The Truth About Cars » Lincoln Town Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 20 Nov 2014 20:06:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Lincoln Town Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Piston Slap: Get Ready to Lose Much More! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/piston-slap-get-ready-to-lose-much-more-c-class/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/piston-slap-get-ready-to-lose-much-more-c-class/#comments Mon, 10 Nov 2014 14:33:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=943113   TTAC Commentator LordMurdoc writes: Sajeev, I’m finally ready to lose my BORING 2002 Geo Prizm. Checking eBay for older Lexus LS or a Mercedes C-class(about 2004-2006) . If I went with the Merc with the gasoline V6, what type of Gremlins might I expect to attack me when my wallet is most vulnerable? The […]

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Know what that triangle is for? (photo courtesy: www.drive.net)

TTAC Commentator LordMurdoc writes:

Sajeev,

I’m finally ready to lose my BORING 2002 Geo Prizm.

Checking eBay for older Lexus LS or a Mercedes C-class(about 2004-2006) . If I went with the Merc with the gasoline V6, what type of Gremlins might I expect to attack me when my wallet is most vulnerable? The Prizm is turning my brain to mush and my right foot is in despair!

Thanks for your excellent advice.

Sajeev answers:

That’s a good question, insofar that I’m answering the question I heard you to ask…not your actual question.

“Why yes, the 2003+ Lincoln Town Car with an SCT tune, a cop car air box/rear sway bar, late model Mustang GT mufflers and a quicker axle ratio is PERFECT for you!  Considering otherwise is foolish, and thank goodness you are no such fool.”

But somewhat more seriously, these questions are fun: the OP knows he’s about to do something stupid.

Like buying a neglected Lexus LS with an explodey timing belt. Or the litany of little things to drive you nuts on most W203 C-class Benzes. Or big things, like certain V6s with balance shaft issues. But, on the plus side, the C240 looks more robust, perhaps even having less body mounted electric gizmos to fail as it’s a lower level model. Maybe even with super durable MB-Tex coverings!

I’d go with the C240, for the stout motor.  The rest of it? Off to you, Best and Brightest.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Myths and Legends: Lincoln Town Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/myths-legends-lincoln-town-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/myths-legends-lincoln-town-car/#comments Fri, 22 Aug 2014 15:02:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=875905 The late model Panther cars offer a unique combination of fairly modern driving characteristics and the classic feel of RWD, body-on-frame vehicle. With their longevity and durability, cheap parts and surprisingly frugal 4.6 Modular engine, they are even quite cheap to run. Of course, that’s all true if you believe the hagiography of the Panther so […]

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The late model Panther cars offer a unique combination of fairly modern driving characteristics and the classic feel of RWD, body-on-frame vehicle. With their longevity and durability, cheap parts and surprisingly frugal 4.6 Modular engine, they are even quite cheap to run. Of course, that’s all true if you believe the hagiography of the Panther so earnestly propagated by this site, and other outlets. But does it have any grounding in reality?

Last fall, I had the fortune of getting my hands on nearly exactly the car I’ve wanted to try. Even better was that I didn’t just borrow it for a while for a review – I got a chance to drive it for extended period of time. In fact, I’m still driving it.

The car in question is a 1998 Lincoln Town Car Signature Series. The first year of the new, much more rounded (dubbed “Hyundai-look” in Czech US car enthusiast circles) and brutally decontented model. Electric trunklid pull-down? Fuggetaboutit. Keyless entry keypads on the doors (the feature which was always one of the reasons why I wanted to own a Lincoln)? No way. You don’t even get a storage box in the passenger door with the model year, although there are fake shut lines.

So, in some ways, this could be a prime example of “how the mighty have fallen”. Proud name, once-proud-badge and huge size, but inside, the materials, fit and finish of a cheap econobox from somewhere in South East Asia.

Now add the chassis and suspension, still based on that of the 1979 Panther, and the big V8 with a meagre 200 horsepower, which wasn’t exactly stellar performance in late 1990s. Not to mention the four speed slushbox. It seems you have every reason to declare this car an antiquated piece of junk and move on. But as you probably already guessed, my opinion is quite a bit different. Why?

Being a broke motoring journo in Europe with a taste for big V8s, is the running costs. Forget everything you have ever heard about European engines being frugal. They’re frugal because they’re small and fitted in small cars. If you compare them pound for pound and horse for horse, the outcome isn’t nearly as favorable. The Town Car is, in gentle driving, able to get 8.5 l/100km (27mpg) on European roads, and I’m sure that there’s still some room for improvement – 30mpg seems totally doable to me. And even when you don’t do an economy run, it still moves at 9 – 9.5 l/100km pretty comfortably.

A similar-era Mercedes 220CE (famous W124) got pretty much the same fuel mileage as the Lincoln – even in city traffic. And although the V8 power doesn’t help the Lincoln to be any quicker than the four-cylinder Benz, the whole notion that you can drive a big, smooth V8 and use as much gas as the rough four-cylinder gives one pause.

Lincoln_4

And then there are the spares. For many people, the fear that spare parts for an American car will be hard to get in Europe is one of the main reasons not to buy one. They’re also right in one respect – if you need your car to be ready at all times, and spares to be available within 24 hours, you have to look elsewhere. That little pond between us still doesn’t help with quick delivery, and you will wait for your parts for about a week (specialised US car part vendors here in CZ), a few days (RockAuto, quick but terribly expensive shipping) or up to two months (container transport, extremely cheap). Compared to the fact that most parts for common European models can be had within the aforementioned 24 hours, it is a major downside of owning an American car here. But the upside is that the parts are really cheap.

Remember that those fragile European cars with expensive spares are the norm here – and parts aren’t any cheaper for them in Europe. In fact, when you include taxes, even spares for European cars are sometimes cheaper when you get them from US. Things like getting a whole set of shocks for $50 in US, which means some $100-120 with postage, custom duty and tax? People don’t believe me when I tell them how much I paid. They usually think that spares for US cars have to be outrageously expensive when they’re shipped overseas (like other spares weren’t shipped from China) and they’re flabbergasted when they find out that stuff for the Town Cars costs half that of the parts for the locally produced Škoda Octavia of similar vintage.

So, is it all about the Town Car being a huge car that is affordable to drive? A way for someone who’s broke to brag about his car being bigger than the S-class Mercedes? It’s not even that big on the inside – except for the sheer width, the short version of the Town Car is not that much more spacious inside than a Ford Mondeo. So, is it just the “mine is bigger than yours” thing?

Lincoln_6

I may be lying to myself, but I don’t think so. No, for me, the real reason to drive a Town Car is the way it drives, the way it feels on the road and how it feels inside. Some of you may remember my older article about the Chevy Caprice and the magic of RWD, body-on-frame sedans/wagons. I loved the GM B-bodies and old Panthers because of their unique way they drive – the combination of soft-sprung suspension, huge torque on tap, super-light steering wheel and lots of lock, making it more akin to steering a motorboat than driving a car.

The last generation Panthers promise to preserve the old-timey driving characteristics, and add much better roadholding, higher mileage and modern comforts. But the thing I always wondered about was whether the suspension and steering improvements didn’t spoil the unique character of the old BOF sedans.

And after several months of using it daily, I can say that both my hopes and fears were fulfilled, in some ways.

The first good thing is that with all the suspension improvements, like sway bars front and rear, Watts link and stiffers springs and shocks, the modern Panther is stable enough at any normal speeds. I have never tried to go really fast with it, but I’m sure it can stay planted at 100mph on highway.

Lincoln_5

Another good thing is that it has kept lots of the old Panther’s character. It’s still a big boat, with that unique feel coming from the combination of driver’s position being near the middle of the car, long overhangs, great lock and so on. Add the light, numb steering and sofa seats, and you still have a car that makes you want to go slowly and gently – which is perfect for when you want to get to your destination relaxed and with great mileage, as opposed to being stressed from high-speed run provoked by the sporty suspension of some modern European car.

The bad thing? Chasing the handling improvements, Ford engineers decided to fit much sitffer springs to the front of the Town Car. The outcome is the loss of much of the typical “floatiness”, without gaining significant high-speed handling imrpovements that weren’t already there thanks to the sway bars and Watts link. I even looked at replacing the springs with softer ones from the older model.

Another bad thing is the engine’s need for revs – it’s not as effortless as the old 302 was. On the other hand, the fuel economy is more than enough to make up for that.

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But overall, those are small things. The main point of owning a Panther is that it still offers more than just a whiff of the “classic American feel”, while being totally useable and reasonable as a daily driver. The fact is that if you’re used to driving an 80s Panther – or even its prefecessors from 1970s or even 1960s, you will still feel right at home in this car. As Murilee once put it, when describing his old 1990s CrownVic Police Interceptor – this car is what the 1960s fullsize sedans should have been.

Myth or Legend?
Definitely a legend. Last of the body-on-frame fullsize sedans. The unique combination of modern handling and amenities with classic land-yacht feel.

Do I need to drive it?
By any means, yes. If only to find out what all us Panthers Lovers are blabbing about.

Should I buy it?
If you like old car feel and don’t like the old car handling and unreliability, certainly. As a reasonable transportation? Not so sure.

@VojtaDobes is motoring journalist from Czech Republic, who previously worked for local editions of Autocar and TopGear magazines. Today, he runs his own website, www.Autickar.cz and serves as editor-in-chief at www.USmotors.cz. After a failed adventure with importing classic American cars to Europe, he is utterly broke, so he drives a borrowed Lincoln Town Car. His previous cars included a 1988 Caprice in NYC Taxi livery, a hot-rodded Opel Diplomat, two Dodge Coronets, a Simca, a Fiat 600 and Austin Maestro. He has never owned a diesel, manual wagon.

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Junkyard Find: 1979 Lincoln Continental Town Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1979-lincoln-continental-town-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1979-lincoln-continental-town-car/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 13:00:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=872386 Malaise Era Lincolns are common sightings in high-turnover pull-yer-part wrecking yards these days, since there’s not much interest in preserving these cars. We saw an extremely clean 1976 Town Car in California a few months back (it’s still on the yard, and very few parts have been pulled since I photographed it), and now I’ve […]

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19 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinMalaise Era Lincolns are common sightings in high-turnover pull-yer-part wrecking yards these days, since there’s not much interest in preserving these cars. We saw an extremely clean 1976 Town Car in California a few months back (it’s still on the yard, and very few parts have been pulled since I photographed it), and now I’ve found this rougher (but not at all rusty) ’79 at another San Francisco Bay Area self-serve yard.
14 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinEven it its distressed state, the luxury is still evident.
16 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSomebody grabbed the 400, for reasons that probably made sense at the time.
24 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOpera lights? Opera lights.
05 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Park-To-Reverse fiasco resulted in Ford recalling 23 million vehicles in 1980 and adding these warning stickers.
15 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSuper-cushy burgundy leather seats, of course.
09 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin85 mph speedometer.
07 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe ornamental trip-counter reset knob is a nice touch.
01 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI have never found one of these Cartier “digital” clocks in working order, but my car-clock collection needs one. I decided to risk $5.99 on this one… and it works! People win the lottery, and 1970s Detroit car clocks sometimes work.

01 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 25 - 1979 Lincoln Town Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Hammer Time: The Rise And The Fall Of The Panthers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/hammer-time-the-rise-and-the-fall-of-the-panthers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/hammer-time-the-rise-and-the-fall-of-the-panthers/#comments Wed, 06 Nov 2013 14:08:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=639009 When you think of a cop car or a taxi, chances are this vehicle will pop in your mind. Now think of the cars that old people drive. No not Camrys! Get that thought off your mind right now mister! Well, come to think of it, that’s a big part of the problem. If any […]

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When you think of a cop car or a taxi, chances are this vehicle will pop in your mind.

Now think of the cars that old people drive. No not Camrys! Get that thought off your mind right now mister!

Well, come to think of it, that’s a big part of the problem. If any car out there is stuck in the netherworld of wholesale heaven at the auto auctions, it’s this one.

This morning I was looking through an endless array of old Crown Vics that had been used as donor cars for the local government fleet.

The prices seemed right. $200 for a parts car. $500 for a whole car with higher miles. $1500 for the cop car of your dreams.  The numbers all seemed wondrous to a car guy like me who buys cars wholesale nearly every day of the week.

Except there’s a problem on the demand size of this equation. These cars don’t sell well anymore. Even the best of them have trouble getting so much as a glance from the general public.

crown vic

Why? Well it may have a bit to do with the price of gas. Or the fact that cop vehicles go through an ungodly amount of abuse, even here in the South. Or even that those who need a car still won’t take one with rear vinyl seats, and more holes and exposed wires than a redneck version of a smoking KISS guitar.

crown vic2

But it’s even more than that when you look at these cars from a retailing perspective. The truth is that every portion of the population has a great excuse not to buy an old school full-sized car.

Young people are too broke to own one. Whenever I get a sharp looking one at my lot, young black males are surprisingly the most common gawkers. The Oldsmobile 98’s and Caprices that were all the rage 15 or so years ago for this enthusiast demographic, were replaced large with Crown Vic Police Interceptors, from the mid-2000’s up until about a couple of years ago.

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Crown Vics were cheap, plentiful, not an SUV (which is what mom and dad usually drove), and reflected a bit of toughness thanks to the cop car rep and the utilitarian nature of the beasts. The interiors may have been given the unfortunate overload of cheap, amortized plastic and vinyl materials. But everything from the thunkishness of the door closing, to the Mustang sharing V8 under the hood made these cars a hot commodity.

trunk

You could seat five, haul as much stuff in the trunk ans you wanted to, and,  if you were out just cruising around, fuel economy was bound to suck no matter what car you used. So throw in a dirt cheap price and a penchant for withstanding the worst of road, and Crown Vic Police Interceptors became quite popular. That is  until young people became too broke to own and insure one.

The older family car, whether it’s an extra one or shared, has taken over this market.

Copy this url: http://forums.radioreference.com/pictures-your-shack-mobile-setup/205356-2005-crown-victoria-lx-sport-setup.html This guy did a wonderful job on his road warrior.

Copy this url: http://forums.radioreference.com/pictures-your-shack-mobile-setup/205356-2005-crown-victoria-lx-sport-setup.html This guy did a wonderful job on his road warrior.

Middle aged people? Some liked em’. But the good credit folks are usually looking at the newer stuff, and the bad credit folks don’t want a V8. They will buy a V6, or even an SUV. But a V8? Too much. Even the Grand Marquis, which had once represented the right mix of luxury and space for many of these folks, has now gone into the unmarketable firmament of, “Too big! Too old! No V8!”

BZR Edition

BZR Edition

Old people have, by and large, been herded onto the four cylinder compact and mid-sized buffet thanks in part to the prior gen Toyota Camry which offered the unusual combination of an easy to drive car with the interior space of a full-sized car and a four cylinder under the hood. Luxury to this group means never breaking down, 30 miles per gallon, and as few buttons and knobs as possible.

Along with 20 to 30 Camry alternatives, the market now offers cars that usually have more interior space than the Panthers, better lumbar seat support, and unbeatable fuel economy for a monthly payment that feeds in well with the monthly retiree check. For a low sub-$300 payment in many cases, that fixed income buyer can now have a new car instead of a 10 to 15 year old relic that averages 15 miles per gallon around town. Even the formerly credit challenged among them can line right up and get their spoonful of modern transportation.

Picture Courtesy of donksnob.com

$700 down, $60 a week, 24 months.

The Panther cars may no longer work in the marketplace. But they still remain a personal favorite when it comes to operating a used car dealership.  I have financed a ton of these vehicles over the years to folks who didn’t have access to the new car buffet. Five years ago, a customer would be overjoyed with getting any Town Car, Grand Marquis or Crown Vic with leather for $1000 down. These cars had earned their bulletproof reputation, and a lot of folks who were trying to get out of their family SUV or minivan found these cars to be an outstanding compromise between the unibody sedans with minimal grunt, and the full-sized SUV’s that consumed gas like a modern day BMW eats fuel pumps.

SONY DSC

They were great cars to finance because once you put them on the road, they stayed there. Yes, I had to repo a few. But true to their reputation, these cars could handle the worst of customers and still be given minimal reconditioning before they were put back on the road.

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I fondly remember a 1995 Lincoln Town Car  (<— old Hammer Time) that I bought for all of $1600 that I took up to Jersey (<—  another old Hammer Time), and then put out on the note four times before selling it for $1500 cash (<—- boy did I write far too much about this car back in the day!).

The car got scraped on the sides. Nearly all suspension parts replaced. The antenna broke. The headliner fell down, twice. The window regulators were cheap pieces of plasticized under-engineered garbage, and the car had an alarm system that sometimes seemed to have a mind of it’s own.

Oh, and it only came with a cassette until I repoed it for the second time.

I named the car Lucky.

lucky

Lucky was the least popular car at the lot. But if someone had only $500 to their name and a credit history like Donald Trump, then the customer could either have Lucky with a leather interior, or their sneakers in rubber.

Lucky was popular. So were those other Panther vehicles for a while at the $500 down level. A Grand Marquis was 90% of a Town Car, and it sold for 60% of the price.  The Town Car was… well… often times harder to sell than the Grand. Even for the same price. The last Town Car I sold, a 2000 model Signature Series, spent all of five months at my lot which is longer than nearly anything I have sold over the past five years with the sole exception of the famed Barnacle Bitch (<— expensive car from hell!). A 2002 Mercedes S500 bought for $5000 under rough book right after the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

They both had the same problem. The customers had already gone elsewhere and the ones that were left, couldn’t afford to keep the vehicle on the road. So I spared them of that misery that comes off from biting off far more debt than you can chew, and shucked the Barnacle off to a cash customer during tax season.

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That 2000 Town Car with the burgundy paint and tan interior was the same exact deal. The car was an absolute creme puff and had been dealer maintained since day one. A great ride. The used car sales manager at the nearby Ford dealership even put it in their fleet for a year before he retired and got replaced with a guy who was 40 years younger.

So I bought it, and got to driving it around for a bit. In all honesty, I never warmed up to the car. Eventually it got sold  to a lady whose late husband had owned… a Ford dealership. She wanted to relive the old days and within a week of buying it, she wound up painting the poor thing a ghastly silver. Her living at home son had also convinced her to throw Flowmasters onto the thing.

What a waste.

It was a sad ending for an unpopular car… but ever so reminiscent of what happens when a car’s core audience moves on to other rides.

No, the hood latch isn't on the side. Keep looking!

No, the hood latch isn’t on the side. Keep looking!

You either get folks who are true hardcore enthusiasts. They may consider themselves clever ones since they almost always buy the so-called cheap price car that comes loaded with those things they value. On paper, many of these guys seem to find their edge in a marketplace where popular cars go for a premium.

But in truth, most of them are picky, cheap, mechanically inept, and they honestly think you give a shit about the car you’re selling when you really don’t.

They tell stories about these cars. Endless stories about trivial opinions about old junkers that have already been recycled into Chinese washing machines.They are stuck in nostalgia-land which is fine,until you get subjected to the seventh story about the rolling piece of mediocrity in front of you.

You listen, and then eventually in the back of your mind you say, “Look. either buy this fucking car or leave me alone. I really don’t care about the fact that your Aunt Ethel had one of these 20 years ago.”

Then there are the broke ones… who are completely oblivious to the realities of the marketplace. They will piss you off  by ogling the car and then saying, “I love these things, but they eat too much gas. Do you have a Toyota or Honda with leather?”

“I do… but they are a thousand down.  I have about four of them with cloth that are around $700 down.”

“I really want leather but I only have $200 to $300. I can catch up on the payments?”

“Okay. When do you think you’ll have $1000?”

They will first tell you a week. Then a couple of weeks. A few minutes later it will turn into a month. Then finally you’ll see their bank statements or utility bills which are riddled with negative balances, overdraft charges, and late fees.

These folks are not bad people. Most of them are nice. They are just used to living beyond their means and you don’t want them as customers.

old dog

As for Panthers? They’re nice in a way that any old dog car can be endearing and lovable. But in the end I’ll stick to what sells, and old dogs don’t sell.

Which reminds me… I still have two at my lot. Want one?

 

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Greek Gods and Dead Presidents: Why Ford Doesn’t Care About Making “Real” Lincolns http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/greek-gods-and-dead-presidents-why-ford-doesnt-care-about-making-real-lincolns/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/greek-gods-and-dead-presidents-why-ford-doesnt-care-about-making-real-lincolns/#comments Wed, 31 Jul 2013 14:56:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=497637 Please welcome TTAC reader John Mohr (username J.Emerson) and his guest contribution to our site In 2004, my family decided to replace our soon-to-be-off-lease Ford Focus Wagon with another Ford product, having been quite satisfied with our little five-door. This being the height of the Bush-era full-size SUV binge, we were barraged with row upon […]

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Please welcome TTAC reader John Mohr (username J.Emerson) and his guest contribution to our site

In 2004, my family decided to replace our soon-to-be-off-lease Ford Focus Wagon with another Ford product, having been quite satisfied with our little five-door. This being the height of the Bush-era full-size SUV binge, we were barraged with row upon row of new Explorers, Expeditions, and Excursions when my parents suggested that we wanted a “sensible 4-door family car.” My mother couldn’t have cared less about such monstrosities, but she didn’t like the recently-redesigned Taurus either, and she wanted something larger than her old Focus. Eventually, they got a deal on a new Crown Victoria LX, a car that served us well for many years. The salesmen couldn’t wait to get rid of it; it was an ‘03, and as I said before, nobody wanted bargain-brand full-size sedans in the middle of the Bush years. Most importantly, this particular car shopping experience was my wake-up call to the artificiality of Ford’s luxury branding attempts. And thinking about it now helps me to understand why Ford is content to let the Lincoln line become nothing but a set of badge-engineered clones.

This being a full-service Ford-Lincoln-Mercury dealership, I could see line after line of Panther cars lingering in front of each division’s showroom. Not counting the police specials in the back of the lot, the Ford dealer had the fewest; but the Mercury side had dozens of Grand Marquis, and Lincoln had no shortage of Town Cars. With my parents ensconced in the finance office, I went over to inspect why we had gone with a Ford and not (to my 15 year old mind) one of the more prestigious makes in the Ford stable. It didn’t take me long to realize that the car we wound up with was more luxurious inside than most the Grand Marquis and on par with many of the Town Cars. We had leather seats and a trunk-mounted CD changer (high tech in ’04), while many of the Mercury customers made do with cloth seats and tape decks. The equivalent Grand Marquis always seemed to sticker higher than ours, a fact that my innocent mind found completely puzzling. Lincolns were better optioned and they had unique sheet metal, as well as some other toys that couldn’t be found in their more pedestrian siblings, so a bump in MSRP seemed fair. Even so, I wasn’t fooled into thinking that a Town Car was worth nearly $20,000 more than the Crown Vic.

At the time, I didn’t know who Alfred P. Sloan Jr. was. I didn’t know that he had catapulted the entire US auto industry down a path that eventually devolved into a wholly cynical game played on an increasingly disillusioned public. But I did know that you were a fool if you paid more for an obviously equivalent product, especially one that was parked on the other side of the dealers’ lot. I still see the merit in luxury cars, but only ones that offer you something more for your money. The Crown Vic, the Grand Marquis, and the Town Car were all decent automobiles in their own right, but only one of them was a value. The other two were mostly cynical marketing exercises that were rapidly losing ground as the Germans tried to scrub the last vestiges of Sloanism from the American market. Even so, Ford hasn’t given up on badge-engineering strategy, and good business sense suggests that they probably shouldn’t if they want to continue to compete in the luxury market.

Fast forward to 2013, and Mercury is dead and buried, and Lincoln is almost there too. The new MKZ, a car that many have projected to be the barometer of whether Lincoln lives or dies, failed to impress Derek. Although it’s an undeniably pretty car, it can’t seem to escape its family-car roots in a way that many of the B&B think a “real” Lincoln should. And therein lies the truth: Ford has no intention of turning Lincoln into a serious contender for Mercedes, BMW, or even Cadillac. Instead, Ford realizes that it has a much better chance of cracking open the Audi-Acura-Buick market with its limited resources. Essentially, Ford wants to take Lincoln and make it into what Mercury was supposed to become, before the Carpocalypse killed off any hope that diluted and under-marketed brands such as Saturn, Saab, and Suzuki could (or should) be rescued.

Alan Mulally simply isn’t willing to risk plowing under the kind of cash needed to make a serious go at the world luxury market. He doesn’t have the resources of a VW, GM, or Toyota, despite Ford’s recent dynamic performance in the marketplace. Building a series of attractive but ultimately mundane cars off existing Ford platforms makes the most sense from a financial standpoint, much more so than a moonshot attempt to develop something like a new RWD sedan platform that could potentially require billions of dollars. At the core of all of this is the fact that Lincoln has exactly zero global presence. GM has poured some serious blood, sweat, and tears into remaking Cadillac as a global brand, and thus far has little to show for it other than some XTS commercials with Brad Pitt and a small (but growing) share of the Chinese market. GM can afford to take such risks; indeed, they must, if their business plan for massive growth in Asia is to work. Ford has thus far punted on the Asian market and can’t commit the same kind of resources to it that GM can. Mulally is right to cautiously introduce Lincoln as a sort of novelty brand in China, and to move on from there.

As far as the American market goes, I believe that Lincoln’s strategy can succeed. But this will happen if, and only if, Ford concentrates on going after the mid-tier luxury market. It shouldn’t pretend that Lincolns are serious competitors to the flagship makers. Like Hyundai’s top tier, most of Lexus, and the revitalized Buick, the sweet spot for Lincoln is amongst the “quietly affluent” segment that Derek previously identified in his review of the Equus. Show the moderately wealthy that there are even better versions of already class-leading Ford products just across the showroom floor. It’s not as if Ford has bad material to work with in its current crop of cars (an assertion that will no doubt cause considerable consternation amongst, and the posting of multiple long essays from, the Ford Hater Brigade). Forget delusions of grandeur that a new Continental will emerge from the shadows to bring Lincoln to the top of the world. Focus on building competent, honest products, made by well-paid workers and suppliers with a careful eye for quality. That will do more for the brand than any moonshot project ever could. Mulally probably understands this better than anybody, but it remains to be seen if he can pull it off. The early reviews of the MKZ are certainly disheartening, but the public has yet to register a final verdict.

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The Wire Supports Panther Love http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/the-wire-supports-panther-love/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/the-wire-supports-panther-love/#comments Tue, 09 Jul 2013 20:40:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=494699 (NSFW for language) Having just picked up a Lincoln MKZ , I can’t help but recall the immortal words of the pokwer playing gentleman “I like me a Town Car – man look quiet and correct in one of them.” Truer words have never been spoken. I am not quite sure the MKZ confers quite […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

(NSFW for language)

Having just picked up a Lincoln MKZ , I can’t help but recall the immortal words of the pokwer playing gentleman

“I like me a Town Car – man look quiet and correct in one of them.”

Truer words have never been spoken. I am not quite sure the MKZ confers quite the same dignity and bearing on the person driving it, but we’ll see in a week’s time.

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Doug’s Comparison: Lincoln MKT vs. Lincoln Town Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/dougs-comparison-lincoln-mkt-vs-lincoln-town-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/dougs-comparison-lincoln-mkt-vs-lincoln-town-car/#comments Mon, 20 May 2013 15:54:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489030 I recently wrote an article entitled “Lincoln Can and Will Come Back,” in which I insisted that Lincoln would, someday soon, rise from the ashes and return to its rightful place as a top luxury brand for people who can’t afford an Infiniti. Many of you thought I was crazy, largely because Lincoln’s lineup consists […]

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mkt_town

I recently wrote an article entitled “Lincoln Can and Will Come Back,” in which I insisted that Lincoln would, someday soon, rise from the ashes and return to its rightful place as a top luxury brand for people who can’t afford an Infiniti. Many of you thought I was crazy, largely because Lincoln’s lineup consists of five re-skinned Fords, all of which share the same name.

But as a patriotic American, I am certain that Lincoln will come back. In fact, I believe its resurgence has already begun, as I will illustrate with a comparison between the Town Car and the MKT. I know what you’re thinking: Why are you comparing the Town Car with a … wait, what the hell is an MKT? Is that a sedan? The answer is: because that’s what Lincoln is doing. You see, Lincoln is telling current Town Car drivers – in other words, airport limo services and Jack Baruth – that the MKT is the Town Car’s rightful replacement. Also, the MKT is not a sedan, but rather a medium-sized hearse that Lincoln calls a crossover.

So let’s see how it stacks up in a comparison.

Interior Room

mkt

This is an important category, since the Town Car’s main purpose is shuttling passengers to and from the airport while the driver talks on a cell phone. Let’s start with rear head room. The Town Car has just 37.6 inches, while the MKT boasts a whopping 39 inches. This is wonderful. The last time I was in a Town Car, all I could think was: I fit perfectly, but I cannot comfortably stand a USB stick on my head. That problem is eliminated in the MKT.

Moving on to rear leg room, the Town Car claims 41.1 inches, while the MKT offers 41.8. And point seven inches, ladies and gentlemen, could mean the difference between fully extending your foot and keeping it at a slightly uncomfortable angle. Advantage: MKT. (To anyone eager to remind me that the Town Car offers a stretched wheelbase version with 46.9 inches of leg room, I can only ask: why do you hate America?)

Efficiency

Efficiency is an important category because, as airport limos, the Town Car and MKT will often be left idling for hours in airport parking lots while the driver talks to other airport limo drivers. Also, they will occasionally be driven.

You might think this gives the Town Car an advantage, since the MKT is a truck that weighs as much as a college football stadium. But you’d be wrong. That’s because the fleet-only version of the MKT – dubbed the MKT Town Car in an homage to its fallen comrade – offers a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that isn’t available to the general public. It makes 230 horsepower, which is only nine less than the Town Car’s 4.6-liter V8. And, at 20 mpg city and 28 highway, it’s far more efficient than the Town Car’s 17/25. Advantage: MKT. (Note: this category isn’t called “acceleration.”)

Nimbleness

The few Town Cars that aren’t in airport limo service are being driven, rather rapidly, through New York City. As a result, it’s important that Town Car and MKT be light on their feet, which they aren’t. But there are some interesting statistics I must share, which may, for a second, make you think you’re actually reading a legitimate comparison. This is, of course, not true.

Number one: length. The base-level Town Car is 215 inches long. The Town Car L is 221.4 inches long. The MKT, meanwhile, comes in at a spry 207.6 inches. This is a massive difference that strikes me as sort of like comparing a potted plant to a dump truck.

It gets better for the MKT. At 76 inches, the MKT is actually 2.2 inches narrower than the Town Car. And it loses the turning circle comparison by two measly feet. Since that goes against my argument, I will decry it as virtually meaningless. In other words: compared to the Town Car, the MKT is basically a Miata. Advantage: MKT.

Resemblance to a Hearse

mkthearse

Like the windshield wiper normalcy showdown in my LEAF vs. Fit comparison, this is an important category that is far too often overlooked by traditional automotive journalists. Of course, there’s no real comparison: the Town Car looks like a sedan, possibly from the 1980s, while the MKT looks exactly like a hearse. This is especially true of the hearse model. Advantage: MKT.

Pricing

I have to admit, I thought the Town Car would easily win this category. That’s because I, like you, haven’t looked up Lincoln Town Car pricing since the Clinton era, when the Town Car cost $19,500 and had a vertical rear window. Things have changed since then. What do you expect the Town Car’s base price was in its final model year? $30,000? $40,000? The answer is, with shipping: forty-eight thousand dollars. And that’s before options, which include luxuries like a trunk organizer.

The MKT, meanwhile, starts at a mere $46,000, and presumably far less for the four-cylinder version, which – let’s be honest – is probably incredibly slow and resembles a hearse. Also, the MKT is probably loaded with incentives, which may even include a free trunk organizer. Advantage: MKT.

Conclusion

mkt3

Clearly, there is no comparison between the Town Car and the MKT: one is an outdated, body-on-frame sedan, and the other is a brilliant crossover with a voluminous interior and a 2-liter four-cylinder that also powers the Ford Focus. Therefore, I am happy to announce that the MKT heralds in the era of Lincoln Motor Company. It just does it very, very slowly, and possibly with a casket in back.

Doug DeMuro operates PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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Trackday Diaries: Have to see a man about a dog. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/trackday-diaries-have-to-see-a-man-about-a-dog/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/trackday-diaries-have-to-see-a-man-about-a-dog/#comments Mon, 25 Feb 2013 12:14:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=478936 “Say, Rodney,” I inquired via phone, “I wonder if you might be interested in helping me look at a Town Car in Pataskala for a guy in Czechoslovakia.” “I wonder,” Rodney responded, “if you might be interested in bringing a pair of motherf**king McChicken sandwiches over to where I’m staying at so that it might […]

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“Say, Rodney,” I inquired via phone, “I wonder if you might be interested in helping me look at a Town Car in Pataskala for a guy in Czechoslovakia.”

I wonder,” Rodney responded, “if you might be interested in bringing a pair of motherf**king McChicken sandwiches over to where I’m staying at so that it might lubricate my willingness to perform this inspection. And remember, I said two McChickens, you cheap cracker.”

The circle of my acquaintance is not completely unlike the Mafia; just when you think you’re out, I pull you back in. I’ve known Rodney for going on two decades now. His antics made selling Fords seventy hours a week for twenty-two thousand dollars a year just about tolerable back in the day. Trust me when I say that I haven’t even scratched the surface of the stories I could tell about this guy.

Tales of sex-for-Thunderbird scandals aside, however, the man has plenty of genuine virtues. One of them is an unerring nose for bodywork deficiencies and sloppy mechanical fixes. He grew up in a Cleveland family that earned its bread doing bodywork, detailing, and hot-rodding. He knows his stuff and I’m glad to count him as a resource as well as a friend, some eighteen years after we last stood on a dealership floor together.

Czechoslovakian car writer Vojtech Dobes loves Panthers as much as any red-blooded (The United States Of) American out there. His pal and fellow collector Petra (no relation to the second-tier Christian rock band of the Eighties) owns a pretty decent Cartier, as seen here:

Problem is, the “fat Panther” has been rusting itself thin in the Eastern European winters. Time for a replacement. It so happened that a dealership about forty-two miles from my house had an identical-looking Cartier with 76,000 miles on it available for $3700, so Vojtech asked if I’d be willing to check it out for him. This is somewhat of a TTAC tradition, insofar as our illustrious alumnus and current Motor Trend advertorial writer Jonny Lieberman bought an old Chrysler for him a few years ago.

I wanted to make sure Vojtech’s Cartier purchase experience went more smoothly than that old Chrysler transaction did, so I took the radical step of arranging to inspect the vehicle before the purchase, not afterwards. Thus the call to Rodney. I figured I would be able to diagnose any major flaws in the way the Town Car drove, while Rodney checked the thing for crash damage and unusual wear. We would be a great team, just like Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney. Minus most of the blindness and all of the musical talent.

I arrived at Rodney’s current crib just in time to see two Somalis in the parking lot of said crib accidentally drive into eachother while attempting a fairly standard jump-start between two decrepit Hondas. My friend’s personal relationship with the growing African refugee community in his neighborhood has been somewhat fractious, in the sense that a Somali recently rammed his front door at thirty or so miles per hour, using a 1995 Lexus ES300.

“You know,” Rodney noted as we walked out to my own Town Car and he made some casually disrespectful gesture at a young woman in an outfit remarkably similar to that worn by the Jawas when they captured R2-D2, “it took me no small amount of effort to re-hang the front door so it would open and shut correctly.”

“How,” I asked, “did the Lexus fare?”

“Oh, it was fine, with the exception of some damage to those dumb-ass styrofoam-backed fins under the bumper.”

“Solid car.”

“Solid bullshit.”

“Why did the guy ram your door again?”

“I made him move his car. He was parking in my mother’s spot.”

“I didn’t realize your complex had assigned spots.”

“My mother’s been parking there for ten years. I had to tell his bitch ass to move his car. So he moved it, then he rammed my front door with it.”

“Where were you standing at the time, if I might inquire?”

“I was standing in the doorway.”

“So it was less a case of him senselessly ramming the door and more a case of him trying to run you over.”

“You know these motherfuckers can’t do anything right. Quiet is kept, they make me slightly ashamed to be a Black man from the motherland of Africa.”

“It’s a tribal continent. Your lineage might be from a better and braver tribe.”

“I bet you it was a tribe where they knew how to use a fuckin’ toothbrush, which is more than these simple fools know how to do. You remember that I told you two McChickens, right?” Thirty minutes later, we arrived at the eighth-acre gravel lot on which the Cartier was parked. The office was locked and the shades were drawn. I’d feared as much; the dealership phone number had rung to a cellphone voicemail when I’d tried it earlier. Still, he’d responded to Vojtech’s emails during the day and had agreed to meet me here.

Luckily, the Town Car had unlocked doors to go with its four severely underinflated tires. To my surprise, there was a 302 Windsor complete with Fox GT-style intake sitting under the hood, but it was there legitimately; the magic year of 1990 combined the new bodystyle with the trusty old five-liter. It would surely be the one to have; although the mod-motor is bulletproof in later Town Cars, it was not always thus and it was certainly not thus in 1991, when it appeared to be an unfortunate step backwards. Interesting to consider that the descendant of this engine makes more than three times the original rated power, in the Shelby GT500. My reverie was interrupted by Rodney’s demand that I come look at the front fender.

With uncanny precision, Rodney proceeded to tell me the story of the Cartier as it was written in bent steel, paint drips, and body filler. He made acerbic comments about the way the passenger-side doors were hung and contrasted the condition of the rear carpets (immaculate) with the front-seat leather facings (beat to hell). As he narrated the Lincoln’s failings, I chat-messaged them to Vojtech. There’s something miraculous about that, really; a guy across the world finds a car in the next town over and I can give him the play-by-play as it’s inspected.

“Twenty-five hundred bucks, tops.” That was Rodney’s verdict so I called the lot owner’s cellphone one last time. I got lucky and he answered.

“I could be out there in, maybe, half an hour.” For a moment, I truly envied this fellow, this titan of rural industry who could afford to take Saturday off and mosey on over to his lot whenever he felt like it. I wish I could run my own life that way.

“We have some concerns about some of the panels on the car—”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I know that car. Know its history. It’s never had any bodywork.” That tore it. He was a liar, or stupid, or both. Thousands of miles away, in the home of the excellent CZ75 pistol, Vojtech agreed and we aborted the mission.

“Honestly, the owner of the store probably lost interest the moment he heard ‘Czechslovakia’,” Rodney opined. “Still, he’s on the Internet with the car so he had to figure that it might be somebody besides these dumb hicks out here who might want it.”

“You’d think,” I offered.

“I used to think the Internet would just end up being something people used to shop. That the promise of it would be lost, you know?”

“Sure.”

“But here we are in the year 2013 and it turns out that it’s more than that. ‘Cause you have a lot of these young white girls who use it to meet someone to create a chocolate fantasy and make their parents angry. It’s often happening that they pay for dinner as well.”

“At our age, Rodney, shouldn’t we be doing more with what we have available to us, this technology, these shoulders of giants on which we stand, than just using it to meet scandalous bitches?”

“You’re the last person I know who should be able to ask that question with a straight face.” As we droned back to Rodney’s place, I wondered if we hadn’t been too hard on the Town Car. It was twenty-three years old. If I’d been able to find a ’67 Lincoln in that kind of shape, for that kind of money, in 1990, I would have pulled the trigger with no regrets. But this wasn’t a kick-around car for me to operate in the Midwest, surrounded by AutoZones chock-full of Panther parts. This was going overseas. So it had to be right. And this car wasn’t right enough.

Viewed in that context, I felt good about sentencing the Cartier to live out the rest of its life in Ohio. I can relate. There are days I feel that I’ve received the same sentence, and with more caprice in the judging than I showed that car. It’s harsh, but it can be borne with dignity.

Back in the parking lot, three dark figures were haggling over some small package and they yielded the right of way reluctantly. “Just let them disrespect me so I can beat some ass,” Rodney implored some vague higher authority. “Just let that happen.” We parked without drama next to his mother’s car and I shook his hand earnestly.

“I appreciate your taking the time to look at the car, brother,” I told him. “I mean, you’ll never meet the guy you helped today.”

“Why,” Rodney replied, laughing as he carried his third McChicken of the day towards his severely dented front door, “would that matter?”

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Lincoln Launches Ecoboost Town Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/lincoln-launches-ecoboost-town-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/lincoln-launches-ecoboost-town-car/#comments Thu, 02 Aug 2012 13:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=455217 Sorry Panther fans, this is not the Town Car you are looking for. We are, of course, talking about the MKT Town Car, the apostate unibody crossover Town Car-in-name-only that is as popular with Panther fans as Salman Rushdie is with Iranian mullahs. The two-box Townie will be available with Ford’s 2.0L 4-cylinder Ecoboost and […]

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Sorry Panther fans, this is not the Town Car you are looking for.

We are, of course, talking about the MKT Town Car, the apostate unibody crossover Town Car-in-name-only that is as popular with Panther fans as Salman Rushdie is with Iranian mullahs.

The two-box Townie will be available with Ford’s 2.0L 4-cylinder Ecoboost and all-wheel drive. Civilian versions of the MKT will not be getting this motor, so the only way to get this configuration will be if you’re a livery car driver, or willing to buy a used black car.

At $49,845, the EcoBoost model will cost $1,100 less than the 3.7 V6 model. Fuel economy is rated at 20 mpg city/28 highway/23 combined, versus 17/24/29 on the V6. Power is rated at 235 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque versus 300/275 for the V6.

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Take A Chance On E(85) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/10/take-a-chance-on-e85/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/10/take-a-chance-on-e85/#comments Mon, 25 Oct 2010 14:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=369951 You’ve heard the old joke about ham and eggs, right? The chicken is involved, and the pig is committed? Well, I’m going to give ethanol a shot for a while and report the details to all of you. I’m involved, and my Town Car is committed. There are three E85 stations within five miles of […]

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You’ve heard the old joke about ham and eggs, right? The chicken is involved, and the pig is committed? Well, I’m going to give ethanol a shot for a while and report the details to all of you. I’m involved, and my Town Car is committed.

There are three E85 stations within five miles of my house. Two of them are operated by the Kroger grocery chain. E85 pricing is perhaps the one thing in America more subject to political and economic meddling than gasoline pricing, but it’s currently at a point where it could make sense to run it.

To find out for myself, I’ve run my 2009 Lincoln Town Car Signature Limited down to below “E” and refueled with E85. On October 24, 2010, E85 was priced at $2.29 locally for me, compared to $2.79 for 87 octane gas. My Town Car reports 21.4 miles per gallon in mixed-use driving, usually running between 75 and 85 on the freeway and with about five surface street miles for every fifteen ones on the Interstate.

I estimate that I need to average 17.8 mpg in order for E85 to “balance out” under these conditions. I’m scheduled to drive about 600 miles in the next seven days, so on Monday I will come back and tell you how I did.

No, this isn’t particularly scientific, and it ignores the other potential costs of E85 — wear on the engine, fuel system damage, food prices in Zimbabwe, and so on — but it’s a start.

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Panther Appreciation Week: Wheelbase Wackiness, Wixom Wistfulness http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/09/panther-appreciation-week-wheelbase-wackiness-wixon-wistfulness/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/09/panther-appreciation-week-wheelbase-wackiness-wixon-wistfulness/#comments Wed, 22 Sep 2010 14:37:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=366401 In the magical half-fortnight festival of full-size Fords known to all and sundry as Panther Appreciation Week, the most fortuitous things can occur for the True Believers. The obstacles before our durable front suspensions are laid low and the rough path is made smooth before the live axles of our minds, which is how I […]

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In the magical half-fortnight festival of full-size Fords known to all and sundry as Panther Appreciation Week, the most fortuitous things can occur for the True Believers. The obstacles before our durable front suspensions are laid low and the rough path is made smooth before the live axles of our minds, which is how I found myself rolling through New York Tuesday afternoon in a 2010 Town Car Signature L.

“Something happened a few years ago,” my driver, Leo, said. “They ain’t as good as they was.”

“I can explain why,” I said, and I meant it. But first, a word about wheelbase.

The Panther platform has always been a relatively short-wheelbase car compared to the B-body GM cars and various German “D-segment” vehicles. The original Panthers came in two sizes:

  • 114.3 inches. This underpinned the LTD/Crown Victoria and Marquis/Grand Marquis sedans and coupes, and was also used for the Lincoln Mark VI coupe.
  • 117.3 inches. This was what you would find under Continentals/Town Cars, Town Coupes, and Mark VI sedans.

By contrast, the B-body (Caprice, Delta 88) was 115.9 inches and the C-body (Olds 98, Cadillac deVille/Fleetwood) was 121.5. Across the pond, the standard-wheelbase Mercedes S-Class was 115.6 and the LWB was 121.1. The Jaguar XJ6 was 112.2 inches. A BMW 733i was 110.0 inches. The kind-of-new-for-1979 Chrysler R-bodies (Newport, Gran Fury, Imperial) were 118.5 inches. Regardless of what the Panther player-haters out there say, Ford was right in the middle of the market.

Furthermore, the United States is a nation of owner-drivers. While it may be perfectly true that everything bigger than a Toyota Yaris is chauffeur-driven in India, China, or Russia, the vast majority of Town Car owners never sat in the back seat even once. If the Panthers were a little tight for rear-seat room, it didn’t really matter to their real-world demographic.

As the Panther platform entered its fourth calendar decade of production (!!) it became apparent to Ford that two of the three variants — namely, the Vic and the Town Car — were being purchased largely by livery operators. Those people wanted more room for the back-seat passengers, so Ford obliged. Since 2001, the Town Car has been available as a long-wheelbase variant at 123.7 inches. The LWB Crown Victoria is a 120.7 inch wheelbase car sold to taxi companies here and to private buyers in the Middle East. To my knowledge, if you want a LWB Grand Marquis you’d better start with a LWB Crown Vic and the relatively few parts which distinguish the Ford and Mercury cars. I can’t find any proof that there was ever a LWB Marquis.

Some livery companies in the New York area run both SWB and LWB Town Cars; I asked Leo the driver why this was so. His opinion was that the SWB cars held up better in extreme service. He did not venture an opinion as to why, but I would imagine that the SWB car is more rigid and therefore handles the miserable Manhattan roads better. He indicated further that the SWB car was much easier to park.

We then discussed this matter of recent declines in Town Car quality. Leo was careful to note that the basic mechanical bones of the Town Cars continue to be reliable to 300,000 miles and beyond. His gripe was with interior quality, parts falling off. His company runs cars 18 hours a day and there isn’t always a chance to make the cars look perfect before the next shift. He was emphatic that the 2008-2010 cars were the ones with the issues.

As any true Panther aficionado knows, the Crown Vic and Grand Marquis have been assembled in Ontario since 1992, but the Town Car was a product of the Wixom, Michigan plant. This changed on May 31, 2007, when the last Wixom-built Town Car rolled off the line. A few months later, production restarted in St. Thomas. The Canadian Town Cars are apparently not built as well as their Michigan predecessors. My personal Town Car is a product of the St. Thomas plant; we will see how the interior looks at 300,000 miles.

All LWB Town Cars have a center armrest in the rear seat which contain climate-control temperature, fan speed, volume, seek/scan, and “next track” buttons. There’s also a switch to move the right front seat forward out of Mr. Wall Street’s way. Presumably there are people out there who feel empowered to mess with the radio from the back seat. Your relatively humble author is not one of those people.

During my drive out to the Palisades, I wondered what could possibly replace the long-wheelbase Town Car in the livery biz. Interestingly, Leo confounded one of the Internet’s favorite chestnuts of received wisdom by indicating that he had seen the invoice for five Signature L Townies purchased by his firm. They were $47,000 each including tax, so figure the “deal” was $44K. That’s well below the $52,195 MSRP of the vehicle, but far about the $30K number knowingly repeated by teenagers on Web forums. What can you get for just north of forty grand that will run for well over a quarter-million miles, can be serviced by (un)trained monkeys, and is capable of hitting a New York pothole at 70 miles per hour for eighteen of those hours every day? I suggested to Leo than a full-sized SUV might be able to do it.

“You know,” he said, “I like those new Suburbans. We got some. Nicer than this inside. Ride better, even. Super nice. Let the guys drive ‘em for six months. Then they fall apart. Don’t seem like it would be that way. But they don’t last.” The Panther has lasted, in one form or another, short wheelbase or long, since 1979, but its time is up.

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Panther Appreciation Week: The Way We Roll Now http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/09/panther-appreciation-week-the-way-we-roll-now/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/09/panther-appreciation-week-the-way-we-roll-now/#comments Mon, 20 Sep 2010 14:45:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=366159 “Hipstamatic” photo by Adam Barrera, taken in front of the Thurman Cafe This is my 2009 Lincoln Town Car Signature Limited. I bought it from Josh Lewis, the long-haired North Carolina socialite who runs Raw Autos. This is “Panther Appreciation Week”, where I (and perhaps *cough* Sajeev *cough* others) will discuss our history with Ford’s […]

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“Hipstamatic” photo by Adam Barrera, taken in front of the Thurman Cafe

This is my 2009 Lincoln Town Car Signature Limited. I bought it from Josh Lewis, the long-haired North Carolina socialite who runs Raw Autos.

This is “Panther Appreciation Week”, where I (and perhaps *cough* Sajeev *cough* others) will discuss our history with Ford’s perennial little big car platform and the many ways in which it has had an impact on American car culture. I will start, by talking about what the Town Car means to me.

In the spring of 1982, I was living in the heart of Upper Arlington, Ohio. I’d grown up on the East Coast and was alternately fearful and contemptuous of the children around me. In the “day schools” surrounding the cities of New York, Washington, D.C., and Boston, children were relentlessly drilled in etiquette, verbosity, academic excellence, pushed ahead as quickly as the system could take them. I was eleven years old in the eighth grade; had my father not put a halt to the process, I’d have already been a high-school junior, which was our educational consultant’s straight-faced suggestion.

My classmates were three years older and a foot taller than I was. Loud, bumptious, casually racist, mostly stupid beyond anything I’d imagined would be possible. Our school had one computer — a TRS-80 Model II — but they’d also left it unsupervised and available to whoever could fight for it most effectively. I convinced my parents to let me take a few months of Kenpo from a rather terrifying fellow named “Jay T. Will”, and eventually managed to get in front of the terminal long enough to learn BASIC and the Radio Shack assembler. In all other respects, my new life in the Midwest was fairly miserable.

My father was not a sentimental man, nor was he terribly interested in the affairs of children, but even he could see that I was extremely discontented. His solution was to take me out in the early evenings, to tour the car dealerships and obscure restaurants of Columbus. We would fire up his Sky Blue 1982 Town Car Signature Series, complete with blue velour interior and “Premium Sound” door speakers, and roll quietly down the streets of a city that had mostly closed its doors by six o’clock. I could barely see over the doorsills. The power windows had a fantastic feature: when you pressed the switch the vent window would drop first, followed by the main window.

“Stop doing that,” my father said.

The “old man” (he was thirty-six) commanded the instant respect of car salesmen everywhere; perfectly fit in an era before it was popular, he was just making the transition from Calvin Klein and Yves St. Laurent to this new fellow, Giorgio Armani. He did not dress casually away from the Salesian Boys Club where he played basketball in the late evenings. He was the product of Notre Dame, the Marine Corps, and New York society. As we pulled up to a dealership, be it the MG shop that was in the process of closing or the chandelier-lit Buick/Rolls-Royce cathedral in the middle of Downtown, I could see men throwing cigarettes into their trash cans and hopping up from their desks.

Dad would tell the men, “We’re just looking,” saying “We” specifically to cover me with his aegis, for I was already in the cars, opening the hoods, looking under the dashboards for interesting wiring. In this era children were still expected to shut up and stand behind their parents. Rarely did anybody mention that perhaps I shouldn’t be doing this stuff. Once I took a Mercedes 380SL out of Park, just to learn about the then-unusual shifter configuration; it began to roll softly across the dealership carpet. The salesman began to shout; my father stared him down and I got the Benz stopped before it bumped the ever-present metallic-red 240D that made up the bulk of their inventory.

These were the good times for me. I knew that every few days I spent listening to my idiot teachers misinterpreting Western history or playing the trumpet in perhaps the most atonal school band ever assembled there would be a blissful hour among shiny new Porsches, Datsuns, or Oldsmobiles. My most vivid recollection from those days is of a white Camargue surrounded by actual velvet ropes; a car that was at once beautiful, repulsive, and bewildering.

Our rides were quiet; I knew better than to bother him with endless chatter about computers or my various little collections — pens, Atari cartridges, models of World War II tanks. There was no phone to interrupt us. Dad was a man of relatively few words. He would lay out the dealerships within his available travel radius for the evening, I would pick one, and he would pick dinner without consulting me. When we returned home he would read the newspaper and fall asleep in his recliner.

This was the American Dream, the life to which we were all told to aspire. I knew early on that it wasn’t for me. I never really wanted a house in the suburbs or a Town Car. I have them both now, perhaps because they don’t mean to me what they meant to others, or perhaps because I wanted them more than I thought I did.

That Sky Blue Lincoln lasted barely two years in the driveway next to our yellow MG Midget and Mother’s Cutlass Supreme. Dad could sense that the Town Car didn’t command the respect it used to. He switched to a panoply of Bimmers, Jags, Audis, and multiple Infiniti J30s. American cars were old news, and he never owned one again.

I called him a few weeks ago. “Dad. I sold my Audi. I’m driving too much. Bought a Town Car.” There was silence on the other end of the line, but I am used to that. Then,

“A Lincoln Town Car.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“I had one of those, when you were young.”

“I haven’t forgotten.”

“They don’t seem much different.”

“They aren’t.”

“You sold your Audi.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Sounds very fiscally responsible.” This phrase, rarely used by him in connection with me or my activities, implied approval.

“I think I will enjoy it.”

“I think you will, too.”

And I will.

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Town Car Comes To A Halt At 490,789 Miles http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/09/town-car-comes-to-a-halt-at-490789-miles/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/09/town-car-comes-to-a-halt-at-490789-miles/#comments Wed, 01 Sep 2010 14:30:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=364350 Here at TTAC, we just love to talk about the Panther-based Town Car. I’m personally a big fan, but the rest of the staff is not as fond of the last full-sized Lincoln. Whether you love or hate driving a TC, however, you have to admit that they are very durable vehicles. It’s no surprise, […]

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Here at TTAC, we just love to talk about the Panther-based Town Car. I’m personally a big fan, but the rest of the staff is not as fond of the last full-sized Lincoln.

Whether you love or hate driving a TC, however, you have to admit that they are very durable vehicles. It’s no surprise, then, that “Charlie The Town Car”, a 2004-vintage model used daily as a cab in Austin, Texas, wasn’t laid low just 9,211 miles short of the half-million-mile mark by mechanical failure. No, it had to be rammed by a truck.

A July article in the Austin Statesman tells the tale:

McClung, 48, a native of Bangs, a hamlet just west of Brownwood, said he properly paused at a four-way stop in East Austin (on the way to pay his weekly $235 lease to Austin Cab) and then pulled out. The other guy, in a maroon Ford pickup, ran the stop sign to McClung’s left and slammed into Charlie’s left rear…

And the odometer (the car, sadly, won’t start now and required a jump to get enough juice to light up the electronic reading on the dash) sits frozen at 490,789.5 miles. Just 9,210.5 short of half a million miles. And maybe done.

Any old Ford hand knows that’s the inertial fuel pump at work. Press the button in the trunk (or, in some Fords, the glove compartment) to reset the fuel pump and away you go. I looked for an update to this story and couldn’t find one. I’d like to believe that Charlie’s frame wasn’t bent too badly and that a junkyard door put him back on the road. It’s more likely, though, that the insurance company called time on the whole endeavor and sent Mr. McClung looking for his next Townie.

This kind of mileage is exceptional for any vehicle, but during many trips to Orlando, FL I regularly saw the Town Cars operated by Mears Motor Coach looking quite spiffy with 200,000 miles — or more — showing on the odometer. There’s plenty of evidence that Toyota minivans and the like can’t quite cut the mustard:

“The minivans, the fleets really discovered that they were just not holding up,” said Michael Woloz, spokesman for the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, an industry group.

In the long run, no modern car seems to last quite like a big Panther. It can be an attractive purchase for anyone, from a 24-hour-a-day cab company to a club racer… but that’s a story for another time.

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TTAC’s NHTSA Data Dive: 95 Cars Ranked In Rate Of Unintended Acceleration Complaints http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/02/ttacs-nhtsa-data-dive-95-cars-ranked-in-rate-of-unintended-acceleration-complaints/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/02/ttacs-nhtsa-data-dive-95-cars-ranked-in-rate-of-unintended-acceleration-complaints/#comments Sat, 27 Feb 2010 05:46:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=346855 [Update 3: This post is now officially obsolete, having been supplanted by the much more accurate update here] [Update 2: In a new post, I have noted that 53% of Toyota UA complaints were filed after the mat advisory was issued on 9/29/09. The number used her are not adjusted for that. As soon as […]

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[Update 3: This post is now officially obsolete, having been supplanted by the much more accurate update here]

[Update 2: In a new post, I have noted that 53% of Toyota UA complaints were filed after the mat advisory was issued on 9/29/09. The number used her are not adjusted for that. As soon as they are available, I will redo this spreadsheet, using more accurate sales stats]

[Update ans Disclaimer: As I noted below, this spreadsheet will be updated when I can access actual sales stats from our source, Morgan and Co. on Monday for the years ('05-'10) covered. That will very likely change the rankings somewhat. The Lincoln may actually be #2. But this is not about which car is #1 or #2; it's about finding patterns in certain makes, and within makes. It's an attempt to see if these statistics can shed light on a complex and opaque issue. As an example, why the Toyota Yaris is so low in reported incidents. It's more about these patterns and discrepancies, than about singling out the car with the highest rate, so please don't take the current exact rankings as the final word. It's a work in progress. The fact that the complaints are not tabulated by individual MY also limits this substantially, as running changes in a given car during the five year period will change things significantly. So this data dive is fundamentally flawed; take it as such. But nevertheless, it's still a huge step over the raw data that Edmunds put out, which doesn't begin to account for the number of any given cars sold.]

Numbers and statistics are largely useless without context. Edmunds.com took a first good step in going through NHTSA’s data base and reporting the number of UA events reported per make, brand and vehicle. But what was obviously missing was the correlation to the number of cars on the road in relation to those numbers. We’ve taken the next (tedious) step, and the results are most interesting indeed. They’re certainly not completely conclusive, but we’re not finished yet. The full list of 95 cars follows, as well as our methodology, a stab at some analysis, and more questions to still be answered.

First, our methodology. Edmund’s NHTSA data was for model year 2005 – 2010 cars, to date. Lacking easy complete sales data, I’ve taken the 2008 MY sales for these vehicles, and multiplied by five to arrive at a working number. If detailed sales numbers are to be found, I will update them. But I doubt it would change the numbers significantly.

Obviously, the cars that had lower numbers of events reported are going to be statistically less reliable. And unless we go back to the NHTSA and mine the original data, if that level is available, we don’t know what type of UA event was reported. Was it a likely wrong pedal application, which typically happens at low speeds and often in parking lots (hopefully not near a cliff)? Did it come on after merging into a freeway? Having that level of detail would allow us to make further assumptions, especially if certain cars had higher incidents of a particular type of UA event.

The other thing is consider whether the given vehicle had brake override or not. On the one hand, it’s interesting to note that no European brands were reported, and they pretty much all have brake override. But then so does Chrysler, and several of their cars, especially certain Jeep models, had fairly high rates of reported UA.

There are other factors to consider, like the demographics and use of the specific vehicles. I suspect strongly that the Lincoln TC, the Grand Marquis and the Crown Vic all have the same mechanical and electronic systems. Yet the TC came in #1, the Marquis #9, but the Crown Vic at #32. Is the high proportion of CV use in taxi and police service an issue here? And what are the TC and Marquis owners’ median age?

So many questions and so few answers: Ford, which does not have brake override, had some models fairly high on the list, but the popular Fusion was very low with a rate of .005, and its sibling Milan with a .006. The fact that these virtually identical cars came in so closely gives support to these statistics being reasonably accurate. Other examples are GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado at # 95 and #96. And the Malibu and similar G6 are at #84 and #88.  But then when it gets down to such few reported events, randomness increasingly becomes a factor.

GM’s low UA rate is undeniable: their highest car is the Cadillac DTS, at #40. It also has a notoriously high median age of its owners. The mechanically related Lucerne and Impala are not far apart, with the Lucerne being somewhat higher and undoubtedly having an older median age of its owners. I’m conjecturing here, but the numbers tend to bear it out.

Clearly, Toyota vehicles are skewing to the upper end of the range, although the Corolla/Matrix is down at #38. And the Yaris is very low on the list at #79. What exactly puts the Lexus ES 350 at such a high rate is certainly worth exploring, especially since it was involved in the two must publicized UA events. Its general mechanical similarity to the Camry is well known; without breaking out the types of events the ES 350/330 has been involved with, its difficult to say. But additional information would be indicative, since the Camry is not all that high on the list at #11. Are Lexus floor mats thicker and deeper than the Camry’s? Are the electronics substantially different? Are Camrys imported from Japan involved at higher rates? ( all Lexus ES models are also imported).

The questions go on and on. I will continue the quest of turning up statistics that shed further light on this issue. And your comments , analysis and questions will be most appreciated and helpful. One thing: keep in mind that these are only those cars that had UA incidents reported to the NHTSA (actually, I removed a few out-of production cars from the list). Missing of course are all those cars with no reported incidents, including whole brands, like Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Subaru, Volvo, and all the Europeans (except Saab). Did I miss someone significant? Full list follows:

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