Image credits: © Lincoln.

Often considered to be the ‘traditional American luxury sedan' the Lincoln Town Car is serving as the flagship of Ford's Lincoln luxury car division. The name 'Town Car' is English for ‘Sedan de Ville', a nomenclature that refers to a classic style of limousine that had been popular in the 1950s. Both of these names referred to a classic type of limousine that had been quite popular in the 1920s which came with an open chauffeur's compartment up front.

The largest American-constructed vehicle, the Town Car measures nearly 18 entire feet in length, and inside was a V8 engine, rear-wheel drive and an extremely generous exterior and interior. The Town Car's main competition is the Cadillac DTS, the BMW 7-Series and the Lexus LS 460.

Up until the 2007 model year, the Lincoln Town Car has been manufactured in the Wixom Assembly Plant and beginning with the '08 model, at the St. Thomas Assembly plant located in Canada. In 2007, some talk had been made about ending production on Lincoln's flagship model following the closing of the Wixom plant, and production resumed in Canada. More recently sales have been declining, but despite this is continued to be the best selling American luxury vehicles. Most popularly, the Lincoln Town Car has been utilized as a limousine and as a chauffered vehicle.

In comparison to other European flagship luxury sedans, the Lincoln Town Car was quite affordable, yet currently the most expensive American luxury sedan with prices that begin at $43,075 for a basic Signature Series to $56,745 for the top of the line Signature L Series. Since 2003, the Town Car has been available with ballistic protection and prices began at $144,995.

The main perks, as found by Consumer Guide, of the Lincoln Town Car are ride quality, comfort and the materials. Unfortunately the handling and the acceleration were the major downsides of the Town Car. Throughout the North American market, the Town Car is one of the safest cars available.

The final full-size body vehicle was introduced in 1978 as the Lincoln Continental Town Car before the range downsized in 1980. In 1992, the first Town Car name was introduced in the Lincoln line on a custom built Lincoln for Henry Ford. Later this name appeared on a variety of trim levels on the Lincoln Continental flagship sedan from 1959 until 1980.

The following year the Lincoln Town car was transformed into a model in its own right and soon became Lincoln's largest sedan as well as being its flagship vehicle. There have been a total of three generations of the Town Car with a few minor updates, one in 1995 and another in 2003.

The Town Car reappeared in 1959 on a very unique limousine-like version of the standard Continental. The original vehicle was featured only in black and easily noticed by a unique padded vinyl top. This first model was quite a rare model at the time.

Following its arrival in 1959, the Town car disappeared for ten years, and then suddenly emerged in 1969 as an especially plush interior option package for the Lincoln Continental. The next time it arrived was as a trim option in 1971 and it continued until 1980 as the top-line trim option package for the Lincoln Continental. Once again, the Town Car was introduced with an extra plush interior and occasionally a landau vinyl roof over the rear passenger compartment. The Town Car badge has previously always been applied to sedans, but from 1975 until 1980, the Town Coupe was a similar option for coupes.

The Town Car had been considered a model in its own right since 1981 and it was the replacement for the Continental (temporarily), and upon its introduction, the Town Car immediately became the Lincoln's flagship model, where it remains today.

The first generation of the Town Car came with a body profile and grille that very closely resembled to the 1970's Lincoln Continental. Inside the Town Car were new seats, door panels and dashboard. Outside the door panels and fenders were brand new, while the trunk lid and the taillights went through a minor redesign. To stay with current trends, the earlier covered headlights now were exposed and composed of two adjoining square units. Other luxury options available included a variety of advanced plush features not earlier seen. On the Carter and Signature edition, leather trim was available, and all trim levels came with six-way power seats along with an electronic six speaker audio system with integrated amplifier that was dubbed 'Premium Sounds.' Also optional on the Cartier and Signature Series was a fully functioning trip computer with digital displays.

Upper models received the keypad entry system that allowed for the driver to either use a factory-programmed or self-programmed alternative five digit combination to receive entry to the vehicle or the trunk. This system was linked only to the vehicle, rather than a satellite, drivers don't need to share their identity with an operator in a potentially un-secure environment. Today, this feature is still in use on all of the contemporary Lincolns, as well as some Ford and Mercury branded products.

Standard on every Town Car was a package similar to the Continental Town Car pacage, a half-vinyl coach roof with frenched rear window while cloth- canvas roofs were optional items. In 1980 the Panther platform Town Car was introduced, meanwhile it was also the end of 400 in³ and 460 in³ V8 engines in the Lincoln line-up and were replaced with the extremely popular 302 in³ (5.0 L) V8 engine.

The transmission on the Town Car was also updated to a 4-speed automatic with overdrive. From 1980 until 1989 all Town Cars were available with an optional trailer towing package that came with dual exhausts, an improved cooling package for the motor as well as transmission and a shortened limited slip differential. From 1980 until 1983 a very exclusive Mark VI version of the Town Car was introduced and came with a hidden (retractable) headlight along with the characteristic simulated spare tire shape found on the trunk lid.

For the 1985 model year, the Lincoln Town Car underwent a variety of design updates. Much like earlier years, the design scheme for this year included a reflector running in between both taillights above the license plate frame, this was a design feature kept for the second generation Town Car. In this same year, newer, and much more ergonomically designed seats were introduced along with four way adjustable front head restraints. Cartier and Signature models came with exclusive bolstered seating.

For 1988 the Town Car underwent quite an update that included additional brushed metal work on the rear side of the vehicle. At the front end of the vehicle the Town Car went back to the waterfall grille rather than a crosshatch design from 1985 until 1987. Both Signature and Cartier models received a single disc factory installed JBL CD player as an available option during this styling update.

Lincoln continued to keep the Town Car as a traditional-sized luxury vehicle at the same time as the DeVille and the Fleetwood were downsized to more compact dimensions and also converted to front-wheel drive. Lincoln began running a variety of ads in late 1985 dubbed 'The Valet' which compared distinguishing Cadillacs from lower class Oldsmobiles, Pontiacs, Buicks and Chevrolets and asked the questions 'Is that a Cadillac?'. The response was 'No, it's an Oldmobile (or Chevy, Buick, etc.,).' And finally at the end the owner of a Lincoln would appear and his line would be 'The Lincoln Town Car please.' This was the commercial that brought about the new advertising line, 'Lincoln. What a Luxury Car Should Be.', and this slogan was used into the 1990's.

The second generation was introduced in 1990. The body of the Town Car went through an updated redesign along with a rear air suspension added as standard equipment. For this year the Lincoln Town Car was named as Motor Trend's Car of the Year. For most of this years model run, the vehicle was available in four trim levels; Town Car, Executive, Signature and Cartier.

In 1990, the newest Lincoln Town Car marked the end of the Town Car's 1970's based angular design. The wedges that had been on the side of the hood that contained both the parking and signal lights were deleted while the Rolls-Royce-like grille was replaced with a much more modern and more aerodynamic front fascia. The headlights wrapped around the corners of the front and parking lights were now located adjoining to the grille. In this same year the fenders and door panels were updated as well while the trunk lids and the taillights stayed mostly the same as the 1980's model. Inside, the new model featured new seats, dashboard and interior door panels.

For this year, a variety of new options were introduced, ones that had never before been available on a Town Car. Recliner support, memory seating with power front passenger and driver lumbar were now an option on Signature town Car, while standard on Cartier Town Car. A carryover option from the 1989 Town Car was the electro-chromatic dimming mirror.

For the 1990 mode year, new standard equipment for all Town Cars was a new digital instrumentation system with a much more advanced message center, though the '91, ‘2 model years featured a conventional analog instrument cluster as standard equipment. This new generation of Town Car came with many more advanced safety features available that included a '90 driver's air bag as standard. Also an available option for 1990 was ABS braking and dual front airbags.

For 1991, Ford's new Modular V8 engine was introduced, an SOHC deign that replaced the Ford 302 Windsor. For 1992 ABS braking along with dual front driver and passenger airbags became a standard feature.

For 1993 the Town Car underwent a minor facelift on the front grill. The manually operated automatic temperature control thermostatic unit was replaced with a fully digitized electronic automatic temperature control (EACT) unit. During the late 1980's and early 1990's the second generation Town Car had an overwhelming success of sales and sales regularly exceeded 100,000 units. A total of 120,121 Town Cars were sold in 1994 alone.

The Town Car became the only traditional luxury vehicle on the American market once the Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham was deleted after 1996. The direct competition of the Town Car was Chrysler's Imperial which was dropped after 1975.

For 1995, the Lincoln Town Car went through a slight exterior facelift that involved addition additional running lights in the rear along with smaller, clear headlights. Inside, the Town Car, the interior was completely redone and included an all new dashboard, new interior door panels and new seats. Much more modern-looking curved design elements replaced the angular interior shapes from 1990 until 1994. The interior of the Town Car featured an 'organic' design on the inside, on the dashboard. Also in this year a new steering wheel that was used in all Panther-based sedans up until 2004.

2005 also was the year a new digital dash layout was introduced with a much more italicized look to the readouts along with a new feature called 'Average Speed.' This feature remained until 2005 and was on all instrument panels and calculated the average travel speed over a period of time. All of the other functions remained from the 1990 model year, meanwhile memory seats with lumbar support became standard on Signature Series sedans at this time.

From 1992 until 1997 a special Signature Series sedan was introduced; the Jack Nicklaus Signature Series. The Nicklaus series came with a green body with a white vinyl top with white leather interior that was trimmed in green. Most of the interior was adorned with gold trimmed exterior. Options on the Nicklaus series included leather seats, monotone paint, memory seats with power lumbar/recliner from 1992 until 1995.

In 1995 a special Signature Series edition was introduced called the Spinnaker Edition that featured tri-coat paint, 16-inch spoked aluminum wheels and the Spinnaker logo on the floor mats.

In 1996, Lincoln celebrated its 75th anniversary by introducing a 'Diamond Anniversary' edition. Applied to Signature Series sedans only, this edition included options such as a paint strip down the side, wood instrument panel trim, leather seats, cellular telephone, window badging, power moon-roof, auto electro-chromatic, JBL audio system, traction assist and dimming mirror w/compass.

In this same year, the Ride Control and Touring Edition packages were introduced. Ride Control was only offered on Cartier and Signature Town Cars while Touring Edition was available on all Town Car models. Ride control featured an auxiliary power steering fluid cooler, 3.27 axle ratio,16-inch aluminum wheels, 225/60/16tires, revised air springs and shocks and 28.5 stabilizer bar. The Touring Edition came with such features as a power moon-roof, auto dimming headlights, JBL audio systems, dimming mirror, auto electro-chromatic dimming mirror, 16-inch aluminum wheels, auxiliary power steering fluid collar, 3.27 axle ratio, 225/60/16 tires, 28.5 mm stabilizer bar, and updated air springs and shocks. The Touring Edition and the Ride Control packages only lasted from between 1996 and 1997, though the Touring Edition package would return briefly durng the 2000 model year.

The third generation of the Lincoln Town car was introduced in 1998 and premiered with a new body style, a redesign that included the deletion of the car's hood ornament and more angular shapes. The Cartier models also received a 164kW variation of the Modular V8.

The old boxy Town Car design from the 1990s was no more, while a new curvaceous design scheme with a downwards sloping trunk-lid was introduced, along with cat-eye headlights and pursed lip grille. The Town Car was shortened three inches in overall length while receiving two inches in width, one inch in height and now weighed 600 lbs more, and also featured a slightly longer wheelbase.

The inside of this new generation was also completely redesigned with the switches and control completely redone, along with the instrument and door panels and the radio face. The newly designed dashboard and door panels received additional wood trim while the power seat recliner and lumbar controls were relocated to the door panels. The Lincoln emblems remained on the door panels as well as the seatbacks.

Since 2001, a separate factory option available to individual owners of Town Cars was a version with an extra six inches or rear seat legroom, and was dubbed the 'L' or 'long' version. This model also included additional amenities for the rear-seat passenger including a unique rear seat switch that allowed the front-passenger seat to be moved forward as desired to give extra room in the rear.

Near the end of 2000, a Touring Edition was also introduced and now featured a more powerful 235 hp version of the Town Car's modular V8 engine, unique 16 inch alloy wheels with larger tires and dual exhaust pipes.

Consumer Guide rated the car above average in the premium luxury segment for room, comfort and materials, but unfortunately scored below average for steering, acceleration and overall technical performance. Other than these reviews, the Lincoln Town Car received negative reviews as it was considered to be 'out of date'. Despite this, the Town Car is still considered to be one of the best chauffeured vehicles and it receives high point for being one of the most comfortable, ‘quiet riding' and most spacious luxury vehicles available.

For 2003 model year, the Lincoln Town car went through a minor body redesign that added the hood ornament back again. This was also the final year that the Town Car was available in a trim package with the name 'Cartier'. At the beginning of the 2004 model year, the top-of-the-line Town Car was now designated the 'Ultimate'. The Touring Edition from the Signature model was dropped. New for the '03 model year was the 4.6 L V8 model with 239 hp along with sportier handling due to rack and pinion speed sensitive steering. An option this year was a power trunk lid that closed remotely. Standard on all models except the Executive Series was factory rear ultrasonic park assist, a feature with two round sensors located at the rear of the vehicle.

The inside of the Town Car remained basically the same for 2003. Additional brushed satin metals and an analog clock were updated in the interior. The door panel Lincoln emblems were deleted and the radio face including climate controls received an update. The Cartier models received a full-featured DVD based Satellite navigation with THX sound processors for this year, while in 2004 this feature was available on the Ultimate series. This feature was also featured in 2005 and was additionally present on the Signature Limited series and for 2006 to today, it was present on the Designer Series.

For the 2005 model year, the steering wheel received an updated facelift. The following year the gauge cluster received an update inside along with a revised analog/digital speedometer. Newly standard was a tachometer while on the exterior, the parking sensors became hidden.

The Town Car has become one of the best selling luxury vehicles throughout the U.S. throughout its twenty-five year run and received a variety of awards in the process. J.D. Power and Associates consider the Lincoln marque as a company with the highest customer satisfaction of any other car brand. Forbes magazine has repeatedly named the Town Car as one of the best chauffeured cars, even ahead of more expensive flagship sedans.

By Jessica Donaldson

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