In 1987, Lincoln was making hay while the sun shined. After the drastic downsizing of arch-rival Cadillac, which started in 1985 with their FWD Fleetwoods and DeVilles then continued with mini-me Eldorados and Sevilles in 1986-87, Lincoln was poised to take advantage by offering some traditional American luxury!
Now, this is not going to be a hate-fest on Cadillac. While their über-downsized models are common blog cannon fodder these days, the DeVilles and FWD Fleetwoods did, believe it or not, sell respectably. But for folks like Thurston Howell III, there really were only two choices as the 1987 models were unveiled:
The Olds 307-powered Fleetwood Brougham and Brougham d’Elegance retained their 1980-85 size and shape, while the de Villes and front-wheel drive Fleetwoods had downsized significantly as early ’85 models.
And the Lincoln Town Car, in your choice of base, Signature Series, or fancy-schmancy Cartier Designer Edition. Or, if you were so inclined, and your dealer was able to get one, the limited edition Stars & Stripes edition Town Car, limited to approximately 2000 units.
The Fifth Avenue was a little closer, but even it was a glorified F-body Aspen/Volaré, with rear-seat legroom to prove it. Nope, when it came to buying your luxury car by the pound, there was really only the Town Car and the Brougham.
While I like the big Caddies and Lincolns just about equally, I give a slight edge to the Lincoln, due to my “Forditis.” The 1987 model was visually identical to the 1985 model, which was given a modest facelift that year with just a smidge of “aero” cues–mostly in the integrated bumpers and slightly softer corners.
But other than the federally-mandated center high-mounted stop light, there was no obvious way to tell a 1985 from a 1986; the ’87 was virtually identical to the 1986, with the exception of the Cartier, which received a slightly different paint scheme with color-keyed top.
But really, the apparent sameness was just fine with the Town Car’s regular buyers. It was calming to walk into the L-M dealer and see that the Town Car was largely the same–something that could not be said when Cadillac customers walked into their dealership in 1985 and saw what happened to the Coupe and Sedan de Villes; now that must have been a shock. But though the newly downsized de Villes sold decently, the even more shrunken 1986 Eldorado and Seville were not so lucky. Sales went off a cliff. But that’s a story for another time.
The Town Car, however, was pretty much the same as it had been since the 1980 model year, facelift notwithstanding. The big news for 1986 was under the hood. While both 1985 and 1986 Lincoln Town Cars got the 302 V8, ’86s were now graced with electronic fuel injection–a sequential multi-port system, combined with EEC-IV computer control. It not only increased driving smoothness and power, it improved the fuel economy as well. Not that that was a great concern for the Town Car’s clientele!
Base Town Cars received a full vinyl roof, ample chrome trim, power driver’s seat, cornering lamps, automatic climate control and full wheel covers–plenty of gadgets, as you’d expect of a luxury car. But anteing up to the Signature Series added wire wheel covers, wide chrome rocker moldings, a coach roof (the Lincoln term for landau roof), keyless entry, power trunk pull-down (don’t SLAM it!), AM/FM stereo with cassette and Premium Sound, six-way power passenger seat, among other goodies.
Of course, if the standard wire wheel covers weren’t to your taste (they’re not my first choice), any number of optional wheels were available, including genuine wire wheels and the always-classy Turbine aluminum wheels. Inside, floating pillow-style seating, robe cords and map pockets on the front seat backs, 30-oz. carpeting and Twin Comfort lounge seats were among the refinements.
I really liked these. They were clearly a Lincoln, at the same time a Cadillac Brougham was clearly a Cadillac. Some may mock them, but these cars and the men who designed, marketed and sold them knew what they were. It was a time when the American luxury makes were not yet in the habit of making fake German and fake Japanese luxury cars. Like making a Cadillac look like a BMW or making a Lincoln look like a Lexus was going to make BMW and Lexus owners buy a Caddy or Lincoln? Yeah, right. They’d just go get the real thing. And they still do today.
If you remember my family friend Dick McCarthy, he of the multiple Town Cars, he had an ’86 Signature in light metallic blue with a navy coach roof and interior. He got it as a company car, and then eventually bought it from Illinois Casualty and drove it for over ten years.
It was just like this, but with a navy blue coach roof. These cars may not have had Autobahnen engineering, but they were robust. Dick did not baby his cars, but that ’86 just hung in there, until he finally got sick of it and traded it for a 1995 Town Car Executive Series, in 1997. I still have one of the keys for that ’86!
Our featured car, an immaculate Stars & Stripes edition, was seen at an LCOC (Lincoln and Continental Owners Club) regional meet in Rockford back in September of 2014. I wasn’t actually a member at that time, but as this meet was not far from me, I had to check it out. I met a lot of great people there, including Glenn Kramer, and joined the club myself in 2015.
All Stars & Stripes Town Cars had a Judge Smails-approved white and navy blue color scheme, with white paint, navy carriage roof, and white leather with blue piping, instrument panel and carpeting. I’ve always had a thing for white interiors in old luxury cars and old muscle cars, and this looks great. And after nearly two decades of black, gray and tan only interior choices, white, or off-white interior choices are making a comeback. I’ve seen them on current Kias, Mercedes-Benzes and Chrysler 300Cs. And even modern Lincolns have a similar interior trim option, though it is more of a very light beige than true white. I’ve always favored lighter interior colors; to me black and dark gray interiors look like a cave. Now where was I?
Ah yes, 1980s Town Cars. By the way, the nautical color scheme was not a coincidence, as the limited edition model was commemorating America’s win in the 1987 America’s Cup yacht race. Thurston Howell would have approved.
I am impressed that Lincoln got a full decade out of this body style. Much like the 1961-69 Continental, the 1980-89 Town Car received only minor changes throughout its run, the biggest being the slight aero touch-up in 1985. And much like the Sixties Continental, the ’80s Town Car sold well throughout its run, though it was a bit of a throwback by ’89. But its customers loved it. The Panther was far from done yet though, and a new, modern body would bring the traditional Lincoln into the ’90s in short order.
Great write-up as always, Tom. These Lincolns are still beautiful cars to this day and IMO nothing can and will ever duplicate their prestige and smooth, luxurious ride.
As usual nice pictures and writing Tom. To me, this era of Lincoln and Cadillac represent a period when they were copying themselves with fake versions of the grand models of the 60s and earlier. Fake (plastic) wood, fake convertible tops, fake (plastic) chrome, fake wire wheels (mostly), huge overhangs to make them look longer, all on platforms that offered no technological advances over the Ford or Chevy versions. Sure they were mostly durable and relatively cheap to service, and they had the brand styling cues, but in reality they offered nothing special (at best) in the driving experience, technology, or build quality. Its sad how badly the brands were treated by the penny pinching managers of that era, but now they mostly seem to offer fake versions of Lexus or BMW, so I’m not sure that is any better.
Yup. All the points on these cars that you touch are plastic or cheap vinyl. Door handles, wheels, gear levers, buttons, switches: All chintzy and cheap-feeling. A very far cry from a 1980s Mercedes, or even a Volvo 260. And even farther cry from where Caddies were in the late 1960s or ’71-’72.
And then when Lexus/Infinity came in 1990, they offered roughly German quality at price parity with Lincoln/Caddy.
To me, the Turbine aluminum wheels really make these cars. The blue car pictured here is perfect with those wheels and the lightly contrasting vinyl top.
I remember the eighties Ford custom of describing carpet in ounces. I looked at a 1990 guide and the lowest was the Probe at 12 ounces. I wonder how the current offerings measure up?
You are right. Virtually identical on the outside but night and day under the hood. My 86 was an economical and virtually indestructible hot rod. Rolled over 300k.
Another goodie…I remember standing with you and discussing the featured car!
Another fantastic read, Tom. It is so refreshing to read an unabashedly positive take in what ultimately were successful cars.
Thanks for a such a great writing !! I have been a Lincoln fan since before my high school days.
Having had 23 Lincolns to date, I am currently the proud owner of the rare 1987 Stars & Stripes
Edition…..still turns heads and gets great comments whenever it (occassionally) gets taken out
for a drive….all original & still like showroom new!!
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I just bought my fourth Lincoln. It is a 1987 Town Car/Signiture Series/Stars and Stripes, and it’s gorgeous! 37,000 miles on the odometer, with all the options, except for the moon roof. I’ve had it for about a month and have gone through it completely. It has cleaned up very well, which pleases me to no end, and except for some touch up work on the front end, a very slight ding in the driver’s side door and three small digs in the rear bumper, it’s perfect! The interior is even better, and has needed almost no attention except for a good cosmetic cleaning. A new exhaust has taken care of any mechanical issues; there are no others.
So, needless to say, along with this car and my 81, all original, 22,000 mile, never been wet Imperial, I am one very satisfied fellow.