1981 Lincoln Town Car Signature: De-Continentaled!

Back in May of 2016, I was running a couple of errands after work when I spotted something that is getting harder and harder to find out on the open road: A 1980-84 Town Car. The 1980 Continental and Continental Mark VI were downsized compared to their impressive, chromed Pullman car 1975-79 forebears, but in this day and age the first Panther Lincolns no longer look small, and among silver silvermist and beige beigemist Camrys and Altimas, it stands out as an elegant rectilinear throwback to the early 1980s.

Town Car 02

1980 was the last year the Continental nameplate was associated with the Town Car. As had been the case for most of the 1970s, the Continental coupe and sedan were the standard models, with the Town Coupé and Town Car being the top trim level for the Lincoln Continental.

81 Town Car ad

The expected extras, such as more chrome trim, plusher seating with floating-pillow cushions, door lock/unlock keypad, and other extras were among the niceties.

Mark VI

The Continental Mark VI, naturally, was also all-new for 1980, and shared bodies with the Continental, but added the Mark styling cues, with hidden headlamps, oval opera windows…

Mark VI 02

And, of course, the spare tire hump on the trunk lid. It was basically the same car, same wheelbase, same running gear…much like the 1958-60 Lincolns and Continentals.

Mark VI 03

Just one was slightly pricier, with slightly more ostentatious styling, both inside and out.

Town Car 03

And so the status quo name-wise carried on in 1980. But for whatever reason, when the 1981 Lincolns appeared in autumn of 1980, the names were changed on what was, for the most part, an unchanged car otherwise. Now the Town Car was the model name, not the trim level.

Town Car 04

So what had been the Lincoln Continental Town Car in 1980 was now the Lincoln Town Car Signature Series in 1981. Confusing? Yes.

82 Continental

I suspect this was done in advance of the smaller, bustle-back Continental which was due to debut for the 1982 model year. However, the Continental Mark VI nomenclature was unchanged during its 1980-83 production run, so I really am not sure what the thought process was at the time. Curious, certainly.

Town Car 05

To make things even more confusing, the two-door Town Car was not called Town Coupé as had been the case for most of the prior decade, but was now the ‘Town Car Signature Series Two-Door.’

image: ebay.com

Yes, that is actually how it was identified in the brochure. This would be the final year for the two-door though, as production had not been very high at all in 1980, and would sink even lower for 1981, with only 4,935 Town Car two-doors built.

Town Car 06

Sedans sold much better, with 27,904 Town Car four-doors made. Total 1981 Lincoln production came to 69,537, including the Mark VI.

Town Car 07

This two-tone example I found was very nicely equipped, with Signature trim, navy velour interior, Turbine alloy wheels and in very good condition.

Town Car 09

The two-tone color combination of this car, in Medium Pewter Metallic over Dark Blue Metallic, was especially pleasing. With navy blue velour interior. It appeared to be a very well cared for car, with apparently original paint, trim and upholstery.

Town Car 07

I hope whoever buys this one takes great care of it. It was a really nice Lincoln.

Town Car 08

4 Replies to “1981 Lincoln Town Car Signature: De-Continentaled!”

  1. Glenn Kramer

    Can you imagine how much money Ford made on this car? Initially unpopular, sales started to take off as Cadillac self destructed during the 80s. By the late 80s, the Town Car was THE American luxury car. With almost no year to year changes, it rose on the corpse of Cadillac mistakes. Sometimes, doing nothing is, well, better than doing something.

  2. John C.

    The passage of time really does good things for this car. At the time, the styling themes from the 70s grafted on the smaller panther spoke to paying more and getting less. Then between the excellent 86 just slightly aero restyle and the realization that this type of car could just end if there was not a sales boom and suddenly that is what happened.

    I think it is similar to what happened when the Ranger and S10 pickups came out. They sold well and clearly were to replace the big ones over time until the large truck sales did not fall off as gas was plentiful. It was GM that time that got updated 88 big trucks out early to benefit Town Car style from the still large market for big pickups.

    Tom, didn’t Jack promise to acquire one of these for you in thanks for all the great articles you do here? Better pass on to him the contact info of the seller, before Jack ties up to much capital in an auxtruck….

  3. stingray65

    Someone obviously cherished this car, but the proportions are terrible – it must be peak overhang front and rear. Looks like a little brother trying on big brother’s shoes – the body doesn’t fit the wheelbase.

  4. George

    The best comment I ever read about these cars was that Ford was so thoughtful to include the potential to put on storm windows.


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