Curbside Classic: 1998 Ford Crown Victoria LX – Beginning Of The End

The recently discontinued Panther platform Ford Crown Victoria had some serious staying power. The styling of the car you see above would last all the way to 2011 with only minor changes and the same basic platform dates to the fall of 1978, when the all-new 1979 Ford LTD was introduced.

The 1979 LTD was Ford’s response to GM’s downsized 1977 full-size cars. While it had similar dimensions, the ride and handling did not quite measure up, especially if your Caprice Classic had the F41 suspension. The Variable Venturi carburetor was not very well thought out, and even after that was corrected, they just didn’t have much power.

If not for consumers’ renewed interest in big cars by the early 1980s, the LTD may have been discontinued. Indeed, the 1983 Fox body LTD, a restyled Fairmont, was initially supposed to replace the Panther version. Fortunately, Ford stuck with it, and continued to improve the car. Still, by 1986, not much had changed, though fuel injection was a welcome addition.

An ‘aero’ restyling for 1988 LTDs resulted in smoother front and rear fascias, as this 1990-91 model I posted to the Cohort shows. A new instrument panel with driver’s airbag was added for 1990 but it was clearly not that far removed from the inaugural ’79 model. With smooth, modern looking vehicles like the Thunderbird and Taurus, the CV was looking seriously dated.

Finally, in 1992 a totally rebodied Crown Victoria made its debut. The boxy look was gone for good. In addition to the styling, the ’92 had more interior space and an all-new engine, the SOHC 4.6L V8 that produced 190 hp @ 4200 rpm. Fuel economy was improved too, to 18 city/25 highway. All in all it was a very modern full-size car.

Maybe a little too modern. Ford received complaints about the Taurus-like grilleless nose, so a proper chrome grille was shoehorned in on the 1993s. A mild restyling for 1995 brought a new grille, taillights and alloy wheels. In 1998, the Crown Vic was restyled yet again, and for the last time, as it turned out.

The 1998 Crown Victoria LX now shared its roofline with the Grand Marquis, resulting in a formal C pillar instead of the rear quarter window of the ’92-’97s. A new front end got a much larger chrome grille, while the back end got a redesigned trunk lid and smaller taillights. The LX model remained the luxury version, with alloy wheels, power everything and available leather.

A modular version of the 4.6L V8 was new, producing 200 hp and 265 lb ft of torque. All 1998s got bigger brakes and 16″ wheels. While the Crown Vic would receive major chassis upgrades in 2003 with a hydroformed chassis, Ford otherwise let the car atrophy and steadily de-contented it as they chased police departments, taxi companies and rental agencies instead of private owners who appreciated the extras.

This optioned-up Crown Victoria has been in town since new. I usually see it parked downtown, but hadn’t seen it in several years. While coming out of the library the other day, I saw it and had to get a photo. Crown Victorias are still everywhere, but this LX is unique with a white vinyl cabriolet top, navy blue paint and white leather interior. I really like the way this car looks, especially the color combination. It speaks to my inner Brougham. I’m not sure when white leather stopped being an option, but I know you could get it on Town Cars through 2002. This is the only CV I’ve ever seen with the white interior. The Crown Vic made Ford a lot of money, especially after the Caprice was cancelled, and we’ll still be seeing them for years to come. Probably not too many LXs, though.