click to enlarge The last of the luxury land yachts.
The last of the luxury land yachts.
 

I have long had an affinity for sedans.



Couches on wheels, made in America, the bigger the better. My love affair with cars no one else wants began with a optioned-out 1974 Ford LTD Brougham, baby blue with navy vinyl top. Strictly speaking, it was a coupe, having two doors, but at 19 feet long, it was just two feet shorter than the convertible that carried Kennedy, and that was after the Ford Motor Company added 42 inches to make room for Secret Service agents, the governor of Texas and spouses.

I paid $750, and not because I wanted a land yacht. At the time, I needed a reliable car and saw not much point in buying anything fancy, as if my bank account would allow it. I was after the best cheap car available, and the LTD proved perfect. After rebuilding the engine and transmission, the prior owner had decided to tour America in a Winnebago that could not possibly tow a Ford LTD Brougham, for which there was not much demand. I drove that gas hog for nearly five years before abandoning it at a filling station, unable to get it started due to gremlins in the electrical system that kept getting worse even as the odometer rolled past 240,000 miles.

I’ve owned many cars since then, mostly $500-or-so vehicles, a dicey gamble for someone who does not know how to work on cars. I have had misses. Do not buy a 1976 Grenada in a bar for $100 from someone you’ve never met, even if it does have a 302 and no rust or body damage. The hood might fly open en route home, where you might find a lake of water under the radiator come morning. Ignore the low miles on that 1993 Buick Century and think about the mysterious noise coming from the front end. And if you favor $500 cars, always buy more than one, because you will need backup.

There have been, fingers crossed, more successes than failures. Always, I will remember the 1968 Dodge Monaco I first saw on a foggy night. The moon was full, and it appeared, parallel parked, like an apparition out of the mist. There was a “For Sale” sign in the window, as if this was destiny, and so, come morning, I bought it for $400, even though I did not need another car. Three inches shorter than my beloved LTD but with four doors, it seemed not that big, but, really, it was, and I might still own it. For a few years, the title went back and forth between myself and a friend, depending on who needed transportation, and we eventually lost track. I last saw it in a field.


The best car I’ve ever owned was a 1994 Ford Taurus I found at a garage sale in a fancy subdivision. I paid $500 -- I suspect the owner wanted it out of his driveway so neighbors wouldn’t stare, plus he wrongly thought it needed a water pump. After 50,000 miles, I sold it for $1,500.

The Taurus, despite a shredded headliner, spoiled me. From cruise control to electric windows to ice-cold air conditioning to a working stereo, that car had it all, and I still miss it. And so, even though I have a perfectly fine pickup, I have been searching for a Lincoln Town Car, our nation’s last big luxury car.

After 30 years, they quit making Town Cars in 2011, and the world is worse off. The air suspension, until airbags spring leaks and your ride becomes a sinkin’ Lincoln, is sublime. The motor is insufficient for a vehicle that weighs nearly three tons, but engines and transmissions in Town Cars are legendary for reliability and longevity. Moon roofs. Heated mirrors and seats. Leather upholstery. Climate control. Spinnaker, Cartier, Jack Nicklaus – trim names are Great Gatsby-esque.

Phooey to backup cameras. I prefer a six-CD changer in the trunk, but that cost extra back in the day, when a base model Town Car started at $40,000. Now, they can be had for south of five grand, with low miles and no rust, particularly in Florida, where Craigslist pops with Town Cars once owned by folks whose heirs have different tastes. And so, one day, I will have one, maybe even before my Toyota wears out.

ROSARIO REDUX: I owe an apology to Sangamon County state’s attorney Dan Wright, whom I wrongly criticized in last week’s column for being too hard on Samuel Rosario, the erstwhile Springfield police officer who last week was sentenced to probation after being found guilty of official misconduct for pummeling an east side youth in 2017. Rosario, it turns out, might have gotten a break and escaped a felony conviction if he’d agreed to never again be a cop. But he refused, Wright and defense counsel revealed at sentencing last week, and so plea negotiations broke down. Rosario, I think, is a good but troubled man who served his country well, but he has no business being a police officer. It is unfortunate that it took a felony conviction instead of a plea bargain to accomplish that, and it is entirely Rosario’s fault.


Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

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