Piston Slap: Doesn't Panther Love Do Everything?
After following your and TTAC’s collective wisdom regarding Panthers, I have enjoyed four and a half years of somewhat trouble-free $1000 police-auction 2001 Crown Victoria ownership. The Crown Vic is a wonderful first car and I love it dearly, despite – or maybe especially – because it taught me a lot about the finer points of its drive train, front end etc. as I eventually ended up parking-lot and shade-tree repairing or replacing just about every major component other than the exhaust and transmission. However, it might now be time to look into a successor for my trusty ride.
More specifically, I am looking for a vehicle around $5500 or so that 1). Is generally known to be reliable and have low operating expenses, 2). Gets good highway mileage (let’s set the baseline at upper teens) and is comfortable to drive cross-country – my job periodically entails eating up a lot of miles on the road- 3). Has a four wheel drive or is otherwise off road capable– I need to drive up poorly-maintained remote service roads for work – 4). can tow a small camper cross-country, or a livestock or horse trailer ( for low-speed short-haul work), and can stand up to general farmwork – haul or tow a couple dozen bales of hay or more, manure, rolls of fencing, chickens, calves, half a cord of wood, etc. Ease-of repair and cheap parts are a plus. 5). Is comfortable to sleep in, if need be- also a work possibility- and 6). Front bench seat, and stick shift are preferred.
Even though a pickup might be a good fit, I’m trying to stay open-minded and would appreciate any advice: I am not stuck on any one brand or type of vehicle.
Or maybe I could listen to Sanjeev’s advice and go Mad-Maxize the Crown Vic with a 6″ lift and self-leveling kit, transmission intercooler, towing package, 30” offroad tires and roll cage and keep it forever – what’re your two cents?
Thanks for all of your advice over the years!
Thank you for reading all these years. It’s both exciting and horrifying to hear you’ve taken [s]my[/s] our advice to heart!
That said, what kind of Lover considers open-mindedness regarding Panther Love? You, as a Crown Victoria owner, are a stubborn traditionalist with a nearly xenophobic reaction to non body-on-frame platforms. You remain as “unmodified” as the Panther since 1979: toe the autojourno’s line!
Let’s be serious: anyone needing something for “general farmwork” with a career driving on rural roads needs a body-on-frame vehicle to handle the beating and the towing. Keyword: Towing. The truck is almost mandatory, but $5500 makes it hard to get one that isn’t beat to shit, packed with a ton of miles or well over a decade old. Good thing you can get your hands dirty, vehicles at this price need something. Always.
What’s the right move? Get the cleanest, most well maintained V6 Toyota Tacoma, Chevy S-10/Colorado or Ford Ranger in your price ranger (oops). Good luck finding one with a stick, or lose efficiency and get a full sizer (small V8, automatic) from any of the Big Three for the same price.
The full-size is ideal since you might sleep in there: I slept in my Ranger once, next time I’ll splurge for a hotel.
BUT…there’s nothing like taking a nap in the back of Panther Love. Maybe these YouTube videos are right: stick with your current Crown Vic until you can afford a newer truck with all the things you need (for safe and reliable transport to work) and want (for your hobbies, farm duties, etc).
Send your queries to email@example.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.
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- Jeff S If AM went away I would listen to FM but since it is insignificant in the cost to the car and in an emergency broadcast it is good to have. I agree with some of the others its another way to collect money with a subscription. AM is most likely to go away in the future but I will use AM as long as its around.
- BEPLA I think it's cool the way it is.If I had the money, time and space - I'd buy it, clean it up, and just do enough to get it running properly.Then take it to Cars and Coffee and park it next to all the newer Mustangs.
- Dave M. I suppose Jethro’s farm report comes via AM, but there’s a ton of alternative ways to get that info. Move forward people. Progress is never easy.
Ranger...and don't shy away from a clean first or second gen one. They are simple beasts and hold up well. Honestly I keep kicking around a 2.3 with a turbo motor swap for kicks. Maybe my next project but I want a first gen.
I bought a 2002 AWD Ford Escape V6 with leather and a towing package for around $5500 about 3 years ago. With a Harbor Freight folding trailer, you're set. It meets all of the OP's requirements. It a good vehicle. I didn't love it, but it was so good that I gave it to my mother when I bought a minivan, and she's still driving it. The things I didn't like about it: The V6 was growly and overpowered, and the transmission made me wonder why I wasn't driving an electric car. The MPGs sucked high teens around town, which is within the OP's spec - but I need to do better on principle. Also, it just never felt like "my car" somehow -- completely subjective, I know, but I'm just more of a minivan dad and Prius geek than SUV kid. I bought it because, in my opinion, it was undervalued it the used market, and that there's a huge rolling inventory of spare parts available. And nothing much has changed in the last 3 years. Those old Escapes check every box - and they're even relatively comfortable on road trips!