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Thread: Newbie - what to look for in a used 2003+ TownCar Limo - for private use

  1. #1

    Default Newbie - what to look for in a used 2003+ TownCar Limo - for private use

    First post here I guess, may as well introduce myself;

    Hello to anybody/everybody who reads this post. My name is Kevin, I'm a father of a growing family who is starting to open my eyes to the used limousine market. I am a huge fan of the Ford "Panther" chassis (CrownVic/Marquis/TownCar), and do not want to give up my Marquis for a mini-van as our family grows. So I am looking for information on buying a used Limo .

    Close friends and family think I'm a little bit nuts (may still be determined!), but I don't think I need to explain in detail to anybody here why a used limo is vastly superior type of vehicle over even the newest mini-vans for hauling a family around in. My considerations of that contention briefly; a divider to isolate mom+dad from kids from their noise/climate difference/entertainment differences, plenty of seating for 4-5 kids (if we are so blessed) to stretch out and relax over longer drives, 'trunk' space including passenger area for hauling alot of stuff, vehicle power to tow 3000lb camper with ease, and overall reliability of an essentially a commercial vehicle.

    I don't need one today, as I said I'm opening my eyes to the types of limo's available, as my family grows. Reliability and price are my most important factors, so the Town Car limo is pretty much the only type I will consider, and with experience (and knowledge) of the 2003+ chassis - it has to be a 2003+ due to many of the refinements implemented that year. Which is kind of a shame as there have been several high quality, well priced 2002 and older models available 'locally'. From what I understand, once I've bought a limo - I'm stuck with it or lose a lot on a sale. Which is fine if I purchase the year and model I want, I'll repaint as needed, transplant powertrain, reupholster, etc. for 15 or so years until it's no longer needed.

    What I don't know much about, is the 'manufacturers' of these cars. Which limo builders stand out for being a quality, long-term, durable car? Which ones should be avoided (and why)? To some extent, quality of interior components isn't too important, as it's going to be trashed by kids. From what I understand so far, Krystal Koach and Tiffany are the ones to look for?

    One concern I have is my wife learning to drive it, without crushing in the right rear door. She's used to big cars, but hasn't driven something pushing 30' long! Any tips beyond what I can teach her (commercial driver, used to 80'+ combo's)? Are there 'special' convex mirrors for passenger door? Are back-up cameras effective? Curb feelers ?

    Thanks for reading, and any advice or tips,

    Kevin.

  2. #2

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    For family use, you might want to consider a conversion van instead. With the exception of the privacy partition, a conversion van would give you the features you're looking for. Take for instance the Ford E-series vans, tough, proven, reliable, able to tow the size trailer you're looking for, shorter than a limousines. It hasn't been hacked, and stretched (and in some cases, more structurally sound). You'd have more room to get in, and out, especially if your children need car seats, even more headroom if you purchase one with a raised roof. Entertainment would be covered, as you'd most likely have a tv, and separate audio with headphones. There will more than likely be an auxiliary climate control system. There are larger mirrors, especially those that would help maneuvering, and backing. Back-up camera systems, and radar sensors are available, and effective. What you're looking for in the limo could easily be found in the conversion van.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Cedar Mill Limousine's Avatar
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    30' long would be a 120" stretch. They make them smaller than that. ECB (Executive Coach), DaBryan, Krystal, Tiffany, LCW, Springfield, Imperial, and Pinnacle are all good in my opinion (my apologies if I forgot any - squeezing this in between childrens' baths). The first 5 are GVM, if I am not mistaken and depending on the year I think Springfield was too (again, forgive me if I am mistaken on any of this).
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    Senior Member Cedar Mill Limousine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cedar Mill Limousine View Post
    30' long would be a 120" stretch.
    Before Tim corrects me ( j/k Tim!)...they are actually 28' long bumper to bumper. The Chrysler 300 140" stretch is the same length bumper to bumper.
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    A small Limo bus might be less of a problem to get around in and carry more passengers. Just a thought

  6. #6

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    Gentlemen, thank you for the welcome!

    Rich, from what I understand then, most of the manufacturers put out a decent product? Have seen those names several times in ads, the KK's are easy to spot with their logo in the divider. I will keep those names you listed in mind. I shudder sometimes looking at worn out late 80's/early 90's TownCar stretches, I hope the 03+ chassis using hydro formed frame rails holds up a little better with age. I figure an un-cut TC at about 18'6" + 120" stretch = 'pushing' 30' . BTW, what is GVM? Not sure I've seen that term before....

    W57thNY / Pyro - While I can respect the alternatives you've listed and the reasons, I'm not terribly interested in conversion van/bus. Also an SUV limo does not appeal.

    Like I said, I am a HUGE fan of the Panther chassis! Also part of my desire for a limo vs mini-van is prestige. To me the classiest limo on the market is the TownCar, it may not be as refined as the Caddy, as 'cool' as the 300, as easy to ingress/egress as an SUV, etc.

    As for wanting a limo, I would rather drive a used, quality, 'luxury' machine over a generic appliance type vehicle that does not have longevity. Also fuel consumption is a factor, from what I've read the TC limo is pretty efficient compared to conversion vans or SUV limo's. I know there will be a premium over a non-stretched panther (I average around 20mpg in my Marquis, our old TownCar does 24 on trips), and without any appreciable amount of idle time (when compared to a limo in service) I'm sure my mpg will be higher than the averages some operators quote.

    About the radar system, I've seen them on 18 wheelers before (had a malfunctioning unit on one I've driven so no real experience) - are they frequently seen on TC's, or mainly the larger busses/vans/suv's? I can see how a system like that would save the right rear door area when novices are driving.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cedar Mill Limousine View Post
    Before Tim corrects me ( j/k Tim!)...they are actually 28' long bumper to bumper. The Chrysler 300 140" stretch is the same length bumper to bumper.
    Haha. Actually, I was using the 28 foot fact because my stretch just barely fits in the driveway at my house. Using aerial photos, I used the length of my driveway to measure the size of my yard while I was at the hardware store trying to purchase the right quantities of lawn care products. Oh, the joys of being a homeowner!
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    Rich was typing quick and meant to say QVM instead of GVM. It is a certification given by Ford that the vehicle is built to a certain specification to meet or exceed the safety specs of the unmodified, uncut vehicle.

    https://www.fleet.ford.com/showroom/...cles/QVM_F.asp
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    I, too, think you would be better off with a conversion van. Beyond the weight of the vehicle, I don't see a stretch Town Car doing very well towing a 3k lbs camper behind it. Also, you are going to find some frustration at gas stations waiting for a pump to open that you are able to pull up to, frustration at stores because you won't be able to pull into a normal parking space (especially at smaller retail centers), and frustration in finding repair shops that can fit such a vehicle on a lift or do an alignment.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member Cedar Mill Limousine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BLVD Limo View Post
    Rich was typing quick and meant to say QVM instead of GVM.
    It is like you live in my head.
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  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by BLVD Limo View Post
    I, too, think you would be better off with a conversion van. Beyond the weight of the vehicle, I don't see a stretch Town Car doing very well towing a 3k lbs camper behind it. Also, you are going to find some frustration at gas stations waiting for a pump to open that you are able to pull up to, frustration at stores because you won't be able to pull into a normal parking space (especially at smaller retail centers), and frustration in finding repair shops that can fit such a vehicle on a lift or do an alignment.
    These are more great points in favor of a conversion van, especially for family use. One other issue that you may want to think about is serviceability. Not only will finding a servicing dealer be harder (due to the extended length), but the dealer may not be able to service some of the inevitable issues that come up that may be inherent to a vehicle that has been cut, and stretched (I've seen some of the posters on here mention things such as mal-functioning climate control systems, electrical problems - as well as other issues that come with a vehicle that has been modified). The conversion van, while also modified, will not have been modified as much, and the structure will be in tact.

    You had mentioned the 'prestige' of a limousine, and while that may be nice, with a family of 4-5 kids, prestige is the last thing that should be on your mind when transporting your family. Just my thought.

  12. #12

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    I'd say your close friends and family may be right. Couple of things right up:
    1. You're not going to tow a 3000 pound camper more than a city block before you blow something up.
    2. 8 MPG at best.
    3. The "luxury" is in the back end. It's a miserable car to drive if you're over 5'10".
    4. Brakes.
    5 Brakes.
    6. Parking is a bear.
    7. Vandalism.
    8. Every neighborhood has kids who want to know "who's famous in there."
    Did I mention brakes and suspension.

    Of course, YMMV and if you're set on a limo you can find decent ones in the southern california area for the low 20s.

    Good luck with it.

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    I was looking at some info today and there is no way you are going to tow 3,000 lbs with a Town Car. The sedan has a rating of 1,500 lbs for towing.
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  14. #14

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    First off, let me thank all of you for the comments and advice.

    I realize that this is not a fan forum for the TownCar and do not perceive it as such. From what I understand the vast majority of members here are business owners or work in the livery industry. So I'm not expecting an endorsement of a specific vehicle choice that I desire to buy. I do want to remain humble, and respectful as a guest here on this board. But based on the type of vehicle I'm interested in, I've come to the people who use these vehicles on a routine basis, for advice on that particular type of vehicle.

    Not to discount the merits of conversion vans, (which actually is my 2nd choice for type of vehicle for family haulage), mini-busses, suv's, minivans, etc., that simply wasn't one of the questions I've asked for advice on. Just the TownCar, please, and thank-you.

    Again, not trying to cause a flame-war, I'm trying to be mindful of my position and audience - and do genuinely appreciate the advice and help. It wouldn't be necessary to ask about the TownCar itself as there are fan-sites for the Panther, and my existing knowledge and experience. But I really know little about what goes into modifying a TownCar into a stretch! That's the question, and what to look for.

    About towing, the pre-cut chassis can easily handle a 3000lb trailer - I've pulled heavier with the Marquis, which doubles as my pick-up truck. The Panther chassis used to be tow rated around 5000lbs back in the 90's, with sloppier frames, smaller brakes, and lousy suspensions. The only difference between the Marquis chassis/powertrain and a stretch-limo is the stretched part, which again - I'm not very knowledgeable about. I presume that as long as the lengthened frame is QVM (thanks for that one Rich!), then it's as capable? The trailer in mind is a larger sized pop-up, the weight is 'wet' including all the junk people take camping. The limo would be the family hauler, and have to be capable of towing that camper. Using the Marquis to pull the camper followed by the limo with the wife+kids doesn't make much sense! The limo would never have to haul the enclosed trailer, or utility trailer.

    Some other interesting issues or points brought up I'd like to counter or agree with in brief;

    8 mile/gallon - really? I should ask what a 120" TC weighs - can it be more than 6000lbs (presume max 2000lbs in stretch segment, with base 4000lb car). That's not really that much heavier than the largest SUV's/Pickups that average 15+. Just asking - can't see 8mpg being realistic. Am sure driving style, city/hwy, speed, idle all come into play. I know it won't get 20+, but 15 seems attainable driven normally. Heck, I get around 17mpg with the Marquis towing that 3000lb camper, at speeds up to 65mph max, overdrive clicked off of course. I can't say my mpg with the other trailers as I don't go very far with them.

    Room in the drivers seat - hadn't thought about that - I will have to sit in one to see how well it works for me. At 6'3", most cars already don't fit me well. Which is one reason I love the panther chassis. Possible modification, move divider back 12"? May not look pretty when I'm done...

    Brakes - I can see them being done more often than a normal car. More mass, more energy, more force required to stop. Somewhat mitigated by driving technique (ie anticipate traffic, slow prior to stops, time lights, etc. - things I already practice).

    Parking at malls, groceries - agree, but a sacrifice that'll have to be made. But you'd be surprised where I get my truck into . Limo's have 4 ways right ?

    Vandalism, not terribly concerned as we're in a really low crime area. As with all things, nice or not - anything is a target for hooligans.

    Famous? We are! Nah, I'm not sure how to think about that issue, but I doubt it. Whatever car we buy is going to be a kid-mobile, hardly washed or presentable.

    Service - I do most of my own. It'll be a learning curve if/when limo-specific parts need repair, but just like every vehicle - it's assembled with nuts/bolts/screws and can be fixed. Parts may be harder to source and take longer to obtain. Things I'll have to live with but are not deal breakers. Every type of vehicle breaks down, has unique components, and never break at convenient times.

    Alignments, possibly an issue. Rears never need aligning as they're solid axles, provided a lift is long enough to get all 4 tires on, it shouldn't be an issue? Where does one take a limo for an alignment - truck shop?

    Prestige - it is there, but is only a small part. Who doesn't like driving nice things? If prestige were not a factor, I'd buy an early 90's Suburban and be done with it. The nice cars I've had in the past were partly about prestige as well, with none of the practical elements to my needs today. But I've found that there are many practical aspects to using a limo for kids.

    Gas station access, good point, thankfully our area is quiet and usually not terribly busy at the pumps. Especially at about $5/gallon up here in Canada.

    Availability - considering buying one from the US, have to look into details about importing one to Canada (even though they were built here!!!!). Our older TownCar is a Florida car we bought from an elderly man, it's amazing how clean it was. Up here everything is pretty much rotten out at 15 years of age due to salt. Getting a 2003+ from a salt-free environment is appealing. We aren't at that stage yet, just contemplating buying one.

    Tim, most smart people use known objects dimensions to determine 'unknown' - beats having to dig out a tape measure all the time! As long as it isn't a critical/crucial measurement....

    Thanks again guys, and sorry for being long winded. I do appreciate this conversation - it's making me aware of things most people take for granted driving 'normal' cars. If we do wind up buying a limo, the choice to do so will have to be well thought out as this will be our most important vehicular decision for the next 15-20 years.

    Kevin
    Last edited by kdv; March 10th, 2012 at 01:38 AM. Reason: typos

  15. #15

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    Not really a continuation (I hate replying to myself), think I should ask specifically what makes a stretched TC different on a mechanical level than a non-stretched.

    What is the 'standard' for addon's, which would apply to all limo chassis? Common options?

    Presume all the 'coolers', oil, power steering, transmission, etc.?

    Are the rear ends still the 8.8", or are they changed out? From what I understand they used to be swapped with a 9"?

    Rear end gear ratio?

    Disk brakes or drums on the rear?

    Dual exhaust? Or Y pipe?

    Air bag springs in the rear?

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