By on September 9, 2019

In the late Eighties, American auto manufacturers still sold large, traditional luxury sedans in decent numbers. Their aging sedan consumer base fondly remembered the vinyl and chrome of yesteryear and still relished brougham-style accoutrements.

Up for consideration today are three comfortable, luxury-oriented sedans from 1988. It’s hard to lose here.

Lincoln Continental

1988 was an important year for Lincoln’s Continental, as a brand new model stepped forward with a shared Taurus platform and front-drive (a first-ever for Lincoln). Gone was the archaic Fox platform with its senseless rear-drive and V8 power plants. On offer now was a single engine: the 3.8-liter Essex V6, mated to a four-speed AXOD automatic. Leather seats came standard on all Continentals, while a bevy of options included a power moonroof, memory seats, and an InstaClear windshield. The square Continental seen here gave way in the Nineties to a more angular version, as Lincoln tried (to no avail) to attract a sportier, younger clientele before moving on to the rear-drive LS. Continental is the midsize choice, at 205.6 inches in length.

Chrysler Fifth Avenue

The only rear-drive offering of the trio was also the oldest in 1988. Underneath the formal, upright styling of the M-body was actually the F-body, which debuted on the Aspen and Volare in 1976. The Fifth Avenue began in earnest for 1982, a replacement for the larger and terrible R-body New Yorker and a derivative of the short-lived LeBaron Fifth Avenue Limited Edition. By 1984 Chrysler started more name games, and New Yorker became Fifth Avenue. Changes were slow through the years, but notably in ’88 the vinyl roof was made larger; interior components were updated. New that year was an overhead console shared with Chrysler minivans that held sunglasses and displayed a compass and the outside temperature. Power was provided by the optional (and carbureted) 5.2-liter LA V8, paired to a throwback three-speed TorqueFlite automatic. Overall length is a winner at 206.7″.

Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special

The once-grand Fleetwood name was turned into a front-wheel drive model of Cadillac’s DeVille for 1985. Sharing the C-body with several other GM vehicles, the upmarket Sixty Special was the top-tier Fleetwood offering. The ’88 model year was the last for the maligned and stumpy styling, as Cadillac reworked the C-body in 1989 with nine additional inches of overall length. Sixty Specials received nicer interior trim than other DeVilles, including optional Italdesign seats with a bevy of power adjustments. New for 1988 was the much-improved 4.5-liter Cadillac V8, paired to the usual four-speed 4T60 automatic. Sixty Special takes up 196.5 rather compact inches in the driveway.

Comfort and luxury harking back to a different time in the American automotive landscape. Which one’s worth the Buy?

[Images: GM, Chrysler, Ford]

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102 Comments on “Buy/Drive/Burn: Floaty American Luxury Sedans From 1988...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Buy: Chrysler. It still looks good today, plus RWD and a V-8. Win.
    Drive: Caddy. It came with a V-8. And it’s pictured in front of a Picasso, which must count for something.
    Burn: the Taurus…I mean, the Continental.

    • 0 avatar
      teddyc73

      It was built on the same platform as the Taurus, that’s all.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        It had different exterior and interior styling, but under the skin it was a stretched Taurus, and it drove like it. Essentially all of the mechanicals except the air suspension were identical to the top Taurus spec.

        • 0 avatar

          Pretty sure both the 4-wheel disc ABS and variable boost steering were Lincoln exclusives.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            The brake system was exclusive for one year, after which time it was used in the Taurus SHO — and, much later, in regular Tauri.

            I’ll give you the steering, although it was just one part and the bulk of the steering system was the same.

          • 0 avatar

            Correct on both points. Furthermore, I am pretty sure the variable rate steering on the 1996 model was the same as the 88 Conti.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            I believe the variable rate steering was available on the Sable…pretty sure mine has it. It certainly has 4 wheel ABS disc brakes…tho they were optional.

        • 0 avatar
          dtremit

          People keep saying “drives like a Taurus” as if it were an insult. In ’88 that was definitely not the perception. It was a new, clean-sheet, market-leading car when this Conti came out.

          I honestly think this particular Continental is a great example of “badge engineering” done right — there were a few Ford parts bin components in the interior (switches and radios and such), but by and large the stuff you touched wasn’t recognizable as coming from a Taurus.

          • 0 avatar
            joeaverage

            Yep. I judge these cars by what they replaced, not as much as what has come along since then. They are vintage cars.

            As I recall these were all very nice cars compared to K-Cars, Granadas, and Citations.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      That’s a Calder, FreedMike. The Picasso you’re thinking of is a few blocks away.

      Per Blackcloud_9’s comment below, the 4.5 and 4.9-powered FWD Cadillacs were surprisingly pleasant cars. As I’ve commented several times in past threads, I used to drive a great-uncle in his after his eyes started to go. They were neither sharp-edged nor floaty but had a nice smooth, composed quality. (I believe an optional “touring” suspension was offered for a time. I never drove one of those.)

      The car’s problems, such as they were, weren’t really fundamental to the design or execution:
      – You could go wrong — really wrong — in paying too close to sticker or choosing cheesy options like a vinyl or fake convertible top.
      – An appropriately optioned Electra or Ninety-Eight may have given you a reasonable approximation of the experience at a meaningful discount. (Never drove one of those; I did log many miles in a H-body Bonneville SE, which was tuned quite differently.)
      – Per the above, the improvement in the V8 from 4.1 to 4.5 was matched by the improvement of the 3.8 V6 to LN3 form. The 4.5 was a more fitting engine for a car with luxury aspirations, but it probably wasn’t worth the price premium over the 3800.
      – Taste makers had long fled Cadillac by that point, which killed resale. Examples ended up rather quickly in the hands of careless 2nd, 3rd, and 4th owners who beat the crap out of them, further eroding brand equity.

      I think if you could have a good ownership experience with the DeVille given three big ifs:
      – You optioned it correctly.
      – You got it for a good out-the-door price.
      – You were in it for the long haul and therefore didn’t let the resale kill you. Limited sample size, but based on my great-uncle’s experience one of the strengths of the car was a total cost of ownership equation that got better and better over time. His just didn’t have any problems.

      • 0 avatar
        MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

        I have considerable time behind the wheel of all these:
        1988 Olds 88 coupe with FE3 suspension
        1988 Olds 98 Regency base sedan
        1989 LeSabre sedan with handling pkg
        1989 Bonneville SSE
        1990 Olds 88 Royale sedan, full Broughamification
        1991 Olds 98 Regency Elite
        ….yeah we leaned heavily GM in my family. 2 of those were brand new at the time.
        All were 3800-powered and all were absolute dreams to drive. Some were tuned a little tighter than others, but even the floatiest were still capable handlers and held the road just fine. Never had any problems and would honestly be happy to DD one today.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          The Olds LSS we had was a really nice ride. Handled well, though the brakes were lacking big time. This was tuned quite differently than it’s stablemates and felt sharp and well composed compared to the softer siblings.

    • 0 avatar

      The “Picasso” is a stabile done by Alexander Calder. It is the Flamingo Sculpture located in front of the Federal Building in downtown Chicago.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Burn: The Chrysler.
    Buy: The Lincoln. Thousands of airport limo drivers must know something.
    Drive: The Cadillac. The vehicle that most appeals to me of the 3 listed.

  • avatar
    Blackcloud_9

    Buy the Cadillac – Got to drive one of these back in the day I was impressed with how smooth it drove. Not nearly as floaty as one might think.
    Drive the Chrysler – even though it was an aged throw-back with a carbureted engine and 3-speed transmission, nobody could do a tufted interior quite like Chrysler.
    Burn the Lincoln – My friend got one of these from his father-in-law. For all of it’s appointments and apparent size, it was incredibly cramped inside. Even with seat all the way back, my knees were almost to the dashboard.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Tough choices here.

    Buy: I’ll have to go with the tried and true 318 powered/3-speed uber-Dodge Diplomat.

    Drive: uh Cadillac but on;y because it has a V8. I was never a fan of this era of FWD GM-ness but it has to be better than the 3.8L V6.

    Burn: No Panther, no love here for the V6 powered Continental.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Buy the Sixty Special. I’ve owned many large GM cars from this era, including a few Cadillacs, and they’ve ranged from decent to great.

    Drive the Continental. No experience with them but Sajeev says they are good.

    Burn the Chrysler. I had a Diplomat for a few years and while it wasn’t *terrible* there is more to dislike about it than there is to like. The engine has okay torque but *no* power above like 40mph, it requires premium fuel, it gets 15MPG, it uses a carb, the 3-speed is poorly matched to the engine, and the interior is barely giving the space of a mid-size car.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Speaking of floaty, will we see a story on the foundering of the Golden Ray today? Looks like approximately 4,000 new Hyundais and Kias will be headed to the crusher. Four sailors missing.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Good call. Hopefully the 4 missing crew will be found alive.

      The foundered ship is reported to currently be impairing traffic to and from the busy port. Combined with the vehicles lost, could this have an impact on new car sales/prices?

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        Yes, I hope they’re okay. We should know more today. This is like the listing of the Cougar Ace off of Portland, Oregon, with 4,703 new Mazdas aboard, including the first shipment of CX-7s to the US. It was a ballast problem that happened as the crew was transferring ballast water, due to a law that required ships to not come into port carrying ballast water that could be contaminated with invasive species of sea life.

        From what I can tell the Golden Ray was leaving Georgia, so it was probably carrying cars built in US plants for export. I know there’s a Hyundai plant in West Point, Georgia, but I didn’t know they also built Kias.

        The latest word is that rescuers hear noises in the ship, so maybe that’s the missing sailors.

        • 0 avatar
          namesakeone

          I heard on CNN that rescue crews are getting a response from inside the propeller shaft room, presumably from the missing crew members.

          • 0 avatar
            TMA1

            I hope they get into that room then. Initially rescuers were backing off due to smoke or fire. If there are people still alive, they need to get back in there.

            I also read that these H/K cars were being exported to the Middle East.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Propeller shaft room? Shades of “Poseidon Adventure.”

            Fingers crossed for those sailors.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        They missing four were all found alive, fortunately.

  • avatar
    MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

    Buy the Caddy
    Drive the Chrysler for its RWDness
    Burn the Conti before the headgaskets burn you.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      The Essex should have been called the Itsucks. The weird thing is that they seemed to have more head gasket issues in FWD applications than RWD ones. But the early ones were universally bad.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      I don’t know why people make such a big deal about the head gasket issues on these like it’s the end of the world. Yeah, they tend to go bad every 100k miles or so, but it’s not like any technician worth anything can’t knock one out in less than a day. It’s a pushrod motor so you’re not dealing with Cam timing. It’s also far from the only cast iron block, aluminum head engine in that era to have head gasket issues. (Although the heads might have been the smallest ones to have an issue)

      The air suspension wasn’t the most reliable, but it sure floated nice. Yeah, at 100k miles you might have been doing four struts and a compressor, but if you used quality parts (not Arnotts. Their slogan should be they Arnott good) Other than that, they weren’t bad. The market really overacted on these and they depreciated like crazy. My dad bought a ’93 with about 80k miles on it in the summer of ’97 for $6000. The car was showroom pristine. Can you imagine that kind of depreciation today?

      • 0 avatar
        MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

        You give a pass on the HG’s and the Air Suspension issues, shall we talk about the tranny failures??

        • 0 avatar
          jamespdx

          I was going to mention the tranny failures as well – knew someone who went through three transmissions from 60K on – I LOVE Lincolns and wish I could say it would be my choice, but NO WAY would I buy one. Too bad the Lincoln choice wasn’t the Town Car – it was SOLID AS A ROCK, and I owned one – awesome car – didn’t really care for the rounded edges on a square edged design, but the car drove and rode great. The Cadillac in question looks like it is missing pieces that were cut off during design and the seats leaned back at a strange, and uncomfortable for me, angle – and Gawd forbid working on that engine mounted the way it was. Thus, my pic of these would be the oldest platform Chrysler – and I agree with an aforementioned remark about no one could do tufted seats like Chrysler!

        • 0 avatar
          MBella

          Any statistics on the AXOD being less reliable than other contemporary as automatic transmissions?

  • avatar
    SirRaoulDuke

    Buy: the Cadillac. It is a good looking car, with a blend of both the old DeVille/Fleetwood styling and a more modern touch.

    Drive: The Chrysler. RWD and easy to hot-rod up some power.

    Burn: the Lincoln. It drove alright, but there is nothing good about it. Now if this were the Town Car, we would have different results.

  • avatar
    loner

    Eww.

    Burn ’em all and p!ss on the ashes.

    Even as a child of the 80s, these hold no nostalgia for me.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    As “Miatareallyistheanswer” stated, burn, burn, burn the Lincoln. The 3.8 liter V6 head gasket failure problem, which of course Ford denied, plagued these outhouses on wheels and just further tarnished Lincoln’s reputation – as if the badge engineering of trying to turn a Taurus into a Lincoln wasn’t ignominious enough.

    My father-in-law bought one of these turds but dumped it, quickly, in spite of Ford’s belated extended warranty. Even without the head gasket problem it was a pig in lipstick.

    As for the other two, knock yourself out, neither is worthy of any deep consideration.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Drive the Cadillac – 4.5 V8 finally exorcised the demons of the HT4100

    Buy the Chrysler – once the warranty has expired head to the junkyard and and turn the 318 into a 4 barrel monster.

    Burn the Continental by default

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      My local law enforcement used the Dodge Diplomat version of the Chrysler. I will never forget hearing that distinctive intake open four-barrel “BOOOOOOOGGGGGG” sound when they chose to chase a perp. It was pretty loud.

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      My local law enforcement used the Dodge Diplomat version of the Chrysler. I will never forget hearing that distinctive intake open four-barrel “BOOOOOOOGGGGGG” sound when they chose to chase a perp. It was pretty loud.

  • avatar
    CaddyDaddy

    By 1998 – Caddy had burned the HT4100 and not the 4.5L was the mill. The 4.5L and subsequent 4.9L where solid machines that would blow the doors off of any domestic sedan including 5.0L mustangs and 350ci Camaros.

    Burn: Connie – Air suspension, AXOD trans and 3.8L – ouch. About 35K miles, they are all toast.

    Buy: Cadillac – By 1998 – Caddy had burned the HT4100 and not the 4.5L was the mill. The 4.5L and subsequent 4.9L where solid machines that would blow the doors off of any domestic sedan including 5.0L mustangs and 350ci Camaros.

    Drive: 5th Avenue! 318 – A904 – RWD body on frame. What is not to love!

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      The M-body is not BOF. I don’t there were any Mopar BOF cars made after 1966.

      • 0 avatar
        CaddyDaddy

        CaddyDaddy shall sit in the corner chair with a Mopar Dunce Cap on until recess time. :(

        • 0 avatar
          Featherston

          +1 for cordial humor, CaddyDaddy. Ajla beat me to it, but I think the ’66 Imperials were the last BOF Mopars, apart from trucks.

          Semi-OT: That belies the notion that police cars *have* to be BOF. The Mopars that comprised many of Ameria’s police fleets in the ’60s, ’70s, and early ’80s were all unibody. To a large extent, it was just happenstance that unibody Furies and Diplomats (which had no real successor in the corporate lineup) got replaced by BOF Caprices, which in turn got replaced by BOF Crown Vics.

          Car that I was shocked to find out is unibody: The ’61-’69 Continental.

      • 0 avatar
        jack4x

        If you want to be pedantic, the Viper was body on frame.

        • 0 avatar
          Featherston

          @ jack4x – I support pedantry. Thanks!

          You’re reminding me of a video I watched in which a young guy was complaining about the shallow console in his C6 Corvette. Apparently he values a deep storage space over a chassis that won’t break or rear wheels that are connected to the engine.

    • 0 avatar
      N8iveVA

      LOL No.Just no. By 1998 the 4.5 was like 3 seconds faster to 60 than it was in 1988, from 10 sec to 7 sec, but Camaros and Mustangs were still a second faster to 60.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        I agree with you, N8iveVA, though CaddyDaddy does hint at an interesting phenomenon. Industry advances were so marked from the late ’70s though the late ’80s, that you definitely could have some hypothetical apples-to-oranges street races where the new-school FWD sedan could beat the old-school RWD two-doors that were just a few years older. ’88 DeVille vs ’82 Z28, e.g., would probably come down to the driver.

        A younger person might say, “Well, duh,” but this was coming on the heels of an era when the performance cars often were slower (at least in a straight line) than performance cars of the ’60s. An uncle had a ’66 Stingray, and in the early ’80s the only car he ever encountered off the track that was markedly faster was a Ferrari 308, and that only at triple-digit speeds (much to my aunt’s consternation).

        • 0 avatar
          CaddyDaddy

          Gentlemen, CaddyDaddy has a story. In the early 90’s, the family truckster was a 91′ Touring Sedan. It had a 4.9L which had a slight bump in HP over the std. Deville, and a little shorter final drive.
          I was in HS at the time and it would eat 5.0L and Camaros. We were in CA so most everything else was smog control wheezy. Sorry to burst your bubble. the 4.9L were a great little mill. Peppy and also liked to rev. Then the N. Star came, oh boy……

          • 0 avatar
            Featherston

            You’re moving the goalposts now, CaddyDaddy. You said 350ci Camaro earlier. It’s tough to find apples-to-apples numbers, but MotorWeek indicates a 7.5 0-60 run for the ’91 Touring sedan (www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=12&v=ELeVmEvRB1U) versus 6.3 for a 350-engined 1991 Trans Am GTA (www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmzvCmDsGFs).

            Now a ’91 Touring Sedan against a ’91 F-body with the 305 TBI V8? My money’s on the Cadillac. And all bets are off, depending on who’s driving. My high school girlfriend had far less of a self-preservation instinct than I did, so she would have beaten me driving the faster car and beaten me driving the slower car.

            We’re not really disagreeing here, and everyone in this thread seems to be praising the 4.5 and 4.9.

            And — I say this without snark — 1991 is abbreviated ’91. 91′ means “ninety-one feet” or “ninety-one minutes.”

            On topic: A question I’ve posed in several past threads is, What did GM do to improve the 4.1? It has such a bad reputation, and the 4.5 and 4.9 have such good ones (rightfully so in my admittedly limited experience; the extended family had very good experiences with one 4.5 and one 4.9). Clearly tweaks had to have been made beyond the displacement change.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Feather,
            I think he meant 5.0 ‘Stangs, and the typical 350 Camaro.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            Didn’t Caddy begin to add stopleak to the new cooling systems to deal with block porosity?

          • 0 avatar
            Featherston

            “the typical 350 Camaro”

            That’s the point, though, Hummer. The typical 350 3rd-gen Camaro/Firebird entailed only one engine: the tuned port injection L98. There was no mild (for the era) 350/5.7. Those were fast cars for their day and pretty much indisputably were quicker than any FWD DeVilles.

            Now the 305 came in several flavors for the 3rd-gen F-bodies, and it’s completely plausible that a ’91 DeVille Touring Sedan would be quicker than some of them. Ditto the Fox bodies and its 5.0’s, which were in production forever in various forms. I’d certainly expect the ’91 DeVille to be faster than some of them.

            Now if CaddyDaddy meant 305 in his initial comment, so be it.

            Not flaming, just being pedantic because I enjoy discussing this era of cars. :-)

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            No worries I was just going by his original comment.

  • avatar
    Hydromatic

    Not a lot to work with here.

    Buy: The 5th Avenue. I’m a sucker for button-tufted seats and classy full instrumentation. Plus it’s RWD and the 318 V8/A904 combo can be tweaked for more power after warranty.

    Drive: The Cadillac. I hate the C-pillar treatment (and generally how the FWD Caddies all seemed flimsy and cheap during this era), but the rest of the car is fine, relatively speaking.

    Burn: The Continental. Nice on paper, but the Essex motor and air ride suspension make it a no-go in my book.

    Joker Option: Burn all three and find a nicely-optioned 1988 Chevrolet Caprice Brougham LS. Because that car had the whole “American luxury” idea figured out. HINT: Americans buy their luxury CHEAP.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Buy: Cadillac- These were quite advanced though I always thought that they should have been RWD with the independent suspension.
    The 4.5 is a good improvement over the 4.1 HT

    Drive: Chrysler- My gramps owned the Diplomat
    which as a old Mopar man he enjoyed but it had its share of carb Lean Burn issues. Replace the manifold and add a Carter carb and your set.

    Burn: Lincoln- I’m a Ford guy but these stretch Taurus are nothing to write home about. The engine is not a great match and the air suspension had its issues. If only they had the 24v motor or a detuned SHO 3.2.

    Honorable mention: Oldsmobile 98 Touring Sedan

  • avatar
    MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

    I just had an idea- modern Hemi, make it a 6.4L version, swapped into that Chrysler. Sweet.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      A fair number of enthusiasts have dropped Magnum V8s, 4 speed autos, and the rear from a 90s Grand Cherokee into the M-bodys. That’s supposed to be a fairly straightforward bolt up.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      With a restored/refreshed body and interior out of the most button-tufted, Corinthian-est leather you could find! Hmmm..triple-black over dark burgundy interior! (Yes, I’d pay somebody to keep the paint up!) In my dream garage with an unmolested GNX, Bullitt ‘Stangs from all three commemorative editions, with Chargers with suitably-enhanced drivetrains, except make the latest gas-station taker-outer a Helliphant-equipped 300C, AWD, Rolls/Bentley-spec interior furnishings—Connolly hides, Wilton wool carpeting, etc.—think the last Imperial concept, but out-damn-rageous, even if the suicide doors wouldn’t be possible! (With a sound system that could sense, and prevent, the play of anything resembling rap or hip-hop!) Basically, the LX equivalent of a business jet!

      Of course, keep everything else stock-looking! Then smoke Woodward from Pontiac clear to the Detroit River during the Dream Cruise! Tire treads are just so overrated! 8-D Would I spend more for gas or tires on the devil-spawn Fifth Avenue and the 300Helliphant doing constant fifteen mile-long burnouts?! One wonders! ;-) And gosh! I couldn’t take my foot outta the throttle around the hospital zone around Beaumont Hospital, and could affect the well-being of the animals at the Detroit Zoo with such antics!

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Buy: Caddy, for the old-school Cadillac styling and the decent 4.5.

    Drive: Lincoln, purely for the Taurus nostalgia, as a former owner of two. These are just stretch Tauruses and feel like it inside and from behind the wheel.

    Burn: Chrysler. RWD doesn’t make up for the sheer terribleness of both the antediluvian platform and the carbureted (!) 318 which is a straight carryover from the malaise era. Not to mention that M-bodies all look like K-cars even if they’re not.

  • avatar

    I want you all to know this is a difficult one for me, and I still haven’t decided which to burn. They all have big issues:

    Conti: AOD, suspension, awkward XL styling and Taurus bits.

    5th: Old, carburetor, too small inside, low power.

    Caddy: Would look immediately old next to vastly superior 89 model. 4.5 is thirsty.

    Will not burn Caddy. That’s what I know thus far.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    The Fifth Avenue exterior styling is over the top, but I love the similarly over the top button tufty Superfly interior. Buy.

    Lukewarm on that era of Cadillacs. They’re probably pleasant to drive.

    Conti was not the more mechanically reliable, but I think they styling has held up very nicely. Doesn’t look as dated as the generation that succeeded. Conservative styling usually has a longer shelf life IMO.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Buy: Continental – always loved this style – definitely the most modern feeling and looking of the three. Fine, I’m replacing a hot of head gaskets with that Essex 3.8 and the AOD 4-speed will last to maybe 80K miles. Still my choice.

    Drive: Cadillac – yes it was dark days but the C-body is/was under appreciated

    Burn: Chrysler – I want to love this but this was an anachronism

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Burn all of these. While they aren’t truly “Malaise mobiles” (Well maybe the Chrysler is old enough to be), they are malaise hangover vehicles for sure. Each of these cars make a clear statement about why their respective manufacturers are in the state they are today. Terrible, the entire lot.

  • avatar
    Crashdaddy430

    Drive the Lincoln for the ride and pretty technologically advanced for the time.

    Buy the Fifth Ave for rear wheel drive and V8 (as God intended) and stately good looks.

    Burn the Fleetwood, I have little love for 80s Cadillac front wheel drive products.

  • avatar

    The Conti had an AXOD, the AOD is rear wheel drive only.

    I am glad so many people want to burn the Conti, makes me appreciate the one I got (new HGs, decked block, new tranny, coil spring swap – which I do not like) even more…love me some independent suspension, big swaybars, rear strut tower brace, and 30-something position steering feel in an otherwise cutting edge platform for the era.

    If anyone comes across the air springs for the 88-89 models I would love to re-instate it so I can get the adjustable dampers again.

  • avatar
    STS_Endeavour

    The Lincoln is probably the most interesting here in that it looks the blandest (I think they were trying for a European look), but at least it didn’t look like rolling polyester leisure suits from the 1970’s trying to make their comeback in the upcoming ’90’s. It was just too bad that whatever company Ford had making their 3.8 liter Essex V6 engine head gaskets for them had removed the asbestos they used to put in their head gaskets that very year; and replaced it with nightmares. I want to say burn it, but I just can’t. Drive it. Just not for very long.

    A friend of mine had a Fifth Avenue. I recall it being a bit of a shop queen. He got rid of it and bought a Ranger with a gazillion miles on it. That 4 liter in that Ranger really hangs tough, but I’m getting sidetracked… Plus the Fifth Avenue always smelled like a glop of grease. I wouldn’t mind burning this one.

    Which I guess leaves buy the Cadillac. Because reasons.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I had a champaign 84 5th Avenue with tan tufted leather interior and wire wheel covers. It had been my mother’s car. I liked the car itself but I did not like the the electronically controlled carburetor, the electrics were bad, and the interior integrity was subpar. Chrysler does not have the best bodies. I would take the Conti, drive the Chrysler, and burn the Caddy.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I would go one further on the 5th Avenue and transplant a newer Mopar V-8 with fuel injection.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    If I have to drive/buy one the Chrysler is it, though by the late 80s Carburetors on a luxury car were a bit ridiculous, even cheap vehicles has made the switch to fuel injection.

    The other two are burn in a fiery pit, front wheel drive is not luxury, never has been, never will be. It’s cost cutting at its worst.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      What’s so bad about a Cord or the UPP cars?

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        I’m drawing a blank on UPP, as far as Cord, that was from an entirely different time, I wouldn’t count that in the same box as a Citation, Forte, or Passat in anyway. As far as the last 40 years go on the other hand FWD just screams throwaway, cheap, and boring.
        There is no greater sin than the companies that once built the luxurious cars of pre 1974 America to peddle FWD tin cans with V6 engines under the same badge. The is why brands like Mercury, Oldsmobile, Plymouth existed, to make the nicer equipped vehicles of platforms that were too downscale to be used in the top end luxury brands.

        Though I will say by 1988 most of the products from those three aforementioned brands weren’t suitable for the lower brands let alone the top end Lincoln/Cadillac that they ended up at.

        Exceptions don’t make a pattern, I would love a Lycoming powered Cord, I have no interest in a Front drive (so-called) luxury car even if V8 powered from the 1980s. The Japanese Big 3 refined the segment and made decent fuel misers, but the American makers simply used it as an opportunity to sell cheaper to build products with subpar engineering at increased pricing over their superior predecessors.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          UPP was the FWD-based “Unified Powerplant Package” that GM used on the Toronado, Eldorado, and GMC Motorhome.

          I don’t completely disagree with your point but you’re the one that wrote “front wheel drive is not luxury, never has been, never will be.” Something like the Cord or the UPP cars were impressively engineered, powered, and styled even though they were FWD. Your issue seems more to be with cost-cutting, and engine down-sizing not with the drive wheels.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            I maintain that exceptions don’t constitute the rule, I never personally found any of those E-bodies anything more than an interesting note in history, but even those show the horrid effects of cost cutting from the point of that platforms initial riding vehicles to the point of its final demise.

            I have more issue with the drive wheels and cost cutting measures that they represented going into the mid-late 70s than I do with the engine downsizing which was just the tip of that iceberg. I understand FWD and small engines if your goal is to build a bargain basement vehicle, however it has no place in anything that’s supposed to be desirable and build brand cache.
            This is why we talk about Cadillac and Lincoln being in the dump their in today. Panther platforms and Escalades can’t support brands that also sell MKG(whatever the hell those fusion Lincoln’s were), SRXs and every other idea that pushed dumpy looking rebadges of less than desirable vehicles out the door for the last 20 years at these two brands.

  • avatar
    jamespdx

    I had a 90 Acura Legend that was an absolutely AWESOME SPORT/LUXURY car and it was FWD. Of course, when you stepped on the gas that thing went like a little rocket and was solid – it would fly around a 50mph corner at 90mph and not even squeal the tires. Not anything like the GM rigs of the same era that felt like the engine might come loose and fly out of the hood. That said, I also owned a 1976 Oldsmobile Toronado and it was one of the most obvious LUXURY cars I ever owned – it was an ENORMOUS car that sat four comfortably on huge pillows for seats and that 455 was super solid. It was a blast to smoke the front tires across an entire intersection (I was 17-19 at the time).

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      @ jamespdx – Perhaps you can confirm. I’ve ridden in a UPP-powered car as a youngster, but I’ve never driven one. I’ve read wildly conflicting opinions about whether or not they torque-steered.

      My suspicion is that most of the pundits citing torque steer actually haven’t driven one, don’t actually know the underlying engineering, and in essence are just saying, “Herp, derp. Big V8, FWD, torque steer.”

      Conversely, Ate Up With Motor has this explanation:
      “The original halfshafts, developed by Oldsmobile and GM’s Saginaw Division, used permanently sealed Rzeppa-type constant velocity (CV) joints at each end, but the inner CV joints telescoped, allowing the halfshaft’s length to change slightly in response to lateral forces. Interestingly, the telescoping CV joint was actually invented by Pontiac’s John DeLorean, who patented it in 1959, and was originally intended for the rear suspension of the rope-drive Tempest, where it was supposed to reduce acceleration and braking squat. Oldsmobile used it, along with careful attention to steering geometry (including a slight negative scrub radius), to almost completely eliminate torque steer. (The telescoping halfshafts were replaced for 1967 by three-ball-bearing CV joints, which worked almost as well and cost less.) The right halfshaft also incorporated a rubber torsional damper that could twist up to 7.5 degrees to absorb driveline shocks and vibration.”

      I somewhat doubt Aaron Severson (A.U.W.M.) has driven a ’66 Toronado either, but at least he’s done some research.

      My expectation with a UPP Toronado would be overboosted steering and an ability to smoke the front tires, which would result in front-end fishtailing. But I wouldn’t necessarily expect the steering wheel to get tugged clockwise or counterclockwise as in the manner of true torque steer. I’ve driven some transverse-engine FWD cars with decent power, and some of them definitely have wanted to turn right when you hit the gas. But that’s not necessarily what I’d expect from the longitudinal-engine ’66 Toronado or ’67 Eldorado.

      Can you shed some light on this?

      • 0 avatar
        jamespdx

        I remember having to “learn” how to drive the Toronado – it was “different” from what I was used to, but it’s been so long ago I don’t really remember what that difference was – I know I could push it through a corner faster than I could a rear drive car of a similar size. I’ve drive several GM FWD rigs from the 80s and they all had seriously squirrelly torque steer – you’d hit the gas and it felt like the engine was jumping around and the frontend was definitely jumping around. The Toronado would burn rubber in a straight line without any torque steer or “fishtailing”, but if you hit the gas while going into a corner you wanted to make sure you had a secure hold on the steering wheel because the car wanted to go whatever direction it was pointed – it didn’t straighten out like a rear wheel drive (I think this was the “learning” I had to do) – but it still didn’t really feel like “torque-steer”. It didn’t jerk the wheel in a particular direction – it just went whatever way it was pointed, so you would need to STEER it back out of the corner as well. One of the funny things about the Toro was it had “special” tires that had been specifically engineered for it and it would wear them out fairly quickly – they were Goodyear somethings (again – LONG time ago).

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Not a Toro but I’ve driven a 500ci Eldo. As mentioned the equal length half shafts eliminate what people call torque steer of the car wanting to pull the steering wheel out of your hands. But putting that much torque through those CV joints makes them “tight” ie harder to move and why you have to unwind the wheel when getting on it hard when coming out of corner.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        Great info. Thanks, jamespdx and Scoutdude.

  • avatar
    VWGolfGuy

    Drive: Fifth Ave, because it looks awesome
    Buy: Continental, because best DD
    Burn: Fleetwood, because 80’s GM FWD

  • avatar
    ptschett

    Buy: Cadillac. My grandparents had a garage-full of ’88 Coupe de Villes for 2-3 years; both blue, with my grandma’s (RIP this year) being a steel-roof car in a normal medium blue color close to my since-traded-in 2010 Challenger’s Deep Water Blue; and my grandpa’s car being a more “stone washed jeans” pastel blue with a landau-style vinyl roof. Grandpa later replaced the ’88 CdV with a ’93 Sedan de Ville, 4.9L powered, that I spent quite a lot of time either riding in or driving in my teenage years on long-distance parts-runs for the farm, or helping to go see and test-drive trucks that might have been useful to the farm at distant dealerships.

    Drive: the Chrysler. I’d be more interested in seeing how it drives, at this point in time, than seeing how the Lincoln drives.

    Burn: the process of elimination puts the Lincoln here. I don’t make the rules.

  • avatar

    I would replace Continental with proper RWD Ford Scorpio with 3.0L engine, preferably Cosworth. Transmission to be manual of course.


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