And yet now Ford is doing what millions of potholes, hundreds of thousands of ham-fisted drivers, and untold hours fighting stop-and-go traffic couldn't accomplish. In August, the assembly line in Ontario, Canada, will close and production of the Town Car will cease. Ford hopes to replace it with a livery version of the Lincoln MKT crossover. But in the black-car world, the prospect of the old warhorse's imminent demise has generated doom and gloom in equal measures. "It's crazy that they're getting rid of it," says longtime driver David Goldstein, whose last three Town Cars have gone 377,000 miles, 370,000 miles, and 300,000 miles, respectively. "They want us to go to something smaller. But we need a big car with a big trunk -- and one that's easy to repair." Adds fellow chauffeur Alex Reyf: "There's nothing else that can stand up to the beating cars take in New York."
Ironically, the features that make the Town Car so appealing to the black-car industry -- which is to say the very reasons that it's so inexpensive and nearly indestructible -- have rendered it irrelevant to just about everybody else. Outside of the commercial world, there's no market for a car featuring an obsolete body-on-frame chassis, an inefficient V-8 engine, and rear-wheel drive with a live rear axle. Retail sales are barely a blip on the radar, and the commercial sector doesn't represent enough volume to justify Ford keeping an assembly line open. In an era that obsesses over minimizing carbon footprint while maximizing value, the Town Car is a dinosaur long overdue for extinction. "It was the right vehicle for its time," says Gerry Koss, Ford's fleet marketing manager. "But you know what? Times change."
Still, after its long career squiring around celebrities and captains of industry, the Town Car deserves a final turn in the spotlight before it succumbs to evolution. Although it was restyled in 1990 and again in 1998, the Town Car has always been based on the same Panther platform that underpinned the Ford Crown Victoria and the Mercury Grand Marquis. When the Town Car first appeared as a distinct model in 1981, American roads were full of cars designed around the same basic template, and if the Town Car's full figure seems bloated to modern eyes, that's only because others cars, like the movies in Sunset Boulevard, have gotten smaller.