Considering a purchase, need advice

I just looked at a 1988 Lincoln Continental. I'm somewhat familiar with these cars. I know they're based on the Taurus platform, and have the 3.8
that is notorious for head gasket problems.
On this model year, does anyone know if the car would have had one of the dreaded early years of the AXOD-E, or was this (as I hope) before the electronic control was tried on the AXOD?
Secondly, I understand that this car has had the head gasket replacement. If so, were the replacement head gaskets sufficiently re-engineered so that they shouldn't prematurely fail again?
Lastly, the only mechanical problem I know of on this car is the air bag suspension. I know that this was a high failure rate system. What usually failed? My understanding is that the bags are just slow to pump up and that they eventually do. Is it likely in that case to be an air bag, or perhaps a ride height sensor or even a hose? The pump does operate.
Thanks for your help.
CJB
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CJB wrote:

Yes, the 3.8 had head gasket concerns.

The transmission should be the AXOD. Non conputer controlled. How many miles on it? Failures after 50K miles tend to be hit-miss. I've had 3 in Tauri that never had problems into the 150K mile range when I sold them.

If the gasket replacement was done properly (quality gaskets, new head bolts, heads checked for flatness, etc) They tend to hold up as long as the cooling system is properly maintained. If the original failure was catastrophic, it would wash the bearing material off of the main and rod bearings and weaken the bottom end. Verify the oil pressure before you buy it.

High failure rate is a bit of a misnomer. The system won't tolerate 0-maintenence and the air bags on the struts deteriorate after about 10 years. If the vehicle is driven with leaky air bags it wears out the pump. Because the leaky bags may eventually pump up, repair was often put off until the pump failed from being overworked adding expense to the repair. By this time the car usually needed 4 airbags and a compressor. Here's a link to the Arnott page for your car. http://www.arnottindustries.com/parts_Lincoln_Continental_yid11.html . At this point on a 17 year old car, replace all 4 springs and the pump. Then you are good for another ~10 years. The electronics rarely fail. IMHO, stay away from the Band-Aid coil spring conversions. Although tempting, they tend to ruin the ride quality.My experience has been with the Mark VII conversion. YMMV on the Conti. A good website for information about the Conti and other Lincolns is www.lincolnsonline.com. Keep in mind, this car is 17 years old and they do not make good "$500 work cars".

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Thanks for the input, Tom. I've bought/sold my share of used, cars, and this is by a wide margin the finest car for its age I've ever seen. The paint is original and flawless, the interior looks new except the non functioning clock and premium sound radio. Fortunately, I have another radio for it, so that's no issue. I've seen many 5 year old cars that were not this nice. The owner kept it in a garage from day 1, and it's obvious.
The mileage is 97k. The engine seems tight, but I would like to verify the oil pressure.
The thing that concerns me is indeed the air bag suspension. These look easier to change than a standard strut assy since there's no spring to compress. Is that right? Lastly, can I just replace the bladder inside the assembly or does the entire strut assembly have to be replaced as a unit?
Thanks again,
CJB
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CJB wrote:

That would be a good question for the folks at lincolnsonline. I'm not sure but, I think the entire strut has to be replaced. They are not hard for a competent DIYer. Easier than a regular strut due to the air bag. The ones from Arnott look to be a new strut, air bag, and upper bearing plate. Not a bad price for all that. If the compressor still runs you could replace the struts, srevice or replace the dryer and replace the o-rings on the spring solenoids and likely be ok. Just remember that compressor replacement may be necessary in the future depending on how much the car was driven with the leaky bags. The front bags on my 84 Mark VII were bad when I bought it and the PO had driven it like that for a few months. I got lucky and the compressor survived. You could also do it one corner at a time if only one bag is currently leaking. Get the car up on all 4 corners then turn off the air ride switch in the trunk. This takes out all of the electronics. Drive it a few miles and see which corner(s) drop. This will be the leaker. Replace that one right away and do the rest one by one at your leisure. You will eventually have to do all 4 because when one goes, the rest soon follow.
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Great advice again, Tom. The owner was asking too much for this car. I've made an offer that I think is more than generous, due to the excellent condition. After buying the parts to fix it, I'll be over what he was asking to begin with, which I think is more than fair. In fact, I'm probably offering too much because of the condition.
I'll let you guys know what I find out. In the mean time, if you know of anything else I should look at, let me know.
Thanks again,
CJB
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My Mother had a used 89 or 90 Contiental. Bought it with 44,000 miles. History below is over 20,000 more miles.
It was by far the biggest headache anyone in my family has ever owned since my 1967 4 door Thunderbird.
The rear air bags quit. Bought 2 replacement struts. Could not replace them myself because the lower mounting bolts had corroded to unmoveable mass. Had to have them torched off.
Inner and outer tie rod ends always need replacement, just like the Taurus it is based on.
The 3.8 was solid , It already had the head issue taken care of when we got it.
The head unit for the stereo quit. Pulled the head unit and had it repaired at an authorized site.
The starter quit. Known for positve cable corrosion too but this was only the starter. The digital dash would wink out for long periods and post vague error codes claiming everything had to be replaced.
The climate control went nuts.
Went thru 2 rebuilt altenators
The plastic mounting tabs on the drivers door glass cracked and seperated from the glass. Can't buy new tabs. You have to buy new complete glass. Not covered by full glass insurance.
The power trunk release failed because the cheap plastic the latch is made of cracked and failed.
I remember spending oodles of time tinkering with a black box full of relays attached to the radiator. Think it was in a vain attempt to correct issues with auto climate control failures.
The best thing that happened to that car was when my Mom totalled it on a vacation trip.. Free at last.. FREE AT LAST..
Really.. hope you have a ton of spare time.
Steve 95 T-Bird LX 4.6
former 85 tbird 67 tbird 70 Torino GT 65 Fairlane 289
and a bunch of other schrapnel.
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Thanks for the warning. The owner wouldn't come down to a reasonable price at all, so I didn't get it anyway.
Instead I found a 97 Ranger that I'm very satisfied with.
CJB

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