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.