(first posted 9/9/2014) Coming upon an early Panther-based Ford LTD Crown Victoria is pretty rare out here in Rustopia. Most of the ones that got inherited after Grandpa passed away were used up long ago and sent to the Great Junkyard Beyond. But here’s this one, looking mighty good given that it’s hovering around 30 years old. What I liked most about this Panther was that it was just purchased (evidenced by the temporary plate) and that the new owner wasted no time tricking out the interior in her favorite Japanese kawaii character.
The incongruousness of it all really appeals to me: a stalwart, leviathan American rear-wheel-drive automobile in menacing black paint with a wonky padded black cloth (I think) top, bedecked inside with color-keyed Hello Kitty accoutrement. Who knew that you could get Hello Kitty floor mats and steering wheel covers? I sure didn’t. But serious props to the quirky young woman who owns this car for unapologetically marching to the beat of her own drummer. Is it sexist of me to assume that a woman owns this Crown Vic? Probably.
That this car is clearly a survivor raises its Curbside Classic cred even further. It made me really want to talk to this car’s owner about her new ride. Would it have been creepy of me to hang around this car waiting? Definitely.
So I took my photographs quickly and moved on, wondering all the while about this big Ford’s model year. Ford facelifted its LTD a little for 1983 and tacked on the Crown Victoria name, and then left the car pretty much alone cosmetically until 1988. This one’s no newer than 1985 given that it lacks a brake light in the rear window.
I was a teenager when these LTD Crown Vics were new. They looked like rolling anachronisms to me, selling primarily to people I judged as clinging desperately to an automotive era gone by. Front-wheel-drive compacts and mid-sizers was where it was at, baby. Or at least where it was definitely going. And so I barely paid attention to full-size cars, to the point of not recalling ever having noticed a Crown Vic with that cloth roof before. The vinyl half-roof had to be much more common. But look, here’s that cloth roof on the cover of the 1986 Crown Vic brochure.
I think this car looks better with those faux wire wheels, as they befit the roof’s elegance. But elegance probably had little to do with why this old LTD Crown Vic became someone’s Hello Kitty ride. Its very survival has made it distinctive and, therefore, desirable among a certain demographic. Just check out how this car looks to be twice as long as the Chevy Venture parked next to it. My twenty-years-newer Ford Focus would look like a clown car next to this big Ford.
I’ll admit it: even though I spent no time thinking about these cars when they were new, I wouldn’t have minded becoming this car’s next steward today. But it looks like it landed in good hands.