The Monolith Panther Tow Vehicle?

Rob writes:

Hello Sajeev,

I’m untangling a logistical nightmare and I think a Panther can help.

This particular nightmare involves relocating from Urbana, IL to Idaho Falls, ID, a 1964 Corvette convertible that’s sitting in Richmond, VA, and a Grand Marquis in New Jersey. The Corvette “ran when parked” in my father-in-law’s garage in 1982 and brought back to Illinois by me using a rental van towing a car hauler. A moving company will take care of the move to Idaho including transporting one car, but not the Corvette because the car has to be operational. In the meantime, my Dad needs to sell my grandfather’s Grand Marquis.

The plan is to purchase the Grand Marquis, drive it to Delaware to meet up with the wife, kids, and dogs. While there, I’ll have U-Haul install a 2-inch hitch receiver and (possibly) have an independent shop install Coil-Rite air bag helper springs. My wife will fly to Idaho with the kids while I drive the Grand Marquis with the dogs to Illinois, where I’ll pick up the Corvette and trailer it to Idaho.

So, how crazy is this plan? Alternatives include putting the Corvette into storage and waiting for another opportunity to transport it, or buying a SUV/truck, but my wife and I being iconoclasts towards the dogma of parents and pet owners needing SUVs, and at a time of limited funds and many one-time expenses, this plan seems best.


Sajeev answers:

Everyone knows that I love me some Panther, even if I don’t currently own one. The red flags in this query depend on the year, mileage and options of said Panther. Because Panthers aren’t monoliths, every generation and/or year has unique challenges as they age — especially when towing two tons (give or take) of Corvette and car trailer. No matter which one you get, get a trailer brake controller, then drive slow and brake slow!

Since you didn’t tell us anything about your Panther tow vehicle, let’s get generic:

Box Panthers (79-91) towing in 2016: The Ford AOD is a great gearbox when upgraded by a savvy transmission shop, but stock units are marginal. Add the stress of towing and it’s a dicey proposition for long distances (i.e. don’t use 4th gear much). The TV cable bushing is the most obvious problem. Adding a transmission cooler helps if one is not already equipped. Mediocre disc/drum brakes will keep you from towing at speeds attainable by a modern truck/SUV. The helper springs can help, but I don’t know how often rear air springs were ordered back then.

Aero/Fat Panthers (92-97) in 2016: Better transmissions (4R70W) came with the 4.6-liter V-8, but age and external coolers are still a concern. The fact these are somewhat new with optional air suspensions makes it a better proposition for long distance towing. But towing in overdrive? Maybe not. At least the fat Panthers have (dare I say it) rich and warm interior trimmings.

Skinny Panthers (1998-2011) in 2016: The best perk here is bigger front brakes and calipers. Rear air is still available with the improved suspensions. The 2003+ models got a beefier (4R75W) transmission and far more aggressive suspension improvements. I’d feel content towing with a 2003+ Panther at reasonable highway speeds, even using overdrive on flat stretches. Too bad the interiors are universally cheaper than their Fat Panther counterparts.

Yes, you could safely tow this load in theory with any generation of Panther, but you’ll have much less stress in the process if it’s a 2003+ model with recently replaced air springs (that won’t bleed out 500 miles into your journey from cracks at the base of the springs).

It must be nice to be an SUV iconoclast with a mid-year Corvette and a Grand Marquis. I like your style!

One comment

  1. Marianne Watkins

    I would vote for shipping the vette, open air shipping is pretty cheap, good question do you want the Panther,
    in what you will put into it to make it a semi ok tow car ( safety, time…) you could pay to have the vette shipped, or rent a pickup to tow the vette and dump the panther, I hear there is a guy in Houston who love them, he will fly to Nj and drive it back.

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