This was my first car and my father was in a hurry to get me on the road (so he wouldn't have to pick me up anymore), and therefore a classic mistake of car-buyers, buying it without a through inspection. Consequently, a lot went wrong with it. This was not helped by (for a while) a mechanic who apparently didn't do certain things he said he had done. This was later rectified by getting a good mechanic.
Replaced brakes, radiator, and transmission mount between 158,000 and 165,000 miles.
Replaced muffler twice.
Replaced fuel-filter twice.
Innumerable oil leaks from front and rear gaskets and from timing area.
Power steering leak.
Replaced idler arm at 183,000.
Replaced air conditioner hose (not compressor, which worked fine)
Replaced alternator at 184,000.
Rear brake cylinder/drum ran out of fluid at 188,000.
Replaced coolant temp sensor, MAP sensor, and both oxygen sensors between 190,000 and 191,700.
Replaced swaybars at 191,000.
Required a major tune-up overhaul in which all plugs, distributor, wires replaced by honest mechanic thanks to aforementioned crooked mechanic's failure to tune-up car when it was brought in for tune-ups.
Basically, the car was in for something every other month, except for one eight month stretch or so.
I drove this car from the end of my junior year in high school to between my junior and senior years in college.
For a large, rear-wheel drive sedan that weighs in at about 3800 lbs, the car was surprisingly agile. This was probably helped because I had the dual exhaust towing package that raised horsepower to 170. I'm not a racer by any means, but it was never a challenge to charge onto the highway even in the heaviest of traffic with the least courteous drivers around. The engine also ran very smoothly and quietly. The car's ride was very soft and gliding, road noise was minimal, but there was wind noise: it was the classic big-car ride that all American cars used to produce before compacts and "sport suspensions" came along.
On the exterior, the car was, as typical of the 80s, a square shape. Lots of chrome and a sort of art-deco "crown" hood ornament (for Crown Victoria, obviously). Vertical, ribbed taillights with the reverse light at the bottom, quad headlamps with a long rectangular turn/parking light underneath, egg crate grill, spring loaded hood. Mine was originally two-tone blue, but I had it painted a medium blue sort of like those GTOs from the 60s.
Gas mileage ranged from about 13-16 around town to 22 on the highway. Cruising range: Southeast CT (New London) down 95 to Delaware Border on one tank, going 65 in cruise control.
Very comfortable accommodations, even for 3 in front, especially because my Crown Vic had the?rare? full bench in the front with no split. Excellent air-conditioner and heater, clear controls, displays. The idiot lights were a bit annoying because they were so few... there were only 2, one for the battery and one for "the engine"...which could mean low oil pressure or high temperature, but usually did not go on until a) car had next to no oil or b) car was seconds from overheating. Seat-belts developed too much slack, constantly tugging on them to retract and tighten. The trunk may well have been the car's best feature. It held nearly the entire contents of my college dorm room except the TV and bookcase. My Vic had manual windows (chrome handles) and door locks so there was never a problem with these failing.
You can't expect a car that's this old with this many miles to be incredibly reliable unless you've thoroughly inspected it. I knew nothing about that when I was 16. In looking for one, my dad probably should've been much more careful, as we were this year when shopping for car #2. However, there were some elements of the car that were bad no matter the age:
The computer, for example. I learned from my mechanic that Ford computers of this vintage do not give problem codes with the same degree of specificity that their GM and Chrysler counterparts do. So, if, as happened to me, the MAP sensor is shot, the computer will not say to the mechanic "the MAP sensor is shot" but rather "there is a problem with the fuel injection system". This non-specificity meant that mechanics had to spend a long time with trial and error tests to isolate problems. Also problematic was the placement of many parts on the car, making it difficult for the layman and even the mechanics in some cases to service.
On a positive note, however, the safety of the car was clearly far above par. Less than a year into having a driver's license, I foolishly did not look hard enough before taking a left turn and was struck right between the doors by a 2000 Accord at 40 mph. While the airbag of the Accord failed to inflate and its unfortunate driver was sent to the hospital, I was completely unscathed. It almost seemed as if I'd heard the crash rather than felt it. I hopped right out and never had any ill effects afterward. I had the car repaired and since then have been a firm believer that big old full-size sedans are safer than anything else on the road.
In the final analysis, perhaps a different 1987 Ford LTD Crown Victoria would have given me fewer maintenance problems. However, knowing that the computer is so unhelpful in declaring problems to mechanics, and knowing how hard the engine is to service as well as the many leaks that formed in it, I would probably not by another 1980s Crown Victoria/Grand Marquis or even Town Car since they're all the same platform. To replace my Crown Vic I bought a 1987 Cadillac Brougham with 69,000 original miles. The two minor repairs I've had on that have been easily diagnosed because the engine is more accessible than Ford's and the computer says exactly what's wrong to the mechanic. If you want a big car from the 1980s, I would go with one of the GMs... a Chevy Caprice, Pontiac Parisienne, pre 1985 Buick LeSabre, pre 1985 Olds 98 and 88, or a Cadillac Brougham. Some of these, including the Caddy, aren't quite as peppy with the gas pedal as the Fords, but I'd rather have something that's easy to service than have to go on fishing expeditions for broken sensors and leaks.