COAL: 2001 Ford Crown Victoria – General Hospital

This Crown Victoria is only included by default.  I’ve covered it before, in a piece that has a few medical related parallels.  Given it received coverage over nine years ago, and it hauling my posterior to various medical facilities is still one of my bigger memories I have about the car, it’s a bit telling.

Such is life.

Knowing Marie and I were looking for another car, my father-in-law (he of the keen automotive nose) found this Ford in May 2005.  The downside, if you want to call it that, is I strongly suspect he was given a line of complete hogwash about the car’s history.

Why?  The seller, a gentleman in his mid-70s, claimed he had purchased it new via connections claiming it had never been marked, used as his personal car, etc.  Sure, whatever.  However, fluorescent light from a Dairy Queen one night showed the outline of where the car had had decals down the side.  Whoever removed them did a great, but not perfect, job.

But that is all in the past and utterly irrelevant.  What is relevant is how in 60,000 miles of ownership this Crown Vic became the de facto transport mobile for the various medical issues my wife and I endured.

For whatever reasons, our thirties were not good to us from a medical standpoint.  In fact, I was ecstatic to turn forty as it figuratively put the issues behind us.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

When Marie and I were transitioning to St. Joseph in 2001, I was there during the week while she was wrapping up things at our place in Cape Girardeau.  One day, as I was out and about, I stopped at the McDonald’s in the little town of Rock Port in the very northwest corner of Missouri.

Rock Port has a population of 1,278 as of the last census in 2020.  In 2008 Rock Port was able to establish itself as being the first town in the United States to be powered exclusively with wind turbines.  Wind turbines are a big thing in Northwest Missouri as the wind always seems to be blowing.  Of course, the terrain helps.  I once heard a joke that a westward facing ant farting in Central Nebraska could be felt in Northwest Missouri as there are no hills to stop the wind.

That’s just one of several state jokes I’ve heard.  Another is why all the trees in the northern tier of Missouri counties curve to the north and another old favorite is about the Missouri General Assembly deeding the Bootheel to Arkansas.  Of course the punchlines are not very nice; if you’ve heard them, that is good.  If you haven’t, I shall keep you in suspense.

No doubt there are unflattering jokes about the other 47 states.

I digress.

Driving back south on I-29 toward St. Joseph, I was partaking of a McDonalds’s quarter pounder with fries, all washed down with a tub of delicious Coca-Cola.  About half-way in my seventy mile trip back to St. Joseph I started having trouble breathing.  It wasn’t reflux, and eating as such was (sadly) not unusual for me at the time, but I had what felt like a knot in the middle of my chest right below my sternum.  A heart issue crossed my mind, but I was only 28; I attributed the episode to stress from the move, a move I was having second thoughts about despite having already committed to it.

A few years later such episodes were still happening on occasion, with stress still receiving the blame; when Eileen was about two, a really bad episode hit on a Sunday .  It was so bad Marie took me to the hospital; when staff sprayed nitroglycerin into my mouth, the pain immediately went away.  That was an attention-getter.  It earned me the honor of spending the night in the hospital and having a stress test the next morning.

What was it?  It was not my heart so much as a sneak preview for what a large portion of my thirties would look like.

In 2007, when I had my reflux surgery as mentioned in the Taurus COAL, it was the Crown Vic that drove me back home to Hannibal from St. Louis.  The front seat had lots of room to stretch out, which works out great when one is drugged off their gourd on pain medications.

In 2009, it was Marie’s turn.  One day she was in the Taurus coming back from nearby Quincy, Illinois.  That evening she said the road was moving back and forth on her and she did not feel confident driving until it was diagnosed.

After a few trips to a specialist in Kansas City, most of which were in the Crown Vic as its behavior was generally more predictable than that of our Taurus, she had corrective surgery on her ear.  Since she was now the one who was drugged up, she was the one who was able to stretch out in the front seat.

She got two more similar opportunities in the next few months due to other issues.

However, this Crown Victoria did serve in other capacities other than playing a supporting role in our own personal general hospital.

Speaking of general hospitals, another story about this Crown Vic springs to mind as elements of this story could have led to a visit to the closest general hospital.

This is over two acres of fireworks under one roof. It’s located just south of Hannibal.

It is only somewhat joking when I say we Missourians are avid practitioners of Darwinism.  Case in point?  Fireworks here are not only legal, but we have mega-outlets selling all varieties fifty-two weeks of the year, often with a “Buy 1, Get 10 Free!!!” special.  The time around July 4, Independence Day, brings about all manner of tents and other temporary fireworks stores.  Most towns have ordinances against blasting fireworks within the city limits but there is a wee bit of a difference between making a rule and enforcing it.  Thus, enforcement often isn’t a thing as the cops generally seem to have other priorities.

Our house is indicated; said neighbors were in the house marked 1915. Property belonging to the Department of Mental Health is seen on the lower right.

That first year after getting the Crown Vic, so this would have been July 2005, our neighbors behind us and across a large open area were blasting the hell out of their fireworks every night.  There was a rather large area between our house and theirs, which faced a different street, and they made use of their large lot.  I had tired of finding the remnants of bottle rockets in my parched yard and on the roof of my house.

A day or so before July 4, they started blasting right before dusk.  Giving them a little time, I backed that Crown Vic out of the garage with the lights off, drove to the west edge of lot, and pulled over the curb.  I then aimed the spotlight their direction before blasting them with about 10,000,000 candlepower of light.  Those kids scurried away like rats off a sinking ship and never did I hear anymore fireworks from them.  It was great.

At that point in time we had two sedans.  In a sense it was a pretty good combination yet the downside was the ongoing confusion with insurance.  It seems having two cars having the same brand and model year creates confusion for insurance carriers.  They were two different models of cars, how hard could it be?

Well, I knew from prior experience as this was the second time it had happened.  For the first few years after we got married, Marie and I had a 1996 Ford Thunderbird and Escort simultaneously.  I’m hoping to avoid a duplicate model year reoccurrence in the future.

Having these two did give us nice flexibility.  Does one car need gas?  Well, let’s just take the other one.  It wasn’t like there was any profound fuel mileage difference.  There was a holder for a child seat in the back of each car, so it was a great situation.

With that setup Marie drove the Taurus primarily while I drove the Crown Vic.  Which reminds me…I did have to give this Crown Vic a short stay in the figurative automotive general hospital.

Shortly after purchase, it starting making a weird noise in the rear – or maybe I started to notice it.  It seems the pinion gear in the rear axle was retiring for whatever reason, something I was not real thrilled about.  Ford had a 30,000 mile service interval on the differentials of heavy-duty Crown Vics, so given the noise I figured nobody had ever serviced it.

The repair estimate was around $800.  In turn, a few calls to salvage yards netted me a rear axle from a Grand Marquis with 50,000 fewer miles and the same 3.27:1 gear ratio for only $400.

Taking everything to my father-in-law’s house, my brother-in-law (a mechanic) showed up just as we were getting started.  Replacement of the rear axle did not take long and that Ford was amazingly quiet afterwards.  The pinion gear had been worse than I thought.

Even with the replacement rear axle, this Crown Vic was deceptively good in snow.

Don’t get me wrong; it wasn’t perfect but neither was it the helpless pig some might think due to its being rear drive.  One just had to be slow and steady.

One day it was snowing like crazy while Eileen was in kindergarten at a parochial school in Hannibal.  Marie had called and asked me to get Eileen after school.  Timing rarely worked out for such things so I was happy to do it.

Going to downtown Hannibal, I parked in the parent line to retrieve Eileen.  Looping back around the block to head back toward the house, I got stopped at a signal.  This particular intersection was where I needed to turn left, with my path being up a slight incline the entire way.

As I was awaiting a green light, I looked in the rear view mirror and could see an impatient mother of another child behind me.  She was in an SUV of some variety.

Taking off from a dead stop like your butt is on fire is rather foolish in a snow storm.  Further, the slow and steady I mentioned about driving the Crown Vic in snow meant just that – take off slow and steady.  One could gently nudge their speed upward once moving but anything else was wasted effort.

When my light turned green I carefully turned left up the incline.  The female behind me didn’t appreciate this and was riding my ass like a mad ex-wife.  All I could see was her grille as she was that close.

She appeared to need a polite reminder that not everyone had a vehicle that could navigate every situation like a mountain goat.

Thus I mashed my accelerator two-thirds of the way to the floor.  I had enough experience with that delightful Ford to know what to expect and it worked like a charm.

All that snow I was driving through was slung all over her windshield and the front of her vehicle.  That Crown Vic did not go sideways, it simply dug in as best it could.  She got close a second time and got a second reminder.

Not that I advocate such things, but it wasn’t like I could walk up to her window and say her behavior was not nice.

Age has mellowed me…somewhat.

Found on the web

Of all the positive traits this Ford had, the one I liked the most was its easily accessible and copiously sized trunk.  The mail-slot trunk openings on current sedans are somewhere between sarcasm and vindictiveness.

The longest trip we took in this Ford was from St. Joseph to somewhere up in Wisconsin when Eileen was three or four and during the time we were trying to determine the cause of the oil light flickering in our 2001 Taurus.  We had two large coolers and an obscene amount of luggage, all of which easily fit into the trunk.

The only real downside was since the trunk could accommodate so much, it made it difficult for me to see I had inadvertently popped open the drain plug on one of the coolers and it was draining itself onto the trunk floor all afternoon.  Better, the shape of the trunk was such all the water was able to pool toward the rear of the trunk (front of the car) and it got rather deep.

However I could place everything we needed with room to spare.

This Ford is the car I used to commute when moving from St. Joseph to Hannibal in late 2006 and again five years later when moving from Hannibal to Jefferson City.  By the time I moved to Jefferson City, the old Crown Vic was eleven years old and had around 135,000 miles.

That number of miles on its 4.6 liter engine really wasn’t that much.  The car was highly reliable and ran as great as it ever had.  However, given the car’s prior life in service and it living in two of the more snow intensive areas of Missouri, rust had developed on the bottoms of the rocker panels. Rust is where I draw the line; perhaps it is an arbitrary line for me or perhaps it is due to having grown up as far south as I did.  It could be argued either way.

Regardless, in January 2012 I sold my Crown Victoria.  A guy bought it for his parents as he was aggravated they were still driving their old Buick LeSabre that had over 350,000 miles on the odometer.

I saw the car a few times after that as the parents lived in a house facing I-44 near the town of Buckhorn, just west of the Army’s Ft. Leonard Wood.  Suddenly one day the old Crown Vic was no longer parked there but I did later see it being driven by a young guy in nearby St. Robert.

That was the last I ever saw of that Ford.  It was a throughly good car that ran and drove beautifully.  It also was the best example of why I appreciate police package cars – they are big, have lots of room, and drive far better than what people realize.  Plus the entry price is quite reasonable.

It was a great representative for what it was.  While I don’t really miss it, I certainly enjoyed my time with it.

(Author’s Note:  General Hospital premiered April 1, 1963, on ABC and is still in production.  It is the second longest running daytime drama in American television history and the longest running series ever on ABC.)