By on December 1, 2009

Chrome is where the heart is...

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Fat Chance! Beauty is sitting in a barclounger leather recliner and watching the world go past at 85 miles an hour. Of course in this 1985 Lincoln Town Car with 45k, the speedometer also happens to give out it’s all too shaky geriatric needle at 85 mph. So anything beyond that I consider ‘warp speed’ as I drive through North Georgia listening to some old time crooners from the Garden State. Speaking of that, did I mention this thing was bought new in two Jerseys? That would be Jersey City, New Jersey. As in Frank Sinatra’s hometown… the king of swing and the purveyor of all things cool. Well, that would actually be Hoboken. But close enough. Driving a Mafia and Spock sized coffin like this Lincoln is definitely a leap to my childhood in North Jersey. A friend of mine’s Dad actually became the head of the Gambino family for a short time. He’s thankfully only been in Federal prison twice so far. Then there was the house that burned down on a lot and remained a charred remnant for twenty years. A healthy reminder of who was in charge of our local government’s services.

Finally there was my Dad’s car. The much unloved 1986 Lincoln Continental. Like that behemoth, this one boasts the very best woodgrain stickers and $20 radio that Red Poling could levy on unsuspecting older people. I’m sure that Toyota and Infiniti kicked Ford straight in the dentures once their 1st Gen luxury cars came out. But hey. If you can get past having parts that were created in at least three different decades (possibly four?), and a chassis that predated Job and possibly old Henry himself, what you still end up with is a genuine all American luxury car. In fact I like it better than the Lexus. Let me put this in a way that you truly understand what I’m sayin’ (as I inspect the trunk for a leftover shotgun or two). Perfection is boring folks. Give me character and a body… I mean keg friendly trunk any day of the week.

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38 Comments on “Hammer Time: There’s No Place Like Chrome...”


  • avatar
    segfault

    I consider the faux-landau and faux-landaulette roofs to be one of the worst styling abominations inflicted upon the public by the Detroit Three.

  • avatar

    I always loved the mid ’80s town car untill I drove one, it scread the s«%& out of me, a full 2 second delay from when you turn the wheel untill the car starts turning :)

  • avatar
    wmba

    The first time I saw one of these abominations was in ’81 or ’82, and the piece of road I saw it on is etched in my memory. Lawrencetown, NS.

    The new Crown Vic it was based on had been out for a year or two, and appearing in front of me coming the other way was a car styled by piling up cardboard boxes and installing a narrow rear axle. Then adding a half vinyl roof to the resulting mess. I could not believe that anyone could be seen in the thing and pretend it was a real car.

    It was a cartoon of itself then and remains so now. Years later I was unfortunate enough to rent one of these things. A galumphing hippo has quicker moves. The big GM cars of the era were in a different and better league entirely.

  • avatar
    getacargetacheck

    I know what you mean Lang. I’d love to own one of those FWD mid 80s Olds Ninety-Eights that every “enthusiast” seems to hate (including me when I was a gullible teenaged Car and Driver reader).  The ride is sooo quiet and smooth.  There’s something appealing about the fake wire wheel covers and woodgrain too.  Who cares if they’re not real?  And the wheel covers look especially awesome now that you don’t see them on every corner (especially the budget K-Mart versions).  Bet the wheel lock wrenches are hard to find though.

  • avatar

    Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson reviewed one of these bad boys back in the day.  It’s one of the best reviews EVER!

    • 0 avatar
      dolo54

      that was great. he’s right about the can in the door bit. my neighbor in the 80s had a brand new k-car which had a terrible rattle in the door. the dealer wouldn’t open up the door under warranty. when he junked it (3 years after purchase, now that’s quality!!!) he had the yard guy open up the door to see what was driving him crazy those 3 years. yep, a nice crushed beer can stuck in there. I like to think it was a gennee cream ale or milwaukees best.

  • avatar
    gottacook

    “Driving a Mafia and Spock sized coffin like this Lincoln”? I don’t understand – Spock’s coffin (seen in the 1982 and 1984 Star Trek movies) is a repurposed Enterprise photon torpedo with no sharp edges and only about half the length of this beast.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    I want to love the 80s Town Car, I really do.  But my problem is that my Dad had a series of Lincolns in the 70s, culminating with the 78 Town Coupe.  That was the ultimate luxury cruiser, and I still think that it was the best big car of the 70s and beyond.  Then tradgedy struck:  Dad traded the 78 in on an 80 Town Coupe.  That was the ugliest car I could recall seeing.  I would have preferred a 62 Dodge Dart.  On handling, I have to disagree with abweiss – I thought the car was kind of nimble.  Too much so to be a real Lincoln.
    While that generation of TownCar had awful proportions, the Town Coupe was even worse.  Lots of people must have agreed, as Ford killed it after 83 or so, IIRC.
    I always thought that the car needed a wheelbase of at least 8 inches longer to fix the proportions.  The chiseled square lines coupled with the perfectly round wheel openings made the car look like a crate sitting on a roller skate. 
    By the late 80s, FoMoCo had upped the power, softend the lines and improved the interiors, and the cars were a little more appealing.  Maybe it was just time dulling my dislike of the thing.  There was nobody who cheered the debut of the 90 louder than me. 
    So, other than it being ugly, underpowered, stuck with that miserably shifting AOD, it was a fine car.   But I’m completely with you on the Frank Sinatra part.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      I always thought that the car needed a wheelbase of at least 8 inches longer to fix the proportions.  The chiseled square lines coupled with the perfectly round wheel openings made the car look like a crate sitting on a roller skate. 

      Chrysler obviously thought this through when they made the LX platform on a 120 inch wheelbase, exceeding the TC by 3 inches and the CV/GM by 5. 

      Of course, Ford might’ve got around to doing likewise if they had spent more than 25 cents on it since 1979.

  • avatar

    jpcavanaugh: compeared to the ’70s Lincoln’s it might feel nimble but being used to a tight ’96 FWD car it really was scarry to drive, I often wonder how so many people survived the ’60s with the high power cars, drum brakes, and no handling whatsoever

    • 0 avatar
      jpcavanaugh

      Just like we kids did by sunning ourselves on the package shelf in the rear window while our parents were hurtling down the interstate at 80 mph.  Sheer providence.

  • avatar

    Wow, What a beautiful example!  Thanks for the write up.   Slap a new set of headlights in it, and call it a day.  So is the interior as nice as the outside?  Also, you may be able to answer a question for me.. my old ’85 Crown Vic had the throttle body fuel injection.  my ’86 Town car, has the “TPI” system.  I always wondered if the Lincolns got the TPI stuff first..
     

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      I know Lincoln was light years ahead of Cadillac in this regard and it was one of the reasons that when car mags would compare the Town Car with the RWD Cadillac Fleetwood, the Lincoln would usually spank the Caddy when the engines were compared, the fuel injected Lincoln would be smoother and quieter than the carburated Cadillac.   You got to remember too that the computer controled Q-Jet 4brl was kind of primitive compared to everybody elses stuff in the driveability and smoothness rankings.  I had a hard time believing (in 1995) when my dad gave me his 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass with a 307V8 that the manufacture recomended starting procedure instructed me to press the gas pedal to the floor and the release it before turning the key to prime the carb if the car was cold.  It reminded me of the procedure for starting a Buick Strait-8 which was hold the pedal on the floor and crank till she fires up.  (With a great ROAR btw, which let all your neighbors know you had a Buick.)

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    I sold hundreds of this model Town Car and everyone that purchased one liked it. Many customers bought multiple cars during the production span. Also, many of my customers also had current Cadillac products and every single one of them liked the ride quality of the Lincoln better. It was a traditional domestic luxury barge for its time and sold very well. It sounds to me like the majority of responders on this thread didn’t like the car when it was new to which I respond you weren’t the target market for this vehicle anyway, the people who drove them were very well satisfied customers.

  • avatar
    educatordan

    (Begin passionate gushing.)  God I love these cars, all of them.  I prefer RWD over FWD but yeah give me a Lincoln Town Car (ANY YEAR), Continental (as long as it’s not a V6), Chrysler New Yorker, Fifth Avenue, Imperial, Dodge Diplomat, Monaco, Plymouth Grand Fury, hell throw Volare and Aspen in there (but only the RWD ones of any Chyrsler Co product please), Pontiac Bonneville (sorry guys it was never really that sporty), Catalina, Parisiane (sp?), Grand Prix, Oldsmobile et al from mid size to full size sedans and coupes, Buick (ibid), and Cadillac any rear drive Caddy from 1970 till whenever the last Fleetwood was built.  Bonus points for anything powered by a 3.8V6 or Northstar V8 variant in FWD form or 307V8 or larger in RWD form.  You get the picture?

    Now I understand ALL the problems these cars had, how they were wallowy, pillowy, had horrible quallity compared to the Japanese competition when new, bad dealer warranty experience, ect.  And I wouldn’t give one to my wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/significant other and pray that they wouldn’t get stranded somewhere and eaten by wolves, but damn it, #1. They aren’t new any more and the previous owners had the pleasure of sorting out some of the bugs.  #2. I know a damn good independent mechaninc and a transmission wizard.  #3. Christ, these cars have STYLE by the trunkful.  Not to many Honda/Toyota/Hyundai products are inspiring PASSION in people.  (Hyundai comes the closest but take away the Genisis and what have you got?)  #4. They’re dirt cheap to buy and insure. #5.  I do love a black mafia staff car, must be the Italian/German in me.  (Or would that be a gestapo staff car?  Just kidding.) 

    BTW no fake convertible tops or vinyl roofs on anything newer than about 1985, that’s just sad.  But I grew up surrounded by fake wood in my dad’s cars so I can handle it.  I know I’m a real dork that I feel this way and I’m only 32. (End passionate gushing.)

    • 0 avatar
      UnclePete

      Last RWD Fleetwood was in ’96. There is something about these big old barges that is just fun. I have a ’95 Fleetwood, and you get plenty of stares when you drive it! (I’m sure some are haters of a vehicle that big, but I enjoy being a contrarian!)

  • avatar

    Mike: Ford went to TPI on all 5.0’s in ’86, I worked for a Ford dealer back then and the big Cadillac still had carborators, it was an easy sell (our cars had some sort of FI since ’82 and now for ’86 we have the most advanced system, they still have carbs) if I am not mistaking the Brougham didn’t get FI until 1990

  • avatar
    obbop

    Oh how I hunger for the Granada that the masses were unable to differentiate from a Mercedes-Benz.

    So very blue without that 302.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    Town Cars of this bodystyle came standard with a full vinyl roof, the Signature Series came standard with the half coach roof. There was not a vinyl roof delete option. I might add that in 90 when the next bodystyle was introduced without the availablity of a factory vinyl roof I sold many of them with after market half and carraige roofs.

    Also, the design pictured here had an optional JBL audio system which at the time was about as far as you could get from a $20 radio.

  • avatar

    not to change subjects :) but do you guys remember the “88 town car that was released to the dealers in march of ’87. (same car then ’87 but different taillight, had 2 backup lights instead on one long one) we couldn’t keep them on the lots they were selling like hotcakes everybody wanted next years cars

  • avatar

    obbop LOL somehow I sense sarcasm here :) I remember those TV ads

  • avatar

    Abeiss: Thanks!  I’ve always been curious.  I have to say, the system in mine has been absolutely trouble free.  After 322,000 miles, that’s sayin’ something.
    Educatordan, I’m 31.  It’s good to know I’m not the sole member of the “big car lovers club.”  If you find yourself in Minnesota sometime, we should go out for a beer.  You can drive the ’86, or my “sports car.”  a ’97 Mark VIII.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      Thanks for the generous offer!  I aways blamed my Grandmothers 1979 Oldsmobile 98 sedan for my love of “Big Cars”, well that and my Dad’s 1975 Monte Carlo.  The big Olds was burnt orange with a white vinyl top and she traded it around the time I hit elementary school (I was born in 1977.)  But it and the Monte are the first cars I can remember riding in, even though in the Olds all I can remember is miles of fake wood, chrome, and pillowy velour.  I couldn’t even see out of the damn thing!  The glove box was almost big enough for me to live in. 

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    @getacargetacheck

    Good God man! Have you DRIVEN a Mid-80’s Olds 98? My Grandparents had the infinite wisdom to purchase one brand-new in ’85. Top-spec 98 Regency Brougham in black on red leather with, of course, a vinyl half-roof. First year of an all-new GM product – it was a total horror show in every way. Completely gutless, never ran quite right, handling that was best described as “approximate” – probably leagues ahead of the Lincoln though. The seats were awful slippery leather park benches with no support in any direction. I drove that thing to high school most every day my Senior year (lived with my Grandparents). Used to be quite entertaining getting the squealing tires to play tunes on onramps at little more than walking pace. They kept it for ten years or so. To it’s credit, nothing major ever broke on it, but it only had about 90K on it when they sold it. Most of the interior plastic was disintegrating though.

    The sad part is, my Grandfather wanted a Pontiac 6000STE, which was actually a decent American car in those days. But when he drove into the Pontiac dealer to trade in his little yellow 1980 Subaru hatch commuter mobile, the sales guys ignored him! He was so peeved he went across the street to the Olds dealer and bought the Pregancy (as my HS buddies immediately dubbed the whale). Something like $21K in late 1984.

  • avatar
    SLLTTAC

    Ha! You call that “chrome”? If you want to see real chrome, look at a 1958 Buick Roadmaster Limited, which featured unlimited chrome.

  • avatar
    Rick

    My old man bought an 86 Town Car when I was 9.  Man, that was a great, great car.  Unfortunately, he had to trade it for something FWD after a couple years because he couldn’t back out (uphill) of our driveway in the winter.  I hated to see it go.

  • avatar
    getacargetacheck

    krhodes1, LOL yeah I’m sure you are quite right about the first year FWD C-Bodies.  They certainly had a bad reputation at the time for quality.  However, I’m certain they were quite fine by the 3rd or 4th model year with the Buick 3800.  I have never driven one, but I believe you.  I have ridden in one (an unrepeatable story about a girlfriend, a father, being way past curfew, and something like “you better hope I don’t tell your parents”).  Haha.

  • avatar

    Back in the day, the girlfriend had a 1987 Olds 88 with the 3800.  The car was as basic as it got.  Bench seat, AM only radio with only the front speakers, but it would get out of its own way quite effectively.  A good little car, really.  I have plenty of fond memories of it.   It had its share of front end alignment issues, but it was a transmission that wouldn’t use anything but first gear that lead her to finally trade it in – on a ’92 Crown Vic. (her choice!)
    And Rick, the trick to getting the ‘ol Town Car to perform in the snow?  Epic dedicated snow tires!  Mine will go through most anything.  It has been my winter car, (or only car) since 1996 or so.  A little “junk in the trunk” never hurts either..

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      A little “junk in the trunk” never hurts either…

      I like my women that way too.  ;)  A buddy in college had an old Diplomat cop car with a limited slip differential, he put snow tires on it and kept the trunk full (in the winter) of all the automotive tools he owned, tow rope, and other car/emergncy items.  When he was finished packing it for the winter all he could get in the trunk was a cooler in the dead center that he would leave empty except when he needed to put groceries or something in it.  That thing was a great snow car when set up that way. 

  • avatar
    dolo54

    If you mention “handling” when talking about these cars, you might as well just stop talking because you don’t get it. These cars are about style, comfort and trunk space and they have that to spare.

  • avatar
    DearS

    As much as I respect the points being made, this car does not work for me. I fell I’m being tortured when in a  floaty cars, yet again, still.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    With the bulk of cars being  some sorta  of  road color, a little bit brightness,  allows  you   pick them up  easier  in  the  mirrors. Sorta like  day time   running  lights.

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