The Truth About Cars » panther The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 16 Jul 2014 15:01:48 +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 Hammer Time : Saving An Old Cougar From Extinction Thu, 15 May 2014 12:10:52 +0000 cou2

An unsellable car comes in many forms.

The three-door minivan. The stickshift attached to a non-sporty wagon. The Daewoo. The conversion van with design graphics rooted in sexual fantasy.

Then there is this car. A car designed in the Reagan era with a cheap plastic grille, an even cheaper plasticized interior, and a luggage rack on the trunk that would do Lee Iacocca proud.

God I love this thing. What the hell is wrong with me?

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Well that is true. But when you throw in a kindly old man with a love for old cars, it can get infectious.

This past weekend, I met this old fellow who wanted to get some witches brew to keep the transmission on his Cougar in shiftable shape.

“How many miles?”

“Oh, about 400,000 miles.”

“You’re kiddin’!”

“No, no, no… I take a lot of long trips. I like the seats and all I have to do is get it to 80 and let time take care of itself.”

Mark was about 80 years old and his life seemed to be the ultimate exercise in triumph in hardship. Five great kids, but not a lot of grandkids. A public pension, but not enough to handle the debts that came with esophageal cancer. A long marriage, and a recent death of a lifelong loved one. His Cougar had been the one enduring constant in his life for the last 17 years, and he wanted to keep it roadworthy for as long as possible.

“Hey, let me ask you?” He told me in a raspy voice that reminded me of the old boxing coach from Rocky, “Do any of these things work?”

A lot of you would assume that everything on the auto parts shelf related to improving a transmission is garbage, and over time, you’re right. There is no snake oil that can reverse the process of transmission wear.

But some of the solvents in these products (and many auto-trans and power steering additives) will soften and swell the seals to get the transmission’s internal seals to seal and hold proper pressure and shift properly.

At least for a while.

I told the guy, “Look, transmissions on these vehicles are as cheap to replace as a bad toupee. Here’s a site I use to find auto parts.”

I showed him the site…. and it didn’t take. This guy was close to technology as we are to typewriters. So instead, I gave him three names and numbers to get a good used transmission. However, there was still a problem.

He didn’t have the money. Broke is broke, and at 80 years old, this guy simply didn’t have the means for those ends. I hate situations like this, but sometimes you just have to offer a temporary band-aid for a bleeding wound that will probably require further attention down the road.

“Let me buy this for you.” I pulled out some Trans-X. “If your mechanic tells you not to use it, then just return it.”

“No, no, no. I appreciate it. Really.” He gave me an aged smile and a pat just under my shoulder. “What you have already done is a mitzvah. Thank you…” and the rest of his words came out in a blur as I was too shocked to here a Yiddish word from an old man living in northwest Georgia.

I always like to kid about living somewhere between civilization and Deliverance. In truth, all my wife’s friends are smart. All my friends are experienced souls, and  my old life was one that I ran away from in much the same way as those with tough childhoods and troubled pasts move in the search for a better life.

Still I missed a lot. That line of thought is for another day, but sometimes the search for a perfect life can lead to imperfect consequences.

Later that evening, I saw that dealer queen at the auction.



A  swan song 1997 Mercury Cougar that would likely be the biggest creme puff of an old man’s car that I would see in the forseeable future. Five pictures rarely tell you the whole story.







After looking at the Carfax history (1 owner, no accidents, 12 service records) and the Autocheck (nothing weird with the title), I wrote the following on my Facebook page.

“Mr. Sajeev Mehta… I have just found the perfect car to compliment the Conti. 61,185 miles and yes, it is indeed an XR7.”

My timing was bad, and the car Sajeev bought was far, far worse. Thanks to a rare, almost incurable disorder known as, “The Lincoln Syndrome”, Sajeev had just decided to double his investment in one of the most heinous cars ever made in modern times. The 1994 Lincoln Continental. A car so bad that it needs two prestigious emblems to help you forget the fact that you got a gasket chewin’ 3.8 and a tranny slippin’ AXOD.


Then again, at $900 to buy, and a $900 double-down to bring everything back to day “fun”  condition, it was too good of a buying experience for Sanjeev to pass up. Yes, his brother is a stakeholder as well in this hopeless pastime.



“There’s only one MN-12 for me baby, and I already got it.”

So the next day, I look at the Cougar. It’s a showpiece. Whoever owned it beforehand had it detailed at least twice a year and rarely took it out of the garage.

Someone would buy it.

I went to the sale that morning, and there was just a ton of weird stuff. A 2014 Chevy Impala Limited, old style, with about 13k miles that ended up selling for $14,200 plus the seller fee. A 2010 Dodge Challenger SE in Blue with some substandard add-ons that went for $15,800. An 04 Viper SRT convertible with 22k that had arbitrated for a bad differential at the prior sale. That one went for $36,100.


After the 8th Volkswagen and 13th minivan crossed the block, the Cougar was up for bid.

I made a fist and mouthed the word, “Fifteen” so that he would be in at $1500. I was betting that the other dealers would sit on their heels or try to lowball it at a thousand. Sometimes this tactic works. Other times, you’re in for a dogfight.

It didn’t work. Someone in the corner hit sixteen, a friend of mine went seventeen. I was hoping for the King’s Rule at this point where you look out for the other guy, and the other guy looks out for you. But with nearly a hundred dealers looking at one vehicle at a time, the market is too competitive and the King’s Rule doesn’t apply.

The auctioneer went back to me. A guy that I have known for 15 years and worked with back when I was on the auction staff at five different auctions. I was thinking about doing a big bump and flashing two fingers for a two thousand dollar bid. Then something happened.

In those few seconds, I was looking at a car that, to be frank, I truly didn’t want. I had already got rid of four unsellable cars the week before, and already had one brown minivan that I took on trade that wasn’t going to sell for a while. At $2k plus the $155 fee, I would be one major repair away from playing around with a car that had no profit in it. Ebay prices were already at play, and I would more than likely be stuck with what I call an “Almost” car. A car that everyone says they want on paper until they try to find the vehicle they truly love.

I didn’t bid. I walked. The surprise was that there were no more bidders, but even at $1855 ($1700 plus the seller fee), I was just out of love for a car that I never truly liked in the first place.

As I walked away, I realized something. Two guys had loved two Cougars. One had driven the car to it’s very limits of usefulness. While the other had kept it in a time warp and will hopefully pay it forward to another ‘keeper’ among the enthusiasts brethren.

The car world had a strange balance to it.

As for me, I now need to start shifting my own gears before I get stuck in my own version of a 17 year old Cougar. There is a squalidness that comes with shucking old and new metal. Somehow, I need to get away from buying one car at a time and applying myself towards developing a better mousetrap that will have a more enduring impact.

Author’s note: There are a lot of click friendly links to this article that will help you better understand a few of the terms. It’s all click friendly. Feel free to reach me at .


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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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Hammer Time: The Rise And The Fall Of The Panthers Wed, 06 Nov 2013 14:08:38 +0000 cv

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

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

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

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

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

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

crown vic

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

crown vic2

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

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


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


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

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

Copy this url: This guy did a wonderful job on his road warrior.

Copy this url: This guy did a wonderful job on his road warrior.

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

BZR Edition

BZR Edition

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

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

Picture Courtesy of

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

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


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


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

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

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

I named the car Lucky.


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

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

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


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

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

What a waste.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

old dog

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

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


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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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Greek Gods and Dead Presidents: Why Ford Doesn’t Care About Making “Real” Lincolns Wed, 31 Jul 2013 14:56:52 +0000 Lincoln_Town_Car_--_01-28-2010

Please welcome TTAC reader John Mohr (username J.Emerson) and his guest contribution to our site

In 2004, my family decided to replace our soon-to-be-off-lease Ford Focus Wagon with another Ford product, having been quite satisfied with our little five-door. This being the height of the Bush-era full-size SUV binge, we were barraged with row upon row of new Explorers, Expeditions, and Excursions when my parents suggested that we wanted a “sensible 4-door family car.” My mother couldn’t have cared less about such monstrosities, but she didn’t like the recently-redesigned Taurus either, and she wanted something larger than her old Focus. Eventually, they got a deal on a new Crown Victoria LX, a car that served us well for many years. The salesmen couldn’t wait to get rid of it; it was an ‘03, and as I said before, nobody wanted bargain-brand full-size sedans in the middle of the Bush years. Most importantly, this particular car shopping experience was my wake-up call to the artificiality of Ford’s luxury branding attempts. And thinking about it now helps me to understand why Ford is content to let the Lincoln line become nothing but a set of badge-engineered clones.

This being a full-service Ford-Lincoln-Mercury dealership, I could see line after line of Panther cars lingering in front of each division’s showroom. Not counting the police specials in the back of the lot, the Ford dealer had the fewest; but the Mercury side had dozens of Grand Marquis, and Lincoln had no shortage of Town Cars. With my parents ensconced in the finance office, I went over to inspect why we had gone with a Ford and not (to my 15 year old mind) one of the more prestigious makes in the Ford stable. It didn’t take me long to realize that the car we wound up with was more luxurious inside than most the Grand Marquis and on par with many of the Town Cars. We had leather seats and a trunk-mounted CD changer (high tech in ’04), while many of the Mercury customers made do with cloth seats and tape decks. The equivalent Grand Marquis always seemed to sticker higher than ours, a fact that my innocent mind found completely puzzling. Lincolns were better optioned and they had unique sheet metal, as well as some other toys that couldn’t be found in their more pedestrian siblings, so a bump in MSRP seemed fair. Even so, I wasn’t fooled into thinking that a Town Car was worth nearly $20,000 more than the Crown Vic.

At the time, I didn’t know who Alfred P. Sloan Jr. was. I didn’t know that he had catapulted the entire US auto industry down a path that eventually devolved into a wholly cynical game played on an increasingly disillusioned public. But I did know that you were a fool if you paid more for an obviously equivalent product, especially one that was parked on the other side of the dealers’ lot. I still see the merit in luxury cars, but only ones that offer you something more for your money. The Crown Vic, the Grand Marquis, and the Town Car were all decent automobiles in their own right, but only one of them was a value. The other two were mostly cynical marketing exercises that were rapidly losing ground as the Germans tried to scrub the last vestiges of Sloanism from the American market. Even so, Ford hasn’t given up on badge-engineering strategy, and good business sense suggests that they probably shouldn’t if they want to continue to compete in the luxury market.

Fast forward to 2013, and Mercury is dead and buried, and Lincoln is almost there too. The new MKZ, a car that many have projected to be the barometer of whether Lincoln lives or dies, failed to impress Derek. Although it’s an undeniably pretty car, it can’t seem to escape its family-car roots in a way that many of the B&B think a “real” Lincoln should. And therein lies the truth: Ford has no intention of turning Lincoln into a serious contender for Mercedes, BMW, or even Cadillac. Instead, Ford realizes that it has a much better chance of cracking open the Audi-Acura-Buick market with its limited resources. Essentially, Ford wants to take Lincoln and make it into what Mercury was supposed to become, before the Carpocalypse killed off any hope that diluted and under-marketed brands such as Saturn, Saab, and Suzuki could (or should) be rescued.

Alan Mulally simply isn’t willing to risk plowing under the kind of cash needed to make a serious go at the world luxury market. He doesn’t have the resources of a VW, GM, or Toyota, despite Ford’s recent dynamic performance in the marketplace. Building a series of attractive but ultimately mundane cars off existing Ford platforms makes the most sense from a financial standpoint, much more so than a moonshot attempt to develop something like a new RWD sedan platform that could potentially require billions of dollars. At the core of all of this is the fact that Lincoln has exactly zero global presence. GM has poured some serious blood, sweat, and tears into remaking Cadillac as a global brand, and thus far has little to show for it other than some XTS commercials with Brad Pitt and a small (but growing) share of the Chinese market. GM can afford to take such risks; indeed, they must, if their business plan for massive growth in Asia is to work. Ford has thus far punted on the Asian market and can’t commit the same kind of resources to it that GM can. Mulally is right to cautiously introduce Lincoln as a sort of novelty brand in China, and to move on from there.

As far as the American market goes, I believe that Lincoln’s strategy can succeed. But this will happen if, and only if, Ford concentrates on going after the mid-tier luxury market. It shouldn’t pretend that Lincolns are serious competitors to the flagship makers. Like Hyundai’s top tier, most of Lexus, and the revitalized Buick, the sweet spot for Lincoln is amongst the “quietly affluent” segment that Derek previously identified in his review of the Equus. Show the moderately wealthy that there are even better versions of already class-leading Ford products just across the showroom floor. It’s not as if Ford has bad material to work with in its current crop of cars (an assertion that will no doubt cause considerable consternation amongst, and the posting of multiple long essays from, the Ford Hater Brigade). Forget delusions of grandeur that a new Continental will emerge from the shadows to bring Lincoln to the top of the world. Focus on building competent, honest products, made by well-paid workers and suppliers with a careful eye for quality. That will do more for the brand than any moonshot project ever could. Mulally probably understands this better than anybody, but it remains to be seen if he can pull it off. The early reviews of the MKZ are certainly disheartening, but the public has yet to register a final verdict.

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Capsule Review: Ford Crown Victoria P71 – Bulletproof Edition Tue, 23 Jul 2013 13:00:59 +0000 Vic

Photo shamelessly stolen from here  because I can’t actually show the one I drove.

Prior to my current posh post, last year I was posted in the now defunct TTAC Caribbean bureau. It was in Curacao, a small Dutch protectorate just north of Venezuela.

While there, I did have a chance to test drive a “Hard Car.” A 2005 Scaletta Moloney Armored Police Code Crown Victoria. When offered the keys to this unnecessary luxury, I snapped them up faster than the boss could say “what the…”and hit the streets of Curacao looking for villains to mock from behind 2 inch layered ballistic glass like Billy Crystal ala’ “Running Scared.” Alas,’ there were no criminal masterminds. Like most tropical locations, Curacao has a good bit of petty crime, but is a safe place. Instead, I occupied myself by sampling the manners of a unique version of a very common car.

The first impression was “this car is a tank.” The second was thought was “…well duh.”  But it’s not obvious from the looks. The car is designed to be pedestrian and hide in the throngs of dull sedans. The modifications follow the same lines as the original. Open the heavy door and the reduced entry is not apparent, until you actually try to get in. I found a ruler and examined the difference. The door is over 9 inches wide from exterior to the arm rest. All of that mass intrudes into the passenger compartment. Additionally the inside in crammed from armoring from the floor and roof.

Once inside, you can see the expanded A, B and C pillars to accommodate the bullet resistant glass, reducing visibility. At the point the glass meets the pillars; the view is distorted due to the multi layered laminate. So with the smaller interior, porthole view and massive doors, the tank sensation is apparent before you fire the engine.

Which you want to do quickly; even with the reduced exposure area, the ballistic glass accelerates the greenhouse effect, already in overdrive because it’s the Caribbean. You need the A/C going.

The underpinnings are standard Panther code fair. The controls feel, move and click the same. The interior is completely removed during construction, but as often as possible, original components are reused. You sit on the flat tweed buckets. The dash, stereo, window switches are our old friends from FoMoCo.

Anyone who has been to Florida knows asphalt near the ocean is made using crushed coral. This makes very slick pavement, especially when it rains. Given the mass of this particular Vic and reduced traction, I feared for the worst. As you would expect, the mass is obvious once moving. Unsure if this model had upgraded brakes, I mentally adjusted my stopping distance.

Then a sinister thought crept inside my adolescent brain. If it slides when stopping, it should slide from a stop. Mwahahahaha! Leaving the parking lot going is a slight uphill right turn. Killing the traction control, I pressed the brake, slid my foot on the gas, cranked the wheels and released.

Nothing. Dangit!

The next intersection was freshly paved, slick and involved a left turn. I took the same steps and even killed the AC. Still nothing. Aw man. I thought for sure that the suspect traction, run flat tires and big honking V-8 would get the pig lose, but every attempt resulted in brisk acceleration, but no hoonage.

This was a shame, because it leads to other ridiculous behaviors. Curacao has fewer Crown Vics than you have toes. Most of the actual police vehicles are Nissan pickups. The two unmarked vehicles on the island are a black 4 Runner and Accord. They are not used for issuing tickets.

Even with a rare silhouette, Victoria still gets her respect. Cars instinctively heel to the right at her approach. I resist the urge to hit the flashing blue lights.

And I fail. It was a blank stretch, avoiding an international incident. Still awesome.

The next morning the keys go back to my boss (who I hope you have figured out, didn’t actually work for TTAC.) The car was overkill for this work, but I understand why we had it. It’s as cool. As my time in this line of work stretches into its third decade, I find that is often the impetus for a lot of purchases and probably a subtle subtext of our current economic crisis.

So even if it isn’t a tropic location, should anyone offer you keys to an armored Panther Victoria, take them. You may not hoon, but you’ll enjoy it.

IMG_1137 IMG_1138 Vic


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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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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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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
Monday Mileage Midget: Vecchio Combustible Paradisio! Mon, 25 Feb 2013 13:00:10 +0000

Today’s edition of Monday Mileage Midget is brought to you by the state of Florida.

Palm trees. Retirement communities. Traffic signals and double yellow lines that are treated as mere suggestions. Florida has become an economic juggernaut thanks in large part to cheap housing, plenty of sunshine, and legal loopholes that allow well deserving retirees and unethical douchebags to live on the cheap.

There is one other unusual reality benefit of living in Florida… low mileage cars.


Here we have a 2008 Mercury Grand Marquis GS with only 3,289 miles.

I love the interior on this one. It just screams out, “Road trip!” with those large cupholders and the virtually untouched seats.

And here we have a 2001 Mercury Grand Marquis GS with only 10,702 miles. Pardon the sun glint but I’m not the one taking these pictures.

Finally, if you are willing to go a bit beyond the usual automotive blue plate specials, there is…

A 2005 Honda Pilot EX with AWD and 15k miles.

A loaded up for 1994, Ford Ranger STX. ABS, Cruise, 5-Speed, Ice Cold Air, AM/FM Radio with the all too essential cassette deck and alloy wheels. A ride that may have cost less out the door in 2009 than it did back in 1994. This one has 22,375 original miles.

Finally, if you find yourself owning a lifetime supply of Grey Poupon and houndstooth sportcoats, you can buy yourself one of these.

A 1997 Bentley Brooklands. Gorgeous. 30,021 miles. Need I say more?

Well, if I must. This may have been one of the last old school designs that you could get before bulbous bling started to take over. The difference between the Bentley Brooklands of 1997…

and the Bentley Brooklands of 2008

is a classic representation of how elegance in automotive design gave way to gaudiness. The most recent generations of the Grand Marquis and the Pilot represent much of the same. Well earned prestige, that ended up completely subverted by those who thought the protruding plasticidity of Escalades and fingernail thin chrome treatments would be the way of the future.

Mark my words. The 1997 Brooklands will be a classic for all the right reasons. The 2008 model won’t be nearly as well received when it comes time for tomorrow’s classic car shows. It may be a hot auction commodity by then. But only because they sold so few of them.

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Hammer Time: What Recession? Thu, 14 Feb 2013 18:13:57 +0000

I live in a nice quaint small town called Powder Springs, Georgia.

The sidewalks are paved downtown and even partially bricked for artistic value. Thanks to a generous donation by the taxpayers. The streetlamps are ornate and well lit thanks to the same contributors.

The old closed down ACE hardware store is now the new police station. The old city hall has been replaced by the new city hall.  Even the vehicles that get too old to keep get replaced with shiny new ones thanks to American taxpayers far and wide.

How many miles do you think would it take to replace a car owned by the local city government?

How about less than 50,000 miles?

This 2005 Chevy Impala has all of 49,974 miles on it. Like any other vehicle that has the agony of driving in what many view as the smoothest roads in the country, this Impala is ready to be put out to pasture.

For some reason, this Impala wasn’t much loved in the city vehicle pool.  7000 miles a year for a non-police unit likely means that this ride didn’t have to go past too many closed down businesses to get to the Waffle House a mile down the street.

What? You want me to get interior pics? Fat chance on that. This is all you are going to see of a car that was made possible by you alone, Mr. John Q Public!

Yawn! You want me to write a description of this car too? Okay, fine then! I’m taking an early lunch after that!

Year Make/Brand Model VIN/Serial Miles
2005 Chevrolet Impala 2G1WF52K059385392 49,974
Condition Category
See Description Automobiles
2005 Chevrolet Impala Base SEDAN 4-DR, 3.8L V6 OHV 12V.2007 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor SEDAN 4-DR, 4.6L V8 SOHC 16V.2001 Ford Crown Vic info

I did mention it was a SEDAN. So as far as I’m concerned, my job is done here.

Here are a few other prized jewels for the offering.  I do have to confess that this is not anywhere near the worst presentation of government vehicles that I have ever seen. In fact, I do have to offer kudos for the lady who came back and answered questions about this vehicle.

But this does bring on an important consideration. If a state government is issued approximately 10,000 vehicles every year, wouldn’t it make sense to either…

A) Enact some minimal standards on how these vehicles are marketed so that the taxpayers get a fair return? I mean for cryin’ out loud, the 2007 Crown Vic Police Interceptor has only one picture. With all the time cops have to spend in those things, wouldn’t it make sense to at least open a door, sit in a seat, and click a button?


B) Let someone else do it. No, I wouldn’t encourage some gypsy auction company to come by and quick hammer the vehicles to a few of the connected locals (and Lord knows we have plenty of those.) The site is fine. It’s the presentation that needs work.



I don’t know about you guys but this one is on my short list. You can find the rest of the vehicles here. Please bid. I want my taxes to go down for once.

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QOTD: Is This The Best Used Car Deal Today? Thu, 07 Feb 2013 14:00:35 +0000

Miata. E30. Panther. Is it time to add another nameplate to the Used Car Hall of Fame? Because the 2012+ Chevrolet Impala looks like a sure-fire winner to me.

TTAC reader (and sometime contributor) Andrew Bell has been a tireless advocate of the W-Body Impala, to the point where even our own Zackman looks like a halfway-committed dilettante. While discussing the latest Kelly Blue Book Total Cost of Ownership study, Andrew laid out the case for a one-year old Impala as the used car buy.

Not much to break on it really. The design is ancient. The new one with the 3.6 is one of the greatest deals on the market. 300+hp, Bluetooth, decent stereo, 4 wheel discs, <3700lbs, 6spd auto, power everything (windows, locks, auto-start, remote trunk, seats), <$15000 (2012 LT with about 30000km). <9L/100km with 87 octane, unstoppable in the winter, and cheap to insure.

Pricing for one of these cars runs from $13,445 for a base model LS ex-rental with about 34,000 miles, to $24,995 for a loaded LTZ with half the mileage. Since these are Canadian prices, they will undoubtedly vary compared to the United States. As Jack noted earlier this summer, The Impala may not be the most sophisticated or engaging car to drive, but for the price of a stripped out subcompact, you can have a nearly new full-size sedan with plenty of standard equipment, a legitimately well-engineered powertrain and halfway decent fuel economy (18/30/22 city/highway/combined mpg).

The Impala may not satisfy our collective desires when it comes to personal transportation, but as a mode of transportation for a college-bound younger sibling, a grandparent on a fixed income or someone like Andrew, who needs to churn out hundreds of highway miles each week visiting rural job sites, it’s hard to think of a better fit than the ol’ W-Body. According to Andrew, the Panther was a close second, but in the end, the front-drive layout and superior fuel economy were better suited to rural Ontario’s climate exorbitant gas prices.

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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: 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
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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Capsule Review: Ford Police Interceptor Tue, 29 May 2012 16:35:42 +0000

Unlike most of the TTAC community, I am something of a Panther agnostic. To me, the venerable rear-drive Ford sedans are like cigarette ads in back issues of Car and Driver – a quaint relic of an era where “Occupy” was something you saw on the door of an airplane bathroom – because the Occupant was trying to suck down a Camel Light .

One generation above me may have fond memories of big, rear-drive V8 sedans with acres of rear leg room and questionable crash safety. For my cohort, the Pavolovian response that comes from the “doors open” warning chime is forever liked to another Ford fleet sedan – the Taurus- as well as the green-on-tan two-tone Explorer Eddie Bauer, chariot of choice for Baby Boomer “co-parents”. For that generation in need of a family car, The Taurus Wagon was an afterthought, since wagons carried with them the connotations of unhappy childhoods in parochial small towns devoid of health food stores, aerobics classes and people willing to engage in knee-jerk rejection of traditional values. Instead, the SUV was a clean sheet of paper, and it suggested that one was wealthy enough to have some kind of summer home that could only be accessed via the all-terrain prowess of the SUV, while wearing Eddie Bauer clothing.

What does my pseudo-sociological digression have to do with police cars? Not much. But I am going into this with an open mind. I’m not particularly wedded to the idea that a police car must be rear-drive, with body-on-frame construction and a V8 engine. I can confess that I’ve always wanted to drive at speed with lights and sirens blaring, and when Ford invited me to do just that, I accepted immediately.

Ford made two Police Interceptors available, a Taurus-based Police Interceptor and an Explorer-based Utility Interceptor. Both had all-wheel drive and the naturally aspirated V6 – the EcoBoost 3.5L engines were nowhere to be found. It ended up being a moot point, since we were only permitted to drive it on a cone-course “handling loop” in a medium-size parking lot. No driving on real roads, no putting it through our own paces.

Showing off the capabilities of the D3 platform on a mini-autocross is about as useful as letting Adele compete for Britain’s floor exercise squad, and even then, the slow speeds and sweeping corners made it difficult to glean much about the cars. Both felt relatively stable, with the Utility Interceptor feeling pretty well composed in light of its vehicular anti-Christ crossover nature. Steering on both cars felt fairly numb, likely a boon on the highway. Ultimately, this event is a carefully controlled way to give us a few thrills without revealing too much about the cars. There are PR and law enforcement types on hand, but a critical appraisal of the new PIs is going to happen right after a historic peace accord surfaces in the Middle East.

The most noticeable changes came just from sitting in the cars themselves. Even at 5’10 and 175 lbs, the civilian Taurus feels uncomfortable and cramped when sitting in the driver’s seat. The Police Interceptor does away with console-mounted gear lever and the absurdly high plastic console pieces that make knee and legroom as scarce as Manhattan real-estate. The cloth seats, with far less padding and bulk than the regular Taurus, free up plenty of room for our nation’s Finest to stretch out, or accommodate larger-sized bodies. If the civilian Taurus came with this configuration, complaints about a lack of space would evaporate, though asinine criticisms about a column shifter would likely deafen out the real world advantages of this setup. The real test would have been to requisition a Kevlar vest and gun belt, but nobody in the right mind was willing to lend me one for “evaluation purposes”, lest I take my “pretend cop” act a little too far.

The big problem with press events like this is that evaluating the car in such a specific environment really tells us little about the car. I decided to consult with resident Panther expert Sajeev Mehta for some additional (admittedly biased) context. Sajeev felt that the Tahoe, rather than the new generation PI, Charger or Caprice would end up becoming the next police vehicle, due to its simplicity and size. I think Sajeev is partially right – I suspect that the Utility Interceptor will find favor among a number of departments - and the California Highway Patrol is apparently one of them. The Taurus will likely make a fine detective’s car, but as Sajeev notes, “…In any place where pickup trucks are common (fly over states) there’s no f*****g chance this water’d down Volvo will ever catch them, when a nut is behind the wheel.” Chicago’s Police Department is buying a number of new Ford PI’s – coincidentally, this is where Ford is building the new PI – while some Canadian departments are buying them as well, ostensibly due to the AWD capabilities among other criteria.

Any law-enforcement readers of TTAC are invited to send in their thoughts to expand on my brief, stage-managed drive of the new Ford Interceptors. As far as I can tell, the Utility Interceptor might make a nice basic SUV in a few years, once they begin to be retired from police departments. But take a step back, and so far it looks like the void being left by the Crown Victoria hasn’t quite been filled yet, and may not be for some time.

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Tycho’s Illustrated History Of Chinese Cars: Red Flag’s Lincoln Years Thu, 05 Jan 2012 17:34:48 +0000  

First Hongqi CA7460 rolling off the line at the factory in Changchun

Hongqi, or Red Flag, is China’s most famous automotive brand. Owner of the Hongqi-brand is First Auto Works, or FAW. Hongqi always was, and sometimes still is, the car for the country’s leaders – communist party bosses, and the car for the very influential. A Red Flag is not for the very rich – they take a red Ferrari, or a simple black Maybach. The Hongqi was strictly government business. Hongqi’s most famous cars are the CA 770-series, and the Audi-based limousines and parade cars.

There is, however, another less well known chapter in Hongqi’s history: a tie up with good old Lincoln from the USA in the 1990′s and early 00′s. This article will show what cars came out of this interesting marriage.

On the first picture is the first Hongqi CA7460 rolling off the line at the factory in Changchun, Jilin province. It was November 10, 1998.

Hongqi CA 7465 C8

Things however, started a little bit earlier, with madness! The first offspring of the Hongqi-Lincoln liasion was this hideous thing, the mighty Hongqi CA7465 C8. It was based on the second generation Lincoln Town car, it was extended by one meter and sexed up with a new front that was harking back to the classic CA 770.

Some are still in use by wedding companies

At most a hundred were made between 1995 and 1997. They never were popular, not even with the government. These days some are still in use by wedding companies like the example on the pictures, the rest seems to have vanished forever. Not a very bad thing, but still, an interesting experiment it was.

Hongqi Qijian CA 7460

Things got serious with the Qijian (Flagship) range. All subsequent Hongqi-Lincolns would be called Hongqi Qijian CA 7460. All were based on the third generation Lincoln Town car. The basic CA 7460 as seen above debuted in 1998. The engine was a Ford’s 4.6 V8 with 158kw that would power all Hongqi-Lincolns.

The Lincolns were shipped as kits from the US and assembled in China. Design-wise Hongqi changed most at the front. A new grille, new head lights and a redesigned hood. Changes at the back were minimal. On came new Hongqi badges for sure and that was about it. The interior didn’t change at all, except for a Hongqi-badge on the steering wheel.

The car in the picture is the basic CA 7460, it has a white military plate and shows a red flag, meaning some high ranking military officer actually sits inside: when the officer is not in the car the flag has to be removed.

The ‘Red Flag’

The red ornament on the hood depicts the ‘Red Flag’, the grille is made to look like a traditional Chinese fan.

Hongqi Qijian CA 7460 L3

There were three extended Hongqi CA7460; the L3, the L1 and the L2. Confusingly, L3 is the shortest, L1 sits in the middle and the L2 is the longest. The extensions were done in China by Hongqi. Baed on this stretching exercise, FAW claied the intellectual property rights to the whole car, unfortunately we don’t know how Ford responded to that one…

L3 interior.

Big, but not big eough

The L3 debuted in 2001 and was extended by 20 centimeters for more space in the back. But sure a mere 20 centimeters was by far not enough for the powerful mandarins in the capital. It had to be bigger, much bigger.

Hongqi Qijian CA 7460 L1

One year later, the CA 7460 L1 arrived, stretched by 1 meter. Now Hongqi was in business! Still, it was too short for the government wishes.

Stop-gap measure

The L1 therefore became sort of an ‘in between model’, not many were made and these days the L1 is the hardest Qijian to find. Something bigger though, was on the way…

Hongqi Qijian CA 7460 L2

One year later again, the CA 7460 L2 debuted at the 2003 Changchun International Auto Show, right on FAW’s home turf. The L2 was the biggest and baddest Lincoln-based limousine Hongqi would make, extended by 1.35 meters and equipped with a fridge, wine bar, TV-set, a computer and of course a state of the art on-board telephone system.

The TV-computer system.


Changchun beauties

As it happened, I was at that very same 2003 Changchun International Auto Show myself, during a trip to the Northeast, when the CA7460 L2 debuted.  It was extremely busy and extremely hot, I managed just to shoot a few picture and this was the best. Car is on the left…

Hongqi Qijian CA 7400, prototype

And with this beauty we are back at the beginning. In 2004, Hongqi tried once more to redo the CA 770, this time based on the third generation Town Car. The front obviously changed, but that was not all. The roof-line was lowered for a more aggressive stand and the rear was completely remodeled. A lot of work indeed and not at all a bad looking car. Unfortunately, only one prototype was made, but fortunately it still exists, it is on permanent display in the FAW museum in Changchun.

Sorry, no parade

The prototype was a design study for a parade car, to be used for the 2009 military parade in Beijing. These big military parades are held only once every ten years, always on October 1, the day that communist China was founded in 1949. During the parade, the president-party leader inspects the troops from a parade-car, always a Hongqi. In the end, the communist party decided to use the brand-new Hongqi CA 7600L for the 2009 parade and not this CA7400.


The Hongqi-Lincoln tie up came to an abrupt end when FAW closed a deal with Toyota in 2005. The new Hongqi HQ3, the successor of the CA 7460, was going to be based on the Toyota Crown Majesta. Ford was dumped. The deal was part of a much bigger agreement that did lead to the founding of the FAW-Toyota joint venture. Production of the HQ3 started in 2007, and FAW-Toyota still makes various Toyotas for the Chinese market.

And hereby this story ends, thank you for reading.

Sources:,,, and, 1, 2.

Thanks to the great book “HONGQI, the history of a Chinese limousine” by Erik van Ingen Schenau.

Dutchman Tycho de Feyter runs, a blog about cars in China, from Beijing, China. He also collects die-cast models of Chinese cars.


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New or Used: Two Buck Chuck and a Spaghetti Dinner Tue, 08 Nov 2011 17:16:46 +0000


Jerry writes:

Hey Sajeev and Steve,

Hope everything’s going well over at TTAC. I’m submitting my 2nd question and hoping you guys have some insight to offer.

I currently drive an 06 xB, and I’ve been very happy with it. It’s fully paid off (I bought it used with cash), and it’s served as a great car for moving and helping friends move. When they were selling these, they really should’ve teamed up with IKEA to offer a gift card because this car is the ultimate IKEA-mobile.

A while back, I also wrote in to ask about a comfortable highway cruiser…I loved the panther suggestions, but I ended up with cold feet and didn’t buy one since gas prices have no upper-limit in sight. My situation hasn’t changed that much since then, except that I would like a safer ride since my girlfriend is driving a lot more now. Thankfully, she can drive stick, so that opens up a lot of good used options that aren’t as in as high a demand.

Initially, I was looking at the Ford Five Hundred because of Michael’s good reviews, but that led me down a rabbit hole to check out the Avalon as well. While boring, I know the Avalon is extremely comfortable, and I imagine the Five Hundred to be similar (will test drive one soon). But in my Craigslist stalking, I’ve also come across 2 cheap manual transmission Camrys, an 07 and an 09 for $11k and $14k respectively. The 07 has 69k miles and the 09 has 32k miles. Potentially, these might even drop a bit since most buyers seem interested in getting an auto. Do these seem like reasonable deals? I’m hoping to keep this next car for the next 4 years until my girlfriend graduates grad school and we can have a place with a garage. That’s when I’ll consider something more sporty and interesting.

Steve Answers:

The good price for the Camrys is really dependent on the features, condition and miles. That is unless it happens to be one of the thousands of wrecked and rebuilt Camrys that get shipped out every year to developing countries.

Those works of plaster caster art live up to the most famous buy-here pay-here dealership in the Memphis area. Who upon sitting with about 12 bikini bare babes in a hot tub and his birthday suit (covered with bubbles), says to his televised audience… ‘It’s all good!” He means it too…thousands of his customers pay for his unique commercials.

Just remember Jerry, “it’s all good!” until you get that monthly payment on top of your student debt. But seriously… why don’t you just let your girlfriend figure out what she wants in due time and go get it…or not.

Let her get a lot more time behind the wheel. Enjoy a few nice quiet romantic nights with a bottle of wine and old write-ups of New vs. Used. Actually make it Two Buck Chuck and a spaghetti dinner. She’s in grad school after all.

I have been in your shoes in the past, Jerry. So what did I do? I bought my then girlfriend, now wife, two vehicles along with one I razed from the dead.

Total cost of all three cars? $2000.

Total selling price of all three cars? $2300.

Total time with all three? Six years, four of which were after she got her degree.

If you must buy something, start with something inexpensive. Then follow my series on ‘How to Buy a Used Car” and make sure it has good crash safety ratings. Most non-enthusiasts are usually as happy in a $3000 car as they are in a $13000 car. Good luck!

Sajeev Answers:

Well that’s a tough act to follow.

Jerry, our Magic 8 ball can’t tell you if those Camrys are good deals, condition of the wear items and service records are a big factor in determining if a 3+ year old vehicle is a good value. But I will say that a stick shift Camcord might be right up your alley. As long as you are okay with the resale difficulties of such a boring vehicle with a not-boring transmission. That will be a tough re-sell, relatively speaking.

That said, I am totally down with you getting a 5-speed Camry. Or Accord, but I think a Camry LE is a far superior land yacht. My only point is that you can get a nicer/better/cleaner Panther for less or (usually) much less money, with a better ride and plenty of change in the bank for their significant fuel economy penalty.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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Illinois Supreme Court: Come On Baby, Don’t Fear The Panther Thu, 03 Nov 2011 20:24:46 +0000

Back in 2005, Ford was ordered to pay some $43m to the Jablonski family whose Lincoln Town Car had caught fire after being rear-ended. According to the Associated Press:

As a result of the crash, according to the ruling, a large pipe wrench in the Jablonski car’s [trunk] was propelled into the vehicle’s gas tank, causing the blaze.

Attorneys for the family argued during the 11-day trial that the fuel tank’s positioning behind axle was among things flawed in the car’s construction, and that Ford should have warned car owners or retrofitted the vehicles with safety devices.

Ford countered that no similar accidents had occurred involving the same Town Car model as the one driven by John Jablonski, that the vehicle’s fuel tank was in “the optimum location for that car,” and that the crash should be blamed on the motorist who rear-ended the Jablonskis.

That ruling, with its echoes of the Pinto fiasco, could have validated a long-cherished belief of the personal injury attorney profession: that gas tanks rear of the rear axle are fundamentally dangerous (see above). Of course that’s not the case, and the Town Car in question was given a five-star safety rating by NHTSA. Accordingly, the Illinois Supreme Court threw out the ruling, finding that

the lawsuit on Dora and John Jablonski’s behalf did not give sufficient evidence for a jury to conclude Ford negligently “breached its duty of reasonable care” in designing the Lincoln Town Car


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Requiem For The Last American Car Thu, 15 Sep 2011 20:12:25 +0000

[Editor's note: Today, at 12:25 pm, the very last Panther-platform Crown Victoria rolled off the line at St. Thomas Assembly Plant. Ryan Paradis, a.k.a. "86er," has the honor of eulogizing the beloved beast in his first-ever contribution to TTAC] 

It has become beyond trite by this point to say that, with the end of the Crown Victoria, Grand Marquis and Town Car, an era comes to an end. And yet it is thus: the last of the body-on-frame, rear wheel drive and eight cylinder engine passenger cars, once a species unique to North America, have now reached the end of an 80 year span that commenced with the advent of the 1932 Ford V-8.

Having transported generations of Americans through some of the nation’s finest decades, full-size cars like the Crown Victoria, Grand Marquis, and Town Car are now an anomaly. While large V8-powered sedans made a comeback in the 21st century, the Ford Panther chassis was one of the very few full-size, rear-drive sedans that never left. And today we bid it farewell.

Let us be clear before we go any further: increasing CAFE standards will mean that, barring a phenomenal advancement in engine technology, all large cars in their current form will be phased out before long. New realities are coming that automakers will find impossible to avoid. At the same time, without vehicles like the Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis, and Lincoln Town Car, cars so steeped in our notions of a limitless frontier and freedom from tyranny (of the mobility and engine displacement varieties), we lose a potent symbol of the domestic industry’s raison d’être.

The Ford Panther chassis is a rolling respite from traffic anxiety disorder. If your only experience with one has been riding in a taxicab, or careening through city streets, you’ve been misled. Truth is, the Panther’s driving personality is far more sedate. While some cars vie for your down payment by touting driver involvement, the big Ford goes the other way, trumpeting maximum driver isolation. It regards the world around it as uncouth, bumpy and loud, and lovingly insulates you from the indignities of crumbling roads and the frenzied pace of traffic. Only when breezing along without a care in the world do these vehicles truly come into their own, not only transporting you to your destination in isolated comfort, but under the right conditions, even taking you into view of a past that is on the brink of being irrevocably lost.

Prodigious torque, smooth power delivery and the isolation of riding on (frame) rails will now become the sole purview of those who have signed the paperwork for a truck or traditional sport utility vehicle. Those loners, those holdovers clinging to a time that has passed them by, will now have to join that swollen cohort of automobile purchasers who have savored the qualities they continue to find rewarding, from a higher perch.

But I come not to praise the body-on-frame passenger car but to bury it. Aficionados of this type of automobile have had ample time through various stays of execution and luck to sample the last vestiges of what make North American motoring a unique island unto itself for the vast majority of the 20th century. Indeed, through various twists of fate, the body-on-frame passenger car has held on longer than it would seem it had the right to, and that in of itself is reason enough to observe its passing today with pride, solemnity and recognition of a notable landmark.

After today, the remaining holdover from a completely globalized design movement led by the world’s automakers remains the pickup and traditional sport utility vehicle. Can this segment, in particular pickups, remain the top sellers? Or will they too fall victim to changing tastes and new regulations that threaten their existence?

For now, the American Truck reigns supreme. Today, we honor what once was and observe the demise of the American Car. In truth, the Panther has no peer, no competitor. It is the last vestige of the American car. Let’s not kid ourselves; pretty much everything else is international in form and function.

A part of me hopes they put the last Crown Vic or Town Car in the Smithsonian, with an inscription on the plaque reading: “Once we built cars, and we were not ashamed.” But another part of me is OK with the notion that the passing of the last traditional American sedan will go mostly unnoticed. After all, it befits the nature of this car; going about its business day in and day out, stoic and laconic, its qualities unheralded except by those who came to rely on it for the past 33 years.

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New York: Federal Court Overturns Search on a Hunch Mon, 12 Sep 2011 13:12:37 +0000

Police may not pull over a car simply because two passengers are riding in the back seat, according to a September 2 ruling of the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York. On December 30, 2009, a trio of New York Police Department officers had a hunch that a passing gold-colored Ford Crown Victoria with New Jersey license plates might secretly have been charging for rides.

The vehicle broke no traffic laws, but the officers became suspicious because in the dark at 1:30am, the officers only saw dark silhouettes of people in the back seat — and nobody in the front passenger seat. At trial, the officers were unable to provide a description of the vehicle, or identify any unusual activity from its occupants. None had ever seen this Crown Vic before. Officer Trent Narra testified that he had a “hunch” that the car was violating the New York City Administrative Code that fines individuals who operate cab service on the side without paying the $686,000 fee for a taxi medallion.

When the car was pulled over, the three officers surrounded it. Passenger Devon Bristol did not wish to remain inside the Ford, so he began exiting the vehicle. He was not ordered to stay in the car. As he got out, Bristol brushed against Sergeant Eric Konoski, who claimed that he felt an object “consistent with a firearm.” Konoski then ordered Bristol to stop, tackled him to the ground, handcuffed and searched him. Konoski found a 9mm Hi-Point pistol.

Once they had the gun violation, the NYPD officers dropped all interest in the Crown Vic driver and ignored the question of whether it was an unlicensed livery cab or not. They did not even run a license or registration check. The court blasted the justification given for the initial traffic stop.

“By the officers’ own admissions, they had no way — based on their observations of the driver and passengers — of determining whether the car’s occupants were engaged in lawful activity or a traffic violation,” Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis wrote. “To permit the seating positions of passengers alone to create reasonable suspicion would expose many innocent travelers to near-random searches…. The officers further testified that Crown Victorias are commonly used as personal, not-for-hire vehicles as well… The court does not credit any suggestion that seeing a car from New Jersey driving in Brooklyn is anything but commonplace, and finds that even in combination with other factors the car’s out-of-state plates are innocuous.”

With the traffic stop suppressed, evidence gathered from the search of Bristol was ruled inadmissible. He was released Wednesday on a $10,000 bond. In footnotes, Judge Garaufis questioned the NYPD’s credibility in the case.

“Sergeant Konoski’s demeanor at the suppression hearing was defensive and his answers about his conduct before and during the vehicle stop were less than forthright,” Garaufis wrote. “The court was troubled by the officers’ coordinated falsification of their memo book entries, all three of which incorrectly gave the address of a nearby public housing project as the site of the arrest. Furthermore, Sergeant Konoski has been the subject of a series of departmental investigations into his conduct as a police officer, including his improper conduct with regard to searches and seizures…. The government has informed the court that the NYPD is currently investigating Sergeant Konoski and Officer Narra on charges that include entering a woman’s home without authorization, making improper memo book entries, and corruption.”

A copy of the decision is available in a 121k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File US v. Bristol (US District Court, Eastern District New York, 9/2/2011)


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What Isn’t Wrong With This Picture: The Last Of The Panther Interceptors Edition Tue, 30 Aug 2011 23:58:07 +0000

Panther lovers will be sad to hear that this, the last of the black-and-white Crown Vic Interceptors, has gone down the line according to the Ford St Thomas Assembly Plant’s Facebook page. The last Panther (reportedly a Town Car) is scheduled to be built on Monday, and the plant’s “about 1,500″ workers will be laid off on the 12th of September. If you know someone who loves the Panther chassis, please be sensitive to their needs in this difficult time. Remind them that there’s always the used market, and that someday their beloved brutes will tear ass across a post-apocalyptic landscape, and be known as “the last of the V8 Interceptors.This is going to be OK…

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New or Used: College Priorities, Automotive Compromises Thu, 14 Jul 2011 17:33:42 +0000 Animal...housed?


Brenden writes:

Sajeev and Steve,

My buddy is in college and needs a used set of wheels.  After 2 years of depending upon Baltimore’s awful public transportation system and the generosity of friends, roommates, frat brothers, and total strangers for car rides, his school work is starting to suffer and he’s decided to buy a car.  Unfortunately, his budget is about $2000.  His living situation and total lack of mechanical skills rule out anything German, Swedish, or otherwise maintenance intensive.

His criteria for the car are reliable/durable, fuel efficient, and cheap to run.  Working AC and heat would be a bonus, but he really only intends to drive the car about 15-20 minutes per day for school.  He has absolutely no pretensions about the car’s badge, perceived coolness, sporty driving dynamics, etc., but he probably won’t spring for a total crapcan like a metro or echo. Also, he’s currently unemployed, and I don’t think he intends to find a job due to his course load.

His prior cars have all been automatic Volvos, but he’s driven drunken frat brothers’ manual-equipped cars before, and he’s willing to drive a stick on a daily basis.  Any kind of repairs on a high mileage automatic would probably bankrupt him.  Personally I would never advise anyone to buy a high mileage automatic; I’d feel like I was telling them to buy a ticking time bomb.

My first advice for him was to budget at least $1000 for future repairs, maintenance, taxes, registration and insurance out of his original $2k. What are your recommendations/advice for finding a sub $1000 set of wheels that won’t kill my buddy with repair bills?

Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • Saturn S cars – as long as he avoids the DOHC motors, which I’ve heard require head gasket replacements every 70k or so.
  • Geo/Chevy Prizm – it’s basically a toyota with heavier depreciation, and I haven’t heard of any ‘known’ issues with these cars.
  • Corolla/camry/Civic/Prelude/Accord – again, do you know of any issues with these cars for the 90′s models?  I checked Craigslist and autotrader and couldn’t find any examples of these within the $1000 price range.
  • Neon – I’ve heard that except for the last few model years, the Neons had head gasket issues, so I’m inclined to tell my buddy to avoid these.
  • Focus – no clue on these
  • Contour – Mondeo FTW!  Obviously, the I-4 motor.
  • Cavalier – again, no idea whether these had common problems

So, what advice can you offer regarding vehicle selection?  Buying from a dealership would be ideal, since it would be easier to take the car to his family mechanic for a pre-purchase checkup, but I think we’re going to end up on Craigslist and at auctions.  Assuming we can’t get any of our mechanically inclined buddies to show up, what checks can I reasonably perform on the cars to weed out total dogs?  Offhand, I know to check oil levels and check for oil frothiness/discoloration, check transmission and hydraulic fluids, coolant levels and colors, belts and chains, and to do things like run the AC, wipers, etc.

Steve answers:

I would avoid the dealership like a harsh case of psoriasis. You need to go to the private owner. As for the sub-$2000 car in this economy you should look for…

  1. No A/C: This automatically knocks off $500 to $1000 off the price
  2. The EXTRA car: Folks who already have one more car than they need will sell the leftover ride for cheap. I was able to buy a 10 year old Camry for $500 back in the days when I was getting started. Don’t bet on that happening in today’s times.
  3. Older folks: Owners who are middle-aged and beyond tend to be less abusive than younger folks. Feel free to visit some of the retirement communities in your area and you’ll see exactly what I mean. 4) Gas Guzzlers: Although any vehicle in good condition will do, your friend may actually come out ahead by buying an older vehicle that drinks gas but requires minimal maintenance.

The brand name is completely unimportant at this price point. What is important is that once your friend finds what will work, it is immediately taken to an independent mechanic for an inspection.

Once he buys the car he will want to bring the car back into ‘day one’ condition with it’s fluids. I would buy a Mityvac and replace all the fluids as soon as possible. $80 for a manual pumping Mityvac and about $50 in fluid and filters should be more than enough if his friends are willing to help him out. If not then let the mechanic do the work.

Right now your friends only concern should be to get good grades, great work experience, and a pathway to a good job. Don’t worry about the ‘type’ of car. Just by something that has been well kept and keep focused on the work and grades.

Sajeev answers:

Both your and Steve’s assessment are correct. Quite honestly, you will buy the first vehicle on Craigslist with a smattering of service records and a sub $1000 asking price.  And yes, anything European is entirely out of the question, but automatic transmissions are a hit or miss at this price point.  I would not rule them out, especially if you stick with slushboxes made by GM or the major Japanese brands.

From there I can only guess: any GM sedan, a non-Z car Nissan, or some other non-Honda and non-Toyota from Japan (i.e. resale value) is a good idea. In theory.  Or maybe an ex-cop car Panther, in reality.  Because, why the hell not?

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to, and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder. In a rush? Don’t be shy about asking to cut in line.

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New or Used: A Prius Seller’s Market? Fri, 27 May 2011 17:51:09 +0000

TTAC Commentator gman37 writes:

Steve and Sajeev: I was hoping to pick your brain for a second regarding the used Prius market right now.  Help a Hammer Time follower out! I own a 2010 base Prius (Model II), and I have been seeing listings at local dealerships for base model Prius’s (????) selling for 3-4K above new MSRP prices.  For instance there is one with 15K on the clock selling for 27K, when new the MSRP was around 24K.

Is this actually occurring right now or are these people out of their minds?  My wife and I were debating on selling it and buying a cheaper car with a smaller payment if we could actually make a decent profit on it.  On the other hand, 50 MPG in the era of $5 a gallon gas is pretty great.  Its a gas!  Thanks for your time.
And Sajeev, I always wanted a Mercury Marauder!
Sajeev answers:
So get a Marauder! Life’s too short to compromise, even if said Panther wished Ford took that very same advice. And your wife is totally cool with it, I already asked.
Of course the Marauder isn’t exactly cheap in terms of fuel economy, and clean examples might actually be at the bottom of their depreciation curve,  like the (LT-1 powered) Impala SS it was supposed to surpass. If said Panther Love puts your marriage on the rocks, buy any (reasonably dapper) used compact sedan (Civic, Corolla, Sentra, Focus, etc) and enjoy a better driving experience than your Prius with minimal impact to your monthly fuel bill. Remember, motoring fun is important!
Steve Answers:
Sajeev, I don’t think he wants a Panther. But who knows? Keep it. What the hell are you going to replace it with?
The $27k price is for the unfortunate soul who ruined his credit and can’t be financed through Toyota Financial Services. The dealership will have a partnership with a secondary finance company that is willing to take the risk. What that buyer will be looking for is not the price… but the monthly payment. The dealer makes thousands. The finance company hopefully has a customer that makes the note, and the buyer probably ends up screwing themselves twice.

Once by buying the overpriced car with hysterically bad finance terms. Then they probably end up selling it after the ‘big’ 60k service because they’re bored, bad at math (surprise?), and/or totally ignorant about the future maintenance costs. Usually a combination of all three.

Keep the car. The next time you should go to the dealer (if ever) is when electric cars are the norm and the Prius is no longer an economical proposition. This should be some time between 2025 and Armageddon. By the way, the Toyota dealer couldn’t give a flip about you once you walked out their door with one less check in your pocket. Sorry but it’s the truth.
Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.
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Ur-Turn: Panther Love In The Time Of Homeland Security Sat, 20 Nov 2010 17:42:18 +0000

Ur-Turn is your weekly opportunity to contribute to TTAC. Every Weekend we select a piece submitted to our contact form, and publish it as a showcase for the diverse perspectives of TTAC’s readers.  Today’s contribution, from Jag Singh, reveals that, for an Indian immigrant in post-9/11 America, love of the Panther chassis could hold hidden dangers.

Coming out of India two decades ago, I had a broad experience with 2 wheelers of various types. But, my experience with 4 wheels was limited to micro Suzukis that still rule the road over there. When I bought an old Integra it was everything I could ask for, and provided more hoonage possibilities than I could muster courage for. I used to travel every week, and Taurus was my default weekday rental car. Soon I had a gold plated card from Hertz, and could walk into the rental car lot to pick up any car available there. There were always some Town Cars or Grand Marquis’ in the lot, most people seemed to ignore them. And so did I, initially. Jaguars were rare, but Maximas quickly became my favorite. I tried Mustangs but did not like the rattling noises or the cheap plastics used. Also, they felt way underpowered compared to a Maxima.

I was forced to use a Panther one day, when the options in the rental lot came down to: a Hyundai smelling of stale cigarette smoke, or a shiny new Town Car at the end of the lot. I was immediately hooked. Panthers made me appreciate the finer points of the RWD experience. For the first time I understood the meaning of torque steer, for it was totally absent. With traction control light blinking like a Christmas tree, I got taste of the warm and happy feeling of oversteer on hot turns. The fact that the traction control was protecting me from my own stupidity was a lesson that would come later. From then on it was only Panthers for me, and since most people ignored them I was always guaranteed of one. Thank you, Panther.

This is when the 9-11 tragedy happened. With all the flights cancelled, and a new baby at home, I decided to drive the rental Grand Marquis I already had, from Dallas to Chicago, non-stop. It was a revelation to find it doing 120, floating effortlessly, on the almost empty and endless interstate. You do NOT understand Tedious, unless you have driven across the vast expanse of the Midwest. I had to slow down as the night approached, unable to keep alert to look out for the cops. I gained confidence as I crossed Illinois border, as I was back in my home state (of the time), where people drive way over the speed limits. What I forgot was that I was sporting Texas plates on the rental car. As soon as I spotted the cop car brake lights, I hit the brakes hard, and let them go as soon as I crossed the cop car. I was still doing 85 on the 65 section. The fact that I had Texas plates probably made the cop stop me. The fact that I am from India, which makes me look like a Middle Eastern, ensured that it was early morning before I was let go. Minus my driving license. Oh well. At least I was back home. Thank you, Panther.

Back at work, the cost cutting started almost immediately. I moved out of the Mariott and took a lower end apartment close to the work site. What I did not account for was that my rental Panthers stood out like sore thumbs in this apartment parking lot. Few weeks later I got a call from FBI, they wanted to talk to me, at my apartment, 6PM sharp. Special agent Todd showed up at the door with a padded jacked, one hand extended in greeting, other behind the back. I could see other agents standing outside, wearing ear pieces, providing backup. Special agent Todd was very polite, and after he was done with the questions, he told me that the neighbors had called the FBI to report on me because I was driving all these “suspicious” looking big cars every week. So long, Panther.

Not willing to give up on RWD totally, I picked up a Mustang next week. Next day it started to rain and I took a turn, fast, as usual. A Panther’s traction control would have saved me, but I would have never learned about the consequences of throttle lift off. Also, my knowledge of counter steering was limited to motorcycles. Before I could realize what was happening, I was sitting on the side of the road with a broken axle, the wheel almost falling off. It was time to go back to Taurii and Maximas during the weekdays. Missing you, Panther.

For weekends, I sold the Integra and got a Miata. I still have it today. Farewell, Panther.

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