Junkyard Classics: Panther Scavenger Hunt!

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My Lincoln Town Car has been doing very well in the near-year I’ve had it, but shortly after purchase, I noticed one of the trim pieces covering the seat frame was missing. Rather than go to the dealer and spend anywhere from $10 to $25 for a piece of plastic, I decided I would first check out the local junkyard. After all, Panthers are not exactly rare, so this should be a relatively simple task, right? Well, yes and no.

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I’ve been going to this yard for a long time, but the last time I’d actually been here was probably 2010-2011. The first car that prompted me to record it was this 1985-86 Mercury Cougar. Looking through the windshield, it appears to have the center brake light, but I am not certain as I didn’t take a picture of the back.

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Inside it appeared well-optioned, but not loaded, with an analog clock instead of digital, and no leather seats.

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I found this little consolette interesting. It contains power seat, power mirror and power window switches, but apparently a power passenger seat was not ordered. It doesn’t seem to make for a great armrest, though!

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Next up was this 1992 Town Car Executive Series. This one was a bit sad. Yes, it is not immaculate, but the medium blue paint was rather sharp.

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Especially combined with what appeared to be Opal leather seating. The off-white looked really nice with the metallic blue!

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As an Executive, it had vertical pleating on the seats instead of the Signature’s floating-pillow style, and this one also had an analog speedometer in lieu of digital readouts.

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For some reason the headliner was torn, but what I could see of the rear seat looked pretty fair. It could’ve made a nice couch in some guy’s man-cave.

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I guess nobody wanted her. Sad.

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Sadder yet was totally rust-free rear wheel arches. Nearly every 1990-97 TC around here, with the exception of garage queens, will have rust here. A little, or a lot, or totally missing arches, depending on whether the car is on its third, fifth or eighth owner.

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Clean on the opposite side, too! Too bad.

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I was eyeballing the trim piece on the seat of this one. It looked like it might work, but I dismissed it, as this was an earlier body style. Plus, the clerk out front told me they had a 1998 Town Car Signature–same bodystyle as my car.

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This 1986 Tempo was surprising to see. I remember when I was five or six and at a friend’s house, her next-door neighbors came home in their brand-new black Tempo. It looked very nice to me, and was the first one I saw with the updated “aero” headlamps and small grille. I probably have seen 1986-88 Tempos since then, but I really can’t recall any specific sightings!

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This one had what I assume to be a five-speed, too!

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And there was a SHO. This one looks to be a 1992-95, with the updated body and smoother nose.

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Most of the car was still there. I thought about getting the SHO dash emblem, but it was just gray plastic and not really exciting.

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It looked like most of the engine was there as well. From what I’ve read, these engines were so right when running well, but so wrong when things began to, well, go wrong! I suspect the engine and some four-figure bill put this example in the yard.

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Finally, I spotted the Town Car (my first view of it was used as the top picture of this article). Uh oh. It’s black. My car has a Light Parchment interior. Is that a black interior?

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Yes. Yes it was! It looked like somebody needed a fender, as they tore most of the bumper cover off to get it! The hood was not attached either. I briefly looked at the grille header on top of the hood as mine has a small ding in it, but this one was worse than the one on my car.

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It was odd crawling around a car that I remember seeing new in the dealer showrooms, and one of which I owned as a near-mint copy. This one was a 1998, the first year of the “Cheshire Cat” grilled Town Cars, which ran through 2002.

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Apparently 1998s were very nickel-and-dimed. First year models had no keyless entry with that little keypad above the exterior door handle. And know the little storage spaces built into the armrest? On the ’98s the passenger side one was a dummy! It was molded to look like it opened, but it didn’t. When I first heard about this, I had to rush over to my Town Car when I got home and check to see if its passenger-side storage was real. It was, thank goodness! Apparently customers complained about both cheap-outs, and the two features were rather hurriedly added to later model years.

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There were still plenty of trim bits on this car, but as my car is in excellent condition, there weren’t really many spares I needed. Plus, about 90% of the parts were the wrong color.

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This one was a Signature, which was the mid-level model. Excecutive was the standard version, and of course, the Cartier the top of the line.

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The cruise control pod and radio were gone, and someone took the lid for the driver’s side storage bin, but most of the interior was still there. And what’s the deal with those aftermarket steering wheel covers? Even if the original leather-wrapped wheel was getting worn, this JC Whitney special didn’t look very comfortable. And are there any steering wheel covers that look good?! Oh yes, the stitch up ones were pretty nice–so of course they don’t make them any more…

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This car did not have the heated seat switches my car had. They would normally be right by the power seat switch on the door.

This car had the trim piece I was looking for, but of course it was the wrong color. I could’ve maybe painted it an approximate color, but didn’t really want to.

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I had passed several Grand Marquises of similar vintage on the way in (the car I wanted was literally in the LAST row at the end of the yard–of course!), so marched off to check them for the piece I needed. First car: gone. Second car: gone. Third car: all scratched up, no thanks. Then I checked a couple earlier Grand Marquises. No joy. So, what’s left? Check out the older Town Cars! Like this 1992.

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Fun fact: 1992 was the last year you could get the classic “Turbine” alloy wheels on a new Town Car. These wheels had a long run, first appearing on the 1977 Continental Mark V and Continental/Town Car/Town Coupé. This car still had all four, but they looked a little worse for wear.

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While silver is far from my favorite color, I like it quite a bit when it is paired with a red interior. This ’92 Executive Series must have cut quite a figure at the country club when new, with this great color combination and those lovely Turbine shoes.

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And yes, the power window regulators on these cars can tend to be weak, judging from the removed door panels on this car.

Ultimately, I took the wrong-color part off the 1998 TC, went back to the blue 1992 TC, test-fitted the ’98 part on the ’92 seat frame, and voila! It worked! So I got the ’92 trim bit, as its Opal interior closely matched my Light Parchment trim, put the other part back on the other car, and that was that! But let’s keep looking around.

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This was the second to the oldest Panther in the yard, a 1989 Town Car, This one had all four of the lacy-spoke alloy wheels in the trunk, and they were in far better condition than the Turbines on the 1992. There were even two of the center caps! By the way, the oldest Panther was a black 1986 Town Car with dark red leather. I didn’t get any pictures of that one.

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The inside was a bit rough. This was a standard Town Car, not a Signature or Cartier. It didn’t even have a digital dash, though it was sporting the coach roof instead of the standard full vinyl roof and the aforementioned alloy wheels.

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There was a Wade Gustafson Edition Ninety-Eight Regency as well. A 1990 model, the last year of the 1985 generation C-body. Other than the rust in the wheel arches, it looked like it was in reasonable shape before it went across the scales.

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The leather seats still looked serviceable. But there’s another terrible aftermarket steering wheel cover. Is that an indicator that an old car’s time is almost up?

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This one looked well-equipped with leather, the radio controls build into the steering wheel, and Dimensional sound. Whatever that is!

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A slightly older Olds was a ways down, a 1981 Delta 88 Royale Brougham.

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In white with Jadestone interior, this car reminded me of a car that friends of my parents owned when I was a kid.

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Theirs was an ’82 non-Brougham Royale coupe, in Dark Jadestone with Light Jadestone landau roof, this color interior (but not so baroque), and color-keyed Super Stock wheels with the “starfish” center caps.

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And…it was a Diesel! Yes! But they took good care of it and drove it for at least ten years–they bought it new. I remember the sound of that diesel Olds very, very well, though I haven’t heard one in years.

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The interior was all there too, right down to the factory Delco radio.

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Some rust was present, but not too bad for an ’81. I suspect this car was garaged for a long time, as even the vinyl roof looked decent.

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I was a local car from new, as Vincent J. Neu was the big Olds-only dealer across the river in Davenport for years. I remember their ’80s jingle well, which to the best of my recollection, went, “V.J. Neu, ooh, it’s new, Oldsmobile!” I’m not kidding.

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This might have been the only ’70s car in the yard, a 1979 Eldorado coupe. This one made me sad, as it had a collector vehicle plate on it.

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At first I thought I had a real rarity upon seeing those fuel injection plaques, but upon reviewing the ’79 brochure later, learned all 1979 Eldorados had it. For a time in the mid-’70s, fuel injection on the Eldo, de Villes and Fleetwoods was a rare and pricey option.

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This was not a Biarritz, but was still very plush inside, and the triple red color scheme looked great. Ah, FINALLY! A steering wheel cover I like…

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While not the top of the line, this car did have an Astroroof. These were not super common even on Cadillacs at the time, as it was a pretty expensive option back then. Kind of hard to believe now, when most much everything on the market can now can be had with them.

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Looks like someone wanted something behind the dash, as the air vents and center trim panel were still there–just on the floor.

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This made me sad. Guess there were no takers. I wonder if it ran?

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This could be why there were no buyers; that is pretty serious rust. I can just imagine the metal being eaten away, then water getting into the trunk and eating that metal away…

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Whoever had this car went a little overboard with badging, as there were many more chrome scripts and wreath-and-crests than would have been installed on the car when it came off the line in Linden, NJ back in 1979.

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While rusty, that interior looked rather nice, and could be reused. How about a red Sierra-grain leather couch for your garage?

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Back seat was nice too. And see what I mean about the extra emblems?

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I never noticed the chrome strakes on the taillights of these cars before. A 1979-only feature?

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Moving forward about twenty years was this Seville. Not an STS, as it has the chrome side trim instead of the color-keyed ones.

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Someone wanted that radio! And ANOTHER ugly steering wheel cover. Bleah!

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Someone had been going through the engine for parts. Or perhaps the last owner was tinkering with it and got in over his head?

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There was something strangely artsy about that exposed valvetrain, with water from the previous night’s rain glistening off of it. Junkyard art?

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Someone wore that driver’s seat out, not to mention the shifter handle. Could it have been Mr. Goodwrench?

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There was a W-body Regal GS in attendance. With the inclusion of this Regal in this article, I expect at least 25% more comments than if I left it out!

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I always liked the look of these Regal instrument panels. Brougham meets Star Trek. Brougham Trek?

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There was even a Reatta. This one must have been a looker new, in black with burgundy leather.

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The seats and carpet were in nice shape, but someone had already made off with the HVAC controls and the VIC.

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These cars were essentially hand-built, and I could tell in the quality of assembly, even in a junkyard example such as this. That horn button was wrapped in genuine leather. And not just the actual button–the whole steering wheel boss. I must admit I went back a couple weeks later and snagged this for my collection. I just really liked it! Now it sits on my desk at home.

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How about a ’70s S-Class? This 280SE was largely complete.

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Including the interior. This one had MB-Tex instead of leather, but as with most Mercedes-Benz interiors, it was very logical, and assembled to a very high standard. The slab of wood–real, not plastic–was a nice touch of class too.

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I’m guessing something under the hood, or maybe something electrical, went kerflooey, and the part was just too dear to get. Too bad, as Mercedes makes virtually everything you need to keep this car running. But if you can’t afford it, it doesn’t do you much good. But if that’s the case, why buy a thirty-five year old German luxury car?

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Here’s something you don’t see every day: Two Eagle Visions. The second one is beyond the rear door of the gray one.

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This old CJ-5 Jeep got my vote as the most thoroughly worn-out car in the yard. Doesn’t look to be much left of it. And that paint? I’m guessing a respray in the late ’80s early ’90s, pastel colors like teal green and turquoise made a brief resurgence.

All in all, it was a fruitful trip. Best of all? These little seat frame trim covers are apparently not a high demand item. When I came up to the counter with it (and a Town Car fender emblem off the same ’92, just because), the clerk just said don’t worry about it. Cool!

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