I totally agree with you on "luck of the draw". I have a friend that bought at 1992 Town Car with 180,000 miles... same engine... same trans, and it never encountered these problems at all. I think it all depends on 2 things... whoever owned it from new... and secondly the factory. Could have been not just perfectly at specs when it rolled off the floor... causing it to fail in later years.
We're talking about a 18 year old car here. At that age, any car, and especially one that sounds to have been doing a lot of sitting in a garage for most of its life, I'm not surprised it could have issues. A lot of things happens when a car isn't driven a lot. Seals, bushings, tires, and hoses will dry rot or become brittle. Seals can start to leak. Valves and other mechanical things can become sticky or gummed up.
You might try running a more viscous oil, like 10W-40 if you're using 10W-30 for example. Often times that can limit the oil burning.
My family has had a number of Town Cars, starting in 1984. All have been totally flawless. I also hate the air ride versions, and would recommend switching to regular springs.
I have owned a 1979 Continental, a 1982 Continental, a 1985 Town Car, a 1988 Town Car and a 1989 Town Car. All flawless and went over 200,000 miles, and still ran as good as the day I bought them.
The 90-96 Lincolns are a far cry from those models. The air ride is horrid, the windows (which were always troublesome) became worse, and the 4.6 V8s most of the time burn oil at under 100,000 miles.
In the early 90's models, the A/C and climate control buttons rubbed totally off.
And worst of all were the transmissions. The torque converter in almost every 90's model fails. I've had a 91 and a 1996, and both had the same issues.
The 90-97 models are still very capable of exceeding 300,000 miles, and the 4.6 V8 is much more powerful than the 5.0. Each engine had its ups and downs, and the 5.0 leaked oil from just about every gasket. Water pumps were very common, and the transmissions were no better.
"I've had a '91 and a '96, and both had the same issues."
Was the trans fluid ever changed?
The older Lincoln Continental's from the 70's were so superior in every way to the 90's Town Cars, that they don't even compare. Sure the modern stuff in the 4.6 engine is ultra smooth and reliable, but the AOD and AODE trannys are crap, and aren't as reliable as a true brute, the C6. The electrical stuff was bad in the 90's models, weak power window switches and motors, horribly unreliable HVAC system, air ride issues. You don't hear much of any issues with older models.
The 400M is a weak motor, but they are also reliable without major issues. The size and ride quality of a 70's Linc also blows away the 80's and 90's Townies easily. The 70's Conti's feel like you are driving inside of a tomb in complete isolation; they are amazing.
To answer the above comments left... Yes, the transmission fluids were changed religiously in the ones mentioned, and still the torque converter fails in both models that I have owned...
I have to agree with the person with the 70's Continental comments... they were excellent and don't hold a candle to today's quality.
Another thing I would like to mention in this forum, is my cousin who lives a considerable distance from me, also owns a 1996 Lincoln Town Car... She bought the car at almost new with 22,000 original miles on it... Always loving Lincoln's all her life, she maintained this vehicle down to every last detail regardless of the expense. It too at 88,000 miles had transmission torque converter failure.
She had the total transmission replaced by Lincoln... from 88,000 - 100,000 the car ran as always, but suffered window issues as most of them do... Again at 130,000 miles, the transmission developed a shuttering rumble when climbing or going up a gradient. She took her car to be looked at and the dealer recommended an additive to the transmission on the scheduled transmission change. This was done. The car went about another 7,000 miles without the rumble shutter effect and then came back...
Since then, she sold the car at 140,000 miles and didn't really want to keep spending money on a problem that just never seemed to be fixed... Especially under no abuse or bad driving conditions.
There are a lot of worse cars out there as far as reliability... Most of this era's Town Cars did run decent, and most of the time were 75% reliable to own.
CarSurvey.org is a great website for car experiences and valuable information when thinking of purchasing a used car. Everyone has their opinions. Some may be great, others not so great. But you get an overall conclusion. When it comes to the 90-96 Town Cars, I think the overall conclusion are they are OK... but expect the known transmission torque converter failure.
Yes, the motoring world has certainly evolved. But for the better? I think not.
Of course, would a car like the 79 Continental, averaging around 12 MPG, fare well in a world of close to $4 per gallon fuel? Probably not. But change out of necessity is not necessarily good change, and most of the cars on the market today are purchased out of economic necessity. Very few people buy cars anymore because the styling appeals to them, or because it will impress the neighbors, or because it is like riding on a cloud. Today by and large, people buy cars because they are cheap to buy and maintain, period. It is what it is, but I would go back to the automotive world of the 50s-70s any day over today.
The comparison isn't how old the car is... The comparison is: these cars were made better with less issues. You didn't hear of the crazy transmission issues or torque converter failures in the 70's Town Car or Mark models. Nor air rides blowing out, causing the car to sag to the ground. Yes, you are correct many of the 70's models are rusted out boat anchors today.... But as time progresses, so won't today's models be. The comparison is that during the normal life span, the older models didn't have these issues.
As far as the Lincolns from the 70's being better compared to the 80's and 90's; yes, this may be true, but this also applies to all the other full-size luxury cars such as Cadillac. In all honesty, the last true Fleetwood/DeVille was the 1981 model year with the 368 CID engine (yes, even with the troublesome 4-6-8, which could be disconnected). It's a shame that the 1982-1985 rear-drive Caddys are to be avoided due to the awful HT 4100 motor. The Olds 307 motor used from 1986-1990 was a good alternative and much more reliable, but it was slow and not a Cadillac built engine. Also there was no coupe available after 1985.
In my opinion Lincoln deserves a lot more credit with the Town Cars from the 80's and 90's, because they retained the tradition of rear wheel drive, comfort and of course reliability. I also feel that the 4.6 was better than the 5.0. I have worked on cars for years, and find that the 5.0 had a few more hereditary repairs than the 4.6. The torque converter was always an issue through this era with both engines; there is a reason that there is a drain plug on them, and if you change out 100% of the fluid every 40k, chances are you won't have a problem. This is the biggest issue I ever had with my '96 TC; other than that, for the 6 years that I have owned it, it has been great with very few minor issues at almost 180,000 miles now.
I have seen many 90's Town Cars make it to 300,000 miles and still run great, and yes some had a tranny rebuild, or some suspension components replaced, and window regulators, but even a Lincoln from the 70's with that kind of mileage would also experience the same thing.
I myself am a true fan of Cadillac and 70's Pontiac Grand Prixes, and one day hope to own a 1980 Coupe DeVille for fun, but for an every day car I would definitely buy a newer Town Car if my '96 ever decides to quit.