Every once in a Blue Moon, there’s a movie with good acting, a catchy plot, and interesting characters that comes out of Hollywood which will showcase an older classic car. A good example in recent years is Clint Eastwood’s 2009 movie Gran Torino which showcased one of the unslung muscle cars of the golden era and made it an intricate part of the plot – even using it as a symbol to strengthen the plot and its main message.
This year a movie – The Lincoln Lawyer has car fans interested in a forgotten land barge. For those who have not yet seen the movie, it has nothing to do with honest Abe, the 16th President of the United States who started off his career as a lawyer from Illinois. Instead the movie is about a smooth talking street smart Los Angeles lawyer who conducts his business from the backseat of his Lincoln Town Car. The movie is based on Michael Connelly’s book of the same title released in 2005. The book has a late-model Lincoln Town Car on the book cover. The movie could have done the same and gone with a late-model Lincoln Town Car however what fun would that be? New movies with late-model Lincoln Town Cars are a dime a dozen – even the big blockbuster movie 2012 had John Cusack racing through the streets of Los Angeles in a late-model Lincoln Town Car limo during a serious of enormous earthquakes. The special effects were spectacular but most who watched the movie won’t remember the limo was a Lincoln Town Car, and even if they did they wouldn’t care.
That would have been the same problem if a late-model Lincoln Town Car was used in the movie adaption of The Lincoln Lawyer. Most in the movie viewing audience see on a daily basis newer Lincoln Town Cars, so there’s nothing interesting to lure movie watchers who on the average pay around $8 for a movie ticket. Whomever (involved with the creation of this film) chose a black 1986 Lincoln Town Car, certainly had a stroke of genius.
On the surface the decision would seem like a bad choice, after-all the lead character Mick Haller (played by Matthew McConaughey) is the typical ambulance chasing lawyer. He’s smooth talking and is street smart. He knows not only how to take control of a situation but he can manipulate and twist the law to meet his needs and aims. His clients are more like customers; many are repeat drug offenders and some are even killers. He even makes the suggestion that most of his clients are guilty, but still provides them with the best defense possible.
Haller’s personal life is a mess, he’s divorced from a what appears to be a good woman who is the mother of his child. His former wife, Maggie McPherson (Marisa Tomei) who happens to be a Los Angeles County prosecutor, sees him as an unrepentant street hustling lawyer.
Haller also drinks too much, we find out early in the movie that he lost his license for a reason not stated – however his heavy drinking leads the audience to think it could have been due to a DWI or multiple DWIs. Never-the-less this is where the Lincoln comes into the picture, Haller instead of taking public transportation to meet his clients and make his court appearances has instead a driver on his payroll, Earl (Laurence Mason) who spends his time driving Haller from client to client and courthouse to courthouse in the Los Angeles metro area. Haller has made the best of the situation by using the spacious backseat of the 1986 Lincoln as his office; he makes his phone calls and does his paperwork there. He even meets with clients without leaving the backseat. This setup will have many Los Angeles defense attorneys wondering why they don’t have a setup like this. Following Haller for one day, you see how he bounces from client to courthouse all day long – up to the (San Fernando) Valley, back and forth to different locations in the Los Angeles Basin including Inglewood. You soon realize that Haller’s office in the back of the Lincoln allows him the opportunity to take on more clients and more business than working from a standard office. Haller does have a standard office but he’s rarely there – he makes calls to his assistant who handles all his office related activities.
To show how well the situation is working out, Earl who really likes his job, realizes that Haller will eventually get his driving privileges back and asks Haller what he plans to do when he gets his drivers license back. Haller who has no desire to change a good thing, with his typical smirky grin replies that he got his license back three months ago. Earl of course is glad to hear that his job is now a permanent one.
On the surface for a mobile office, any car with a big backseat and trunk would do the trick. However to understand why Haller has a 1986 Town Car, you have to understand Haller’s personality. Haller may have a slick used car salesman type persona however he dresses well and his appearance when in court or when dealing with clients is always very presentable. He makes a good salary however we get the impression he probably got his clock cleaned with his divorce. However Haller seems to have good taste not just in his suits but also in other things like where he lives. He lives in a small house however its located in a prime location in Hollywood Hills where the view of the Los Angeles skyline and Los Angeles Basin is spectacular. Haller for the same money could live in much bigger more prestigious house in the Los Angeles Basin or even in San Fernando Valley but he instead chose the Hills.
Here’s where the 1986 Lincoln Town Car comes into the picture. It’s just like his house in the Hills, it not the fanciest luxury car ever produced nor is it very expensive in 2011 dollars, but it happens to be very classy. Haller could have a 1960s suicide door Lincoln Continental hardtop or even a convertible both of which have skyrocketed in value in the last two decades. Instead he chose the 1986 Lincoln Town Car which is easier on the wallet and more modern than the classic Continental yet compared to today’s cars it is considered a classic – twenty five years old in most states qualifies it for classic car or antique car status.
Haller’s Town Car is very presentable, it’s black with lots of chrome. It is spotless and in near perfect condition – in fact it looks like it just rolled off the assembly line. It has a front grille which has the presence of an old Rolls Royce grille – giving the car a very upscale look especially with the square quad headlamps surrounding it. The car is boxy with the typical long hood and shorter decklid styling that was so popular in the 1970s and 1980s. Haller’s Town Car also has the half vinyl roof, which was very popular among Town Car buyers back in the day. This vinyl roof only covered the back half of the Town Car’s roof.
The rear tail lights also have a distinctive styling, it’s a smooth flush tail light design that looks like one big red light bar in the back. This was a slick design that first appeared on the 1985 Lincoln Town Car.
The big full-size Lincoln Continental was downsized for 1980. Lincoln was the last holdout in the super large land yachts; Cadillac had gone to a smaller full-size lineup in 1977 and Chrysler had done the same in 1979. The 1980 Lincoln Continental now was about the same size as the largest 1980 model year Cadillac and Chrysler offered. Also worth mentioning is that the 1980 Continental was now on Ford’s new full-size Panther platform which is the same platform used by the 2011 Lincoln Town Car which unfortunately is in its last year of production. By 1981 the Town Car would become it’s own model instead of a Continental trim package. For 1983 the Continental would move to a mid-sized rear-wheel drive platform. The Town Car thrived and Lincoln did a mild refresh of the Town Car in 1985 which made the Town Car look more modern and stately compared to the full-size 1985 Cadillac Fleetwood which looked dated due to not having had a refresh since 1980. The 1986 Town Car was practically a carryover from the popular 1985 model, however the 1986 had the new federally mandated high mounted rear brake light.
The 1986 was a large luxury car with every luxury option you could imagine was available back in 1986. Lincoln said it best when it had this to say about the 1986 Town Car in its 1986 sales literature – "life is full of compromises this isn’t one of them." The 1986 Lincoln Town Car had a handling suspension and ride quality that pampered its occupants in comfort and an interior which was spacious enough to fit six full-size adults comfortably. Not to mention on the Town Car most of the outside noise and distractions weren’t heard – it was silent enough to appeal to even a church mouse. So what the Town Car gives Haller is a ultra quiet, roomy, and comfortable environment to work in the backseat. Not to mention all the leg and shoulder room the Town Car offers Haller.
There were three different luxury trim packages offered on the Town Car for 1986, the standard Town Car, Signature Series, and the Cartier Designer Series. Haller like most 1986 Lincoln Town Car owners has the standard Lincoln Town Car. As anyone can see this was enough to get the ultimate in luxury since Haller’s Lincoln Town Car is loaded with all the options including the optional leather seats.
1986 also saw the introduction of Ford’s updated 5.0 liter Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) V8 which used a new fuel rail system that implemented one fuel injector per cylinder – power output was 150 horsepower with 270 lb-ft of torque. If the trailer towing package was ordered dual exhausts were mandatory bumping up horsepower to 160 and torque to 280 lb-ft. Comparing this to the previous year, the 1985 Town Car which came equipped with a 5.0 liter V8 also using EFI – however it was a throttle body fuel injection system which produced 140 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque, or when equipped with the trailer towing package’s dual exhaust system – 155 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque. On paper it would seem the 1986 Town Car only had a very slight horsepower bump over 1985, however the figures are misleading. The 1986 with its far superior fuel injection system, felt much more responsive across the entire rpm range. The dual exhaust equipped 1986 Town Car went 0-60 mph in the mid-10 second range and the 1/4 mile in the high-17 second range. The dual exhaust equipped 5.0 liter EFI V8 powered 1985 Town Car went 0-60 mph in the low-11 second range and the 1/4 mile in the low-18 second range. And the 1986 Town Car’s 5.0 liter EFI V8 also beat the 1985 5.0 liter EFI V8 in gas mileage.
The Town Car during the 1980s used Ford’s small-block Windsor 5.0 liter (302 CID) V8, which was small cubic inches compared to the previous large displacement V8s – 429 CID, 460 CID, and 400 CID which had powered the big Lincolns during the 1970s. However the 1986 5.0 EFI had enough horsepower and torque to move the 1986 Town Car well by 1980s standards. The 1986 Town Car was big with a curb weight of 4,038 lbs but it was light compared to the mammoth 4-door 1979 Continental which had a curb weight of 4,649 lbs. The 1986 Town Car was still big with a length of 219 inches, width of 78 inches, and a wheelbase of 117.3 inches – which are around the same dimensions of the standard 2011 Lincoln Town Car.
As a side note as part of the trailer towing package on the Town Car during the 1980s – dual exhausts were standard along with a limited slip rear axle, and the heavy duty cooling package. When the Continental was first introduced on the Panther platform for 1980, a 4-speed automatic transmission with overdrive was standard. Every Town Car since 1981 has had a 4-speed automatic transmission with overdrive – including the final year 2011 Town Car. Haller’s Lincoln had classic looks but could get close to the fuel efficiency of the 2011 Town Car around town and on the highway due to having a fairly modern EFI system coupled to a 4-speed automatic transmission.
As the movie progresses, Haller develops a conscious when he discovers that a former client, Jesus Martinez (Michael Pena), serving a long sentence for murder is actually innocent. His conscious begins to eat away at him since he didn’t believe in his Pena’s innocence at the time of his trial and instead worked for a plea agreement which would save his client from the death penalty. Haller made the discovery when researching into one of his current cases of defending a spoiled rich kid, Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe) for another crime. Even Roulet confessing to the murder to Haller can’t free Pena, since Haller is bound to the attorney client privilege. Haller is forced to do some fancy legal footwork in order to walk that fine line of not getting disbarred while getting Pena freed from prison at the same time putting Roulet behind bars where he belongs. To accomplish all this Haller does some crazy dancing back and forth just like his Lincoln’s soft suspension would at 80 mph on the winding roads in Hollywood Hills – even with the odds against him, he’s successful.
And we see the movie end the way it began with Haller conducting his business from the backseat of his Lincoln with Earl driving him to his next destination. Just before the final scene’s fade away Haller’s Town Car drives off into the distance with a modern remix of Marlena Shaw’s version of California Soul playing. The 1986 Town Car which is part of a dying breed exemplifies this song, since it has got a lot of soul – the Town Car had soul back in 1986, it has it now, and it will in the future. It’s the perfect persona of the cool big luxury land yachts and everything they stand for, and you better believe Mick Haller knows it.
Written contents in this article – © 2011 Pete Dunton – All Rights Reserved