Piston Slap: Of Panther Love and resto-modifications

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piston slap crown vic interceptor rear light
Sajeev Mehta

Benjamin writes: 

Dear Sajeev,

I have spent many hours devouring information on Panther Love of all kinds from your columns and former colleagues, so I wanted to write for two reasons:

  1. Thank you more than you know, for reminding me there are many others with Panther Love. I’m entering my 30s, and I really have no use for the cheap, tiny, modern cars. I first owned a beater ’99 P71 that didn’t even have cruise control. I don’t wish for another vehicle except the venerable Crown Vic P71. I now own a 2008 Crown Victoria Police Interceptor in a beautiful Arizona Beige. It has cruise control.
  2. God willing, you’ve rather inspired me to see how long I can maintain my Panther. It was the administrative vehicle for the county sheriff. I bought it at 104,000 miles for $4000 some years ago. As of now, it has 188,600 easy miles and 346 idle hours, 3.27.1 rear axle ratio, limited slip diff, original steel rims, with very little rust or road vibration. Other than a new alternator and a re-soldered gauge cluster, nothing has gone wrong. No wrecks. Haven’t needed to replace the brakes or shocks yet. Beautiful paint with a few gravel chips and a near-spotless interior. It burns the top half-quart of oil off (but stays only a half-quart low) unless I spring for the full-synthetic high mileage oil (I do, and Bosch D3410 filters to boot). Any tips for long term preservation, resto-modding, and use? I’m not mechanically inclined, so I would be paying people for repairs and upgrades, but I hope to see it outlive me. As you 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!”

Sajeev answers: 

Hi Benjamin, I thank you for your recognition of my dogged efforts promoting the Panther chassis, and for your personal dedication to the cause at a young age. I mean, we rarely hear about people like you! So let’s marinate on this, while we take a pause for the cause.

(extended pause)

Well then! Regarding preservation, these retired cop cars need little else besides regular fluid services and visual inspections for leaks, bad bushings, and rust (depending on where you live). On the resto-modifications, let’s examine my time with a wonderful 2006 Crown Victoria Police Interceptor (CVPI), finished in a delicious shade of metallic brown. I’ll break it down into things I have done, and things I wanna do.

Things I have done (that I am proud enough to admit publicly):

  1. Coyote Mustang mufflers (used and free) on a stock exhaust ($100-ish labor).
  2. SCT 93-octane performance tune ($250-ish).
  3. Addco Performance sway bars ($400-ish).
  4. MOOG aluminum lower control arms ($250-ish).
  5. Aftermarket chrome wheel trim rings ($75-ish).
  6. Junky LED interior bulbs (under $5).
  7. Sylvania ZEVO brake/reverse/turn/park lights ($100-ish, because you can’t cheap out here) and that includes splicing an LED-friendly blinker into the factory lighting control module. Do it wrong and the flashes are challenging to see, do it right and the flash rate matches the cadence of LEDs on a new car.
  8. Factory CD player from a Mercury Grand Marquis (FREE).
  9. Pioneer 2-way door speakers ($35).
  10. Leather wrapped steering wheel with cruise control, new old stock ($170).
  11. 2006 Grand Marquis interior: Dash trim pieces (3), floor mats, and soft touch door panels. Get the seats and carpet if yours is a zero-option CVPI.

The above doesn’t count things I had to fix (like the ashtray), but no matter, here are things I wanna do:

  1. Stainless Works long tube headers with catalytic converters, since I love the extra power and sound but not the smell of unburned gas when backing out of the driveway.
  2. 3.55 or 3.73 gears with a traction-lok differential. Or maybe 4.10s if I stopped driving it on the highway.
  3. 2-DIN car stereo (I’m a Kenwood Excelon fan these days) with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, backup camera, subwoofer, new speakers at each corner, etc.
  4. Dynamat sound insulation on doors, roof, rear parcel tray.
  5. Sand, prep, and paint the grille shell body color.
  6. Disregard #1 and 2 and wait for a 6.8 or 7.3-liter Windsor V-8 swap, backed by Ford’s 10-speed automatic (dreaming, I know).

Aside from the stereo and Dynamat upgrade, I have little interest in the other modifications because the CVPI was such a well engineered package from the get go!

I’m preaching to the choir with Benjamin, but there’s no doubt that Ford really nailed the dynamics on the CVPI: It’s a shame such a package wasn’t available to the masses. And no, the overpriced Mercury Marauder with its slippery leather seats doesn’t really push the same buttons. At least after you’ve spent time in a well-maintained, re-programmed for premium fuel CVPI.

I see no need for upgraded shocks, springs, brakes, wheels, etc., and the other bits you’d expect in American restomods, as the CVPI was nearly perfect from the factory. Even the interior becomes acceptably luxurious with the Grand Marquis bits rescued from a junkyard. That might be the biggest mod you can do to a CVPI: Once the interior feels less like a law enforcement vehicle, every moment in the CVPI is an exercise in motoring bliss.

Have a question you’d like answered on Piston Slap? Send your queries to pistonslap@hagerty.com, give us as much detail as possible so we can help! If you need an expedited resolution, make a post on the Hagerty Community!

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