Retro Road Test: 2011 Lincoln Town Car Signature Limited – The Last American Car

The Town Car. The last Lincoln. Or so some say. Frankly, I think the current, resuscitated Continental is a fine automobile, but that’s not the subject of today’s post. Nope. It’s all about the Town Car, that famous full-sizer that started out as a trim package on late ’60s Continentals and became a luxury car mainstay for decades afterward.

Of course I am biased, being a Town Car owner myself. And while, like all cars, they have their drawbacks and advantages, I do enjoy them enough to have two of them.

2007 Town Car Signature Limited

As a result, I am known alternately as “That Town Car Guy” and “That Fool” locally. Enough so that my preferred salesman at Strieter Lincoln, Peter Clarke, emails me when a nice Town Car gets traded in. Just a couple of weeks ago this nice ’07 in Dark Cherry Metallic arrived with 77,000 miles on the clock. Moonroof too, which was the last year it was offered-Canadian TCs were not available with it. If you see an 08-11 with sunroof, it’s aftermarket. I was tempted, but not enough to trade off one of my existing TCs. And I’m not a fan of the aftermarket tops. Priced at $9900, it sold in less than a week. I think the general manager told me it was on the lot about five days.

2006 Signature Limited on the lot at McLaughlin Cadillac.

That seems to be the general rule around here when a Town Car in nice shape is traded in. Sometimes the car is sold even before it’s listed on the dealer website.

1999 Signature Series at Strieter, summer 2016.

A friend of mine in Chicago, Jim Smith, tells me the same thing. A buddy of his works at a local Chicagoland Lincoln dealer, and when Jim stops in and asks if they have any Town Cars, he hears the same story. “Damned thing, Jim. We get one in, and sometimes someone pulls in the same day and buys it on the spot!” I suspect Uber is at least one reason why; these cars are roomy, cheap to fix, and cheap to buy. And they don’t make them any more.

Anyway, thanks to my reputation as a V8 Lincoln buff, Peter usually calls me or emails me when a nice Town Car comes in. And so it was last Wednesday when I got the email. “Just took in trade a 2011 Signature Limited, French Silk Metallic with 73,000 miles.”

So later that afternoon I stopped by to check it out. It had just been traded in that week, so it hadn’t gotten any refurbishment yet, but had been cleaned up. A right-hand side view mirror was on order, as the one on the car was crunched on the side. But overall, it looked good.

The question you may be asking yourself is, “Klockau, you already have two of these things. Why are you test-driving one?” Well, simple. One, I never turn down a chance to test drive a car, and two, I was wondering how the final year of the Town Car compared to my 2000 Cartier and 2004 Ultimate. It is well established that as production wore on, the cars were steadily decontented, starting in about 2008, when the historic Lincoln factory was shuttered (and later torn down and replaced with a Menards) and Town Car production was moved to St. Thomas, Canada.

For a while in 2007, it was thought that after Wixon was shut down that Town Car production would just end. But at the eleventh hour, it was decided to move production north, to the same plant where the Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis had been built since the early 1990s.

The demand was still there, but not like it used to be. 2008 production was 15,653, well down from 2007, when 26,739 were made. It only got lower as the years went by. Part of it was the Town Car was not, by 2008, regularly stocked by dealers.

Indeed, Strieter Lincoln in Davenport did not have brochures on the Town Car after 2007. I remember having a conversation with a salesman in about 2009 about Town Cars, and he told me you could get one, no problem, but you had to order it; they no longer ordered them for stock. However, some other dealers did order them now and then for inventory. The last brand-new Town Car I saw at a dealership was at Courtesy Lincoln-Mercury in about March of 2010. It was Silver Birch Metallic with a black leather interior. And so it was that the last traditional American luxury car, with a V8, six-passenger seating and a full perimeter frame, was built not in the United States, but Canada.

But back to the present. I parked and did a walkaround of the car, snapping pictures. It had aftermarket backup sensors, as by 2011 the factory sensors were behind the bumper cover and invisible. They were pretty obvious, since they weren’t color-keyed to the car’s color.

I did notice some differences as I got in the car. The power window and power mirror switches were different, silver colored and larger than the ones on my cars. They looked like they may have come from the Taurus/Sable parts bin (the 2010-up versions, not the ’80s midsizers, mind).

And yes, I did see evidence of cost cutting. The steering wheel no longer had wood trim on the lower half of the rim, just on the top. But perhaps the most glaring cheapskate move, at least in my opinion, was the front center armrest. You see, for years the center armrest had a nifty little storage space for stuff. On my 2004 it was even double-hinged, so that it could be opened from the driver’s or passenger’s side. But now all that was gone, and the armrest was simply…an armrest. Where am I supposed to store all my crap?! Sure, you still have the door pockets and side armrest compartments, but this really, REALLY bugged me. Surely the cost of the trick armrest had been long amortized by then! Why eliminate it?

But enough of that. It was time to drive! This car had the Light Parchment leather, same as both of my cars. It is my preferred interior color on these. There were also black, dove gray, and “Medium Light Stone,” which I didn’t really like as the color reminds me of Silly Putty or a Rubbermaid garbage can. In addition to the missing lower wood rim, the steering wheel itself was different, blockier and plainer. Also plainer was the instrument cluster.

Unlike my Town Cars, this one had a tachometer. Which I suppose is nice, but it’s really not necessary on a car of this type. My main problem with it is it looks like it was taken off of an Econoline panel van and installed in the Lincoln dash. Couldn’t they have added a little more chrome to the gauges or something?

But other than the above-mentioned things, this ’11 was much like my ’04 Ultimate. It even had the same upholstery. The radio was different, and somewhat cheaper looking than on my car, but it had all the same features, and a six-disk CD changer.

The 2010-2011 Town Car no longer had air suspension on the rear wheels, but it remained smooth and quiet on the uptown Davenport thoroughfares I took the car on. Perhaps not quite as plush, but perfectly comfortable. It still had that full frame to absorb potholes and expansion gaps, after all. The handling was the same as my 2004 as well. With the 2003 redesign, the chassis had been updated, with various and sundry parts from the Crown Vic police interceptors. As a result, the ride and handling were much improved on the 2003-2011 Town Cars, if perhaps a little firmer and less floaty than the 2002 and earlier models.

All in all, it was a nice car that needed some cosmetic work (which Strieter will be taking care of before the car gets photographed and put on their website) and, in my opinion, a set of whitewall tires.

It was a nice car, but even though it was eleven years newer and 65,000 miles lighter than my 2000 Cartier, it just didn’t look as good. But it wasn’t a bad example, and as only 9.460 Town Cars were built in its final year, you won’t see them at every Lincoln dealer’s used car section. Not to mention many Town Cars are getting the bark beat off of them via Uber marathons in the larger cities. But if this car trips your trigger, check out Strieter’s lot and ask for Peter. If it isn’t gone at the time of publication, that is!

Special thanks to Strieter Lincoln of Davenport and Peter Clarke for loaning me the car for the article!

23 Replies to “Retro Road Test: 2011 Lincoln Town Car Signature Limited – The Last American Car”

  1. Jack BaruthJack Baruth

    My 2009 has the Econoline dash panel and the less opulent wheel, as well as the matte window switches, but it retained the full-function center console.

    HAD, I should say. It HAD those things.

    Reply
  2. E. Bryant

    Thanks for another great article, Tom! I thoroughly enjoy your work.

    Considering that performance of the ’03-up chassis, it’s really a shame that the Panther never received a modern(ish) powertrain with appropriate area under the curve (and no, the 32V 4.6L in the Maruader doesn’t count, as it’ll get walked by a plain ol’ LT1 B-body). I can’t help but think that something like the 3V SOHC 5.4L and 6R trans would have been an excellent compliment to the car’s overall character. Such a combination would have also likely been popular with highway patrolmen.

    Reply
    • John C.

      Personally, I thought the powertrain was too modernish. A pushrod 460 would have been a great differentiator from the other panthers and probably kept the taxi people away. Would have meant a gas guzzler tax, but the prices were too low anyway.

      Reply
  3. Tomko

    A Lincoln Town Car aficionado – who believes that there was ever a Lincoln Town Car ever produced at Ste-Therese – is no authority on the Lincoln Town Car.

    Reply
    • Tyson Cragg

      Indeed. Love your work, Tom, but a correction is in order. Panthers were manufactured at St. Thomas Assembly until the plant was closed in September, 2011. Ste-Therese was the location of a GM plant (since closed) that cranked out Celebrities and F-bodies. I know a lot of people who worked at STA, and were justifiably proud of their plant being the sole source of the Crown Vic and TC in their last years.

      Reply
        • Simon

          N.B. St Thomas is in Southwestern Ontario, not Quebec.

          I suppose it’s irrelevant really since they don’t make cars anymore at either Ste. Therese or St. Thomas.

          Reply
  4. JustPassinThru

    I don’t think it’s Uber that’s selling those. Uber, in most markets (it varies from region to region) stipulates a car no more than ten years old.

    Even the ones who fall short of that mark…won’t make an Uber driver money for long.

    Reply
      • George Denzinger (geozinger)

        I’m somewhat surprised at what I see being used for Uber. Many of them are beyond 10 years old.

        What surprises me even more are some of the antiques being used for Lyft… Wow, just wow…

        Reply
  5. John C.

    So many of the late changes seem to ease maintenance in long life fleet service. You see a lot of S class Mercedes replacing Town Cars in the black sedan trade. Wonder what those drivers suggested changes are for the S class?

    Reply
    • Tom KlockauTom Klockau Post author

      Actually I have heard the opposite. I’m in the LCOC and several Lincoln groups, and the general consensus is 2007, the last year the TC was built in the actual Lincoln factory in Wixom, Michigan, and was an actual U.S. made motor car, was the last good year. It was the last year for the moonroof. It was also the last year for the Designer edition, which was the top of the line 2005-07. It used the L rear seat with individual headrests and nicer leather with contrasting piping on the seats, like a Jag. In 2004 the top trim was the Ultimate, which replaced the 2003 Cartier after Ford decided they didn’t want to pay for the rights to the name any more.

      The 2008-11 Canadian made ones were much the same, but slowly and surely decontented. I drove a brand new black Signature Limited at a ride-and-drive dealer event in 2009 and it was nice. Smooth. Quiet, just as a Town Car should be. Similarly, the ’11 I tested last week really wasn’t drastically different in ride, handling and sound level compared to my 2004. Some chintzy stuff was in evidence compared to the earlier ones, but it didn’t feel like a different make and model of car, or a Grand Marquis in a Lincoln suit, etc etc, et al. Basic differences. Cheaper-looking steering wheel with wood only on the top, cheap-looking radio head unit, cheapety-cheap-cheap center armrest. And the lack of a sunroof on a luxury car is a pretty glaring omission on the 2008-2011s. But let’s face it, by then FoMoCo was primarily selling these to limo companies and Hertz, and the few remaining die-hards not yet swayed by the Navigator and MK-whatevers,

      But that cheap non-storage armrest REALLY bugged me! 🙂

      Reply
      • John C.

        I understand that’s where the sales were at the end. It was though the last of it’s kind and for it not to go out with the kind of special editions that take into account the long history of the line is a sad commentary of Lincoln of the day. Were the employees actually more proud of the MK-whatevers?

        Reply
  6. -Nate

    No matter how you slice it, you get a lot of car for your monies here .

    One of my old mates from the 1960’s lives in Boston, Mass. more or less and can only fit into a Town Car so he bought a last year one and still loves it .

    As long as I’m not the one driving, I love me some American Land Yachts .

    -Nate

    Reply
  7. Shortest Circuit

    $9900? Well, that puts those $5k Marauders that crop up in my craigslist searches into perspective.
    These TCs are really nice, maybe I don’t need a murdered-out Mercury…

    Reply
  8. George Denzinger (geozinger)

    Tom,

    I gotta applaud you for your devotion to the TCs. I’m probably as a big a fan of Epsilon bodied GMs, but to each their own.

    For whatever reason, the later TCs really appeal to me. They look like grown-up Crown Vics or Grand Marquis, which kind of sounds silly, I know, as those two were about as grown-up of a car you could find. That 2011 model may have put you off, but it could have changed my mind about a TC. I thought it was great. But, no room at the Inn currently, so no TC for me…

    Reply
  9. Glenn Kramer

    Tom,

    Right on, as usual. Last year, I had my ’07 TC totaled (rear ended by a texter) and was lucky to find an almost identical ’07 nearby, 98k vs. 155k, but no sunroof or 6 disk changer (but with both a single CD and cassette!). I drive long distances all over Texas and the TC is easily the most economical, comfortable vehicle for this. I’m hoping that my “new” one will crack 200-250k.

    Reply
  10. Danio

    You’re right about clean Town Cars selling fast. My mother recently sold her 2004 Ultimate in Pearl privately in a week and a half. It was replaced by a 2017 300C Platinum which carries the vibe. That quitled cream leather and wood veneer.

    Reply
  11. Carmine

    Cartier…….the Highlander of Lincoln Designer series cars……

    I remember looking at these the last time they made the auto show rounds and looking at that disgusting cheap Econoline gauge cluster, ugh.

    Reply
  12. ArBee

    I just love these Panthers, and will happily take a Town Car, decontented or not. Presently I’m very satisfied with my 2008 Mercury Grand Ma, purchased secondhand in ’09 and now showing 97,500 miles. I tell friends that it’s probably the last car I’ll ever buy, but what if something happens to it? I guess I’ll go hunting for a Townie in good shape, preferably in dark red or black.

    Reply
  13. John

    Tom, nicely written and yes these really are the last of the American sedans. I clearly remember on a Wixom tour, seeing them come down the line. Wish I had taken pictures!

    Reply

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