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History of the 1981-1989 Lincoln Town Car
For 1980, the all-new shared Lincoln Continental and Mark VI bodyshell was based upon the “Panther” platform utilized by Ford and Mercury. The two-door Lincolns utilized the same 114.3-inch wheelbase as the Ford and Mercury, but the four-door cars obtained a 3” stretch in the center for additional rear leg-room. Exterior sheetmetal was specific, as were interiors, but the expensive engineering essentials and most mechanical components were shared. A 302 cid fuel injected V8 engine was utilized, with optional 351 carbureted engine optional. New was the AOD four speed overdrive automatic transmission, which also assisted in improving fuel mileage.
For 1981, the Continental name was replaced and the new Town Car appellation was used for the non-Mark Lincolns. The lineup was also simplified with the elimination of the slow-selling Versailles model. The sole engine was the 302 V-8 with fuel injection and styling was virtually identical to the 1980 cars with only minor changes. The new Town Car retained the prior Continental’s exposed oblong dual headlamps and optional digital trip computer display, and added a new key-pad entry system. Lincoln’s formal upright grille was naturally retained. These cars were unashamedly aimed straight at mature customers with wealth money in the bank.
In 1982, the Town Car continued much as before, except that the one-year only two-door was discontinued and the car began to become popular with black-car limo companies in lieu of problematic 1981 Cadillacs.
In 1983, these factors helped lift Lincoln Town Car sales to 53,361 from 35,069 the year before. 1982 sales had lifted 25 percent from the year before, so Lincoln was on a sales trend of the right kind. New for 1983 was a completely restyled Lincoln Mark VI with aerodynamic luxury and panache’. The Town Car may have been eclipsed by the second all-new alternate Lincoln name-plate in two years, but obviously remained popular with both prior Lincoln customers requiring a formal sedan as well as defecting Cadillac customers.
The 1984 cars were similar, but a new two-tone Cartier Designer series became available. The Town Car Signature featured a coach roof, pleat-pillow upholstery, and wood-tone accents on doors and quarter trim panels. Sales soared to 93,622. In addition, Lincoln’s Town Car began to easily dominate the “stretch limousine” donor-car fabrication trade.
For 1985, the Town Car was facelifted slightly, and Lincoln sold 119,878 Town Cars. Late in 1985, Lincoln TV ads entitled “The Valet” rubbed salt in their competitor’s wounds by mocking how similar Cadillacs looked to Buicks, Oldsmobiles, Pontiacs and even Chevrolets. This commercial began the advertising line “Lincoln: What a Luxury Car Should Be.” The slogan was successfully used into the 1990s.
1986 saw Town Car sales about the same as 1985, and there was an all-new multi-port fuel injection system as well as the additional use of popular woodgrain interior trim. The 1987 cars added a single-slot CD player as an option, and in the spring of 1987, the 1988 cars were introduced early with another slight facelift. 1987, being both a recession / financial panic year and a very short “model-year”, saw Town Car sales plummet to 76,483. The extended 1988 model year, however, saw 201,118 cars sold.
The final first-generation of “Panther platform” Town Cars was the 1989 cars, which were virtually identical to 1988. The next generation would become an even larger sales success for Lincoln.
1981 Lincoln Town Car Info
8-cyl. 302cid/130hp CFI
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