The Lincoln Town Car 1981-1989

The Lincoln Town Car is a model line of full-size luxury sedans that was marketed by the Lincoln division of the American automaker Ford Motor Company from 1981 to 2011. Taking its nameplate from a limousine body style, the Lincoln Town Car first appeared in 1959 as a rare sub-model of the Continental, returning as a Lincoln trim line from 1969 to 1980. Following a revision of the Lincoln model line, the Lincoln Town Car became a distinct product line for 1981, replacing the Continental as the full-size Lincoln. From 1981 to its 2011 discontinuation, the Town Car was marketed as the flagship Lincoln sedan.

Lincoln Town Cars were produced in three generations, each based on the Ford Panther platform. Sharing a chassis and mechanical components with the Mercury Grand Marquis and Ford (LTD) Crown Victoria, all examples were rear-wheel drive. Offered nearly exclusively as a four-door sedan through its production, a two-door sedan was offered only in 1981.

Within Ford Motor Company, the Lincoln Town Car marked the first use of a fuel-injected engine and keyless entry; for the American automotive industry, the Town Car marked the first American use of a four-speed automatic overdrive transmission (1980) and an overhead-cam V8 engine (1991).

Marketed primarily in the United States and Canada, the Town Car saw exports worldwide. From 1980 to 2007, the Lincoln Town Car was assembled at Wixom Assembly, in Wixom, Michigan, alongside the Lincoln Continental, Lincoln LS, Mark VI, Mark VII, and Mark VIII. Following the closure of Wixom Assembly, production of the Town Car was moved to St. Thomas Assembly in Southwold, Ontario, Canada, alongside the Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis. In 2011, production of all three Panther-platform vehicles ended as the St. Thomas facility ended production in September 2011.

The first generation

After lagging behind rival Cadillac since 1977, Lincoln became the final American luxury brand to market downsized full-size cars for the 1980 model year. Alongside the redesigned Lincoln Continental and the all-new Continental Mark VI, the Continental Town Car and Town Coupe continued as the top-line trims of the Lincoln Continental line, slotted below the Mark VI. Although technically not a Lincoln, to reduce its development and production, the Mark VI shared its chassis and much of its body with the Lincoln Continental.

Having sold three versions of the same vehicle for 1980, Lincoln began to restructure its model line for 1981. The Lincoln Continental was put on hiatus for the model year, with the nameplate shifting to a mid-size sedan introduced as an early 1982 model. The flagship Mark VI remained to live out its model cycle, as its replacement (the 1984 Mark VII) was intended as a completely different vehicle.

As the remaining full-size Lincoln, the Lincoln Continental Town Car was re-christened the Lincoln Town Car for 1981 (the Town Coupe nameplate was dropped for two-doors).

Chassis

The 1980-1989 Lincoln Continental/Town Car utilized the Panther platform shared with Ford and Mercury. Delayed to the 1980 model year due to engineering issues, the Panther platform would give the Continental/Town Car radically different exterior dimensions from its predecessor. Although extended three inches in wheelbase over its Ford/Mercury/Mark VI coupe counterparts, the 1980-1989 Lincoln would have the shortest wheelbase ever used for a full-size Lincoln at the time (10 inches shorter than its 1979 predecessor and shorter than a Mercedes-Benz 380SEL). The 1980 Continental/Town Car was the shortest Lincoln since the Versailles. In the interest of fuel economy and handling, the Panther chassis reduced weight by up to 1400 lbs over the heaviest versions of the 1970-1979 full-size Lincolns; the lightest full-size Lincoln in 40 years, the 1980 Continental/Town Car came within less than 200 pounds of the curb weight of the Versailles.

The new Panther platform allowed for advances in suspension geometry and many upgrades were made to the power steering. With the handling improvements and reduced overall size, the Town Car featured an improved ride coupled with better overall road manners. Compared to its GM counterparts and Lincoln predecessors, the new-generation Lincoln offered more agile maneuvering, as well as a reduced turn diameter by over 8 feet (compared to the 1979 Lincoln Continental). In an effort to improve handling, Lincoln added gas-pressurized shocks for the Town Car in 1984.

In order for the division to attain fuel economy targets mandated by the federal governments through CAFE, Ford abandoned the use of its 400 and 460 big-block V8s in its full-size cars. For 1980, a 130 hp 4.9L V8 (the 302 Windsor, marketed as a 5.0L V8) was the standard engine, becoming the first fuel-injected V8 in North America. A 140 hp 351 V8 was available as an option. Following the introduction of the Lincoln Town Car in 1981, the 5.0L V8 became the only available engine (with the 351 becoming an option for Ford and Mercury). In Canada, the 5.0L V8 remained carbureted until 1985. In 1986, the 5.0L V8 was revised to 150 hp, following a redesign of the fuel-injection system with the introduction of sequential multi-port fuel injection. These engines are easily distinguished by their cast aluminum upper intake manifolds with horizontal throttle body (vertical throttle plate); this replaced the traditional throttle body with a carburetor-style top-mounted air cleaner previously used.

Introduced in the Lincoln Continental for 1980 and marketed in all Panther-platform vehicles in 1981, the Lincoln Town Car was equipped with the 4-speed AOD automatic overdrive transmission, the sole transmission of 1981-1989 examples. All Town Cars from 1980 to 1989 featured an optional trailer towing package which included: dual exhausts, a 3.55:1 limited slip differential (code 'K') and an improved cooling package for the engine as well as transmission.

Body

Exterior

During the late 1970s, the sales of the Lincoln Continental had held steady and the Continental Mark V would go on to outsell its Cadillac Eldorado counterpart. In the development of the Lincoln Town Car, the design themes of the 1977-1979 Lincoln Continental and Mark V would both influence the exterior design of the 1980 Continental/Town Car. As with its predecessors, the Town Car features nearly flat body sides, sharp-edged fenders, and a radiator-style grille. In a major departure, hideaway headlamps gave way to exposed halogen headlamps (the first on a full-size Lincoln since 1969). Another first included fully framed door glass (retractable vent windows were now standard); in sharp contrast to its Ford and Mercury counterparts, the window frames were painted matte black. While chrome trim remained around the headlamps and window frames, in a break from Lincoln tradition, it was deleted from the top of the fenders. Though mechanically similar to the Ford LTD and Mercury Marquis (the Ford LTD Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis after 1983), the Lincoln Town Car shared visible body panels only with the Continental Mark VI. In contrast to its Ford, Mercury, and Mark VI counterparts, the rooflines of 1981-1989 Town Cars feature a vertical quarter window in the C-pillar.

After only 4,935 two-door Town Cars were sold in 1981, the bodystyle was discontinued for 1982, making it one of the rarest versions of the Panther-chassis Fords. In the shift from rebadging the Continental to the Lincoln Town Car for 1981, Lincoln replaced the "Continental" badging above the headlights with "Town Car", which was removed in 1984.

A padded roof was standard equipment on all Town Cars, with its design determined by trim level. On standard-trim Town Cars, a leather-grained vinyl full-length covering with center pillar coach lamps was fitted. For Signature Series and Cartier trims, a padded vinyl coach roof (covering the rear half of the roof) with a frenched (smaller) rear window opening was fitted; the coach roof was also an option on standard-trim Town Cars. On non-Cartier Town Cars, a full-length cloth (canvas) roof was an option; imitating the look of a convertible, the design deleted the C-pillar quarter windows.

During the 1980s, the Lincoln Town Car would undergo several exterior revisions. For 1985, the model was given a mid-cycle facelift. In addition to (slightly) improving its aerodynamics, the design was intended to visually shorten the car (though length was essentially unchanged). The front and rear bumpers were redesigned, better integrating them into the bodywork. The rear fascia was redesigned; distinguished by redesigned taillamps, the trunklid was better integrated with the rear fenders. For 1986, to meet federal regulations, a center brake light was added in the rear window. For 1988, the grille was updated with a brushed-metal panel between the taillamps, which now featured the reverse lamps.

1989 models are distinguished by special trim features including satin black paint for grille blades, trim between headlights, and amber (instead of clear) front parking lamps. The "Lincoln" front-end badging is moved from above left headlight onto grille and changed to large sans-serif script. In the rear, the brushed-metal panel was given a pinstripe finish and all badging was moved from the panel onto the trunk lid. All models feature a landau roof with a smaller, more formal "frenched" rear window. All non-Cartier models also include an embedded Lincoln "star" emblems in their opera windows

Interior

The interior of the Lincoln Town Car featured many advanced luxury options for its time. Signature Series and Cartier models featured 6-way power seats (and manual seatback recliners) for the driver and front passenger; the Lincoln Town Car adopted a split front bench seat previously seen on the Mark coupes. Several electronic features included an optional digital-display trip computer showing the driver "miles to empty" and (based on driver input) an "estimated time of arrival". A keypad-based keyless entry system unlocked the vehicle through a 5-digit combination (factory-programmed or owner-programmed). Mounted above the driver door handle, the keypad allowed the driver to lock all four doors; after entering the code, the driver could unlock the doors or release the trunklid. Along with keyfob-based systems, the keypad system is still in use on Ford and Lincoln vehicles (as of 2017).

As part of the 1985 update, the Lincoln Town Car was the first Ford vehicle to feature a CD player as an option (as part of a 12-speaker JBL premium stereo system); in contrast, 1984 was the final year for the option of 8-track players and CB radios for the Town Car.

In a functional change, the horn button was moved from the turn-signal lever to the steering wheel hub. To update the interior trim, the door trim was changed from wood to upholstery matching the seats. For 1986, the front-seat head restraints were replaced with a taller 4-way articulating design; walnut burl trim replaced much of the satin black trim on the lower dash. For 1988, the instrument cluster was updated; for Town Cars with analog gauges, the instrument panel was given round dials in square bezels. In addition, new wood trim was added to the dashboard and steering wheel

Trim

At its 1980 launch, the Lincoln Town Car was offered in two trim levels, a standard/base trim and a Lincoln Town Car Signature Series (a name shared with the Mark VI, though with less exclusive features). In 1982, Lincoln adopted the Mark-Series tradition of Designer Series editions as the Cartier Edition was shifted from the Mark VI to the Town Car, becoming the top trim level;[6] the Cartier Edition would remain part of the Town Car line through the 2003 model year.

Special editions

Cartier Designer Edition

In 1982, in a trim level shift, the Cartier Edition was moved from the Mark Series to the Lincoln Town Car. As before, the special-edition package consisted of exclusively-coordinated exterior colors and interior designs, with the Cartier logo embroidered in place of the Lincoln "star" emblem on the seats. For 1987, the package underwent a redesign with new upholstery design and new two-tone (metallic beige) platinum added alongside the traditional platinum silver and two-tone arctic white.

Sail America Commemorative Edition This special edition 1987 Signature Series model came in white with a blue carriage roof and had white leather interior with blue piping and special badging. Ford Motor Company was one of the corporate sponsors of the "Sail America Foundation" syndicate, owner of the 1987 America's Cup winning yacht Stars & Stripes 87.

Special Edition The 1988 Town Car Signature Series was available with a $2,461 'Special Edition package', which included a carriage roof (giving the appearance of a convertible top), wire spoke aluminum wheels, JBL audio system, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and leather upholstery with contrasting-color piping. This replaced a proposed Gucci edition Town Car that had been in the works.

Marketing

For the 1985 model year, the Cadillac Sedan de Ville and Fleetwood, traditional competitors of the Lincoln Town Car, shifted to front-wheel drive platforms, becoming smaller than the Lincoln Continental. At the time, Lincoln marketed the larger size of the Town Car as a selling point.

In response to the downsized Cadillacs, Lincoln introduced a series of advertisements in late 1985 titled "The Valet" which depicted parking attendants having trouble distinguishing Cadillacs from lesser Buicks (Electras) and Oldsmobiles (Ninety-Eights), with the question "Is that a Cadillac?" answered by the response "No, it's an Oldsmobile...or Buick." At the end the owner of a Lincoln would appear with the line "The Lincoln Town Car please." The commercial campaign saw the emergence of the new advertising line for the brand, "Lincoln. What a Luxury Car Should Be." which was used into the 1990s.

While the Town Car retained its traditional layout and large size, fuel prices dropped to a contemporary new low at the time, and operating economy became less of a concern to buyers than a decade prior.

Second Generation

Lincoln Town Car 1990-1994

Lincoln Town Car 1995-1997

After ten years on the market (nine of them as the Town Car) relatively unchanged, the Lincoln Town Car was given an extensive redesign inside and out, being launched on October 5, 1989 as a 1990 model. In a move to bring a new generation of buyers to the Lincoln brand, the Town Car adopted a far more contemporary image, bringing it in line with the Continental and Mark VII. In addition, the Town Car adopted a new range of safety and luxury features and would mark the debut of a powertrain that would see usage in a wide variety of Ford Motor Company vehicles.

The second-generation Town Car was an overwhelming sales success and became one of the best-selling full-size U.S. luxury sedans. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Town Car sales regularly exceeded 100,000 units with 120,121 Town Cars being sold in 1994 alone.[10] Following the 1996 discontinuation of the Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham by General Motors, the Lincoln Town Car became the longest-length regular-production sedan sold in the United States.

The Town Car was named the 1990 Motor Trend Car of the Year.

Development

The second-generation Town Car was developed from 1985 to 1989 under the codename FN36, at a cost of $650 million USD, led by project manager John Jay. Following its downsizing to the Panther platform in 1980, the Lincoln Town Car was originally slated to be discontinued by the middle of the decade and replaced by a smaller front-wheel drive sedan; after the 1979 fuel crisis, gasoline prices were predicted to reach $2.50 per gallon and Ford Motor Company had lost $1.5 billion for 1980.[11] However, by 1984, full-size Lincoln sales had rapidly increased, with 1984 sales up 300% over 1980.[11] By the early 1980s, instead of ending the product cycle of the Lincoln Town Car, Ford product planners instead chose its front-wheel drive mid-size platform (of the Ford Taurus) to become the next-generation Lincoln Continental.

In August 1985, Ford designers began sketching and constructing clay models of competing designs under lead designer Gale Halderman and Ford Group Design Vice President Jack Telnack, with a final design chosen in May 1986; two full-scale (1:1) proposals were reviewed by a four-member design committee, chaired by CEO Donald Petersen, Jack Telnack, Ford President Harold Poling, and William Clay Ford, vice chairman. A wide spectrum of proposals were considered, ranging from a conservative update of the existing Town Car to a European-style body in the design language of the 1988 Lincoln Continental (FN-9, designed in 1984).

The final compromise of the committee sought to keep the identity of the Town Car (thus avoiding repeating the mistakes of Cadillac) while introducing a contemporary vehicle for the 1990s.[12] In the interest of fuel economy, the Lincoln Town Car was required to become more aerodynamic (reducing wind noise)[12], but key parts of its design were integrated into its design, with its radiator-style grille, chrome trim, and opera windows.[12] In a major design constraint, the design team was not to make any major reductions in size to the Town Car, preserving its large interior and trunk space as key marketing points to buyers.

In 1984, a second factor driving the design of the FN36 project was initiated, as the United States government introduced regulations mandating passive restraints on vehicles produced after September 1, 1989; along with automatic seat belts, out of necessity, automakers began to reconsider the use of airbags as passive restraints. By 1988, dual airbags remained nearly unused in cars sold in the United States, with the exception of the Mercedes S-Class (W126) and the Porsche 944. To comply with the legislation, Lincoln introduced the 1988 Continental with dual airbags, becoming the first Ford Motor Company (and first domestically-produced vehicle) with them standard[16][17]. As adding airbags to the 1988-1989 Town Car would require a redesign of the steering column and entire dashboard, dual airbag were moved to the FN36 project, making them an intended standard feature.[13]

At the time the FN36 project was launched in 1985, to extend the life of the Town Car, Lincoln-Mercury began a number of advertisements satirizing the newly introduced 1986 Cadillac model line, making them out to be indistinguishable from a Buick, Pontiac, and Oldsmobile.[12] Although the downsizing of Cadillac initially increased sales, the Lincoln-Mercury ad campaign diverted many buyers to the Town Car and Continental, with over 200,000 Town Cars sold in 1988.

In March 1986, the design freeze for the project occurred, with an intended production start of mid-1989. The second-generation Lincoln Town Car would become the first domestic Ford vehicle engineered outside of the company and constructed by foreign suppliers, with International Automotive Design of Brighton, England handling the engineering, while Japan-based Ogihara Iron Works supplying all of the Town Car body panels from its own factory near the Wixom plant.[19] To improve quality of prototypes, project managers broke from automotive industry precedent, requiring successive hand-built prototypes to be built to production-level quality, in order to determine the locations and causes of specific issues of tooling and manufacturing. From 1988 to 1989, the Town Car would go from over a year behind its production date to two weeks ahead of schedule.

Chassis

To lower the development and production costs of the extensive redesign, Ford Motor Company retained the Panther platform for the Lincoln Town Car, continuing its use of rear-wheel drive. In a major change, rear air suspension (introduced as an option for all three Panther vehicles in 1988) became standard equipment on all Town Cars. For 1990, the Town Car was produced with 11-inch rear drum brakes (identical to its 1989 predecessor); for 1991, they were replaced by 10-inch solid rear disc brakes.

Due to development delays in the Modular engine program, the 1990 Lincoln Town Car was released with the same powertrain as its predecessor: a 150 hp 5.0L (4.9L) V8 with a 4-speed AOD overdrive automatic.[21] In October 1990, the 5.0L V8 was replaced by a 190 hp 4.6L SOHC Modular V8 for 1991 models; for the 1994 model year, the optional 210 hp dual-exhaust version of the engine became standard. Shared with the Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis, the SOHC version of the 4.6L Modular V8 would see use in a number of other Ford vehicles within the Ford light-truck line, remaining in production into 2014. For 1993, the AOD transmission was converted to electronic operation, becoming the AOD-E. In 1995, along with a mid-cycle refresh, the Town Car received the higher-torque 4R70W from the Lincoln Mark VIII.

Body

The second-generation Lincoln Town Car was designed by Gale Halderman and Ford Group Design Vice President Jack Telnack.

Exterior

In its redesign for the 1990 model year, Lincoln stylists sought a completely new design for the Town Car. To bring the Town Car into the 1990s, many traditional Lincoln styling cues were heavily reworked or abandoned completely. Although the Town Car would keep its formal notchback sedan roofline, the flat-sided fenders and angular lines seen since the Continentals and Mark IIIs of the late 1960s disappeared. In their quest to give the Town Car a more aerodynamic body than its predecessor, stylists trimming its drag coefficient from 0.46 to 0.36 (matching the 1988 Continental and besting the Mark VII). While far sleeker than its 1980s counterpart, the 1990 Town Car retained several styling influences, including its vertical taillights, radiator-style grille, hood ornament, alloy wheels, and vertical C-pillar window. In a move to market the Town Car towards buyers of contemporary vehicles, several other changes were made. Although two-tone paint remained available (featuring a lower body accent color in gray metallic), monotone paint schemes would become increasingly standard. In a major change, a vinyl roof was no longer offered, since vinyl roofs declined in popularity among many buyers. Spoked aluminum wheels were dropped from the option list for 1990, while locking wire wheel discs remained through 1992.

In late 1992, the exterior was given a minor update with a new grille and slightly redesigned tail lamp lenses (distinguished by a "checkerboard" pattern) for 1993 models. As with the Crown Victoria and Grand Marquis, the Town Car received a larger update for the 1995 model year in late 1994. This facelift is best distinguished by the deletion of the fixed quarter glass in the rear doors along with the redesign of the side mirrors (enlarged and changed to body-color). Although the bumper largely remained unchanged, the front fascia is updated as the headlamp clusters are changed to a clear-lens design and separated from the grille. The grille was redesigned, returning to the 1990-1992 design in a surround fitting closer to the body. The rear fascia saw the trim between the tail lamps redesigned, featuring additional running lights, while the reverse lamps were moved from the outer edges of the reflector panel to the center, beneath the lid lock cover (similar to the 1985 - 1987 models).

Interior

In a departure from the Lincoln Continental and Mark VII, the use of the Panther platform necessitated a degree of component sharing with the Ford and Mercury counterparts. Although fitted with its own seats and door panels, the Town Car was fitted with essentially the same dashboard as the Mercury Grand Marquis (versions with digital instruments retain the instrument panel layout from 1988-1989). In 1993, the wood trim was changed to an orange-toned walnut. Due to its popularity (and to better separate the Town Car from its Ford/Mercury counterparts), the digital instrument panel was made standard; as such, the climate-control system was converted to a digital display.

As part of its 1995 Mid-cycle refresh, the interior saw a greater degree of change than the exterior. To bring the design up to date (and in line with the rest of the Lincoln line), the dashboard and door panels featured a curved design, while influenced by the Mark VIII, the 6-passenger design of the Town Car precluded the adoption of a center console in the interior. To increase storage space, the dual center armrests of the front seats on Signature and Cartier models were redesigned to include storage compartments (to hold cassettes and the optional cellular telephone). The dashboard design continued into the new door panels, now with an illuminated power window and seat adjuster cluster, and back-lit power door lock switch placed higher on the door. Releases for the trunk and fuel door were moved from the dashboard onto the lower driver's door. Redesigned seat patterns now offered an available driver and front passenger electric heat feature. The radio antenna was integrated into the rear window. Although the basic controls of the interior remained common across all Panther vehicles, the Town Car gained a model-specific instrument panel, featuring italicized readouts.

For 1996, the climate controls were again redesigned; while Cartier Designer Editions featured genuine wood trim on the dashboard and door panels. In 1997, few changes were made: the rear center armrest added a pair of cup holders, while Cartier models gained rear-seat vanity mirrors mounted in the headliner.

Trim

Upon its redesign in October 1989, the Lincoln Town Car carried over its three previous trim levels: base, Signature Series, and Cartier Designer Edition. For 1991, the base trim was renamed Executive Series. From 1989 to 1996, the Lincoln Town Car was available with a factory towing package.

The Base (Executive Series from 1991MY onward) Town Car offered six-passenger seating with two bench seats, a four-speaker AM/FM stereo with cassette player, 6-way front power seats, a four-speed automatic overdrive transmission, cloth seating surfaces, fifteen-inch tires, dashboard clock, and keyless entry with Ford's SecuriCode keyless entry keypad.

The Signature Series added a digital vacuum fluorescent instrument cluster, trip computer, standard alloy wheels, and an (optional) cloth imitation convertible roof. The Cartier Edition was fitted with the same features as the Signature Series, adding a JBL-branded sound system with amplifier, a security system, alloy spoked wheels, and other exclusive details, such as cloth and leather seats. In a departure from tradition, starting in 1990, Cartier Designer Edition Town Cars were no longer available in a single color combination yearly, but in several different interior/exterior combinations. In addition, aside from gray lower body trim offered as an option for Signature Series Town Cars, Cartier Editions became the only two-tone versions of the Town Car.

Special editions

In addition to the three standard trims of the Lincoln Town Car, various special edition option packages were produced by Lincoln (excluding dealer-produced versions).

Jack Nicklaus Signature Series (1992-1997) The Jack Nicklaus Signature Series was a special-edition option package for the Town Car Signature Series that was featured a green exterior with a white top; the interior consisted of white leather with green accents. Another version of the package was sold with a white exterior and a standard roof; the interior trim was similar, with white leather seats and green carpets and trim.

Most Jack Nicklaus editions have ornaments and wording on the exterior trimmed in gold including green and gold "Golden Bear" badges on the front fenders. Options included on the 1992 to 1997 Jack Nicklaus Signature Series included: Memory Seats with Power Lumbar/Recliner, Leather Seats and Monotone Paint.

Regatta Edition (1994)

The Regatta Edition was a maritime-themed special-edition option package for the Signature Series, with approximately 1,500 produced. The package consisted of White Oxford leather seats (with optional blue seat piping), with regatta blue carpeting; the doors and instrument panel featured matching blue-color trim.

The package was often paired with a white oxford vinyl carriage roof featuring embroidery on the "C" pillar near the opera windows.

Spinnaker Edition (1995)

Replacing the Regatta Edition, the Spinnaker Edition option package featured tri-coat paint, two-toned leather seats, the Spinnaker logo on the floor mats, and 16" spoked aluminum wheels.

Diamond Anniversary Edition (1996) To commemorate the 75th anniversary of Lincoln in 1996, the division sold a Diamond Anniversary Edition of the Town Car Signature Series (alongside the Continental and Mark VIII). Featuring a unique accent stripe, leather seats, wood instrument panel trim, window badging, cellular telephone, power moonroof, JBL audio system, auto electrochromatic dimming mirror with compass, and traction assist,[25] the Diamond Anniversary Edition included nearly every available option on the Lincoln Town Car.

Cypress Edition (1996)

The Cypress Edition of the Signature Series featured Cypress Gold Frost exterior paint, a two-toned leather interior, and red Cypress tree badging.

Features

At its 1990 redesign, the Lincoln Town Car was offered with relatively few options, with nearly all features as standard equipment. On the Signature Series, the only options were leather seat trim, a moonroof, a 10-disc CD changer, JBL sound system, security system, and onboard telephone.

The redesign highlighted several new features that had never been available before on the Town Car. A two-position driver's memory seat was standard on Cartier Editions (optional on Signature Series); the memory seats featured 8-way adjustment for both seats and inflatable lumbar support. While technically a carryover feature from 1989, the Electrochromic Dimming Mirror was redesigned for the much wider rear window of the new Town Car.

A number of advances were made in the safety features available for the Lincoln Town Car, with ABS becoming an optional feature in 1990. Following the return of 4-wheel disc brakes to the Town Car in 1991 (for the first time since 1979), ABS became standard in 1992. As with the rest of the Panther-platform vehicles, the Town Car was fitted with a driver's side airbag in 1990, although the Town Car was technically designed to be fitted with dual airbags (the first American-produced luxury vehicle to be fitted with them). However, due to supply problems with the passenger airbag module, the passenger airbag essentially became a delete option, with a credit on the window sticker issued for the price of the missing airbag. Upon owner request, for the price of the issued credit, the passenger airbag would be installed. By the beginning of the 1992 model year, all Town Cars come equipped with dual airbags from the factory.

Third Generation

Lincoln Town Car 1998-2002

Lincoln Town Car 2003-present

A redesigned Town Car was unveiled at the New York International Auto in April 1997 and launched on November 26, 1997. For the 1998 model year, Ford gave its full-size cars for all three divisions major redesigns, with the Town Car receiving the most attention. Adopting much more rounded lines than its predecessor, the Lincoln Town Car carried on the styling of the Lincoln Mark VIII and the 1995 Lincoln Continental. Although introduced nearly concurrently with the truck-based Lincoln Navigator full-size SUV, the redesign of the Town Car also marked a change in the role of Lincoln within Ford Motor Company.

During the creation of the third-generation Town Car, the structure of Lincoln was being shifted from the Lincoln-Mercury Division to within the Premier Automotive Group. While still a division of Ford, PAG was a grouping of Lincoln with higher-end automotive brands owned by the company (Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin). As the grouping of Lincoln within PAG was considered unsuccessful (with Lincoln falling behind Cadillac in sales after 2000), the Lincoln-Mercury division was restored to its previous structure by 2002.

At the end of the 2007 model year, Ford discontinued operations at the Wixom Assembly Plant, putting the future of the Town Car at risk. For the 2008 model year, production of the Town Car was transferred to the St. Thomas Assembly plant in Canada, alongside Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis.

Chassis

For its redesign in the 1998 model year, the Lincoln Town Car retained the Ford Panther platform that had underpinned its predecessor. To improve the cornering stability of the Town Car, a Watt's linkage was fitted to the solid rear axle suspension (a change also seen in its Mercury and Ford counterparts). The front brake calipers were changed to a larger dual-piston design; 16-inch wheels became standard.

For 2003, the chassis of the Town Car was extensively redesigned in an effort to modernize its road manners. In addition to a completely redesigned frame, major changes were made to the tuning of the suspension. To further improve handling, the steering was changed from a recirculating-ball to a rack-and-pinion configuration.

Powertrain

In the redesign, the Lincoln Town Car carried over its Modular V8 (shared with the Crown Victoria/Grand Marquis). For the first time since its 1991 introduction, the 4.6L SOHC V8 saw in increase in output, rising to 200 hp in Executive/Signature models; dual exhaust Town Cars produced 220 hp in Cartier trim with 239 hp in Signature Touring versions. In 2000, the V8 was retuned to 200/215 hp, rising to 220/235 hp in 2001. For 2003, the powertrain would get a final power increase, rising to 224/239 hp.

From 1998 to 2002, the Town Car used the 4R70W 4-speed automatic introduced in 1995. From 2003 onward, the heavier-duty 4R75W replaced it.

While three inches shorter than its 1997 predecessor, the 1998 Town Car gained two inches in width and an inch in height (becoming the tallest Lincoln sedan in 40 years). In a major break from Lincoln styling tradition, the Town Car abandoned many of the straight-edged lines of its predecessor. Adopting styling cues of the outgoing Mark VIII and the 1995 Continental, the Town Car adopted a curved design scheme in place of the previous straight-lined body. While the radiator grille was retained, its rectangular shape was changed to oval (its waterfall pattern was adopted by the Lincoln Navigator introduced alongside it); in a controversial change, the hood ornament was deleted. The curved design scheme carried further to the rear of the Town Car, in the C-pillar (losing its opera windows) into the trunklid. To better differentiate itself from its Mercury counterpart, the Town Car switched to individual taillamps, deleting the filler panel on the trunklid; a large chrome surround was used on the trunklid to mount the license plate.

In 2001, the stretched Town Car L was introduced, with a six-inch stretch in its wheelbase. To produce the variant at the lowest cost possible, the B-pillar was widened on 2001-2002 versions to use the existing rear door glass of the standard Town Car. In 2003, the Town Car L was redesigned, giving it model-specific doors proportioned to the longer roofline; these versions are distinguished by wider rear quarter glass in the doors.

In 2003, coinciding with the chassis redesign, the body of the Town Car underwent a number of changes. To bring it in line with contemporary Lincoln vehicles, the lower body was squared off; the oval grille was redesigned in the style of the Lincoln LS; the hood ornament made its return after a 5-year absence.

Interior

As with its predecessors, the 1998 Lincoln Town Car visibly shares few common interior parts with its Ford and Mercury counterparts (aside from its steering column, radio, and climate controls). To improve ergonomics, power seat controls on Signature and Cartier models are relocated from the seat to door panel (Executive Series, in 1999). In a move to improve safety, seat-mounted side airbags become standard on all Town Cars for 1999. In the same year, the Executive Series regains its rear-seat center armrest (initially deleted in a cost-cutting move).

For its 2003 redesign, the interior of the Lincoln Town Car saw extensive changes. In a move to further differentiate the Town Car from the Mercury Grand Marquis, the radio and climate controls were integrated into a single unit with an analog clock; the interior was given a model-specific wood trim bordered by satin metal. The redesign included new seats, distinguished by taller head restraints. Alongside the Lincoln LS, the 2003 Town Car introduced a DVD-based satellite navigation system designed by Pioneer; it was later paired with THX sound processing. On all Town Cars except for Executive Series, ultrasonic park assist was standard, alongside a power-open/close trunk lid (this was known as "Trunk at a Touch").

For 2004, the "Soundmark" standard stereo system is redesigned to offer dual-media capability (AM/FM/cassette/CD). For 2005, for the first time since 1996, the Town Car receives a redesigned steering wheel. For 2006, the instrument panel was redesigned, with Lincoln Town Car gaining a tachometer alongside its Ford and Mercury counterparts; Lincoln Town Car is one of the last American-market vehicles sold without one.

As part of the 2008 shift in assembly plants, to streamline production, Lincoln deleted or standardized many features of the Town Car, leaving only 4 remaining options: HID headlamps, whitewall tires, polished 18-spoke wheels (in place of 10-spoke "machine-finish" wheels), and a trunk organizer.

Trim

At its redesign for 1998, the Lincoln Town Car was produced in three trim levels: Executive Series (primarily for fleets and livery sales), Signature Series, and Cartier Designer Edition. From 1998 to 2002, Lincoln offered the Signature Series Touring; essentially the Lincoln counterpart to the Handling and Performance Package option for the Ford Crown Victoria/Mercury Grand Marquis, the Signature Series Touring offered suspension upgrades to optimize handling.

For 2002, the Town Car line was expanded as Lincoln introduced a Premium option package for the Signature Series, Cartier, and Signature Touring; the Premium option package is distinguished by a glass sunroof.

For 2004, several shifts were made to the model line, with the Executive becoming available solely for fleet/livery customers and the Cartier discontinued altogether. To replace the Cartier, Lincoln introduced the Lincoln Town Car Ultimate, featuring a THX sound system. For 2005, the Ultimate was replaced by the Signature Limited (first introduced as an option in 2000) along with the Designer Series. Effectively replacing the Cartier, the Designer Series offered a two-tone interior with Provence leather and adjustable head restraints; the exterior was distinguished by chrome wheels and B-pillar trim.

For 2008 through 2011, the Signature Limited became the sole trim available on the standard-wheelbase Town Car along with the long-wheelbase Signature L; the Executive Series remained in production for fleet and livery sales.

Special editions

Touring Intended to enhance the driving appeal of the Lincoln Town Car, the Touring/Touring Sedan was an option package for Signature Series Town Cars from 1998 to 2002. Essentially the Lincoln counterpart of the Ford Crown Victoria/Mercury Grand Marquis Handling and Performance Package, the Touring option package featured a dual-exhaust 239 hp V8h heavy-duty KONI shocks, revised suspension bushings, wider 16-inch wheels with 235mm tires, a 3.55 rear-axle ratio, and revised steering tuning. Town Cars with the option package are distinguished by a black-painted grille, exterior chrome delete, black wood interior (fitted with perforated leather seats and a JBL Audiophile quality sound system).

25th Anniversary Edition Lincoln commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Town Car by offering a 25th Anniversary Edition package on the 2006 Signature Limited. The package included chrome B-pillar and door handles, unique Eucalyptus wood applique and matching steering wheel with wood inserts, scuff plates with "25th Anniversary Edition" and "25th anniversary" badging, Provence leather individual 40/20/40 lounge seating with individual comfort, shirring, contrast piping and rear seat adjustable headrests, foglamps and 9-spoke chrome wheels.

Continental Edition Offered in 2010 and 2011 was the Continental Edition package; available as an option only on the Signature Limited trim. The package added Continental badging, chrome 17-inch wheels and accents to the B-pillars. On the interior, the Continental name was embroidered on the front seats and front floor mats.

Variants

Livery variants

Featuring a standard V8 engine, body-on-frame design, rear-wheel drive and large exterior and interior dimensions, the Town Car became popular in livery and commercial service. In commercial service, the typical Lincoln Town Car saw a life expectancy of over 400,000 miles. Its basis on the Ford Panther chassis gave it powertrain and suspension commonality with the Mercury Grand Marquis and the Ford LTD Crown Victoria (later the Crown Victoria). This design made them durable even in the rough conditions taxi and livery cars are subjected to, and easy and cheap to repair when they did suffer damage.

The Lincoln Town Car was popular as a stretch limousine donor chassis; it was the most commonly used limousine and chauffeured car in the United States and Canada. Hearses were also built on the Town Car chassis, through Ford's QVM program; the chassis was modified by coachbuilders for use in the funeral business.

Presidential State Car

A 1989 Lincoln Town Car was commissioned by United States President George H. W. Bush as the Presidential State Car of the United States to succeed the 1983 Cadillac Fleetwood used during the Ronald Reaganadministration. The Presidential Town Car limousine arrived in 1989 and was the state car for the entire presidency of George H. W. Bush. It was succeeded by a Cadillac Fleetwood, delivered in 1993, which was used by his successor, Bill Clinton.

As of 2016, the 1989 Lincoln Town Car is the last Lincoln vehicle to have served as a Presidential State Car.

Town Car L

A new "L" designation was used for extended-wheelbase Town Cars from 2000 to 2011. The L editions offered an additional 6 in (150 mm) of rear-seat legroom, as well as remote access audio and climate controls mounted in the rear center armrest. Also included was a two-way travel switch for the front passenger seat base (a feature shared with the extended-wheelbase Jaguar XJ). This L designation was similar to that used on other luxury flagship sedans such as the BMW 7 Series or the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The L designation was applied to the top-of-line Cartier (2000–2003), Ultimate (2004 only), and Signature (2005–2011) trim levels. Fleet buyers received it under the Executive L trim designation.

For 2000–02 versions, the "L" edition is best identified by a widened B-pillar, bearing the Lincoln "star" ornament; this was done to maintain parts commonality with the standard Town Car. 2003-2011 "L" editions are distinguished by longer rear doors, featuring wider versions of the fixed windows seen in the Town Car doors.

Ballistic Protection Series

Starting in 2003, the Lincoln Town Car had been available featuring ballistic protection from the factory. Adding nearly $100,000 to the base price, the armored body and bulletproof glass raised the curb weight of the Town Car to nearly 7,000 pounds. Other changes to the suspension and brakes were intended to preserve the handling of the Town Car. Only a handful of Lincoln dealers in the US were authorized to sell this series.

Hongqi CA7460

In China, FAW produced a licensed version of the Lincoln Town Car rebadged as the Hongqi CA7460(红旗,Red flag CA7460) and Hongqi Qijian(红旗旗舰,Flagship) from November 10, 1998 to 2005. However the limousine version continues to be produced and sold in China. The limousine version is currently called the Hongqi Limousine. Pricing in 1998 was at 690,000 RMB (109,710 USD) while limousine variants were added later in the year. Pricing for the limousine variant was 1,350,000 RMB (214,650 USD).

Discontinuation

In spite of declining sales, the Town Car remained one of the best selling American luxury cars; it was the United States' and Canada's most used limousine and chauffeured car.

In 2006, as part of The Way Forward, Ford considered ending production of Lincoln's largest model as part of the 2007 closing of the Wixom Assembly Plant. Industry observer George Peterson said "It blows everybody’s mind that they are dropping the Town Car. Just think what Ford could do if they actually invested in a re-skin of Crown Victoria, Grand Marquis and Town Car." Ford ultimately decided to keep the model and move assembly to the St. Thomas Assembly Plant in Ontario, Canada; this was home to the Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis; both models also used the Ford Panther platform. The Town Car's manufacture resumed at its new location in late 2007. The first Canadian-assembled Town Car was built on January 10, 2008. However, in Canada, Town Cars were sold exclusively for fleet and livery sales, having been discontinued in retail markets after the 2007 model year.

In 2009, the fate of all three Panther-platform models was determined when Ford announced the 2011 closure of the St. Thomas Assembly Plant. For the limousine and livery markets, Ford had promised availability of the Town Car through the 2011 model year; retail sales continued on a limited basis in the United States and for export. On January 4, 2011, the Town Car became the last Panther-platform variant available for retail sale as the final Mercury Grand Marquis was produced (the last Mercury-brand vehicle). On August 29, 2011, the final Town Car rolled off the assembly line, without any fanfare or announcement from Ford.

After the Town Car's discontinuation following the 2011 model year, the Town Car was left without a direct replacement. Although dimensionally a full-size sedan, the Lincoln MKS's architecture is considerably different as it has a front-wheel drive unibody platform with optional all-wheel drive. The MKS was marketed as more of a successor to the Continental than the Town Car. To fill the gap left by the Town Car, Lincoln developed a limousine variant of the MKT full-size crossover vehicle for the livery market and sells it as the "MKT Town Car."

Gangsters who used the Lincoln Town Car

Real Ones

  • Paul Castellano 1915-1985 Don of the Gambino Crime Family (First Generation 1985)
  • Thomas Bilotti 1940-1985 Underboss of the Gambino Crime Family (Drove his bosses for him)
  • John Gotti 1940-2002 Don of the Gambino Crime Family (First Generation 1985)
  • Liborio Milito Unknown-1988 Soldier in the Gambino Crime Family (First Generation 1986)
  • Anthony Casso 1940- Consigliere of the Lucchese crime family (First Generation 1985)
  • Bartholomew Boriello 1944-1991 Capo in the Gambino Crime Family (Second Generation 1991)
  • Raymond Martorano 1927-2002 Soldier in the the Philadelphia crime family (Third Generation 2001)

Fictional ones

  • Corrado Junior Soprano A character in the Sopranos (Second Generation 1995 model)
  • Phil Leotardo A character in the Sopranos (Third Generation 1998 model)
  • Joey Peeps A character in the Sopranos (Third Generation 1998 model)
  • Carlo Gervasi A character in the Sopranos (Third Generation 2003 model)
  • Peter Bucossi A character in the Sopranos (Third Generation 1998)
  • In the Simpsons, several members of the Springfield Mafia are seen driving Lincoln Town Cars, mostly Fat Tony's henchman Louie. Fat Tony himself drives a Lincoln Navigator (2003 - 2006).
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