1998 Ford Crown Victoria LX: Beginning of the end for the full-sized sedan

1998 Ford Crown Victoria LX vintage Goodrich store curbside
Thomas Klockau

The Panther platform Ford Crown Victoria (and its siblings, the Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car) had some serious staying power. The styling of the car you see above would last all the way to 2011 with only minor changes, and the same basic chassis dates to the fall of 1978, when the all-new 1979 Ford LTD was introduced. That car replaced the 1975–78 “Nimitz class” LTDs.

1980 Ford LTD Crown Victoria coupe front three-quarter
1980 Ford LTD Crown Victoria coupe Thomas Klockau

The 1979 LTD was Ford’s response to GM’s downsized 1977 full-size cars. For 1977–78, while GM was cranking out Caprice Classics, Bonnevilles, and Delta 88s by the truckload, Ford was arguing that its big cars were still big, with “road-hugging weight” and a better investment per pound. But Ford gave that up in ’79 with these new Panther chassis cars, in various LTD, Marquis, Country Squire, and Colony Park versions. The top-of-the-line version remained the LTD Landau for ’79, as had been the case since 1975, but starting in ’80 it was renamed LTD Crown Victoria.

1986 Ford LTD Crown Victoria sedan
1986 Ford LTD Crown Victoria sedan Thomas Klockau

If not for consumers’ renewed interest in big cars by the early 1980s (after initial gas price fears and the effects of the ’82 recession subsided), the LTD may have been discontinued. In fact, the 1983 Fox body LTD, essentially a restyled and better-equipped Fairmont, was supposed to replace the Panther version and be the only LTD model. Fortunately, Ford stuck with the “biggie” LTD and continued to improve it. Fuel injection starting in 1983 was a welcome addition.

1989 Ford LTD Crown Victoria brochure

An “aero” restyling for 1988 LTDs resulted in smoother front and rear fascias. A new instrument panel with driver’s airbag was added for 1990–91. With modern looking vehicles like the ’89-up Thunderbird, the new Ford Probe (meant to replace the Mustang at first) and Taurus, the LTD was starting to look a little dated, especially in 1991 when its cross-town rival, the Caprice, was totally redone.


Finally, in 1992 a completely restyled Crown Victoria made its debut. The boxy look was gone for good-as were coupes (since ’87) and station wagons (the ’91 Country Squire was the last Ford “woody wagon,” even if it was just Di-Noc decals).

1991 Ford LTD Country Squire
1991 Ford LTD Country Squire Ford

In addition to the styling, the ’92 had more interior space and an all-new engine, the SOHC 4.6-liter V-8 that produced 190 horsepower at 4200 rpm. Fuel economy was improved too, to 18 city/25 highway. All in all it was a very modern full-size car.

1998 Ford Crown Victoria LX
1998 Ford Crown Victoria LX Thomas Klockau

Maybe a little too modern. Ford received complaints about the Taurus-like grille-less nose, so a proper chrome grille was shoehorned in on the ’93s. A mild restyling for 1995 brought a new grille, taillights, and alloy wheels. In 1998, the Crown Vic was restyled yet again, with a more formal roofline-and for the last time, as it turned out.

1998 Ford Crown Victoria LX
1998 Ford Crown Victoria LX Thomas Klockau

The 1998 Crown Victoria LX now shared its roofline with the Grand Marquis, resulting in a formal C pillar instead of the rear quarter window of the 1992–97s. A new front end got a much larger chrome grille, while the back end got a redesigned trunk lid and smaller taillights. The LX model remained the luxury version, with alloy wheels, power everything, and available leather.

1998 Grand Marquis LS
1998 Grand Marquis LS with white leather interior eBay

I had just started driving around the time the ’98 cars came out and regularly haunted Classic Lincoln-Mercury and Sexton Ford, collecting brochures. I remember that a white leather interior was available on the Town Car, Grand Marquis, and Crown Victoria, but never saw one, except for a brand new metallic red Town Car Touring Sedan sitting on the lot at the dealership around 1999. And the navy ’98 LX (above), which used to be parked regularly downtown.

1998 Grand Marquis LS with white leather interior
1998 Grand Marquis LS Thomas Klockau

The 1998 Crown Victorias had better handling with a new Watt’s linkage rear suspension and standard 16-inch wheels. All ’98s got bigger brakes and 16-inch wheels. But tastes had been steadily changing from big V-8 sedans to front-wheel-drive mid-sizers, not to mention the SUV craze. The writing was on the wall. But Ford persisted where GM had thrown away the full-size market after 1996.

1998 Crown Victoria LX brochure image
1998 Crown Victoria LX Ford

While the Crown Vic would receive major chassis upgrades in 2003 with a hydroformed chassis, after that Ford slowly but surely left the Crown Victoria untouched and steadily de-contented it while chasing police departments, taxi companies, and rental agencies instead of private owners, who appreciated the extras. But in Ford’s defense, the folks who wanted civilian Crown Victorias were decreasing too. By 2006–07, there were only a handful of people buying Crown Victorias.

Thomas Klockau

By then, the steadily declining number of people who still wanted a V-8, rear-wheel-drive sedan went for the slightly flossier Grand Marquis or went whole-hog and got a Town Car. So Ford ended retail sales of the model, and the last few years it was available only as a fleet vehicle. The rental versions were slightly nicer, with chrome side moldings and alloys. I remember a local dealer got in a cranberry red 2011 in “Hertz spec,” and it was fairly nice. But by the end, the majority were Police Interceptors.

2011 Grand Marquis Ultimate with Klockau behind the wheel
Thomas Klockau

I tested a 2011 Grand Marquis Ultimate in August 2020. I was considering it, and it drove really well, but ultimately I passed. It still had that American full-size boulevard ride though and rode smooth as silk on Interstate 80. I finally got a Lincoln MKZ about a year later, but I still have my 2004 Town Car Ultimate as a Sunday driver.

1998 Ford Crown Victoria LX
1998 Ford Crown Victoria LX Thomas Klockau

But I see I am digressing again! Anyway, this fairly well-loaded Crown Victoria LX had been in town since new. While coming out of the library one day—geez, it must have been 10 years ago?—I saw it and had to get a photo or 10. Crown Victorias are still pretty common in traffic—at least, the ex-police versions now pulling daily driver duty are—but this LX stood out, with its white vinyl cabriolet top, navy blue paint, alloys and white leather interior.

1998 Ford Crown Victoria LX
1998 Ford Crown Victoria LX Thomas Klockau

I really liked the way this car looked, especially the color combination. It speaks to my inner Brougham-even though I’m not usually a big fan of fake convertible tops. I’m not sure when white leather stopped being an option on Crown Vics, but I know you could get it on Town Cars through 2002—albeit only with light gray dash and carpet. To this day, it’s the only CV I ever saw with the white interior. One thing’s for sure, the Crown Vic made Ford a lot of money, especially after the Caprice was canceled. And, of course, we’ll still be seeing them for years to come. Heck, today I saw a light blue Town Car at Olive Garden!

1998 Ford Crown Victoria LX
1998 Ford Crown Victoria LX Thomas Klockau
Read next Up next: Piston Slap: The catalyst for catalytic converter failure?


    While I love my Crown Vic so much, it’s the first car I’ve bought twice, I can admit it has a lot of flaws most people simply can’t look past. The fact that the car has no center console and no storage space besides the door pockets is very inconvenient. No telescoping wheel, but some models have adjustable pedals.

    The car is absolutely massive. I park mine in the same garage as I did my 2013 F150 4 Door with the 6 foot bed, and I promise you the Crown Victoria is not much smaller. The trunk is so big it’s just comedy.

    But one thing I will always resent older people for is they fell for the Front Wheel Drive nonsense of the late 1980’s and the 1990’s. Gen X decided to do everything the opposite of their parents, often times simply out of spite.. Notice that absolutely NONE of the LUXURY, EXPENSIVE cars are Front wheel drive. Because Rear Wheel Drive is better, no matter how much you think having the engine over the front tires provides you that tiny bit of traction. (Give me a break)

    Where I’m from the police are still using Crown Vic’s. An absolute testament to how durable this design was. But like all good things, Spite and Government regulations killed these cars. Mine has a large sticker under the hood that says NOT FOR SALE IN STATES WITH CALIFORNIA EMISSIONS. An absolute shame.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *