The Panther In Winter

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
the panther in winter

This is the first year in nearly a decade that I haven’t owned an all-wheel-drive vehicle. I’ve been putting Blizzaks or Dunlop Winter Sports on them and enjoying the arrogant self-satisfaction that comes with always being the fastest traffic on bad roads.

When I had my Rovers, my brother and I would go out during the “Level 3 Emergencies” and pull people out of ditches. Sometimes we would do ten cars in three or four hours, using my off-road recovery equipment to unstick everybody from sweet coeds in Jettas to Somali immigrant families packed into corded-tire Isuzu Troopers.

With the arrival of my almighty Town Car, however, the prospect of rescuing others has faded, replaced by a determination to simply not require any rescue myself. The solution was simple, but I learned something surprising about cops and tires along the way.

There aren’t that many snow tires available for the 17″-wheeled Town Car. The tire size, 225/65R17, is neither modern-low-profile nor big-wheeled-SUV-status. And the tires which are available tend to be a bit off-brand. Cooper, Hankook… I know they both make decent racing tires but I’m not ready to take my chances with their discount snow-and-ice offerings.

The solution was to imitate the Ohio State Highway Patrol, which uses the Eagle Ultra Grip.

Ironically, the Rack doesn’t carry them in Town Car size, but the folks who sponsor my race car, B&B Tire in Columbus, Ohio, managed to scare up a set for an installed total of $680. I elected to use my polished-aluminum Signature Limited Wheels for mounting because I have some different plans for my summer “rimz”. Let’s just say that I am only a hundred miles from Dayton, Ohio, and leave it at that for now.

For a few busy days I read everything I could get my hands on about the Ultra Grip. Yes, it’s a decent snow tire, but what surprised me was the assertion, repeated in a dozen different places, that many police forces use the Ultra Grip year ’round. In summery conditions, they rarely last twelve thousand miles. Why would police departments waste money like that, when a decent set of all-season tires would be cheaper and last three or four times as long?

Nobody on the Internet seemed to know, and I’m too police-allergic to do something like, you know, actually call and ask somebody at a police department, but I suspect the answer is something like this: The Ultra Grip in my size is V-rated. It has very deep tread and seems to corner pretty well, even under dry conditions. For departments which could encounter high-speed usage in heavy rain, it might be the safest choice out there. Using the Ultra Grip on a consistent basis also assures that the cops are always ready for snow, although not even Ohio policemen could be stupid enough to think it’s going to snow in, say, August. Well, I take that back. There’s probably a deputy sheriff out there somewhere who is genuinely surprised when the sun comes up in the morning.

We’re already discussed the true nature of “special police training” here on TTAC a few times. Perhaps the safest thing to do is to choose a tire which has the absolute minimum difference between dry-pavement and bad-weather grip. This reduces the amount of thinking that cops need to do when choosing the speed at which they’ll be endangering other drivers to administer roadside taxation.

As for me, I’ve been enjoying the Ultra Grips ever since it began snowing. Panthers are frankly treacherous on cold roads, but the combination of the Goodyear traction and the surprisingly competent traction control fitted to these final few big Fords makes it possible to run at acceptable velocities on unplowed freeways and side streets. Every once in a while I will hear the engine snag a few hundred extra revs for no reason and that’s my cue to back it off a notch before something bad happens.

In fact, the Town Car has been so good then when I saw a Camry face-down, ass-up in the ditch down the street from my house today, I thought about running home to grab my hilariously-named “snatch strap”. Does this car even have a front tow hook location? I’m going to deliberately not find out.

Join the conversation
3 of 71 comments
  • Tankinbeans Tankinbeans on Dec 13, 2010

    Completely off-topic and perhaps I missed this, but did you ever come up with your results about E85 versus "regular" gas?

  • Brandloyalty Brandloyalty on Dec 13, 2010

    @Pete Zaitcev "I am quite surprised that 225/65R17 is hard to find, because it’s stock size on RAV4.3. Back in 2006 when those things just appeared, it was a huge issue, but over the years it became less of a problem. When I wore down my Yokos some time in 2009, I found a large selection at TireRack and got some other Yokos. Granted, not snow tires, but still, it should not be an issue anymore." The new generation fancier Grand Vitaras also showed up with that size for 2006. At first, there was almost no selection. But I understand the Highlander used that size, and so by the time the oem's wore enough that I needed to get snow tires there were at least a dozen different snow tires in that size. Blizzak DMZ-3's on the GV provide amazing traction.

  • Master Baiter Might as well light 50 $100 bills on fire.
  • Mike1041 At $300K per copy they may secure as much as 2 or 3 deposits of $1,000
  • Sgeffe Why on Earth can’t you just get the torque specs and do it yourself if you’re so-inclined?!
  • Sgeffe As was stated in another comment, the FAA nominee went down in flames. But the NTSB chairwoman certainly didn’t, and she’s certainly not qualified either!Lots of this kind of stuff going on both sides of the aisle—Ben Carson would have arguably made a better Surgeon General than HUD Secretary under Trump, for example.
  • Art Vandelay Interesting, the Polestar 2 I had as a rental utilized Android Automotive which is what GM said it is going to exclusively, yet it still offers Apple CarPlay according to this. Wonder if GM will do the same.