Just before Ford downsized the Continental for 1980 and made the Town Car a separate model for 1981, the biggest and plushest new sedan in the Dearborn universe was the mighty Continental Town Car. Here’s one from 1978, the second-to-last model year of the two-and-a-half-ton Continental Town Car, found in nice condition in a Denver car graveyard last month.
This car rolled out of the Lincoln showroom loaded, with the landau-style “Coach Roof” and just about every additional option.
Base price on the 1978 Continental with the Town Car package started at $11,606 (about $48,350 in 2020 dollars), but this car cost much more than that. A new Mercedes-Benz S-Class cost better than twice as much that year (and it was worth it), but you still had to be a heavy-duty high-roller to buy a new ’78 Town Car.
The base engine in the 1978 Continental was a 400-cubic-inch (6.6-liter) V8 making a grim 166 horsepower, a truly horrific ratio of 25.2 horsepower per liter of displacement (torque came to a respectable 319 lb-ft, though). If the new Navigator got 25.2 horses for each liter in its turbo V6, it would have a mere 88 horsepower to haul its nearly three tons, rather than the 450 horses that 21st-century engine technology gives us.
The good news with this car is that it came with the optional 460-cubic-inch (7.5-liter) V8, rated at 210 horsepower and 357 lb-ft. That was sufficient to get this car’s 4,660 pounds moving well enough. Still just 28 horses per liter, but a significant upgrade.
These cars weren’t about performance, however. They were about a silent, cushy ride and poofy seats that swallowed you in velour comfort.
When did Detroit stop making these pillow-top seats?
And opera lights?
And snazzy “coffin-handle” door pulls?
Yes, even the wire wheels (a $333 option, or $1,385 today) stayed on this car to the very end.
Why get a Rolls-Royce when you could have this, the grille of this behemoth seems to ask us.
Though it remained in good condition when it arrived in its final parking space, a Malaise Era Continental sedan just isn’t worth much in the enthusiast world. Even a 1978 Mark V in nice shape would be hard-pressed to find a forever home nowadays.
At least it had a chance to visit the Norman Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts before the end.
In what came to look like a very smart move by Ford, in light of certain geopolitical events in 1979, the Panther-based 1980 Continentals weighed nearly a half-ton less than this car. They lost a lot of presence when they shed that bulk, unfortunately.
Ford downsized its land yachts slightly later than GM, and played up the heft of the final huge Continentals in the advertising.