Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Panthers on Parade: The First Annual Great Lakes Panther Party

If you know me, or if you've been reading the blog in the last few months, you'll know that I'm smitten by an affinity toward a particular model of fine, full-figured Fords; the Panther platform.  Running from '79-'12, the Panther platform replaced the larger LTDs and LTD II's with what would've been considered an intermediate in pre-gas crisis days.  These cars were the Crown Victoria (and their LTD variation), Grand Marquis, Town Car, and for a brief moment in time, the Mercury Marauder.  I've only had the pleasure of owning two Crown Vics, but more are on the way.  In the mean time, I learned of a group holding a meet for people like me who have been afflicted by the same virus that likes big V8, rwd sedans.

I failed and forgot to take a group shot from the front too.
The First Annual Great Lakes Panther Party was held in June in St. Joseph's, Michigan.  Seeing that it would be cool, and only four hours from my house, I decided I had to go.  I'd never been to a Crown Vic only meet/show before, and I'd feel bad seeing the pictures had I not gone.  So we were off to meet new friends and see sweet cars... in Michigan.

The magical land where front plates aren't required.
The biggest problem with the morning also turned out to be the biggest nuisance for the evening, Chicago.  Honestly, traffic on he way down wasn't too terrible, but I took 294 instead of 94, so it took longer than it should have.  I also spent nearly $10 in tolls which was dumb compared to our ride home.  It was beautiful weather and a great drive through Indiana and Michigan to get there, and I was so excited to see the group of cars in the park when we arrived.

I followed a sweet LX most of the day.
I pulled in, and immediately started taking pictures of the cars in attendance.  I counted 25 cars total.  A lot of ex-police cars, some LX's, a couple Grand Marquis, and even a Marauder were in attendance, but oddly no Town Cars were there.  If I may comment on the people who buy these cars, I feel it's safe to say we are not sufficiently endowed monetarily to finance the purchase of a Town Car.  That said, we had plenty of guy who had put money into the sound and looks of their sweet Vics.

And a Marauder
It was really cool to see all the people who are enthusiastic enough about these cars to come out to the show and cruise.  There were two guys who matched my travel time, one from Beloit, Wisconsin (about two hours South of me), and one from Ontario, Canada (who drove six hours and needed to stay the night to not get heavily searched by customs upon return).  Even the guys in state drove a decent distance to get there, plus a handful from Indiana.  Being that guy who sets up a cruise that has next to no participants, I was really happy to see the turn out on the first attempt at this meet and cruise.

At Roxy's
We talked in the park for a bit, but eventually, we headed out to find lunch.  A couple miles away was a cool, '50's vibe drive-in that had agreed to open that particular Sunday just for us to come in and eat and hang out for a little while.  I highly recommend stopping by Roxy's Drive-In if you are ever in St. Joe's and find yourself a bit hungry... and it isn't Sunday.

Sometimes the view behind is just as good as the view ahead.
After some eating and socializing, we drove through a few parks and stopped again at one right on the beach of Lake Michigan.  We stopped to see the sea and have photo opps along with more socializing.  After about an hour, they were getting ready to head for an ice cream stand, and we decided it was getting a bit late with the drive we still had to make home, so we planned on leaving.  There was another fellow Vic owner who also was going to head out, but he was having cooling issues.  We decided to ride together until he turned off in Indiana, and we only had to stop once for high temperatures in the construction zone!

But how fun is it to cruise with similar cars down the interstate?!
On the way through Chicago, we met the traffic I had hoped to not find, but then again, we took 94 on the way back which has less tolls but goes through downtown and is more direct, hence more people.  I didn't see anything nearly as strange or unsettling this time through as compared to other trips on that road, but the less motorcycle deaths and sexual acts driving by I see, I feel the better my life will be.  I matched the Canadian's drive time on my return trip, but I still got home just in time to sleep for work the next morning.  490 miles and nearly 21 mpg with little cruise and windows down at 75-80 (until Chicago) also seemed like great fun.  I almost felt like I drove far enough that weekend.  All in all, I had a great time, and I hope to go again next year, hopefully with a different, more modified, Alaska-proven Vic!

Picture this, only much, much different.
See more pictures here.

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