Nearly 10 years after the last Ford Crown Victoria rolled off the assembly line, San Bernardino International Airport is retiring its Crown Victoria Police Interceptors, as are many law enforcement agencies across the nation.
The Crown Vic was just one of several models built on Ford's Panther platform first introduced in 1978 ⎯ others include the LTD, Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, Lincoln Town Car, Town Car limousine, Mercury Grand Marquis and Mercury Marauder (a favorite among gearheads, due its V8 from a Mustang and a blacked-out appearance that gives it a sinister presence).
Ford produced the Panther cars for an astonishing 32 years. It’s longevity and popularity as a fleet vehicle, patrol car and taxicab made it an American icon and a significant part of what daily life in America looked like for decades.
It was the last body-on-frame, rear-wheel-drive, V8-powered American sedan. For decades these adjectives defined the American car.
These were the characteristics that made the Crown Vic tough, reliable, affordable and easy to use and abuse ⎯ the qualities that made the Crown Vics and Town Cars favorites among law enforcement officers and taxi drivers.
Advances in technology, engineering and manufacturing dated the Crown Vic, as did an increasing prioritization of size- and fuel-efficiency.
Ford’s discontinuation of the Panther signaled the close of the body-on-frame era, a consequential era in which the American auto industry led the nation to becoming a super power, defeating the Axis powers of World War II, growing the middle class and dramatically raising the nation’s standard of living.
American cars are now of unibody construction, assembled in modules and are primarily front-wheel-drive. The trucks remain body-on-frame and rear-wheel-drive, because that’s where ruggedness still counts.
When Ford announced the end of the Panther platform law enforcement agencies and taxi companies rushed to stockpile the cars.
According to the Austin American-Statesman, upon learning that Ford was discontinuing the Crown Victoria the Austin Police Department requested that the Texas city place a $4.5 million order for 176 new Crown Vic Police Interceptors. It did.
When the last Crown Vic rolled off the assembly line on Sept. 15, 2011, it was a major event that caused the St. Thomas Assembly Plant in Southwold, Ontario, Canada, to be swarmed by news organizations, not just the automotive journalists. Motor Trend, Car and Driver, Jalopink, CNN, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, NPR, Hemmings, The New York Times and many more reported on the milestone event.
That last Crown Vic was not to live life as a taxi or a patrol car, but was marked for export to Saudi Arabia.
In the end, Ford built 9.6 million cars on the Panther platform, including the 1.8 million Crown Victorias built since 1992.