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.
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.
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.
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!