New or Used: Of Mice, Men and Panther Love
Dear Sajeev and Steve,
I am at the point where the little niggles my 240 wagon possesses are no longer a part of its charm. For replacement (which, in actuality I will keep it, but take it off of the daily roster,) I have decided that I want a Panther. My budget is capped at 13k, and even that is a bit rich for my tastes. I know for sure that I do not want some jacked-up P71, so I am leaning heavily toward the Grand Marquis/Town Car. Which one would be the best? Should I stay above the `03 model year? I am looking to make my move after the first of the year, so I hope my asking to make this speedy doesn’t make me seem like a jerk. Thank you in advance!
Drive. I would not cross out any particular type of Panther. I also wouldn’t spend anywhere near $13k on the decontented Panthers of the last five years. Try $5k at most for a well kept and conservatively driven 8 to 10 year old model that has been garage kept and dealer maintained. Mature folks are more apt to spend money on quality parts, and the ‘gentle Panthers’ like the Lincoln and Grand usually have owners who are shall we say, ‘cruisers’.
This along with a powertrain that will outlast everything but cockroaches and a 1st generation Lexus, is why most of those middle-aged Panthers have little wear on them. Well that and the fact that the engine and tranny were probably conceived in the Neolithic era. Are you sure you want one of these?
Well I guess it all comes down to your personal taste, and that prior owner. The Lincoln will give you luxury par excellence. The Grand Marquis will give you 60% to 85% of the Lincoln’s luxury with perhaps one or two fewer repairs over the course of years. You will also have a less floaty ride in the PrecisionTrac models.
But then again you may like a little float. Two of my favorite Steenkin’ Lincolns were floating clouds of enduring isolation. My most fond memory was a 1997 model in silver. The last year of the ‘Classic Lincoln’ design combined with outstanding reliability. My second favorite? A 1990 model with 81,000 miles that I bought for $400 in the thick of the Hurricane Katrina gas lines. I also own/finance four Grand Marquis models at the moment, all late 90’s models. At the auctions they go for between $1500 to $3000.
Sajeev is going to offer some very sound advice on the models and trim packages. So I will just leave you with this advice. Start with the owner and just drive the car.
Mr. Lang knows me too well. My girlfriend would be jealous, if I had one. That said, the best, “fattest” content Panther ever was the 1995-1996 Town Cars, especially the Cartiers. Well 1995 only, if you want to impress smokers with your super classy, lighted ash receptacles. Plus, they are downright gorgeous, in that neo-classic tradition of the Detroit Land Yacht. So you get one of them, fix the suspension to your sporting (by Volvo, Cop Car standards) tastes, or just replace the shocks. Shocks are important on Panthers, since they are rarely replaced. And why would they? The ride is too soft to notice their gradual degradation. But, as a new owner, you sure as hell should.
Too bad these “fat” Panthers aren’t easy to find, unless you live in Boca Raton. So go ahead and look for a newer Grand Marquis LS or Crown Victoria LX. While 2003+ models have a little better chassis with rack/pinion steering, it’s only a modest upgrade. The 1998+ models have the necessary brake and suspension upgrades, a decent enough motor (except for the 96-01 plastic intake recalled a few years back) and are super cheap to find just about anywhere.
My guess? You’ll find a 1998+ Grand Marquis LS that looks, smells and drives like new (cough, shocks, cough) for less than $8000 with very little internet searching in your area. But if you’re truly picky, the pre-Jac Nasser Town Cars are a (1998 Police Interceptor) brake/steering/suspension rebuild away from being truly impressive machines, inside and out. And much like your 240, these “fat” Panthers are, without question, the best example of the Lincoln Brand in the last 30 years.
Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to firstname.lastname@example.org, and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.
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I had a box. I do not wish to subject another to salt.
I had a '92 TC Executive (which a friend still drives) and now a 2005 Sig Ltd. Personally I would not be afraid of a 1992-95; just get the lowest mileage one you can find. You can still find them with 50K or even less on eBay if you look, and they get used car prices, not collectible prices like 90's RWD Fleetwood Broughams do. I used to see oil burning Panthers but not in a long time; I think time has weeded out most of the ones with weak valvetrains. My '92 Exec had the full analog dash and the sliding lever climate controls, less electronic crap to break. Also I think it was in the later 90's when the window mechanisms started getting really cheap. My '92 also had features not available in any 2000's model like an automatic headlamp dimmer (which worked), adjustable duration for the lamps on after shut-off, and a genuine front bench seat (the newer ones fake it but everyone just leaves the armrest console down). Interior materials quality on the older ones is MUCH better. On a 1992-97 check for a sagging drivers door (the hinge pins were a bit under sized for the job, they can be replaced but it's not an easy task)