Pre-Owned Profile: 1990-1997 Lincoln Town Car

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author photo by John Rettie September 1999

Lincoln Town Car - a long time favorite with limousine companies - makes a great value as a pre-owned luxury car

If you’ve ever ridden in a limousine, chances are it was a Lincoln Town Car. It seems that this full-size luxury car is the first choice of most chauffeurs. Lincoln even sells a stripped down version of the Town Car directly to limousine manufacturers who stretch them from a few inches to several yards.

Undoubtedly the major reason the Town Car is so popular in this line of business is because it is the only domestic-made luxury car that has rear-drive and is still built on the traditional body on frame construction. All other domestic-made luxury cars are front-drive.

If you like the idea of owning a rear-drive luxury car you’ll have to buy a European or Japanese luxury car or the Lincoln Town Car. While the Town Car might not have the cache of an import it will cost considerably less to purchase as a pre-owned car. In fact a five or six-year-old Town Car is quite a bargain - a lot of car for the buck.

What You Need To Know:

1. Review of a 1996 Lincoln Town Car

2. Summary of Good and Bad Points by Owners

3. History of Town Car

4. Review of Current Model

5. Basic Facts

6. Changes Year-to-Year

7. Safety Information

8. Value Guide

9. Option Installment Rate

10. Sales History

11. Awards and Commendations Earned

12. Other Reviews

13. Recall Information

14. Price of Spare Parts

1. Pre-Owned Vehicle Evaluation - 1996 Lincoln Town Car

Likes: comfortable ride, spacious interior

Dislikes: soft handling, bulbous size

Competitors: Cadillac DeVille, Cadillac Fleetwood

Miles: 29,600

Condition: A+

Price when new: $37,950 (est.)

Posted Price: $24,998 (July 1999)

It’s amazing to think that the majority of American cars had the heft and presence of the Town Car a couple of decades ago. Nowadays the Town Car looks positively antique - almost a classic. In many ways that’s a good description of this last bastion of large American cars. Ford Motor Company is the only company left making cars with a body bolted to a frame. Of course most SUVs follow this design procedure and many people buy them as alternatives to a car so perhaps there hasn’t been so much of a change in tastes after all. But I digress.

The Town Car is built on the same chassis as the Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis, however the wheelbase is three inches longer to give the car greater interior space. In fact the rear seat legroom - so important in a limo - is better than all but the Chrysler LHS and the BMW 740iL which costs twice as much. It has much more rear seat legroom than any SUV, although headroom is not quite as generous. Luggage space is also a strong feature of the car and access is good thanks to a low lip on the trunk lid. However the spare wheel is not hidden below the trunk floor, instead it takes up some space in the trunk.

Getting in and out of the Town Car is easy thanks to big doors and the long wheelbase which keeps the rear wheel wells from intruding into the back of the rear door. I did not find the seats terribly comfortable - but then I don’t like big comfy sofas I’d rather have individual seats. However those who like soft couches will find the Town Car’s seats just fine.

The dashboard is a fairly simple design that sweeps right across the width of the car and has a small strip of fake wood trim. As with the competing Cadillac models, the instruments are digital. Most people don’t like digital gauges but others find them easier to read quickly. Climate and radio controls are conveniently located up high as there is no center console in order to allow room for a passenger in the middle of the front bench seat.

Despite the weight of the car its performance is fairly good thanks to a V-8 engine. With rear drive there’s no torque steer but the car’s soft suspension makes the car wallow when traversing undulations in the road. The steering also feels imprecise, as it is so heavily power-assisted. All told the car’s road behavior would not be pleasing for those who enjoy driving briskly. Nonetheless on a straight smooth freeway the car gives its occupants an opulent ride.

The 1996 car I drove had obviously not been used as a limousine as it had no worn carpets or scuffmarks on the door panels. It was also had several extra options including a premium CD sound package and alloy wheels.

Enthusiast drivers might complain about the Town Car’s handling but when you consider it costs half as much as an import luxury car and it still handles much better than any SUV it is not such a bad deal. In fact if you need to carry six passengers in plush comfort and style for a low cost of entry the Town Car just might fit, or is it foot, the bill.

2. Summing It Up - Owners' Views


The ultimate ride - I love it

Prestigious car for ordinary folk

Last of the big American cars, now they are all jellybeans

Good mileage, I get 20 mpg

I like everything about it

No problems (1996 model)


Steering over -assisted

3. History of Town Car

Nowadays Lincoln competes with Cadillac for the title as America’s best selling luxury car brand. It has not always been that way. In the 1950s Lincoln produced sporty smaller cars. Then its cars got bigger and bigger leading to their popularity as limousines for heads of state. The Town Car was first introduced in 1970 as a luxury version of the Crown Victoria. Since then it has only been redesigned once every decade and has become a unique "conventional" American luxury car, the last of a breed so to speak.

4. Review of Current Town Car

In 1998 the Town Car received its most complete redesign in its 30-year history. Although still based on the same chassis as before the engineers reworked the suspension, giving the car much more responsive handling characteristics without giving up any ride comfort. The interior has been redesigned and fitted with analog gauges giving the car a more modern luxurious feeling. The body also had a complete makeover such that it has very little in common with the old model except size. The rounder body shape has drawn mixed reviews with some people loving it and others hating it. Nobody will deny though that it stands out in the crowd, which is what most people want in a large luxury car.

5. Basic Facts: 1990 - 1997 Town Car

Vehicle Type: Luxury Sedan

No. Passengers: up to six

Origin of assembly: Wixom, MI

Engine: (standard): 5.0-liter 150 hp V-8 ('90); 4.6-liter 190 or 210 hp V-8 ('91-'97)

Transmission: 4-spd automatic; rear-drive

Length: 219 inches

Wheelbase: 117 inches

Width: 77 inches

Height: 57 inches

Curb weight: 4000 lbs. (approx.)

Cargo volume: 22 cu. ft.

Fuel tank capacity: 18 gals.

Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway): 17/25

6. Changes in the Lincoln Town Car Line 1990 - 1999

1990 Model Year

New model based on same chassis as before

1991 Model Year

A more powerful and efficient aluminum block 4.6-liter engine on all models

Traction control offered as an option

Revised front suspension

Disc brakes all round instead of front disc/rear drum setup

1992 Model Year

Optional dual exhaust package produces 210 hp compared to 190 for the base engine

1993 Model Year

Dual airbags become standard

Handling package offered as option

Remote keyless entry system standard

1994 Model Year

Dual exhaust standard- all models produce 210 hp

1995 Model Year

Numerous exterior changes to headlights, grille taillights etc. freshen look

Redesigned dashboard

Electronically adjustable steering optional

Redesigned seats

1996 Model Year

Upgrades to engine make it smoother

Real wood trim added to dashboard on Cartier series

1997 Model Year

Dual exhaust system dropped - power output drops to 190 hp

1998 Model Year (first year of new model)

All new model introduced

Rounder, shorter body on same chassis as before

More luxuriously appointed interior

1999 Model Year

Power output increased

Side airbags standard

7. Safety Notes

NHTSA Crash rating (‘96 model year): Driver 4; Passenger 5 (5 is best)

ABS standard on all Town Car models from 1991

Driver side air bag standard from 1990, dual air bags standard from 1993

8. Value Guide

Prices listed are for base models. Options can add considerably to the lowest price listed as these are usually "stripped" models. In many cases, very few vehicles are ever sold at the lowest price listed! Source: Kelley Blue Book

1992 Model Year

New: $32,137 to $37,265

1993 Model Year

New: $35,025 to $38,425

1994 Model Year

New: $35,375 to $38,725

1995 Model Year

New: $37,040 to $41,840

1996 Model Year

New: $37,550 to $42,600

1997 Model Year

New: $37,950 to $43,870

1998 Model Year (first year of new model)

New: $38,500 to $42,500

9. Option Installment Rate

Generally, when you order a new car you have a choice of factory-installed options. When you buy a pre-owned vehicle the choice is limited to what was actually installed on vehicles sold in that model year. Use this option installment rate as a guide to the chances of finding particular options on a pre-owned vehicle. Source: Ward's Automotive Yearbooks

As one would expect in a luxury car, most creature comforts, such as power accessories, automatic climate control, etc. are included as standard on the Town Car.

1992 Model Year

Installment Rate

Traction Control: 18%

Leather Seats: NA%

Keyless entry: 87%

1993 Model Year

Installment Rate

Traction Control: 23%

Leather Seats: NA%

Keyless entry: 89%

1994 Model Year

Installment Rate

Traction Control: 25%

Leather Seats: NA%

1995 Model Year

Installment Rate

Traction Control: 78%

Leather Seats: 94%

1996 Model Year

Installment Rate

Traction Control: 80%

Leather Seats: 96%

1997 Model Year

Installment Rate

Traction Control: 78%

Leather Seats: 96%

1998 Model Year

Installment Rate

Traction Control: 100%

Leather Seats: 98%

10. Production/Sales Volume History

Normally a model year runs from October to September. Often though, when a new version is introduced it hits the market before October. Legally, a model year can start as early as January of the preceding year. Accurate model year sales counts are almost impossible to collect as different model year vehicles are regularly sold side-by-side for several months. Production figures, when listed, often include vehicles made for export to Canada, Mexico and overseas. Source: manufacturers/Ward's Automotive Yearbooks

1992 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1991 through Sept. 1992

Total number produced: 109,094

Total no. sold in U.S.: 111,697

1993 Model Year

Production run: Oct.1992 through Sept. 1993

Total number produced: 118,040

Total no. sold in U.S.: 110,371

1994 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1993 through Sept. 1994

Total number produced: 117,448

Total no. sold in U.S.: 118,300

1995 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1994 through Sept. 1995

Total number produced: 109,628

Total no. sold in U.S.: 103,045

1996 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1995 through Sept. 1996

Total number produced: 96,591

Total no. sold in U.S.: 92,426

1997 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1996 through Sept. 1997

Total number produced: 108,966

Total no. sold in U.S.: 90,590

1998 Model Year (first year of new model)

Production run: Oct. 1997 through Sept. 1998

Total number produced: 83,035

Total no. sold in U.S.: 98,346

11. Awards and Commendations


"Among the Top Ten in Initial Quality" - J. D. Power and Associates


"Typical of American luxury cars, the Town Car rides smoothly, but it protests during corners or sudden maneuvers. The optional, and rare, handling package makes the Town Car far more satisfying to drive." - Jack Gillis, The Used Car Book 1997-1998

13. Recalls (Only major recalls listed)

ID Number: 95V151000

Component: structure: hood assembly: latches

Potential Number of Units Affected: 73,837

Year: 1992

Manufactured From: Apr. 1991 To: Oct. 1991

Year of Recall:'95

Summary: The secondary hood latch may not engage when the hood is closed. In the event the primary hood latch releases or is not properly latched when the vehicle is in motion, the hood could fly up obstructing the operator's vision, and increasing the potential for a vehicle accident.

ID Number: 98V322000

Component: suspension: independent front control arm: lower: ball joint

Potential Number of Units Affected: 158,191

Year: 1990-1998

Manufactured From: 1990 To: 1998

Year of Recall:'98

Summary: Certain police, fleet, natural gas, and limousine vehicles equipped with ball joints containing one-piece bearings or a front lower control arm containing a ball joint with a one-piece bearing. On certain 1990-1996 Lincoln Town Car limousine vehicles that have been serviced with either a ball joint containing the one-piece bearing or a front lower control arm containing a ball joint with a one-piece bearing. The one-piece bearing within the lower control arm ball joint can weaken slowly during use and eventually crack. This could result in separation of the ball and cap of the joint, allowing the control arm to drop to the ground. If this occurs while the vehicle is moving, reduced steering control could occur, increasing the risk of a crash.

ID Number: 99V124000

Component: electrical system

Potential Number of Units Affected: 279,000

Year: 1992

Manufactured From: Nov. 1991 To: Nov. 1992

Year of Recall:'99

Summary: The Speed Control Deactivation Switch can develop a resistive short in the electrical circuit that could potentially result in an underhood fire. A fire is possible both when the vehicle is running and when the vehicle engine is off. Also, the short could disable the speed control system or cause the brake light fuse to open. A fire can originate in the left front underhood area.

ID Number: 94V152000

Component: brakes: hydraulic system

Potential Number of Units Affected: 214,000

Year: 1994

Manufactured From: Nov. 1993 To: July 1994

Year of Recall:'94

Summary: The nuts and bolts that attach the rear brake adapter to the axle housing flange can loosen and eventually separate. If one or more of the nuts come off the bolts, damage to the parking brake assembly or to the antilock brake system (ABS) sensor and sensor ring (if so equipped) will occur. If all four nuts on one end of the axle come off the bolts, damage to the brake hydraulic line or the parking brake cable can occur. Occurrence of any of these conditions can result in a loss of braking capability and possible accident.

ID Number: 95V063000

Component: fuel: fuel tank assembly: pipe: filler: neck

Potential Number of Units Affected: 100,000

Year: 1995

Manufactured From: June 1994 To: Dec. 1994

Year of Recall:'95

Summary: The seal material between the fuel filler pipe and fuel tank may not have been fully cured during the molding process which could allow for fuel leakage. Fuel leakage could result in a vehicle fire if an ignition source were present.

ID Number: 96V135000

Component: steering: linkages: arm

Potential Number of Units Affected: 72,000

Year: 1995-1996

Manufactured From: Aug. 1994 To: Apr. 1996

Year of Recall:'96

Summary: The Pitman arms were not fully lubricated at the assembly plant. The "ball joint" at the outer end of the Pitman arm can become contaminated and corrode. Such corrosion can result in abnormal wear of the joint, resulting in separation of the joint. Loss of steering control can occur increasing the risk of a vehicle accident.

ID Number: 96V070000

Component: structure: door assembly: latches and locks

Potential Number of Units Affected: 73,500

Year: 1996

Manufactured From: Feb. 1996 To: Mar. 1996

Year of Recall:'96

Summary: The driver door latches, when in the secondary latched position may open when subjected to transverse loads less than that specified in FMVSS no. 206, "door locks and door retention components." Consequence of non-compliance: the driver's door, when closed only to the secondary latched position, may not sustain a 1,000 pound transverse load.

14. Cost of Parts (relative to other vehicles)

Headlight unit: $171 (average)

Side marker lamp: $106 (above average)

Door (left front): $610 (average)

Fender (left front): $425 (above average)

Note: these are estimated retail prices for commonly replaced body parts on a 1995 model. Prices are current as of mid 1999 but will vary from region to region and are subject to change at any time. Source: ADP Collision Repair Services

The Rettie Report and Pre-owned Profiles contain objective information from a variety of sources. The subjective comments are those of John Rettie.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Pre-Owned Profile: 1990-1997 Lincoln Town Car - Autotrader