By on June 18, 2010

The comments on yesterday’s review of the Caprice Classic Estate reminded me how fundamentally deep the Ford-vs-Chevy rivalry is among American auto enthusiasts. Even in the modern era, when both iconic brands are on the run from Toyota, Hyundai, and (soon) the Chinese, there’s still time to catch one’s breath and take a swing at the other guy.

So. The “Panther” platform is scheduled for termination within the next year or so. The General Motors B-body departed nearly a decade and a half ago. There will likely never be another American car of the size and proportions of those two. Which was your favorite? My thoughts, and a link to a credible source, after the jump.

I’ve owned both the B-body and the Panther personally, and I expect to own another Panther within the year. My feelings on the topic can be expressed as follows:

  • GM was always the leader, until they weren’t. The 1977 B-Body not only beat the Panther to market by a solid year, it was a much better car. It was roomier, quieter, better-made, better-looking, and never suffered from the God-forsaken Variable Venturi Carburetor. The redesigned Caprice beat the aero Crown Vic to market again and offered the LT1 against the tepid early “mod motor”. Only GM’s decision to gradually quit the market let Ford take over the police and taxi markets. Until they left the field, they were in front.
  • The Panther has suffered from persistent safety questions. Cops seem to keep dying in Crown Vics, with a reported “more then 30” dying from fuel tank explosions. There have also been allegations of brake failure or simply inadequate braking performance.
  • If you want a newer car, you have no choice. I’d love to have another Bubble or Roadmaster, but if I want a sub-50,000-mile car in like-new condition, my next Town Car is only an eBay click away.

The folks at Texas Interceptors give the nod to the Crown Vic. While noting the many superior qualities of the Caprice, the reliability of the Crown Vic seems to carry the day. Of course, they could be wrong. What say you?

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74 Comments on “Ask the Best And Brightest: B-Body or Panther?...”

  • avatar

    I would have to go with the Panther platform.

    It out-lived all its competition, received its own luxury car, and IMO almost always looked better.

    Anyway, explosions and terrible brakes are just par for the Ford course, so no need to hold that against them.

  • avatar

    I want to say B-body, since GM kept making wagons later than Ford, and my aunt drove around a Caprice that was very comfortable, but I have to go with the Panther and a cop-spec Mod Motor. The gutless 4.3 V8 doesn’t help the case for me, and while there’s always the LT1 to fix that, an autobox that can’t hold up behind it kills that idea. GM might have the full-sized power but Ford brings in the solid reliability. The final nail in the coffin is GM’s usual idiocy pulling the plug on the platform back in 1996 in order to make SUVs. The Panther might be dead next year but at least I have 14 more years to choose from!

    That’s my opinion anyways. Now if you’ll excuse me it’s back to Craigslist to search for cop cars and Town cars.

    • 0 avatar

      Referring to the early TH200/4R or 700/R4, perhaps?

      Can’t speak for the later 200’s, but the 700 was extensively redesigned in ’87…that one’s as bulletproof an automatic as you’ll find. With electronic controls, it’s the current 4L60-E.

      Just get one made after ’87.

      • 0 avatar

        “explosions and terrible brakes are just par for the Ford course”
        The Rockford Files blew up more GMs………….. First I’ve heard of “terrible brakes” on ANY Ford.

        “speculation about performance in collisions with four to ten times the energy of the scenarios tested by the NHTSA shouldn’t be called a persistent safety question”
        EXCELLENT point.

        “Panther. Dead simple, dead reliable.” YEP!!!

        “Referring to the…… TH200/4R or 700/R4”
        Transmission repair shops owe GM a kickback. Never had to do a Ford; lost count of the GMs leaving friends/acquaintances stranded. Multitudes at least, hundreds perhaps. Count on one hand the Fords doing same.

        Lastly, the Panther platform has CONSISTENTLY ranked highest in consumer ratings of reliability & repairs.

  • avatar

    The Panther has suffered from persistent safety questions.

    This paragraph has the feel of a 60-Minutes special. We’ve got “persistent questions,” “allegations,” and Cops that “seem to” keep dying, as if mere proximity to the car causes death.

    The overwhelming majority of these case involve CVPIs with trunks full of a sharp objects getting hit from behind at between 70 and 100 MPH. One story on the activist site you presumably pulled the “more than 30” quote from was about a CV hit by a semitrailer! This line left me agog: “The truck driver, who was able to walk away, was driving a 2007 Freightliner.” Gosh, was he? And you say the CV wasn’t able to withstand the impact from a 25-ton cab? Staggering.

    My objection isn’t that the CV has no safety issues, it’s that speculation about performance in collisions with four to ten times the energy of the scenarios tested by the NHTSA shouldn’t be called a persistent safety question. I’d sooner worry about the risk of blowouts in Prii at speeds over 150 MPH. As to brake failure, your reference is the first I’ve heard of it.

    • 0 avatar


      Consider the number of CVPI’s on the road and the number of rear end collisions while they’re pulled over (seems like entire TV shows are based on the idea) and “more than 30” develops some context. Also note that in the last few years a “certified for 75mph rear collision” active fire suppression option has been available on the P71s, which sounds like it will carry over to the Taurus-based PIs.

      All of that said… I’d be hard pressed to pick. I think the post 98 Vic’s are fantastic looking cars. I was never particularly enamored of either the 92-97 Panthers or the 91-96 B-bodies, accepting the Impala SS. I have had, and would purchase again, pre-91 B-bodies and Panthers.

      I wish you could get a proper manual in either, though.

    • 0 avatar

      Add to this that police officers don’t drive like you and I. They become in high speed chases, ram suspect cars with theirs, hop curbs and take it off the road fairly often, etc. Plus, when a police interceptor gets a bent frame, it gets put on the frame straightener and put back into service, whereas that is usually damage that totals out or at least leads to the sale of a civilian car.

      When you consider that 80%+ of police officers drive Vics, and use them how they use them in the condition that many are in, it’s no wonder that someone occasionally dies in one.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Now that I re-read what I wrote, it *does* sound a little weaselly. What I was trying to do was to avoid presenting what I’d read over the years as inalienable fact.

      Incidentally, our contributor Daniel J. Stern has been eloquent over the years regarding the safety-related failings of the Vic. Perhaps he’ll chime in here.

    • 0 avatar


      How many cars today have the fuel tank in the crumple zone?

      As for the B-body VS Panther…both are great choices…but the modular, boat anchor V8s are no match for an LT1.

      LT1 Caprice/Impala SS >>>>> ANY PANTHER.

  • avatar

    Being from a taxi background, the B Body wins hands down. It was a stable, well designed car from the get go. The Oldsmobile 88 versions were the best of the lot, with the heavier rear axle and brakes. The 307 was absolutely bullet-proof. There were really no design flaws in the cars except on the 305 Chevy versions, which had smaller rear brakes and the hardened axle shafts compared to the Olds and heavier Chevies which had real roller bearings on the axle shafts. The rest of the car was supremely reliable. The electrics were first rate, cooling systems top notch. The motors rarely ever died, with the exception of the 305 with the cast cams. Perhaps the best feature was they were all very easy to service. Any one armed mechanic with a room temperature IQ could wrench on them drunk. Transmissions lasted 200,000 km and a Turbo 350 could be swapped in an afternoon for less than a G note all in. All the parts were cheap and available.

    The Panther was not nearly as good. The A0D simply sucked and trying to train taxi drivers to drive in D and not OD was practically impossible. The electrics were awful, the cars ate batteries for some reason and there were always electric shorts in the cars. The 351 W was not nearly as durable and the small block Chevy.

    As for driving dynamics, the B Body again wins hands down. The Ford always felt disconnected from the road in a floaty kind of way, even with cop suspension. All B Bodies, on the other hand, were great to drive. The Olds FE3 was the best. The 9C1 Chevy was a hoot to storm around in but the cop buckets were awful and the ride punishing. The Delta 88 Royale interior was great and with the electric seat a fine car to do a long trip in. The B Bodies also had good steering with plenty of road feel, while the Ford was traditional novocaine.

    My favourite B Body was a 1990 Box which had been an unmarked car. It had a/c, power windows and locks and was Canadian spec 350 4bbl, meaning dual exhaust and no catcon. I loved it so much I never made it a cab. I cannot for the life of me understand why GM stopped making that car. The cops loved it, the taxi firms loved it, they went like snot, handled well and were extremely easy to service. Mine, however, was wiped out by a drunk who was killed in the crash. I walked away because of that reinforced cop frame. It saved my life.

    My last B Body was a 1985 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale Brougham, red on red, which was loaded except for sunroof. It had adequate power but the handling was superb, especially on Michelin rubber. The interior was a class act and I spend many the hour driving all over North America in it.

    When GM canned the B Body, I lost all respect for them.

    • 0 avatar

      Having been a cab driver (owner/operator) for 8 years, I’d have to agree. Can’t imagine how anyone would think the Panther is more reliable than the B! The B-body was one of the most (perhaps *the* most) durable, reliable, comfortable, best-handling full-sized cars to ever come from Detroit. The Panther, by comparison, is a finicky, delicate, creaky, leaky, disaster. To me this isn’t a Ford vs Chevy thing — I’ve owned my share of both, and do tend to prefer Ford over Chevy (assuming only those two choices, that is). But Ford never built a full-sized car as good as the old B-body.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    The styling on the final generation B-bodies was horrible, but otherwise they were the superior vehicle. GM killed it in order to make capacity available for more truck and SUV production. GM’s brilliant executive team ran the numbers and realized that golly, gee, the profit margins on well equipped trucks and SUVs were much better than those for cars. Thus the Arlington, TX factory was converted from BOF car to BOF SUV production. GM’s management crowed about this strategy to the financial press at the time (early to mid 1990s).

    Chasing the easy profit solution instead of fielding top notch offerings across the product line is what put GM at death’s door.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, GM built B-bodies in at least two plants (three if you count Cadillac’s now demolished Clark Ave./Fleetwood Body Plant), after Clark/FW was closed, RWD Caddy went to Arlington TX to join other B-body production there. In addition, there was the Willow Run Assy plant which was cranking-out B-bodies … when the 1990/1 restyling proved to be such a flop, WWAP was closed in 1992 leaving only Arlington … and after that, Arlington was the only B-body plant, it too eventually ceased B-body production (in 1996) to concentrate on SUV production.

      So, there was something other than lack of production space at work in GM’s decision to gradually retrench, and then abandon, the full-size BOF pass-car segment to Ford. My guess is it was lack of profit on the vehicles. If there had been any money to be made in the segment for GM, they could have moved the production equipment back to the mothballed Willow Run plant (but by that time, they would have had to make a major investment in a refreshining of the car to get it to be competitive.)

      GM’s inability to forecast a competitive profit (v. SUV returns) for scarce investment dollars (and development personnel) is what really killed the B-body.

  • avatar


    I have two in the driveway. Probably a third before year’s end.

    Dead simple, dead reliable.

    First car was STOCK ’88 LTD Crown Victoria. Put dual exhausts on that beast, and even with a 1000W amp and 4 12″ speakers in a box in the trunk, got 420 miles out of a single tank of gas.

    I set the cruise control at 55 and basically drove from Canton, OH down to Left of Charleston, WV (drove around visiting family a little) and then back. 28.5 mpg, and I had something like 19 miles on the trip odometer of city driving before I started!

    Parts are cheap and plentiful, they’re easy to work on, and there are some great forums full of helpful people ( don’t go to or whatever, they’re pricks).

    There’s nothing better than the sound of dual exhausts, and glass-pack mufflers on a big American V8, unless it’s NO exhaust!

  • avatar


    I personally have had 73-88 Town Cars and 74-92 Marquis/Grand Marquis. Every model year usually three or four per model year. The Panther platform as I recall was introduced in the 1979 model year as the Crown Vic/Grand Marquis and in 1980 as the Lincoln-Town Car was still an option. IMO to this day one of the best long distance series of vehicles produced by any vehicle manufacturer.

    For sport I had Corvettes and had the distinct pleasure of meeting Zora Arkus Duntov at the local grocery store (Grosse Pointe, MI). I had a 73 454 roadster and I’ll be damned so did Zora. I couldn’t believe it, Zora parked one car away complementing me on my car. I had the 78 silver anniversary/pace car front spoiler. Of course we all know Zora’s under the bonnet 454 stomped my stock low compression run on regular octane disaster. But Jeezus C the father of the modern day Corvette in person and SOB he’s driving the same bodystyle. This is 1979 and we had ’73’s. Zora didn’t tell me who he was but having seen many pictures of him I point blank asked him “you’re Zora Arkus Duntov aren’t you?” His response “yes I am” in a broken accent.

    As I tend to recall an exact year based upon relevant vehicles I had a 79 Champagne Metallic Mark V-color was unavailable on a Mark V until ’80 model year-Wixom Assembly-argent bumper inserts. William Clay Ford lives in the same neighborhood, explains Honolulu Blue and Silver Mark V w/o opera windows which was not an option I saw on the way home one night.

    Then, son of a gun, his Donzi motorboat (18′ 2+3 GT w/ unavailable to anyone else because Mercury Marine was using GM blocks) Ford motor called something Lion (THE MOST MISERABLE EXCUSE MANKIND HAS EVER WITNESSED AS AN NFL TEAM) of course in Honolulu Blue and Silver was moored directly across from my brand new 30′ Wellcraft Scaarb w/2 yes twin 454/330hp Mercruisers.

    Maybe I’ll need to seek another forum for fast marine pieces but shortly after the 30′ Scarab son of a gun if I didn’t wind up back on NE 188 Street in North Miami Beach at the home of the World Champion Cigarette Racing Team, it’s always proper to have 1200+HP.

  • avatar

    I live in St. Thomas, Ontario, about a 5 minute drive from the Talbotville Ford plant. Many of my neighbours owe their livlihoods to building Crown Vics, TCs, and Grand Marquis for a living, so I’d have to pick the Ford by default. I’ve never seen more Crown Vic P71s in people’s driveways than in my own neighbourhood. It’s crawling with them. It’ll be a shame when Ford shuts down Talbotville Assembly, not only for the loss of an iconic model, but also the loss of 1,500 jobs in a city of 35,000. On another note, my dad is a retired OPP officer (Ontario Provincial Police). I grew up with a wide variety of OPP cruisers in the driveway: LTDs, Crown Vics, Bel Airs, Furys, Gran Furys, St. Regis, Taurus, Caprices, etc. My dad made his living for years behind the wheel of various B-bodies and Panthers. It’ll be sad to see the Crown Vic die.

    • 0 avatar

      I have said the same about that plant. It is very flexible: Full-frame/Unibody, FWD/RWD/AWD, Subcompact/Full-size; it’s done it all. It’s one of those plants that hums along without drama. It will be a shame to see it go – I think it is a political decision, not one based on practicality.

  • avatar

    Panther all the way. Like SexCpotatoes said, dead reliable. Absolutely dead reliable. Built like tanks, comfortable as h*ll, didn’t really get a challenge within Ford on room until the the original D3 Five Hundred. As police cars, they seemed easy to repair and would last forever.

  • avatar

    When I was in cop car development, in the late 80s early 90s, the Chevy Caprice was superior to the Ford Panther in every way. Speed, handling, ride quality, durability tests at GM proving grounds, even quietness. There was simply no comparison. And these were objective measurements, not just fond memories.

    For example, on the high speed slalom test, the Chevy had over a 20% advantage. On the drive-over-the-curb test-at 50-mph, the Chevy could do this twice as many times before something broke.

    The Dodges were so bad they weren’t even on the same page. No wonder there was so much police brutality back then!


  • avatar

    Panther platform, ’98 or newer. I’m currently on my fourth one and have put upwards of 100K or more on the previous three with little or no mechanical problems. Reliable to a fault, easy/inexpensive to repair, lots of shared Mustang performance parts if you decide your Vic needs to be a little bit quick.

    Warning: Do NOT purchase discarded LEO vehicles. The difference between a P71 spec’d Crown Vic and the one your retired neighbor drives is minor. The additional abuse the former cop car has probably received during its prior life is major.

  • avatar

    With a GM logo stamped on both my ass, and pesion check,I’m voting B car.As I said on a earlier post, I owned two of them,and the six years of OT got me into my first house.

    I flew down to Florida a few years ago to bring back my ill father inlaws 97 Crown Vic. I took the mountain route,up through the Carolinas. Two 12 hour days driving, the Vic performed flawlessly.Mid fall with the leaves turning,very relaxing. I thought to myself,at the time. The younger generation will never know the pure pleasure of driving a big RWD car.

    • 0 avatar

      @The younger generation will never know the pure pleasure of driving a big RWD car.
      Mikey, you are absolutely right. The sole exception is my college-bound 18 yr old who is practically begging me to put some money into the 93 Vic instead of selling it.

  • avatar

    I have lived with both and have to call it a draw. The Bs felt bigger and heavier, and the bodies were more solid. The boxes were among the most rust-resistant cars ever (far better than the square vic) but the Vic II improved a lot here. The B was also a bit tighter structurally.
    Engines: the B wins here. Transmissions: a draw. The AOD was miserable, but the THM200 was a piece of crap as well.
    For powertrain drivability, the box B beats the square vic due to the underpowered 302 coupled with that miserable AOD tranny. However, the 4.6 with the E4OD was a very nice driving unit. For those who say that the 350 is so much more powerful than the 4.6, my response is that another 100 cubic inches will solve most any performance issue.
    On ride and handling, I have to go with the Vic. When set up for smoothness over handling, nothing beats the Panther. I went from an 89 Cadillac Brougham to a 93 Vic LX – the Ford was significantly smoother and quieter. Also, the Vic (both I and II) always felt and handled smaller than they are, while the GM versions always felt and drove bigger and heavier than they were.
    On styling, I have to break with the crowd here, I always thought that the square Vic was a better looking car than the Box B (and it is simply inarguable that the Vic II is better looking than the Bubble B, with the exception of the Impala SS). The Fords also felt nicer in the interior materials.
    As for durability, I had more mechanical and electrical issues with my GM B/C bodies than I have had with my Panthers. My 84 Olds 98 had a never-ending series of electrical problems and my 89 Brougham had a driveline vibration that I could never get rid of. Both my 85 and 93 Vics were pretty trouble-free.
    So again, I have to call it a draw. I enjoyed attributes of both and you can’t really go wrong with either. Mopar guy that I am, I still sigh and wonder what might have been if Iacocca had not given up on the big rear drive platform after 1983. With some tweaks, it could have been the best of the 3. (Duck and cover).

  • avatar

    A side note. I see that Ford’s AOD transmission has been (properly) criticized in several of these posts. Bear in mind that Panthers received the upgraded AODE during February of 1992. The AODE is an entirely different and far superior transmission to the AOD. The AODE was upgraded to the 4R70W in 1995. Again a major design improvement. The 4R70W has received continuous upgrades during its life cycle and has a reputation of being a relatively bullet-proof unit. In 2006 Panther owners got the new 4R75E transmission. Don’t know a whole lot about that one but I would suspect it’s just as desirable as its predecessors.

  • avatar

    I’m on my second B: A ’91 Bubble Wagon w/305/TH700-R4. Smooth, reliable, comfortable, cheap to run.

  • avatar

    Is it too late to add a poll to this post?

  • avatar

    If you talk to the cops who drove these cars most will say they prefered the Caprice because it was faster than the Crown Vic. The styling was polarizing – I knew a Florida State Trooper who always refered to the Bubble Caprice as the “Ninja Turtle Car.”

    I photograph police cars as a hobby and I have noticed that there are currently more 1992-97 Crown Vics still in service than 1991-96 Caprices. I’m not sure why this is. It could be that the Crown Vic sold in larger numbers (though I don’t recall this being the case), or it could be that the Caprices did not hold up as well in police service.

  • avatar

    Would it be excessively off topic to ask how today’s full-size RWD Mopars compare to the above antique creampuffs? (Not that I haven’t owned a bunch of them, and could wax nostalgic for hours if only it were happy hour yet.)

    • 0 avatar

      It’s far off-topic. Mopar went all-unibody very early on. The B-body and Panther platform are worth discussing specifically because they were the very last body-on-frame sedans.

      BOF vs unibody is such a huge change that it makes more sense to compare the Mopar LX platform to the FWD W-body and Ford D3 than to the awesome BOF dinosaurs.

  • avatar

    The current Dodge Charger is making inroads into the cop car business, but reliability remains unknown, at least to me. I’d sure like to see one try the 50mph over the curb test.

    The Charger cop cars had to have the shifter revised, to a dash-mounted shifter instead of the console mounted shifter. That’s because the cops need the extra interior space for radios and other equipment, including shotguns.


  • avatar

    I’ve usually found the B-body powertrains superior to Panthers, especially GM’s awesome transmissions. Until today’s PI (performance improved) 4.6L mill and 4r70w (or whatever its called today)transmissions hit the road, Ford finally got it kinda right. Course that’s not saying much: if the Panther had the same powertrain upgrades as the Mustang GT this wouldn’t even be discussed: the LT-1 B-Bodies would be nothing.

    The one thing going for the Panther: parts interchangeability. I like the styling and (most importantly) the high quality interior of the 1992 (only) Crown Vic and 1995 (only) Town Car…and a swap to 16″ wheels, 1998+ front brakes, Bilsteins, etc is so easy it’s almost child’s play.

    Panther wins: but only because GM snatched defeat from the hands of victory.

    • 0 avatar

      “Panther wins: but only because GM snatched defeat from the hands of victory.”

      If GM had a dime for every time they did that during the last 50-60 years… well they wouldn’t have needed a bailout.

    • 0 avatar

      …the high quality interior of the 1992 (only) Crown Vic and 1995 (only) Town Car…

      Ah yes, Ford’s Panther platform de-contenting gone wild. I’m currently driving a ’94 Aero. I was going to buy an ’05 Whale. I had the opportunity to compare the two cars at length before making my purchase. While that ’05 was a far superior car in most ways to my current ride, the interior was an absolute fail.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, 92-94 Panther interiors were the best. Fake wood that looked real, soft touch high quality dash materials, and that famous tiller they put in every single FoMoCo from c.1989-1995.

      Well sheesh, why am I describing it when I have pictures of one sitting in front of the house:

      The less said about contemporary B-Body interiors, the better. The D-Body was passable.

    • 0 avatar

      My car, sans digital dash.

    • 0 avatar

      “the high quality interior of the 1992 (only) Crown Vic”

      Ahem… what? Surely you jest. I happen to own a 1992 Crown Victoria – a top-o-the-line ‘Touring Sedan’ model at that – and the interior materials are terrible. Even my 2011 Toyota Camry LE is nicer inside, which is saying something considering how de-contented that car is. The inside of the Crown Victoria is plastic-fantastic and the assembly is downright embarrassing. I’ve rented multiple 2008-2010 Grand Marquis’, however, and they were arguably even worse, considering they are (technically speaking) actually new cars.

      As far as Ford vs. Chevy I’d have to say from my experience there is not much of a comparison. Both are terrible cars by modern standards, save perhaps reliability/durability, but I strongly prefer the Fords to the GMs, be it box or aero. Someone already mentioned it, but a Caprice drives like a much larger, more cumbersome car while the Crown Victoria feels lighter on its feet (this is all relative, of course, with both cars being wholly unpleasant boats). The Fords have always been more fuel-efficient as well, once again, this is relative since this genre of car was designed to guzzle gas like no one’s business, yet still not produce all that much go save perhaps low-end torque. The aero Fords have a much more settled ride than the aero Caprices, at least in base trim as I’ve never driven a 9C1 or Impala SS personally. Neither have very much usable interior space considering their sizes, but I’d have to say that is one area the Caprice wins… if by a small margin.

      I’ve been considering selling my ’92 Crown Victoria, since as you can tell by the above paragraph I don’t care for these kinds of cars (inherited it from my late grandmother). But I’m hesitating for one very special reason – I can use it like a pick-up truck. The trunk of that car can hold things my Camry can only dream about, and my dad loves to borrow it for hauling since his 2010 Honda Civic sedan can’t carry crap by comparison. Sure, it’s a pretty crude and unpleasant car to drive, and sucks down gas (14 MPG, for the record), but it does get the job done when the going gets heavy. Though I’ve never has the pleasure, it could also theoretically carry six people (provided a couple were small), which for someone my age seems rather astonishing for a non-minivan, non-SUV, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      That steering wheel was also found in the Aston Martin DB7!

    • 0 avatar

      “What kinda name is” TG57: Ahem… what? Surely you jest. I happen to own a 1992 Crown Victoria – a top-o-the-line ‘Touring Sedan’ model at that – and the interior materials are terrible. Even my 2011 Toyota Camry LE is nicer inside, which is saying something considering how de-contented that car is. The inside of the Crown Victoria is plastic-fantastic and the assembly is downright embarrassing. I’ve rented multiple 2008-2010 Grand Marquis’, however, and they were arguably even worse, considering they are (technically speaking) actually new cars.

      I also happen to own a 92 Vic and vigourously dispute your assertions, especially your comparisons to a twenty year old car and your new Japanese automobile, which in any case come from wholly different backgrounds and design sensibilities. I would recommend selling the Vic to your father and stick with the Camry if the assembly quality is causing you embarrassment.

      In other words, pistols at dawn?

    • 0 avatar

      86er: I only used the Camry analogy as a yardstick to demonstrate how bad the assembly and interior quality was on the Ford. Camry = bad, Crown Victoria = worse, thus, Crown Victoria = really, really bad. The fact that the CV is nearing age 20 and the Toyota is new is not relevant, because I remember back when the Ford was [nearly] new and it’s not much different now (it only has 71,000 miles).

      To be honest, I don’t think the Camry and Crown Victoria “come from wholly different backgrounds and design sensibilities”. There are actually a lot more similarities than you would think in the basic formula. In a way the Camry is sort of the New Crown Victoria (or New Caprice, if you will) – spacious, cushy, quiet, reliable, etc. I also wouldn’t consider it to be all that “Japanese” anymore, taking into account that it was designed for Americans and built in the United States. Apart from the pick-up-truck usefulness of the Crown Victoria, the Camry matches or exceeds the CV in most measurable qualities. The Toyota rides smoother, handles much better, has more room on the inside save width while being immensely smaller on the outside, twice the fuel efficiency with half the cylinders and while accelerating faster, similar NVH levels, similar wind/road/engine noise (i.e. almost none), etc, etc. It sounds like an apples to oranges comparison at first, but given the context of the two cars they really set out for a similar result – the everyman’s family sedan.

      I’m not saying the Crown Victoria doesn’t have its place (the novelty value alone makes its existence worthwhile, same for the Caprice), but for daily driving duties there are better, more modern options. Apart from a few niche qualities – durability, trunk space, utility – the Crown Vic is not really that outstanding of an automobile, even by 1992 standards (just compare to a 1992 Camry, for instance). I think most of the praise they and the Caprice receive comes from nostalgia.

    • 0 avatar

      TG57: What isn’t relevant is bringing a modern day vehicle like your 2011 Camry into the discussion at all.

      Nothing is compelling you to weigh in on this discussion, seeing as though you “don’t care for these kinds of vehicles”.

  • avatar

    Sigh. What a tough question. (BTW I’m still interviewing for jobs and haven’t bought that commuter vehicle yet so I could end up with a “D-body” Fleetwood or an older Town Car very easily.) At the end of each vehicles production run I prefer the power-train in the GM units to the one in the Fords. I actually like the styling of the Panther’s better (cept the no upright hood ornament Lincolns.)

    If I could go back and buy one when new I’d take a Roadmaster (or RoadBlaster as my dad would say.) Given that I can’t do that and I’ll be in the used car market, I say Town Car or Grand Marquis all the way. ‘scuse me while I shed a tear for the younger generation who will not know RWD American sedans.

  • avatar

    Oh, and as far as Taxi services…I tried to fit three college students’ worth of luggage (back to school from X-mas vacation) in a Bubble at the airport, it wouldn’t work. Naturally, I flagged a minivan after that…but a 92-97 Aero Crown Vic showed up.

    I told him that we needed a Van, but he insisted he could get the luggage in the Panther. He can waste his time, IMO. But, must to my surprise he got it all in the trunk!

    For what it’s worth, that dude said he’s had plenty of fares because a Bubble couldn’t carry the crap his Panther can. Panther FTW???

  • avatar

    I have to go with the Panther by a very narrow margin. My high school’s driver’s ed car was a new ’93 Crown Vic with the police package in it. I was pleasantly surprised by how well it drove considering the thing was a boat, and by how well it held up to the abuse of some of the students who (allegedly) literally drove it off the road on more than one occasion. Also, as I’ve said here before, after years of midnight rides home in NYC fleet cars, I was alwyas impressed by how well the Panther TCs and Crown Vics held up to the abuse of such service. They mostly stayed tight and smooth after hundreds of thousand of miles pounding around Manhattan, the boroughs and Jersey.

    By contrast, any B body I’ve ever driven has felt as porcine as… well, as porcine as it was. Still, they are unquestionably comfortable beasts. I had several friends with the box variety Caprice wagons – those things were dead reliable and safe as houses, at least compared to the sh*t boxes most kids were driving. We used to fight over who would get to sit in the rear facing bench seat whenever groups of us would head out on a trip in one of those tanks. Rear seat treat aside, were the (non-LT1 motered) B bodies exciting? No. Were they perfectly utile? Absolutely.

  • avatar

    I’d have to say the B-body. My parents owned a 1984 Olds Delta 88 with the 307 and TH-200, it was also saddled with a 2.41 axle ratio. Mechanically it was virtually identical to the ’76 Chevy Malibu we also had, but where the 305 in that ’76 could leave that Delta 88 in a drag race, the Olds could leave the Malibu on a winding road, neither car had the uplevel suspension packages.

    What killed the Oldsmobile was it’s extremely fragile transmission, and a broken valve. It also had a problem overheating which we finally attributed to a clogged radiator, and LOVED to eat blower motors. In it’s mid life with us, it routinely would eat a blower motor on a road trip anywhere, no matter if you replaced it 6 months prior, I got pretty good at swapping the motor out during a refueling stop while dad pumped gas. It had 120,000 miles on it when we finally gave it away, after it fried the trans for the 3rd time and just had 1st and 2nd gear.

    It was and still is a great looking car, very 80s with the boxyness, but slightly euro looking with the big & bright amber turn signals. I actually looked around for a diesel version just for grins, but the ones I found in the price I wanted to pay were pretty beat after 25 years.

    So I bought the next closest thing, a ’77 Chevelle.

    I tried to like the Panthers, but couldn’t get over the crazy parts schemes that Ford did in the ’70s and ’80s on them.

  • avatar

    I have owned and driven both countless times. The Panthers and B-bodies alike both have limited transmission life so anyone commenting on tranny failures regarding one car vs the other are just blowing smoke. The proof is in the pudding as they say. Ask any tansmission shop and they will tell you that a decently maintained example of either will net you over 100K miles of reliable service. Just don’t expect 200K with either if you like to do burnouts and donuts frequently. The earlier Panthers had the deep well trunk that didn’t quite go far enough forward but that was fixed later on when Ford redesigned the gas tanks. Both have a spare that eats up some of the upper shelf space. Having driven 305 TBI V8’s, 4.3 baby LT1’s and numerous 4.6 Mod motors I would have to give the nod to the 94-96 5.7 liter LT1 engines themselves. They were the best performers and would pull high 20’s on a trip all day long. I have not driven a dual exhaust 4.6 with the 3.27 rear gears probably because they are so hard to find but every 4.6 2.73:1 geared car including todays 2010 Marquis seems lethargic to me. It’s amazing how much more responsive my 3900 Impala feels in comparison. The Caprice 305 TBI motors also felt lethargic owing to the fact that they were putting out a mere 170 HP for near 4000 curbweight. The 4.3 V8 cars of 94-96 vintage vary. The 94 used a 2.73 rear axle and felt fairly peppy. The 95-96 models used a std 2.93:1 and felt a tad perkier. The best 4.3 I drove was a 96 with optional limited slip and required 3.23:1 gears. It almost felt like a 5.7 in the lower gears and felt much stronger than the 4.6 mod motor Panthers. Interors varied too. The early Panthers had nice blue and red interiors like the Caprice wagon in the other article here. My 1996 Caprice had a nice blue deluxe seat velour interior that litterally everyone commented on who rode in it because it was so clean and comfortable. The more current 2003-2010 Marquis interiors are ok but it seems like the only color you can find is tan. The interiors are cheap in spots on the newer panthers starting with the glove box door which is thin cheap feeling plastic. The cup holders sucked back in 1991 and they still do today on these cars. The B-bodies weren’t any better. My pick right now would be a mint condition low mileage 1996 Roadmaster sedan in Limited trim with burgandy leather seats, alloy wheels and optional 2.93:1 limited slip trailor tow package. Now that would be a hard to beat B-body. Pick numer two would be either a clean 1996 Impala SS or a 2004 Maurader in Darth Vader black.

    • 0 avatar

      “It’s got a cop motor, a 440 cubic inch plant, it’s got cop tires, cop suspensions, cop shocks. It’s a model made before catalytic converters so it’ll run good on regular gas.”

      Somebody had to say it…

    • 0 avatar

      For the B Body, all the 200 series 4 speed transmissions were crap. They did not last past 160,000 km ever, and often less. In the taxis, we never bothered replacing a 4 speed, we always went with a Turbo 350 with a shift kit. They were bulletproof and only $900 installed. We always disabled the lock up converter because the clutch generated a lot of heat.

      The 700 was better but still could no survive taxi or trailer use. A replacement was like double the price of a 350. Sure, the OD had a fuel economy benefit but you would have to do a lot of driving to make up the difference. Besides, when I was driving these cars circa 1995, you could pick up a cherry 88 Royale for like $2k. Who cares how much gas it used at that price?

  • avatar

    I have to say that all this talk of b-bodies and panthers is making me rather nostalgic having grown up being carted around in the back of a “box” caprice sedan. It’s too bad that I never got to drive one. I’ve also been a driver or passenger in countless rental or taxi crown vics. Despite valuing performance, especially handling, over comfort, my appreciation for these cars has grown over time. They seem to be remarkably suited for what they were – comfortable, large (on the outside at least) cars for American (relatively straight, slow) roads. If I’m going on a lengthy road trip on speed-limited interstate highways I’d take either of these over just about anything unibody/fwd.

    One question for the B&B: Do any of you also get the sense that the rear seat room, especially leg room, in these cars is not quite proportionate to their external size? It seems like many modern FWD mid-size sedans have a more roomy rear seat area than these had.

    • 0 avatar

      One question for the B&B: Do any of you also get the sense that the rear seat room, especially leg room, in these cars is not quite proportionate to their external size? It seems like many modern FWD mid-size sedans have a more roomy rear seat area than these had.

      +1 Yes. But that doesn’t stop me from wanting one. There are 1000 explanations that I’ve heard for the shortage of rear seat room in Crown Vic/Grand Marquis and Caprice/Roadmaster. Some attribute it to platforms that were a bit dated and not updated much during their cycles, some think it was a sinister plot to get people to buy the manufacturers midsize models, trying to force people into SUVs, ect. The long wheelbase Lincon Town Car is pretty good on room and the “d-body” (streched B-body) Fleetwood was good on legroom too. Some would argue that they give up rear seat room for big trunks and gas tanks. Without being able to interview the engineers for the orginal platforms I doubt we’ll ever know.

      On a side note the best car I ever owned for combination of small exterior, big interior, and big trunk was my 1982 Chevy Celebrity. That was it’s redeming features in a short list. Of course I was 16 and too stupid to appreciate that about it. It had better rear seat legroom than the G-body 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme that replaced it. Although I’ll take the 307 4brl any day. I’d love a boxy Olds wagon with that combo.

    • 0 avatar

      @educatordan: We seem to cross paths frequently, must be the Ohio upbringing… ;) Funny you should mention the Celebrity, I used to drive one as a company car occasionally. They were pretty craptastic until the fuel injected ones came out in the mid ’80s, then at least they weren’t prone to the usual carbureted smog motor ailments. I remember driving them back in the day and thinking that if I were to be stuck in traffic all of the time, this would be a pretty suitable car, inoffensive, not hard to drive and plenty of room to sprawl out while waiting for the accident to be cleared.

      Coincidentally, my brother bought a mint 1986 Celebrity (with fuelie 2.8 V6) from his elderly neighbor before he passed on a few years back. On one of my trips back home, I hopped in the car with him, I forgotten how space efficient those boxes were. We could fit both of our big butts in the front of that thing and had plenty of room left over.

      With that in mind, I have been scoping out used A body wagons, in case one of my cars gets totaled or blows a motor and I need a quick replacement. I’ve actually seen a few here in West Michigan, but haven’t found the right one… yet.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Judging by the ones I’ve seen in the junkyard, at least a foot of rear seat length went instead to wrapping the frame rails up and over the rear axle. When they started squatting the passenger cabin down between the wheels (60s) instead of sitting on top of a straight frame (50s), cars had to get quite a bit longer to make room for fishbellying the frame while keeping the interior space. When they shortened the cars in the 70s, that extra length had to come from somewhere. The frame rails make almost an omega shape on the downsized cars.

  • avatar

    I drove my father-in-law’s 2001 Grand Marquis last weekend. The handling was much better than what I remember from the big Fords in decades past.

    It’s a much more likable car that I expected.

    What I find striking is the interior quality as compared to the pics that 86er posted above.

    The basic shape is the same but, in his 92-94, the fake wood has a nice matte finish and looks real as stated. In the ’01, it’s glossy, cheap looking strips of truly nasty plastic. The glovebox door is toy grade and most of the switchgear looks and feels like crap. Dashboard by Rubbermaid.

    The leather feels cheap (admittedly no worse than my Honda) and it took me quite a while to find a comfortable seating position.

    De-contenting run wild.

    My Aunt’s ’77 Olds Delta 88 Royale is a whole other proposition. It is still driven on a regular basis and is really a quality piece of land yacht.

    I prefer the GM but, comparing a 1977 to a 2001 is not exactly apples to apples.

    Besides, GM abandoned the market and Ford kept it going so Ford wins.

  • avatar

    As mentioned in another post, I had a 1977 Olds Delta 88 Holiday coupe with a 403 and the FE3 suspension. It was quite the handler for a car it’s size. The only thing I couldn’t do, was to keep it from rusting through and failing Pennsylvania inspection. The car did everything rather well and never left us stranded.

    In 2001 I bought a used 1991 Mercury Grand Marquis (or GrandMa as my kids called it). I was told it was driven by a little old gentleman who only used it to tow his fishing boat to the lake (on Sunday). The price was right, and I thought this would be a good used car.

    It seems the old man was towing the Queen Mary apparently, as evidenced by the flaky transmission. As the years wore on, the motor developed issues, and a variety of things electrical and mechanical broke, none of them cheap.

    I finally gave up on the car and gave it to a charity. I still think there was a lot of decontenting going on in the mechanical side of that era of car; I knew other people with earlier Panthers who didn’t have the issues I had with mine.

    That 302 was always gasping for air. It’s not like it burned oil (but it sure as hell leaked a lot!) or anything, but it never had any power. The GrandMa handled and braked OK, but it rode like a dream. Lots of kid and luggage room, it was so quiet on the interstates you cold fall asleep within ten minutes of starting a trip.

    My experiences, while not a fair fight, confirmed my prejudices about the two companies: The Oldsmobile, big, proud, athtletic, confident. The Mercury, big, comfy, leisurely and a bit asthmatic. Maybe because I had the cars at two different times of my life I view them MUCH differently, but I still have to go with the B body for the win.

  • avatar

    Back in the late 70’s, it was commonly claimed in car magazines that manufacturers provided each other with cars they had near production. I noticed that beyond the superficial styling, and drivetrain components, the downsized ’78+ full-size Fords had a very similar design to the downsized ’77+ GM’s. Right down to the layout of the dash vents. So I always wondered if Ford saved development time and money on the ’78+’s by just copying much of the original B-body design.

    Ironically, I always preferred the “Box’s” more rounded styling than the Ford’s squarish shapes. It seemed like it took more thought to make it look right. This is with the exception of the ’77-’79 B-body sedans, where I think the low trunk height made them look insubstantial. The 2-door versions looked fine, though.

  • avatar

    styling wise the big chevies have always beaten the big fords. (by always, I mean back through the ’60s. The only big Ford I like better than it’s Chevy counterpart is the ’59 . I do love the ’59 Ford, and the Chevy was underhwelming that year. And I do love the 1940 Ford.

  • avatar

    I think the response to these two Baruth columns on B-bodies gives the lie to the hypothesis that most TTACers are biased against American cars. There’s obviously a lot of love for donk-box-bubble, and even for the panther.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, your right David. The last couple of days have brought out some of the “best” from the b%b.

      I tried to explain to my wife the “donk” thing and how it relates to the Impala insignia. I don’t think she got it.

    • 0 avatar

      The love is written in the same way you’d complement a Special-Olympics competitor. If this article were repositioned as a poll between a Town Car and any modern, large vehicle in the same price range, you’d see just how shallow the loyalty runs.

    • 0 avatar


      TTAC’s been there, got the t-shirt.

  • avatar

    B Body in a walk. Anyone who was connected with the automotive industry in the late 70s should remember what an impact these cars had on the market at the time. The ’78 Ford and subsequent versions of the platform were also rans at best. Ford eventually won by default but that’s the only reason they won. Sad to say, but the ’77 chevy was the last time chevy (sorry, Chevrolet) really nailed it, at least with a non truck platform.
    They weren’t perfect, and GM let them get stale towards the end but they were the best full sized cars Detroit ever made in a lot of ways. Ask any old time cop, anywhere, and you will likely hear that the LT-1 Caprice was the best police car ever built. Look at the sales figures for the years when both brands competed and you will see GM on top most if not all years. Ask a mechanic which lasts longer or is easier to work on. GM hands down. That said, at least FoMoCo had the sense to continue to build and develop their platform. My .02, anyway.

  • avatar

    I give it to the Panther for one reason and one reason only: When you rush up on somebody in a Vic nine times out of ten that person slows down and gets out of your way. (Especially in an Intercceptor.) The B body, not so much.
    My hatred of traffic is so boundless that I’m permitting my wife to pick out her own car while I’m deployed to Afghanistan on the condition she find a cheap low(er) mileage Interceptor for me. Tinted windows, antennas (at least 4), and a p.a. system will be added later.

  • avatar

    Despite the huge numbers of those cars, I have rather limited personal experience with either panthers or donks. My main exposure to the former was back around 2003 when I drove a Crown Vic with the Interceptor package on a 200 mile round trip. It was the boss’ car, but had been ordered with the intention that it would later be (and it was) transferred to law enforcement use. It only needed the light bar, markings, etc. I recall it had the “certified” speedometer, but otherwise looked very ordinary.

    My recollection is the car rode more harshly and had more road noise than I expected of a big sedan. I suppose that was due to the pursuit-rated tires and the stiffer suspension. Are the civilian panthers markedly smoother and quieter?

  • avatar

    When we were living in Germany, one of our downstairs neighbors had a mid 80’s 2-door CV…metallic brown, Landau roof and that deep cloth interior. Next to our ’76 Mercury Montego and ’81 Corolla, I thought that CV was the epitome of luxury and style. I still find myself occasionally looking for one, if nothing else than to relive those memories…

  • avatar

    In my opinion, the winner is the one that I can go into a showroom and buy today.

  • avatar

    Ah, this topic is right up my alley…my favorite kind of car being discussed here!

    I have owned 2 downsized B-bodies, a 1979 Chevy Caprice 2 door (305 V8) and a 1986 Pontiac Parisienne (Olds 307 V8). I currently own a 2004 Mercury Grand Marquis (dual exhaust 4.6), my wife had a 1984 Grand Marquis 2 door (302 V8), and I borrowed a 1979 Ford LTD 2 door (also 302) from a farmer I worked for many years ago. I have also driven a 1979 Olds Custom Cruiser wagon (403 V8) that belonged to my late grandparents.

    My opinion: The winner depends on which group (old or new) you’re considering. Comparing the older (boxy) B-bodies vs. older Panthers, the B-bodies win. GM really got it right with the original downsized B-bodies. They have better handling and steering. They also have slightly nicer styling, whether it be a LeSabre, Caprice/Impala, Delta 88 or Catalina/Bonneville/Parisienne (although older Panthers aren’t bad looking either, and got better with the ’88 facelift). The Panthers of that era have a decisive edge in assembly quality, though. With powertrains, it’s pretty even between the two, good and bad on both sides. Early Ford OD transmissions sucked, as did THM 200 transmissions in the B-bodies. The Ford 302 was a good motor, but rather underpowered. The Chevy small blocks were okay overall, but again, usually underpowered.

    Comparing newer B-bodies with newer Panthers, the Panthers win, hands down. I like the “bubble” styling of the B-bodies well enough even though I originally disliked it, but the newer Panthers are simply better looking, especially ’98-newer. Seems to me like Ford did a better job of keeping the Panthers as up to date as possible (modern OHC engine, numerous chassis upgrades, etc.) while GM let the B-bodies grow stale in comparison. Admittedly, I haven’t driven a later B-body, but I can tell you that my 2004 Grand Marquis handles and steers considerably better than my wife’s ’84 did, and also better than the older B-bodies, which already handled and steered pretty well. Here in the rust belt, the newer Panthers hold up very well; even the few early ’90s examples left never seem to have any rust through. The newer B-bodies are magnets for rust; almost every one I still see on the road is rusted out behind the rear wheels and sometimes in the rocker panels as well. If GM had kept the B-body in production and put as much effort into improving it as Ford did with the Panther, the B-body might still have been the best. They truly dropped the ball there.

  • avatar

    Ford is repeating GM’s mistake of killing their large BOF cars. There is clearly a market for these cars (livery, police, taxi)and with minimal upgrades Ford could have a new Panther II (new sheetmetal, new 5.0 V8, etc.) for another 10 years of market dominance. No one seriously believes that the new Taurus, Caprice, and Charger police cars will stand up to the abuse that the CV does.

    • 0 avatar

      With CAFE mileage standards rising as much as they are, I don’t think there’s any way Ford can keep a BOF car in the line up without hurting their fleet average. And the volume of police, taxi & other livery fleet business only kept St. Thomas Assembly operating on only one shift, something every automaker wants to avoid.

  • avatar

    B-Body Mr. Baruth. Period.

  • avatar

    Coming from a family that has owned/operated both, and as the owner of a Panther and avid gear head myself, the biggest advantage the B/D bodies have is the LT-1 engine. The chassis’ themselves were similar, but the B/D was slightly better.

    Comparing a 1996 Chevy Impala SS to any 1996 Panther is unfair, because the 1979-1997 rendition of the chassis was a poor handler and the 4.6L SOHC Modular only put out 210bhp and 270lb/ft in comparison to the 5.7L LT-1 and it’s massive 260bhp and 330lb/ft. If compared to the 4.3L V8 B’s though, the Ford wins. We won’t talk about the awful Opti-Spark that drove the B/D and the fact that the 4L60E couldn’t handle the LT-1’s sheer power.

    Now, comparing the more recent Panther (2003-2011) and it’s performance enhancements, the Panther mostly edges out the B/D. Handling-wise, the new Panther behaves like it’s on rails and, with the Police Interceptor suspension, drives quite well. Road manners are much better, and the seats are more comfortable than the couches used in the B/D cars. The 4.6L Mod still puts out less power though, but it’s close at 250bhp and 298lb/ft. This negates mentioning the Mercury Marauder (Ford’s long-awaited and short-lived try at mimicking the Impala SS and it’s success) and it’s 4.6L DOHC engine with 302bhp and 318lb/ft.

    A rental Grand Marquis or a beat-to-snot ten-years old Police Interceptor do not tell the true tale of how good the modern Panther actually is. The newer cars, while performing better, admittedly don’t look so great on the inside. The interior is plastic and boring. But comparing the relatively unchanged-since-1995 Panther interior to the squared-off look of the B/D’s of 1991-1996, I would take a Panther interior any day for at least having curves.

    Before judging the Panther, I would say try driving a Marauder, Crown Victoria LX Sport, Handling & Performance Package-equipped Panther, Police Interceptor (not beat to death) or Town Car Executive (used for building limos, has heavy duty HPP-style suspension). A Grand Marquis LS or Crown Victoria LX, with pathetic 2.73 gears, single exhaust and super-floaty grandpa suspension is hardly a contender for “fun vehicle of the year” with weak gearing and only 224bhp and 275lb/ft to push it’s 4,000lbs curb weight around.

    The bottom line: After significant evolution, the Panther can’t win outright due to the engine still being weaker than the top engine used in the B/D. But the B/D can’t claim to win, either, because it died long before the Panther and thus, failed to succeed. So I call it a tie, despite being a longtime Ford guy and Panther fan.

    One final note though, at least GM killed the B/D when it was still a relatively popular car. Ford has let the Panther stagnate away and flag. The Panther’s legacy is going to be as “One of Mercury’s last cars”, a fact forgotten by many publications that think there are only 2 Mercury’s (the Milan and Mariner; forgetting the Mountaineer and Graqnd Marquis are left suspiciously out); many people think that Ford put the Crown Vic out of it’s misery years ago because it’s styling stayed the pretty much same for 13 straight years. The only one that might be missed by the public is the Town Car.

  • avatar

    As much as I love both, I have to give the nod to the B-body.

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