Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Panther platform problem, what should be done?

Ford's Panther platform is the base for the Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marqui and Marauder and Lincoln Town Car. The current chassis originates with the 1979 model year and while it's been updated and improved some over the years, it's not very competative in today's market. The large rear wheel drive flagships for each of FoMoCo's divisions have been allowed to become dated and obsolete. While still capable and solid chassis, they don't compare to competitors from Cadilac and Chrysler, never mind the European rear wheel drive luxury offerings.
Each version has had it's purpose, the Ford Crown Victoria being a staple for Police and Taxi fleets, the Grand Marquis being a favorite of retirees and the Town Car being the Limo and Car Service favorite. But even in those markets, Ford is facing increasing competition and pressure. In recent years, there have been lawsuits involving Police Cruisers that have exploded in high speed crashes. A dangerous paralel between this and the well known Pinto case from the 70's, and Ford again knows what the fix is. So what can be done to save this segment for Ford?
Well, I've said it before, Ford makes another full size rear wheel drive chassis that should be pressed into service. The Australian Ford Falcon/Fairmont/LTD is a range of rear wheel drive sedans, wagons, crossovers and utes ( Ranchero type car based truck) designed and manufactured by Ford of Australia. The names will immediately be familiar to Ford fans, as American nameplates from the past. While the Falcon ended it's US run in 1971, it continued and evolved down under. The Fairmont name is one used in the US during the second half of the 1970's and LTD was an iconic name for decades here in the US. Down under these later names are used to differentiate trim levels on the same chassis. The newest Aussie Falcon is a modern fully independent suspension, with it's unique Control Blade IRS setup.
There seems to be a Falcon for every job, as they are very popular for Police duty in Australia. I'm sure they could be adapted for Taxi fleets here in the US as well. With powertrains that start with 240 hp inline 6 cyl's and move up to monster 5.4L V8's and Turbo I6's that are among the most powerfull motors made. The Territory, a crossover based on Falcon mechanicals is available with all wheel drive. It's a great chassis, with flexability of powertrain and body styles.
Even the limo/car service and luxury segments would be better served with this platform. The Town Car is great for a ride to the airport, but not very presitigious or fun to drive. Lincoln was once the car to own, now it's the car to call for an airport pickup.
This handsome sophisticated sedan could revive some of that old spirit at Lincoln, the longer wheelbase LTD has limo like rear doors and comfort. Combine that with gobs of power and the IRS, and maybe just maybe Lincoln could once again compete with the likes of Mercedes and BMW.

And for those of us who feel nostaligic we could have a new Ranchero! Now I'm not saying Ford should import these cars from Australia, the realities of currency exchange and other factors would make that a loosing proposition. I'm saying import the design, or elements of the design. Build a new Panther family using many of the best parts of the Falcon, including the I6 and IRS.

1 comment:

Ben Kraal said...

Just about every taxi fleet here in Oz has been using Falcons since before 1970. Ford make (or used to) a special "taxi pack" with vinyl interior, etc.

They used to come with front bench seats, too.