The Complete "Box" Panther History
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1979 models have numerous unique features. Some of these include a V-Belt pulley drive system, a center mounted front tag, and unique roof and lighting treatments. Much of the interior trim has unique features, separating it from later years. LTD Landau models received clear parking light lenses which are highly sought after as retrofits for later models. The rear tag "bucket" was also chrome plated on LTD Landau models.
A feedback variable venturi carburetor, the Motorcraft 7200VV, was used to deliver excellent fuel mileage on models equipped with the 302 (5.0L). It used Electronic Engine Control (or EEC)-II with a microcomputer control unit (MCU) to control fuel delivery. Depending on engine and destination, the more traditional Motorcraft 2150 carburetor occasionally replaced the 7200VV, almost always on 351W (5.8L) and export units. Due to it's unique, often misunderstood design, many 7200VV carburetors have been replaced by the Motorcraft 2150 or direct replacement Holley 2-bbl models.
The Automatic Overdrive (AOD) transmission debuted as on option on the Ford and Mercury. Mercury model names remain unchanged. Sales plummeted over 100,000 units, due in part to a slump in the economy. Mercury taillights changed slightly; the previously body colored portion between the tag and the taillights was now black.
Lincoln began offering its Continental and Mark line on the new Panther Platform, resurrecting the 1958-60 practice of fielding two versions of the same basic car. While each line retained some of the styling cues of the previous models, they did not retain their big-block engines. Standard was the 302 in the new electronic fuel injection form, while the 351W was optional and still carbureted. The electronic fuel injection system (EFI) used a centrally located throttle body with two fuel injectors, looking similar to a carburetor at a glance. It was dubbed Central Fuel Injection (CFI) and used EEC-III to function. The AOD was standard on the Lincoln line. The Lincolns rode an extended 117.3 inch wheelbase, except for the two-door Mark VI which rode the same 114.3in wheelbase as the Ford/Mercury line. This was the year of the first ever four-door Mark-Series. Concealed headlamps (with auxiliary headlamps optional), unique exterior trim pieces, and distinct roof treatments set the Mark VI apart from the standard Continental. All Lincolns were produced at the Wixom, MI plant.
A standard Continental two-door could be nearly as well dressed as a Mark VI with the $1089 Town Coupe roof and $396 Turbine Spoke wheels. Standard Continentals started at just $12,555, while Signature Mark VI’s started at $20,940.
The new Signature Series Mark VI’s had the option of the $2809 Bill Blass Edition, highlighted by carriage-style white vinyl roofs, turbine spoke wheels, and “loose-pillow” leather. CB radios were available at $356. Electronic Instrumentation could be deleted for a $707 credit. Pucci, Bill Blass, Cartier, and Givenchy designer models were also available.
The optional electronic instrumentation on the Lincoln models included a trip computer. This computer calculated fuel economy, average speed, and distance traveled. The Ford and Mercury cars would receive a similar computer in 1982.
This year was possibly the last time Ford literature referred to the high-performance of a Panther-Platform car. This was the only year when a LTD and V8 Mustang race would be equal, each pulling 0-60 in just over 10 seconds. The weight difference was made up by the LTD’s 351W, while the Mustang (Cobras included) made do with either a 255 (4.2L) V8 or turbocharged 2.3L. The end of the LTD performance was soon to be at hand, while the beginning of Mustang performance was just beyond the horizon.
On the Ford and Mercury, integrated aerodynamic side mirrors were replaced by traditionally mounted units. The Colony Park lost its fender vents, other Mercury models would continue with them for another year. The front bumpers were changed to eliminate the air ports across the model line, except for the Continental Mark VI.
Lincoln changed it’s naming system to avoid confusion this year. The standard Continental became the Town Car and the Continental lived on in the Continental Mark VI. On the Mark VI model, Bill Blass, Cartier, and Givenchy packages could have been added for the sum of $2160 to $3015. The Town Car received an updated grill without the Continental nomenclature attached. Signature Mark VI’s continued to receive special features not available on other Lincolns. Signature-Series Town Cars appeared for the first time as well, but they did not get the special amenities of the Signature Mark’s.
There is confirmation of Mercury offering a police-prep package until this point. 1980 and 1981 versions have surfaced. The unique part different from the Ford police package is the speedometer, listed under part number E1MY-17255-C; applications are listed from 1980-82.
The LTD speedometer also changed – the previously orange needle and secondary speed numerals changed colors: the speedometer needle went to white and the secondary numerals to blue. This scheme would be used through 1987.
In the drivetrain department, the 351W was now standard in the police models, but unavailable to the general public except for those living outside the U.S. To meet the tightening federal fuel economy requirements, the 255 was tuned to deliver 18 city/26 highway MPG. The 7.5 rear axle was deleted from the line, with the previously optional 8.5 becoming standard. The ratios available were 2.47, 2.73, 3.08, and 3.42. The AOD became standard equipment on all models.
In 1982, the entire Ford line was reintroduced to the traditional Ford Blue Oval, making its way onto the LTD’s grille and trunk lid. 1982 LTD’s have a unique grille. It was basically identical to the previous year’s, but with the addition of the blue oval. Strangely, the blue oval didn’t make it to the center of the steering wheel until 1983. Mercury cars lost their fender vents; the Mark VI kept its vents and would continue to keep them until its demise.
Light blue and green interiors were no longer available. This was the last year of white leather with red, blue, or tan appointments on the LTD Crown Victoria.
The two-door Lincoln Town Coupe was cancelled, but the two-door Lincoln lived on in the Mark VI. Designer Lincoln models were now considered separate models, with Pucci being added to the Mark and Cartier being applied to the Town Car.
Also of interest, the Continental name was applied to a modified Fox platform and no longer based on the Panther platform.
The 255 V8 was dropped, the venerable 302 again returned as standard equipment across the Panther line. Central Fuel Injection (CFI) replaced the infamous Variable Venturi Carburetor as standard equipment on the Ford and Mercury Panther lines in the US. In other markets such as Canada, the carburetor continued on. An “eggcrate” grille was now standard in the Crown Victoria line, while the Grand Marquis also received a revised grille. Taillights were changed on both Crown Victoria and Grand Marquis models; Crown Victoria’s no longer had LTD in the taillights, the Grand Marquis eliminated black-out panels between the tag and taillights.
Inside, vinyl steering wheels replaced hard plastic ones. The aluminum decorative trim located on the sides of the front seats was deleted. The premium sound amplifiers moved to the trunk from the center of the dash.
Ford had now recovered almost all tooling costs for anything based on the Panther platform and each unit that rolled out the door was highly profitable.
Gas-Pressurized shocks became standard in the Lincoln Town Car.
The Mark VII series began. Based on a Fox platform, it replaced the Panther platform-based Mark VI. The Town Car was now the only “Big” Lincoln, with standard, Cartier, and Signature trims available.
Horn buttons were moved from the turn signal switch to the center of the steering wheel for all models of Panthers. Steering wheel mounting was changed, although mostly invisible to the average person. Ford and Mercury received gas-pressurized shocks as standard equipment. Self-Leveling rear suspension also showed itself for the first time in the Ford and Mercury stables.
The radio line was revamped. All radios now fit into a single, smaller opening. Analog radios were adjusted to fit this opening and electronic units were downsized. The 8-Track and CB were no longer options. A twelve speaker, 140-watt JBL premium sound system was available in the Town Car, with CD player being optional on top of that.
Climate Control faces were modified appearance wise this year. Wagons received an anodized aluminum front bumper to go with the anodized rear bumper the wagons had carried since production began. "Automatic Overdrive" or "Electronic Fuel Injection" emblems were removed from the lower front fenders. A federally mandated third brake light was added to all Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln vehicles very late in the model year.
Lincoln slightly revised the exterior styling slightly. Corners were basically rounded for what was then deemed an “aero” look. “Waffle” grilles replaced the previous “Waterfall.” Uplevel Signature and Cartier models now come standard with premium sound systems, illuminated entry, and power mirrors. Carpet inside the cabin also became thicker.
Roller camshafts and lifters (and compatible blocks) replaced flat-tappet versions in the 5.0L, although the technical specs of the camshaft remained the same.
The Throttle Valve linkage to the transmission used a unique, one year only design. This design is said to be a better design than that of the 1987-1991 models (which commonly have issues with the grommet breaking at the throttle body, quickly resulting in transmission damage).
Beginning this year, especially on models bound for California, a yellow "Check Engine" light appeared on the instrument cluster, replacing the "Check Oil" light. It is not common.
Lincoln achieved model year sales of over 200,000 for the first time ever and received a mild facelift consisting of a grille change.
Early in the model year, all Panther's finally received a Check Engine Light. Every 1989 Ford and Mercury Panther I have seen has had a check engine light if equipped with the 5.0L. Oddly enough, Lincoln lagged behind, as I have seen several 1989 Town Cars without the "Check Engine" light.
The 351W police/Canadian Crown Victoria’s switched “throttle valve” setups, finally moving away from the rod actuated system.
The Lincoln TC received its true “Aero” styling with a dramatic makeover. An orphan that doesn’t belong, it is the only so-called "Aero" Panther without a 4.6L powerplant.
The 351W police models still utilized their variable venturi carburetor and MCU with EEC-II technology from 1979. It is rumored that the 351W police Crown Victoria was the last American mass-produced car with a carburetor.
The true “Aero” Crown Victoria and Grand Marquis arrived mid-year with 4.6L power plants. Only a four-door sedan was offered. No more wagons, two-doors, and no more "box".