By on December 14, 2012


Tens of thousands of vehicles are up for auction every week in nearly every state in this country.

With that much variety, you’re sure to find something interesting. A 30 year old Lebaron Convertible from the bad old days of Chrysler (now mine). A 38 year old Chevy stuck in the noxious funk of the malaise era (mine too).

And of course… an endless array of decade plus old Panthers. Sometimes they are taxis. Other times you find one that came straight from a livery service.

This one was among the later. 441,800 miles. No announcements on the block. So far as I know, all the major powertrain components are still in good working order.

The old Panthers used for taxis are always a bit more interesting because of the unique paint jobs that those entail. From borderline spastic lime greens. To bright oranges and reds that make the vehicles resemble rolling pinatas.  Of course, all important junior executives picked up from the airport require a Henry Ford black with heavily amortized sheetmetal encompassing the occupants.

These old Panthers have pretty much become the most popular taxis in North America for well over a decade. This particular one had the unique distinction of being put through 100k annual runs and then being put to transport stud status at the 200k mark and the 300k mark. Only to once again be put back to the duties of “Go fetch!” taxi service two more times.

You would think that it would be a courier car with that history. But the recent airport sticker dictates otherwise.



Will we see Panthers crisscrossing the airport baggage claim areas and nearby bus terminals five years from now? Ten years from now? Fifteen years from now? There is that nostalgic bone within nearly every auto enthusiast that yearns for the beauties of yesteryear to be available, new, today, and forever.

I am fairly sure that even the Ford family and the unrelated, but heavily propagated, Smiths of GM wouldn’t mind remarketing their old gas guzzling vehicles under a heritage brand. CAFE and DOT exempt of course. Not to mention a heavy army of lawyers.

Back to that Panther with the 441k… any cheap heavy duty vehicle that is easy to maintain will always get the taxi and livery businesses. Checkers, Carpices, and Crown Vics hae served as pure Americana incarnate with a slight wink to the age of our simpler machines. Heck,  a few of these rides along with a Eurospec W123 may even get our own wallets given a comfortable nest egg and low miles on the odometer. Fuel economy be damned!

Now the  other side of the coin features another type of gas guzzler.

A 2011 Mitsubishi Lance Evolution GSR with only 4473 miles.

Why would a perfectly nice vehicle like this wind up at a crappy, dealer infested auction?

Repo. For some reason, the buyer of the vehicle had either second thoughts, or unusual life issues, that made this vehicle a temporary fixture in their life.

Sometimes good folks have to deal with money issues. We all do at one time or another. Sometimes it’s a health issue. Other times there is that unfortunate byproduct of buyer remorse.

In this case, the prior owner of the vehicle took enough care to remove the catalytic converter before donating it back to the finance company. Such a nice fellow!  But at least he left the wheels behind which usually end up removed along with most of the interior and major sheetmetal components in a true screw job. I’m sure he/she/it was paying well north of $500 a month to finance this vehicle until that fateful day he took a reciprocating saw to one of the inner jewels.

Thank goodness he didn’t take that pretty little engine. That may represent Mitsubishi’s proudest moment since the days of the Diamond Stars.


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28 Comments on “More Mileage Champions & Mileage Midgets...”

  • avatar


    Taxis and police car engines last partly because they have far fewer on and off cycles than ordinary owners’ cars. They’re always on! Consumer Reports once decided to compare oils. They enlisted a bunch of new york city taxis for the experiment. They had the taxis on different oils for 60,000 miles, and then tore down the engines, and measured key components. Synthetic vs nonsynthetic, Mobil vs whatever brand, no signs of wear whatsoever.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m guessing Panthers will live at least another 5 years in massive groups. Then, who knows? This one with 440k on it shows these cars can nearly live forever, even at the hands of multiple drivers and indifferent maintenance.

      Ford had a ton of workhorses, ancient though they were, in its fleet. E series van and Panthers make up a good deal of the hotel shuttles, taxis and limos I ride in on a consistent basis for my job. I see many Rangers doing work as parts delivery or utility companies. I’m sure Ford was able to undercut the General since these cars have been paid for forever, but they are apparently tough and simple vehicles too.

      It will be interesting to see if the Blue Oval dominance continues with the end of these vehicles and their new “better” replacements.

  • avatar

    Remove the cat? Was there at least a pipe welded in it’s place?

    I’ve got to ask, what does a turbo Mitsu minus catalytic converter go for at auction?

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Is it even legal to sell the car at auction without the cat?

      • 0 avatar

        Probably legal to sell and title but will obviously flunk emissions, so if as a dealer you retail it you’d have to fix it first or maybe sell title only as is to a cash customer.

        For personal use, if your in the business and can swing a dealer/repair/towing/transporter plate you won’t have to register it for awhile, possibly ever.

    • 0 avatar

      Common modification for performance and sound, especially if you want to run it a bit rich at higher boost.

  • avatar

    For having less than 5000 miles, the seat on that Mitsu is showing a lot of wear. Perhaps odo got disconnected along with the cat.

    • 0 avatar

      Wear in seat could be from sitting in a lot of traffic jams, being Atlanta area car? Maybe buyer hated shifting manual trans in heavy traffic and let it get repo’ed.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    I don’t know how Town Car fans can stand those atrocious seats. That thing looks like a rat’s nest of snot, sweat, and venereal disease.

  • avatar

    Such a tease! How about some more info on the 30-year-old Lebaron Droptop you bought… For some reason I’ve been seeing quite a few of these around lately, both garage gems and posted for sale. I suppose the irony of a great example of a bad car still has lots of appeal.

    What’re your plans for the curious ragtop? Are you planning to flip it to a hipster? (<- actual question – not being snarky.) Or are you going to keep it running for peanuts as a sunny day parts-picker-upper?

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      Ebay. I never keep anything other than the Honda Insight… which will likely have multiple incarnations over the years.

      I can see this one going to an older Iacocca loyalist. The idea of a hipster, and any early 80’s K-ca, is pretty much a contradiction in terms. Most hipsters wouldn’t ever get past the lack of fuel injection in these models.

  • avatar

    I know the taxi and livery companies around here bought a ton of crown
    Vics and town cars before production ceased like every other company. The company that does a lot of airport pickups and corporate work recently switched to… Gmc Yukons. I imagine it Being a body on frame rear wheel drive vehicle. With a sorted v8 you don’t have to run them but an extra 100k to get the costs amortized down to Towncar levels

    • 0 avatar

      When the GM B body, with push-rod V8’s, were dropped after ’96, there was hand wringing from fleets about how ‘unreliable’ the OHC Ford V8’s will be. Since they were ‘so complicated’.

      Same is being said about Taurus V6 FWD fleet cars. hmmmm
      There’s some fleets that “love” W body Impalas that are on the way out. They just have to “get used to” new designs.

      • 0 avatar

        The Philadelphia Police replaced most of their B-Body Caprices with front drive Impalas, mainly for the better traction, since a lot of the narrow side streets traditionally weren’t plowed in the winter until quite recently.

        The consensus is that the FWD holds up fine, as long as the cars are replaced frequently. The Impalas are only kept in service for about half the mileage of the Crown Victorias (they still have a decent number of those as well). Tellingly, ex-PPD Impalas are typically sent to salvage yards, while surplus Crown Vics with twice the mileage get resold for second careers as taxi cabs.

  • avatar

    I too live with the shame of once having had a vehicle repossessed. I will not bore you with the details — I neither seek your sympathy nor would I be affected by your judgement and ridicule — but suffice to say it wasn’t just a case of me leaping before I looked.

    Anyway, when I turned the car in, I thought the people at the bank were going to fall out of their chairs and die that somebody actually brought the car in to them and they didn’t have to send a tow truck. As if that wasn’t enough, I gave them all 3 keys (the expensive computer chipped ones with integrated remotes BTW) and left the custom wheels with nearly-new tires AND the factory navigation system I had upgraded after I bought it. They acted like it was the first repo they ever had where they didn’t show up in the middle of the night with a tow truck only to find a stripped carcass.

    • 0 avatar

      I find it hard to believe most repos are stripped to their bare metal. It’s an issue of good cases go unnoticed. As for handing over non-OEM parts, eh, I don’t think I would have had I had the original rims.

      As a side story I had my xB repoed by accident. It’s nearly paid off but I had it taken about a year and a half after I bought it. Simply went outside and freaked out because I rarely leave it out of the garage. I called the police first. Was getting ready to file a report when it showed up as repoed. I felt like an ass and after dealing with my bank it turns out somebody had put a repo out on my car when it was the next one on the listing they wanted…..Needless to say I had to fight with the tow company for my car back and I demanded $1000 in damages from my loan company. They have me $1000 off the principal and I agreed to sign paperwork to not sue. Still frustrates me to this day…..

  • avatar

    Taxi-Panthers will go on for as long as the fleet owners can keep finding transmissions, those 4.6l V8s will last a darn good while but Ford never bothered to equip them with a good transmission.

    I know that I talk about breaking transmissions a bit but seriously, it really happens more often than it should with 80’s-90’s domestics.

  • avatar

    Look like a Rottweiler chewed on that driver’s seat for a while. I miss mine. She was a GREAT passenger on long trips!!!!

  • avatar

    I hate to say it, but we’re all thinking it…

    The kind of people who have cars repossessed regularly are those who might fancy a Mitsubishi because of credit problems.

    • 0 avatar

      Because Mitsu’s credit arm is going to hand over a 35K car to somebody with a 550 credit score? Meh, very unlikely. They’ll finance the base lancer to just about anybody but Evos still sell themselves in principle.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Can’t go by the odometer, I knew these 2 a-hole bros who leased their cars for work and would disconnect the speedo and odo and they would drive a lot more than their allotted miles, change tires and do brakes and even one time replaced a well worn brake pedal b4 turning them in with well over 100k miles and only showing about 30

  • avatar

    While many are mourning the end of Town Car, it may be best thing for Lincoln brand in long run.

    All those Town Car liveries are the #1 reason Lincoln is in trouble. A luxury car buyer will not spend big $ on a brand that “the Help” drives.

  • avatar

    They’ll keep running, well past 500K.

    That said, who wants to get in the back of one of those abortions? Really? Panthers suck and are cheap, that’s why PDs and taxis use them.

    You’ll be punished with a rattle-trap Cuban ZiL/’57 Chebby taxi experience. With all of the joy of riding in a 50s Uhmurican turdwagen melded with parts from a Soviet oxcart.

    You’ll be far more comfortable in a W123 Benz with 400K miles of Beirut.

  • avatar

    My neighbor has a 2001 Town Car with 90,000 miles on it for sale at $5000. Its obviously been well cared for. It is very tempting for a 2nd car.

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