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Ford Panther platform

The Ford Panther platform is an automobile platform that was used by Ford Motor Company for full-size, rear-wheel drive sedans. Introduced in late 1978 for the 1979 model year, it was progressively updated over 33 years of production. In September 2011, the last car produced on the platform was produced, marking the end of the rear-wheel drive full-size Ford. This also marks the end of the traditional body-on-frame rear wheel drive automobile in the United States since GM's discontinuation of its B platform in late 1996. The only other rear-wheel drive sedan with an available V8 engine currently produced by Ford is the Ford Falcon in Australia.

As of the 2011 model year, the Panther platform was in use longer (32 model years) than any other platform in North American automotive history. It was initially developed as a response to the downsizing of full-size cars from Chrysler and General Motors due to increasingly stringent fuel economy standards for cars. During trying periods for Ford, the Panther cars were scheduled for cancellation and replacement (in favor of the front-wheel drive D186 platform) on several occasions, as early as 1985.

As the 1980s progressed, the full-size cars of the Buick, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac divisions were downsized further; all were replaced by front-wheel drive, mid-size cars. The Panther's final GM counterparts, the Chevrolet Caprice, Buick Roadmaster and Cadillac Fleetwood were discontinued in 1996. During the early 1980s, Chrysler left the full-size car class completely. In the early 1990s, Chrysler resumed production of full-size cars (the LH platform) and rear-wheel drive (the LX platform) a decade later. However, with the majority of these cars, Chrysler competes against different customers that Ford attracts with the Panther platform.

The Panther platform was produced at Ford's St. Thomas Assembly plant in Talbotville, Ontario, Canada, with the last vehicle rolling off the line 15 September 2011. Prior to its closure on 31 May 2007, the Wixom Assembly Plant in Michigan was the assembly site for the Lincoln Town Car. Assembly of the Town Car was consolidated at the St. Thomas plant in January 2008 following paint shop and other upgrades. Ford and Mercury versions built before the 1986 model year were assembled in the St. Louis Assembly Plant in Missouri; this facility is currently closed.


Design overview

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, as well as the Chevrolet Corvette.[1] The durability resulting from the body on frame construction (which allows easier repair after minor collisions), the cars' low price, 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.[1]

Although introduced in 1979, 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 overseas market.

First generation (1979 1991)

The first cars introduced on the Panther platform were the downsized 1979 Ford LTD and Mercury Marquis. Both were available in coupe, wagon, and sedan bodystyles. For 1980, federal fuel-economy regulations forced the Lincoln Continental to downsize; for the first time, the flagship cars for all three divisions shared a common platform. All Ford and Mercury models were now built on a common wheelbase; aside from grilles and taillights, the bodyshells were identical as well. In the Lincoln lineup, the Continental, Town Car, and Continental Mark VI shared nearly identical bodywork. In 1982, the Town Car became a model line of its own as the Continental became a mid-sized Fox-platform car; the Mark VI ended production in 1983. While Lincoln coupes (Mark VI and the rare Town Coupe) based on the Panther platform were discontinued in 1983, Ford and Mercury coupes lasted until 1987, when low demand brought their cancellation.


Ford made relatively few changes to any of the 1st-generation Panther-platform cars throughout their production life aside from nameplate changes. A 1988 re-style of the LTD Crown Victoria, Country Squire, and Grand Marquis improved their aerodynamics.[2] 1990 marked the addition of SRS airbags to the Panther platform. The Lincoln Town Car came with dual air bags standard, but the passenger air bag remained an option on Ford and Mercury versions until 1993.

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)

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 1990, Lincoln introduced the second-generation Town Car. For 1992, the Crown Victoria (the LTD prefix disappeared) and Grand Marquis received total redesigns of their bodies; 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 1998, 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 2012)

For 2003, Ford completely redesigned the frame of the Panther platform, using a design with hydroformed steel. 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 smaller cars of their respective product lineups.

In 2003, Mercury introduced the Marauder, a high-performance variant of the Grand Marquis designed much like the 1994-1996 Chevrolet Impala SS. It sold poorly and was dropped after 2004 after just over 11,000 were built. Due to very low retail demand, the Crown Victoria was restricted to fleet sales after the 2007 model year; by that time, only 5% of its production went to retail sale.


Ford LTD/Mercury Marquis (1979-1982)

1980 Ford LTD S 4-door sedan For the 1979 model year, Ford became the last of the Big Three to undergo downsizing of its full-size sedans. Compared to their 1978 counterparts, the 1979 LTD and Marquis were fifteen inches shorter; downsizing the two full-size cars left them ten inches shorter than the "mid-size" Ford LTD II and Mercury Cougar. The LTD was sold as a two-door and four-door sedan in base and higher-level "Landau" trim; in 1980, the LTD Landau became the LTD Crown Victoria. As a Mercury, the Marquis was the base-trim two-door and four-door sedan; higher-trim versions wore the Grand Marquis name.

In Canada, the base-trim versions of these cars marked the final appearances of the long-running Ford Custom 500 and Mercury (Marquis) Meteor nameplates. Both the Custom 500 and Meteor were discontinued after the 1981 model year.

Body Styles
  • 2-door sedan
  • 4-door sedan
  • 5-door station wagon

Ford LTD Crown Victoria/Mercury Grand Marquis (1983-1991)

1983-1987 Ford LTD Crown Victoria 2-door sedan 1988-1991 Mercury Grand Marquis GS In 1980 and 1981, Ford downsized its mid-sized cars onto the Fox platform, with mixed results. For the 1983 model year, several Fox-platform models received mid-cycle refreshes and were re-branded. To downsize them without the cost of developing a new platform, the LTD and Marquis were shifted from the Panther platform to the Fox platform to replace the unpopular Granada and Cougar sedan/station wagon. The remaining full-size Panther platform nameplates (the LTD Crown Victoria and Grand Marquis) both became distinct models.

In 1988, the LTD Crown Victoria and Grand Marquis received a redesign of the front and rear end; in 1990, they became one of the first full-size American cars to feature a standard driver's side airbag.

Body Styles
  • 2-door sedan (to 1987)
  • 4-door sedan
  • 5-door station wagon

Ford Country Squire/Mercury Colony Park (1979-1991)

1984 Mercury Colony Park In 1979, the Ford and Mercury full-size station wagons were downsized alongside their sedan counterparts. The redesign was less radical, removing only 10 inches from their length (roughly the same length as an LTD II/Cougar two-door). Over their 12-year lifespan, the station wagons saw few notable revisions aside from the 1988 facelift shared with the sedans.

The 1991 Country Squire and Colony Park were the last full-sized station wagons produced by Ford. By the beginning of the 1990s, consumer tastes had shifted towards minivans as cargo-carrying vehicles; the Ford Aerostar, Ford Explorer and Ford Taurus station wagon served as its replacements. As of the 2011 model year, Ford sells no sedan-based station wagons in North America, with the Ford Flex full-size CUV as closest to the Country Squire in size and cargo capacity.

Body Styles
  • 5-door station wagon

Lincoln Continental/Town Car (1980; 1981-1989)

1988 Lincoln Town Car In 1980, the Lincoln Continental, the largest car of the late 1970s, was downsized in Ford's effort to meet federal fuel economy standards. Twenty-two inches shorter, the Continental also marked the shift to platform sharing between Lincoln and Ford/Mercury full-size cars. As with its predecessor, the Continental was available in standard trim and top-trim Town Coupe/Town Car two-door and four-door sedans. In 1981, "Continental" was dropped as a model prefix; it was the last model year for the two-door Town Coupe as well.

In 1982, the Continental nameplate returned, downsized onto the Fox platform (as a replacement for the Versailles); after the discontinuation of the Mark VI, the Town Car became the sole full-size Lincoln. Unlike its Ford and Mercury counterparts, the Continental and Town Car were available only with a single engine: the Ford 5.0 Windsor V8.

After a minor redesign to the rear end in 1985, the Town Car went through the decade unchanged except for minor yearly updates.

Body Styles
  • 2-door sedan (1980 1981)
  • 4-door sedan

Lincoln Continental Mark VI (1980-1983)

1980 Lincoln Continental Mark VI In 1980, the Mark VI was introduced as a replacement for the Mark V. Based on the Panther platform, the Mark VI introduced a 4-door to the Mark series. While the 4-door was closely related to the Town Car, Lincoln differentiated the 2-door Mark VI from the Town Coupe by building the Mark VI on the shorter wheelbase used by the Ford LTD/Mercury Marquis. Like its predecessor, the Mark VI two-door carried on the tradition of "designer edition" option packages.

The Mark Series was downsized further in 1984, when the Mark VII was introduced on the Fox platform; it and the successor Mark VIII were only available as two door coupes.

Body Styles
  • 2-door sedan
  • 4-door sedan

Lincoln Town Car (1990-2002)

1996 Lincoln Town Car 2000 Lincoln Town Car For the 1990 model year, the Lincoln Town Car received its first redesign, which was so well received that it earned the Motor Trend Car of the Year Award. A body design with attention paid towards aerodynamics and fuel economy was far more contemporary than its predecessor; much of its design was influenced by the 1988 Lincoln Continental. Going against industry trends, the Town Car stayed roughly the same size as before and retained its rear-wheel drive layout. In 1991, to further improve fuel economy, the 4.6L Modular V8 became the first overhead-cam V8 in an American-produced sedan. The Town Car was one of the first Fords to feature dual airbags, anti-lock brakes, and air suspension.

In 1998, the Town Car received a major redesign of its exterior and interior. The contemporary look of the early 1990s was replaced with a curvaceous design featuring traditional cues. In 2001, a long-wheelbase Town Car was introduced with additional rear-seat legroom.

Body Styles
  • 4-door sedan

Ford Crown Victoria/Mercury Grand Marquis (1992-2002)

1992 Ford Crown Victoria LX 1998-2002 Mercury Grand Marquis LS For the 1992 model year, the Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis were redesigned for the ground up for the first time since 1979. The redesign had a dual purpose: the cars not only received far more aerodynamic exteriors and up-to-date interiors, but it allowed for significant differentiation between the Ford and Mercury full-size cars (which had worn the same body panels since the late 1960s). The Crown Victoria (which dropped the LTD prefix) was styled as a larger version of the Ford Taurus while the Grand Marquis was styled as an update of its 1991 predecessor. The redesign featured the 4.6L Modular V8, the first use of an overhead-cam V8 in a non-luxury sedan sold in the United States. In 1995, both sedans received a minor exterior update.

In 1998, the Crown Victoria and the Grand Marquis received major exterior redesigns. To increase the parts commonality between the two, the Crown Victoria adopted the roofline of the Grand Marquis, whose 1992 redesign had been better received by buyers. In an effort to improve handling, a Watt's linkage was fitted to the rear suspension.

Body Styles
  • 4-door sedan

Ford Crown Victoria (2003-2012) Mercury Grand Marquis/Lincoln Town Car (2003-2011)

2003-2008 Ford Crown Victoria2008-2011 Mercury Grand Marquis2003-2007 Lincoln Town Car

In 2003, the Panther platform received its most significant update since its 1979 introduction. Most of the changes were involved with components under the sheetmetal. To improve rigidity, the frame was replaced with a design using hydroformed steel. To improve handling, rack-and-pinion steering replaced the recirculating ball design.

On the outside, the Grand Marquis and Town Car received minor exterior updates; these were done to give the aging Panther-platform cars a similar look to newer Lincoln-Mercury products. In contrast, the Crown Victoria was left unchanged from 1998; a growing proportion of its sales went towards fleet sales in the police and taxi markets. After years of declining sales among retail buyers, Ford removed the Crown Victoria from retail markets at the end of the 2007 model year; the 2008 Taurus served as its replacement. The Mercury Grand Marquis, the best-selling Mercury until the 2008 model year, concluded production in early 2011 after the discontinuation of the Mercury brand. The final Grand Marquis produced for retail sale was built in October 2010.

The final Crown Victoria rolled off the line 15 September 2011, when the St. Thomas assembly plant closed. All production after August 2011 were 2012 models built exclusively for the overseas market. Production of the Town Car ended in August 2011 and will be replaced for livery markets by a limousine variant of the MKT.[3] The MKT limousine will be available in the second quarter of 2012.

Body Styles
  • 4-door sedan

Mercury Marauder (2003-2004)

2003 Mercury Marauder For the 2003 model year, Ford introduced the Mercury Marauder as a high-performance variant of the Grand Marquis and Crown Victoria. In concept, the Marauder was similar to the 1994-1996 Chevrolet Impala SS; instead of the Corvette, the Marauder used the engine from the Mustang Mach 1 and had brake and suspension upgrades. Additionally, the exterior was styled in a monochromatic theme (like the Impala SS, the majority of Marauders were painted black).

After 2004, the Marauder was discontinued after approximately 11,052 were sold; after the Lincoln Town Coupe, it is the rarest Panther-platform car.

Body Styles
  • 4-door sedan

Ford Police Interceptor (1992-2011)

1995-1997 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor 2003-2008 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor From 1979 to 1991, police car variants of the LTD Crown Victoria were not officially differentiated from civilian models by any internal production code, but instead shared the code (P72) of the base S model for fleet sales. In 1992, when the Crown Victoria was redesigned, the car took on the Police Interceptor name and officially took on its own internal production code (P71), although it wore standard Crown Victoria badging until 1999. From 1999 to 2011, it is badged with Police Interceptor badging as standard equipment. The Police Interceptor received the same redesigns as the civilian model, but outside sheet metal stayed relatively unchanged since 1998.

The 2011 model year marks the end of production for the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, which Ford is replacing in their model line with a variant of the 2012 Ford Taurus.

Body Styles
  • 4-door sedan


Ford Panther Platform Timeline
Brand Name 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s
'79 '80 '81 '82 '83 '84 '85 '86 '87 '88 '89 '90 '91 '92 '93 '94 '95 '96 '97 '98 '99 '00 '01 '02 '03 '04 '05 '06 '07 '08 '09 '10 '11 '12
Country Squire
LTD Crown Victoria
Crown Victoria (1st generation)
Crown Victoria (2nd generation)
LTD Crown Victoria P71
Crown Victoria P71
Crown Victoria Police Interceptor
Colony Park
Grand Marquis (1st generation)
Grand Marquis (2nd generation)
Grand Marquis (3rd generation)
Grand Marquis (4th generation)
Continental Mark VI
Town Car (1st generation)
Town Car (2nd generation)
Town Car (3rd generation)
Town Car (4th generation)


A 1989 Lincoln Town Car modified into a Presidential State Car for George H.W. Bush.

  • The Aston Martin Lagonda Vignale concept of 1995 utilized a modified Panther platform.
  • The Presidential State Car built for President George H. W. Bush used a modified Panther platform (a 1989 Lincoln Town Car) as its basis; along with armoring and other security modifications, the powertrain was replaced with a V8 and 4-speed automatic transmission sourced from the Ford F-250 pickup truck lineup.


During most of the 2000s, Ford had considered a new global rear wheel drive platform that would serve as a replacement for both the Panther platform and that of the Australian-market Ford Falcon/Territory. In January 2009, Ford announced such efforts were canceled,[4] leaving the Panther platform with no direct replacement. The 2007 Ford Interceptor concept, derived from the Mustang, was speculated to be a Crown Victoria replacement; no formal announcements were ever made regarding its production.

Since the 2007 model year, the full-size retail presence of Ford has shifted from the Panther platform to the smaller Volvo-derived D3 platform; it also serves as a successor to the D186 (Taurus) platform. Since 2008, the sixth-generation Ford Taurus and Lincoln MKS have largely superseded the Crown Victoria and Town Car in their respective product lineups. Despite similar interior dimensions, sedans based on the D3 platform are only available with 5-passenger seating. Instead of rear-wheel drive only, the Taurus and MKS are front-wheel drive with all-wheel drive as an option; the transverse engine mounting of the D3 platform precludes the continuation of rear-wheel drive. Since the 2008 model year, the Crown Victoria has been available exclusively through fleet, police, and taxi sales. Although highly dependent on livery fleet sales, the Town Car is still available for retail purchase. Like the now-discontinued Grand Marquis, it has been de-emphasized in Lincoln-Mercury marketing plans in an effort to steer buyers to their updated models.

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.[5] In the first quarter of 2010, Ford unveiled its replacement, the 2012 Ford Police Interceptor based on the sixth-generation Taurus. On January 4, 2011, the last Grand Marquis was produced; it also marked the end of the phase-out of the Mercury brand. At the end of August 2011, the Lincoln Town Car (in production since 1981) was discontinued;[3] Ford has developed livery and limousine versions of the Lincoln MKT full-size CUV as a replacement.[3] The St. Thomas Assembly facility closed 15 September 2011.[6]


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