Nice looking rides for sure, but Fords/Lincolns during this era were very problematic and unreliable due to their electronics and transmissions.
The 90's weren't any better. Flickery lights, a poor HVAC system that suddenly dies, brake light switch on the brake pedal overheats and burns itself out. Ford PW switches and motors are crappy, weak, and simply don't last very long in Town Cars of that age. Strange electrical gremlins somehow show up to eat at the wiring components and so on. Poor interior quality with lots of cheap plastic used for a luxury car.
You never see these strange problems (at least not electrical) show up on the GM full size B-D body platform vehicles, which consist of the Impala, Caprice, Roadmaster and the Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham, as they were much better built cars IMO, especially the ones equipped with LT1 350 compared to a similar year Town Car.
Not true. I have a friend who owns a 1980s Town Car and I own a 1988 Brougham, I even have a review on it on this site. While a nice car in every respect, the Town Car has had infinitely less issues than my Brougham. On top of that, the Cadillac has a crappy cruise control system, cheap plasticky interior moldings, and overall cheaper materials compared to the Lincoln. I've had endless problems coming from the mechanical and electrical systems, and the Lincoln hasn't been a problem to my friend at all.
Not only that, but the Lincoln has a tougher, harder body shell and much better paint. GM paint is horrible in every way imaginable. It chips, flakes, and needs constant cleaning. Not only that, but the Lincoln's fuel-injected 302 is much superior to the Cadillac's Oldsmobile 307. Although, the Chevy 350 is the best engine put into those cars.
Maybe an early-90s Brougham is superior, due to it being built in Arlington over Detroit, but the 1980s Broughams are definitely not any paragon of build quality.
I can only compare GM vs Ford 80s cars by the Mercury Grand Marquis vs early 80s Oldsmobile Delta 88s/98s and Chevrolet Caprices, and in that case I found both to be excellent, certainly better than anything made today, but definitely the GM products were a bit better overall in terms of reliability/durability.
I think things got a little better in 90, especially with the 91-92 Brougham D'elegance package interiors. I've sat inside both 80's Town Cars and those beautiful D'elegance Broughams, and hands down the Cadillac had the better quality interior. Still, both cars use cheap plastic all over the place, but to me the Brougham interiors had much more detail and style to them vs the Town Cars, plus the materials were softer to the touch and felt thicker...
I too believe that Ford/Lincolns 5.0 engine was ahead of its time, and was superior to Olds 307 motor, but when Cadillac introduced the 350 TBI in 89 or 90, it was a much better improvement over the previous Olds engine. Lincoln used the more modern 4.6 in 91, which triumphed Cadillac's 350 in power and performance, but then in 94 GM came out with the LT1 350, which in every way is much more powerful than Ford's 4.6 Mod motor, and has way more torque to spare for carrying heavy loads. Also IMO the LT1 has less reliability issues than the 4.6, even though the Opti-Spark could cause problems. No oil burning from bad valve guides, or EGR valve clogging on the LT1, nor the problems with the IAC valve sticking, or worries of a dead coil pack. The LT1 was a "performance engine" really made for the Corvette at the time that used "Reverse-flow cooling", which essentially cooled the heads first to allow for higher compression and longer head life.
The main issue is, Fords electronics in those days weren't that good... Just read up on the forums for owners of 80's-90's Town Cars; you see people having all kinds of trouble with their power windows, seat motors, to the climate control system, to the rear air springs and its compressor, loose shifting column, and the list goes on. Everything works great mechanically in Town Cars; it's the other stuff around and inside the car that doesn't last that long it seems, or are just caused by faulty engineering I guess.
The fact remains that the AOD trans wasn't all that good, and self destructed on itself if the plastic bushing broke, compared to GM's THM700R4, which was much more reliable. The AODE's were better, but had a shudder when the miles got high, and had a whine to it. You felt the torque converter engage and disengage when going into OD, which was very annoying. GM's 4L60 and 4L60E trans had none of these problems...
"Just read up on the forums for owners of 80's-90's Town Cars; you see people having all kinds of trouble with their power windows."
7/16 ball bearings is the fix for the weak power window motors.
THM2004Rs are junk, worse than Ford AODs. This is because they weren't truly meant for the large RWD vehicles that GM pressed them into service for. They were intended for smaller vehicles like the Olds Cutlass etc. They could barely pull the weight of the full-sized cars, which hurt reliability. But yeah, the Ford AODs weren't exactly perfect, although there are mods out there to help with the plastic brushing.
I know the 4L60 transmission used on the Cadillacs was the police duty version; very durable. The 350 Cadillacs had a firmer suspension for towing and a lot of police duty parts, which helped reliability and durability. The 305 versions came with the softer suspensions and lighter duty cooling system that was more geared for the average Cadillac buyer.
Yeah, I agree that GM's LT1 is a great engine. I believe that the final Fleetwoods were such refined products that were a marked improvement over the Broughams. A shame they lasted such a short time.
And I'll agree that Cadillac has the better interior over the Lincoln. It was always that way after 1979. The Brougham's interior is much more detailed and nicer looking than the Lincoln. However, while the materials were nicer, they were put together worse than the Lincoln. I've had to fight hard to prevent interior details from falling off. Worse, GM's exterior paint is terrible in every way, and it seems very poorly rustproofed compared to the Lincoln. I've heard that the Wixom plant was ahead of its time on the painting and rustproofing.
My friend hasn't had any electronics issues on his Lincoln yet. Though with these old cars, it's never certain, anything can break at any time. I've heard that Ford A/C sucked though in terms of reliability. GMs are more luxurious, but the Ford Panther cars are tougher in terms of how much punishment they can take in my experience, although both platforms are very durable, so you're basically comparing pretty tough to extremely tough. Not a world of difference in that regard. There are a ton of similarities between the Cadillac Brougham and the Town Car though too.