Ford Panther platform
The Ford Panther platform is an automobile platform that was used by Ford Motor Company from the 1979 to 2012 model years. Used exclusively for full-size cars, the rear-wheel drive Panther architecture marked the first use of downsizing by Ford. In production for 33 model years, the Panther platform was the longest-produced platform in North American automotive history.
|Ford Panther platform|
2000 Lincoln Town Car Signature Series
|Manufacturer||Ford Motor Company|
|Body and chassis|
Full-size luxury car
Personal luxury car
|Layout||FR layout, body-on-frame|
|Body style(s)||2-door sedan (1979–1987)|
4-door sedan (1979–2012)
5-door station wagon (1979–1991)
|Engine(s)||Ford 4.2L Windsor V8 (1981–1982)|
Ford 5.0L Windsor V8 (1979–1991)
Ford 351/5.8L Windsor V8 (1979–1991)
Ford 4.6L Modular V8 (1991–2012)
|Wheelbase||114.3–123.7 in (2,900–3,140 mm)|
|Successor||Ford D3 platform|
The successor to the 1969 Ford chassis, the Panther platform was utilized by Ford and Lincoln-Mercury. While produced exclusively as four-door sedans from 1992 to 2012, prior to its first update, the chassis underpinned two-door sedans and five-door station wagons. Throughout its entire production life, all Panther-platform vehicles were equipped with a V8 engine; the Modular V8 engine was the first overhead-cam V8 engine used in an American vehicle.
Initially developed in response to the implementation of CAFE by the U.S. federal government, the Panther platform outlived its closest rival (the GM B platform) by 15 years, with the 2012 Ford Crown Victoria becoming the final mass-produced passenger car designed with a separate frame. While body-on-frame construction is retained by pickup trucks and larger SUVs, unibody construction (or variants thereof) see nearly universal use in passenger cars.
From 1978 to 1985, Ford and Mercury versions of the Panther platform were assembled in Hazelwood, Missouri (St. Louis Assembly). For the 1986 model year, production shifted to Talbotville, Ontario, Canada (St. Thomas Assembly). Lincoln versions were sourced from Wixom, Michigan (Wixom Assembly) until its 2007 closure; from 2008 to 2011, the Lincoln Town Car was assembled by St. Thomas Assembly. After a short production run of 2012 vehicles for export, St. Thomas Assembly produced the final Ford Crown Victoria on 15 September 2011, the final vehicle produced by the facility and the final vehicle of the Panther platform.
The Panther platform utilized the body-on-frame construction with live rear axle suspension. While commonplace during its late-1970s introduction, it is a design found almost exclusively in large SUVs and pickup trucks today. The durability resulting from the body on frame construction (which allows easier repair after minor collisions), and their relatively simple design make the Panther cars appealing as fleet vehicles, including police cars and taxicabs. The Lincoln Town Car appealed largely to livery services, and is the most commonly used limousine in North America, due to its ability to be easily "stretched" by lengthening the frame without compromising chassis strength.
Although introduced in 1978, the Panther platform has undergone major changes along the way. Through its design life, it has been produced in three distinct generations:
- First generation (1979–1991): The initial versions; the only versions produced in bodystyles other than a four-door sedan. The only generation to use the Windsor V8 engine
- Second generation (1990–2002): Extensive redesigns of exterior and interior; introduction of Modular V8 engine
- Third generation (2003–2012): Frame and suspension redesigns and upgrades to improve handling. 2011 was the last model year for the North American Market and for Lincoln-Mercury models. A limited number of 2012 Crown Victorias were built for the police and overseas market.
First generation (1978–1991)Edit
For 1979, Ford introduced the Panther platform, downsizing the Ford LTD and Mercury Marquis model ranges. Along with an extensive reduction in exterior footprint and weight, the Panther platform saw several other changes. For the first time, the LTD and Marquis shared a common wheelbase; with the exception of grilles and taillights, the two model lines shared nearly identical bodywork. As before, two-door, four-door, and station wagon bodies were offered.
For 1980, federal fuel-economy regulations forced the Lincoln Continental to adopt the Panther platform. While built on its own wheelbase and using its own bodywork, the Continental, Town Car, and Continental Mark VI used the same powertrain as the LTD and Marquis.
Following the introduction of the Panther platform, Ford underwent an extensive revision of both its full-size and mid-size model ranges in the early 1980s. For 1981, Lincoln introduced the Town Car as its full-size model line to reduce its model overlap, with the Continental becoming a mid-size sedan (based on the Fox platform) and replacing the Mark VI in 1984 with the Mark VII coupe. For 1983, the Ford LTD and Mercury Marquis became mid-size sedans, replacing the Ford Granada and Mercury Cougar while the LTD Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis became distinct model lines, in an effort to move full-size model ranges upward in prestige.
The first generation of the Panther platform is the sole generation produced in multiple body styles. 1981 was the sole year for the Town Car coupe with the two-door Mark VI ending production after 1983. After 1987, two-door Ford and Mercury sedans were discontinued due to low demand. After 1991, the Ford LTD Country Squire and Mercury Colony Park station wagons were discontinued.
Outside of the shift of nameplates in the early 1980s, few fundamental changes were made to first-generation Panther-platform vehicles from 1979 to 1991. For 1980, Lincoln introduced the AOD 4-speed overdrive automatic transmission and fuel injection for the 5.0L V8, becoming available for Ford and Mercury in 1981.
For 1988, the LTD Crown Victoria and Grand Marquis underwent a minor revision to improve exterior aerodynamics. For 1990, the Panther platform received its first addition of SRS airbags. The Town Car (shifting to the second generation) was designed with dual airbags; the LTD Crown Victoria, Grand Marquis, and station wagons were fitted with driver-side airbags.
The 1st-generation Panther was also:
- The last American car with functional vent windows (option on 1989 Ford/Mercury)
- The last American-brand car available with a carbureted engine (351 cubic-inch V8; option on Grand Marquis, Crown Victoria wagon/police car through 1991)
Second generation (1990–2002)Edit
The American automotive landscape had changed significantly throughout the 1980s, although Ford had left the Panther platform essentially unchanged. A combination of changing consumer tastes as well as increasingly more stringent fuel economy standards forced Ford to make significant changes to the Panther cars in order to keep them in production. Bucking industry trends of the time, Ford chose not to downsize it any further or to replace it entirely with a front-wheel drive platform, opting instead for more aerodynamic bodystyling (which had been popularized by the smaller Taurus) and an all-new powertrain. As a result of changing market trends towards minivans and sport utility vehicles, one casualty of the redesign was the Country Squire and Colony Park station wagons; at the time, their de facto replacement was the Ford Aerostar.
In October 1989, Lincoln introduced the second-generation Town Car. In early 1991, the Crown Victoria (the LTD prefix disappeared) and Grand Marquis received total redesigns of their bodies for 1992. The Ford was restyled to have more of a family resemblance to the Ford Taurus, while the Mercury was styled as a more contemporary version of its predecessor (a formal family sedan).
- 4.6-liter "Modular" V8
In 1991, the 4.6L SOHC Modular V8 debuted under the hood of the Lincoln Town Car. It was the replacement for both the 302 and 351 cubic-inch Windsor V8 engines; in 1992, it became available in the Crown Victoria and Grand Marquis. Although the torque peak for the Modular V8 was 1,200 rpm higher than for the 302 V8, the 4.6L was available with up to 60 more hp (with optional dual exhaust).
- 1998 upgrades
In 1997, Ford significantly upgraded the exterior designs of all three Panther platform cars. The Town Car received the most extensive changes with its entire body being restyled. To increase parts commonality between the two, the Crown Victoria was redesigned to share the rear roofline (and much of the exterior sheetmetal) with the Grand Marquis, which saw minor cosmetic changes itself. Underneath the sheetmetal, a Watt's linkage was added to the rear suspension (still a live rear axle) in an effort to improve handling.
Third generation (2003–2011)Edit
For 2003, Ford Chassis Engineer Trever Skilnick completely redesigned the frame of the Panther platform using a hydroformed steel frame and a bolt-in cast aluminum stressed member that held the powertrain. The front and rear suspension were also completely overhauled in an effort to improve handling; rack and pinion steering replaced the recirculating-ball design. While the sheetmetal of the Crown Victoria was left alone, the Grand Marquis and Town Car both received updates to the exterior and interior in an effort to bring them in line with the rest of their respective product lineups. The "Cast Aluminum #2" frame crossmember won Casting of The Year for Tier 1 supplier CMI - Hayes Lemmerz, and the new chassis was reviewed favorably by journalist Dan Neil of the Wall Street Journal .
For 2003, Mercury introduced the Marauder, a high-performance variant of the Grand Marquis. Designed in a similar fashion as the 1994–1996 Chevrolet Impala SS (with black also being its most commonly available paint color), it featured the engine of the Ford Mustang Mach 1. The Marauder sold poorly; it was dropped after 2004 after just over 11,000 were built.
In total, twelve vehicle nameplates were produced under the Panther platform, with the Ford LTD Crown Victoria, Ford Crown Victoria, Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, Lincoln Town Car, and Continental Mark VI produced exclusively on the architecture.
|Model Name||Model Years||Body Styles||Notes|
Ford LTD Crown Victoria
|Ford Crown Victoria||1992-2012||4-door sedan|
|Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor/P71||1993-2011 (see notes)||4-door sedan|
|Ford LTD Country Squire
Mercury Colony Park
|1979-1991||5-door station wagon|
|Mercury Marquis||1979-1982||2-door sedan
5-door station wagon
|Mercury Grand Marquis||1983-2011||2-door sedan
5-door station wagon
|Mercury Marauder||2003-2004||4-door sedan|
|Lincoln Continental Mark VI||1980-1983||2-door sedan
Lincoln Town Car
||2-door sedan (see notes)
- Examples such as the Ford Crown Victoria and the Mercury Grand Marquis were standard, mass-produced variants and also extremely popular.
- Examples such as these were produced until their cancellation in 2011 by Ford.
- The Presidential State Car built for President George H. W. Bush is based upon a 1989 Lincoln Town Car.
- The 1993 Aston Martin Lagonda Vignale concept car was developed, underpinned with a modified Lincoln Town Car chassis and powertrain.
- Two license-built variants were built by Chinese automaker Hongqi.
- Approximately 100 Hongqi CA 7465 stretch limousines were produced in the mid-1990s. Hongqi rebodied the front fascia with new sheetmetal similar to the 1970s CA770.
- The 1998-2005 Hongqi CA7460(红旗CA7460) and Hongqi Qijian(红旗旗舰) (flagship) were luxury sedans produced primarily for government and military officials. After production in the U.S. by Ford, the cars were shipped to China for final bodywork.
- The 2002 Mercury Marauder concept car served as a preview of the 2003 production sedan. Based on a 1999 Ford Crown Victoria, the concept car was converted into a 2-door (topless) convertible. While the concept car was powered by a supercharged 4.6L Modular V8, the production Marauder received a naturally-aspirated DOHC V8.
As a followup to the 2003 update of the Panther platform, during most of the 2000s, design efforts were under consideration by Ford Motor Company to develop an all-new rear-wheel drive sedan platform. Intended as the first truly new full-size chassis in over two decades, the platform was intended to consolidate the Panther platform and the slightly smaller EA169 platform used by Ford Australia (for the Ford Falcon and Ford Territory, with the Ford Fairlane/LTD nearly matching the Crown Victoria/Grand Marquis in wheelbase).
Serving as potential previews of potential rear-wheel drive Ford and Lincoln-Mercury vehicles, Ford debuted the Ford 427, Lincoln MKR, and Ford Interceptor concept vehicles during the mid-2000s. While none of the vehicles would reach production in their entirety, design elements be used in various forms of production vehicles. In January 2009, Ford announced that design efforts towards its global rear-wheel drive platform were canceled.
Since the 2007 model year, the full-size retail presence of the Ford brand shifted from the Ford Crown Victoria to the Ford Taurus, previously marketed as the Ford Five Hundred. In 2009, Ford announced that 2011 was to be the final year for the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor with a new police-specific vehicle to begin production.
2011 would slowly mark the phaseout of both Panther-platform production and of vehicle production at St. Thomas Assembly. On January 4, the final Grand Marquis rolled off the assembly line, marking the end of Mercury production after its 2010 closure. During August, the final Lincoln Town Car rolled off the assembly line. After a short run of 2012 GCC-export models were produced (as it was no longer legal for sale in North America), the final Ford Crown Victoria rolled off the assembly line on September 15, 2011.
Before the Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car would end production, Ford would introduce functional replacements for the Crown Victoria/Grand Marquis (in the sixth-generation Ford Taurus and Ford Police Interceptor Sedan) and Lincoln Town Car (in the Lincoln MKS). In large contrast to their predecessors, sales of the Taurus/MKS were less dependent on fleet customers, intended for retail purchases. An exception was the Ford Police Interceptor Sedan; based on the Ford Taurus SHO, the model was developed to continue to serve law enforcement customers. To serve livery customers, Lincoln continued to develop variants of the Lincoln Navigator SUV, along with livery and limousine variants of the Lincoln MKT CUV; specific versions would adopt the Lincoln MKT Town Car name.
- Robert Cumberford (15 July 2011), "How I'd Save the Lincoln Town Car", Automobile Magazine
- Jim Mateja (4 October 1987). "Changes for '88 show that Ford is listening". Chicago Tribune. p. E1.
- LLC, AEC Global. "Panther Crossmember - trever skilnick". www.treverskilnick.com. Archived from the original on 2016-04-22. Retrieved 2016-03-15.
- "Box Panther Production Numbers". Retrieved 18 June 2014.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-05-19. Retrieved 2011-01-04.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
- "Ford Hopes Limo Companies Will Replace Town Car With Lincoln MKT". Pittsbur igh Post-Gazette. 7 October 2010.
- "Hundreds out of work as Ford's St. Thomas plant closes today". The Star. Toronto. 15 September 2011. Archived from the original on 25 October 2012.