Piston Slap: The Monolith Panther Tow Vehicle?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap the monolith panther tow vehicle

Rob writes:

Hello Sajeev,

I’m untangling a logistical nightmare and I think a Panther can help.

This particular nightmare involves relocating from Urbana, IL to Idaho Falls, ID, a 1964 Corvette convertible that’s sitting in Richmond, VA, and a Grand Marquis in New Jersey. The Corvette “ran when parked” in my father-in-law’s garage in 1982 and brought back to Illinois by me using a rental van towing a car hauler. A moving company will take care of the move to Idaho including transporting one car, but not the Corvette because the car has to be operational. In the meantime, my Dad needs to sell my grandfather’s Grand Marquis.

The plan is to purchase the Grand Marquis, drive it to Delaware to meet up with the wife, kids, and dogs. While there, I’ll have U-Haul install a 2-inch hitch receiver and (possibly) have an independent shop install Coil-Rite air bag helper springs. My wife will fly to Idaho with the kids while I drive the Grand Marquis with the dogs to Illinois, where I’ll pick up the Corvette and trailer it to Idaho.

So, how crazy is this plan? Alternatives include putting the Corvette into storage and waiting for another opportunity to transport it, or buying a SUV/truck, but my wife and I being iconoclasts towards the dogma of parents and pet owners needing SUVs, and at a time of limited funds and many one-time expenses, this plan seems best.


Sajeev answers:

Everyone knows that I love me some Panther, even if I don’t currently own one. The red flags in this query depend on the year, mileage and options of said Panther. Because Panthers aren’t monoliths, every generation and/or year has unique challenges as they age — especially when towing two tons (give or take) of Corvette and car trailer. No matter which one you get, get a trailer brake controller, then drive slow and brake slow!

Since you didn’t tell us anything about your Panther tow vehicle, let’s get generic:

  1. Box Panthers (79-91) towing in 2016: The Ford AOD is a great gearbox when upgraded by a savvy transmission shop, but stock units are marginal. Add the stress of towing and it’s a dicey proposition for long distances (i.e. don’t use 4th gear much). The TV cable bushing is the most obvious problem. Adding a transmission cooler helps if one is not already equipped. Mediocre disc/drum brakes will keep you from towing at speeds attainable by a modern truck/SUV. The helper springs can help, but I don’t know how often rear air springs were ordered back then.
  2. Aero/Fat Panthers (92-97) in 2016: Better transmissions (4R70W) came with the 4.6-liter V-8, but age and external coolers are still a concern. The fact these are somewhat new with optional air suspensions makes it a better proposition for long distance towing. But towing in overdrive? Maybe not. At least the fat Panthers have (dare I say it) rich and warm interior trimmings.
  3. Skinny Panthers (1998-2011) in 2016: The best perk here is bigger front brakes and calipers. Rear air is still available with the improved suspensions. The 2003+ models got a beefier (4R75W) transmission and far more aggressive suspension improvements. I’d feel content towing with a 2003+ Panther at reasonable highway speeds, even using overdrive on flat stretches. Too bad the interiors are universally cheaper than their Fat Panther counterparts.

Yes, you could safely tow this load in theory with any generation of Panther, but you’ll have much less stress in the process if it’s a 2003+ model with recently replaced air springs (that won’t bleed out 500 miles into your journey from cracks at the base of the springs).

It must be nice to be an SUV iconoclast with a mid-year Corvette and a Grand Marquis. I like your style!

[Image: Shutterstock user PATIWIT HONGSANG]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.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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2 of 53 comments
  • WildcatMatt WildcatMatt on Feb 17, 2016

    I live in Delaware and have made the trip to Illinois more than a couple of times and have looked into having my Wildcat shipped to me. I'll echo what others have said -- make a realistic estimate all of your costs for the trip: the car, gas (figuring crappy tow mileage), the cost of getting to Delaware, hitch, trailer, food, and lodging. I think you could get a lot of work done on the 'Vette and ship it for the cost of DIY and I would explore that if at all possible. Although I've done Wilmington to Chicago comfortably with a toddler with one overnight stop that's been cruising at 75-80 which you're not going to do so I would assume 2 stops on the way to Illinois. I can't speak reliably to points beyond Des Moines. If you go with this plan, resist the urge to meander up to the Turnpikes (I-76/I-80/I-90). Take I-95 south into Maryland, take the Beltway around Baltimore to the North, then take I-70 West, continuing on I-68 through West Virginia. Then take I-79 North to re-join I-70 and cross Ohio and Indiana. Definitely plan to stop at Exit 10 in WV, it's your best bet for easy access to food and fuel on your way. Not only does this save you a fortune in tolls, but in my experience traffic on this route is much more laid-back, there are fewer cops, and the trip through the mountains is much gentler than the PA Turnpike.

  • Mankyman Mankyman on Mar 23, 2016

    I don't suppose anyone is still reading this thread, but I wanted to add a coda. I have a 2007 P71. Yesterday I hauled a 2800 pound car along with a 250 pound single axle dolly about 600 miles. I am used to towing an 1500 pound boat + trailer combo and it feels fine with that. Towing 3000 pounds with a P71 is a lot closer to the edge than towing 1500 pounds. I feel it would be OK around town, but I never felt comfortable going faster than about 60 mph or so. I felt like I could stop reasonably fast and get up to speed reasonably fast, but I was buffeted by the truckers going by me at 70 mph. My mileage was 13 mpg. I would not have done it if I had to go up a lot of hills. I would be curious to try this trip with a late 90's F150, and I believe the engine, transmission and differential approximate those of the CVPI. I saw a lot of other vehicles being towed and it was mostly with a 3/4 ton or 1 ton truck.

  • Tassos with 170k+ miles, and over 15 years old, this vehicle has had a full life. Maybe it's time for the scrapyard.
  • Analoggrotto Idk, I was chased down by like 3 people and threatened with ban at Costco because I refused to walk around the whole building to use the restroom, opting instead to take a shortcut through the customer service / new members entrance.
  • Namesakeone Pick Enterprise. We'll pick you up. And it won't be in a police car.
  • FreedMike Stellantis blames electrification? Whatever. The problem is that this plant builds the Cherokee, whose sales have fallen off a cliff. https://www.goodcarbadcar.net/jeep-cherokee-sales-figures/Four years ago, they were moving over 200,000 of these a year. This year’s YTD is 30,000. And this model is in the hottest segment of the market - compact crossovers.It takes real talent to screw up like this. That’s why they BlAmeZ ThOsE BaD EvZ. And $20 says this model is soon to be Hecho en Mexico.
  • Tassos PS even if Mazdas were as well made and as reliable as Hondas, Toyotas or (Indeed!) Mercedeses, I'd never buy a car whose stupid commercials used to feature a dumb kid in a suit babbling "zoom zoom".