1997 Lincoln Town Car Signature Series: Family car, found!
Before we begin, allow me to introduce a friend of mine from New York, Anthony Gucciardo. Like me, he loves Lincoln Town Cars, and currently owns a two-tone 1997 Town Car (silver over dark gray) with only 24,000 miles on it.
A few years ago he managed to locate the 1997 Town Car his mother bought new. Not a similar car: THE car. He subsequently purchased it and had it restored. How many of us have wished we could have our first car back, or one of the family cars we remembered and loved from your youth? Well, Anthony did it!
He recently messaged me and said he’d had the whole car repainted in December. It’s close to showroom condition now. Enjoy! —TK
I regularly talk about my love for the Lincoln Town Car. To this very day, the love affair continues. Over the years I’ve been fortunate to have owned several high-end luxury cars, and they’ve all been great. The technology has come a long way since the late 1990s, yet I still get a kick out of a large luxury sedan equipped with self-leveling air suspension and thin white-wall tires.
Nothing rides like a Lincoln Town Car, especially at highway speeds. The wind noise coming from the windshield and sunroof gives the car true Lincoln character. It was obviously a design flaw but, as we say in real estate, charm and character sell.
A while back I went to a car show in Saratoga Springs, New York. I couldn’t believe how much cars from the 1950s and ’60s were selling for. Corvettes, Mustangs, and Cadillacs seemed to be the biggest sellers. They were bringing over $75,000 at auction and a few went for over $100K.
Most of the buyers seemed to be 65 and up. I thought to myself, “There has to be a reason why all of these gentlemen, who are approximately my father’s age, are buying these cars. Who would’ve ever known that a car that you could’ve bought for less than $5000 would be worth so much?”
I’m not a huge fan of Mustangs or Corvettes, but back in the ’60s they obviously resonated with a lot of people. Especially guys who were, like me, in their mid-teens, which was about the same era in which I was first introduced to the 1996 Lincoln Town Car, thanks to Hertz.
I think a love of a certain car has something to do with your childhood and memories that you associate with a particular vehicle.
My father’s first car was a Corvette and even if I had offered him a Mercedes or Jaguar, I know he would still would have preferred his Corvette. He likes other cars, but he simply has a particular preference for Corvettes. He is a GM fan and I think something is embedded in his brain. I like the look of a lot of cars and will give them credit, but some cars just don’t do it for me.
My mother just turned in a 2015 S550. It was a tremendously smart car and is certainly the benchmark of luxury … but it lacked something. I couldn’t explain it, but something was missing.
I’m not going to start insulting other cars, because I know there’s a lot of people who roll their eyes and think that there is something wrong with me when I tell them that one of my favorite cars was the Lincoln Town Car.
Most 16-year-olds back in the mid-1990s wanted a BMW 3 Series or some type of sports car—Boxster, Miata, BMW Z3. Not me! I used to call the Lincoln dealers requesting brochures be mailed to me. I still have them, too, saved in my Lincoln filing cabinet! The Lincoln Town Car is definitely “What a luxury car should be!”
It is what I wanted when I got older, even if I did happen to be 55 years younger than the average Town Car owner. I certainly didn’t want to be an older guy—I just liked the cars. I may have an old soul, but there was something about being comfortable, safe, and luxurious that appealed to me when I was younger.
Not much has changed.
In 2014 I was blessed to have been able to lease my second Rolls-Royce Ghost. It was Arctic White on seashell with black piping and it was absolutely love at first sight. I remember the first time I sat in it. I thought that it had a presence similar to the Town Cars of the late ’90s. The hood was so long and of course it had an emblem.
Other than that minor resemblance, I confess I was being delusional, because a 1997 Town Car is a little different than a 2014 Rolls Royce Ghost. The wheelbases are similar but the Town Car is longer by 8.9 inches.
Yes, the Town Car beats the Rolls in the size department. I’ll always defend the Town Car, so don’t start an argument, please! Being the loyal guy I am, I wouldn’t psychologically terminate my long-time admiration. I don’t drive the Lincoln daily, but it’s like your first love. You don’t ever truly forget them—you move on, you have new hobbies, make new friends, have other lovers, but you still remember the first one you clicked with and who gave you, so to speak, those first-car butterflies. (Long-time readers know I have a ’97 stored in my garage that’s absolutely mint. I take her for cruises once a month on Sundays.)
For the past 36 months I’ve had the privilege to drive one of the finest handbuilt automobiles ever crafted. (Of course, I love the people who tell me it’s nothing more than a glorified BMW. Most every car in the world shares some type of technology or underlings with another vehicle.) That Rolls was the first car I ever leased that I did not want to give back. Over the years I’ve had Mercedes-Benzes and Jaguars, and I was always looking for an opportunity to turn them in early if the manufacturer were offering an incentive. September of 2017 rolled around, and my lease was just about up. Unfortunately, Rolls-Royce financial services do not offer any type of lease extension. Your option is to either buy the car outright or lease another vehicle.
It doesn’t make sense to own a Rolls-Royce. If you’re involved in a collision and the car has to have bodywork, it will depreciate the car by 60 percent. It’s a bad investment unless you have silly money to waste—which I don’t.
Heck, I had to get another car soon and I just wasn’t sure what I was going to get. My Rolls-Royce was a daily driver and I drove it pretty much everyday in rain, sleet, or shine. (Well, not sleet, but you get what I am saying.) I put 31,000 very happy miles on it … and if I did nothing, soon she would consigned to some Rolls dealer’s lot or sent to auction.
According to my dealer, any rolls Royce with more than 15,000 miles is considered high-mileage. I know it’s a machine, but the thought of that gorgeous car being sent to an auction drove me nuts. It was mint. I washed it every day. She had been such an excellent car and had not let me down once. It was only a matter of time before I’d be tracking her through Carfax to see where she ended up. I hoped she relocated to Florida or California.
(My last Rolls ended up in San Diego, but she was involved in a collision recently and had to be towed. There’s something about knowing what happens to your old cars that’s of interest to me. Carfax provides a great way to keep track of vehicles.)
Speaking of tracking down vehicles … You know by now that I have a thing for Lincolns. Back in 2002 we sold my mother’s 1997 white Lincoln Town Car to Bill Campbell. I always regretted selling that car but again, back in 2002 I had no money and certainly couldn’t pay for it. My mother wanted a smaller car and she went with the Mercedes C-Class.
I remember on the way home from Mercedes Benz dealer of White Plains, I was in the car in front of her. When I looked at that Mercedes grill in my rearview mirror, I remember thinking to myself what a traitor I was. The 2002 Mercedes C240 had not a single thing on the Lincoln. O.K., it was a cute car, but it wasn’t the Lincoln Town Car. No presence, no squareness, no legendary 4.6-liter V-8. As I’m thinking this, I remember seeing all these black-livery Town Cars heading south on 87 and feeling such a knot in my stomach. At that very moment, the radio was playing “Has Anybody Seen My Baby” by the Rolling Stones. It was a sure sign that someday I would need to find her and get her back.
I was a little disappointed at my mother, but at the same time I understood that she didn’t want such a big car. Nor did she want people thinking that she was a grandmother. She was nice enough to buy and drive the car for a few years for her son. She really didn’t have a choice because back then I pestered her for three years to please buy one. I even told her that if she did I would do much better in school.
It definitely helped me in school.
I used to take the Lincoln to Hudson Valley community college and I would park in the faculty lot with no faculty sticker. Never once did that car get a ticket. All the Hondas and Subarus belonging to students had yellow-ticket violations on their window. The Town Car’s immunity to parking violations was the true testament to the power of the Lincoln brand. Those lot attendants had to think that white beauty belonged to someone important.
This past month, as I begin searching for a new vehicle to replace the Rolls, there was only one car that could potentially fill the tires of the Roll: my mother’s second Lincoln. The gentleman to whom I had sold the car was also a Lincoln fanatic, so I knew he would be preserving it. I had reached out to him a few years prior but he was not ready to sell it. I told him to please call me if he wanted to sell it, and he told me he would.
A few years went by and one day I was checking the VIN on Carfax and saw that 1LNLN82W9VY716255 was registered back in New York after spending 10 years in Texas. It showed a new owner and I was puzzled why Bill didn’t call me. I tried calling the number for Bill but it had been disconnected. I was able to find his sister, who told that me Bill had died suddenly. His sister in Gloversville, New York, had inherited the car.
This is where the story gets interesting. Bill’s sister did not want the car, and I had missed calling her by two weeks. (I do run a business during the day, so I usually only search for Lincolns after 10 p.m. or when I am really bored.) Two weeks prior, she had donated the car to a local church and the church had raffled it off. I asked her to call the church and for them to contact the new owner to see whether he wanted to sell it. She was nice enough to do so, but unfortunately the new owner did not want to part with it.
Back to Carfax. For two years there were absolutely no reports on the car. Something told me it was just sitting somewhere either rotting away or—I hoped—being preserved. A few weeks ago I contacted the DMV and submitted a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request by providing them with the vehicle identification number.
Within three days they sent me the current owner’s name and address. It was a P.O. box. Through my investigative resources, I was able to track down the current owner’s cell phone number. I called him. He hung up on me twice, because he thought I was a telemarketer trying to sell him some type of Lincoln warranty. The third attempt was a success! I found out that was I suspected was true: The car was sitting with about eight other cars on a lot in Johnstown, New York. Within 45 minutes I was on my way to Gloversville to check out my mother’s old car.
Larry, the current owner, told me that he bought the Lincoln from a guy who won it in a raffle. He said he hadn’t used it in two years. I took the 40-mile drive from Albany and arrived while it was still light out. I was proud to see that the car remained in the original state in which I had sold her almost two decades prior. She was a little weathered from being outside, but she sat perfect and the air suspension showed absolutely no signs of any leaks. (There’s nothing worse than seeing a slumped Lincoln.) The mud flaps and chrome fenders that I bought were still on it. The leather was a 9 out of 10. It had a cracked windshield and a brake line leak, but other those that the car was good to go.
A few days later Larry was nice enough to have the car flat-bedded to my house and it arrived. We have finally been reunited after almost 20 years. I paid $4500 for the car and I’ll put about $1500 into it to get it back to 1997 quality. It’s a rather inexpensive hobby.
I guess I am like those guys I saw on that car show—I am not sure I would ever spend $100,000 on a used Lincoln in 40 years, but it will be fun to see what this body-on-frame domestic legend will sell for in 40 years. Ford produced thousands of them, but how many that remain are in showroom quality?
I wonder if there will be other Lincoln lovers who in 40 years will bid big money on these cars. Even if I sold the Town Cars someday, all I would do is track them on Carfax and try and buy them back. They say nothing lasts forever, but memories certainly do! There are so many people who say, “I sure wish I still had that car back!” but never find it. I did, and got it back. It’s a great feeling!