One man's Lincoln was another's political liability


Brooks Ramsey woke up yesterday morning determined to buy himself a car.

But not just any car.

It had to be the charcoal-gray 1989 Lincoln Town Car with the whitewall tires, vinyl roof and AM-FM radio and tape deck -- the car that had helped critics brand Dennis F. Rasmussen as a big spender and throw him out of the Baltimore County executive's office.

Once every two years, of recent, Mr. Ramsey apparently gets this craving for a Lincoln Town Car formerly owned by a county executive. So yesterday he went to the Bel Air Auto Auction, where Mr. Rasmussen's infamous Town Car fell into his hands for the bargain price of $10,300.

The car, which has 31,540 miles on it, cost the county $24,400 in September 1989 and now has a retail value of $15,875, according to the National Auto Dealers Association blue book.

"It's a good buy. It's a very good buy," said Mr. Ramsey's son, Steven, who sells cars at the auction house.

The new county executive, Roger B. Hayden, replaced the Town Car with a 1991 Ford Crown Victoria the county purchased for $15,900.

Mr. Ramsey also bought Mr. Rasmussen's last county-owned Lincoln Town Car in 1988, driving it for a year before selling it to a neighbor. He said he has been keeping his eye out for Mr. Rasmussen's latest Town Car since last November, when the former executive was trounced at the polls.

Yesterday morning, Mr. Ramsey came to the auction house determined to have the car, which still held the scent of Mr. Rasmussen'scherry-flavored tobacco in its interior. He outbid a half-dozen other dealers in a swiftly moving process that saw bids rise from a base of $8,500 in about 30 seconds.

"My son asked me this morning what I was going to pay for it, and I said, 'Whatever I have to,' " said a beaming Mr. Ramsey, who owns an auto dealership in White Marsh.

While the car may not become a collector's item, Mr. Ramsey recognized its role in county political history.

"Unfortunately, Dennis won't have any other one to drive, so I guess I'll have to drive this one for a while," he said.

Mr. Ramsey, who lives a mile from Mr. Rasmussen in Kingsville, said his purchase was not a political statement but a matter of economics and personal taste. He prefers the Town Car's ride to that of the 1985 Mercedes he keeps in his garage.

Although he voted for Mr. Hayden in the last election, Mr. Ramsey prefers the former executive's taste in cars. "I think the Town Car is the best car on the road," he said. "The resale values are good, they get good mileage, and they hold up well over time."

He has no plans to go after Mr. Hayden's Crown Victoria if it is ever auctioned.

When the old Lincoln had 80,000 miles on it, he sold it to for $9,000 to Elmer Kurrle, owner of the Kingsville Food Rite.

Mr. Kurrle said yesterday that he's had no problems in the 14months he's owned the car.

"It's performed A-No. 1," said Mr. Kurrle. It now has 94,000 miles on it, but he said he expects it to run smoothly for at least another 50,000 miles.

"From a public relations standpoint, I can see why the county got rid of it, with all the flap involved," said Mr. Kurrle. "But from a cost standpoint, it would've been better for them to hold on to it."

Mr. Ramsey said yesterday that the newly acquired Lincoln will eventually be resold. He is unsure whether its history will add to its resale value, but he intends to make it part of the sales pitch.

"Sure, we'll use its history as a selling point," said Mr. Ramsey. "Why not?"

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