Piston Slap: Relevant Lessons Taught by Panther Love

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

Hey, it coulda happened!

TTAC commentator HeeeeyJake writes:

Hey Sajeev,

I love the column and I’m a daily TTAC reader, though I rarely comment. We have been a Panther household since the mid nineties, and have had great luck with our vehicles thus far. My parents had two ex-Budget rental Town Cars, a white ’93 with blue interior, and a medium willow green ’96 with that greyish-beige. I had a pearlescent silver ’91 in high school with black interior and a black canvas top (I added ’02 Cartier wheels , P71 front springs, and a dual exhaust with turbo mufflers). All were zero-problem vehicles. Which brings us to our current Town Car, an ’07 Signature Limited, fresh out of warranty, which is also an ex-rental, but I do not know which company.

The vehicle currently has 30k on it, and has developed a couple of problems. The first is fairly straight-forward: warped rotors. All of our Town Cars seemed to develop warped rotors, but no other vehicles we own ever develop this. I have read that in the 90s, the TCs with 10in brakes were under-spec’d, and saw several sites/forums at that time that recommended swapping out the 12in brakes and caliper from the later models. But with the 07 developing this problem, I’m wondering if all TCs just don’t have enough brakes. The car is driven pretty easily at all times. What is your opinion on that? And what is the best solution? Keep feeding it OEM rotors and pads, swap to P71 calipers/rotors (will they fit and what are the costs involved?-we can do the work ourselves), or is there a good aftermarket rotor that is OEM replacement but is maybe slotted or vented that you recommend for better cooling and to avoid future warping?

The second problem is a weird one. The memory seats/easy exit feature (where the driver seat slides back when the key is moved to the off position) is acting completely bonkers! All seat adjustments work just fine, like tilt, recline, etc. but the fore/aft movement only works about 10-20% of the time, and when it acts up, the seat stays back in the “exit” position with no ability to adjust the seat forward with the power controls on the door. When the memory buttons are pressed, all adjustments take place except fore and aft. It will make a brief and normal noise like it is about to move but doesn’t move. It is textbook intermittent and has no rhyme or reason as to when it decides to work. Is this a common problem? Is it likely the control module/computer has malfunctioned, or is the motor only working intermittently? What should I do here?

My last query deals with suspension tuning. Every since the TCs went to rack and pinion steering and 17inch wheels, they seem to have a sharper steering response. My belief is that they tuned the suspension to the steering response, and they now have too much damping in the shocks and not enough spring. In other words, the driver feels every bump in the road, unlike the older ones, but when bumps are sufficient to cause major suspension travel, they cause a lot of wheel movement, more than the initial dampening would suggest. So it seems that their is a poorly tuned suspension in the new ones, with a bad spring/shock combination. I know you and Jack Baruth have experience with these latest Town Cars, and I’d be interested in both of your thoughts on this issue/theory, if I’m crazy, and what you might recommend to add balance to the suspension tune without sacrificing ride quality.

Thanks so much for your time, I know this is a long one, but that’s Panther love, and when it bites, it sinks its teeth in.

All the best!

Sajeev answers:

Round these parts, rambling on and on about Panthers is falling out of fashion. But a Panther type of platform is a priceless source of knowledge for mechanics, hot rodders and curious onlookers alike.

Question 1: there’s no such thing as Police-specific brakes for Panthers. The forums say that maybe the calipers have steel bores instead of phenolic material, but that’s about it. If you are burning through rotors, maybe a huge batch of them were duds. There’s no logical reason that OEM parts would fail you, and they have yet to fail my Dad’s 2006 Town Car Designer.

More to the point: on a street car, aftermarket slotted /drilled rotors are either negligibly better (if you really cook them on a racecourse) or a complete waste of your money. And forget about the cheap drilled rotors which usually crack if you look at them funny.

Question 2: As far as the seat memory system, check to see if it will also crap out if you activate the fore-aft feature repeatedly from the seat switch. There’s a slim chance that there are relays for the seat motors. If so, odds are the relays are overheating, shutting down and working once again after they cool off. This is a bigger problem in the summer months.

More to the point, this is where you need a factory shop manual. Did you buy one yet? You better!

Question 3: Opinions on suspension systems are like butt holes…everyone has one. But only engineers involved in the game know the hard facts behind the “what” in a platform shall explain the “why” in your quandary. And as if that wasn’t confusing enough, here’s a hybrid of the last two sentences:

My opinion is that the newer Town Cars (the “skinny” ones from the Nasser Era and beyond) have too much spring with not much change in the dampers. My only basis for this is a single data point: a dude who put the soft (front) springs from a “fat Panther” onto his skinny model, removed the rear swaybar and was happy enough to say the end result was a modern Town Car that rode like a proper Land Yacht.

More to the point, you need to dig up the spring rates of all Town Cars. The information is there, somewhere, in specification books for coil springs. If you want softer, you have one data point that sounds credible. If you want the opposite, you have the Mercury Marauder and 1992 Crown Vic Touring Sedan for that.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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3 of 32 comments
  • -Cole- -Cole- on Aug 31, 2011

    I love the interpretation of the grille. Makes me hate the Lincoln Flex thing even more.

    • Sajeev Mehta Sajeev Mehta on Aug 31, 2011

      Looks like someone found the truth I was indirectly referencing.

  • Bimmer Bimmer on Aug 31, 2011

    Try Ate PremiumOne® Rotors for rotor warp issues. Worked on E34 that was constantly chewing OEM rotors.

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