By on September 7, 2017

Images: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta

Tell me something: how can one fault Lee Iacocca for suggesting this vehicle — this blend of architecture, curves and beveled jewelry — generated over a billion dollars annually for Ford?

And how could you resist? There wasn’t a Lexus yet!

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaLike all 1980s Fords benefitting from the W. E. Deming’s management blossom, the Town Car is a bit more aerodynamic than meets the eye.

Make your boxy land yacht jokes while you can.

Images: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta

That’s because this is a complex machine. Look past the obvious stand-up grille and shelf-like chrome bumper. Those are the visual traps leading to stereotypes.

Unlike the Cadillac Bro-hams of the era (with their mostly flat features), the Town Car sported the peaky fenders of the 1961 Continental, the 1966 Continental’s coffin-nose, and flattened the 1969 Continental Mark III’s Rolls-Royce(ish) grille.   

But that’s only what you see.

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaBelow those historical hat-tips is the designer’s ultimate tango partner: negative space.

The Town Car’s headlights sink down and back from the grille, and there’s low points at each side of the power dome hood. Which is misleading, as the “dome” is merely the space where FoMoCo designers refused to carve negative area out from the hood.

5The 88-89 models ditched the squared Lincoln ornament for the beveled emblem from other Lincolns. It complements the other bevels nicely.

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaAnd those set back (from the grille) headlights are eye-catchers. Unfortunately, they take away from the elegant transition to the end of the header panel (right before the “Lincoln” emblem). This wasn’t a problem in the 1970s with covered headlights. 

The Town Car was no stranger to Ford’s commitment to aerodynamics, even if it’s no 1986 Taurus.

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaLike most examples, this Town Car’s 29-year-old plastic filler panel (between the chrome bumper and the front fascia) is wholly intact, if wavy. The same can’t be said for Cadillacs of the era.

The chrome strip between that filler panel and the front facade is a nice touch. Too bad it hopelessly misses a smooth landing against the signal light’s chrome bezel.

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaThe strong bevel in the chrome headlight frame adds another layer to this supposedly “boxy” front end. And the beveled headlight-adjacent emblem is far from a cornball easter egg: it’s pure automotive jewelry.

Images: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta

This stubbly fender is no match for the sleek architecture of the 77-79 Mark V’s blade fender, but it also looks less likely to impale unfortunate pedestrians.

But do you see that bevel in the center of the Town Car’s facade, just south of the headlights’ centerline? 

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaThat bevel (far RH side) pays homage to the 1969 Mark III’s covered headlights, and damn near every Lincoln after that. Combined with the Town Car’s impressive utilization of negative area, and we got three decades of branding cohesiveness.

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaMore bevels in the grille shell, along with a (1988 only) saw-tooth grille aping the Mark VII LSC.

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaStill think it’s boxy?  The Town Car’s oh-so-subtle nod to aerodynamics is intact.

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaThe aforementioned bumper-to-fascia chrome strip matches nicely here, and the quasi-integrated bumpers blend effortlessly with the wraparound, body-color filler panel. 

Too bad about the fender’s optional (Signature Series or Cartier only) ritzy chrome paneling, as the abrupt stop gives new meaning to half-assery.

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaIndeed, the tacked-on chrome fails miserably over the spring-loaded chrome fenders of the 1982 Continental.  But the overhangs are luxury car proper, and there’s a reasonable gap between the front wheel and the cowl (i.e. dash to axle ratio).

Perhaps the Cadillac Bro-ham’s exposed bumpers were a better idea, even if they didn’t force the American land yacht into the aerodynamic era.

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaA clean and tidy cowl, with chrome trim atop the hood/fenders and hidden wiper arms.  

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaThis hood is positively magnificent because of the negative area. Note how the grille and the fender tops are at the same height as the cowl (or close to it), and how everything below is negative area.

An elegant angle of a design era, lost.

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaWhile horrid up front, the chrome paneling is fantastic on the Town Car’s center section. Credit the strong inward bend (borrowed again from the ’77-79 Mark V) before the rocker panels for adding excitement, and a logical transition from paint to chrome.

And don’t you wish emblems could be this small once more?

Images: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta And while it’s boxy and tall, it’s kinda not: cowl height is downright earth-hugging compared to any modern car. Combined with a cab-backward design, the translates to a logical greenhouse with no need for DLO-FAIL. 

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaShame about the boxy transition from windshield to roof.  Things are going downhill from here.

Images: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta

Look at all those elevation changes!  If all the chrome, brown paint, black paint and glass were flush, this would be an excellent transition to the front end’s sculptural elements.

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaDigitally displayed HVAC controls were commonplace by 1988, but the Town Car kept a bit of old-school brilliance: a drum thermometer with a green LED backlight.

And lets not forget those power vent windows: instead of fixed black plastic, its a movable piece of glass!

Could it be a DLO FTW?

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaAnd together, we can also save door-mounted keypads for all Ford products thru the next millennia! Resting atop the window ledge, this gee-whiz tech from 1980 is a fantastic blend of engineering and design.

Too bad the flush numbers of the 1980-1983 button pad were prettier.

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaBacklit keyhole? Check. 

Perfectly-integrated 1971 Mustang door handles?  Son, you best believe that’s a check.

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaAnd the complimentary bands of chrome trim around the doors and windows?  I’d remove the window bling to clean up the look. So much for the modest aerodynamic improvements in the front end!

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaA close-up of the B-pillar’s chrome confusion. Tragic, considering the smooth transitions across the front end.

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaThat bit of aero-killing vinyl trim sure is pretty when you add a bit of vinyl conditioner. But there’s no excuse for the chrome joints on each side of the band. 

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaThis brochure shows the naked Town Car’s clean greenhouse. With a little imagination it coulda blended like the 1982 Continental.

Also note the background photography, note the negative area from an aerial view! 

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaBut still, with all that glass and chrome, this looks like a luxurious and enviable place: entering the back seat of a Proper Lincoln.

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaToo bad the quarter window (the one inside the C-pillar) isn’t the same size as the fixed window in the rear door. It’s a jarring mis-match.

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaWith a touch of vinyl dressing, this shot alone is worth the price of admission for a chocolate-toned Signature Series. Yum!

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaAnd that triple stitching? The only way to make it more impressive is to use contrast stitching! (Or not.)

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaThe quarter window’s overall height looks better here: turns out the problem lies within the recessed/shortened door windows. A problem cured in 1990 with an aggressive re-think of these clunky, clumsy portals.

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaThese triangle-intensive wheel spokes are a transition point between the 1970s turbine and the 1990s lacy spoke wheel. Surprisingly, it works from most angles.

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaBut those Lincoln-hallmark octagonal center caps? Polish those up and the beveled jewelry theme goes into overdrive. 

They catch the light like no mere 15-inch wheel should: bling, not bling-bling.

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaThe Town Car’s legendary suitcase-carrying capability soldiered on into the 1980s.  There’s a slant back clearly designated at the filler panel between the taillights and the quarter panel, but there’s no doubt this is a big, square butt.

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaIt all adds up to a ubiquitous look for the 1980s. Those overhangs, those typical American luxury details, are smaller, more efficient, and offer more space than the 1970s: the magic of downsizing without brand disfunction*.

*About the lack of whitewall tires: only one vendor makes whitewalls now and their reputation isn’t on par with these Michelins.

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaHow would you integrate the Signature Series’ lower chrome trim to that form-fitted chrome bumper? Poorly: that much overhang means there’s too much real estate to sneak a chrome cheater panel to integrate both features.

But that slab-sided profile is stunning.  And the half-vinyl top oozes a sort of luxury now only acceptable for limousines.

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaThe (non-functional) full width taillight treatment is suitably luxurious and sadly clumsy. The brushed aluminum paneling is visually top heavy and poorly integrated. If only that aluminum was instead integrated inside the red panel, like a 1977 model

The pre-88 full-width treatment was far prettier.

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaPerhaps a bit of the front end’s negative area stuck around for the back of the party?

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaThe taillights have a similar jeweled look with beveled red lense and chrome accent. And peep that remnant of the slab-sided, suicide door Continental tail fin: the trunk dips further to let this feature exist.

There’s a ton of negative area on this trunk!

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaBehind that chrome and red metallic emblem is the trunk lock cylinder, even more elegant when you consider the power trunk pulldown motor behind it!

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaThe red reflector’s meeting point is far from elegant. Perhaps you should disregard the poor alignment, as I replaced the RH reflector in 2010.

If only a more elegant transition, or a one-piece design, was implemented…

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaThe tucked dual-exhaust treatment is another sign of a bygone era, as V8 power torque was implied.

Images: © 2017 Sajeev MehtaWith the slant back-ish rear fascia, there’s an eerie harmony between roof and rear end. Plus, the vinyl top gives the feeling of an infinity pool: vinyl perfectly disappears into a glass wall reflecting the sky above. The rear glass is far larger, far less luxurious, if the vinyl is removed.

But such beauty couldn’t last, and the Town Car was eventually replaced by a universally offensive turd blossom. With sales pushed in a corner, their own boffins are quick to take cheap shots at the departed. And to what extent! Perhaps one day these prodigal sons (so to speak) shall appreciate the machines that made this brand’s existence possible.

That’d take a Lincoln-worthy platform, perhaps speaking to a young gent like Alexander McGowen about his Grand Luxury Coupe concept. Since that ain’t happening, the Panther Love fanbois won’t stop loving these Town Cars. Perhaps I am one such fanboi, if only from the A-pillar forward. 

Thank you all for reading, and have a wonderful week.

[Images: © Sajeev Mehta]

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102 Comments on “Vellum Venom: 1988 Lincoln Town Car Signature Series...”

  • avatar

    One of these was my first car, it’s great to find out just how much this car carries the legacy of all the models that came before it in it’s design. The negative space on the hood is also the perfect blade clearance for doing woodwork!

  • avatar

    In their time these were extremely well constructed, with few of the rust issues that dissolved the competing GM and Chrysler options. I owned its predecessor, the giant 77 Continental, and several Caddilacs from the 70’s.

    The Lincoln was much better built, but drove like an outhouse in a windstorm. Caddies from this era were far superior drivers.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Beg to differ re: Caddy vs Lincoln driveability.
      In our driver in the 70’s we had a 72 de Ville, 77 Eldorado and 79 Fleetwood.

      Also a ’73, 75, 76 Mark IV and 78 Mark V. As well as a 73 Town Car that I took my driver’s test in and a 74 Town Car.

      The Old Man leased American luxury and sometimes even changed the vehicle before having it for a full year. Either traded it in or passed it down to one of his ‘associates’ or ’employees’, or might let Mom drive it for a while. Later when I was working, I would sometimes take the lease over.

      The de Ville had the obligatory offcentre steering column. The Caddies neither looked as ‘brougham’ as the Lincolns. Nor were they anywhere near as quiet.

      And I believe that the Marks drove better. Never felt comfortable driving the Eldorado.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree, Arthur. As “traditional American” cars go, the Town Car was better to drive than the RWD Caddies. But the FWD Caddies of this era were better still, and sold very, very well.

        (Yes, I know, the engines on those FWD Caddies were pure excrement, but that’s not something that you’d glean on a test drive.)

        • 0 avatar

          @ FreedMike – Didn’t the redesigned 4.5’s and 4.9’s cure the HT-4100’s ills? It’s a tiny sample size, but the handful of people I know who had 4.5 or 4.9-powered cars had zero issues with them. That seems to be consistent with internet chatter that it was the 4100’s specifically that were bad. Even so, I think the question remained for the 4.5 and 4.9, “Is this worth the price premium over a 3800 V6?”

          I agree that those 6th-gen De Villes drove nicely – tuned for comfort versus a car of the 2010s but not floaty like a car of the 1970s.

          • 0 avatar

            @Fetherson – yes.

            The 4.9 was pretty good for what it was. A high school friend got to borrow his Dad’s 4.9 Deville when he felt the need and although he beat it mercilessly there were never any engine issues.

    • 0 avatar

      Now when you say “rust issues that dissolved the Chrysler options,” are you referring to K-Car vehicles? Because I know you ain’t talking M-Body.

  • avatar

    Repaint that rear filler panel! Awesome looking car Sajeev, love the color, the shapes, everything about it. Makes me want to consider a “fat” 90s towncar as my next beater (even though the focus is on getting a FWD for the winter).

  • avatar


  • avatar

    The “saw” grille was also used on the 1989 models. I agree that the half-vinyl roof on the featured car is a mess, but there were cleaner options available (please see the link). It’s a shame that Lincoln never offered a plain metal roof on this Town Car generation.

  • avatar

    Those fin caps at the back: can you squeeze them? Are they soft material?

    Thanks for this design overview.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Fascinating Sajeev! I have a new appreciation for this model, although I will say I certainly liked the design better than it’s successor. I just never drank in all the little nuances with the front end and fender designs.

    How did you make out in the storm? We were blessed with minimal impact; that is certainly not the case for thousands of our fellow citizens. Traffic brutally sucks coming in from JV to the Tanglewood area. But nothing compared to the worries and stresses of the folks who lost everything….

    Stay safe…..

  • avatar

    Yeah, these were nice vehicles. And the fact that you can find lots of well preserved examples tells you something about them.

    Still, Sajeev laments the near-death of Lincoln but doesn’t talk about why it happened, and it can be summed up in two words: Panther Love.

    Lincoln made the same basic car, with the same basic styling theme and platform, for **********31 YEARS************, folks. Let’s be honest here – the market for “traditional” full size luxury size wasn’t well when this one was made, and Lexus made the terminal diagnosis official with the LS400 a couple of years later. The LS400 absolutely decimated the non-fleet market for this car and the Cadillac DeVille.

    Now, what if Lincoln had done a car with “traditional” styling, a sophisticated engine, and a thoroughly modern, unibody sedan chassis ala LS400 in the early ’90s? They might still be making Town Cars today. But instead, they rode this particular horse until it died. And the whole brand nearly died with it.

    • 0 avatar

      Okay let’s be honester: by 1998 the Town Car abandoned all heritage in terms of styling. It was a re-hash of a Aston Martin Vignale concept:

      And to your point, the 2003+ Town Cars shared essentially nothing with a 1980 model. There’s a reason why people are grabbing 2003+ Panther front clips for their restomod trucks: it’s a very modern design.

      Why there’s even a Facebook page for all that aluminum goodness:

      If only Ford put as much attention to the rest of the Panther. Nobody ever says the things you say about the F-150, even though “it hasn’t changed at all” for decades.

      • 0 avatar

        Freedmike, question for you: do you think the 1998 Town Car looks anything like the older Lincolns? They even ditched the hood ornament!

        I reckon the 1998 Town Car was more progressive than any redesign of the aforementioned Lexus LS.

        • 0 avatar

          I see quite a bit of evolution from the ’97 Town Car in the ’98, Sajeev…and, you’re right, there’s a lot of that Aston concept as well (hadn’t seen that one before, thanks).

          1) The wraparound front headlights
          2) Upright roof treatment
          3) The vertical rear quarter glass

          But this doesn’t look like an Aston to me. It looks like a Town Car. It’s a variation on a very old theme.

          But the central problem with the ’98 wasn’t the styling – it was the platform. Yes, updates were made, but it’s the same old story underneath: a BOF car with a live rear axle and a V-8 that wasn’t particularly sophisticated.

          Who bought it? Old folks, fleets, and livery operators. And they bought it because of Panther Love. Problem is, the Panther Love demographic wasn’t particularly prestigious, and that’s a problem when you’re trying to sell a car that (theoretically) goes up against something like a Lexus LS, or Mercedes S-class.

          Lincoln should have completely updated this car into a traditionally-styled but mechanically contemporary LS400 fighter in the early ’90s, at the latest. If they had, I believe the nameplate would still be around today.

          In any case, today’s Town Cars and Devilles are are full sized SUVs – Navigators and Escalades. The basic premise – over-the-top styling, lots of room, and an old-school V-8 – is the same. But a Navigator is a LOT more capable than any Town Car ever was.

          • 0 avatar
            Stanley Steamer

            Pardon my asking; what is panther love?

          • 0 avatar

            It’s the largest cult on TTAC, followed closely by the Church of 3800. Hallowed be thy name, Eternal Torque.

          • 0 avatar

            Even Murilee Martin, King of the Junkyard would tell you that the greatest Road Car he ever owned come down to a late 60s Impala and an retired Panther Platform Crown Vic police interceptor.

            That’s enough endorsement for me.

          • 0 avatar

            I’d go with my dad’s ’92 Mercedes 400E – it was like a Gulfstream private jet at 100 mph. Utterly silent, absolutely capable. Perfect steering heft for high speeds. And the seats were amazing for long trips (soft seating just gives me a backache after a while).

            Case in point: I took my mother-in-law to be and her sister – two of the absolute worst Jewish Princess Back Seat Drivers EVER – to the airport in the 400. They even sat in the back seat, like I was Jeeves the chauffeur or something (in retrospect, this should have been a clear hint about what my married life was going to be like, but I was young and dumb). Did 100 the entire way, and they never even raised an eyebrow.

            No American car I’d ever driven on the highway – and yes, I did a fair amount of highway driving in rented Town Cars – even came remotely close.

          • 0 avatar

            Freedmike:”But the central problem with the ’98 wasn’t the styling – it was the platform. Yes, updates were made, but it’s the same old story underneath: a BOF car with a live rear axle and a V-8 that wasn’t particularly sophisticated.”

            I am fine with the BOF architecture for the same reason that BOF trucks are awesome. That said, they failed when not adding IRS at any point, especially when in 2003. And there’s no reason to not continually upgrade the powertrain at the same rate as the Mustang GT.

            So I’m not sure if I disagree or agree with you!

          • 0 avatar
            Stanley Steamer

            Head slap. Somehow the words Panther Love brought up imagery of a gleaming TC and some 80’s decadent lifestyle trend involving women with big hair and gold ear rings and illicit substances and exotic animals, masking the obvious. Maybe I was thinking cougars. Anyway I was off on a wild tangent.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            ‘Nail on the head’.
            In the 1950’s and 1960’s, Cadillac was ‘the standard of the world’. Yes some RR and MB fans but by and large if you were a Head of State, dictator, etc you rode in a Cadillac. If you were the CEO of an American corporation or in charge of an American branch plant in a foreign nation you rode in a Cadillac. People all over the world aspired to Cadillac ownership. Remember “You think that I have never ridden in a Cadillac? I’ve ridden in a Cadillac thousands of times.”

            In the 1970’s Lincoln actually surged ahead, due to it being the ultimate ‘brougham’ vehicle. The RR style grill, the ‘Continental’ style wheel hump, the half vinyl roof, the opera windows, the coach lights, the hideaway headlights, 460 CID. Watch any of the TV shows from the early to mid 70’s and the ‘big shots’ drive around in Lincolns. Honoured by Snoops version of Huggy Bear in the Starsky and Hutch remake.

            However Cadillac downsized and cheapened their brand. Lincoln invested very little in engineering updates. They did not notice or adjust while their market aged and the younger consumers soon associated them with the retired Florida set and airport limos. Bye, bye prestige.

          • 0 avatar

            Peace be to you Brother Freed.

          • 0 avatar

            I’d say you SHOULD agree with me, Sajeev…sorry, but as nice as a BOF full size sedan may be for things like police, taxi or livery work, people who want a prestigious car are going to look elsewhere. And that was already happening by the time the car you photographed rolled off the line.

    • 0 avatar

      The LTD/Crown Vic, Mercury Marquis, and Lincoln Town Car all shared common chassis architecture going back to 1979 up until platform production was discontinued in 2011 A lot of Monday morning quarterbacks beat the above factoid into the ground, but the reality is it was the correct business decision for Ford. The Crown Vic/Town Car was the darling of livery and fleet operators for decades. A simple, proven, bomb-proof design that was cheap to buy, reliable, and cheap to repair when it did break. Visit NYC and you’ll see the streets of Manhattan clogged with Crown Vic taxis and Lincoln (black cars) even though the newest ones are now 6 years old…which is ancient by livery standards. The Crown Vic/Town Car was pure profit for Ford as soon as the development and tooling costs were amortized back in the 80s. Developing a new rear-drive luxury platform would not have made Ford’s fleet customers happy and it would not have appealed to individual luxury buyers who have clearly demonstrated they will only consider such a product if it originates in Europe or Asia.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I know JB is not a fan anymore of these, but when one considers what was available in the 80’S I do mot believe a better choice was available for reliable, comfortable, decent mpg motoring. The TC was the first luxo barge that made 200k driving a reality.

    Lexus took the ball and ran with it in the 90’s.

    • 0 avatar

      “The TC was the first luxo barge that made 200k driving a reality.”

      That’s a great thing, but most people have no desire to keep a car that long, and that is particularly true of luxury car buyers. They want the latest and greatest thing every three years, not a car that you can drive for 15 years until it begs to be taken to the junkyard.

      Therefore…the best thing about the Town Car was its’ least appealing element to anyone who didn’t run a livery business.

  • avatar

    These cars were the biz-ness in the 80’s. I had the opportunity to buy a white one with a grey vinyl roof and grey velour interior at about the same time “The Lincoln Lawyer” came out on film. But I had a perfectly nice Oldsmobile beater at the time.

    Still, I’ve always thought the 80’s Town Car was a proper Lincoln–back then if you were old money, you had either this car or the Mercedes W126 in your driveway.

  • avatar

    I still find your lack of whitewalls disturbing… ;-)

    I’d totally rock one of these brand new with Ecoboost or 5.0 and the 10 speed auto, 8 airbags, etc…

  • avatar

    Awesome, now do the Mark-VI coupes. I liked the tan/maroon Givenchy edition best, since it seemed to make it look more properly proportional. Did it come with the “touring” lights?

  • avatar

    I totally dig these cars, other than the unfortunate vinyl tops. Make mine the later port-injected 302, please.

  • avatar
    Stanley Steamer

    I forgot about the outside thermometer! My dad had a gold ’86. That and the power vent window were his favorite features (he’s a smoker). To this day he seeks a car that has this feature.

  • avatar
    Jack Baruth

    Sanjeev, I have to complain here a bit.

    The 1979 Town Car was far better-looking and more cohesive than this quick-bake restyle. You know it and I know it.

    Honestly, I think the only thing that kept the early-Eighties Townie from being the finest-looking Lincoln since 1967 was the shortish wheelbase. Another four inches in the rear doors would have been perfect.

    Now do the Mark VI sedan so we can see how the silk purse was turned back into the sow’s ear!

    • 0 avatar

      I’m torn my friend: the 1980 (ahem) Town Car was more cohesive, but the shortened proportions and dorkier greenhouse height from the 1970s models made the sheer volume of right angles more offensive and adolescent. I like the slant back, integrated bumpers, etc. of the 1985 redesign.

      And if you think the early-80s TC was the finest of the breed since ’67, you clearly haven’t spent enough time in a Mark V, especially a Diamond Jubilee Mark V.

      I truly, truly weep for you.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        The 1975 redesign of the Lincoln Continental was in my mind the ultimate TC.

        The Mark IV was the ultimate Mark (make mine a 1976 Pucci edition).

        In my estimation the Mark V looked ‘cheesy’ in comparison to the Mark IV, particularly with the side ‘vents’. When The Old Man replaced his final Mark IV (Pucci) with a Mark V (Cartier?) he was sorely disappointed. The Mark V was considerably lighter than the Mark IV. That was his last Lincoln and he switched to an Eldorado which he also did not like. Then got a Fleetwood which was ‘acceptable’.

        I am ambivalent regarding the Lincoln Continental Coupe. And in reality saw very few of them on the road.

  • avatar

    The power vent-windows were a nice touch no one expected. They look neat and work smooth, but I found out it takes a complicated network of tracks and a spinning “starfish” armature to make it work in conjunction with the big window, one regulator, one motor, one switch.

    This was when I accidentally (story time!) scratched a customer’s driver’s window while executing a “lock-out” and it instantly fell into a puddle of glass bits thanks to my crudely homemade “tool” I made from a Ford antenna.

    He was cool about it and said he can get the window for free, and if I would/could install it, we’d be “even”. Plus he paid me for the lock-out no problem.

    Normally installing door glass is no problem for me, but this one made me sweat putting the brackets and tracks back together with what seemed like a dozen things that had to be adjusted just right. The movement just kept binding no matter what. It was getting dark, I was fumbling with a flashlight and before giving up, I looked for signs of where the washers imprinted into the brackets originally. Bingo it worked!

  • avatar

    Hi Sajeev,

    Can you expand a little on the whitewall tire situation, i.e. “only one vendor makes whitewalls now…”?

    • 0 avatar

      At the time I only saw Milestar brand whitewall tires available, which didn’t get good ratings on Amazon and elsewhere. Something about the whitewalls turning yellow/brown.

      I went on eBay right now and saw 2-3 more tire manufacturers have gotten back in the whitewall game.

      • 0 avatar

        Coker Tire has some options available now, including some decent BF Goodrich tires. The Kankook Optimo was perfect for this application. I have a set of 225/70/15 on my Colony Park that I purchased in 2012. Unfortunately, they have since dropped the whitewall from their lineup. Generally speaking, outside of Coker, there are no reasonable options available. But that Town Car of yours NEEDS WHITEWALLS!

      • 0 avatar

        Uniroyal Tigerpaw II’s come in whitewall 215/70/15.

        I just bought some for my 77 Chevelle sedan, and it looks so much better than with blackwalls.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t know if the Firestone FR710 still comes in whitewall in the 215/70 size. It’s a mediocre tire, in any event.

        I put 225/75 Toyo Eclipse whitewalls on my Roadmaster last year.

        At car shows now I gawk at the tires as much as the cars, and I’ve noticed someone had a fresh set of Kumho whitewalls as well.

        Someone already mentioned the Hankook 724s which I put on my 79 Lincoln, but that was 235/75.

    • 0 avatar
      GS 455

      The Hankook Optimo 724 is available with white walls but not in the 215/70 15 size this Town Car requires.

    • 0 avatar

      Cooper Trendsetters might be worth some investigation if whitewalls are a necessity for this car. (And I think they are.)

  • avatar

    to reiterate the comments of others…

    whitewalls should be mandatory on this car.

    prefer the styling of the 76-79 town cars if going old-school (or a 71 town coupe)… otherwise, prefer the styling of the 93-97 town cars to the 98-up.

    had a ’98 Mark VIII LSC… fabulous road car… but a potential money pit from a maintenance standpoint.

    now have an ’08 Mercury Grand Marquis LS as my daily… 33k miles… my grandfather’s last car. Wish he’d bought an 03-04 Marauder. The de-contenting in the final years of the panther is pretty obvious.

  • avatar

    I loved these cars as a kid. Even though they were always driven by a “legitimate businessman” around NY/NJ.

  • avatar

    The published drag coefficient for the 1988 Lincoln Town Car is .46 and for the 1988 Cadillac Brougham it is .45. The next generation TC was a huge improvement aerodynamically, but this car was basically about as blunt as car companies ever bothered admitting to.

    I am currently tasked with finding a Town Car for a friend, or actually for his Newfie. I vaguely recall that there are high content years and low content years, and some are more sought after than others. I’m assuming that my preferred Executive L models have high retained values due to their livery utility. The dog’s current car is a 1999 Town Car that is hitting 300,000 miles. I recall not being much of a fan of the ’99s with their Ford oval obsessive styling, but it is hard to argue with 300,000 miles out of a Domestic with only electrical(starters and alternators), suspension, fuel delivery, accessory, cooling, HVAC, brake, and ignition repairs. I prefer the newer ones, but is there a sweet spot in the model years? And why are some low mileage, one-owner cars $3,000 while some that are not as nice range up to almost $9K without being obvious livery spec?

    • 0 avatar

      Do you have frontal area numbers to go along with those Cds?

      • 0 avatar

        No, but CD is a function of effort and refinement, while frontal area is a function of dimensions. The greenhouse is going to play a role in frontal area, while the height of the hood over the headlights is not. That’s CD, and the Town Car was nothing special in this area.

        I’ve found a 2003 Executive L, but it is at a BHPH. Ugh. I’ve also found a 75K 2000 SWB for $3K that’s been on the market a while. I really think the Executive L’s back seat would be better for a 200 pound dog, but I’d rather deal with an owner than a BHPH lot. Both cars are shades of white, which I guess is why they’ve been spared black car duty.

    • 0 avatar

      I asked because either the sculptural elements of a rounded off front clip and integrated bumpers made it look sleeker than a Broham, or perhaps it reduced frontal area.

      And yes, who knows if that hypothetical reduction translated into a lower overall number considering the tall greenhouse.

      Buy a depreciated machine on condition and maintenance records. Usually a private owner makes that decision a no-brainer, but maybe Mr. BHPH got a real sweet machine at the auctions.

  • avatar

    Any nonfleet Town Car should have had the 4v engine standard in ’93 and it should have been optional on CV and GM.

  • avatar

    These were always marketed as a cheap man’s Rolls Royce, back then. Does anyone know how true this was?

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      If you have ever driven/ridden in an early/mid 70’s RR you would realize that the Lincoln when new was actually ‘superior’ in many ways.

      In comparison to the Silver Shadow, the Lincoln was bigger, heavier, quieter, had a bigger engine with more horsepower. Now comparing the heating/air conditioning as the Lincoln’s was far more effective And the Lincoln’s styling was far more evocative of the Disco/Malaise era.

      • 0 avatar

        Even the newer Rolls Phantom (I drove a 2006) have a tough time justifying their luxuriousness over an antiquated 2003 Town Car. Tall and jiggly ride, made worse by rubber band tires.

        Put either in front of a Lexus LS and they are both in trouble.

        • 0 avatar

          “Put either in front of a Lexus LS and they are both in trouble.”

          Until you start listing maintenance/parts costs!

          • 0 avatar

            “Until you start listing maintenance/parts costs!”

            Such as?

          • 0 avatar

            At 28C:

            Starter motor, which I just had to replace on my Crown Vic, cost $262 at a shop for labor and parts.

            On a Lexus LS you’re looking at about $500-$600, as it requires one to dissemble portions of the engine.

            Parts like headlights tend to go for less too on a Town Car.

            At Featherston:
            That was Audi that sourced GMs HVAC system iirc.

      • 0 avatar

        Thats pretty impressive, especially when Lincolns were largely plushed up Fords. Did RRs at least have nicer interiors? Something to justify being far more expensive?

      • 0 avatar

        Didn’t Silver Shadows have GM-sourced a/c? Was Ford HVAC really better?

        In that era, HVAC was the one realm where Detroit trounced Germany and Japan. (I think everyone’s essentially on par now and does a good job.)

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          RR used a GM sourced transmission for much of that period.

          And Aston-Martin used Chrysler transmissions.

          As to the interior, RR had the sheepskin carpeting and excellent leather.

          However to truly ‘brougham’ your vehicle you needed tufted, pillowed velour with a matching coloured dashboard. And thick almost shag style matching carpeting and interior side panels. The Lincoln had all that in spades.

          Lincolns of that era even had a rudimentary ABS ‘Sure-Track’ system. Originally I believe an option that became standard on the 1974 Mark IV.

          And most if not all of the designer edition Mark IV’s had dual exhausts.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            Forgot to mention that the Mark IV designer series came with a ‘gold’ nameplate on the dashboard embossed with the owner’s name.

            And beaucoup ‘luxury’ touches like a power antenna, power front seats, 4 cigar(ette) lighters and ashtrays, tinted windows and a key lock on the interior hood release.

            Anyone who drove an RR of that era was more likely to compare it to a mid-range Buick in comfort and performance.

        • 0 avatar

          @Featherston – I feel the opposite.

          The AC in my 1982 Celebrity would spank everything I’ve experienced in the last 10 years but essentially the rest of the car was terrible.

          • 0 avatar

            @ PrincipalDan – Interesting point, and I don’t necessarily disagree with you. It’d be interesting to test a showroom new ’82 Celebrity’s a/c and a 2017 Malibu’s side by side. I imagine the Celebrity would win on the basis of being less hamstrung by efficiency and environmental concerns. Both would far outstrip the a/c in an ’82 Japanese or German car.

            It’s probably apocryphal, but I like the story of BMW’s forcing two of its German HVAC engineers drive across Texas in a BMW with its windows fixed shut. Supposedly that got them religion about doing better work. My family had an ’82 BMW with terrible a/c. In turn, it was much better than our ’93 Toyota but also much worse than any American car we’ve ever had. Our post-2007 Japanese cars have been fine, and friends’ present-day German cars seem OK too.

          • 0 avatar

            I honestly think our quest for the last 0.10 of a mpg in every vehicle has made compressors under-size for what they are expected to do.

            In the past manufacturers would use a small number of compressor models and expect them to work well in everything from a coupe to a station wagon. This resulted in a compressor that was comically over-sized for the coupe and “just-up-to-the-job” in a station wagon. Just my 2 cents.

            Of the newer vehicles I’ve driven the one that did the best was my 2004 F150 Heritage regular cab. I’ve always assumed that Ford used the same compressor with the 4.6 V8 regardless of cab size.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    As always, thank you for putting the time in for this. Though I suspect this one was a labor of love and that you could have easily gone on even longer.

    It always really bothered me, more than it ever should have, that that the FMC plastics base color was yellow. To me it showed total lack of foresight or even worse, a cynical attempt to ensure buyers brought their cars in for body work in even the slightest paint loss damage.

  • avatar

    I asked because either the sculptural elements of a rounded off front clip and integrated bumpers made it look sleeker than a Broham, or perhaps it reduced frontal area.

    And yes, who knows if that hypothetical reduction translated into a lower overall number considering the tall greenhouse.

    Buy a depreciated machine on condition and maintenance records. Usually a private owner makes that decision a no-brainer, but maybe Mr. BHPH got a real sweet machine at the auctions.

  • avatar
    GS 455

    There’s an 85 Town Car signature near me that I’m very tempted to buy. Only two things bother me about this design, the angle of the dash pad seen from outside the car looks weird and the half vinyl roof is awkward. Too bad they didn’t offer a bare roof option.

  • avatar

    Holy panel gaps, Batman! I can appreciate these for what they are, but I can also see why so many people were decamping to spend more money for less power and fewer features at the Mercedes dealer. Especially when compared to, say, the MB W124 that was on sale at the same time, this Townie just does not come across as a modern, well-built vehicle. Today’s luxury cars aren’t that different from an ’88 300E, but they’re nothing like this ’88 Town Car.

    Of course, that’s what gives this car it’s nostalgic appeal, so I’m not mad at it. The color, in particular, is great.

  • avatar

    Almost bought a 1989 Town Car at Copart four months ago. One owner, with 36,000 miles. Decided against it after reading of the mechanical pitfalls (all minor but combined, a lot to rebuild). Maybe I can get a spot on TTAC and feature my 1984 Buick LeSabre Limited Coupe that I just got from Iowa. 68,000 miles with the Oldsmobile 307 V8!
    A photo article like this one would do the car absolute justice!

  • avatar

    My 90 year old Father in Law has a 1985 Town Car that he bought new. It has the half vinyl roof like this one. It has over 100,000 miles, but probably hasn’t been driven 2000 miles in the last 10 years. He as a newer MKX but won’t get rid of the Town Car. It has always been kept in the garage and looks pristine. I get it out about once per year and change the oil and charge up the AC system for him. Driving it is more like piloting a boat.

  • avatar

    I dearly love these. Never owned one, but my old boss used to rent me the nicest car possible when I was “deployed” in a miserable place for a weeks at a time. The comfort and….drivability? unmatched. The closest thing we have today IMHO that I’ve driven is the Chrysler 300.

  • avatar

    Ah the old body on frame cruise ships. Gotta love em as nothing else compares today!

    I own a 78 Lincoln Continental which makes this 88 look like a toy in comparison, but one thing they both have in common and that hasn’t yet been achieved without adding a bunch of new tech to the suspension, is how well they ride. These cars are wonderful, I don’t care what people say, they might not have the interior build quality of a Mercedes, but who cares? As long as you are comfortable and the ride is smooth and quiet, that’s all that matters in a car like this.

    I can take my 78 on the roughest streets in town and it still feels like nothing is there as it floats along. The body doesn’t shimmy or shake or is even bothered by the poor road conditions below it, unlike most modern vehicles that I’ve driven have short wheelbases and are very lightweight, my Lincoln is far superior in terms of comfort than anything I have ever driven before and its suspension system is archaic. But you combine the full-frame design, it’s ultra strong rigid body, thick sheet metal, heavy curb weight, it’s long wheelbase and sink in your couch soft seats, well that is the ultimate cruiser mobile and nobody should be ashamed about that.

    Unfortunately, there’s not really a huge market for these cars or collectors to bother with them just because the 79 on down models were so much better. I love the styling of the 88 for the most part, but it doesn’t command the same presence nor the wow factor like a 70’s model does.

    Don’t be fooled by my name, I’m a young guy, and love the old luxury cars of the past, as I feel they were truly built at a time when the models actually represented their name brand to the fullest.

    You compare a 2000 Lincoln Town Car to a 77 Lincoln Continental Town Car, what year looks more like a Lincoln to you and is more prestigious and impressive looking? The choice is clear, once everything became modernized, this is when Lincoln designs went to the gutter. They got ugly, uninspired, bland and cheap looking. There is nothing bland or cheap looking on that 88 TC or a 77-79 Continental.

  • avatar

    Always happy to see a Vellum Venom, especially for older stuff. Thanks for taking the time!

    If I may raise one quibble…

    I get that if you’re shooting something “on the spot” on a car lot or whatever that you’re going to take what you can get. In this case though it looks like this was an scheduled photo shoot at an arranged location. In future shoots of this type, may I suggest getting the owner’s permission to remove the license plate for photography rather than Photoshopping it out in post-production?

    Last time I checked, Cafepress would put the TTAC logo on a pair of license plate blanks for something like $30.

  • avatar
    The Inspector

    I live in southern Nevada and drive a Dodge Cummins-powered pick-up for work (self-employed building inspector). After 14 years the engine needed rebuilding, so I decided to find another autovoiture to drive in the mean-time and located a 1-owner, garage-kept, 80k ’97 Towncar ‘Signature’ white out/white-leather interior for $1,600.00 Receipts in the glove-box indicate the local FLM dealership did all the work since new. I took her shopping and got her new shoes…new brakes…tinted windows (a must in sunny Las Vegas)…refurbed the AC (another ‘must’ here) and gave her a tune-up (still had the factory plugs in-place). The previous owner (an 85 year old gal) had replaced the rear air-bags with coils & new shocks… so that was already taken care of and Man, O Man…O MAN!!! What a car! We’ve always had Lincolns in the family going back to the 60’s…including the ’77 Mk V I dated my wife in…which is why I went back for this baby. They’ve all been trouble-free luxo-cruisers and this one is no exception.

    I get more compliments from people when I drive up in the Lincoln than I ever got in the Dodge P/U…and all of them good…without exception. I took it over to a FLM dealership near me for a CEL issue, and everybody came out from the service-writers shack to look at the car. When I picked it up 4 hours later…my service writer said most of the guys in the service bays came over to look at it and said they’d never seen such a nice 20 year old Lincoln.

    Got the picture? I’m driving around town making my ‘inspector-rounds’ thinking….I’m driving a $40k car in 1997 dollars (I found the original dealer window-sticker in the owners-manual) and paid $1,600.00 for it…plus $1,800.00 in upgrades & repairs. I’ve taken a couple of trips in it and my city mileage hovers in the 17+mpg range while road mileage averaged 24+ on my last trip. In September my drivers window fell down into the door and stayed there until John (local mobile car-window R&R guru) came over and re-built the regulators in both front doors and lubed the rear ones and said….’that will last you longer than 20 years the original OEM regulators did.’ Charged me $200 per-door.

    This car is good on gas…rides like a dream on my living room couch on a lazy Sunday afternoon…cheap to repair…looks great…drives great…quiet as a funeral-parlour inside…flashy as a brothel on the outside…(I exaggerate…but you get the picture..both are legal in Nevada ;) I love the electronic-dash…and on and on and on….

    Yeah…I watch the Lexus LS400’s pull pass me on the freeway but then I remind myself about ‘everything’ I stated above and I think “booya!” I win! When your speaking ‘bang-4-the-buck’ it’s hard to top these Townies. My truck is now in the shop getting it’s new motor-vator installed but something tells me….it’s going to spend more time in the garage when it gets back home, now that the ‘White Knight’ has mainlined me like the heroine she is (auto-trans…it’s a ‘she’).

    Postulate all you want on the other ‘brands’…I’ve had my wife 38 years and I keep what I like….this one’s a keeper (the car…and the wife).

  • avatar
    Carroll Prescott

    I owned a 1985 model – I loved that car but had to give it up.

    Observations – it was like driving your entire living room – huge and comfortable and quiet. Rode amazing and handled better than it should. Gas mileage was amazing on the highway – consistent 30 mpgs at 55 mph.

    Build quality not so impressive – common issues of glove box door warp and the door panel covering cracked with age. Dash pad issues. Luckily I worked to cure each of those on my car and it looked proper luxurious afterwards.

    I’d own another in a heartbeat now if I had a place to park it and to give it proper care.

  • avatar

    The accessory kit for this car is for sale on Ebay:

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