The Truth About Cars » panther love The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 27 Jul 2014 20:45:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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 (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » panther love Piston Slap: SHO me My Next Car? Mon, 21 Jul 2014 12:01:42 +0000 (photo courtesy:

(photo courtesy:

Bob writes:


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 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? Wed, 07 May 2014 12:27:40 +0000

TTAC Commentator slance66 writes:


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 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 SLAB Culture Mon, 14 Apr 2014 11:55:18 +0000 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’s 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.   


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?


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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 Mon, 30 Dec 2013 13:39:46 +0000

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?


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 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??? Wed, 04 Dec 2013 13:02:15 +0000 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 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? Wed, 16 Oct 2013 11:54:03 +0000 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 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! Mon, 16 Sep 2013 12:17:44 +0000

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 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 Mon, 02 Sep 2013 23:17:38 +0000 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? Tue, 13 Aug 2013 11:47:16 +0000

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 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 Tue, 09 Jul 2013 20:40:34 +0000 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? Mon, 10 Jun 2013 11:00:53 +0000

TTAC commentator confused1096 writes:


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 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 Mon, 03 Jun 2013 12:00:36 +0000 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.


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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Junkyard Find: 1986 Ford LTD Country Squire LX Fri, 31 May 2013 13:00:33 +0000 01 - 1986 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSince we’re on a Country Squire Junkyard Find roll, with a ’76 Squire on Wednesday and a ’77 Squire yesterday, let’s take a look at a Panther Squire today. Yes, Panther Love even extends to Reagan-era woodie wagons!
09 - 1986 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe 1979-91 Panther-based Country Squire was much smaller than the dreadnaught that preceded it, but it still had room to haul a family of six in relative comfort.
04 - 1986 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThanks to the lightweight Panther chassis and electronic fuel injection (starting in the 1983 model year), owners of 1980s Country Squires were able to crack the magical 20 highway MPG fuel-economy barrier. The mid-70s Squires were lucky to get double-digit fuel economy (downhill, drafting 18″ behind a semi).
10 - 1986 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s hard to imagine phony wood paneling worse than the stuff used by Ford in the 1970s, but the bean counters managed to find an even cheaper source for the stuff by the 1980s.
02 - 1986 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese were pretty good wagons, in spite of the archaic 60s-flashback decorative touches, and you still see quite a few on the street today.

01 - 1986 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1986 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1986 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1986 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1986 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1986 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1986 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1986 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1986 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1986 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1986 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1986 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]> 32
Piston Slap: Coming to Terms with an Old Soul Thu, 30 May 2013 12:00:43 +0000

Ross writes:

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

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

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

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

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

Sajeev answers:

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

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

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

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

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

Send your queries to 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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NHTSA Not On Board With Panther Love Wed, 01 May 2013 12:30:50 +0000
While we normally avoid recall related stories here at TTAC, our beloved (well, not by me, really) Panthers get so little love elsewhere, we figure we may as well bring this to your attention.

NHTSA is looking into a possible defect in 2005-2008 Ford Police Interceptors, and I’m willing to bet somebody reading this site drives that exact vehicle. As per Automotive News (via Reuters)

NHTSA said it is conducting an engineering analysis into model year 2005-2008 Ford Motor Co. Crown Victoria police models for a potential steering issue. A connection between the upper and lower shafts of the steering column may have failed, causing separation of the shafts, NHTSA said.


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New or Used? : The Blasphemy Of Accountancy Edition Tue, 30 Apr 2013 10:00:16 +0000

TTAC commentator Gannett writes:

This has now become an important question around our house: what’s the best/cheapest (not necessarily the same thing) way to drive 25,000 miles a year?

My wife commutes about 90 miles a day round-trip.  She has been driving a ’98 Crown Vic P71, but that’s getting to be about done.  I want to get her something newer. So I start looking around, and there’re a lot of choices.  But then I start running the numbers in my head.  25k miles a year.  That’s 100k miles every 4 years.  Holy crap.  By the time whatever-it-is is paid for it may be mostly used up.  Not good.

So now I’m in a quandary as to basic approach, and would appreciate the advice of you and the commenters.  Not about which car to buy, but what the buy/sell strategy should be.  Do we:

1)  Buy new or near-new and trade in 1/2/3/4/5 years (not fond of this as I hate initial depreciation, but I’ll listen).

2)  Buy an off-lease and trade in 1/2/3/4 years?

3)  Buy something 1/2/3/4/5 years old and run it into the ground?

4)  Buy something 1/2/3/4/5 years old and just keep it for one year?

5)  ??

Does the question make sense?  I’m trying to figure where in the vehicle’s lifetime to buy, and where to sell, to try and keep the capital cost per 25k miles, including depreciation, the lowest, but still keep reliability, etc., high.  Fuel prices are not really under consideration – there you pay for the comfort/performance you want.  I would probably want the sell-it mileage to not be more than 150k for reliability’s sake.

We’ve never dealt with this sort of annual mileage before (we moved out to “the country”) so this is unfamiliar territory.  I know other folks have this situation.  What to do?

Steve Says:

The smartest thing to do is expand your mileage expectations a bit.

Most cars these days with proper care will easily last over 200k, and a police interceptor like the one you have is often durable enough to get past the 300k mark. I have financed a lot of former police cars over the years and from my experiences, it’s easy to figure out why taxi companies use them in spite of the gas penalty.

They just don’t wear out and they take abuse better than nearly anything else out there. Even the new police cars don’t measure up to the Vic.

If you want to have a worry-free ownership then find a good independent mechanic and don’t cheap out on parts.

It’s that simple when it comes to these models.

If you’re still looking for a relative point where the depreciation is minimal and the longevity is respectable, I would say a 9 to 11 year old vehicle would be the ‘average’ sweet spot.

A rust free climate is a big help when buying the older aged vehicle. I bought two 03 models recently, an 03 Impala and an 04 Volvo XC70, and both of them will likely sell for about 15% of their new car price and I would roughly estimate that they have about 35% of their service life left.

But they are also both a bit over 150k. Five years ago the 8 year old vehicle with 100k miles was the sweet spot. Now for the same money, it’s somewhere around the 10 year mark with a spread between 135k and 165k on the mileage.

Sajeev Says:

I don’t believe people own a car perfectly suited to their pocketbooks, short term or long term.  Too simplistic. But this isn’t about owning a Camry and lusting for a Ferrari; this feeling is far, FAR more mundane.  The lure of newer Panther Love (5 year old Town Car vs. a beat up P71) or any scenario that surprises and delights is stronger than a strict budget for the next 8+ years of use.

Your eye will wander and you’ll think, “I coulda had this instead and not pay much more for it!” If we recommend a Corolla to replace the Crown Vic and you hate the seats after 6 months, will you keep it for long? Not likely. 

To avoid future email saying, “thanks for the advice guys but it was wrong, now I need a new car” I’m asking you to narrow down the parameters. The intangibles. The things that make us human beings, not robots! Get something you’ll actually like for this time period.  A car that, flaws intact, will still be interesting enough to avoid the lure of newer metal.  Panthers are good at that…if you actually like Panthers.

My gut is telling me to recommend a 2-3 year old Camry, Fusion, Accord, Altima or just about any other mainstream family sedan with a proven track record for reliability and (somewhat) low cost of ownership after 100,000 miles.  The Camry is kinda numb and isolating, so maybe that’s the best for someone who likes the ride of a Panther.  Again, if you actually like the ride of the Panther.

Catch my drift? Don’t even bother running the numbers until personal preferences are matched to test drives. 

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New Or Used? : What Isn’t Better Than A Panther Edition Fri, 12 Apr 2013 12:00:42 +0000
TJ writes:

Hey Sajeev and Steve,

Need your assistance for a fellow panther lover (my aunt) who is going to be looking for a new ride this fall.

She currently has a Mercury Grand Marquis (her second or third) and loves the car and would replace it with another in a heartbeat if they were still for sale.  If you’re asking why she’s getting rid of it, there isn’t any particular reason.

My aunt always replaces her cars ever 3-5 years (so B&B please no exhortations to keep the car, that was my original advice and it isn’t happening) and this one is coming up on it’s expiration date.  A word about my mother’s family so you realize how committed they are to this sort of car: My mom is one of 4 sisters, and between them, they’ve owned (at least) 2 Cadillac Devilles, 2 Eldorados, the aforementioned MGMs, a Buick Lesabre or Park Ave, and a Lincoln Town Car.  You get the idea.  They like them big, floaty, with a cavernous trunk, and preferably with a leather couch or recliner in the front.

I’m gonna try to take her to the Miami auto show this fall so she can see sample all her options at once, but wanted to see if you had any guidance.  Of the new cars that will be on offer, what is the next best thing to her beloved Panther?  My aunt realizes most people have migrated to SUVs/CUVs, but she says they won’t work because she finds them too difficult to climb in and out of (she’s 65 and barely over 5′ tall).

My first two suggestions were shot down, which were a Chrysler 300 (does’t like the styling) and a Chrysler Town and Country (doesn’t want a minivan).  I still hope that maybe sitting in the 300, or seeing the versatility of the T&C may change her mind (she has two still growing grandkids).  The next best option I could think of was the Ford Flex, with the Taurus being a distant 4th.  Any other suggestions?

I’ll have her look at the LaCrosse, Genesis, Azera, Avalon, and ES350, but I’m concerned they will be too small and/or not cushy enough, and the Cadillac XTS may be too pricey and not torquey enough.  While she is a 65 year old Grandmother, after 20 years of Ford 4.6 and GM 3800 ownership, she’s also used to lazy, effortless low end grunt helping her force her way through South Florida’s insane traffic, and I know the XTS has been hit hard in reviews for its combination of a peaky engine, high curb weight, and tall gearing.  Have I missed any other worthwhile options?  Thanks for your help.

Steve Says:

Every model you mentioned from the Lacrosse to the ES350 offers more overall interior space than the ol’ Grand. Though they all fall short of the Panther when it comes to the, “Why the hell would anyone buy a new one?” factor.

As for the ride, the Hyundai models ride a bit more taut than the others. So scratch those two.

The LaCrosse would be a good blue plate special car for her given her apparent apathy for quality interior components. But I would check to see if the interior design agrees with her first.

The ES350 is wonderful, but steep. If your Aunt has a liking for large Marge levels of interior space and a floaty ride, I would strike a deal for the outgoing prior gen Avalon. It also has a cost contained interior that is thankfully two clicks above the last Grand Marquis redesign, and you may be able to cut her a good deal.

Then again, the Shoney’s capital of the world may not offer much in the ways of discounts for a Camry-esque product.

I understand your kvetching about this expenditure. My own mom has that same Floridian ailment that is replacing a perfectly good car for no other reason than the changing of the tides. Every ten years I buy her a new Camry. Why? Beats me. However the depreciation works out to only about $150 a month. For what works out to $5 a day, I can deal with it.

I would focus on helping her with the selling of her car and the negotiation process, if she desires your help, and start with having her rent a Buick LaCrosse for the day. You may be able to find an Avalon for rent as well. This is Florida after all. Give her a couple days to make the decision, and remember to be a mensch when she picks that aqua blue model with the glossy white vinyl roof.

Sajeev Says:

I’m glad to hear she doesn’t like the 300: not because it’s a horrible vehicle, but because it doesn’t personify the values present in Panther Love.  Those proper American Sedans doing their job since the 1950s. That’s history, and that’s okay.  Now she needs to learn to compromise…somewhere.

Aside from a CPO Mercedes with some sort of thumpin’ V8 under the hood, there’s nothing in play that’s torquey enough to be a contender in the motor and styling department.  Make sure she test drives all the cars mentioned above, but there are two machines for me in this situation: the Toyota Avalon and the Camry LE. Yup, the LE.

Granted, I haven’t driven a new Camry yet, and I didn’t like the previous model (because we still had Panthers back then) but this is probably the best machine for a numb, floaty, and isolating cabin.  The Avalon? Perhaps better, but maybe not enough to justify the price.

I once grudgingly admitted that my last trip through NY, NJ and PA was far more pleasant because the (last gen) Camry LE (with those tall sidewalls) did a good job obliterating every bump on the road. While it wasn’t that unique blend of isolating-while-inspiring-confidence like RWD Panther Love, it worked. Aside from the lack of torque, the Camry might be the best bet here.  And I can’t believe I just wrote that.

Off to you, Best and Brightest.

]]> 44
Vengeful Scam On Legit Repo Man or Crooked Repo Man Selling Stolen Car? You Decide! Thu, 11 Apr 2013 16:30:08 +0000 The world of towed-away cars can be a harsh one, as our very own Steven Lang often points out. Today I heard the latest in a long series of tales from the often-penumbral world of towing and repossessions, a Craigslist ad that purports to be selling a mistakenly-repoed Crown Vic. A phony ad meant to drag a clean business and its owner into a world of pain— an all-too-common occurrence in the maddening world of Craigslist cars-for-sale listings— or something that will soon have the constabulary asking a lot of pointed questions in a certain Maryland tow yard’s office?
24 Hours of LeMons Legend Speedycop, who happens to have a day job as a Washington DC police officer (and never looks for potential race cars while he’s on duty), found a too-good-to-be-true ad for a 1998 Ford Crown Victoria with free bonus ’99 Crown Victoria as part of the deal.
Hmmm… something about this doesn’t smell quite right. Let’s read the text of the ad (redacted in case this is a burn job by a vengeful ex-girlfriend and/or business rival):
“1 1998 crown Vic with title n runs great and. 1999 crown Vic with no title. The second was repossessed my my company ■■■■■, but was the wrong repoed and we never took back. Car runs great n in mint condition. Can get up a title by swapping vins easily. 100.00 for both. I own ■■■■■ REPOSSESSION COMPANY. IF WANT TO BUY ASAP CALL 410 ■■ ■■■■, my name is ■■■■■. Best time to reach me is at night or here’s my address to stop by n look at em. ■■■■■ ■■■■■ rd. fallston md. Both must go ASAP. Feel free to stop by anytime at my residence. TY. Ill be home all night at furnace rd or my business at ■■■■■ ■■■■■ rd. Nottingham md. Please rush”
So, Speedycop has informed his law-enforcement colleagues in the Baltimore area about this ad, and let’s just say that they’re verrrrrry interested. Mistakenly-repoed car being offered with the suggestion of a VIN swap, or reprehensible burning-bag-o-dog-poop-on-the-porch prank? The “I’ll be home all night” and ridiculously low selling price suggests the latter, but who can say? We’ll let you know what happened, once the dust settles.

PleadingNote1_1280 38 - Spirit of LeMons Racing Cessna - History Craigslist Sketchy Tow Ad- Picture courtesy of Craigslist Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 13
New Or Used? : Large Marge Don’t Want No Land Barge Edition Fri, 05 Apr 2013 10:31:53 +0000
Dear Steve and Jeev,

My girlfriend needs a car while in the midst of many other big financial decisions that severely limit her car budget. Here’s the situation.

She has access to a family owned Mercedes 380SL that has what I believe to be transmission issues. It’s dripping dark red fluid from right about where the transmission looks to be and it’s probably also leaking oil.

I’m handy, but I don’t think I’m money pit Benz convertible transmission and rear main seal handy. Then again it might not be so bad and might be a reasonable fix, until the next time it shoots itself in the foot. It currently doesn’t run and last time it was driven apparently exhibited the same problem it has for years, which is that if you don’t take it easy off the line it just dies on you.

So she needs a new car, but she needs something as close to under $4k as possible.

She also has specific tastes, though she’s somewhat flexible. (Oh boy! And here comes her laundry list! -SL)

Click here to view the embedded video.

Completely averse to Panthers (otherwise I wouldn’t have to write this email) and doesn’t want a Taurus ever (her grandmother drives one, it’s been nothing but misery).

Oh also, it can’t be a manual, which means anything remotely – Miata, 2002, Volvo wagon with ls1 swap – fun out of the question. I’ve been looking at Volvo 240s, 740s, 940s, 850s, overpriced Camrys and Accords, Corollas/Prisms and a lot of late 90s early 00s 4th and 5th gen Maximas and i30s. Also G20s and just for good measure the occasional Saab.

Click here to view the embedded video.

I’m very comfortable with the Maxima/i30 as my dad had one for 10 years and it’s what I learned how to work on so I know how to do any repair imaginable and problem areas plus they’re in abundance in this price range. I’m also intrigued by the Volvo option since you could easily sell it for the same you paid for it or more if there’s anything wrong that can be easily fixed.

As I said, I feel comfortable armed with a forum and a Haynes manual to do any reasonable repairs short of transmission rebuilds but I want something that’s easy and cheap to work on as possible. I know that the whole no domestics thing and crapshoot prices don’t help but what should she do? Find out how much the SL will cost to repair? Flush the transmission and hope for the best? What other cars should I be looking for that I’m missing. I assume craigslist is pretty much the only reliable source for these and that I’m buying a car for an owner not the car. Also, should she try to wait out tax season until prices come down, I’ve noticed that even on these sub 5k cars the prices seem higher than normal.

Steve Says:

How does she feel about a minivan?

I would suggest telling her that you want to fill one of those up and your problem should go away real quick. (Childish Giggling – SM)

Here’s the rub on this. Your girlfriend needs to stop looking at the popular cars with the unrealistic expectation of low maintenance and a low price. She wants a cheap Camry? Fine. You will find that the cheap ones are cheap for a reason. I have seen unfortunate souls spending dozens of weekends trying to find a popular car at a cheap price.

Most of them wind up anteing up thousands more than their budget allowed, and buying a popular vehicle with very high miles. Some people are OK with this outcome. The truth is that a better solution is there only if she is willing to adjust her expectations.

I would sit down together in front of the computer and go through the unpopular and orphan brands first. Visit carsurvey, Edmunds, here, there and anywhere else that offers reviews from actual owners. My recommendation is a late 90′s Buick Regal with the 3.8 Liter V6 and about 120k to 150k on the miles. Either that or an Explorer if she wants a bigger vehicle.

Get an older SUV if she doesn’t drive a lot. Or get an unpretentious middle-of-the-road sedan, with a keen eye on the powertrain combination, if her driving will be 10,000 miles or more a year.

Sajeev says:

The Benz might be worth a punt, but that’s only if she doesn’t need to drive very often. My guess is that this conditional statement is rather unrealistic. So the SL ain’t happening.

At this price, tough love is better than proper indulgence. She buys the vehicle with the cleanest interior, newest tires/brakes, the biggest wad of service receipts, and a character that isn’t completely offensive to her sensibility. That said:

“[She's] Completely averse to Panthers (otherwise I wouldn’t have to write this email)”

Come on Son, don’t make jokes like that! Has she not seen the best Music Video ever made on the face of the Universe?

I simply refuse to live in the real world believe that women cannot embrace Panther Love. And I know my man Lang agrees, he came up with the title! While my advice is true, there’s a good chance that the best vehicle for the price will also be a super tidy Panther.

But seriously, get the cleanest, best maintained, late-model, non-European machine you find…buy what she wants when she has more cheddar. Because getting what you want now only hurts you in the future.

Unless it’s a Panther.

]]> 73
Piston Slap: Deffo Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile! Mon, 28 Jan 2013 13:00:54 +0000 Paul writes:

Long time listener, first time caller. I have a 1982 Oldsmobile 98 Regency Brougham, that last summer I ripped the 307 out of. It now has a Chevy ZZ4 crate motor, backed by a TH 350 transmission. (Gasp! My hero!!! – SM)

My problem now is the car overheats if it is sitting still. I have a stock sized radiator (for the 307) installed, backed by a pair of electric 12″ fans. The fans are rotating in the proper direction, and do turn on and off properly.

My question now is: do I add more radiator (which would mean fabricating new mounts, lots of other stuff), or switch to a mechanical fan? I would need to go with a reverse rotation mechanical fan as I have the serpentine belt pulley kit on the motor. Do you think the fan alone will fix the problem? My other question is I only have about 1000 km on this engine, could it just be some trapped air in the coolant system?

Please reply quickly, as I am looking to start rolling in the car now that winter is done here in Winnipeg.

Thanks, Paul.

Sajeev answers:

First off, lemme say these vintage Olds 98s and Buick Electras are so much cooler than comparable Panthers. Second, OMG SON ZZ4 98 RESTOMOD FTW SON!

Now, how old is the radiator? You probably just need a new one, a OEM replacement. Radiators get clogged with age, and my first comment is to replace what you got if you do not know how old it is.

Once again, I love your restomod! Early 80s GM sedans deserve the attention you are giving. This is the real definition of Panther Love, fixing those often misloved American icons from our now unfortunate past.  But, now we have crossover utility vehicles.  So all the best to you.

Paul writes:

Hello Sajeev, thank you for the reply. The rad is brand new, installed at the same time as the engine. Any other ideas you have would help.

Thanks Again, Paul.

Sajeev answers:

How many CFMs (cubic feet per minute) do the fans push? You might want to see if they flow as well as the Lincoln Mark VIII electronic fan, as it is an upgrade for many vehicles, and maybe that’s what you need. See what CFMs it flows for sure.

Paul writes:

Hello Sajeev, the fans are not rated for CFM. I think I am going to go with the mechanical fan, and see what happens. I will make sure to update you with how well it works.

Thanks, Paul.

Sajeev concludes:

There’s nothing wrong with having a mechanical fan, but I’m starting to wonder if that isn’t the problem.  Yes, perhaps you didn’t “burp” the system properly and there’s an air bubble in it.  Definitely run the Olds (from a dead cold start) with the radiator cap removed and the heater on.  Let the system circulate and as it gets up to operating temperature, you should see bubbles escaping from the radiator. Top off the system right there, and in a minute or two, put the cap back on when it starts to dribble out the top of the radiator.**

Perhaps the radiator cap isn’t strong enough to keep correct pressure, or maybe the thermostat is defective…or maybe who knows from our vantage point!  But we all wish you luck on this unbelievably awesome restomod project. Dang.


**Not applicable on newer vehicles, as you can’t even see the radiator.  The same technique applies, but you have to remove the radiator cap from the remote fill reservoir instead. And maybe from another fill/bleed point, ALWAYS RTFM WHEN IN DOUBT!

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

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Junkyard Find: 1997 Mercury Grand Marquis LS Safety Edition Thu, 03 Jan 2013 14:00:09 +0000 By the time the last few years of the Mercury-ized version of the Ford Crown Victoria rolled around, every single Grand Marquis sold was an Ultimate Edition. Back in the late 1990s, however, Mercury shoppers had more choices. Including, apparently, a Safety Edition. Here is an example I found in a Denver self-service yard last week.
A close look at the badges on the fenders makes me think that we’re dealing with some sort of dealer-installed or coachbuilder option, not a factory trim level.
The vinyl landau roof is a good indicator that some (no doubt Florida-based) company created its own line of Safety Edition Grand Marquis de Sades, perhaps in a shop just down the street from the one that made the faux-vertible ’97 Cougar XR7.
The cylinder heads are in the trunk, which offers a solid clue about the reason for this car’s current parking place.
I couldn’t find any signs of safety features beyond what all Panthers got in 1997. Perhaps this car got the police-grade stab-proof seats to protect the driver from unruly back-seaters.

01 - 1997 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1997 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1997 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1997 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1997 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1997 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1997 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1997 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1997 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1997 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1997 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1997 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1997 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1997 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1997 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 60
Piston Slap: Ter-Sell or not Ter-Sell? Wed, 05 Dec 2012 13:14:51 +0000

TTAC Commentator Ryoku75 writes:

Thanks for your response on my question on modern car grilles, you make a good point on modern cars being a bit taller up-front than needed. Now, I own an ’89 Toyota Tercel that needs a rear wheel bearing and exhaust (muffler, piping), otherwise it works fine and has 125k.

Unless if I fix the bearings and exhaust it won’t pass inspection. To fix them it would be $600 for both at my local garage.Should I fix it or sell it for $1500 and get something else?

If I should sell it, what should I get? My Criteria is:

1. Reliable
2. Long-Lasting
3. Cheap to fix (Parts, Labor, ease of work)
4. Not a Nissan Juke (I can take ugly, but this is something else)

If you suggest a “Panther” I’d go with it, they seem like good cars from what I’ve heard.

Sajeev answers:

Come on, Son!  If you’re even remotely considering a Panther, you know that I’m In It To Win It!

Just like the perfect license plate on a fat (non-beancounted) Panther. Ahem, now where were we?

Then again, your Tercel sounds pretty sweet, only needing a few hundred in repairs to make it a decent runner. Definitely don’t sell it, unless you want something newer.  Do you want something newer? I hope not. But I’d love to see you with a Panther and a Tercel.  You’ll have a (very) poor man’s S-class Benz for when you want to relax, and a proper miser (from the over-engineered era of Japanese cars) for the rest of the time.   Can’t swing that way?  Just be honest in your assessment of the Tercel’s future repairs.

If ye olde Tercel needs a few hundred in repairs every year, who cares?  Does your job demand you have a 100% reliable ride so you will always be 15 minutes early in the office? Must you have a fully functional vehicle all the time, or are items like a fubar A/C not a deal breaker in the short-term?

Answer those questions honestly and you’ll have your answer.  And if you wind up with a Panther, well, it’s all good.

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

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Piston Slap: Of Panther Love, and a Fox Love Supreme (Part II) Tue, 06 Nov 2012 17:16:10 +0000

Sajeev writes:

This is an update to a previous Piston Slap query about buying one of the last great American sedans. And there’s no Panther bias here, you insane Rotary guys are free to buy this beast and share your thoughts the same manner. We’ll listen to ANY great story.  And go vote while you’re at it…since our opinions can’t help us keep cars in production!

C.K. writes:

How TTAC inspired me to live the dream…or how a Lincoln Town Car changed my life…and how I stopped living in fear of the unknown and took the leap

On October 12, 2011, I took delivery of the very last, fully loaded, brand new, never owned, 2011 Lincoln Town Car Continental Edition left in the US. Vibrant white over black leather, my dream car down to the last detail. Built in the last few weeks of production, July 2011, in St. Thomas, at a factory that is no more. That built cars that are no more. A car of so many lasts. The last true Lincoln. The last body-on-frame luxury car. The last RWD, non fleet, bench seat equipped, chrome laden, no excuses version of a car that has roamed America for decades. Unapologetic in every way. The anti-Prius.

It was not an easy process getting to this point. Since May, the deal had fallen through about 3 times. First, even though I have a good career and credit, getting a loan with an interest rate that wasn’t an insult to my ego was like herding cats, or pulling teeth, or pulling cat teeth! Either I was turned down (by my own bank – the very idea!), or given Mafia rates (the dealer, big surprise), or given the ol’ bait and switch (the local credit union). It seemed like no one wanted to loan a 29 kid $44K for a car that had been sitting on a lot, out of state, for over a year. Maybe they have learned their lesson from the big bust!

Then a chance conversation with my insurance agent (when I was trying to get the insurance for the new car for deal #3) and how they did car loans, and well, the rest is history in the garage. Got the rate I wanted, and of course the dealer magically had a new rate that month that would beat my current rate…whatever jerks, you had your chance to finance me. All along they had been telling me 5 something percent, and then the day they found out I was getting 2.39 did they offer me 2.35. Car dealers suck, no doubt about it.

But how could he buy a car sight unseen like that? From a dealer that sucks big donkey balls? For a price that makes absolutely no economic sense? Well, the week I bought it I had a layover in New Orleans, and me and 2 coworkers made a road trip out to see the car. I had to know for sure. And secretly I wanted something to be wrong with the car. So wrong that it would make me change my mind and not want it anymore. Some damage, some missing detail, some fraud. I kind of wanted the whole thing to fail, crash and burn, to save me $44K, to make me come to my senses. I call it self sabotage. Of course the road trip was a blast. Can’t give any details, you know, what happens in rented Camry…but the car was perfect. It was new. Not a year old used car like JSC credit union said. Not 2 years old and disgusting, like my mom said. But just the way I had pictured it, and obsessed about it for weeks, months, years, well, my whole life! And when I saw it, I knew, I had to make it happen.

I flew out at 7am, barely got on the flight, due to weight restrictions and a life on stand by. If I didn’t get on that flight, I was never going to. Back pack full of CD’s (remember, no USB or ipod hook up thing, which i dont have anyway, and i asked about a cassette player, they stopped that on Grand Marquis in 2010), second biggest check I have ever held, fear, hope, nervous…who just passed gas behind me on this Express Jet metal tube? Talk about dream killer!

Within 30 minutes on the road, during awesome sight seeing for hundreds of miles due to the Cruising the Coast Car show, I pulled off for some breakfast at McDs at about 10a where I noticed a 2003 TC with 2 tone white and tan paint parked and Lovin’ It. I got out of my car and a 80 something year old lady panzer attacked me to talk about my new car. “What year is it?” she asked. “Brand new, ma’am.” “But dear, they stopped making them,” she further interrogated with skepticism. “Wow, you’re right, but mine was left over.” “Oh my, I love the dark interior!” And she told me how she was on her third, and best ever. How she only rode in Town Cars, how to use the cruise control because that is the only way to keep from speeding in them, how she has never had to take hers in for anything. And she told me how lucky I was. And she looked just like my grandmother who passed this year. And on cloud nine I floated in to McDs, feeling so great about getting such a warm welcome into the club of geriatric Lincoln owners, that I walked up to the counter to order breakfast, only to find that Miss Daisy had chatted to me so long about the joys that is the legend of Town Car, that they had stopped serving breakfast 15 minutes ago!

Did I make the right choice? Yeah, I think I did. The fight with my mom lasted about 24 hours. The older she gets, the shorter she can hold a grudge. I think it was mainly about her youngest finally becoming a man. She even was mad I didn’t bring it by when I saw her the next day. And I made her drive it to dinner the other night. She still doesn’t know why I wanted a car like that, but she did say it was nice, even though it is big and ugly! My oldest brother asked where Grandma Mary was when he saw it, and my middle brother said I could rent it out for funerals.

And in the biggest surprise of the whole ordeal, I sold the Sebring to the first person who saw it. I had clayed and detail every inch of my former dream car, bought a plethora of for sale signs and poster boards, and parked it on the main drag of my town. Within an hour, a family had seen it, driven it, and then had think about it. I was asking $7200, after being insulted by Carmax with a $4000 trade in offer, for a one owner, warranted, top of the line Chrysler. I mean, come on, 150K mile Corollas and Civics go for for that much! Because they were very nice and lived blocks away, I told the father my rock bottom price was $6500. I had fixed the electroluminescent gauges, it had new tires and battery, all receipts, brochures, manuals, window sticker, etc, and was the cleanest Sebring, heck used car anywhere to be found locally. It needed nothing, just a new owner. And so that night, they called, said it was for their daughter, $6500 seemed fine to them because she needed to replace her 1993 Mustang Convertible. A Fox! Just like the Granada!

When they picked up the car, I showed them pictures of it when I first bought it. A young, skinny kid with a big grin standing by his first brand new car. Now, I am older, not so skinny, but still have a big grin with my second brand new car. My mom kept telling me I was going to be sad when it was gone. No, I said, it was just a car. But when I saw it round the block and leave my life forever, I chocked up. They might just be cars, but they somehow become an extension of who we are. A part of our lives because of how much of our life they make possible. I loved my Sebring TSi and now I love my Town Car.

I have decided to keep the Granada for a while. I have had multiple offers on it, so I know the opportunity is there, but I still enjoy it. And it will help keep the miles off the new car.

I had the dealer order a new window sticker to replace the one they damaged. And I took the Town Car into Bayway Lincoln to get the front license bracket put on, wheel balancing and alignment, order 2 sets of new Continental floor mats (one to keep packaged and one for use for special occasions, lol, I’m OCD), a new driver side wood grain power window switch cover since mine looks bowed, for some reason the fuel filler shuts of the pump when you start filling up the car and cuts off early when the tank is almost fuel, which they ordered parts to fix, and to check into a slight rattle in the dash. They said it was because the visor wasn’t clipped in, but the ting sound is still there. I think they are use to dealing with elderly people who will believe anything! The loaner they gave me was a MKZ, which further proved I bought the right car. It rattled in the A pillars, dash, and doors with 14k. The V6 sounds anemic and agricultural when driven sanely. The SYNC is soooooo distracting. This is definitely not a Lincoln. But, I did like the back up camera and how fast it was when you got on it. My Town Car has back up assist, so it beeps when you get close to something, which I ignored and plowed down my trash cans last week. I am learning to trust technology!

Even with the quibbles, Bayway is fixing everything on Lincoln’s dime. No, I am not getting the experience of buying a luxury car. Yes, Lexus would have wiped the floor with the Lincoln experience. But the car is well made. Everything is soft touch, the leather looks and smells great. It has a controlled float and sounds great when you push it. It is silent to the point where you hear the clock tick at all times. Everybody who has ridden in it has remarked at how luxurious it is, even if they laugh because it that doesn’t have navigation or a USB port or air conditioned seats or SYNC or more power or more gear ratios or come standard with a blue wig. It is like me, flawed but American. And yes, I know it was made in Canada!

It happened. You knew it would. (Photo Courtesy: C.K.) photo(1) photo(2) photo(3) photo ]]> 24
What’s Wrong With This Picture: Carmelo Anthony Edition Wed, 03 Oct 2012 14:44:55 +0000

The exalted community of Panther-platform enthusiasts has a term for people who deliberately make their Crown Vics look like working undercover/plainclothes police cars: “wackers”.

You can’t call this fellow a “wacker”. “Wack”, on the other hand…

TTAC reader and occasional deep-background contributor “Curvy McLegalbriefs” spotted this on the road in the District of Columbia and promptly snapped a shot for us. There’s something to be said about the unique aesthetic in play here; although it appropriates the look of a police car, the actual purpose of the “HUSTLA” livery is to glorify the dope game and remind everyone that they need to “stop snitch’n”.

The fact that it’s legal to drive around in a vehicle explicitly instructing citizens to keep their mouths shut about crimes in their neighborhood is either a remarkable triumph for this country’s free-speech ideals or an explicit demonstration that America in general, and DC in particular, is a failed state. Maybe both! Let’s roll the tape.

Click here to view the embedded video.

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Piston Slap: Putting the HO in your Colony’s 5.0! Thu, 06 Sep 2012 12:01:51 +0000


Joe writes:

Dear Sajeev,

It was a mild winter here in Minnesota, so it promises to be an early spring. And with spring comes the promise of new automotive projects. Right now we are in the pre-spring thinking and planning stages. Attached is a photo of my possible project. Some background would be helpful.

The car is a 1991 Mercury Colony Park. I purchased it in February of 2002 for the bargain price of $4,500. At the time it had 51,000 pampered miles. It had been rustproofed when new, and sat in a garage during every Minnesota winter. Not a hint of rust anywhere when I bought, and almost none at this time. It was purchased to pull a folding camper trailer. A $4,500 panther was a bargain compared to the cost of an SUV or other “modern” vehicle, and far more eye catching and unique. It ended up doing more than pulling a camper. It has been to Disney World 3 times, was displayed at Ford’s 2003 centennial celebration in Detroit, and has moved 2 kids off to college, along with countless camping trips and miscellaneous chores. As such, it has become a family heirloom and my wife and three daughters will not allow me to sell it.

It has 105,000 miles and remains quite stock except for the Keystone Klassics, some Bilstein shocks, and an aftermarket rear sway bar. Given its unique nature, and the fact that so few remain on the road in this type of exceptional condition, I want to keep the car looking and behaving as stock as possible, with the exception of the wheels and some more power. It needs some help under the hood. The stock 5.0 is what it is. The same basic engine could be found in a Mustang GT producing loads more fun. What would be your suggestion for extracting maximum fun from the basic platform that is here, while preserving the character of this final model year station wagon without spending boat loads of dollars and doing the work as a DIY project?

Despite my day job, I have very good mechanical skills. I have replaced head gaskets on a 3.8 litre 1993 Thunderbird, intakes on a 1996 Thunderbird, have completely refurbished the suspension, exhaust and external mechanicals on a 1979 Mazda RX-7 among many other projects.

It seems to me that a starting point would be cylinder heads and exhaust manifolds. What Mustang GT 5.0 litre bits will bolt onto the base 5.0? What about the engine control modules, something I have zero experience with, and what about transmission shift patterns.

Ultimately, I am looking for something that will never be raced, is not out to impress anyone but myself, but when I slide behind the wheel and put my foot into the throttle, it produces a kick in the backside like a 5.0 has the potential to provide.

Any thoughts on where to begin would be most helpful so that the spring planning session can get off the ground.



Sajeev answers:

Thanks for your entertaining letter, Joe. And sorry for the delay in writing back, such is the way this Piston Slap thing works. But I love the Keystones on the Colony Park!

On the plus side, your query is very quick to answer.  On the minus side, you’re making me feel very, very old.  Because I (patting myself on the back) wrote one of the best 5.0HO (i.e. High Output) swap articles for Panthers.  It didn’t feel like this article is 8 years old until I googled it…and formally present it to you all right here.

The “regular” 5.0 in the Panthers (and my favorite Fox bodies) are pretty sluggish by today’s standards.  Plenty of off-the-line bump, and fuel economy better than most carb’d machines to boot. But converting to a 5.0HO from a 1987-93 Ford Mustang makes these 5.0s somewhat more appealing with no real downside. And, to your point, the HO swap is a period correct upgrade that anyone will appreciate.  So just do it.

When the stock 5.0HO’s 225 horsepower isn’t cutting it, slap on a set of aftermarket aluminum heads (watch for piston to valve clearance) and the biggest 5.0 Whipplecharger kit you can find. It will make your Panther fast enough for damn near anyone.

For the record, I did the 5.0HO swap over ten years ago to the vehicle that’s currently my TTAC avatar: a 1988 Cougar XR-7. It’s still running strong. Ish. But everyone (and I mean everyone) loves the sound of this 5.0HO coming up the street. It will do…until I find a deal on those aforementioned heads and supercharger.  Evil. Grin. ON!

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

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