By on October 25, 2010

Matt writes:


I have a 2007 Mustang GT that I bought new. I love the car, but hate having a car payment ($372/mo for another 2 years). A local Lincoln dealer has a 1998 Mark VIII for six grand with 72k miles. My father had a then-new ’94 Mark VIII, but it got parked underneath a F-250 before I was old enough to drive it.

I’m also thinking about getting a Grand Marquis, since used low-miles Panthers are plentiful here in Florida. My commute is short and littered with deputies, so something low-key has it’s appeal. I imagine the Mark VIII would be more work, but while Panthers will be plentiful here for years to come, the Mark VIII is a rare breed.

Sajeev Answers:

How ironic: not only have I (exclusively) driven a Lincoln Mark VIII since 2003, last year my Dad sold his 2007 Mustang GT for a Panther. I know all the players in this game much too well. I know that owning a Mark VIII for a regular commuter is a bad idea, especially the (even more) complicated bits of the ’97-98 models. Since I have yet to find a suitable replacement worthy of a monthly payment and bought mine with 117,000 well-maintained miles on the clock, let’s go over what you’ll have to fork over while making an original, low-mile Mark VIII a trustworthy ride:

1. Front upper control arms and strut rod bushings – don’t know why they go bad, but they do!

2. Rear shock mounts – ditto.

3. New air springs – They (OEM Ford springs) last 10-12 years, and the aftermarket ones don’t even do that. The coil spring conversions found on the Internet are a hit-or-miss affair.

4. HID headlights, Neon center taillight (97-98) – You can convert to conventional bulbs ($700-ish) and nobody needs a center taillight. And while I am spending a shit ton to make adapters for modern HID bulbs into the Mark’s headlight, I don’t necessarily want you to join the insanity.

5. Any wear item normally associated with old cars: tires, brake jobs, transmission servicing, radiators, hoses, etc. Fun!

6. Labor is tough; this platform was designed with Euro levels of sophistication (look at the driveshaft, buried under everything) with underhood room designed for Ford’s tiny 3.8L pushrod V6, not the DOHC V8 for Lincoln’s exclusive use.

Conclusion? You are better off finding an MGM cruiser, saving money instead for a down payment on a house. Or, more to your liking, spend a bit more for a Mercury Marauder. Even though the Panther’s driving dynamics are terrible compared to a fully independent, air suspended Mark VIII, they won’t need thousands of dollars to make right. So just do as I say…not as I do.

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

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50 Comments on “Piston Slap: Do As I Say, Not As I Do Edition...”

  • avatar

    So Matt owes about $8K on a car that is reliable and he loves.   But he wants to trade it for a $6K car that is 10 years older, and will require $3K/year to stay on the road.

    Trading rides gets you deeper in debt, frustrated with the hassles of upkeep and ties up your weekends servicing a car you will soon hate.  What part of “enjoy your ‘stang and pay it off” do you not understand? 

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed.  The time to get out from under this car would have been before you paid all the interest on the loan, before the new 5.0L came out (helloooo depreciation), and when it still had a bumper to bumper warranty. 

      Look at it this way.  You like the car.  You know the car’s history.  You’ll get $18k (approx) out of the vehicle, owe $9k on it.  That leaves you with $9k.  $6k for the car leaves you with $3k.  That isn’t much to show for something you’ve presumably spent 4 years paying on.

    • 0 avatar

      I would agree.  Keep the Mustang and, if your loan arrangement allows, try to pay it off early.  You’ve got a better car in every sense of the word, and one whose maintenance history you know well.
      Unless the Mustang is really not working for you, keep it.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed.  “Love the one you’re with.”

    • 0 avatar

      Now if he does get a used MGM, odds are he’ll lower the deficit and have a car that’s just as reliable, cheaper to insure, only a bit thirstier on gas, etc.
      I’ll stop short of saying that Matt can get an MGM and have his cake and eat it too, but you get the point.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve payed it down to under 5 grand, should have the loan retired soon. Looked around at various Panthers, no Marauders that I wanted to take the drive to look at.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    I want to thank Sajeev for over a series of articles helping me realize that although I too feel much love for the Mark VIII, it is not a suitable commuter for a 30 something male to have his last grasp at a cool car before the kids arrive.  (A Mark VII might be alright, but I digress.)
    I know the Panther’s have terrible back seat room for their size but a white/navy/tan/or black Grand Marquis with well tinted windows will likely make half the population think you’re an undercover member of law enforcement.  If you want to enforce the image add a dummy spotlight and a few fake antennas.  Have fun for 100s of thousands of miles. (Although I’m also considering doing the same treatment to a Ford Fivehundred, which is slower but handles better, and has a bigger back seat and let’s be honest; 90% of the population can’t tell the difference.)

    • 0 avatar

      We rented a new burgundy Grand Marquis a few years ago. At first it is really a hoot to have other drivers worry that the Panther rapidly approaching from their rear may be a law-enforcement vehicle. But after a really short time it gets old, because they will slow down to the speed limit, or five under just to be safe, and hold you up.
      But if you don’t tend to be a speeder your experience may be different.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      You don’t know me (by my posts) very well.  10 over is the minimum for me once out of the city limits unless my radar detector is going off or my eagle eyes spot smokeys around.  (BTW that doesn’t mean I like to drag race, I’m fine with attaining speed slowly, I just want to reach a rather high velocity.)

  • avatar

    I, too, was in absolute love with Mark VIIIs until I started selling them. Air shocks, air shocks, and air shocks. Yeesh.

    Beautiful cars, though. Even/especially today.

  • avatar

    When someone wants to sell their Mustang GT and get into a Grand Marquis or Lincoln, surely the cramped and noisy cockpit of the Mustang is a factor.
    I see such a move as a desperate and totally understandable cry out for comfort.

    • 0 avatar

      After logging 6k miles touring the western US in the last two weeks behind the wheel of my 07 mustang gt ragtop I will beg to differ. These cars are VERY comfortable and not the mustangs of the past.  

      For those that still need a somewhat quieter environment, spend $250 on some good quality sound deadening material and you will be VERY well rewarded on these late model mustangs.   

      One last note for Sajeev regarding the mark VIII and other fearless interested parties:    Keep a sharp eye out for hack-aftermarket electrical installations like remote start units.    These can result in car fires….and curiously, the mark VIII burns pretty quickly like a good bit if kindling.    Don’t ask. 

  • avatar

    I became somewhat of an expert on Mark VIIIs, first through necessity and then through fascination.

    I would not recommend ne unless you want a hobby, and have plenty to spend on it.

    In my experience, the air sprins rarely go bad by themselves. It’s teh ancillary bits, like the attachment of teh sensors to the suspension, or the air compressor itself that quit first. Lots of air springs are replace by people who don’t know’understand what they are doing.

    There are, however, lots of other Mark VIII parts that can and will fail. Springs in the door handles, the dor handles themselves, tape players, electric motors in the seats, brake rotors repeatedly, spark plug wires, suspension bushings, front and rear, unbalanced driveshaft, and so on. The HI headlights are another source of problems, but the halogen headlights are so bad after a few years that you might as well stay home after dark.

    I gave up on mine after the alternator replacemetns got into teh double digits in one year.

    Engine durability sometimes suffers because shops don’t change the oil filter. Try it yourself and you will see why.

    So, if you want a hobby, get a Mark VIII. If you want a car, get a Honda.


  • avatar
    Don Gammill

    In January, 2000, I traded my ’96 4.6 Thunderbird (50,000 miles) for a decidedly-more-prestigious, 74,000-mile ’95 Mark VIII.  Mainly, I just wanted a car with the four-cam 4.6 V8.  The day I got it, I thought it ironic that the T-Bird’s key could crank the Mark.  Shortly thereafter, I found it ironic that under 4,500 RPM, the the DOHC 4.6 didn’t pull much harder than my T-Bird’s SOHC 4.6 (it did scream at 6,000, though).

    Want more irony?  Financially, I was in the Mark pretty good: I could have sold it the next day and made $500, maybe more.  However, a 120-mile (round trip) daily commute plays hell with a vehicle’s value, and by the end of the year, the best offer I could get was an ankle-grabbing $5,000 under my loan’s pay-off.  In the meantime, I went through several sets of aftermarket air springs (I should have just bitten the bullet and bought the far-costlier OEM ones) and spent $600 on a set of new grippier-than-OEM-spec Michelins.

    There are a lot of people (like Sajeev) who can both appreciate what a significant automobile the Mark VIII is, and keep it running.  And I loosely fall into that category; however, in my case, the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak.

    I found a divorcee’ who wanted a flashy car to shove in her ex-husband’s face.  After talking with her, I realized that her ’99 Eclipse was worth nearly as much as my loan balance on the Mark VIII, so I suggested that we “toss keys.”  Amazingly, she agreed.  She kept her loan and I kept my loan, but the Eclipse was now the collateral for mine and the Mark was now the collateral for hers (she apparently knew someone at her bank and that’s why they went along with it).

    Within three months I had found a buyer for the Eclipse.  My net loss on all this madness: $500.  I considered myself lucky and decided that from that point on, I would admire Mark VIIIs from a distance and enjoy the simplicity and reliability of the Panther.

    POST SCRIPT:  After 203,000 miles, the right-side, low-beam headlight on my ’01 Grand Marquis burned out last night.  I went to Walmart, bought a two-pack of the basic Sylvania bulbs, and replaced both sides in the store’s parking lot with no tools in about five minutes.  Total cost: $15

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      203,000 miles from light bulbs? No wonder some of the TTAC staff hates Panthers. They are unreliable pieces of crap. A Mercedes-Benz light bulb lasts a million miles and has authentic concentration-camp hair used as a filament.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      203,000 miles from light bulbs? No wonder some of the TTAC staff hates Panthers.

      Hey don’t forget the members of the B&B who believe other members are “Luddites” for loving the Panther.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey, I resemble that remark!

    • 0 avatar

      Depending on usage, those headlight bulbs shoulda been replaced years ago. Panther or no, 5+ year old bulbs don’t throw out light nearly as well as new ones. It’s a safety thing.
      Maybe for another piston slap.

    • 0 avatar
      Don Gammill

      Don’t worry, Sajeev; my headlamp lenses are in such bad shape (even after multiple attempts at polishing) that when I turned both old and new low and high beams on before replacing the driver’s side bulb last night, there was zero difference in perceived output (or distance, from what I could tell in the poorly-lit Walmart parking lot).  Here’s to feeding my inner Walter Mitty and living dangerously, I suppose.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually that’s even more reason to worry.  The Turtle Wax people gave me their headlight polishing kit as part of the junket I attended, email me your address and I’ll ship it to you…you can make a product review out of it.

    • 0 avatar

      Polishing won’t work. You must first sand off the yellow crust. I’ve had good results starting with a 500 grit then 800 and finishing with 1000 grit. Then use the wax to clear them up.

    • 0 avatar
      Don Gammill

      Sajeev, I’m all about reviewing a kit like that and I just sent you a message with my address.  I had originally used the Meguiar’s kit and planned to review it (even made a video and took photos), but it was so marginal and the results were so underwhelming that I shelved the idea.  A neighbor used the Turtle Wax kit and raved about it; however, I saw the results and they still weren’t all that spectacular.  Per DenverMike, I may try the Turtle Wax before (and possibly after) hitting it with some ultra-fine sand paper, as well.  Perhaps I’ll visit the junkyard and do a controlled test first, before messing with my daily driver.

    • 0 avatar

      This is why I’m glad my Jeep uses good old fashioned 7″ round sealed beams. Easily swapped for a set of Cibie E-code lamps that are more impressive than most OEM HID units from an output perspective, and no worries about lenses yellowing.  

    • 0 avatar

      FWIW, the kit comes with Sanding pads. I’ll let Gammill take it from there.

  • avatar

    I see that the wise advice I got from Howard, my car mentor back in the 70s, still applies:  “Never buy an old luxury car”. 

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    An associate had a Lincoln Mark VIII on a two year lease. Can’t remember the year. He loved the car but wearied of running it back to the dealer for another week-long visit. There was always something wrong with it. They treated him well and provided a courtesy car every time but one day he arrived at an important meeting in a pickup truck, not nearly as trendy then. A lifelong Ford man, it soured him on the brand.

  • avatar

    saving money instead for a down payment on a house.

    Certainly, how could you possibly lose with that advice…?

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    If you want a ’90s luxury coupe with a V8, get a SC400.

    • 0 avatar

      One of these (though it could be a 300) whips by me at speed most mornings on my way to work.  I’m going about 75 and it disappears quickly.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll second this. My father got out of a 94 VIII and into a 97 SC400 and the former was outclassed in nearly every objective and subjective category. He still loves the idea of the VIII but the reality was a different story.

  • avatar

    I fell in love with these cars when they came out and I still want one.  If you know your way around a car, I actually don’t think they’re too bad.  Most of the stuff that needs attention would need work on ANY car of that age.
    If the air springs went out, I would just replace with a conventional spring conversion set, they’re around $400.  You’d probably be replacing the struts on a car of this age anyway.  Same with most of the suspension issues, it would probably need replacing anyway.
    Only the later models had the HID, and there are all sorts of solutions for that problem if you’re handy.
    Is is the type of car you can just drive and forget about?  Definitely not, but they’re also not rolling lemons either.  i wouldn’t recommend buying one unless you’re comfortable working on cars.  If you’re the type that usually takes your car to a shop for repairs, you should steer clear.  It’s definitely not a “financially smart” car to buy, but the cars we lust after rarely are.

  • avatar

    I’m interpreting “hate having a car payment” to mean “can’t afford to pay it off”.  Please tell me that Matt is not planning to roll his GT’s negative equity into a $6,000 Mark VIII.  Only a predatory lender would touch that one.

  • avatar

    Forget about the Lincoln, and join the dark side.

  • avatar

    Matt, as the owner of a ’97 Mark VIII myself, it pains me to say this.  he’s right.
    Of course, I wouldn’t trade my Mark for anything.  I paid 6k for mine in 2004, and it’s been a summer-only car. (Minnesota!)   These days, good examples seem to go for $4,000, but it might need one of those airbags, and will certainly need that front end suspension work.  I’ve been lucky.  I’m at 186,000 miles on mine, and I have yet to replace a single air-bag, or HID headlight.  However, I bought it at just around 100k, and I think the previous owner had done most of that already.
    If you weren’t already invested in the ‘stang and had a few bucks for a toy like the Mark, I’d say go for it.  I just now returned from a lunch run with the co-workers, taking some (all) hard corners to squash the poor schmuck in the middle of the back seat.  good times.

    and Sajeev, I did get those sway bars..  Incredible.  Thank you for your write-up a while back, and follow-up comments.

    As for your HID adapters, there’s a guy on the “Lincolns of Distinction” site selling adapters for the gen-2 HIDs.  the bulbs and ballasts seem to be the same between the gen1 and gen2 Marks.  I’d post a link or two, but I don’t want to look like I’m advertising.  I’ll bet you know how to find my e-mail address if you need specifics.
    And my winter car? a 1986 Town Car (327,000 miles)

    • 0 avatar

      Oh yah, love the bars.  You might need to buy Energy suspension brackets (D bushings) for the rear, the stock brackets with big bars didn’t much like Houston roads.  Cruise the forums and you’ll see the guy who sells reinforcement bars to go with the brackets.
      As far as the HID adapters, its the same guy and yes, I know him. If I didn’t want to convert to the new HID bulb (i.e. not put a Chinese HID bulb in the stock 9005 capsule) I woulda bought those in a heartbeat.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve read up on those brackets, and am keeping an eye on my own (factory) brackets for stress.  so far, so good, except for a squeak over large bumps up front..  I also have an “ASHAM8” installed, and run with my car somewhat lowered most of the time.  There seems to be some debate as to whether or not this is wise..

      Once you get your lights sorted, please post a follow-up.  Assuming mine were new(ish) when I bought the car, my luck is about to run out. :)

  • avatar

    “A Mercedes-Benz light bulb lasts a million miles and has authentic concentration-camp hair used as a filament.”

    Jack, that is wrong on so many levels, but for now, I can’t think of any for I’m laughing too hard!

  • avatar

    I’m REALLY starting to think this site should be renamed “The Truth About Crappy Old Fords”. Have any of you people actually driven GOOD cars??? Or is it just that you all live in the flyover states where the roads are straight for 100 miles at a stretch, and handling and ride are theoretical at best? Sheesh.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Hey quite of bit of this country lives in those so called “Flyover States.”  And we like a soft, serene ride.  Isolation tanks are actually underrated as automobiles.  So sheesh yourself.

    • 0 avatar

      Highly diverse enthusiast communities like this, is where the seeds of later mass market shifts are sown. If TTAC was around 30-50 years ago, it would probably be the place where the virtues of “European sports sedans” and “crappy” little Japanese cars were extolled.
      And The Truth is, American auto makers didn’t just settle on large, softly sprung cars with big, slow turning engines out of spite; but rather because such cars were always well suited to the needs and driving habits of large segments of American drivers (and passengers). So, while the big 3 definitely let themselves go a bit wrt quality, and some segments of the population “require” more BMWesque handling, much of the fundamental goodness inherent in traditional, large American RWD cars were thrown out with the bathwater as part of the import craze of the past three or so decades. And sites like this is where the first attempts at rectifying this is likely to appear.
      Now, if the big3-2-… would only pay more attention this time, instead of betting whatever little they have left on their farm on chasing Bimmers and Priuses……………
      Spending just a tiny little bit on updating the Panther, instead of getting rid of it, would be a good start. As would be building a convertible on that (updated) platform. I mean, if there is one area (other than stretching) where BOF has advantages, it must be in ease of getting rid of the roof without too dire structural consequences.

  • avatar

    I’ll second what was said in a previous comment:
    I could spend several paragraphs explaining why it’s a bad idea – don’t do it, you’ll be sorry.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll second this – the window to to purchase a used Mark VIII was way back when they were available as a “certified” used car from a L-M dealer with the opportunity to buy the (practically mandatory) bumper-to-bumper extended warranty.

      Years ago I tried to talk a fellow Merkur club member out of purchasing a used 1994 Lincoln Continental, which he described as his “dream car” (buddy, you need better dreams). Having worked for Ford, I knew all the expensive trouble areas of these cars and their propensity to fail just out of warranty.

      I knew these cars so well that I even correctly guessed the reason why it was in for a shop visit when the original owner decided to just trade up to a new V-8 Continental, thus making this “dream car” available. For the curious, it was a failed A/C hose, a common repair on these. 

      Since there was no talking my club mate out of the car, I convinced him to buy a comprehensive extended warranty to protect him from the inevitable. Naturally, the inevitable occurred and it needed all four air struts replaced just out of regular warranty. That extended warranty paid for itself in just that one repair, and it would really come in handy once the head gaskets failed, a self-immolation trick these cars all performed by around 75,000 miles.

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