Goodbye Panther platform, and the Marauder we never got
Some other sites are talking about the cancellation of Ford’s “Panther” platform (Ford Crown ‘Vic, Lincoln Town Car, and Mercury Grand Marquis), so we’ll join the party too with some high-res images of Panthers that might have been. Production is ending forever of these products and as you know they were barely updated for many years. So they are severely out-dated, their market appeal is very limited, and their production costs (especially UAW labor) are extremely high for very little return.
There isn’t any version of these cars that is of interest to Driving Enthusiasts – except of course the Crown ‘Vic Police Interceptor that some of you have seen in your rear view mirror with the lights flashing. That is those of you without V-1 radar detectors, since the battle of the municipal budgets is being fought every day on our highways and only those with the right equipment escape making a donation to the budgets of whatever speed trap you fell into.
During the Jacques Nasser years, some updates to the Panther were planned and some were experimented with in order to make time while a full size rear wheel drive platform was devised. Of course, those plans fell by the wayside as Billy Ford killed off anything and everything “Nasser” in his remake of the company in his own image. And we know what happened to the company then…
The Mercury Marauder is the highpoint of the Panther platform.
But what Ford offered for the 2003-2004 Production Marauder was just the start – further updates were planned and then cancelled.
Here is an interesting engine that was shown in a Marauder concept and then cancelled. It was intended to replace the 4v DOHC Marauder engine. It’s a 4.6 2-valve SOHC “modular”, supercharged and intercooled. Rated at 335 HP @ 5,250 rpm and 355 lb.-ft. @ 3,000 RPM. It was shown in the 2002 Chicago Auto Show show in another killed-off Marauder: a 2-door convertible prototype. The engine, as shown in the two images below, was obviously production ready and looking for a home. Click on the following two images for super high-res images where you can examine the engine in greater detail.
Here’s the most powerful engine ever offered in a production Panther platform: a 4.6 4V DOHC aluminum “modular” shared with the Mach 1 and Aviator (and note that this was *not* a Cobra engine, although it did use the 2003 Cobra heads). It made 302 HP and 318 lb-ft torque in this application (varying in output across the applications because of intake and exhaust differences). Many of the early 2003 engines have a valve clearance issue with the cylinder wall and had to be recalled (yet another completely unacceptable mod-motor engineering issue). In the 2004 Marauder, this engine was enhanced with dual knock sensors to allow more spark advance for better part-throttle response, as well as improved tuning for the transmission. Click on the image below for a super high-res image:
Speaking of the planned convertible, here’s what was shown to the public. This is a handsome car, and could have been built at minimum production cost – IF there was a market for it. That will never be known. Many more images of it are shown in the link below.
So what happened to the Marauder? It lasted two years (’03-04) and was then unceremoniously dropped. Sales were not good, safety of the base Panther platform was a very serious issue (as police users at the time discovered), Panther update or replacement plans came and went with the wind, the plans changed for the modular engine family (a supercharged 4V engine would be offered in the S197 Mustang rather than a supercharged 2V), and of course the Panther wasn’t competitive against the upcoming Chrysler LX-platform cars (300C, Magnum, and Charger). The Marauder, BTW, weighed in at only 150 pds more than the morbidly obese ’07 Shelby ‘vert – despite being 212 inches long.
For complete coverage of the 2003-2004 Marauder, follow this link: 2003-2004 Production Marauder.
Interesting side note: on a business trip to Detroit, we just happened to drive past Ford’s Experimental Engines garage. What popped out onto the street in front of us but a Marauder development car – as recognized by the large Marauder script on the rear bumper. Out came the camera we just happened to have, which the Marauder driver noticed, and away he went in full-blast acceleration. So we had an unplanned introduction to the car and the very nice engine sounds it made.
Interesting side note 2: AutoWeek featured a spy picture of a Crown Vic with a 4V engine ten years before it finally came out in the Marauder. What isnt’ known is whether or not there were plans for it then.
The Marauder was the highpoint of the Panther platform, and when it ended the Panther platform itself was dead, nearly buried, and has just been making time until it’s gone for good in 2011.
Will we ever again see a rear wheel drive 4-door platform from Ford? Here’s one concept that Ford played around with: the Ford Interceptor Concept. This is an ultra-rare image showing the independent rear and long/short-arm front suspension:
This is what could have been with better leadership and vision at the top of the company. Instead Ford has a 4368-pound Taurus to offer families and long distance travellers needing full size room. The Interceptor was not only a showcar, it was a production prototype (look at the level of stamping detail in the image above). It’s V-10 engine and interior would have been replaced, but the rest of the car was intended for production – and then cancelled. As it was intended as an advanced Mustang platform as well.