigger and taller nose/face when towing to punch a bigger hole in the air for your trailer! A Panther can do the job adequately, but it will struggle more because the boat will make it its bitch. I’d recommend a full-sized conversion van to maximize the size of the hole punched for that 18ft boat.

Not that you NEED a conversion van to punch an adequate hole for a boat that small, but why the hell not?  SUVs and real pick-em-up trucks lack the aero of a van, are overpriced, and vans are so frickin’ great for road trips. Keep the 5000 Avant for your wife’s normal commute, buy a nicely depreciated custom van for towing.

A 1994-2003 Dodge Ram Van, 1996-present Chevy Express Van and the 1992-present Ford Econoline are the proper successors to your Audi 5000 tow vehicle.  Find one with a towing package and the options you’d like.  I’d go with a mid-90s Econoline for it’s most Bauhausian Styling to appeal to your Audi-conscious style, get it with the torquey (but thrifty!) 4.9L big six, modernize/upgrade the brakes/wheels/transmission cooler for light towing duty and lose the conversion van paint job for a stark, Germanic gun metal gray. Yummy.

A perfect machine for one’s Piston Slap pragmatism and one’s Audi 5000-worthy Vellum Venom demands.

And for you Best and Brightest peeps who thought I’d take the Panther Love bait: I never did, son!

 

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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Jalopnik Gets On The Panther Love Bandwagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/jalopnik-gets-on-the-panther-love-bandwagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/jalopnik-gets-on-the-panther-love-bandwagon/#comments Mon, 02 Sep 2013 23:17:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=506833 One thing you can say about our friends at Jalopnik: they’re never too stubborn to adopt a fun idea when they see one. Whether it’s “driving like an automotive journalist” or racing coverage, they cover whatever the readers want and never worry about whether it fits in with some “mission”. That sounds a bit stroppy […]

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specpanther

One thing you can say about our friends at Jalopnik: they’re never too stubborn to adopt a fun idea when they see one. Whether it’s “driving like an automotive journalist” or racing coverage, they cover whatever the readers want and never worry about whether it fits in with some “mission”. That sounds a bit stroppy of me, but I’m being sincere. Too often in the World O’ Blogs, people refuse to serve the reader’s clearly-expressed interests because they’ve decided that they are too good to do so.

Long-time TTAC readers are familiar with the concept of Panther Love, invented here on TTAC by our own Sajeev Metha and subsequently expanded into Panther Appreciation Week. Our Panther Love roots stretch back twenty-three years. We’re not new to the game. But Jalopnik’s Travis Okulski is new to the game, and he’s taken the time to formally propose what various club racers and track rats have long discussed over beers at the end of the day.


Spec Panther Is The Next Great Race Series That Doesn’t Exist is the title of the article, and here’s the relevant section:

For instance, LeMons is becoming a BMW E30 playground. It’s the car to have. If you buy something else, you basically need to resign yourself to the fact that you won’t be winning the race. You’ll just be out there to have some fun.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with having fun and being creative with your car design. A lot of casual club racing is the fun. But I’m very competitive. I want to be on pole. I want to win overall. And I’m not the only person like that.

I’ve just moved to Manhattan so I’m also increasingly impoverished. That’s where Spec Panther comes in.

There’s some fun to be poked at Travis here. The E30 does not rule cheap-car racing; your humble author just won Buttonwillow’s Chump Car event in April in a Neon. Second place was a Rampage pickup. And it wasn’t like nobody brought an E30. But from a distance I can see how it looks that way.

Mr. Okulski’s assertion that he’s a competitive racey type of guy while your average club racer is “casual” is also kind of funny. Memo to anyone who has never participated in club racing: it’s full of people who will cheerfully put you in the hospital for a plastic trophy, self included. It’s full of people who work every night of the week for a year in order to field a midpack Miata, because that’s the very best they can do. Trust me: people want to win and almost everybody is trying as hard as they can to make it happen. You can also trust that should a Spec Panther series happen, it would be dominated for years by people who already hold racing licenses, the same way most winning ChumpCar and Lemons teams have a full roster of people with racing experience in faster series. The idea that some hipster in Manhattan is going to spend a couple evenings building Queen Latifah’s Taxi in a closet-sized garage while listening to the Flaming Arcades or Ra Riot Weekend and then triumph over Pratt&Miller’s 550whp seam-welded ’79 LTD Coupe with A-arms all the way round — well, it’s very high-concept, but it’s unlikely to happen.

This is why we shouldn’t let children watch stuff like Turbo or Cars. In the real world of racing, God is on the side of the seasoned engineers and the big budgets.

Regardless, should Spec Panther happen, I imagine that TTAC might field a team. Offhand, I think the best Panther would be the aforementioned ’79 LTD Coupe, primarily due to weight (3600 pounds to start, a quarter-ton lighter than the modern P71s) and because it fits a 351. Mod-motor tuning is far from a marginalized activity, but the book on tuning Windsors has been written in blood. Weld up a kick-ass Panhard bar, install a T5. Seam-weld the bitch. The resulting car should weigh 3300 pounds and spin 425+ at the back wheel. Woe be to anyone trying to keep their Cayman S in front of the thing.

So yes, Travis, your ideas are intriguing and we wish to subscribe to your newsletter. But dare we suggest that you try out some club racing first, just to see how “casual” it really is? And take it from a former Marquis owner: work on your shoulders and biceps. When the power steering goes out in one of these things — and that’s guaranteed to happen in a race — it’s all hands on deck. See you at the track!

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Piston Slap: Mali-blewin’ over Tight Panther Legroom? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/piston-slap-mali-blewin-over-tight-panther-legroom/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/piston-slap-mali-blewin-over-tight-panther-legroom/#comments Tue, 13 Aug 2013 11:47:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=499064 Joshua writes: I am coming out of the throes of a mid-life crisis that caused me to replace a workable Mazda 5 several years ago with a sleek-looking Honda Civic coupe. Now that my boys are getting older, rear space room in the Honda is starting to become an issue, so I am looking to […]

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Joshua writes:

I am coming out of the throes of a mid-life crisis that caused me to replace a workable Mazda 5 several years ago with a sleek-looking Honda Civic coupe. Now that my boys are getting older, rear space room in the Honda is starting to become an issue, so I am looking to trade off the Honda for something with lots of rear seat space for hauling around the family, friends and clients.

After doing research, the two most viable candidates seem to be a 2012 Chevy Malibu LTZ with a V6 or a 2011 Crown Vic. Both would be about the same cost — $14 to 15k — and both would have about the same mileage — 35k. The last gen Malibu seems to be the only mid-sized sedan in my price range that actually has rear seat leg room sufficient for a 6 foot tall adult. It has more room than the last gen Impala, which I had originally looked at, but ruled out once I sat in the back of one with my knees jammed into seat back.

I have always wanted a Crown Vic or Mercury Grand Marquis, however, and now my living situation has changed such that I have a garage big enough to fit one. I also realize this will be my last chance to buy a low mileage Panther. So I am unsure of which car is the right fit.

Besides the looks, one of the reasons I bought the Honda was for the gas mileage. I commute 50 miles roundtrip to work each day in Southern California, so the 30 mpg it gets during that commute has been helpful. I am also used to the size of the Honda when maneuvering into parking spots and changing lanes on the freeway.

Given this, I have a feeling that the smaller Malibu might be less of shock to get used to when driving. I presume that mileage would be a non-issue, i.e., both the Crown Vic and Malibu will obviously get worse mileage than the Honda, but the difference between the Crown Vic and the Malibu with the V6 will be negligible, maybe a couple miles per gallon difference, and not enough to factor into the decision.

So, any thoughts that might help me out on my decision? Differences in reliability, etc.? Will I think I’m driving a big lumbering truck if i choose the Crown Vic? I haven’t driven one in 15 years, and that was my grandmother’s I would run errands in, so I don’t have a solid recollection of what it would be like as a daily driver. Thanks for your help on this one.

Sajeev answers:

Before we bore all the Panther Haters on this blog, let’s consider this: the Crown Vic’s rear leg room isn’t great, much less class leading.  But 39.6 inches is greater than 37.6 inches. However, neither of your choices is ideal.  Perhaps you should consider the Toyota Camry? It has a couple inches more, ya know.

Did I really just recommend a Camry over Panther Love?  Shut ‘yo mouth!

So anyway, the Crown Vic is the obvious choice. Just go drive one.  You like? Then you won’t regret.

 

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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The Wire Supports Panther Love http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/the-wire-supports-panther-love/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/the-wire-supports-panther-love/#comments Tue, 09 Jul 2013 20:40:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=494699 (NSFW for language) Having just picked up a Lincoln MKZ , I can’t help but recall the immortal words of the pokwer playing gentleman “I like me a Town Car – man look quiet and correct in one of them.” Truer words have never been spoken. I am not quite sure the MKZ confers quite […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

(NSFW for language)

Having just picked up a Lincoln MKZ , I can’t help but recall the immortal words of the pokwer playing gentleman

“I like me a Town Car – man look quiet and correct in one of them.”

Truer words have never been spoken. I am not quite sure the MKZ confers quite the same dignity and bearing on the person driving it, but we’ll see in a week’s time.

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Piston Slap: The Panther that Cried…Wolf? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/piston-slap-the-panther-that-cried-wolf/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/piston-slap-the-panther-that-cried-wolf/#comments Mon, 10 Jun 2013 11:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=491386 TTAC commentator confused1096 writes: Sajeev, Writing to you again after a hiatus of a three years. You and various commentators helped with my not so dearly departed Windstar  (died of a blown transmission a couple of months after article). Now hoping I can get some input on a decent car. Fast forward three years later. […]

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TTAC commentator confused1096 writes:

Sajeev,

Writing to you again after a hiatus of a three years. You and various commentators helped with my not so dearly departed Windstar  (died of a blown transmission a couple of months after article). Now hoping I can get some input on a decent car.

Fast forward three years later. I sold a nice Nissan 300zx and bought a human sized car in March. I’m the proud owner of a nearly showroom looking ’98 Grand Marquis LS. The car was purchased with 198k on the clock and 10 years of maintenance records. It now has 211,000 miles. I’ve updated all routine maintenance, replaced brakes & rotors, rear shocks, etc. Really the only thing the car needs at the moment are front shocks (soon) and I plan to have the seats recovered early next year. Also plan on adding dual exhaust and a few other minor tweaks next year. This is my second Panther platform car, so I’m reasonably familiar with the common issues.

Now to the problem: Ever since I purchased it I’ve had a charge light that will illuminate on the dash intermittently. The alternator tests good, as does the battery. The car has no codes in memory and I’ve checked all the connections for battery, starter, and alternator. All are clean and secure. My regular mechanic thinks the diode in the alternator is going out. I hate to replace a pricey alternator on a maybe. Besides, shouldn’t the various part store tests have picked it up if that were the issue? I don’t want to have a boy who cried wolf attitude over an important warning system either.

Sajeev answers:

Don’t worry bro-ham! Rarely is it crying wolf when we’re talkin’ about an older vehicle’s charging system at this mileage.

Especially with 1980s-1990s Ford alternators of the poorly rebuilt variety.  And from a corroded wire you will never see upon casual inspection to a failing lead plate in the battery, there are too many fail points to easily neglect, and wind up stranded in the middle of nowhere.

Your mechanic is probably right. Or it might be the regulator on the alternator, which is pretty cheap and easy to replace. Your best bet is to get a volt meter that plugs into your cigarette lighter to see the actual numbers. It’s cheap insurance, I’ve used one for almost a decade and I love it. Mine isn’t as pretty as the one below, but its paid for itself many, many times over.  (which is an indirect slam against the quality of remanufactured alternators)

By the way, any parts store can test the charging system for free, with a fancy machine that is quite accurate.

Honestly, it sounds like you need a new (high quality rebuilt) alternator.  One that is 100% all new, but still has a lifetime warranty.  The new platinum alternators available at some parts stores will suffice.  I’ve had good luck with local alternator rebuild shops and the nice folks at PA Performance. So you have options.

And now, in a poorly transitioned segue, here’s more fan mail on the same subject: Panther Love. 

Stefan writes:

Oh Sajeev (note correct spelling) (WOOT, SM), I have no tricky questions for you at all today. I just wanted to thank you for your excellent and entertaining Fat Panther wisdom in many recent articles at TTAC. I took it all to heart and recently purchased this mint condition triple black ’97 Town Car (see picture attached) for $3,900.00 from a Chicago dealership. Most of the other vehicles on the lot were used police cars; regular Panthers. The Town Car already had the correct Replacement Aluminum Intake Manifold installed. New rotors & pads plus a set of Cooper Sigma Shadow Whitewalls and I am set to go for another 50,000-miles in great comfort and economy at 27 mpg.

The car had 84,000 miles on the odometer when I bought it. I’ll write you again when I get to 300,000 or so…..again, many thanks!

 

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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Cop Drives Classic Cop Car: 1991 Ford LTD Crown Victoria and 1996 Crown Victoria http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/cop-drives-classic-cop-car-1991-ford-ltd-crown-victoria-and-1996-crown-victoria/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/cop-drives-classic-cop-car-1991-ford-ltd-crown-victoria-and-1996-crown-victoria/#comments Mon, 03 Jun 2013 12:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490256 Along with the faux cop car 1972 Ford Galaxie Custom 500 that I reviewed a few weeks back, my department has saved two other examples of police cars once used on patrol. I can personally vouch that these two G- rides are the real deal, because they were both in service in 1997 when I […]

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SAM_1902 Picture by David Hester

Along with the faux cop car 1972 Ford Galaxie Custom 500 that I reviewed a few weeks back, my department has saved two other examples of police cars once used on patrol. I can personally vouch that these two G- rides are the real deal, because they were both in service in 1997 when I started my career.

SAM_1828 Picture by David Hester

First up we have a 1991 Ford LTD Crown Victoria. I’ve never liked the “box” style Panthers. When I was going through the police academy, I had the misfortune to be stuck using one of these when we went through our pursuit and emergency driving training courses. Most of my classmates were lucky enough to have been assigned newer ’92- ’94 Crown Vics. The instructors insisted that there was no difference and that the two different models handled the same.

SAM_1827 edited Picture by David Hester

They lied. Other than being RWD four door sedans that are painted refrigerator white, the two models have nothing in common, particularly when it comes to handling. The design soldiered on basically unchanged from 1979 until 1991. The “boxes” were dinosaurs compared to the “bubbles.” My classmates who were in newer, better handling cars did significantly better on the exercises. I had to come back for retraining… which was done in a newer Crown Vic and I passed easily.

I graduated from the police academy and was assigned to 3rd shift patrol with my first field training officer.  His ride was a ’91 Crown Vic. On my first night, he put me behind the wheel and promptly went to sleep. This was to be the pattern of our time together for much of the next five weeks. I learned how to drive very, very smoothly so as not to wake him.

SAM_1837 Picture by David Hester

Smoothly is the best way to drive a first generation Panther. I have driven them in anger and the only thing worse is to be a passenger in one being driven in anger by someone else because passenger side airbags weren’t an option until the ’92 redesign. I hadn’t driven one at all in well over a decade before taking out P#717 for a spin.

A few weeks ago Murilee Martin asked the Best and Brightest during  which 10 year period they thought automobiles advanced the most. I didn’t participate in the thread, but after driving these two cars back to back (along with the ’72 Ford the same day), I’m convinced that the 1980s saw the most advancement. The ’91 LTD was designed in the mid ’70s and went on sale as a ’79. It passed through the entire decade of the ’80s basically frozen in time.

I was struck by how old- fashioned the car was, with whisper thin A- pillars, offensively fake wood trim, velour upholstery, chrome switchgear, tiny rearview mirrors, and all of the other little details that made the  driving experience of the ’91 model feel closer to that of the ’72 Custom 500 that was 19 years older than to that of the ’96 model that was only 5 years newer.

SAM_1849 Picture by David Hester

The power steering is over- assisted like the steering in the ’72, with the same floating sensation that encourages you to steer with one finger while using the hood ornament as a sort of sight to keep the car between the ditches. As you build up speed, air rushing into the engine compartment through the massive grille makes the edges of the hood start to flutter due to the fact that  the LTD has approximately the same aerodynamic properties as a brick. It serves as a natural speed governor. The faster you go, the more violently the hood shakes until the driver starts to worry that the latch might not keep it from becoming airborne and slows down.

SAM_1856 Picture by David Hester

The ’91 Crown Vics did have a couple of advantages over the redesigned ’92s. The first was their massive chrome bumpers that could actually bump stuff without showing damage the way the painted bumpers of modern cars will. The second one was ground clearance, an advantage I discovered one night my in my first months as a solo patrol officer. Although I was assigned a ’92 model when I finished the field training program, ’89- ’91 models made up the pool car fleet. When my assigned car was down for service, I would have to drive a pool car.

On this particular evening, I decided to drive through a construction area near one of the middle schools in my beat. As part of the school’s renovation the rear parking lot was being expanded. A layer of dirt and gravel had been poured and I decided to drive over it to have a closer look at some of the new construction to the rear of the school.

What I couldn’t see in the dark was that there was a drop of about 9 inches from the edge of the finished parking lot to the gravel. My front wheels dropped off of the end with bone-jarring thud. I had the presence of mind to immediately stop and get out. The oil pan was about an eighth of an inch above the edge of the concrete. If I had been driving my ’92 instead of the older pool car I probably would have been high-centered and unable to move unless I was willing to sacrifice various expensive parts of the undercarriage.  Instead I was able to build a small ramp out of scrap lumber and backed the ’91 up  onto higher ground.

SAM_1871

Ultimately, except for their innate ability to take a beating, there is nothing to recommend a ’91 Crown Vic over the ’92- ’97 models. The ’92 and later models feel and drive like modern cars. They’re equipped like modern cars as well, with airbags, ABS, and traction control. The steering isn’t completely numb, although it could use a little more feedback. Drive the ’91 and a later model back to back as I did and the newer car just feels so much more capable.

SAM_1896 Picture by David Hester

’92 and ’93 models came equipped with bench seats, but bucket seats were available for police package models beginning in ’94. The gap available to fit a console between the seats was just over 9 inches wide, a distance that Ford continues to pretend exists between the buckets in a new Ford Police Interceptor Sedan.

SAM_1888 Picture by David Hester

Most of my time as a patrol officer was spent in ’92- ’97 Crown Vics. I was assigned a ’92 (wrecked), a ’95 (wrecked, but not my fault), a ’94 (wrecked), another ’92, another ’94, and a ’96 (See. I got better.) before being entrusted with a brand new 2001 (which was also wrecked, but it also wasn’t my fault.) I managed to walk away from all of my misadventures without injury, something I’m not sure would have been true in one of the old boxes.

SAM_1878 Picture by David Hester

The model pictured here is a ’96, which was the last year that Ford would have any real competition in the police market for nearly a decade. Chevrolet would be dropping the Caprice until the Caprice PPV returned in 2011. Dodge had already given up the market and wouldn’t return until the police package Charger dropped in 2006. From ’97 until ’06, Ford had the RWD police sedan market sewn up.

They’ve abandoned it now, trying to push the Taurus as a worthy successor. GM and Chrysler both returned to the market with RWD sedans, for now at least. Perhaps Ford will as well.

 

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