Ask the Best And Brightest: B-Body or Panther?

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
ask the best and brightest b body or panther

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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2 of 74 comments
  • Jason Loyer Jason Loyer on Jul 15, 2010

    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.

  • Armadamaster Armadamaster on Oct 21, 2010

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

  • Inside Looking Out This is actually the answer to the question I asked not that long ago.
  • Inside Looking Out Regarding "narrow windows" - the trend is that windows will eventually be replaced by big OLED screens displaying some exotic place or may even other planet.
  • Robert I have had 4th gen 1996 model for many years and enjoy driving as much now as when I first purchased it - has 190 hp variant with just the right amount of power for most all driving situations!
  • ToolGuy Meanwhile in Germany...
  • Donald More stuff to break god I love having a nanny in my truck... find a good tuner and you can remove most of the stupid stuff they add like this and auto park when the doors open stupid stuff like that