My wife remembers events by what she wore. I, on the other hand, tend to remember what I drove to said events. Certainly our 2001 Ford Crown Victoria was the car we drove to many monumental and life-altering events in the nearly seven years we owned it. That reason alone is why I was so fond of the car when I owned it–and also why I am so ambivalent about it today.
We found it in May of 2005; actually, it was my father-in-law who found it. Knowing we were looking for a good solid second car for a cheap price, he’d spotted an ad for the Crown Vic in the St. Louis Post Dispatch and bought it, suspecting that I’d want it. Luckily for him, I did.
She had a mere 77,000 miles on her at the time. Although the purpose for which the car was built is quite obvious, the owner claimed to have been able to purchase it new. Sure, okay. It did have a few quirks about it, such as cloth front seats and a vinyl rear seat, but that worked out great since we had a three-year-old child at the time. I can understand why they’re made this way–any kind of spill can be hosed right off. In fact, more cars need to be built this way.
In retrospect, its history really didn’t matter. What did was what the Crown would ultimately provide for us.
This past April Fool’s Day, I claimed to have needed to make serious psychological adjustments when I turned 40 the previous fall. In actuality, I was rather happy to have done so, as my thirties were permeated with annoying health issues for my wife and myself. It is in this regard that the Crown Vic really stood out. Look at those front seats: Without a console (is there a law mandating those dumb things?), it’s possible to truly stretch out while riding shotgun. What a boon that was!
I had to have my annual upper endoscopy a few months after purchasing the car. Those are really a snap; I simply quit eating and drinking at 8:00 pm the night before. The next morning I get up, go to the hospital with a driver, get my torso wallpapered with electrodes (shaving is optional, but recommended) and get knocked out. It’s no big whoop–usually, that is. Once in a while, I do have some terrific side affects from the anesthesia, including the spewing all sorts of colorful words, phrases, and questions from my mouth. I’m told it’s great entertainment, but I remember none of it.
That year, my father-in-law, Tim, drove me there. He and I have a great relationship and will say pretty much anything to each other.
Tim claims I was in rare form that year; thankfully, he does have a great sense of humor. After the orderly wheeled me outside where Tim was waiting in the Crown Vic, I waited five minutes before this particular line of questioning took place (I’m told I also had similar questions for the nurse):
Me: “Hey, you’re 68, aren’t you?”
Tim: “No, I’m 67.”
Me: “Oh, okay, 67…hey, does everything still work?”
Tim: “What do you mean?”
Me: “You know, does everything still work like it should?”
I vaguely remember this part. Tim was merging onto I-270; having been a cab driver in the late ’60s, he still knows how to merge onto a busy interstate quite effectively. The Crown Vic’s 4.6-liter V8 was wound up pretty tight and singing its addictive overhead-cam song.
Tim: “Jason, I’m 67; I’m not dead. Let me tell you something…when that thing isn’t pointed at the floor, it will pull my fucking eye lids shut!!!”
Me: “That’s awesome! Man, that’s great. I bet Barb’s happy, too – she does smile a lot. I’m happy for you!”
If only all such trips had been so carefree. In addition to several more upper endoscopies (I’m ready to go for #14), the Crown would also ferry me back home after two major abdominal surgeries. Then it was my wife’s turn.
In late 2008, my wife suddenly became too dizzy to drive. A few doctor visits later, a specialist in Kansas City found the problem. The surgical cure required frequent follow-up visits due to the rarity of her ailment. Kansas City was on the other side of the state, and we nearly always took the Crown Vic. Unlike the Ford Taurus we also owned, the Crown actually allowed her to stretch out. Yes, small cars are dandy, but there will always be a need for large ones.
On one trip to Kansas City it began raining quite hard. On I-70, nine miles west of Columbia, Missouri (roughly the half-way point), the car died. As luck and good fortune would have it, it was at an interchange, so I eased off the road and coasted underneath the bridge. In a few moments the car would start. After we’d found a safe place to park, my wife became worried about how we’d get to Kansas City. I picked up the cell phone, contacted Enterprise Car Rental in Columbia, Missouri, and you know what? Enterprise will come out and pick up your sorry, stranded ass!
However, they arrived in a Nissan Versa about the size of a coffee table. I immediately asked for something more substantial but sadly, they had no Crown Vics in stock.
That wound up being the worst problem I ever had with the Crown. After digging into the matter, I learned that the crankshaft position sensor, which is nestled into the bottom of the engine, behind the air conditioning compressor, had two wires that were shorting out when they got wet.
It was this car that inspired my article on Ford’s 4.6-liter V8 (here)–a great engine that really sings when hooked to the right gearing. My Crown Vic had 3.27:1 gears out back, and the 4.6 is much happier with these than with the 2.73:1 axle in the retail Crown Vics.
All these pictures were taken when I was preparing to sell the car in May of 2011. Soon after taking these pictures, the plastic intake manifold failed. For the most part, the job of changing the intake was straightforward–except that one should never cut fuel lines under the hood. That is a huge no-no, as I quickly discovered. Thinking the lines between the two fuel rails were simply made of rubber, I cut them to get them out of the way. In fact, they were steel lines that had been covered with a rubber veneer, and so I successfully ruined the fuel rail and crossover set-up. Thankfully, about 30 minutes online and $40 netted me one from a junker.
It’s tough to sit down and try to recapture the memories involving a car you have owned for a long period of time. The exercise triggers many snippets in your past that otherwise would have been lost to time and brain clutter. When I began writing this, I had completely forgotten how good this car was in snow. I had also forgotten about the drive-thru animal park where critters scratched the dickens out of the passenger-side front door. I had forgotten about how Tim and I changed out the rear axle due to a bad pinion gear, and a trip to Wisconsin when a four-year-old ate 12 ounces of cheese curds in about five minutes. Or the cooler that drained in a trunk filled with luggage. And the small crack in the door panel caused by resting my knee against it.
The memories keep rising to the surface; oddly, though, I don’t remember what I was wearing in any one of them.