Posted by: Jerry Garrett | December 30, 2018

SCHITT’S CREEK: What’s That Car?

Two faded icons: Johnny Rose and his luxo-barge (Schitt’s Creek PR Photo)

SCHITT’S CREEK, Canada

The Rose family, the protagonists on the hilarious Schitt’s Creek television series, entered their latest season with a distinctive new car. Well, it’s not new, it’s actually 40 years old.

What is it?

It’s a 1979 Lincoln Continental Town Car.

It’s a worthy choice. And like a lot of what goes on in the series, full of symbolism and deeper meaning. It’s also littered with “Easter Eggs” – as the automotive press likes to call them – little surprises meant to delight.

Take, for instance, the official-looking license plate. It reads along the top margin: “Township of Elmdale” – the fictional Schitt’s Creek’s upscale and equally imaginary neighbor. The bottom line says, “Pine Beetle Capital”. If you know anything at all about forest management, the pine, or bark, beetle is the scourge of the backwoods – devouring millions of square miles of choice timber.

But I digress (as usual).

What are the cues that give away the Rose’s coveted luxo-barge?

Mostly notably, I’d say, is the distinctive, faux Rolls-Royce waterfall grille, the peek-a-boo headlights, dog dish-style hubcaps, and rococo vinyl Landau-style half-roof (with “opera window”). All those features appeared on different models, different years and even different makes of cars, but all of them together? Only the 1979 Continental Town Car.

Speaking of mash-ups, that 1979 model was also the last year of the “Continental Town Car” nameplate combo platter. The Continental and Town Car went their separate ways into the annals of automotive history after that.

That year, 1979, also marked the end of the true land yacht; the Continental Town Car, at 233 inches in length, was the last big American car ever produced. Everyone else, including arch-rival Cadillac, had already downsized. Lincoln would follow suit, starting with the stubbier – by 14 inches – 1980 models. (The 1974-75 Cadillac Fleetwood 75, at 252 inches, is reputedly the longest American production car ever.)

From a performance standpoint, the ’79 Continental Town Car almost ranks as tragic. Despite a 400-cubic-inch V8 engine, it only produced 159 horsepower (about what a Toyota four-cylinder can pump out today). And it got barely 13 miles per gallon (highway) fuel economy. That probably had something to do with its morbidly obese 4,649-pound curb weight. One wonders how the impoverished Rose family can afford to keep putting premium gas in it.

Amenities were classic for the day: Rich leather or plush velour seating (the Rose family model sports the tuck-and-roll fabric option), AM and FM radio with a state-of-the-art 8-track tape player, vinyl grab handles and other touch points, at least five ashtrays, an equal number of whitewall tires, and much, much more. (Loaded “Williamsburg” special editions offered full vinyl roofs, and two-tone paint; rare “Collector’s Series” models also were available with primitive anti-lock brakes, moonroofs and CB radios.)

Other Lincoln models that year offered fancy trim lines inspired by famous, albeit now largely forgotten designers of the day – Bill Blass, Cartier, Givenchy, even Emilio Pucci (a personal favorite) – but sadly those touches were not available on the Continental Town Car (even though today’s casual observer might be hard-pressed to spot the differences).

According to the NADA guide, the original sticker price was something north of $12,000 (add 50 percent for the special editions mentioned above) – which seems like a real car-load of character for the money, by today’s standards.

How much is one worth today? Good question. It’s certainly possible to find beater-caliber examples for $4,000 or even less. A concours-quality Williamsburg or Collector’s Series model might even command something near $20,000. But the average ’79 Continental Town Car is worth, today, about what it was 40 years ago when it was new, in terms of dollars. But, the rub is, $12,000 then is worth about $41,500 in today’s dollars.

So, like the Rose family, in Schitt’s Creek, 1979 Lincoln Continental Town Cars still cut a rakish, classic profile, but they are probably best remembered as just another example of faded American icons.

Jerry Garrett

December 30, 2018

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