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How The Lincoln Town Car Became America’s Favorite Ride

1981 Lincoln Town Car

Before It Became Synonymous With “Black Car,” The Town Car Was Still The Pinnacle of Luxury

For decades, the Lincoln Town Car has been synonymous with refined sophistication, success, wealth, and fame. With competition among luxury automobile manufacturers fierce, how did this sleek and powerful car manage to rise above its counterparts and come to dominate the limousine and private car service industry? To answer this question, Prestige Limousine explores the path Lincoln’s iconic vehicle took to become the standard mode of transportation for rockstars, dignitaries, tycoons, and even gangsters, and why today, the Lincoln Town Car remains the most popular choice for both private car service owners and patrons seeking a safe, comfortable, and reliable ride.

The History of the Town Car

Though the title “Town Car” first appeared on a Lincoln custom-made for Henry Ford in 1922, the model name did not re-emerge until 1959, when the Continental Mark IV line of 4-door sedans began using the nameplate to denote the vehicle’s top-of-the-line engineering and luxurious interior. The Town Car nameplate became a permanent fixture on all Continentals in 1969, and by 1981, Lincoln decided to split the vehicle into two separate models: The Lincoln Continental and the Lincoln Town Car. By the mid-80’s, due in large part to its overwhelming popularity, the Town Car had superseded the Continental to become Lincoln’s flagship brand.

A Fortuitous Confluence of Events

Though Town Cars are now prevalent in most major U.S. metropolitan area, the circumstances that vaulted the vehicle to the status of “cultural icon” began in New York City in the 1980’s. Because most city-dwellers did not own cars, commuters relied on the famed N.Y.C. Yellow Cabs to travel around the densely populated urban center; this, however, meant that hailing a cab was nearly impossible during peak hours. To ease the growing pressure from disgruntled citizens sick of standing on street corners, The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission created a “For Hire Vehicle” category in 1982 – what soon became known as “black cars” – that could pick up customers by appointment. Though more expensive, this class of vehicle was also more reliable, more comfortable, and safer – characteristics that appealed to New York’s highly-concentrated population of affluent businessmen, bankers, and publishers who were all willing to pay for the service.


The 1982 Lincoln Town Car

Lincoln’s Town Car Capitalized on the Newly-Created “Black Car” Demographic

To capitalize on this newly-created demographic, automobile manufacturers began targeting New York City cab companies and private car service firms directly. Cadillac, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, and other automotive giants developed large luxury vehicles to compete with the Lincoln’s full-sized Town Car and smaller Continental models, but by 1985, Lincoln began airing a series of brilliant television ads titled “The Valet” (watch the advertisement below!) which reinforced the Town Car’s frontrunner status with the tagline, “What A Luxury Car Should Be.” The campaign was an overwhelming success, and Town Car sales exceeded 90,000 units annually for over a decade thereafter. Far more than simply moving cars, though, “The Valet” established Lincoln as the luxury car for a generation of well-to-do urbanites, and throughout the ’80s and 90’s, the Town Car became ingrained in the culture of major metropolitan areas like New York, Washington D.C., and Chicago.

Matthew McConaughey Poses Next To His Town Car For The Film "The Lincoln Lawyer"

Matthew McConaughey Poses Next To His Town Car For The Film “The Lincoln Lawyer”

Impressive Features Establish The Town Car As An Industry Leader

Lincoln’s success was not based on marketing alone, however; in 1981, the year the Town Car was introduced as a stand-alone model, it featured a number of impressive luxury features like full-function trip computer with digital displays and programmable, 5-digit keypad entry system. The Town Car’s design, too, made it extremely appealing to car service companies – not only did the extremely spacious interior dimensions and self-leveling air suspension give the vehicle the smooth, luxurious-feeling ride that patrons desired, but because it was built using a ladder-style chassis, the Town Car could easily be stretched and converted into a limousine. On top of all this, the Lincoln Town Car was the first production sedan in the world to receive a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Five-Star Crash Ratings in every category, and the powerful V8 engine helped drivers maneuver around precarious situations nimbly and safely.


The Lincoln Town Car Today

Today, the name “Town Car” has become interchangeable with, and in most cities even replaced, the term “black car.” In New York, where the vehicle first rose to dominance in the 1980’s, an estimated 25,000 Town Cars – or roughly 70% of New York City’s 35,000 for-hire fleet – are in operation. Though almost 25 years has passed since Lincoln defined luxury with the Town Car, it continues to be a cultural icon in major metropolitan areas and a favorite among livery companies and passengers alike.

Would you like to know more about Prestige Limousine Service’s fleet of Lincoln Town Cars? Click here for a full list of features and services!