Panther Week Comparison: 1988 Vs 2006 Lincoln Town Car

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

Kudos to Baruth for having the stones to (re)join the Mehtas and countless other Pro-Panther families at the dark side: no small feat considering he’s a famous Audi/Porker racer extraordinare. Which points to a universal fact: it’s okay for car people to love the American Land Yacht, even if modern-day Detroit hopes we’d forget about the past. To that effect, check out two Lincoln Town Cars that often grace my driveway.

My Dad can be a stereotypical Indian: he loves luxury goods, but doesn’t always want to pay for them. His pre-owned BMW 750iL did just that at every (unscheduled) service interval, but his 2006 “Designer” series Town Car doesn’t disappoint, loaded with THX navigation/audio and the back seat from the long wheelbase version to boot. I added a monochrome Navigator-esque paintjob, a resonator-free intake, mufflers from the 2010 Mustang GT (yes, it sounds like a Mustang now), semi-metallic pads, and a Crown Victoria Police Interceptor rear swaybar (2mm thicker) to the mix: this Lincoln is better than new.

My Aunt has driven Dearborn’s flagship since I was a kid, helping frame my collective respect for these machines. Her 1988 Signature Series personifies all that was right with America: traditional styling, pillow-topped brown velour, power everything and a modicum of modernization via vacuum fluorescent indicators and a cutting-edge SEFI 5.0 liter V8

with overdrive.

While both relatives could do better, they really cannot. When you demand flagship luxury on a family sedan budget, the Town Car is it. Northstar Cadillacs? I prefer my head bolts intact. Anything imported? Some luxuries aren’t crystal clear until the repair bill for a modest problem arrives: a truly non-luxurious notion to consider.

The 2006 Town Car is no slouch at sane driving inputs. Even sans Mehta-modifications, it feels better in a corner than America’s mainstream sweetheart, the Toyota Camry LE. With its relative lack of driver nannies and poised V8/RWD architecture, the Town Car is miles ahead of products that pull back on their electric throttles, drive the wrong wheels, self-steer their tillers and spin rubber band tires that bang on pavement joints. Contrary to every other luxury

car, the Town Car is cool with you being cool with yourself.

It’s possible to take a corner without getting sea sick, but why bother? Instead, be cool: thanks to that Police Interceptor bar, the ’06 Town Car is a blast when gently easing into a corner, crossing the apex and hammering the throttle: exploding out of a corner like a scene from COPS. This car is fun.

And when its time to relax, the “Designer” encourages Houstonians to go Slim Thuggin’, workin’ that wood grain wheel in the nearest parking lot. Too bad the live axle crashes over speed bumps, and the beatbox can’t hit the highs and lows demanded by modern music. Ditto the lack of A/C seating, rich carpeting, SYNC interface, or the Mustang GT’s awesome powertrain. Ford even dumped the

THX/Navigation option in 2008 to add insult to injury.

This wasn’t a problem for Lincoln back in 1988. The Signature Series sports the best thrones front and back, shaming the “Designer” digs. The velour is softer than any automotive-grade leather, thigh support is downright naughty, and the 80-watt “Premium Sound” system is shockingly competent when you drop a hit of old school in the tape deck.

I found the need to be “Lōc’d After Dark” uncontrollable, so I hit the freeway, lowered the power vent windows, put one hand on the top of the tiller and let the digital gauges dance to the beat, or to the up-down cycling of that prodigious powerdome hood and pointy fenders. One ride in a proper 1980’s Town Car at not-quite legal speeds and you’re straight-up ghetto fabulous, homie.

The elder Town Car is just that, unbelievably entertaining, feeling better the faster you drive. In a straight line: with over 100k on the clock on a 100% original suspension, this unit has absolutely no road holding ability. And what of live axles? You can’t feel a damn thing with tuning this soft. While not a threat to bystanders, the leaky Motorcraft shocks and low-rider springs means I should “Piston Slap” this car on my Aunt’s behalf. But the economy sucks and the ’88 is still a head turner with a clean set of Michelin whitewalls.

So which Town Car is better? No doubt, the 1988 has everything a luxury purist desires: add the performance and technology advancements from the new Mustang GT, add the interior bits of the Navigator and this car–as it sits–would rule the world. Take it from someone who drove a Rolls-Royce Phantom, this is THE machine. I couldn’t resist sneaking a peek at that unmistakable, 1960s Continental-inspired profile in an office building’s glass wall, and there were too many “Gawd Damns!” from passengers upon entry into the vat of brown velour to not proclaim the 1988 Signature Series the champion. It’s a shame: the new model never had a chance. Sorry, Dad.

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • DmK DmK on Jan 27, 2012

    Very interesting review! As a European guy, I can tell what I do like the American classic cars. But now, US auto companies try to make cars for European market and they make them... too European! I don't want to buy Buick that looks like Lexus or Lincoln that smaller than VW Passat. I don't want to buy European car which was made in US. Wake up, America! People want to see full size sedans with real American luxury. What is that: MKS, MKT, MKX or MKZ. Where did they get the beautiful name like Continental? Did they give it for Bently? What the stupid people are sitting at the Ford's office. Yes, there are a lot of different options inside the Europeans Luxury cars (even the night vision, that was stolen from 2000 Cadillac Deville). But the main American car's "option" is the DRIVER! Just try to drive any of the US big sedans and you'll feel that. Do not change your soul for the gadgets! You have the Great traditions, so, save them!!! PS. I'm 38. I have a LTC (not for delivery) and I'm proud to be its driver.

  • Rickslick Rickslick on Jan 24, 2013

    I have always liked Lincolns, my dad had a 75 Mark IV and a 78 Mark V Bill Blass Edition, I was too young to drive the 75 but I loved the 78, the 460 was awesome, ride was comfy even after long drives i wasn't fatigued. My uncle had a 78 Lincoln Town Car and I always liked the Town Cars better. I have a 76 Caddy Deville coupe I bought from another uncle before he passed, all original and garage kept, sweet car but I still want to add a 78-79 Town car to the fleet preferably a designer or collector series. When I went to college I had a new 86 Accord LXi, it was summer in MS and I had my a/c on full blast and it was cooling but not cold, I got in my dad's friend's 86 Town Car and it was ice cold and he didn't have his system on high. I would also like to have the last year they made the square town car, think 89, they were awesome also.

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