1999 Lincoln Town Car Page 1

Everything old becomes new again at some point. Right now, our pop culture seems to be stuck in a 1940s-style rut. Cigar smoking, three-piece suits and swing dancing are in the midst of revivals, if TV commercials are any barometer.

Could that venerable twilight-years shuttle, the Lincoln Town Car, be the next style signpost for the swinging set? It's retro, in a different way from the Thunderbird coming down the pike. It's massive, rear-wheel drive, and cushy in a way that a Mercedes-Benz wouldn't dream of. It's also styled seamlessly, with a smooth V-8 that could seal its hipster cachet. This is the car any Rat Packer could grow into gracefully.

The Town Car is the last of a breed of traditional American cars. It has body-on-frame construction: besides its lesser siblings, the Mercury Grand Marquis and Ford Crown Victoria, the Town Car is the last car sold in the United States made that way. As a result of that construction method (less expensive that a comparable unibody, in general), Ford makes a boatload of money on the Town Car.

This quintessential American luxury car was redesigned for the 1998 model year. For the redesign, Lincoln engineers looked underneath and ditched the Town Car's floaty-boat ride with decidedly more controlled road manners. With a touring package and the new styling, they tried to make the Town Car appeal to a younger audience. It didn't really work, but it did make the Town Car a better vehicle.

Luxobarge no more
Driving the Town Car still makes one feel somewhat like the captain of a ship. It makes you feel like you own the road. The car feels big, but not so big that you don't feel in control. The Watts-linkage rear suspension is surprisingly good at squelching the mid-corner axle hop that the previous Town Car exhibited. And the Town Car can be hustled with surprising velocity through corners.