Would this be a stupid car purchase? [96 Lincoln Continental]

I have been offered a vehicle that SEEMS like a good deal.
Anyone want to throw out any sanity checks before I snap it up?
Vehicle is a 1996 Lincoln Continental, white in color, just over 65K.
On first inspection everything seems mechanically sound. Several body panels have scratched paint, but no visible rust anywhere and the paint is mostly intact. Front left turn signal assembly is damaged, but looks like an easy repair.
Back seat leather has some scratches, but is basically sound, plus only my dogs will be placed back there. Some trim on front passenger door is lose but will likely respond to superglue.
Assuming upcoming professional examination by a licensed mechanic comes out okay, Edmunds private party fair market value lists right around $4200.
Seller has agreed to $1500 if I’ll take it “as is”.
I know that the suspension airbag system in these things is expensive to fix, but for now it seems to be fine. The speedo cluster also appears gadgety, but works fine.

I’d be suspicious. Take it to a mechanic, tell him about the unusually low price, have him check it out carefully. I know there’s not a lotta dough involved, but if there’s a safety issue what he has to say could be worth a hell of a lot more.

What Malienation says.

If the vehicle has been in a wreck, it may have been repaired so that it looks good, but is a lot weaker structurally than originally.

Try to get the VIN and check out its history at the DMV or Ministry of Transport or whatever you have.

You might be lucky with this vehicle: it may be a desperation sell. Then again, you might be unlucky.

I’ll be taking it to my mechanic, who, incidentally, works at a shop that does as much body work as straight mechanical work. If the car’s been cracked up and rewelded, he’ll know, and give me an idea of the extent of things.
The circumstances of the sale are in fact… a woman’s husband passes. The woman does not drive, and now she is staying with her son.
I work with her son. He’s trying to liquidate the car because his mother no longer drives and her husband is no longer around to drive it. The son and his wife both have nice cars already, and little use for a third vehicle.
I suspect it’s a matter of the son “doesn’t have the energy to hold out for top dollar” after everything the family has been through recently, which details I am aware of but won’t discuss on the board.

The intent, although perhaps not the stated goal, of my original post was to elicit a discussion centering around the make/model of the vehicle.
I was hoping, for instance, to discover possible chronic problems for the model, or deal-breaking problems to inspect for prior to purchase.
Mind you, beggars can’t be choosers, and I value all of the well-intentioned responses this thread will get regardless of whether they fit what was in my mind’s eye.

Incidentally, a quick perusal of similar vehicle sales on motors.ebay.com tends to show that the market value of this car on Ebay is well below the fair market value stated by either Edmunds or the Kelley people, perhaps very close to what I’ve been offered. Never seen that kind of discrepancy before, and it could simply be a car that won’t move on Ebay but will in real life…

Ah, that makes sense. I was going to put in my post, “desperation or no-longer-needed sale”, but I thought that would be too long. Guess I was wrong. :slight_smile: We did something similar with my father’s car after he could no longer drive. I couldn’t take it at the time, and no-one else needed it. It was not a new vehicle, and it went to charity.

And I did not know that you knew the seller.

Yeah, I work with him in an office. He is an industry veteran with some management experience. We’re working for the kind of company that you try to retire from with your pension intact so I suspect he wouldn’t knowingly screw me. That being said, some deals are more deal than others…

Google might well be your friend again, there are usually quite a few reviews of cars of that age including known weaknesses.

Many Lincolns of that era have valve weaknesses and the repair for them is extremely expensive as the heads are finicky and have to be milled just so to get them back on without a leak. My mechanic hates the things with a passion… Add in the crappy gas mileage and I personally wouldn’t have it on toast. Is it a Mark 8? Those are the really fun ones…

No, the Mark VIII is the two-door deal. This is the four-door built on a Taurus chassis, and yeah, the Mark VIII makes ANOTHER 20 horsepower on top of what the same-year Continental makes.

RUN, RUN, RUN AWAY from that bomb! Its a money pit.

Get a used Toyota or Honda.

Unless the people selling the car have a dealership, “as is” is not unusual, and is in fact how all private party sells of cars are treated. Even so called “puffing”, where a seller says things like …I’ve never had problems, …it’s a great car, … would be hard to recover in small claims from in a private sell. This is not a reason to run from the sell, a private indivual would be a freaking moron to offer any sort of warantee/guarantee. There are things which can go wrong on a used car that no amount of care and inspection can determine. The timing belt springs to mind.

I say take it to a mechanic, if he clears it, you’ll probably get a decent year or three out if it.
IANAL, just a guy has sold a few cars and happens to be the son of a lawyer.

My neighbor had a Lincoln Continental that was about the same age as the one you are asking about. Mechanically it was sound, but that car had numerous electrical problems. Batteries, alternators, computers; it got to the point where the mechanic wanted to replace the entire wiring harness, because tracking all the little problems down would have taken forever and cost a fortune. He eventually traded it in.

Everyone who has replied,

I deeply appreciate your input on this vehicle.
While I welcome further comments, I feel it is only polite to update you on this decision.
Last night I introduced Mrs. Slant to the vehicle and she seems to like it. While I have serious reservations about both the transmission used in the vehicle and the air bag suspension, in light of the price I have decided to go forward with the purchase.
This morning I informed the seller’s son, who is acting as her agent in this matter, that I intend to purchase the vehicle if the inspection I have conducted by my mechanic next Wednesday fails to uncover any new substantial issues.
Given the age of the vehicle, I will hold $1500-$2000 in my money market fund as a hedge against repair and/or replacement expenses.
I expect that even with occasional mid-priced repairs, this vehicle will have a lower total cost of ownership than my current vehicle, an ‘02 Mercury Sable LS Premium with 62K miles and $10,000 or so of remaining payments. Plus it has a bitchin’ V8 making 260 horsepower… it’ll be the fastest car I’ve owned yet, even considering my '96 Caprice with the detuned Corvette motor.
Getting out of a monthly $275 payment should help with my financial situation, even if I have to buy another $1500 car in two years…

Anyone know if these things use Mercon or Mercon V in the tranny?
The manual says it’s okay to run 87 in her, but she’ll be faster with 91 octane.
If the rated horsepower is 260, what will she make with 87?
210 like the dual-exhaust Crown-Vic/Grand Marquis did that year?
Maybe a few more due to the 32-valve setup vs the Vic’s more pedestrian layout?
130 because the guys from Lincoln don’t care about people who run their cars out of spec?

My dad has that model. It’s not a terrible car, but I’d never buy one.

He’s had two major problems with it:

  1. The engine. As someone else posted, nasty valve problems. And no one wants to work on it, not even the dealer.

  2. The air suspension. It’s a poorly-designed piece-of-shit system that’s constantly failing and requiring expensive repairs.

Eh, at a 9.9:1 compression ratio I bet you’d just be wasting money putting 91 octane in it–it’d probably be fine with 87-89 depending on the elevation where you live…

Heh. So they just recommend 91 for marketing purposes?
I can see Ford/Lincoln/Mercury doing that.
I wonder how I could test without using a dyno or doing repeated quarter mile runs…

Ford is notorious for overestimating HP and torque–it makes for frowny faces at the dyno runs…

I’d try it at the lower octane first and see if it knocks at all… it’s iron head/iron block, and kinda old–bet if you gave it a compression check you’d find it has a bit of old whore syndrome going on…

As for free dyno testing, I like dropping into my nearest DEQ station–they dyno test for emissions on older vehicles and one of the printouts is for HP, along with mileage and standard emission gases. It’s my tax dollars at work, and the only time you pay for it is if the car passes emissions, which most old cars won’t do first time through. I have to retard my truck’s timing by -22 degrees to get it past smog… :rolleyes:

Oh, it most definitely doesn’t knock on 87.
My concern is that the manual implies it detunes itself if you run cheap gas.
That’s kinda’ insidious, right there.
I wish my state gave the HP output, but Ohio’s e-check gives precious little information on their forms… three or four forms of pollution test, VIN and ID, and certifying you have a gas cap.
Lately, if you have OBD-II, all they do is plug in the scanner and rubber-stamp you, which ticks me off.