Note: Four years ago, on October 14, 2013, I bought my first domestic car, after nearly twenty years of driving Volvos. This was originally published on the other site, but I thought it was time to move it over here, in a revised and expanded version! Four years, 40,000 miles added to the clock, and I’m still pretty happy with this car. I liked it enough that I now have two of them, so I guess it made an impression.
One of the things that slowly but surely happened when I started writing about old cars in late 2011 was that, despite being a car nut since I was approximately two years old, I finally started thinking about getting an old or at least older car of my own. Despite my love of 1977-79 Pontiac Bonnevilles (Dad had one) and 1990-92 Cadillac Broughams (no one had one, I just love them), the right car was apparently looking for me, and found me. One nice thing about acquiring an extra car I don’t need is that I have no wife or girlfriend to say, “oh no you don’t!” Hey, wait a minute. I don’t need spousal/significant other approval! I have the money. I can do whatever the hell I want! So I bought a 2000 Lincoln Town Car.
I am a German-stock cheapskate from way back. I was taught from a young age to take care of my things, and I always have. When it comes to my cars, I am sometimes borderline OCD in keeping them clean and looking nice. Plus, I work in accounting, so frugality and pragmatism are rather built into my genetic makeup. I still have golf shirts from high school that I occasionally wear even now–and a pair of Bass Weejuns I bought the year this land yacht rolled out of the Lincoln factory in Wixom, Michigan. But hey! You have to live a little every once in a while. Everyone should buy something they really want but don’t need at least once! It was, by God, very liberating.
And, I love Lincoln Town Cars. . Bob and Ruby Klockau, my grandparents, were big fans of the Ford Thunderbird and Lincoln Continentals and Marks. When I was a kid they had a triple navy blue ’77 Continental Mark V and a black ’77 Thunderbird with white interior. To say they made an impression would be an understatement. But another factor in my deciding to buy the car was Dick McCarthy.
Dick McCarthy was a good friend of mine. He and my Grandpa Bob started a law firm in Rock Island (Klockau, McCarthy, Ellison, Rinden and Hartsock, as it was known in the 1960s and 70s) after WWII, and they both got their law degrees thanks to their service in WWII. My grandfather attended the University of Illinois in Champaign, and commuted between there and the Quad Cities via a Henderson motorcycle. After my grandparents passed away, and I got my drivers’ license in the fall of ’97, I started going down to the law office to “shoot the bull” with Dick. We’d talk in between his phone calls, and we got along famously. He had the amazing ability to carry on multiple phone conversations and our in-office chat without one miss. He would have been in his mid-seventies at the time. He also provided a running commentary on his callers–sometimes good, sometimes not. And then there were the lunches. A big believer in going out to lunch, was Mr. McCarthy.
A sandwich at your desk? Heaven forbid. No, we wanted to go to a real restaurant, with all the calories we could stand! Harris Pizza in Rock Island was a regular stop, or Maid-Rite in Milan, or Riefe’s in Davenport, or Rudy’s Tacos in Rock Island, and usually, Pete Church, John Callas, Frank Fuhr or one of the other lawyers would join us too. We’d all hop in his Town Car, or John’s 300C, or my Volvo S70, and head to the restaurant. But Harris was probably our most frequent haunt. The Reuben was a favorite, with Harris’ homemade potato chips or waffle fries. I consumed many a Reuben between 1998 and 2007 during these visits.
Waitress: What’ll you have?
Waitress: Okay, then!
Ironically, today I work for the family who owns Harris Pizza! Small world.
The conversations were always even better than the food. We would talk of current county and city political maneuverings, local idiots, good (and bad) restaurants, and many other intriguing topics. Early on, Dick had a gunmetal-gray ’95 Executive Series (and before that, a silver-blue ’86 Signature that he drove into the ground), but in 2004 he traded it off for a lightly-used Silver Frost 2002 Signature Series. That ’95 was the only 1995-97 Town Car I have ever seen with a cloth interior. At this time, Dick could have gotten anything he wanted–probably even a Lamborghini if he really had wanted one!–but having grown up during the Depression, a lightly-used Lincoln was just the thing. He’d driven them since the early ’70s.
I seem to recall him telling me the first one he got was a brown ’72 Continental coupe. Not a Mark IV-my grandfather had one of those-but the two-door Lincoln Continental. One time, we joked about his trading the Lincoln in on a Hummer H2. “Damn it Tom, maybe I will!” Of course, he didn’t-definitely NOT his style-but we all had a good laugh picturing him driving one, in bright yellow with gigantic wheels and brush guards. Perish the thought!
The ’02 looked just like this one (although it had the chrome “Groucho eyebrow” wheel opening trim), Silver Frost with light gray leather. This was our lunch transportation, more often than not. And many times I was the chauffeur. We’d be in his office, and he’d get John Gianulis, a local county political party chairman, on the phone: “Hey John, it’s McCarthy. We’re going to lunch and I’ve got my chauffeur today. Get your ass out front in five minutes or we’re going without you!”
Back then, I was in my early-to-mid 20s and Dick was in his mid-to-late 70s, but we really got along. We were both interested in politics (and harping on all the elected idiots of course), the Quad Cities, food and of course Lincolns. So the fact that I bought a Lincoln near identical to McCarthy’s is no coincidence. I respected him, and all the amazing things he did in his life.
He never retired. In about 2006 he was out on his farm property outside of Milan when he fell into a chuckhole. Broke his ankle. Boy, did that piss him off! The doctor made him stay at home, and that pissed him off even more. My Uncle Dave stopped by to see how he was doing one day and he had a fax hooked up. Turned his living room into an office, and he was running his secretary ragged. I can just hear him: “Goddamn it Doc, I don’t want to stay home! I have way too much shit to do!!” Yes, Dick did not mince words, and did not suffer fools. He was the real deal.
Sadly, in early spring of 2008, he started feeling poorly. Went to the doc and found out he had lung cancer. Now, he smoked–like everyone else!–when he was a young man, but he hadn’t done so in probably forty years. And in April of that year, he said goodbye to all of us and went on to his reward.
At that time, I had recently gone through surgery, and had some sort of minor but annoying germ that came with a persistent cough, so I was unable to visit him in the ICU. My parents did though, relayed my well wishes, and passed on a card I got him. After my germ had passed I tried to see him at Friendship Manor (where he was moved after he came out of the ICU), but they had moved him back to the hospital that afternoon. When I got to the hospital fifteen minutes later, they didn’t know which room he was in. And, just a few days later, he passed on.
I really regret not getting to say goodbye. He was a good friend, and I really feel bad about it. But we were always on the same page, and I know he knew how I felt about him. But it still sucks.
So, when this 2000 Cartier showed up at my favorite Volvo dealer, I had to go investigate. I saw a picture on the website and thought, “it’s probably all beat up and has 200,000 miles on it, but heck, I might as well go check it out.”
Upon arriving at McLaughlin Motors and the salesman, Brian, pulling the car around, I was shocked to see that this car was near-pristine. The leather had hardly any wear, it purred like a kitten, and rode as nice as you’d expect of a car bearing the Lincoln Star.
And, it was a Cartier. I remember seeing Cartiers on the lot at Strieter Lincoln-Mercury, Maple Leaf L-M and Classic L-M when they were new, but very few were on the road. And the ones that were always had those horrid fake convertible tops on them-oh, and don’t forget the fake luggage rack on the trunk lid! I always liked little things that set the Cartier apart from the lesser TCs. The gold analog clock on the dash, the different seats with the embroidered Cartier logos and the dished chrome wheels were pretty sharp.
The back seat appeared to have never been used. The car sat nice and level, the paint shone brilliantly, Michelin tires were decent, and all it needed was a new, caring owner. And you know what usually happens to cars of this age. Someone comes in, buys it, drives it into the ground and trashes it, because it’s just an old car to them. That would have been a shame. This car was really nice. I thought it over, looked over my books, and realized that, damn, I just might have to buy this car!
So I did. On Columbus Day 2013, to be precise. Shortly after bringing the car home. I found my 1999 Town Car brochure amongst my car brochure stockpile and learned some interesting Cartier facts. For instance: The Cartier (and seldom-seen Signature Series Touring Sedan) got the Limo Package, which included dual exhaust and corresponding horsepower bump from 205 hp/280 lb-ft to 220 hp/290 lb-ft. Cartiers also received heated seats with five settings and cushion/backrest or backrest only settings.
My car is also equipped with the optional 6-disc CD changer and full-size spare. Which is good, because I’ve seen thrashed Town Cars in traffic with the goofy little donut spare, and they look completely ridiculous.
The amazing thing is how different the Cartier-exclusive Ivory Parchment Tricoat paint can look depending on the lighting. As you’ve probably noticed, it can range from pearl beige…
to pearl white…
…to light honey gold. I’ve seen it in at least four different colors so far. It’s a pretty versatile color.
The 4.6 is also a great match to the car. Smooth and quiet. And this car has so much sound insulation! Just about anything but tractor trailers generate no interior NVH in this car. Very nice.
So, this car started out as the nice-day-only, garage queen. I still had my Volvo V50 wagon, and it remained the daily driver. It was a 2006, with the non-turbo 2.4 inline five, and was a great car. I’d bought it as a one-year old CPO from the dealership-the same dealer I bought the 2000 Cartier from six years later, coincidentally.
But then, in the summer of 2015, the A/C started working intermittently. A review of several Volvo forums told me that the HVAC on this generation of S40/V50 was a major pain to get at, and the mileage was getting up there-I’d had it seven years-so I decided it was time for a trade. Luckily I’d had my eye on a replacement. Funny how that happens. Well, frankly I was looking for a reason to trade the Volvo, as I didn’t want to spend another $1200-$1500 on it. Volvos are fine cars, and durable, but parts and labor on them are strictly in the European car category. So it was time to say goodbye. It was a good car though, and I may well have another Volvo some day. The final S80s with the non-turbo 3.2 liter six are pretty appealing.
So then there were two. It was a one-owner 2004 Ultimate (the top trim level, it replaced the Cartier that year) with 53,000 miles, in my preferred color combo of Autumn Red with Parchment leather, optional chrome wheels and moonroof. So today the red car is the garage queen and the ivory one the daily driver. The TC is actually better in the snow than my front-wheel drive wagon.
The car had 93,000 miles on it when I bought it, and today is approaching 134K. It got new tires in spring of 2016 (whitewalls, naturally) and early this year it got new ball joints, myriad replacement front end bushings and an alignment. A couple months ago it decided not to start one morning (it happened at home, luckily) so it got flatbedded to Strieter Lincoln where a konked out starter was replaced. It’s been a pretty good car. Very comfortable. Still quiet and cushy. And as a car nearing eighteen years on this planet, I really can’t complain. These things are pretty robust. And so far the air suspension has been fine. One morning it was sitting a little low and the dealer found that a mouse had chewed through a wire. One solenoid later and it was back in fighting shape.
I have fellow Panther FoMoCo fans Eric Van Buren, Jim Cavanaugh and Jason Shafer to thank for all the great info pre-purchase, and nudging me into buying the first one. If they hadn’t, I might have let this car slip though my fingers. If I hadn’t, Jason’s wife may have made him buy it! I also like to imagine my grandfather and Dick McCarthy looking down on me and these cars and saying, “well, the kid did all right.”
This article, needless to say, is dedicated to Richard W. McCarthy. A great guy, and still sorely missed by myself and my family.