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Last Crown Vic Rolls off Assembly Line

September 16, 2011
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(Courtesy of the New York Times ) By midday Thursday, an enduring symbol of the city - the Ford Crown Victoria, a four-door sedan that has been a staple of taxi fleets since before Bill Clinton was president - went the way of the 1960 Ford taxi that bounced up Fifth Avenue as “Moon River” started to play in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

And the 1959, 1958 and 1957 Plymouth taxis in the final scene.

The last Crown Victoria rolled off the assembly line at 12:30 p.m.

It will not join the hundreds of Crown Victorias - “Crown Vics,” to car buffs - that rumble through the city, their meters adding 40 cents to the fare every 1,056 feet. (Assuming, of course, there are passengers inside and the conditions spelled out in the fine print from the Taxi and Limousine Commission, like going over six miles an hour, have been met.) A Ford spokesman said the last Crown Victoria would be exported, probably to Mexico or Saudi Arabia.

The city prepared for the Crown Victoria’s demise with its Taxi of Tomorrow contest and chose a Nissan van as the city’s next taxicab. It will have touches the somewhat frumpy Crown Victoria never did, like airplane-style reading lights and a so-called low-annoyance horn system.

It has become the taxi that champion taxi hailers hope will take them where they want to go. It does not require them to step up the way the minivans and sport utility vehicles in the taxi fleet do. It has more leg room than other sedans now on the streets, or so they say.

The Crown Victoria was a big rear-wheel drive sedan that shared its platform with another almost-bygone staple of city streets, the Lincoln Town Car, a favorite of limousine companies. Crown Victorias were also widely used by police departments across the country.

But by the time Ford announced it was discontinuing the Crown Victoria and the Lincoln Town Car, they had become relics from “a bygone era of Detroit boulevardiers, with their front bench seats, soft suspensions and awkward, space-robbing proportions,” Andrew Ganz, senior editor of the Web site leftlanenews.com, wrote last year.

His eulogy for that platform, known as the Panther, noted that it dated to the 1970s. “Once upon a time, the Panther platform underpinned coupes, station wagons and sedans marketed by all three of Ford’s divisions,” Mr. Ganz wrote. “Remember the Lincoln Continental Town Car Coupe? How about the Mercury Colony Park wagon? One by one, Panthers dropped off the chart.”

And then Mercury dropped off the chart. Ford discontinued the brand. The last Mercury Marquis, another Panther-platform relative of the Crown Victoria, came off the production line in January at same plant that will make the last Crown Victoria on Thursday.

The 44-year-old plant, in Ontario, made Ford Mavericks and Pintos in its early days. It will be the 27th plant Ford has closed since the recession began.

“Anybody who started working here would be told, ‘Hey, kid, don’t get used to this, because it’s going to close one day,’ ” Dennis McGee, the president of Local 1520 of the Canadian Auto Workers, told The Toronto Star last week.

Ford has made Crown Victorias for 19 consecutive years, as long as it made Model T’s - an unusually long run, said Bob Casey, an automotive historian who is the curator of transportation at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich. (Ford used the name Crown Victoria on a two-door coupe in the mid-1950s, and in 1979 and 1980 and again from 1983 to 1991, it made a sedan called the LTD Crown Victoria.)

“The Crown Victoria is certainly in its construction a very traditional vehicle,” said Mr. Casey of the Henry Ford Museum.

“One of the defining characteristics of Crown Victorias was they were all body-on-frames, as opposed to the unibodies they were using on the Taurses and the Five Hundred and the revived Taurus.” With unibody construction, he said, “once the cars were completed, you couldn’t unbolt the body and take it off, as you could on a Crown Vic.”

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