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Want to know how Detroit used to build large cars? Just look at the Lincoln Town Car.
Its body is made of conventional stamped steel. There’s a separate full-length steel frame underneath, rubber-isolated from the body. Under the hood is a big cast-iron V-8 engine that drives the rear wheels. Inside, there’s room for six.
Thirty years ago, that would have described nearly half of the new cars sold in the United States, but today, Ford is the only domestic automaker left that offers a large, body-on-frame, rear-wheel-drive car. (Chrysler and GM switched to unit-construction bodies and front-wheel drive years ago.) With a base price of $38,500, the Lincoln Town Car is the most luxurious and expensive large car Ford offers. (The Navigator costs more, but it’s a truck, after all.) It may represent the way Detroit used to build cars, but the Town Car is not an antique, thanks to significant revisions this car received for 1998.
The most glaring change to the Town Car in recent memory has been its new and quite radical styling. The former squared-off fenders and roofline have been replaced with a much swoopier body, incorporating some Ford design themes we’ve seen before. The arching roofline and curved C-pillar recall the Lincoln Sentinel show car from 1997. In front there are "cat's-eye" headlamps (another favorite Ford theme) and a prominent chrome grille, following the tradition of Lincoln’s Continental and Navigator.
Photos don’t do this car justice. On the street, it’s more enticing, although we still wouldn’t call the Town Car beautiful. "Bold" is more like it. (You’ll recall we said the same of the Navigator when it came out last year.)
A radical change afoot
Slide behind the wheel, and other changes are obvious. The previous Town Car had lifeless, over-boosted steering; a limp suspension; and a live rear axle that had the tendency to step out around bumpy corners, all of which conspired to discourage brisk driving of any kind. With so much room for improvement, it was easy for engineers to address these problems without increasing the Town Car’s costs very much.