Home » The Ford Crown Victoria Is Not The Car The Internet Wants It To Be

The Ford Crown Victoria Is Not The Car The Internet Wants It To Be

Crown Vic Project Ts
ADVERTISEMENT

Way back in secondary school, I felt it right for a change of vehicle. Fuel prices were going back up and truck thefts were widespread, so I sold my modified GMC C1500 for something that wouldn’t tip over as soon as it saw a corner. I rang up someone who put up an online classified ad, shelled out $550, and went home in a Toreador Red 1996 Ford Crown Victoria. Alright, so it’s not the usual suspect, but $550 Canadian was the bottom of the market, and it seemed like a reasonable bet for something rear-wheel-drive.

Eventually becoming a hodgepodge of various suspension parts and Home Depot cosmetic bits, it was a great way to learn car control in slow motion. With acres of wheelbase and plenty of lock, rotation was slow and I had all the time in the world to correct the odd slide. As far as learning the fundamentals of vehicle dynamics go, it’s not the worst tool for the job.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Plus, it looked pretty cool for a time period when galaxy print was still in. The car scene was a whole lot different back then, and a nasty, low, red sedan with a V8 burbling out of a side-exit exhaust was a distinctive way of getting around. Sure, my parents weren’t the biggest fan of it, but rebellion is just what you do as a teenager. If I was writing a CarDomain profile, I’d probably include something about the Kenwood deck, the mini-spool, and the rather aggressive alignment, but those are relatively minor details. They’re also probably evidence that I used to be cool, before I realized the joy of the 80 percent use case and cars that just, you know, work.

Crown Victoria

However, owning a Crown Victoria for an extended period of time, along with being surrounded by other examples of the model, gave me a cold dose of reality. The Ford Crown Victoria isn’t the car the internet thinks it is, but that’s okay.

ADVERTISEMENT

The first myth is that the Ford Crown Victoria is an anvil, a slow, unyielding, everlasting unstoppable force. It’s certainly slow and unyielding, but it’s most definitely stoppable. What ultimately ended the life of my Crown Victoria was transmission failure around the 173,000 mile mark. Even though the 4R70W was eventually superseded by the more robust 4R75W, the Vic’s 3-speed auto with overdrive can still have issues. My childhood best friend got tired of them acting up and replaced the slushbox wholesale with a TR-3650 five-speed manual from a New Edge Mustang GT. Looking around the forums, he and I are certainly not the only ones to complain of transmission slip.

Crown Victoria Rant Resize

Another issue pertaining to pre-2001 4.6-liter cars is the plastic intake manifolds, which had a high defect rate. The manifold would crack, resulting in at least some of the coolant entering the Earth’s water cycle, accompanied by a temperature gauge pegged in the red. Obviously, this is a trip-ending failure, and although I never encountered it during my ownership period, others have.

Crown Victoria 2005 Intake Manifold Leak

Mind you, this doesn’t seem like an issue that was totally solved throughout the years. Some owners report needing to replace the intake manifolds on their 2001 and newer cars due to coolant leaks, and when it comes to a part like this OEM is really the way to go.

ADVERTISEMENT

In addition, Crown Vics are now old cars, and they have old-car problems. Axle seals leak, oil pan gaskets leak, alternators and starter motors go bad, and you might have a fluke failure like a freeze plug blowing out at highway speeds (true story). If you want a car that never quits, buy a Camry or a Civic or something of that sort, not an ancient body-on-frame Ford.

Crown Victoria Window Regulators

Oh, and that’s before we even get into general annoyances. For a start, some of the body electrics are well, not great. I lost track of how many window motors and regulators I went through, but the most annoying one was when the driver’s power window packed up on a hot summer’s day, I couldn’t roll it down, and I didn’t have working air-con. I must’ve lost a pound of water just driving from my job to my parents’ place, not a fun issue by any means. Across all model years, manual HVAC controls are vacuum-operated and have a habit of packing up. Bad brake light switches are relatively common, and models before 1999 had issues with the cruise control switches, um, catching fire. So yeah, not exactly a rolling anvil.

Ford Crown Victoria 1

The second myth that I’ve heard far too often is that the Crown Victoria is just a big-boned Mustang. Sure, both the Crown Victoria and the later SN95 Mustang GTs may have used two-valve 4.6-liter V8s, but that’s about where the similarities stop. Due to riding on completely different platforms, the suspension parts, steering rack, and even the differential assemblies are different. To put a five-speed manual in a Crown Vic, you’ll need an aftermarket pedal box, a notch cut in the crossmember, some mounts, and possibly the non-Police Interceptor driveshaft depending on whether or not your car was once equipped with blues and twos.

ADVERTISEMENT

Now, you can make these cars fast. Thanks to a huge engine bay, you can swap a 5.4-liter Ford modular V8, a Coyote, an LS, pretty much anything you can think of into these cars. However, you could also swap any of those engines into a lighter, smaller Mustang with better aftermarket support and more performance potential. If you’re shooting for hero numbers, the Crown Victoria probably isn’t the car to build.

Ford Crown Victoria

So if it’s not indestructible or easy to hop up, what is a Ford Crown Victoria besides a chariot of retirees? Well, it’s the ultimate fuck-around car, an endearing all-American rear-wheel-drive shitheap that deals okay with general abuse, provided you aren’t expecting Japanese reliability. Smack the frame rails on something? It won’t care. This full-frame sedan will shrug off curbs, or in my case, the crown of the road, just fine. No matter how nicely or poorly you treat it, the same stuff will eventually break, and it’s much more fun to use this car in an anti-social manner than to cruise the bingo hall parking lot at five mph.

Between police use and, um, vigorous enjoyment of hand-me-down examples, nice Crown Victorias are fairly thin on the ground these days. While some might mourn these cars being hooned and/or neglected to death, I reckon many of them went out in a relatively colorful manner. Mine’s probably a Maytag by now, but that’s not a bad thing. It did its job, created some memories that probably can’t be mentioned in any good publication, and exited this world serving a role of awesomeness rather than mere transportation. Most cars aren’t born special, but they become special because of what you put into it. The appeal of the Crown Victoria isn’t that it’s indestructible or a sleeper, it’s that it lets you put one hell of a lot into it.

Support our mission of championing car culture by becoming an Official Autopian Member.

ADVERTISEMENT

Relatedbar

Got a hot tip? Send it to us here. Or check out the stories on our homepage.

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
72 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
JShawn_23
JShawn_23
3 months ago

I had a 2002 Town Car that I learned how to wrech. Parts were cheap and information on the repairs are easy to find. My first transmission rebuild was the 4R70. The first time I repaired a cylinder head because the spark plug shot out of the head. My first successful AC repair. And the first time replacing an air bag suspension and pump. Figured out most of the electrical issues also. There was something special about how smooth it rode on the expressway at 75mph. I do miss that car a little.

Eva
Eva
3 months ago

While I see the appeal of them nowadays in a world where cars like this just aren’t coming out anymore, for the longest part of my life to me this was a grandma car, because my grandmother’s last car was a pastel blue example. When she couldn’t drive anymore she sold it to someone in town and credit to them, I still see it rolling around albeit a bit more modded than grandma had it.

Automotiveflux
Automotiveflux
3 months ago

My dad had a 95′ Grand Marquis, its the car I learned to drive with! I remember taking a girl on a date in it and hitting a curb with the rear wheel in the Tim Hortan’s parking lot, not my proudest moment…

TheNewt
TheNewt
3 months ago

I drove these a lot over the years, but never owned one. It’s a good car when you aren’t paying for the maintenance out of your pocket. The police interceptor package is the way to go. Would I own one now? I don’t know. I love the “luxo-barge” feel on long trips. But it is becoming an old car so…

Bobfish
Bobfish
3 months ago

I’ve driven two examples of a Panther platform, and they basically confirm ALL the stories. As a delinquent youth, I borrowed a coworkers 2000 Grand Marquis to grab some lunch, giggling the whole way at this hilarious hovercraft of a car – until I get to the drive thru speaker and can’t roll the window down…. Fast-forward to 2016 and I’m buying a 2008 Crown Vic P71 from a good-old-boy auction watcher for a crazy good price, my wife is less than enthused until she gets behind the wheel. Cop suspension changes the whole game, made it feel like it was half the size it was. That reinforced cop frame probably saved my wife and daughter some serious injury when they were rear-ended by one of those bigass F650 tow trucks. So it was totalled before anything could start breaking, and insurance gave me more than I paid for it, so basically the perfect Crown Vic experience!

That guy
That guy
3 months ago

My experience with a well maintained 97 (that I still have and have had since ‘06) has been that I don’t think I could find a car that cost me less $ to keep on the road. Yes, things have gone wrong. Intake (which was recalled, but mine aged out of the recall before it broke) and rear axle seal being the biggest. But if you can wrench at all, they’re easy to fix.

If you always pay someone to work on your car, maybe not the best choice.

Interior space isn’t as good as unibody (almost like the gas tank is behind the rear seat instead of under the floor…), but man will that car take a beating and just keep going. And it is comfortable the whole time, with halfway decent driving dynamics.

Most frustrating thing these days is getting quality parts. None of the parts were expensive in the first place, so I don’t get why only the cheapest s*** is still available – one perfect example is the aforementioned window regulators. Good ones last 5-10yrs depending on use. The ones in the parts stores now though might last 6 days.

MikeInTheWoods
MikeInTheWoods
3 months ago

I have been temped to get one for a while. Good to read this perspective. I was thinking the F100 swap would make a dependable-yet-modern truck. Glad I didn’t do it.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
3 months ago
Reply to  MikeInTheWoods

A friend had a Mercury Grand Marquis and it was a huuuuge shitbox. The parking pawl eventually went so he used a brick to keep it from rolling while looking for a new car.

TheWombatQueen
TheWombatQueen
3 months ago

If that’s your car in the pictures that’s actually so cool

Space
Space
3 months ago

Sounds more reliable than a Subaru but less than a Lexus. I had a 2001 Buick that ate window regulators maybe turn of the millennium window regulators just sucked.

Lightning
Lightning
3 months ago
Reply to  Space

Sounds way worse than a Subaru, actually.

DDayJ
DDayJ
3 months ago

I rode in tons of these as cabs back in the day and a few things I recall is every one of them had multiple dashboard warning lights illuminated and that the 4.6 sounded nice when the drivers were flogging the crap out of them.

VanGuy
VanGuy
3 months ago
Reply to  DDayJ

I wonder how they “feel”, comparatively less stressed in these. I had a ’97 Econoline with the 4.6 and man, the engine never gave me trouble (out of the many, many problems that van had), but it also only sounded “pleasant” at idle. The way it screamed going uphill was just not aurally pleasing.

Andrew Pappas
Andrew Pappas
3 months ago

Having ran a few town cars as limos well past 200,000 mi each, they are rugged but not reliable. The big thing is they are cheap to repair and parts were easy to find and quick to put in. My car was never down for more than half a day. There was a shop near Logan airport that had racks of used engines and transmissions ready to bolt in for a thousand bucks in just a few hours. Now stuff I have last much longer, but it’s always waiting for a part or waiting for a time at a shop to get somebody to fix what should be simple.

Pappa P
Pappa P
3 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Pappas

That’s pretty cool. Your engine blows up in the morning and your back earning again by the evening.
If we send a bus to the dealership, an engine replacement takes 1 to 2 months.

Alex Kwanten
Alex Kwanten
3 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Pappas

This was also my experience owning a Crown Vic in NYC when the car was still the king of the cab world. I could buy anything I needed from the right parts store.

One day, I smacked my driver’s mirror on a double-parked UPS truck on the Upper West Side. It smashed the housing and the glass entirely. I drove straight down to a place called “Taxi Parts,” an old store that was later eradicated by the Hudson Yards development, and I had a new housing and mirror on the car in less than an hour from the time I clipped the truck.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
3 months ago

The Caprice was a better car.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
3 months ago
Reply to  MATTinMKE

BIL is retired cop. Extensive experience and time in both. Except for a warm place to drink coffee and eat donuts, he said they sucked.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
3 months ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

I’ve also spent time in both and wrenched on both. Caprice was a better car.

Beceen
Beceen
3 months ago
Reply to  MATTinMKE

It’s the Impala SS you really want.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
3 months ago
Reply to  Beceen

Agreed, but I never really liked the suppository body style. Do the same upgrades to a the square body instead, that I’m here for!

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
3 months ago
Reply to  Beceen

MIL had one for a decade. I was shocked at the power of that land shark. She was in her 80s by then it was a trip to see her in it…she had an issue with her right foot control though. Almost every time she shifted it into Drive a big burnout would be the result….It was funny and scary at the same time. Eventually she got a police spec Caprice which was just as entertaining. RIP Marjorie.

Last edited 3 months ago by Col Lingus
American Locomotive
American Locomotive
3 months ago

The 1990-1997 Lexus LS400 is the car the internet says the Crown Vic is. Big, comfortable, and outrageously reliable.

Marathag
Marathag
3 months ago

Best ones were the pre-92 models with the Windsor V8s in them.

That where the durability legends came from, the P72 Fleet/Cop Car line

Sean O'Brien
Sean O'Brien
3 months ago

I loved my former cop car until I totaled it, but yeah…. Biggest issue is that, despite it being such a boat, the leg room really leaves something to be desired. All that length is in the hood and trunk.

My MiL has an absolutely immaculate Grand Marquis. Given that she has no pressing need for money or garage space, I keep telling her to just keep it. It’s only going to appreciate (at least a bit) as its peers disappear one by one.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
3 months ago
Reply to  Sean O'Brien

The leg room leaves something to be desired? My 2001 Vic has more than enough leg room for leggy 6′ me and my 6’2″ dad.

Sean O'Brien
Sean O'Brien
3 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

The front seat is fine, but the back is really cramped. Far more than it should be.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
3 months ago
Reply to  Sean O'Brien

The back isn’t awful, it’s probably just a little better than my Accord. I don’t disagree, a car this big should have significantly better rear legroom.

Old Busted Hotness
Old Busted Hotness
3 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

That’s why they could charge so much more for the Lincoln Town Car. It’s a Crown Vic with 3 inches more wheelbase. There were also taxi variants of the Vic with extra WB.

Hondaimpbmw 12
Hondaimpbmw 12
3 months ago
Reply to  Sean O'Brien

The parade float Caprice/Impala SS was even shorter on rear leg room. It came nowhere near the Chrysler LHS that it replaced. That car let my 6’3” son stretch out and sleep in the back seat.

VanGuy
VanGuy
3 months ago
Reply to  Sean O'Brien

Doesn’t the Crown Vic have “L” variants like the Town Car did?

Delta 88
Delta 88
3 months ago
Reply to  VanGuy

I’m pretty sure the Grand Marquis does, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a Vic version

Masterbuilder
Masterbuilder
3 months ago

The ’01 P71 that my youngest son drove, and I taught him to maintain, required much less routine maintenance that most comparable cars.
Beyond new suspension bushings, struts and shocks at 140,000, most everything was elective or routine. He was in the Navy at the time and I wanted him to have a solid ride.
We did the timing chain wear guides, water pump and reman A/C compressor at 230,000 along with the “J mod” in the trans.
He got rid of it at around 275,000, but I still see it on the road from time to time. In all the time he owned it, it never spit a plug, never cracked an intake and never lost a window regulator.
All in all it was a solid, dependable car that is almost infinitely rebuildable.

Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
3 months ago

One thing about the popularity of the Crown Vic was its use as a police car and livery/taxi vehicle. It did a fantastic job for the way those people used it. Most of us aren’t cab drivers or cops. So it may not be as wonderful to us.
Nonetheless, I appreciate it more now than I did then. Jam a 6.8 V10 in there. A blown V8. It’s all great.

ESO
ESO
3 months ago
Reply to  Ariel E Jones

In full agreement with your use case vs satisfaction position, at least in my experience. Our huge fleet of CV’s has been long retired from active duty use and recently from their post-retirement training/EVOC use, the same as our Caprices were long ago. For how we used them, they were generally very reliable (albeit less fun than the Caprices).

Where they really shined was in their ability to take an unbelievable amount of heavy use and abuse without complaint or failure. In the worst case collision scenarios, they always kept us safe and alive.

Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
3 months ago
Reply to  ESO

That’s my understanding of it. That the body on frame build could take abuse that unibody cars just couldn’t. And that it also meant easier cheaper repairs. I read years ago, I think in Car and Driver about an outfit that was still running Crown Vics in its fleet and was buying wrecks and amassing parts so they would be able to run them for years to come. The Vic lives on!

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
3 months ago

I briefly owned a 2000 Town Car a decade or so back. It had 100,000 miles and, aside from some clear coat issues on the C-pillar, was in pretty good shape. Holy cow was that thing an unreliable pile. Window regulators. Fuel pumps. BCM issues. Air suspension. Calipers. Brake master cylinder. Brake light switch. It was endless. All that in a period of four months. I had wrenched on plenty Panthers prior to that, but the unbelievable level of continuous crap breaking ruined me of ever desiring to own a Panther again.

Michael Ballezza
Michael Ballezza
3 months ago

Crown Vic boys Philly look it up

Andrew Daisuke
Andrew Daisuke
3 months ago

Quality was job #3,304,037

VanGuy
VanGuy
3 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Daisuke

You’re lucky I wasn’t drinking when I read this.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
3 months ago

The 92-97 Crown Vic looks cooler than the 98+ version and the Grand Marquis.

Also, they should’ve given it the Mustang’s 260 hp V8 (the Panthers only had 225-240 hp)

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
3 months ago
Reply to  Dogisbadob

239hp, technically, which always seemed odd. I feel like they could have lied and rounded it to 240hp and nobody would have minded.

Comet_65cali
Comet_65cali
3 months ago

I still maintain, and will die on this hill, to build a P71 into a Tray-ute.

David Escargot
David Escargot
3 months ago
Reply to  Comet_65cali

Do it… its as close to a Falcon ute as you’ll get without importing something… and do above mentioned manual swap

Scruffinater
Scruffinater
3 months ago

I always thought the interior space was laughably small for the size of the car too, especially the back seat…

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
3 months ago
Reply to  Scruffinater

You’re right about that. My LeSabre has acres more back seat room despite a much shorter length and wheelbase. Thanks, FWD and unibody!

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
3 months ago

It’s the anachronistic chassis and standard V8 that set the mythology in motion. In our internet age, there’s an almost instant nostalgia for things that “they don’t make like that” anymore, as soon as they stop making them.

It seems a manifestation of the general social media FOMO thing, just for goods instead of experiences.

That said, the final year versions had some great wheels (silver one above).

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
3 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

Correct. I think people see V8, RWD sedan and are like ZOMG THEY DON’T MAKE THOSE ANYMORE despite the fact that panther bodies are far from enthusiast cars. There’s also the nostalgia industrial complex, which comes for us all eventually.

I think a lot of the 30-40 crowd has memories of riding around in these as kids and that drives a lot of it. You see it in a lot of cars from the era-go on Cars and Bids or BAT sometime and you’ll see pristine examples of 15-25 year old normal cars selling for ridiculous amounts of money for what they are.

I think so much of my generation is so broke compared to our predecessors that buying a really nice old hauler of some sort has become its own form of car enthusiasm. It’s kind of an “I’ll schlep my spawns around in the car I used to get driven to soccer practice in” type of deal. Part of me respects it, part of me thinks it’s a ripoff. I personally don’t want my nostalgia monetized but I’m also working hard to nudge my way into the “let people enjoy things” camp.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
3 months ago

I’m going to steal “nostalgia-industrial complex” from you…it’s just such a perfect summation.

I’ve been try to invert my thinking to see things like this as people attempting to be themselves in a world of endless conformity. Which isn’t that different than when we were younger, just takes a different, perhaps more accelerated form I guess. It’s just sad that that desire can be exploited by the complex, and I think we need to be vigilant about that, ask ourselves “why do I really like <whatever>?”

I do my best, but I constantly get hoodwinked into thinking something is cool b/c wow the packaging looks like it did when I was a kid and weren’t those great (or at least better) times? Sucker…it’s just the contemporary product that you don’t really like, isn’t it?

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
3 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

I get it. I wish I could just shut the nostalgia part of my brain off but I’m both deeply nostalgic and an overall very emotional person. I’m lucky in that other than the oppressive Catholicism and mental health issues that took my family way too long to get me help for (ahhh, the 2000s!) I had a pretty great childhood…and hell, even my teenage years were pretty good all things considered.

I get that that’s a privilege and I’m certainly grateful for it, but as a result I naturally find myself yearning for the halcyon days more often than I’d like to admit. I personally don’t think consumerism is a good way to tap into those emotions, and I resent consumerism in general and am cheap as fuck overall, but even I fall prey sometimes.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spent way too much money on a guitar and more or less told myself “imagine how proud teenage you would be of this PRS!” or whatever. I also sprinted to buy a new GTI as my first nice car for similar reasons. “It’s what you’ve always wanted, DO IT!”, etc. Unfortunately it turned out to be a case study in why you should never meet your heroes….

rctothefuture
rctothefuture
3 months ago

You forgot the best part about the 4.6, it likes to shoot spark plugs out, doing it’s best popgun impression.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
3 months ago
Reply to  rctothefuture

I believe that is the 5.2L Ford motor that I paid for 3 repairs on the popcorn scale

Adam Guha
Adam Guha
3 months ago
Reply to  rctothefuture

That’s the 5.4L. The 4.6 is really one of Ford’s best engines despite being underpowered in some of the vehicles they put it in.

VanGuy
VanGuy
3 months ago
Reply to  rctothefuture

Interesting! I had a ’97 Econoline with the 4.6l and for 7 years and 65,000 miles, it had many stupid and/or expensive problems, but never engine problems. Only had the spark plugs changed once, preventatively. Unless that’s a significantly different variant of the same displacement engine?

I thought the 5.4l was the Triton with the decidedly more mixed reputation, to put it generously.

rctothefuture
rctothefuture
3 months ago
Reply to  VanGuy

5.4’s and 4.6’s with the 2 valve like to shoot plugs out the head, I believe it’s a mixture of aluminum and short threads. The 3 valve likes to break the spark plug off in the head. So really you pick your poison

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
3 months ago
Reply to  rctothefuture

Ford eventually added more threads to the plugs, but I feel I got lucky that my Mustang didn’t have any ejection issues prior to that.

72
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x