My Curbside Classic: 1997 Lincoln Town Car Signature Series – What A Luxury Car Should Be!

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Editor note: Today’s My CC is by Anthony Gucciardo. In addition to being a Brougham Society member in good standing, he shares my love of the Lincoln Town Car. -TK

It’s 1997 and I am 16 years old. My family was planning a trip from Latham, NY (which is north of Albany) to the New York City/Long Island area for Thanksgiving with relatives. I grew up middle class and my parents tell me my first word ever spoken was “car.” My parents both had decent vehicles in the mid 1990’s but both were aging so I came up with the idea to rent a car for the upcoming trip. My Dad had a 86 Cutlass Supreme with the V8 4 barrel. I loved the sound of the 4 barrel accelerating but something better was soon waiting.

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Years ago when I was about 12 my parents rented a 1992 baby blue Cadillac Sedan DeVille from Alamo where my sister worked. We had a ton of fun driving to New York in that car so I figured we should try and rent again. Little did I know that this Thanksgiving trip would be the start of what would become a long admiration and near obsession with an American Luxury car that has lasted over 20 years and continues until this day.

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It’s the Wednesday before Thanksgiving in 1996 and off to the Albany airport we go. Don’t ask me why but I made reservations with 5 rental agencies and figured we would go with whoever gave us the best car. We first went to Avis who offered us a Chevy Lumina.

It didn’t really jive with us so I walked with my father over to Hertz. I remembered the middle aged woman offering us a Ford Taurus. I told her I had a coupon for a double car class upgrade which would take a full sized car up to a luxury car. As I handed her a coupon, there on the counter was a picture of the makes and models offered by Hertz. I quickly said “how about a luxury car?” The lady looked at her computer and said “OK, I can give you a Lincoln Town Car for $39.99 per day” and we said to do it.

We asked the color and she said it was silver. So far I was very happy. We walked out to the car and there in space 37 (yes I remember the space number) sat this beautiful silver Lincoln Town Car Signature Series with Cordovan leather seats. I remember as soon as I sat in the passenger seat it was just about an instant bond. I knew I had to work hard in my life so I could drive vehicles like this. The car had approximately 18,000 miles on it.

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As we brought the car back to my parents’ house my mother was in the bay window and approved with a thumbs up. I remember my father letting me back up the car in the driveway even though I couldn’t drive yet. I was so impressed with the power and size. We were so excited about this luxury rental car that we left that very night and headed to NYC early. I remember driving down Interstate 87 with my mother and brother in the back seat. They looked so far away. It was so spacious and comfortable and drove like a dream. I remember that digital dashboard and message center including DTE (Distance to Empty).

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Of course that emblem on the front grill was like a star guiding you to where you needed to go. The emblem to me was like KITT in Knight Rider. She didn’t speak of course, but had an immense presence of confidence, commitment, and reliability. By the time we reached the Tappan Zee Bridge I was in love with this car. We arrived at about 10pm in Bayside, Queens. I remember our relatives greeting us and immediately complimenting the car.

For the next 5 days I sat in this car every chance I could. I drove it on the side streets even though I wasn’t licensed. My relatives who were long time Lincoln lovers also took her for a spin and agreed she was a great vehicle. The Holiday ended and I was pretty depressed to have to give that car back. We had put 570 miles on the car and returned it with 0 Miles on the DTE as we purchased the fuel option pay in advance. I was sad to leave the car, but what could I do? I was 16 with no money and no license.

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For the next year and half I would badger my parents to take me to the Lincoln Dealer (ED: This sounds like me!). They enjoyed the car as well. I don’t think they loved it as much as I did, but they respected the product. My father who is a GM guy and loves Corvettes had some comments about the car here and there but did show the vehicle respect as well. He agreed the Cadillacs in the late 1990’s were not as nice.

I loved the Lincoln Town Car so much that in the summer of 1997 I got a job at Lazare Lincoln Mercury. I was a car washer but after the dealer found out I was only 17, I was told I couldn’t drive the cars off the lot. It was upsetting but just washing the cars was still great for me. I only lasted two weeks because they needed someone who could drive the cars under the insurance. This would motivate me later in my life to succeed.

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In February 1998 after months of pestering and visits to Lincoln dealers, my mother bought a 1996 Lincoln Town Car Executive in Vibrant White over saddle leather. I still have the VIN number memorized. It was 1LNLM81W0TY615569. Coincidentally it was a former Hertz Rental Vehicle which came out of Orlando, Florida and sold at auction in the New England region. I used to take the car in for service and I would recite the VIN # off the top of my head to the service adviser. The service guys probably thought there was something wrong with me especially that I was 60 years younger than any of the owners in the waiting room.

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We had a lot of fun with the Town Car and I remember when the new body style came out in 1998 I was disappointed. My mother put some decent miles on the car as did I. I took it to school and my High School prom and to the car wash daily. In the year 2000 I told the Lincoln dealer we were looking to trade it in on another Lincoln. The 96 had 42k miles on it. A few months later my mother upgraded to a 1997 Lincoln Town Car signature with the 16” chrome wheels that you rarely see.

It had sunroof, compass, and memory seats. That VIN was 1LNLM82W9VY716255 and yes I till this day I have all VIN’s memorized. Another beautiful Lincoln but as times changed my mother wanted a smaller car. I sold my mother’s 97 to Bill Campbell from Texas. He too was a Lincoln enthusiast and still owns the car present day. I remember when my mother leased her Mercedes C240 I was in front of her as we drove home, and I said to myself that car doesn’t have anything on a Lincoln Town Car.

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I never forgot the love I had for Lincolns. I started in real estate at 22 after working for a Mercedes, Jaguar, and BMW dealer. Those years spent in the car business created another long time admiration for the Jaguar XJ8 and Vanden Plas. To me the Jaguar sedan was like a very fancy Town Car and of course at that time Jaguar was owned by Ford.

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As my business grew and I became financially secure it was time for some toys. In 2008 I was searching on Autotrader.com. I thought it would be great to find a Town Car that I could just store and take out to reminisce about the good ole days. I came across a Silver 97 Town Car Signature with the Cartier wheels that was traded in from an estate sale. It had 24k miles on it and was listed as showroom condition and like no other in existence. I gave a deposit and flew to Chicago to verify what I was reading.

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The funny thing is as we were approaching Chiacgo O’Hare I am looking out the window and there I see the huge HONDA logo at a dealership below. Next to the sign there was parked the beautiful Town Car. I knew that had to be a sign this was the car for me. The dealer picked me up and drove me to see the car. When I sat in it, it was total awesomeness. It smelled new, had factory plastic still on some seat belts. It was just beyond mint. Original Michelin XW4 tires, original keys. Everything was just perfect.

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Later that day I flew back to Albany and the next morning I flew my father out to Chicago to drive the car home. I am not into driving long distances so my father helped me out. He called to say “the car was good” He said it was definitely close to perfect. He made it home in about 10 hours and the car has been with me ever since. There have been no issues with car except the window regulator which was replaced. I put about 4000 miles on it in 5 years and change oil once a year.

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As someone who has owned multiple S550 sedans, several Jaguars, and 2 Rolls Royce Ghost’s, I wouldn’t say it’s the best car ever built or most technologically advanced vehicle on the road. Are you going to impress someone with a Town Car, I would say no? It was simple American luxury without the in your face monstrous type Escalade grills that we see aspiring reality TV show wives driving today.

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The Lincoln Town Car is and will always be the benchmark of American Luxury with a presence like no other. The car fit in amongst the best whether in front of a country club, cruising down A1A in Ft. Lauderdale, or chauffeuring people down Park Ave in Manhattan. I was perfectly content when the fuel distance reached 50 miles and the dash beeped and flashed 3 times. I loved the door & trunk ajar chime, and the sound of the power locks locking when driving off. The electronic trunk was awesome as well.

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The Town Car’s distinctively understated shape and instantly recognizable approach is as much a part of my childhood as it is many cities’ landscape. I have no plans to ever sell my car despite being offered double what I paid. I think the best way I can describe it is that something’s you just can’t explain and although Town Cars are not for everyone, the memories I have will last a life time.

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Related:

1986 Lincoln Town Car Signature Series

1994 Lincoln Town Car Signature Series

1997 Lincoln Town Car Executive Series

2000 Lincoln Town Car Cartier