Late Night Town Cars: Or, When You Still Could Get A Late Model TC…

As Sophia Petrillo would say, Picture it: September 8, 2012. About twenty months after I’d been downsized from my job at the bank, and about two months since I’d returned to Illinois Casualty Company, where I’d worked 1995-2004. On the way home from my folks’ house after a fine dinner. I decided to drive through the local Chevy dealership to see if there was anything interesting. There were no truly interesting older trade ins (those were getting few and far between even then. Though we hadn’t hit Peak Crossover yet, things were deteriorating).

I liked these dew-covered Town Car Continental Editions, so parked the Ovlov wagon and snapped the pictures you see here, with my old digital camera. This was years before my DumbPhone self-destructed and I had to finally, grudgingly get a smart phone. I particularly liked the ice-blue one.

Yes, that’s right: these were Continental Editions. In the last two years of production, 2010 and 2011, the top-trim version was a Town Car Continental. As I recall, they sported standard chrome alloys and an upgraded interior, as well as Continental Edition badges on the sail panels. Perhaps a foreshadowing of the new Continental that would appear in 2017? Who knows?

And so it was that the last 2011 Town Car was available with a Continental package. Fun fact: the very first “Town Car” was a luxury interior option available on the 1969 Continental. The Town Car did not become a freestanding model until 1981; prior to that, it was a fancy trim/interior package on Continentals, all the way to 1980. Total role reversal! The circle closes, and all that!

My guess is that the 2011 Town Car was also the last American (er…Canadian. North American, then?) car with a stand-up hood ornament. What’s left in 2020? I think the Mercedes S-Class is the last man standing hood ornament-wise. Pun intended.

At the time I was driving my third Volvo, a V50 station wagon, and the idea of actually owning one of these end-stage land yachts was not even floating about in my head.

Of course, that’s all changed. My 2000 Cartier is rapidly approaching 170,000 miles, and Big Rhonda, my 2004 Town Car Ultimate, will hit 60,000 miles before Monday. You never know what surprises life has in store. And neither did Lincoln. In 2012, they weren’t doing too hot. Today, with the new Navigator, Aviator and brand-new Corsair, they are in a fine position indeed!

23 Replies to “Late Night Town Cars: Or, When You Still Could Get A Late Model TC…”

  1. Avatar-Nate

    Here we go again .

    Fine cars these, one of my old school chums from the 1960’s is a big boy and bought one new every three years until the end .

    He just tearfully traded it in .

    -Nate

    Reply
      • Avatar-Nate

        You’re not going to believe this as he’s a BIG BOY who tips the scales at 300# ~

        A Kia, one of those hamster/toaster cars .

        Hi wife has one and one day she needed him to drive it and Lo ! he fit .

        He’s over the moon with it because he’s a tech head (started with Digital back in the 1970’s) and he was able to get every option, a 10″ screen display and so on….

        A Town Car is absurdly big for me but they’re nice drivers and easy to drive plus last very, very long time apart from rusting out .

        -Nate

        Reply
        • AvatarJohn C.

          The new features cars have are nice. I don’t use a smart phone so I have no use for that phone connectivity stuff but the cruise that takes over steering on the highway is transformative.

          Reply
          • Avatar-Nate

            All that stuff is plain old scary to me .

            I enjoy driving, a lot .

            I like to sight see and I also enjoy the tactile feeling of controlling a moving piece of machinery my self with little help .

            I now love AC and since fixing the cruise control in two of my so equipped cars I use it to try and increase my fuel economy .

            -Nate

  2. AvatarJohn C.

    I didn’t know about the end of the line Continental Package. Surprised they had something like that, my memory was that it was difficult to get the Town Car at retail in the last couple of years. It had to be special ordered as was being built mainly as a black sedan taxi. Another case of an American automaker being embarrassed to sell it’s own product. Wonder where that came from? Well partly to disguise how badly the Volvo based MKS was bombing by trying to get Town Car people into them.

    I considered the Town Car during my 2011 purchase. I ruled it out based on my wife thought it was too big for her to occasionally drive and a neighbor had one and I hated him. Later that year he replaced his with one of the last Grand Marquis. When I saw that, I knew I should have considered the Town Car harder. I ended up buying a Saab 9-5 second gen. Less than a month later the factory in Trolhatten closed as Saab went through it’s death throws while in the hands of the Russian mob. I should have just extended the life of my old car.

    Reply
    • AvatarJMcG

      A friend is selling a loaded ‘05 Grand Marquis with 85k on the clock. It’s immaculate. I’m really tempted, but I need another car like I need a hole in my head.

      Reply
  3. Avatarstingray65

    I had the same reaction to Town Car as I did with Tom’s posting of that 93 Caddy that should have been a Buick, because I believe it represents another branding mistake by the Big 3. The Town Car would have been a perfect Mercury – offering much more differentiation from the Ford Crown Vic than the Grand Marquis and thereby giving traditional American luxury car buyers a bigger (literally) reason to consider the Mercury version. Meanwhile Lincoln should have aimed higher by building a larger flagship sedan off the more sophisticated LS (DEW98) platform just as BMW did by building the 5 and 7 (and Rolls Ghost) off a common platform, and maybe borrowing a V-12 from Jag or Aston to offer a $100K flagship model and reminder of the V-12s from Lincoln’s glamour years in the 1930s and 40s. My guess is that Ford management was so focused on building ever more luxurious F-150s (and Expedition and Navigator offshoots) that they took their eye off developing true high end cars suitable for Lincoln, and giving Mercury some real reason to exist.

    Reply
    • AvatarJohn C.

      Remember Cadillac and Lincoln attempted super high end in the 1950s and it was a failure. I think the knowledge of mass production does not necessarily cross over to things made by hand. The failure occurred with Hollywood still on their side before stars like Henry Fonda were replaced by Peter and Jane Fonda. Henry could only keep them playing Sandra Dee style so long and I am not sure Hanoi Jane brought much credit anyway to whatever she was driving except of course the 23mm flack gun that no one should forget.

      Reply
      • AvatarTexn

        Wasn’t their lack of success, in the late 50s, due in part to a recession? Lincoln seemed to be successful at high end with the 60s Continental and later, the Marks.

        I always liked Town Cars, they had a certain swagger to then. I think they should have only sold as a long wheel base and with a 5.4l V8. A bit more torque, not more revs like a dohc 4.6l.

        I agree the Volvo-based Fords missed the mark. Yes, the Explorer sold well but it’s too wide inside (can’t comfortably put your shoulder on the sill) and the backseat doesn’t have much legroom.

        Reply
        • AvatarJohn C.

          As an aside, and I am no engineer, it is my understanding that a 4.6 Ford V8 is quite a bulky engine and if a 4.6 will fit in a car so will a 460 V8. As a further aside, Back when Lincoln and Caddy knew what was important, pre Yom Kippur war 1973 oil embargo. Ford was preparing a 502 cubic inch V8 for the Mark IV to better the Eldo’s 500.

          There was of course that truck V10 off the Triton V8 but ever more small cylinders will share the OHC style power delivery.

          Reply
      • Avatarstingray65

        Yes Caddy and Lincoln did make some high end specialty models in the 50s that proved to be unpopular and unprofitable, but that was also when the US had 90% marginal tax rates and there were far fewer wealthy people as a proportion of the population. I could say the same about Chevy’s upscale Nomad wagon and Cameo pickup from the 50s that were also high end models that did not sell well, but since the 60s Chevy has been selling increasingly larger numbers of fancy station wagons (later morphed into SUVs) and their most popular vehicle over $50K are fancy pickups. So there are definitely a lot more people today with the money (or credit) to buy expensive vehicles, and Lincoln and Cadillac basically gave the whole luxury car market over to the Germans and Japanese by refusing to do much more than use their luxury brands as purveyors of glorified Fords and Chevrolets, which is ironic given that Cadillac powered tanks and Packard powered Mustangs were instrumental in winning WWII against the Germans and Japanese.

        Reply
        • AvatarJohn C.

          I think even with the tax rate, 1950s USA had more than their share of the ultra rich. The issue I think was how to make a profit on a car that requires so much hand finishing and was going to sell at tiny volumes. Even the British that were the experts usually had some rich guy at the helm who was letting his fortune dwindle in return for getting his hands dirty building something he loves. A noble act.

          Reply
          • Avatarstingray65

            The definition of ultra-rich is dependent on your frame of reference. Compared to everyone else in the world, America in the 1950s had most of the world’s wealth and wealthiest people, but compared to today’s America the wealth of the 1950s was far lower. The $10K Lincoln Mark II from the mid-50s would translate to about $100K today, but in the 1950s you would have to look for a coach-built Rolls or perhaps a hand-built Ferrari to find a more expensive car than that Lincoln. Today there are Ford pickups that go for more than $100K, and dozens of brands/models available that sticker for over $500K, and they sell by the tens of thousands earning good profits for their manufacturers.

          • AvatarJohn C.

            It is hard to equate today with 60 years ago because the big manufacturer hand mades all failed and the old purveyors either failed or sold out and had their product replaced by a cut and paste big company product that looks a tiny bit like the old.

            Bristol used to argue that their handmade car was really economically sensible as it was possible to keep it as a lifetime car and therefore think of it as a stable asset. Isn’t that kind of like what Town Car And Fleetwood were offering to a wider audience. A car that could be bought after a lifetime of achievement that would reflect that and could be bought near retirement and last the rest of the driving life. I think if you lined up the first owners and then compared them to say the owner of a current Alabama assembled Mercedes CUV, it wouldn’t be hard to discern who was most worthy or respect. The ages really wouldn’t be much different.

        • AvatarDirt Roads

          Your post is good but a minor point, the Mustang was successful after transitioning from the Allison to the Merlin. Packard built them under license from Rolls Royce. Th Merlin was the best V-12 engine ever built, for aircraft or otherwise. In my ever-so-humble opinion 🙂

          Reply
          • AvatarGreg Hamilton

            Dirt,
            It could be argue that the Daimler-Benz DB 605 inverted V-12 was superior for aircraft. Here’s a link to a video explaining why:

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