By on April 14, 2010

I’m going down to Memphis

Where they really playin’ the blues

I’m going down on Beale Street

And have a good time like I choose

“Thank you for coming to Budget. I have you booked for a Kia Optima.”

“The hell you do.”

“That is a full-size car as you requested.”

“Well, in that case, I want something that is not a full-size car.” And that is how I came to be rolling through the proverbial Dirty South in a 2100-mile, 2010-model-year Town Car. Yes, they still make ‘em. The current lineup has been rationalized to Signature Limited (117-inch wheelbase) and Signature L (123-inch). There’s absolutely no reason of which I can think to take the SWB car, but that’s what the rental fleets have, and it’s what you can easily buy off-lease. I’ve found plenty of essentially identical two-year-old SigLims for under $20K, so this car is not only a direct used-price competitor for the 2009 Sable I reviewed previously, it’s also in the same ballpark as… a Kia Optima.

Automotive experts of the Internet, when they are not telling people that a 2009 Sable is virtually the same car as an old Volvo S80, like to tell people that a 2010 Town Car is virtually the same car as a 1979 Lincoln Continental sedan. This is true in the same sense that a 2000 Honda Civic Si is the same car as a 1988 Civic. In both cases, there were major dimensional and engineering changes across multiple generations of the same basic design. I am the former owner of a 1980 Mercury Marquis Brougham Coupe and I can state with authority that the current Town Car is nothing like that car in terms of driving dynamics.

This does not mean that recent Crown Victoria owners won’t be perfectly at home. Ford has steadily rationalized the differences between the Panther cars over time and this 2010 car is the most egregious example of that. Town Car aficionados (yes, they exist) will tell you to avoid Canadian-built TCs in favor of the Wixom, MI-assembled 2008 and earlier model years. They may have a point. The plastics and leather are okay, but they are nothing like what you would find in an Audi. Come to think of it, they aren’t close to what you would find in a new MKS.

Also not up to MKS spec: the sound system. You can get SYNC in a fifteen-grand Focus but not in a Town Car, and for the first time in my recent experience, the stereo simply isn’t loud enough. There is no navigation screen, no aux plug, no USB support, no nothing. The center console features dual-zone climate control and that’s more or less it.

Once in motion, the Town Car has a surprising flaw: it’s a wanderer on the highway, requiring constant correction and displaying quite a bit of sensitivity to side winds. My displayed mileage for the trip was 22.7 over the course of 2,635 miles, including a day in New York and one cruising around Memphis. There’s more than adequate power and the four-speed transmission rarely feels as if it needs additional ratios.

A snowstorm outside New York revealed why a whole generation of drivers abandoned big RWD cars: it was an absolute nightmare on a high-crowned, icy two-lane, requiring frequent, violent corrections at the helm to keep pace with the rest of the traffic. When the road turned dry, it was time to take advantage of the anonymity afforded a black Lincoln on I-95, pushing into the triple digits and pushing traffic out of the left lane with a double-blink of the brights and a bullying chrome grill. This is no sports car but it has some fundamental balance to it at speed. Too bad it has no brakes.

In traffic anywhere, the Lincoln is a fearsome weapon. It’s big, it’s official-looking, and it brake-torques from the lights like a Fox Mustang. The steering is light but accurate enough to place the car inches from a falafel vendor or inebriated pedestrian. Potholes don’t faze it. And Ford’s never bothered to put anything like advanced engine electronics in it, so you can wrap the seatbelt tight and left-foot-brake all day, standing the car on its nose on corner entry and then spinning the inside rear wheel on the exit.

If I came to admire the Town Car — and I did — my passengers admired it from the beginning, rating it above not only the Sable but vehicles like the Audi A6. Only my Phaetons have received higher ride-along reviews.

You’ll miss this car when it’s gone. It’s old, it’s flawed, it’s imperfect. Still, it’s utterly authentic, and when the last one rolls off the line we will never see its like again. If you haven’t driven one, it’s worth doing, and it’s as close as your local Budget Rent-a-Car. Unless, that is, you prefer a Kia Optima.

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75 Comments on “Rentin’ The Blues: First Place: 2010 Lincoln Town Car Signature Limited...”

  • avatar

    April 13, 2010:

    Buick Roadmaster CC

    April 14, 2010:

    LTC wins “first place” in Jack Baruth’s affections, warts and all.

    What is this, my birthday?

  • avatar

    There is nothing like a big American car. Years ago when I flew into Baton Rouge to drive to New Orleans, I rented from Budget a 300M (the previous model). Everyone kept out of my way and it was a great car for driving around the south with one huge trunk for at least three bodies. Comfortable too, and I knew why those old guys were always driving big cars!

  • avatar

    What is a luxury car?
    Traditionally, it is car designed for passengers, riding in back. A brief look into automotive history shows that luxury cars were designed for riders, luxuriating in comfort as their drivers get from point A to point Z. Kato drove the Imperial, not the Green Hornet. When Americans from 1900 to 1980 thought about a luxury car, they imagined Lincolns, Cadillacs, and Duisenburgs. They saw a businessperson on the phone with a client. They saw a pimp with his ladies. They saw a rolling vehicle with a backseat escounced as though it was a coffin. The Town Car is the last of this kind of luxury vehicle, and when it is gone, a niche will occur that future drivers would be interested in filling.

    What if Ford padded the Town Car – totally pimped it out with every wild rolling extravagance available? If it did, then the Town Car would serve a purpose other than as a full sized rental car. It would return to it’s roots.

    Driving characteristics? Who cares? My driver handles that – not me. If I wanted to drive to work, I would have bought a Porsche. Let Lexus drivers pay $75,000 to drive, let BMW offer an expensive sports sedan, Jeeves isn’t the one I wish to impress. It is my money, and I’ll put it where I sit, not where he farts behind the driver’s seat.

    You see, what we are losing with the the death of the Town Car is a piece of automotive history. A particular kind of luxury car, a luxury car for passengers that doesn’t give a fig for the chauffeurs, the livery men, the car wash boys, or the other guys who tend my rides. With the death of the Town Car, I will be expected to drive the damn Mercedes!

    Also, when the Town Car goes the way of the Beetle, it will leave a gap. A small one perhaps, but one that could be profitably filled by an auto manufacturer willing to fill small gaps. So Ford thinks the new MKT, or MKS is going to replace the Town Car? If it does, then it forgot why the Town Car existed. When we look at the devolution of the De Ville and the Town Car, since 1980, you see how GM and Ford sold their luxury brand’s souls for increased sales. These manufacturers couldn’t sell themselves on these traditional luxury cars enough to recognize where they fit into their car lines. Instead of keeping Cadillac and Lincoln as ueber-pimpmobiles and celebrating them, the short-sighted mopes at GM and Ford saw high gas prices, and death. Instead of issuing Town Cars that evoked classic luxury, the dummied down these brands into overstuffed Granadas, Thunderbirds and Impalas.

    Yeah, back in 1980, even 15 year old kids saw that these dinosaurs were dinosaurs. But you would expect highly paid auto executives to understand their industry enough to know that this kind of vehicle had a profitable role and a future. But those idiots didn’t see it, and they let the De Ville and Town Car spend their last days being rented to newlyweds. What a bunch of dummies!

    • 0 avatar

      You had me until you mentioned the DeVille.

      The Fleetwood Brougham or earlier Fleetwood 75 are, I believe, the vehicles to which you allude.

    • 0 avatar

      You had me until you mentioned the DeVille.

      The Fleetwood Brougham or earlier Fleetwood 75 are, I believe, the vehicles to which you allude.

      Fleetwood was a Pennsylvania coachbuilder that GM acquired, eventually moving production to the Cadillac Fleetwood Plant on Clark Street in Detroit.

      In the later half of the 20th century, until the plant closed, the Clark Street Fleetwood plant produced nearly all of Cadillac’s most luxurious and expensive cars – the cars that literally made Cadillac the standard of the world.

      In addition to the “regular” Fleetwood production models, the Clark street plant also built limousines, including the Fleetwood 75. Other than the “grosser” Mercedes 600, I don’t think any other major car company built its own limos.

      My sister-in-law’s late father bought a seven passenger 1953 Fleetwood 75 limo many years ago and my brother worked on it, mostly fixing frozen brake cylinders. It had hydraulic power windows and one of the first automotive air conditioning units. Her mom still has it. I think they should get a livery license and rent it out during prom season and for weddings. Anyone can arrive in a stretched Hummer, but a ’53 Fleetwood, that’s arriving in style.

  • avatar

    I find it amazing that Ford has zero advertising/promotion for a car currently in production. In fact, I would hazard a guess that upwards of 99% of the car buying public do not know you can still purchase a new Town Car.

    Another instance of Ford letting a very well known model name die a slow anonymous death. Virtually every U.S. car buyer knows the Town Car and Continental names but I doubt hardly any know what an MKZ, MKS or MK whatever is.

    Makes me wonder what the hell Ford is thinking about with their very poor Lincoln model name designations.

    • 0 avatar

      Five years after this article, and in particular the comment I am replying too, we see just how prescient these predictions were.

      I know I am swimming upstream like a salmon, condemned to die at the end of my endeavor, but I plan to ride out my days in my recently acquired Panther, a 97 Grand Marquis.

      Screw all these lookalike, swap out options cars, that can barely be told apart, unless you study for hours and hours, or unless you read the badges.

      Give me a real car, or give me death!

  • avatar

    @mtymsi now that you put it that way, Billy Ford will be lucky if Henry, Henry II, and Edsel don’t rise out of their graves just to pimp slap him. Maybe those will be the three ghosts of Christmases past that visit him.

    Wow a B-body CC and then Lincoln and Sable rental reviews. Alright you’ve all convinced me! Big ass luxury car for my next commuter! They’re quiet and get reasonable fuel economy for their size and I can carry between 4 and 5 adults in comfort. Now to start prowling the used car lots. Although I’ve check certified used on Auto Trader and very lightly used Grand Marquis are scandalously cheap when you consider what they sold for new.

  • avatar

    Ford’s been trying to kill this car for decades. They didn’t even bother to rename it the MkTC.

    Supposedly the steering and handling were much improved with the 2003 MY revision. I haven’t driven a Town Car since the 1980s, so I cannot attest to how the current one might compare to older cars. Jack? Was the steering much worse on older cars?

    I once rode in an airport service Town Car with nearly half a million miles on it that seemed like new. So in the past at least these were built to run virtually forever.

    Not quite enough Panthers signed up in TrueDelta’s survey to provide reliability stats on them yet, but getting close with a few model years.

  • avatar

    Yes, the Town Car has its virtues, but if I’m buying a used one I’m getting the Mercury Marauder variant.

    • 0 avatar

      Most of the Marauder’s I’ve seen for sale have not exactly been treated like “collector cars” and the owners seem to want ridiculous premiums for them. You could buy a Grand Marquis or a Crown Victoria, fit it with dual exhaust, sway bars, a good trans cooler, and perhaps the Marauder’s or a Police Interceptor computer chip and get the same effect. (I’m just spitballing here, I don’t know the exact specs of the Marauder. I wanted one when they were new but I remember many journalists commenting that the mechanical changes weren’t all that significant.)

    • 0 avatar

      The Marauder had a DOHC V8. The regular Grand Marquis had fewer valves and lower output. This said, people were not impressed by the DOHC engine’s torque.

    • 0 avatar

      Good to know, thanks. I like the Marauder’s styling best though, and prefer the console mounted shifter.

      Actually if I was really buying a used V8 RWD luxo-mobile, and not playing garage, I would probably pick up a Lexus LS or GS. They cost more, yes, but the experience should be better.

    • 0 avatar

      The Crown Victoria LX Sport has the same interior and external treatment as the Marauder and an uprated SOHC engine (the Marauder featured the more powerful DOHC motor.) My father’s LX Sport is one of the very few cars I can sleep in as a passenger, whether it’s in the front buckets or the rear sofa.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    “Unless, that is, you prefer a Kia Optima.”

    The new Optima will have more horsepower, more torque, and probably more interior room, too.

    Anyone who desperately lusts for a big boat should find a first-gen Q45. The LS400 was perhaps more refined, but didn’t have the bulk or chassis dynamics to really deliver at speed.

    • 0 avatar

      You completely missed the point. And don’t tell us that FWD sedans like the Kia ride anything like a body on frame sedan.

      Not only is a GEN I Q a flaming pile of crap (cam tensioners = FAIL) it has chassis dynamics and a dull interior. That’s not the making of a niche luxury car. That’s the making of a failed effort.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I used to sell the Q45. They’re almost all long dead. Talk about a car that was in no way built to last.

    • 0 avatar

      True on that. I see tons of first gen Lexus LS on the road all the time. I have only seen one Infiniti Q45 on the road – the rest I have found (On CL, junkyards, and the like) are all dead as a doornail.

    • 0 avatar

      I still have a soft spot for the Q. As it turns out, it’s been the one that got away — every time I’ve seen a good example for sale, I’ve never had the money for it, and every time I’ve had money for one, I could never find one (94-95, not about to deal with the timing guide issues that plague earlier models). 280hp and styling that oozes swagger is always an attention getter for me.

      Both the LS and Q have two different personalities. One’s a cruiser that eats up highway miles in serene comfort, the other’s a bruiser. At least I got to own a first gen LS.

  • avatar

    TC has 3 steering shafts connecting the st wheel to the st gear. The two closest to the steering gear are made in Switzerland!

  • avatar

    I recently bought a 2006 Designer Town Car for my Dad. It has THX, Navigation and far superior seating compared Baruth’s model. While it does nothing to modernize the performance, it feels much more like a real luxury car with the added goodies.

    That car is a blast to drive down I-10. Its like driving a Long Island Ice Tea. So damn good!

    Instead of thrifting out the Designer series (the 2010 Continental Edition isn’t nearly the same), if Ford threw a million or two in the TC’s interior they’d get it all back in less than a year. But we all know that won’t happen.

  • avatar
    A is A

    “You’ll miss this car when it’s gone. It’s old, it’s flawed, it’s imperfect. Still, it’s utterly authentic”

    Decided. If I ever visit the USA I HAVE to rent one of these if I want (I want!) a complete American experience, badly located gas tank notwithstanding.

    To go coast to coast in the USA in rented cars. Small town to small town, taking my time to savor the country. One of my unfullfilled dreams.

    • 0 avatar

      Read the “Yank Tank Comparo” first but by the time you get here the Chrysler 300 may be the only one left. Just make sure you get one with a Hemi or the 3.5V6, the 2.7V6 doesn’t make enough HP for the car to get out of it’s own way.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s exactly why I rented one on a trip to California last year…

      On the plus side: you’ve got lots of room, it’s really confortable (side effect: be prepared to ride with asleep passengers most of the time) and the trunk seems gigantic.

      On the minus side: no brakes (avoid mountain roads and driving at more than a moderate speed), a really imprecise light steering, a nightmarish gearbox and a deep love for petrol stations.

      It’s really something to try…

      (on a side note: Hertz asked me if I wanted a gps and a sirius radio in it. I said no, as i planned to use my smartphone as a gps/multimedia player. Guess what ? The rental car came with gps and sirius anyway…)

  • avatar

    Funny, I had a similar experience with rental at Hertz this week in Seattle. They now consider a super basic Corolla a “midsize” car. Umm, no.

    I didn’t get a Town Car, though it could have been a fun diversion!

    • 0 avatar

      The price point of a Corolla LE places itself above the compact class and it grew enough in size for the 2009 model to allow the Yaris sedan to fill in as the compact.

  • avatar

    This may be reborn as the 2011 MKTc. With an updated grill of course.

    The current MKT could be the MKTx.

  • avatar
    A is A

    “…the 2.7V6 doesn’t make enough HP for the car to get out of it’s own way”

    Thank you fot the piece of advice. Nonetheless, my ride here is a 116 CV 1350kg Toyota Avensis Diesel. She makes more power than I need. Really. My driving style is…uhmmm…”relaxed” (some could say “geriatric”).

    Another option would be to buy/sell 1500$ clunkers as I travel trough the country.

    I can can think about several car models one HAS to drive to understand America:

    * CrownVic.
    * 1980s Ford Taurus.
    * Any Buick.
    * Any Cadillac.
    * A Ford F-150 (I do not like the idea of using this vehicle as a car, but my American experience requires to drive one of these).
    * A Ford Explorer (Idem).
    * A 1980s Vette.
    * Any K-car. Still better if it is a Plymouth.

    Any suggestions?.

    • 0 avatar

      If you’re truly up for adventure try eBay Motors or Auto Trader and search for cars within x# of miles from whatever airports your willing to fly into. A 1980s Oldsmobile would be equally cheap but again any car that cheap and that old would be a TOTAL crap shoot. If you did it during warm weather at least you wouldn’t have to worry about cold start issues that many old carbonated cars have. I’d run the numbers on the rental+fuel costs versus the buy+fuel+insurance costs. For maybe $10,000 you could get a late 80s early 90s Vette that would make the trip but not for $1500.

    • 0 avatar

      Something classic. I’m sure if you hit Vegas on your travels, there will be places that will rent classic cars. For a price, no doubt. But driving something pre-1970 will be required driving if you want to truly experience automotive Americana.

      Sure, driving a modern Town Car or Crown Vic will be a close approximation to their forebears, but with several compromises:

      Wheelbase: too short

      Seats: not nearly plush enough

      Interiors: stripped of character and quality and far too austere and cold.

      and so forth.

      Don’t worry about driving the F-150. They’re remarkably agile and stable vehicles despite their centre of gravity and girth (that is assuming you mean a recent model).

    • 0 avatar

      I can can think about several car models one HAS to drive to understand America:

      Anything GM from either 1966 or 1968.

    • 0 avatar

      – Dodge Caravan

      Or really, to understand modern America maybe you should just drive an Accord/Camry…

    • 0 avatar

      Way late with this, but a mid 70’s Cadillac would be the best if it can be found. Consider the CrownVic’s brother, the Mercury Grand Marquis. Personally, I didn’t like the 98+ Whale styling quite as much as the 97- Aero’s, with the 96 perhaps the best appointed.

      If you must do an 80’s Vette, stay away from the C4’s with the digital dash, unless you don’t mind it possibly dying on you. But then again you would only be renting, not owning.

      And if you bypass any one of these, if you haven’t done so, skip the K-cars.

      If you get this in your inbox, and did the circuit, please tag this back with a followup of your experiences.

  • avatar

    “You’ll miss this car when it’s gone. It’s old, it’s flawed, it’s imperfect. Still, it’s utterly authentic”

    Yeah, and not only that, when 2012 gets here, only the Towncar can save your family from the end of the world.

    • 0 avatar

      The same year STAP is closing its doors, forever. Coincidence? I think not.

      “Lincoln Town Car: For the Apocalypse, Nothing Else Will Do”.

      When speeding away from armaggeddon, wouldn’t it be nice to travel in silence and comfort? The strength and durability of the solid rear axle will handle full drifts into cratering pavement with aplomb, and the full body on frame construction is ideally suited to detours through skyscrapers. The hydroformed front frame rails, and outboard mounted shocks will respond to ever-changing road conditions with precise ease and confidence.

      I call shenanigans, however. That 1970s Continental was stopped dead in its tracks by the earth’s crust. That, clearly, would never happen, as the Conti would continue on through the mantle with nary a bump felt by its passengers.

  • avatar

    Last August I bought a light silver blue with light grey leather interior 1998 Lincoln Continental (now extinct), with 17k 1 owner miles. She was owned by an 81 year old lady in suburban Miami. We have since become friends. I drove the LC home and she made the 1700 mile trip back to the Midwest with no effort, and her 32 valve V8 got a respectable 26 mpg. She is smooth as a 747 on a clear day, quiet and as comfortable as your favorite chair – and has been garaged (again) and never will be driven in the snow. Somehow MKT, A6, 335i etc. do not carry the same style and panache as Continental. But then again neither does Southwest Airlines vs The Santa Fe Super Chief.

  • avatar

    I like the Panthers as well. I suspect most car enthusiasts, other than the pure speed freaks, do; as they do have a more distinct personality than more cookie cutter contemporary “replacements.”

    From what I gather, to perform acceptably in crash tests, new car bodies have to be so beefed up and stiff (and heavy) already, that the extra weight required to make them a self supporting unibody is pretty much nonexistent. While at the same time, CAD, precise robot welding and simple experience, have made unibodies much cheaper and easier to design.

    So, the frame is largely only along for the ride, taking up space and adding weight, while complicating crumple zone design. As safety focus starts including impact to the other vehicle as well, this will only become more true.

    Even nominal “off road” vehicles are moving in that direction. That GX460 now having handling problems, weight somewhere north of 5000 pounds, of basically a unibody like body bolted onto a frame. Back in the Defender days, when an off road vehicle was a sturdy frame with a tin can / tent on top, gravity centers could be kept low even with a tall suspension. But those critters simply don’t pass crash tests any more.

    The only place BOF still makes the world of sense in smaller vehicles, is in pickups; where 2/3rds of the length of the body need not worry about occupant protection, and letting the cab and bed move relative to each other, allows for building a stiff, strong cab, and a minimally engineered, lighter weight bed section. And even there, the mega cab / short bed varieties mainly make sense because of platform sharing with regular cab models. Which is a good reason why Honda went unibody with their people oriented pickup.

    • 0 avatar

      You remind me that Lincoln advertised back with the mid 1990s cars that they had redesigned the entire body so that it was a uni-body full capable of supporting itself and a full load of everything and then bolted it to a stiff ladder frame. That’s how they got such great NVH while making it crash worthy.

    • 0 avatar

      You have a good point, but that’s only one point in a multifaceted argument.

      BOF makes sense in luxury/livery/fleet cars, because no matter what, a unibody still rides like junk compared to a BOF. I’ve yet to be in a vehicle with a better ride, even the Navigator doesn’t come close.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      Sajeev: BOF makes sense in luxury/livery/fleet cars, because no matter what, a unibody still rides like junk compared to a BOF. I’ve yet to be in a vehicle with a better ride, even the Navigator doesn’t come close.

      Does that apply to all Rolls Royces and Bentleys since 1966, Grosser Mercedes 600, Citroen DS, and just about every top-line European luxury car since WWII? Lexus LS? Mercedes S Class?

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I have plenty of wheel time in the Silver Shadow and its descendants. The Town Car rides better, and that goes double for the Mulsanne/Turbo R/Arnage et al.

    • 0 avatar

      “BOF makes sense in luxury/livery/fleet cars, because no matter what, a unibody still rides like junk compared to a BOF. I’ve yet to be in a vehicle with a better ride, even the Navigator doesn’t come close.”

      I own a ’96 Grand Marquis, and while I feel it is a great car I don’t agree with this statement at all. Small potholes, frost heaves, expansion strips, etc deliver a surprising amount of “kick” through the structure for its pretensions as a luxury car.

      An LS460 rides far, far better.

    • 0 avatar

      Paul: New or old, 15″ wheels or 17s, the TC smothers huge road craters better than any LS or S-class. If it had a full air suspension and an IRS, the difference would be significant.

      IIRC, the Town Car is about 4300lbs and easily gets 20MPG in mixed driving. That’s not exactly inefficient by today’s standards, so is the BOF platform really a dinosaur…PROVIDED Ford treated this platform as a niche worthy of the C5-C6 Corvette levels of R&D funding???

      More of a question to spur debate, I obviously don’t have that answer.

    • 0 avatar

      Alex: if your frame of reference is a 1996 GM with a 10+ year old suspension, you need to invest in fresh springs and shocks. For starters.

      And if the new LS460 rides as well as the last (moderately well maintained) LS400 I last drove recently, it’s not gonna age nearly as well as a BOF Town Car.

    • 0 avatar

      Sajeev, I think you hit the nail on its head with the “ain’t gonna age as well as” comment.

      At least in my experience, the S, LS and other unibody land yachts start out riding better than the TC, but over time tend to loosen up more, develop rattles, and lose their composure. While the BOFs start out good but not great, but then don’t really change much over the years. Which probably matter a lot in livery cars intended to perform for hundreds of thousands of miles.

      Another peeve of mine, is the sheer amount of money that has been put into unibody NVH suppression over the latter three to five decades. While the BOFs have received almost no attention at all, except for in (now extremely smooth riding) full size pickups.

  • avatar

    Automotive experts of the Internet, when they are not telling people that a 2009 Sable is virtually the same car as an old Volvo S80, like to tell people that a 2010 Town Car is virtually the same car as a 1979 Lincoln Continental sedan. This is true in the same sense that a 2000 Honda Civic Si is the same car as a 1988 Civic.

    Jack, Thanks SO MUCH for saying this. I am tired of every swingin’ dick who hates the Panther pointing out that it’s the same car as it was back in the 80’s. It is not. Not even close. These car have had tremendous upgrades to just about everything involved in their manufacture in ’92, ’98 and ’03. And plenty of smaller engineering changes many years in between. I’m sorry these cars are perceived as dinosaurs by most people but those same people haven’t a clue what it is they’re looking at.

    I’ve owned four Panther platforms in some incarnation (Vic, GM or Town Car) from early 1994 to this morning. During those sixteen years I’ve had plenty of people ride in my cars and not once did I hear anyone say my car was a piece of shit, a dinosaur, a BOF fossil etc. Almost every comment (and there always was a comment) went something like ‘I didn’t know these cars were this nice!’.

  • avatar


    And now you know why I’ll be driving my 2000 Crown Vic ex-rental stripper until it dies. It has 150,000 miles through Ontario salty winter roads and Southern U.S. summer Interstates.

    It’s had front-end bits and pieces and a plastic intake manifold replaced, along with shocks and brakes, plugs changed once.

    Spring cleaning consists of removing surface rust from the wheel lips (Geez, those Nokia winter tires throw up a lot of salt!) and spraying some white Rustoleum.

    I hear a bit of a “brumm, brumm” from the rear end. I think my rear axle bearings are going, but heck, the bearings on my wife’s Maytag dryer have been gone for years and the think keeps going.

    Everyone should own at least one Crown Vic. They’re sorta like Glocks.

  • avatar

    We have these as work cars. We also have Cadillac DTS’s. Both new fleet lease until 30,000 miles then they are gone.

    The Lincolns are always the last to leave the parking lot. While they have more rear seat room than the Caddys, they are difficult to control. They wander alot. The steering is so light, a sneeze aimed at wheel causes it veer badly. It is difficult to get comfortable, it is very boaty.

    The DTS, on the other hand, can actually be fun to drive, much better steering, suspension and sound system, the seats are cushier and more supportive at the same time. I would not recommend the Lincoln to anyone. If u want such a car, buy a DTS. They are also cheap on the used market.

  • avatar

    I have an attachment to Lincolns, as my first car was a 1977 Town Car. The current model is a shadow of its former self. While I no longer lust after an opera window or coach lamps, it is essential to have navigation and bluetooth. If Ford kept this model current, I would seriously consider buying a new one.

    BTW, I leased a new 1994 Q45 and had zero problems. The Infiniti got me hooked on foreign imports, and I currently have a 750i. I still have a longing for a large RWD American luxury car, but as I am in my 40’s, I would be embarassed to be seen driving a Town Car.

    Snobbish in Florida. :)

  • avatar

    “And Ford’s never bothered to put anything like advanced engine electronics in it…”

    And yet it has probably the second- or third-highest SUA rate of any in-production vehicle, behind only the Lexus ES.

  • avatar

    Great story, Jack, thanks!

    My latest experience with a Townie was 5 000 miles in a brand new Townie with the then-new 4.6 ohc way back in 1993. The thing I remember best about it was the ride. Oh, what a ride! This is a long time ago, so it is hard to compare to today’s offerings, but I distinctly remember that the ride of my Texas friend’s Cadillac Allante was, shall we say, taut, compared to the Townie. Or maybe I should say that riding in the Allante felt like having your ass dragged along the ground compared to the velvety ride of the Townie!

  • avatar

    I am GOING to own a Town Car one of these times. I still occasionally drive the 93 Crown Victoria that is the primary vehicle for my teenagers. 110K miles now, and had 63K when I bought it from my mother in 2005. It is one. smooth. car. It was better in every way than the similarly aged/mile Cad Brougham that it replaced. And from everything I have read, the Townie has had multiple improvements since my Vic was built.
    Maybe I’m just too old. I liked the light steering and the effortless torque of the 60s Detroit Iron that was every high school kid’s used car in the 70s. The Panther is the last car that carries on that feel. Even the best front drivers cannot duplicate the feel of that big BOF V8 rear driver.
    Thanks for the ride, Jack. You did better than I did last week when I was sick of crap cars and rented a Premium car. I got a 4 cyl base Accord. Nice car, but hardly Premium. I wish I had been in line behind you to say “I’ll have what he’s having.”

    • 0 avatar

      Go for the 1991-97 generation if you are looking for the best ride. I have an ’05 now and previously had a ’92. The ’03 and later steering is more precise but the ride is much smoother in the 1991-97 generation. My ’05 can be surprisingly harsh and jolty over certain kinds of bumps.

      Also the build quality is much better in the older ones. My ’92 was an Executive (base trim line) and it had MUCH better leather and higher quality carpeting and interior plastics than my ’05 Sig Limited. The gradual decontenting of the TC during the 2000’s is very disappointing. The early 90’s models are real jewels, as well made as any Benz or Lexus of the time. Ford could keep doing that. They chose not to.

      • 0 avatar

        The late 90’s to about 2010 were truly the Dark Ages of FoMoCo.

        While they needed their newer options, they didn’t have to let the Panthers die, and they would not have, if FoMoCo hadn’t decontented them to death, made them impossible to test drive, and disincentived their sale, plus anything else they could do to prop up the story that no one wanted Panthers anymore.

        I like a lot of things about Ford, but what they did in their handling of the Panther demise is one big black mark that just doesn’t fade away for me.

  • avatar

    I rented a Black Town Car a couple of years ago and took it out on the road. Great car. I will miss this kind of car when it finally goes forever, which I gather will be in September of next year. It’s too bad. I have been looking for a good value rear-wheel-drive new sedan–there aren’t any except for the Grand Marquis and the Town Car (the latter has to be used to be a good value). I blame CAFE.

    • 0 avatar

      Ford seems to have been extremely CAFE conscious from the late 80’s on.

      When I bought a new 88 TBird, I wanted the V8 and the salepeople did everything they could to convince me that the new “Turbo” coupe was a much better performer.

      But having owned a Jaguar with a 3.8L I6 that was severely underrated in its advertised HP, I was suspicious and anyway, I wanted a V8.

      For the next several years I owned that car, it smoked every Turbo Bird that ever dared to rev its engine next to me at a red light.

      But the Turbocoupe had an EPA mileage just below that year’s CAFE target, and the V8 was just above. And that was all they cared about, to the point that I almost walked out of the dealership, either to find a more compliant Ford dealer, or to look at used Vettes again.

      Once I got that V8 Supercoupe though, I never regretted it…143mph top, great handling (once I ditched the Goodyear Eagles), decent mileage, and a ton of fun to drive or ride in. Lasted almost 300K miles, could have gone longer if I didn’t have a wife in college and a new son to care for.

      But at that time, it seemed like all Ford cared about was killing off anything that hurt its CAFE numbers, and they seemed to feel that they could convince the customer base that they really didn’t want V8 Tbirds and Panther platforms even though they still do, to this day.

  • avatar

    I like the Panther platform okay, but I’ve always thought that the 1998-present exterior styling on the Town Car was/is terrible.

    I very much prefer the look of the Crown Vic and Grand Marquis

    • 0 avatar

      To my eyes the last good looking Town Car was the 1997 model. A friend of mine who used to work at Ford on the panther platform said that one of the older engineers (who had been on panther almost since it’s inception) felt that the 1997 was the best of the breed and that too much cost cutting was undertaken on the 1998 refresh. I will say, having driven both a 1997 and a 1998, the ’97 had much softer, more comfortable seats for the long haul, it was quieter overall, and the interior materials seemed much nicer. The suspension tuning also seemed to get worse with the ’98+ cars and they seem to “judder” and “quiver” more than the older ones did in my experience.

  • avatar

    The TC rides better than a Lexus LS or a Mercedes S Class? What universe are we in today? Ah, the BOF one.

    Best riding US car I’ve ever experienced, over big bumps, expansion joints, ruts and the inevitable “we just paved the road and the Joneses went and dug it up to run a sewer line across the street and left a whoop-de-doo”, plus competency in snow and ice, is the late 1970s Chevrolet Caprice Classic. The one with the short trunk and hood.

    Now that was one helluva all around car. Much better controlled ride than its contemporary Buicks, Olds and Pontiacs, all of which suffered from poor bushing choices that led to up and down snaps on sharp bumps, while The Caprice sailed serenely on. To me that car is a real standout.

    • 0 avatar

      @wmba: Back in the day, the company I worked for had the Caprices and Impalas (they weren’t Classics yet) as company cars. I would agree they were a damn sight better than most of the big cars you could buy back then.

      But I was always happy to come home to my (then girlfriend) wife’s Delta 88 Holiday (with 403). It had the FE3 suspension with all of the roll bars and etc., and would take the cloverleafs in and around Youngstown with far more elan than I ever expected from a car that size.

      Driving both cars back to back, I would say the Olds was a better driver, but not by a huge margin. Even with the smogged 403, there was nothing better than shutting the door, slamming it into D, turning on the A/C and blasting down the road with Journey flowing out of the AM/FM/cassette player…

  • avatar

    I have driven the 2009-10 Grand Marquis’ a few times over the past year as my family operates a Budget car rental licensee so we get corporate Avis/Budget cars checking in at our locations daily. We do not personally run any of these vehicles ourselves.

    At the age of 24 it’s a nostalgic ride for me as it is practically the same car I rode in when a kid and a V8 in something other than a truck is always fascinating. Otherwise I get over my childhood nostalgia after about 10 mins of driving one.

    Like some have mentioned earlier, the solid rear axle is upset easily by poor roads, freeway handling scares me, the 4-spd trans/diff ratio are set up for super long gearing which annoys me, and the car has surprisingly tight rear legroom for such a huge vehicle among other things.

    They also cut costs by taking out one of the old school features I liked, the tuckaway wipers. Now they sit oddly high, stands out like a sore thumb to me! I obviously grew up in a different era not accustom to large RWD V8 American iron.

    • 0 avatar

      Shoot man, I’m 32 and it isn’t nostalgia for me. RWD Detroit Iron are the cars I was brought home from the hospital in, went to the prom in, had my first sexual experience in a car in, Christ even the car I was conceived in! (1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass coupe, parents on vacation in 1976, about a year after they got married, stuck in a dust storm, what ya gonna do with all that time on your hands?)

  • avatar

    Reading this article reminded me of when I got the family car at the age of 18 in 1986: 1979 Ford LTD Station Wagon w/400ci Police Pursuit V8 and A/C as the only options that my father had order for it. We didn’t even have a FM radio, although it came standard with AM. That car was a beast to drive, but it did “float” around quite a bit at speeds. I remember driving it up north to Gurnee, Illinois, the home to Great America here in the Chicagoland area, and the cross-winds on some days would buffet that monster car to the point where I would be almost white-knuckled driving trying to keep the car straight on I-94.

    Ah, those were the days. Thirsty V8, “floating” ride, FREEZING-COLD A/C (god I miss those days) and an AM radio that never really stayed on the station you had tuned it to since the pot-holes in Chicago would jar the car enough to tap it ever-so-slightly out of range…


  • avatar

    A snowstorm outside New York revealed why a whole generation of drivers abandoned big RWD cars: it was an absolute nightmare on a high-crowned, icy two-lane, requiring frequent, violent corrections at the helm to keep pace with the rest of the traffic.

    And here, I thought that was a feature of rear-wheel drive everyone liked…

    Regarding the ride… a lot of unibodies ride quite nicely. In fact… I’m the opposite in that I haven’t ridden a BOF vehicle that gives as controlled and stable a ride as a unibody…

    But then, ride comfort is quite dependent upon suspension tuning. The modern Corolla (on 15s, with the bottom rung engine) has one of the best rides i’ve ever felt anywhere… but they sacrifice all pretense at handling to get it.

    Which is why American “boats” are so nice from the back-seat… lots of waffly, waffly float. We took a Lincoln limo from Chicago all the way up to Sturgeon Bay once, eight hours fast asleep… zzzzzz…

  • avatar

    Last time I drove one of these was back in 2000 or ’01, in a blizzard in Detroit. The Texan riding shotgun and I thought it did fine. Yes it was a Budget rental.

    A couple years back I got a ride from downtown Houston out to IAH in the back of a Ford Expedition. That may be as good a substitue for the TC as you’ll find, comfortable and roomy.

  • avatar

    As a past owner of a 1978 Lincoln Continental Town Car, 1979 Cadillac Coupe deVille, and a 2006 Grand Marquis and current owner of a 1996 Buick Roadmaster Wagon, it warms my heart whenever a story pops up on here about big American land boats. Let me tell you, I loved each of them and wish I still had them all. To have one is to never want anything else. I lament their imminent demise.

  • avatar

    I drove a brand new Town Car last October at the dealer, and really liked it. It handled and cornered very well for a car of its size. I’m seriously thinking about getting one in a year or two.

  • avatar

    Thank CAFE and Fords GM- like mentality with this car’s demise. If Ford had updated this with 6 speed automatic, more modern 3 valve 4.6, that is not only more powerful but better on gas, and some exterior and interior tech refinements it could have lived at least 3 more years or so. Imagine a 300 HP TC with a 6 speed automatic that could pull high twenties on a soild road trip. That would have been a soild full sized value.

  • avatar

    I have rented a Town Car on two trips to the US – my friends back in the UK called it the ‘Mafia car’! Can’t really compare it to anything in Europe, just wanted the closest thing to a traditional American ‘land yacht’.

    Hope to get a Grand Marquis next time, just to see the differences. Have to be before 2012 though, as I understand that’s when St Thomas closes.

    I always use Hertz as they always seem to stock Ford cars (in Chicago O Hare anyway) despite no ownership link anymore.

  • avatar

    I LOVE these cars..they are perfect..i have A 1987 And 2003. Love them both!

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