COAL: 1978 Lincoln Continental Town Car – Looking For Reasons For Your Existence When There Is Nothing Else Left.

And now: the final COAL, so far. It’s a familiar story: someone makes an attempt to go buy a car that they don’t need for all the money they have, for a bunch illogical and irrational reasons that they’ve convinced themselves are true or realistic, without caring about the fact they could end up completely broke. But I remembered this story; I had cleared this path before, even during the times I didn’t want to, but last time I didn’t give myself much choice. Now I had a choice. My perceptions had changed, the world around me had become angry and confused, but I knew this car could change things, even if the change was only for a short time, only about three months.

At the beginning of August last year I was watching my Oldsmobile begin to deteriorate pretty badly; even the interior plastic door handle on the drivers side had broken so I had to crawl out the passengers side, and I knew eventually it would be the same with the Roadmaster wagon since it was also 90’s plastic. The ’64 Chrysler would be fine, but it still needed mechanical work and wasn’t ready to be a daily driver. The Cutlass had also developed some serious timing chain rattle so I realized the it was only a matter of time before it went out, and with 194k miles, I didn’t see much of a point changing it since I didn’t have the tools to work on it or want to spend a lot of money.

So we had three cars, but two of them were not currently drivable for different reasons, so me and my mom had to take turns using the wagon. That proved to be difficult due to the fact that sometimes we were both busy, therefore one of us had to wait to do our tasks or go to an event. My automotive hobby had become self-destructive; we had three cars but due to the lack of will, tools and a safe place to park and work on them, we only had the function of one. And in the short term it might’ve been better and less expensive to repair both cars, but after some thinking, I decided that I should do one last car purchase instead, and it had to be the best option that was out there. But what car should I go for? And why?

The big problem I faced was that the vehicle had to be somewhat safe and have a long life ahead of it at the same time. Not that the wagon won’t last a long time, but after 20 or 30 years the interior will start to crack apart like the Oldsmobile’s interior, and I didn’t want the next car to have that weakness, at least not as badly. But was there a car out there like that? That I could fix myself, keep forever, enjoy driving, always be reliable, get good gas mileage and can handle a car accident relatively well? Well, I doubt the perfect car actually exists, but either way I didn’t want to mess this up, not this time. No more rust and no more modifications; this vehicle had to be bone stock with hopefully no rust.

First I looked into the 1980s category to see my options, which were mostly trucks or a Surburbans. But the problem was I didn’t know what I would use it for, as I never hauled anything large or had any places to go off road around where I live, and while we did get a lot of snow during the winter time it wasn’t bad enough to need a 4WD vehicle. It’s true that they were big and comfortable, and the size would give me a lot of space and it would be safer than full-size car a car from the same time period. But the MPG wouldn’t be that good and I couldn’t find a low mileage one, I know high mileage for a Surburban or a truck from the era isn’t that bad, but I didn’t want to take any chances with something that had over 200k miles.

So it seemed that the 1980s just wasn’t fitting the bill, as the cars I found were either too small or underpowered. And I needed a car that was large, but what other generation of car would I go looking for? I already had a 1960s and 1990s car, and anything from the 1950s or 1940s would probably either need a ton of work or possibly end up being a failed experiment like the Chrysler, so I looked to the 1970s for the best secondary daily driver. There were plenty of big and comfortable cars in the 1970s, but would they be reliable or even in relatively good condition? Would I be able to find one with low miles without rust for the same amount of money I paid for the Chrysler?

Basically my thought process at the time.


Now, I have a feeling that some of you are thinking that clearly I didn’t learn anything from last time I bought a classic car and that I’m making a massive mistake, because while I have plenty knowledge about automobiles, it seems that I wasn’t putting any of that knowledge to use. And truthfully at the time I wasn’t, I didn’t want to wait another year to choose a car and I knew this could be unsuccessful, but still I had confidence that I could find a reliable 1970s car. Or maybe even a 1979-81 Chrysler R-body, and it’s not that I don’t like brougham coupes or muscle cars from the same era, but I wanted something big with 4 doors and a V8.

Ok, so no luck finding an R-body at all, that’s fine honestly, because one Chrysler is more than enough from my experience. But around this time it was getting hard to find good deals as they were popping up less and less, so it seemed that I had a limited amount of time to make a choice. At this time I didn’t even know what my budget would be, my guess that if me and my mom put together everything we had, we could swing around $5k, which I figured would be enough to get us a decent vehicle. What may surprise you is that my mom actually agreed to doing this, even though we wouldn’t have any rainy day funds after this.

I’ll tell you exactly what she told me when I asked her why she was willing to do this. “I think it would be a good store of value and it’s a good long term plan, and I want you to be happy because there may be a time when you can no longer buy a car like this. I don’t want you to spend your life wondering what it would have been like, the economy is crashing anyway, let’s use the money to buy something that will at least hold it’s value. I see it as an opportunity, and if you feel good about doing this, then who am I to stop you? To learn to grow you need challenges, and if we’re almost out of money, maybe you’ll finally be able to get a steady job and support me in my old age.” (I’m still trying to get one, the turnover rate here is terrible.)

So I started looking once more, and while most of the 1970s cars for sale I found were “Malaise” cars, it didn’t bother me at all since it wasn’t going to be fast. It was going to be big, luxurious, reliable, and just alright on gas. Because the best you could get was around 15-18 mpg in mid-size or full-size car from the 1970s. Which isn’t that bad to me honestly, and besides not all of them were as slow as people thought, they just had lower compression, smaller camshafts, catalytic converters, and a HP rating system that changed in 1972 from gross to net. Thus causing a drop in power in multiple ways that wasn’t just emissions, but the engines weren’t as weak as they appeared to be on paper.

I would actually consider these cars from a “Low Compression” era rather than a “Malaise” era, not that things were great at the time but I don’t think the 1970s was the worst time in American automobile history, I actually would give that award to the current 2020s, which I know it’s a bit early to judge the current decade, but that’s just my opinion based on what I’ve seen come out of the auto industry so far, so I guess only time will tell. And yes, there were plenty of bad cars in the 1970s that were unsafe, unreliable, bad on gas, ugly, etc. But you can avoid those types of cars and find some of the better models with higher quality, and that was exactly what I was planning on doing.

Now, how to go about doing this: I did spend some actual time looking and there were plenty of late 70s vehicles of all makes and models, some were decent and some were not. But I had no problem finding any sort of Fords, Lincolns, or Mercurys. GM vehicles were mostly Trucks, Corvettes, Camaros, Cadillacs, and the occasional Pontiac and El Camino. The Chrysler products I found was also mostly trucks, 2 and 4 door B-bodies, a few C-bodies and maybe if you were lucky a Dodge aspen was in the mix. Now, to find a version of one of those cars with low milage and no rust for under $5k…….uhhhhh…….well, the good news is you still have some options.

This Newport is still for sale for the asking price of $3,500 if anyone wants to check it out.


Though the price really narrowed all of them down, I was still able to find some low mileage examples, but when it came down to 4 doors with a big V8 without rust or high mileage, I only had a few options to chose from at the time. Look, I know I said one Chrysler is more than enough but there was this blue 1973 Chrysler Newport with 49k original miles (picture above), and a 1976 green Chrysler Newport with 76k original miles. There was other options but those were the only two people who actually responded to the messages I sent them asking about the car. And so at first it seemed I was going to go for the blue Newport, but another car popped up for sale that really interested me.

So the Newport had rust at the lower panels, just surface rust mind you but rust nonetheless, and it had the heater core but it wasn’t installed, so if would’ve been freezing during the winter. So when a beige 1978 Lincoln Continental Town Car with 55k original miles popped up and didn’t have any visible rust and everything working, I wanted to know just to see how good of condition it was actually in. The ad had only been up for a day so I knew if this car was legit, it was gonna be swiped up quickly, what I didn’t know was how lucky I was have this car pop up, because this turned out to be the exact car I was looking for.

Now, I already my eye on other similar year Continentals, but this one looked far better than all the others for the money, and the owner was a motivated seller. The reason he was selling was because he ended up deciding that he wanted an earlier model Lincoln with the suicide doors, and his wife wanted it out of the driveway because he owns a motorcycle shop in Kennewick WA called Canyon Country Cycle, thus he already had a bunch of motorcycles and ATVs. He said the tires were old (Oh great, I’m going to have to buy new tires AGAIN) and the automatic door locks didn’t work but other than that everything else was functional and working.

I had never seen a Lincoln with a tow hitch before then either, but it may come in handy in the future.


But one of the main things that I was worried about was the vinyl top, because after years of hard rain and snow they rot pretty badly, and I didn’t want that to be a problem. But he said that the top was like new, that it was even still soft, and the main reason for that the car was stored in a rich man’s shop for 23 years next to a bunch of other vehicles, which was also the reason for the low miles. It seemed logical so I thought we could maybe visit both the Chrysler and the Lincoln in one trip, and then make a decision on what we wanted to buy. But each vehicle had their pros and cons, so I had to think about it for a few days.

My mom however loved the Lincoln by far, and said that she had a good feeling about the car and that we should just get it before anyone else does. And when I compared both cars I realized she was right, the Lincoln was just better in almost every way. And she didn’t want me to make the same mistake again. Even though I kinda wanted to live out my Blues Brothers fantasy in a 1970s Mopar, I had to admit the Lincoln was just the better car to get, and this would end up being even more true when I would go see it. Because let’s face it, in the northwest it’s get cold during the winter, so you can live without AC here, but it’s not good to live without a heater.

This time it would only be a 150 mile trip, no more 400 mile journeys if I could avoid it. It was early September so it was still sunny and warm, and the wagon being the perfect road trip car made it easy. We got there around noon and the Lincoln was parked in the front lot as the owner had been driving it to work every day, he was also kind enough to let have a look at it before anyone else did. It was clean on the inside and out, other than the surprisingly high amount of small dents and paint scratches that were almost on every side of the car, which I’m guessing was from the old owner having trouble parking it on a normal basis, but test driving it was wonderful, and it was actually just like he said.

Yes, it had only idiot lights for everything except the speedo and gas, it has a vinyl top that I’ll have to put a tarp on to keep from getting destroyed during the rain and snow, and it’s a hardtop so I can’t use the window to close the door. But…it has the big 460 with the original stickers and it actually only had 45k original miles; it ran so smoothly, and it was so very comfortable. It was no question that this was the car to buy, I wasn’t going to have to wait because I already made my decision, and so after the test drive we got the money and paid him in cash. And after saying our farewells we went to a gas station to grab some food and fill the car up, thankfully the Lincoln has a pretty big tank.

The drive home was great. The car felt almost perfect, just as it was supposed to feel with the window down with the radio on, it was so good in fact I didn’t see my mom behind me waving and flashing the lights. I later pulled over at a rest stop thinking she was just tired, when it turned out the wagon was almost bone dry, and the gas light had been on for around 20 minutes at this point, I never though that it would even be an issue considering when we left that morning with half a tank. We just barely made it to another fuel station before the wagon completely dried out, it just never occurred to me that the wagon would even need to stop for fuel, maybe the gas gauge wasn’t on point as I thought.

I’m sure you all see the irony in the big gas guzzling Lincoln not needing gas on the way home but rather the Buick, but to be fair I put $40 of gas into the Lincoln before we left, I just never thought we would need to fill up the other car because it got such good mileage, but I guess to be fair it was an 300 mile round trip, and neither me or my mom ended realizing it until we were on our way back home. But other than that it was thankfully uneventful, we got home and I hadn’t been so happy to have bought a car since I bought the Chrysler the year before, but this time I had clearly made a much better and more thoughtful decision, it probably still even has the catalytic converter…I think.

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