Update: She now has 165K miles. One slight issue was the starter didn't work one morning. After inspection I realized the starter key terminal was corroded, and I replaced with a Motorcraft starter for $100 and 2 hours of work on a tight bolt. Even if a shop did it its not an expensive repair. Still gets 22Mpg and daily driven. Original Tan paint is still in very good condition if it is detailed. Leather drivers seat is starting to show some wear. Neighbor now owns a 2002 GMQ and is very satisfied too! Soon I'll change the coolant and 4 quarts of trans fluid. My only complaint is the wheels seem to attract brake dust, but I was told by the Ford dealer to use only the FORD OEM (not motorcraft) pads to stop dusting. That is what they install on those vehicles for a service. I used Thermoquiet which are great except for the dust.
I got this car for $800 with about 135K miles. I put on about 12K issue free miles already, my neighbor has a brand new car in that timeframe, and it spent considerable time in the dealer, including fuel pump issues leaving him stranded. He said when its time to sell a used Panther is in his future. I am handy with cars and replaced some things, maybe more than I had to. I changed all belts and hoses, but honestly the originals were still very good. The intake manifold MUST be inspected and replaced if original. If there is a plastic tube behind the alternator just swap it. It causes everything from misfires to engine failure. It could be a DIY job, plenty of good tutorials. Pull the coil plug closest to the thermostat to check for leaks. Ball Joints wear at high mileage too. Electronics on this car are very reliable. I did a fluid and filter change on the trans, it shifts like new. This car easily has another 100+K miles left, millions of cabs have proven that. Just a matter of holding on to an older car. Handling is a bit boaty(but controlled) but improved somewhat with KYB gas adjust shocks. Mine does not have the sport/handling package, those have dual exhaust, stiffer suspension parts, bushings, etc, air suspension(which isn't expensive to service on these cars) and distinctive wheels. 2.71 gears give it 22mpg combined.
I do have lots of nice features like a digital dash, cruise, auto dim mirror and power everything. I installed heated seats. These cars (pre 03) can't have a double din radio unless you replace the duct with an 03+ one.
I wanted a newer panther but the price was too good to pass up. I'm very satisfied, and was close to leasing something that would have set me back thousands in this timeframe. Check the frame for major rust too, it likes to rust out under the air conditioner dryer on the passenger side. I put some fluid film there so there won't be an issue.
Bought this car with 85,000. I use it for commuting back and forth to work, approximately 25 miles each way. I now have 118000 miles on it and I can honestly say it is the most comfortable, best handling and quite car I have ever owned. Mileage is around 22 mpg in mixed traffic. Very adaquate power and have had no mechanical problems beyond normal wear. I know this has the old man stigma but for the price this is the best car you can buy.
Bought 3 yrs. ago from a good neighbor. New Michelins (white-walled) improved handling significantly from 'average/lacking' to 'very good'. Gas mileage exactly 27 mpg at 75 mph (pleasantly surprising). (I use Mobil- 1 synthetic oil.)Ranges 13 to 16 in town - a little disappointing. Replaced (slight-leaking) right rear axle seal at 48,000 miles during brake change. Otherwise extremely reliable. Very quiet at highway speeds. Very good braking. We'll be buying a new/newer one soon. Also own much less- reliable and highly-expensive (operational and repair), dealer- gouging Infinity Q45. Sure, it's more exciting to drive, BUT, BUT, BUT..! (We'll soon be selling the 'Q' to buy another Marquis-LS.)
I bought the car for $2000 with 86,000 miles on it.
At about 118k the plastic intake got a crack in it causing the engine to quickly over heat and warp the heads. This is a problem with these motors. You can look it up on the net. The same motors are found in the Crown Vics
and the 8cy mustangs.
I replaced the motor with another one with about 118k on it which I replaced with a after market intake manifold made out of aluminum instead of plastic. It ran until about 136k it was totaled in a 5 car highway accident during a ice storm.
I took kidding about it being a "grandpa" car but I loved the car.
Would buy again but replace the intake manifold. Best 2 grand ever spent.
Mine has been a great vehicle. The original Eagle GT tires were very rough ride when they got some miles on them . Went to Goodyear assurance tires and improved the ride tremendously. The early depreciation has been made up by the longevity. Also, change transmission fluid and clean fuel system if yours becomes sluggish.