For the last year and a half I knew this day was coming. The last Ford Crown Victoria rolled off the assembly line last month with little fanfare. This old Ford deserved a much more dignified send off. Personally I think it deserved some kind of last minute reprieve but that was never going to happen. The end of the Crown Vic signals the end of the traditional American car with a separate full frame and a V8 up front driving the rear wheels in the back. Since 1932 the Ford Motor Company has had such a vehicle available for sale. Now it’s gone, probably never to return.
With the passing of the Crown Victoria in the pages of history I can’t be anything but a bit sad. It was also comforting to know that you could still buy a full frame V8 powered car if you wanted one. Like a good friend you knew you could always rely on the Crown Vic. Perhaps I’m just being a bit nostalgic. But I’m sure that if you have lived in or been to North America, you have either owned one, know some one who has owned one or have ridden in back of one of these cars at some point in your life.
My parents had a 1992 Crown Victoria and although not the coolest sedan they have ever owned it sure was comfortable and reliable. That Crown Vic was a sensational car on long trips. The 4.6 Modular V8 offered up Lexus like smoothness and quietness that you would be hard pressed to find in a car that cost twice the price. The ride was smooth but controlled enough that there was no need for barf bags for the passengers. The ride was definitely not like the bloated American cars from the 70’s that would wallow and undulate up and down uncontrollably over uneven roads. This car was dignified and composed and would only feel out of sorts if pushed beyond any reasonable limits that a teenager may impose on it. For a long journey nothing could beat that Crown Vic. The longer the trip the better, short trips across town seemed such a waste of this long distance touring car. That car took me to college with all my junk. It whisked us down to the southern U.S. for family vacations. And it made countless trips to the hospital out of town so my cousin could have cancer treatments. That car represented a lot of memories both good and bad.
The fact remains that the Crown Victoria was old. The current car was introduced in 1992 and was based on a platform from 1979. Even though based on old technology, the car always served a purpose for government agencies, fleets and as taxis and limousines. For almost the last decade the Crown Victoria and its other Panther platform siblings the Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car have soldiered on despite a complete lack of attention from Ford. As a matter of fact Ford had done almost everything in its power to kill this vehicle. But like a stubborn mosquito the Panther platform kept coming back. No matter how hard Ford would try to kill them, these cars would still sell. Despite no marketing or advertising money, restricting sales to fleets, and introducing newer and “better” replacement models these old rugged cars sold in the thousands. Look anywhere and you’ll see Crown Victoria’s patrolling the streets or picking up taxi fares. The Town Car is still the limo of choice and the Grand Marquis was the perfect full size rental car.
Almost indestructible, reliable as a Maytag washing machine and cheap and easy to repair when damaged, these vehicles are the only way to go if you want to survive an apocalyptic situation like driving in New York City or chasing a bad guy through ditches. A front wheel drive uni-body vehicle would be a smoking wreak after such shenanigans. This is why most of the police cruisers and taxis are Crown Vic’s.
Ford claims that the business case for the Panther based vehicles is no longer profitable and the plant that assembles these cars is too far out of date to upgrade. My gut feeling is different though. With revisions to the body work and interior to make the cars look like a modern Ford would go a long way. Stuff in the 3.7 V6 and/or the 5.0 V8 engines along with the 6 speed automatic transmission from the Mustang would give the new vehicles a modern, powerful, efficient power train at minimal cost. Theoretically a redesign of a new Crown Victoria and Lincoln Town Car would be relatively cheap since most of the components would be reused from the current car or borrowed from other models. With a little marketing and sales push and from sales over seas enough units could be sold to justify the costs of a redesign and a couple of shifts at the factory. But I’m not in charge at Ford…
In their own way this car has shaped all our lives in some form or another. It may have been done quietly in the back ground or with sirens blaring and tries squealing. The Crown Victoria has left and indelible mark on our society. It was the car that helped protect us. It was the car that brought us home. It was the car our parents and grandparents owned. And it was that car that brought us good memories and not so good memories. That car gave all of us an awful lot and it will be missed.