1995 Town Car Limo or 1988 Chevy Sprint Turbo – Which Odbball Basket Case Would You Save?


Hello, and welcome once again to Shitbox Showdown! I’m back at the helm at the usual time, after a whirlwind trip to the Midwest. My beautiful, brilliant wife now holds a Masters degree from Purdue, and I spent the weekend wrecking the average MPG readout of my mother-in-law’s Subaru Forester (it went from 41.5 mpg down to 39.2 under my heavy right foot).

But we’re not here to talk about any of that; we’re here to talk about crappy old cars. Let’s see what you thought about yesterday’s rustbuckets:

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The Safari is the less scary of the two to most people. I’m still not sure it’s any less rusty; I worry about what’s under those Pep Boys bottom door trims.

It feels like another Odd Couple day, so let’s take a look at a pair of derelict hulks, one of which is half the length of the other. But it comes with a parts car, so they even out. Here they are. I stuck close to home today, because when you’ve been traveling, there’s no place like it.

1995 Lincoln Town Car stretch limousine – $995

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Engine/drivetrain: 4.6 liter V8, 4 speed automatic, RWD

Location: Portland, OR

Odometer reading: 100,000 miles

Runs/drives? “Beautifully,” but read the fine print

Take a Lincoln Town Car, chop it in half between the doors, add in a section to the middle, plop in a mini-bar and some cool lights, and fill it with drunken bridesmaids or high school kids on their way to prom. It’s a simple business plan, but it seems to work.

But what happens to a stretch limo after its working days are over? Who wants to drive around in something with the tuning raidus of a battleship, filled with the ghosts of a thousand bachelorette parties past? Even worse, what happens to one that gets trashed on the inside, but still runs fine?

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From the looks of it, it gets parked in somebody’s scruffy backyard along with a lot of other junk vehicles. This poor Lincoln Town Car apparently suffered a fire inside the passenger compartment, and was “badly damaged,” but the seller hasn’t included any photos to show just what we’re dealing with.

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The seller does say that you can drive it home, but then what? Where are you going to park it, if you don’t have a huge scruffy backyard of your own? And sure, the Ford Panther chassis on which the Town Car is based is legendary for reliability and toughness, but does that include one that has an extra five or six feet of scorched wasteland between the axles? What, to put it bluntly, the hell is someone going to do with this thing?

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I leave that up to you, Autopians. Tell me in the comments what you’d use an old limo for after you clear out the burned upholstery and crispy carpets.

But first, take a gander at this fun-size project:

1988 Chevrolet Sprint Turbo – $1,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 1.0 liter turbocharged inline 3, 5 speed manual, FWD

Location: Portland, OR

Odometer reading: 62,000 miles

Runs/drives? Runs but not drivable, no specifics given

The Chevy Sprint is a car already known to Autopians from Jason’s deep-dive into its bizarre hood release design. Yes, you push down on that little black rectangle to open the hood, after pulling the inside T-handle. It was immense fun to watch my fellow mechanics who weren’t familiar with it struggle to open the hoods of Sprints when I worked in a garage. But it’s what’s under the hood of this particular Sprint that makes it intriguing:

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Yep, that little 993cc three is turbocharged, intercooled, fuel-injected, and good for 79 horsepower instead of 48. Still not a ton of power, but it’s not a ton of car either. Literally; the Sprint’s curb weight is around 1500 pounds.

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The seller says he has gotten the Sprint to start and run, but it isn’t driveable; my guess is that it’s been parked for a very long time, and still needs some other systems gone through. You can probably count on having to replace everything made of rubber that holds liquid before you even think of moving this car under its own power.

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Like the limo, this interior is trashed, but at least we get a photo of it. This one is easy, though: gut it, pop in a racing seat, weld in a cage, and go have some fun with it. Those quarter-inch-thick door cards aren’t providing any sound deadening in this thing anyway, so why bother trying to find new ones?

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The sale also includes a second Sprint Turbo for parts. Not many details are given about the parts car, but it looks like the drivetrain is there, so at least you have a spare engine and gearbox to work with. Most of the glass is intact too, which is nice to have for a rare car.

So that’s what I found for us today. A stretch limo that runs fine but needs a whole new interior and purpose in life, or a turbocharged roller skate that needs damn near everything but comes with a spare of most things. Which lost cause are you willing to take on?

Quiz maker

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60 Responses

  1. I already knew this site was special, and have wondered how the commentariat would shape up. Now I know: you people are nuts! Like, inventively demented (or vice-versa). So many great (foolish) ideas.

    I am home

  2. Done right the limo could be an interesting backyard/driveway man’s cave. Park it on blocks, add skirts, add a knocked together upper assembly, and voila, a giant pile of junk in your backyard/driveway. Where the hell was I going with this?

    Shouldn’t have taken a third toke this morning!

  3. The Sprint because there’s nothing all that interesting about a Town Car limo. Also, I’d much rather deal with replacing rubber and the like over fire damage. I get that the used market has gone nuts, but come on. This guy is trying to sell a car that was literally on fire.

  4. I’d buy the limo, but I wouldn’t save it. I would part it out and sell the remaining metal bits as scrap. I’m sure there is way more than $995 worth of usable parts and scrap metal in a stretched Lincoln.

    If scrapping a janky limo isn’t your idea of a good time, there are a lot of other things the Lincoln could be useful for. You could convert it to a unique RV, or maybe even turn it into a tiny house to rent to short people. You could probably clean it up and use it as a unique planter or yard ornament. Of, if you are the paranoid type and have access to a backhoe, you could bury it in your yard and have a budget-friendly bomb shelter. The possibilities are endless. All you need is $995, a tow truck, and some imagination.

    While I would pick the Lincoln, the Sprint could be a great purchase as a track car. I’m envisioning a Sprint Ultraleggera with all non-essential parts removed. I figure that 1,500 lb. curb weight could get down to 1,200 if you didn’t need it to be street legal and didn’t care what it looked like.

  5. Having owned two Turbo Sprints, I would only be too happy to own two more. Good thing they’re on the wrong coast or I would be tempted. I already have a period genuine Suzuki Sport steering wheel, a bucket seat, and a set of brilliantly 80s alloys which fit the Sprint’s unusual 4X100/10mm bolt pattern. Some day.

    @mark+tucker Alas, the Turbo Sprint only has 70hp in fuel injected US specs. The JDM cars (carburetted) claimed 80PS JIS, which translates to 79 imperial horsepower, which I assume is where that number came from.

    1. A friend of mine had one way back when, and it was way more fun that it should’ve been. Not a project I’d pick otherwise, but by the rules of the game, my choice is the Sprint.

  6. Lets be honest what are you gonna do with that Limo? A hombrew mechanical restoration for the Sprint assuming parts are obtainable would be a much better use of money. Done right you might be able to make money or at very least turn some car nerd heads at your local cars and coffee. Turbo Sprint all day long

  7. I saw an old, beat to shit limo at Lowes the other day. It was FULL of old salvage crap, like bicycles, old fake plants, shopping carts, chairs, etc.

    But it could be a very good for a specific type of business. Something where you have to haul veeerrry long items, but not very many of them. A long-ass ladder. Maybe long runs of electrical conduit. Or light gauge steel tubing for custom gates. Something where a huge box truck is overkill.

    1. I was thinking LeMons too but with the Limo. Chop off the front of the roof and put a stuffed monkey at the wheel Cannonball Run style. And if it breaks down, park it sideways across the track so nobody can pass me. Foolproof plan really.

  8. Sprint for sure. Not only do I have no room to park a limo, it sounds like the fire took all of the cool bits. With the Sprint you get two cars for the price of one, both of which will fit in my driveway

  9. I would take neither, tho I suppose you could live in the Lincoln at a stretch, once the fire damage is dealt with. But I plumped for the Chevy in the end as some kind of automotive sysyphus could, presumably, at some point, make one functioning car out of all those parts.

  10. You’re telling me that I have all the components necessary to shove two turbo sprint engines into one body for an AWD monster, or I can buy a fire damaged hulk?

    Man, you must be out of your mind if you think I’m buying the limo.

      1. Looks like a handful of us have the same idea. Honestly even if you mess it up and blow both engines somehow you’ll still only have spent 1500 plus your time for 2 cars. I’m sure you’ll be able to make some of that if you scrap it.

  11. I’ll take the Chevy, and admit that I wanted one when they were new. I checked one out at the local Chevy dealership and in typical domestic salesman fashion of the time, he knew precisely jack squat about the car. I finally gave up and left when he kicked the car out of disgust after repeatedly failing to open the hood, and I suggested he actually read the owner’s manual. Oh well, I suppose 3-hole tiny turbo ownership wasn’t in the cards for me then- or now.

  12. I would much rather live with the Sprint, but what if #vanlife became #limolife? Think about how easy a full length bed would be in there, no more worries about high winds pushing you around, and its much easier to access roof storage now!

  13. I knew a fairly large family who opted for carting the family around in a stretched limo like this as opposed to a minivan/van. They were weird and looked even weirder in the outdated vehicle. So, I couldn’t even imagine this vehicle has any use unless someone needed the parts.
    The Sprint looks like a lot of fun and with spare parts to boot.

  14. Turbo Sprint in running condition unworthy to restore to new = SAFARI Turbo Sprint.

    And then for fun, and because you have a matching spare, try a dual engine 4×4 offroad SAFARI Turbo Sprint by putting the second engine in the back driving the rear wheels.

    If that doesn’t work, there’s always LeMons racing.

    Use the two powertrains and miscellaneous parts to make an awesome hovercraft.

    Or put paddle tires huge enough to provide floatation and do a sand car that can drive across a water surface like an insect.

    The Sprint deal has plenty of potential, but none of it involves ending with an ordinary Chevy Turbo Sprint.

  15. I’ll tell you what to do with the limo. Got to a junkyard and pick up a second 4.6 L Ford V8, weld it to the V8 from the limo, and put your new V16 behind the driver’s seat. Mid-engined V16 Lincoln!!! Profits from the youtube video alone will make you a billionaire!

  16. Sprint all day on this one….

    I’m the weirdo, restore it to stock! And be proud of it.

    I’d make do with some type of door cards and other knick-knacks.

    As I grew up in Portland, I understand the weird behind the Lincoln only too well.

  17. I voted Sprint Turbo because I have fond memories of dinky 1980s buzz bombs and limos don’t interest me. I sent the listing to my son sine he lives in Hillsboro and has a huge garage and a landlord almost as laissez-faire as David Tracy’s, plus he’s almost done with his Suburban’s suspension and needs a new time sink

  18. I like the Sprint-and-a-half, even with its goofy hood latch, but part of me *wants* a running, driving limousine that’s not rotten in half nor – hopefully – potential evidence in a murder trial.

    A decade ago, I had a coworker named Fred. Fred was a custom-van guy from back in the ’70s, and a real character in general. For a week or so, he rocked up in a rough-but-decent ’80s Town Car limo – I believe a buddy of his was trying to sell it for a grand or so and Fred was keeping the fluids circulating.

    Early 20s me would’ve somehow gotten arrested with that thing, so it’s a good thing I stuck with my $200 Volvo 745T until it blew up and I promptly lost that (just-over-minimum-wage) job.

    Anyway, the Lincoln’s a steal, running, driving, and likely stopping, whether per foot or per pound.

  19. I had a hard time on this. Part out and scrap the limo vs one and a half sprint turbos… Once I thought about not fixing up, but rather further destroying the Sprint(s) via the rallycross method the grin resolved my preference.

  20. In front of you there is a burnt-out shell that would be nothing but a useless headache even if it were in perfect condition, and a project that after god knows how much time and work and salvaging and money and could be restored into… a worthless ’80s econo-hatch. You have a gun with just one bullet. Which car do you shoot out of sheer disgust?

  21. I’ll take both!

    The limo will be my Family Truckster, with enough space inside to keep my myriad of children from fighting by keeping them separated. I might be able to afford gas for the Sprint so that will be my commuter.

    Big plus that when I get totally boned in my upcoming divorce, the limo can become my new home!

  22. I simply don’t understand the thought process. What to do with the limo? It runs and drives and is probably structurally sound. Use your imagination! All that room… do whatever you want! Turn it into a mother-in-law apartment! I like John Beef’s band van idea a whole lot! Turn it into a rolling pizza restaurant. (Okay, that’s probably how the fire started.)

    But spending all the time, money, and effort to restore a tiny Suzuki economy car in hopes that a couple heads might turn at cars and coffee? Who’s gonna look twice? It’s a Bic lighter of a car; when it runs out of fuel, you throw it away. It was $7700 brand new; apparently each example here is worth 1/10 of that, not even adjusting for inflation.

    I’m glad somebody wants those two Sprints, and I’m equally glad it ain’t me.

  23. This was a truly ingenious one today, Mark! My hat is off to you. At first glance I thought it’d be a ridiculously easy blowout for the limo because one the one hand, running limo for under a grand, and on the other hand, not-quite-running super-economy 3-cylinder POS for more than a grand.

    But the details made it much less lopsided a matchup. Intriguingly unseen torched interior vs included parts car. Now we suddenly have something to think about.

    In the mind of your average Autopian, there are two kinds of shitboxes: those that you buy and fix and drive because you gotta, and those you buy and fix and drive because you wanna. Nobody’s gonna be up late wrenching on their 27-year-old limo on a Sunday night because they need it to get to work on Monday morning. (Seriously. Even limo drivers would be driving something much newer that doesn’t need late-night wrenching.) That one’s a project you buy for shits & giggles. It’s the Optional Shitbox. The fun one.

    The Sprint might be the kind of thing I bought when I was 19, not to gut and cage and race because there sure are better, easier ways to do that in cars that would be more fun and cheaper to do it with. But more so I’d have something cheap to deliver pizzas in. It’s a bottom-of-the-barrel entry-level car for someone who isn’t afraid of work and has the time and inclination to cobble together two dead cars to make one living one. And then, once it’s delivered enough pizza that I can upgrade, away it goes. Driving such shitboxes isn’t fun, but it beats walking. Sure, somebody who’s not me might enjoy all the cutting and welding and fabricating and speed-parts acquisition required to turn the Sprint into a LeMons car or whatever, but that strikes me as much more trouble than the end result would be worth.

    If the limo weren’t torched, it’d be a fun backyard playhouse even if it didn’t run. As it sits, I could still gut the scorched bits and redo the interior my own way. Instead of mid 90s prom night aspirational glitz, I might go with real wood, some silk wallpaper, pile carpeting, maybe a bumper pool table or a couple of those small-scale Arcade1Up games. Turn it into my own rolling den. Whatever. I have plenty of parking space at my house. I want that limo. The only thing better would be a hearse.

  24. The car that will be more fun to hoon is the Sprint. The car that would be the perfect urban “q-ship” for #vanlife sorta things is the Lincoln, and that’s why it gets my vote. Rip out the screwed interior and turn it into the ultimate urban assault vehicle. Oh: it also needs a battle car lift, don’t you think?

  25. I’d take the limo, position it against a keyable backdrop, and blow it up while shooting from as many cameras as possible. Exploding limo stock footage that could be dropped into any movie/tv project would be valuable – the producers can easily rent a black limo, let the actor be filmed getting into it, then remove the rental and drop in the explosion footage. Instant plot point.

  26. You all are approaching this one wrong. That limo is a blank canvas waiting for an artist. Absurdly long Lincoln Rachero, sure. Rolling strip club, absolutely. Worlds largest rolling pool, yes please! The possibilities are endless! And at under $1k, what a deal!

  27. Oh man. I’d rather take a Chevy Corsica with a biohazard sticker on it.

    I chose the Lincoln simply because it drives. I’d probably try to find another one to swap the drivetrain and scrap the rest.

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