There are two Crown Victoria taxis left to preserve the old ways of NYC

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Tradition means more to some people than to others. Folks in and around the U.S. Taxi industry hoarded the last remaining examples of the P70 long-wheelbase Ford Crown Victoria for good reason, especially in cab-centric places like New York City. But that was over a decade ago. Now, the New York Times reports that only two taxi drivers in the Big Apple remain loyal to the Crown Victoria, and each is skirting the law in doing so. The example owned by Ravinder Sharma currently has over 550,000 miles, and the unit owned by Haroon Abdullah has accumulated a mere 491,000 miles.

Both men kept their Crown Vics in good shape, as the NYT suggests the cars “are shiny and quiet, even if weathered.” Holding firm with Panther Love is easy to do, but it isn’t unique to Messrs. Sharma and Abdullah. Jason Kersten, spokesperson for the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission, was interviewed by the NYT, telling them he once used a Crown Vic “as a moving van and loaded everything he owned into the trunk” when he was a college student. (When I was in college, a Detroit cabbie once explained how much more luggage could fit in a Crown Vic vs. in a Chevy Caprice.) Kersten certainly embraces Panther Love, but he suggests that like “the Model Ts, Checkers, and Caprices before them, their final act of safety must be a well-earned retirement.”

NYC cabs are highly regulated, right down to decal placement.

The NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission doesn’t mess around, either; there’s a mandatory retirement for any car after it has spent seven years as a taxicab. Even the Ford Escape Hybrid is almost impossible to find on NYC’s mean streets. These two Crown Vics could theoretically be shut down right now, as the commission could deactivate their fare meters wirelessly. But their time of reckoning comes instead on December 8, 2023, as both men have their day in court (so to speak) to explain why they’ve avoided the commission’s mandated taxi inspections. Their cabs passed state inspections, and the commission allowed them “given pandemic extensions.” But the situation for these two cabbies looks dire. If (when?) they lose this uphill battle, they could face a $500 fine and have their licenses suspended.

While this is only about two Crown Vics and their drivers, the heart of the NYT‘s story would be completely different had Mother Nature not intervened back in 2012. We’d likely have a few more holdout drivers with keys to their Panther-chassis cabs had one storm’s trajectory merely moved east instead of west.

Hurricane Sandy destroyed the last 200 new examples of the P70 long-wheelbase Crown Victoria as they awaited shipment to Manhattan Ford. It’s clear that Ford dealers in Metro NYC knew back in 2011 that the Panther gravy train was ending, so they bought a huge stash to keep cabbies happy for as long as humanly possible. Abdullah is proof of this: He bought his cab from a Ford dealer in the Bronx after his last Crown Vic was destroyed by Sandy. If only those flooded units survived to become taxis, there’s a chance their owners would be much like Abdullah and Sharma, fighting the good fight for their livelihoods. At the same time, the two drivers are also fighting for the value proposition of body-on-frame Fords.

Perhaps I am exaggerating the plight of these two cabbies and their 4.6-liter sleds. Or perhaps the Crown Victoria isn’t just a great cab, it’s also the last gasp of middle-class existence for cab drivers. We all know the damage inflation has wreaked upon our economy in the last few years, and it’s definitely hurting Abdullah. He told the NYT that he needed a $30,000 down payment to buy a new Toyota Sienna Hybrid but said, “I’m behind on my mortgage, I’m behind on my bills.” He added, “If they don’t allow me to drive this car [the Crown Vic], I won’t make the income I need to buy a new car.” Sharma is in a similar position: The NYT reports he owned four taxi medallions and “lost his savings when the medallion bubble burst in 2014.”

2006 Crown Victoria CVPI P71 Brown
Sajeev Mehta

Personal finance and everything it impacts is beyond our scope here at Hagerty Media, but there’s little doubt that the Crown Victoria’s ease of collision repair, its curb-jumping suspension durability, and its low-stress powertrain makes it financially possible to drive harder throughout the day, collecting more fares in the process. Fuel economy is a concern, but Sharma said, “I don’t think about the gas. I’m 64. I raised my children. I just drive.”

You may try to treat another cab like a Crown Vic, but you’re probably gonna regret it. CV axles on front-wheel-drive vehicles aren’t cheap, and I suspect no cabbie is gonna hop a curb to avoid Manhattan traffic jams like their predecessors did in Checkers, Caprices, and the once-ubiquitous Ford Crown Victoria. (I’ve seen it with my own eyes.) Since newer cabs have to be babied to minimize future repair costs, I wonder if these last two Crown Victorias are another vestige of the behaviors and attitudes found in Dirty Old New York City. You know, the time before Manhattan was a tourist trap and Brooklyn was hipster bait. They are fun memories for some, but the future is nothing to fear.

2023 NYC Taxis Grand Central Station
Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

Time stops for nobody, and modern NYC has plenty to offer resident and visitor alike, with space-efficient vans and hybrid-powered taxis offsetting the city’s mass transit systems. I remember the Dirty Old New York City days, when concierges at hotels told you not to leave after sunset. I remember how much smog was in Manhattan’s air during times of peak congestion, and things are better now. So perhaps it’s better for everyone that future congested urban spaces don’t include Ford’s Crown Victoria. No matter what fate the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission hands down to Sharma and Abdullah come December 8, history has been made. And it’s been a great ride.




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    No car will ever be as good as a Crown Vic. It’s single flaw is fuel economy.

    I get emotional over these cars. I grew up riding in the middle front seat next to my grandfather in his big American cars. I pray I’ll never have to get rid of mine and that nothing bad will happen to it. I simply love the Panther cars.

    When I first moved to Manhattan in 1993, there were still one or two Checker cabs in service. When I moved out for good in 2002, the Caprices were just about gone. The hot ticket at the time was the Honda Odyssey/Isuzu Oasis taxicab. The Crown Vics did not seem to be long wheelbase models, and the Fords didn’t have anywhere near enough legroom for me when fitted with the bomb-proof partitions required in Gotham taxis. Hailing a minivan for my daily cab ride to work was always a good way to start the day.

    Sajeev, I didn’t know there was such a thing as a ‘long wheelbase’ Crown Vic – built specifically for the Taxi fleets I see in research, P70 or P72 – where was the 6″ changed on the outside – they look virtually the same… huh, guess I have to hand in my ‘car-guy’ credentials.

    No worries, Rob…fleet vehicles that supposedly “haven’t changed since 1979 LOL FAILZ” don’t get any media attention. Hence why writing this article was even more important.

    I didn’t know that either. But now that you pointed it out, the profiles of the two cars above compared shows that the rear door is definitely longer on the cab, and the front door is likely longer, too. Wow. Cool to learn something new. Never really been a fan of Ford, obviously, but I can totally see the advantage of body-on-frame construction. Crown Vics and Caprices are a rare sight these days. Probably why I’m reluctant to give up my (lousy fuel economy) 1st gen Durango.

    Ironic that the abbreviation frequently used for the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission is “TLC”, as this threatened treatment of two drivers is anything but TLC. Does Uber or Lyft operate there? Do they have any such limitations on what kinds of vehicles drivers can use?

    They can do whatever as an Uber or Lyft driver but they can only be a “Taxi” if the “TLC” mafia lets them.

    I had no idea about the longer wheelbase Vics either. Now I want one.

    We visisted NYC in 2008, and took one taxi ride while we were there and it was in a Crown Vic. I enjoyed the taxi ride, and a few other moments while there. Way too much city and population for me though. It is sad to hear that vehicle age regulations are preventing folks like these two guys from working their taxis. Sounds to me like another example of anti-capitalism in the US.

    Nah, it’s more about maintenance and rust prevention. You can’t have rusty cabs with creaky suspensions for tourists in a city that fancy, in a city with so much money flowing up and down its streets.

    Definitely get yourself a P70, you will love it.

    Loved this article! Too bad you guys don’t provide insurance for p70s just yet. Last I heard, you only offered coverage from p71s. Hopefully you will soon though. These cars are super rare and only a few well-preserved examples remain.

    Thank you for commenting, glad you enjoyed it! Yes we cover P71s and I am happy with the coverage on my 2006 model. Well, I work for the company so of course I will say that…but I asked around there’s a good chance they will insure your P70 just like they would an older vintage Taxi or a P71.

    It’s worth a call to explain your situation to our insurance folks:

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