Car Show Classic: 1982 Lincoln Town Car – Honey, I Shrank The Lincoln!


Hangovers cannot be explained to the uninitiated.  After a good long period of having pure merriment, you awake to find yourself regretting having ever been born.  Despite all your desire to curl up and disappear, you cannot; your only alternative is to get up and make the best of it.  What’s over is over, it’s time to face the music, the fat lady has sung – all of those tired cliches now come into play.


Lincoln had its own hangover in 1980.  The late 1970’s had been very good to the Lincoln Division with the Mark V selling over 72,000 units annually from 1977 to 1979,

1978 Lincoln Continental-03

and the four door Continental selling around the 70,000 mark for those same years.

Then the ugly monster of a hangover set in for 1980; it’s name was CAFE.

Lincoln was courteous enough to ease everyone into the letdown.  Well, perhaps that’s arguable, but the King Kong of Ford big blocks – the 7.5 liter, 460 cubic inch V8 – was terminated at the end of 1978, leaving only the 159 horsepower 400 cubic inch V8 as motivation in 1979.  Think of it as that hiccup you get at the height of inebriation; you know what’s coming next and it will certainly put a damper on the fun.

1980 Lincoln Continental-03

Enter the 1980 Lincoln Continental.

This is the Lincoln that comes about after the doctor tells you to lose weight since you’ve been drinking too many empty calories and have become way to portly.  Knowing you need to lose some of that beer belly, and knowing Dr. Uncle Sam has a lot of influence, the folks at Lincoln put the Continental on a serious weight loss program (a reaction can be found here).

Ten inches of wheelbase and a half-ton later, along with being bolted to a Panther platform, the new Continental (rechristened as Town Car for the ’81 model year) offered as much interior room as it ever had.  Motivation, if you want to call it that, was by a 129 horsepower 302 or, in 1980 only, a 140 horsepower 351 cubic inch V8.  Drag racers they were not.

1982 Lincoln Town Car-08-08 - Version 2

Initial reaction by the buying public was much akin to the reaction one gets after losing one-quarter of their body weight:  It looked good but people didn’t recognize it.  This, mixed and stirred with a putrid economy in the United States, helped drive Lincoln sales downwards by around two-thirds.  The only silver lining in that otherwise gray cloud was everybody else’s sales were down also.  Lincoln would rebound for 1982, the year of our featured car.

I found this particular Lincoln at the Loafer’s Car Show in Hannibal.  Lincoln, the creator of the seemingly never ending array of designer series cars in the 1970’s, was keeping the tradition going with 1982 having base, Signature Series, and Cartier Edition Town Cars for one’s motoring pleasure.

Seeing this Lincoln was a welcome sight amongst all the modified Hupmobiles, Camaro’s, and late model stuff that I didn’t bother with.

1978 Plymouth Volare-09

Back when my parent’s owned their most awesome ’78 PlymouthVolare, I got to spend many Saturday’s with my father at the Chrysler dealer for warranty work.  It was about this time the dealer hedged its bets and branched out into a Ford-Lincoln-Mercury franchise.  Of course, I always sat in each of the three cars in the showroom where there was always a Lincoln Town Car in one corner, a Chrysler Fifth Avenue in the other, and a wildcard parked behind the Chrysler.

What I then took as the quiet sophistication and overall elegance of this generation of Lincoln Town Car has always stuck with me.  I even remember one particular Lincoln that was about this same color with a badge on it that said “Automatic Overdrive”.  I thought the Town Car was the height of opulence; this thought was only enhanced when

1982 worlds fair

I attended the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee.  What should be parked in the garage of the “Home of Tomorrow” exhibit?  None other than a Lincoln Town Car in the very color of our featured Town Car.  And, wonder of wonders, it had a cellular telephone mounted in it; just hit a button and talk into the sun visor!  It seemed Buck Rogers might even be envious.

This version of Town Car stuck around throughout the 1980’s, its only revision being a tweak of the corners for 1985.  During that decade, as Lincoln would sell scads of these, I maintained my complete and utter awe of these cars.  Being fortunate enough to ride in a number of them, it was the type of car I strived to possess as an adult.  Yet when the thoroughly redesigned 1990 model arrived, these suddenly looked so last decade and like a shirt that had been left in the dryer too long.