Hot rod,the term usually means an automobile stripped down to its bare essentials, for the sole purpose of going very quickly. And anyone who’s ever driven one knows that they are not known for comfort or refinement. So what do you call a souped-up Ford Crown Victoria? A car known for its pavement-eating ride, but now with more kick under the hood than some mega- buck exotics? What do you call a king size, luxo-cruising hot rod? Well, you call it the Kenny Brown Panther!
Or, to paraphrase an old commercial, you can call it a luxury car, or you can call it a performance car, but one thing you’ll never have to call it is slow!
That’s because the 2002 Kenny Brown P2 Panther, all 3,908 pounds of it, will sprint to 60 in only 5.2-seconds! And rocket through the 1/4 mile in 13.8-seconds at 102 miles-per-hour. That’s two tons of fast fun. Fun plus the smooth power delivery that the Ford Crown Victoria is known for, as well as a distinctive whine that can mean only one thing , this V-8 is supercharged!
Yeap. It’s a blower that makes the Panther so fast! Ford’s 4.6-liter single-overhead-cam V8 is mated to an Eaton positive-displacement supercharger, to which the KB-boys have cleverly added an intercooler to produce 7 pounds of boost. Along with a more efficient fuel delivery system, recalibrated ignition, high-flow intake, and a sweet sounding, low-restriction, dual exhaust system. The exhaust offers a choice of “Authoritative” or our test car’s optional “Aggressive” flow rate, which is part of the “High Output” performance package. And output on our latest Panther prototype is high , 350-horsepower and 400-pound-feet of torque! That’s 25 more horses than the previous Panther and no less than 130 over stock. All fed through a reprogrammed 4-speed automatic transmission that shifts quick and firm, but without the harsh slap of some modified slush boxes.
But as a wise ad-writer once said, power is nothing without control. To keep the P2 Panther’s prodigious power under control, the KB crew adds heavy duty bracing to the Crown Vic’s chassis, to reduce twisting. It also gets the company’s firmer Touring suspension package and, on our test car, the available 8.5-inch wide, 18-inch in diameter Ronal alloy wheels, wearing Michelin XGT-Z4 tires. All this makes the big Panther as sure-footed as many smaller cats. Mild front push gives way to sharp mid-corner response and mild, controllable oversteer. There’s tons of grip, and almost none of the body roll of the stock platform.
The only disappointment is the power recirculating-ball steering, which has the same fluffy feel as that of the stock Crown Vic.
All that power to go is matched by the power to stop from 60 in only 121 feet. Our Panther packs ABS, available 13-inch vented discs, Brembo calipers, and stainless steel front brake lines borrowed from Ford’s Mustang Cobra R. Brake pedal feel, like that of the steering, is a bit soft. But power and stability are first rate!
As is the P2 Panther’s manners off the test track. Unlike many tuner cars, including some of Mr. Brown’s own Mustangs, the Panther is a refined everyday driver, with a smooth, quiet ride. Albeit, one with rocket-like acceleration only a right-foot-twitch away.
And like its tamer Crown Victoria cousin, the Panther is a very luxurious machine to spend time in. Except for some subtle carbon-look trim on the dash and a numbered dash tag, it’s the same tasteful, comfortable, and efficient cabin that the full-size Crown Vic has long been known for. While the 20.6 cubic-foot trunk is probably the biggest you’ll find in any high performance sedan available. And to top it all off, there is the Panther’s aggressive law-enforcement look with the available monochromatic grille. And with the lowered stance, courtesy of the rebuilt suspension, the Panther is one big, bad looking car. What a package!
A package that you can own yourself, with just a phone call to Kenny Brown’s Indianapolis headquarters. Pricing starts with a Crown Victoria Sport Sedan’s base of $28,740. On our car, it continues with the P2 Panther package for $17,500, the optional Auburn limited- slip differential for $590, the Ronal 18-inch wheels and Michelin tires for $2,300, and the brand new 350-horsepower “High Output” option which has not yet been priced. But all together, plan on spending about $51,000.
But if that’s too rich for your blood, you can opt for the P1 Panther package, which includes a milder, normally-aspirated engine making 245-horsepower, as well as the Panther’s retuned suspension and reinforced chassis, for only $5,950 over the price of the stock car.
And if you have too much money, you can opt for the armored P3 Panther, a bulletproof executive protection machine for an added premium of $34,300.
So what do you call a Ford Crown Victoria with 350-horsepower, sport-sedan handling, and Secret Service looks? You call it the most balanced package that one of America’s top tuners has ever delivered. You call it the most exciting full-sized car that we’ve ever driven. You call it the 2002 Kenny Brown P2 Panther!
Engine: 4.6-Liter Sohc V8 W/ Supercharger
Torque: 400 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 5.2 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 13.8 Seconds @ 102 MPH
60-0 MPH: 121 Feet