1986 Lincoln Mark VII Bill Blass: Sporty Elegance

Today, we’re going to talk about the Lincoln Mark VII, a car I still find timeless and attractive today. It is the longest-lived of the Mark Series, available from 1984 through 1992. Lincoln has definitely changed since I was a kid in the ’80s. For most of my childhood and early adulthood, there were three Lincoln models: The Continental, the Town Car, and the Mark. All were clearly defined in the lineup, and had a specific clientele. Even the dealer brochure made note of this.

As the 1986 Mark VII brochure said: “While what Lincoln automobiles have in common is impressive, what perhaps is more impressive is how they are different from each other. For each addresses and fulfills a different luxury need. The 1986 Lincoln Mark VII, for example, satisfies not only the craving for comfort, but the passion for performance…the Lincoln Continental is a truly contemporary luxury automobile, a marvelous commingling of high technology and high fashion. And the Lincoln Town Car continues its tradition of uncompromising ride, room and comfort.” I’ve already done the mid-’80s Town Car, and the Continental will get its time in the spotlight here on RG sometime soon. But today, it’s all about the Mark VII.

By the early 1980s the market was quite different from when the 1968-71 Continental Mark III came on the scene. Pricey European makes were rapidly overtaking the luxury domestics’ market, save the staunch Greatest Generation, who generally preferred their Lincolns, Cadillacs and Chrysler New Yorkers to any BMW, Mercedes or Audi. But those pesky Boomers were throwing a wrench into traditional Detroit Broughamage.

But thanks to Ford’s rapid recovery and modernization in the early ’80s led to some very appealing designs. Fresh, modern styling began with the totally restyled 1983 Thunderbird, which was a breath of fresh air compared to the rectilinear 1980-82 model. It set the template for Ford Motor Company’s design theme for the rest of the decade. The following model year, the Mark got its makeover.

And it was a beaut. Gone were all of the ’70s styling cues: bladed fenders, hidden headlamps, oval opera windows and padded Valino grain vinyl roofs were all gone for good. In its place was a trim, stylish, modern luxury coupe.

Mark VII 02

Oh, some traits of past Marks were retained, such as the hood ornament, plenty of chrome trim, plush cloth or leather trim, and other Lincoln goodies. It was still a Lincoln, after all. But all those things paled in comparison to the totally new look.

Mark VII 03

I remember being at my grandparents’ house one day circa 1985-86. They had been thinking of finally trading in Grandpa Bob’s mint navy blue 1977 Mark V, but my grandfather wasn’t sure what to make of the new VII. It had nothing to do with the price, it was just the new coupe was a bit too low-slung and swoopy for his sense of style. In fact, the Mark VI was not to his taste either; it was just like his V, only smaller and more expensive. So why buy? That’s why the Mark V stayed in their garage for ten years. He just didn’t see the Mark VI or VII as an improvement.

Blass logo 01

But I personally always liked them. Sure, I liked the Mark V too, but this car was equally compelling, as far as I was concerned. Of course, my grandparents weren’t terribly concerned what their 6-year old grandson thought, ha ha.

1987 Continental

Ultimately, Bob and Ruby passed on a Mark VII and got a 1987 Continental sedan instead, right before the front-wheel drive 1988 Continental came out.

1986 Mark VII brochure

When the Continental Mark VII debuted, the scene-stealer was the Luxury Sport Coupe, or LSC. With blacked-out trim, blackwall tires (on a Lincoln? Ye gods!) analog instruments and up-rated suspension, it was highly recommended by most road testers, and well loved all the way through the VII’s run, which lasted through the 1992 model year.

1986 Bill Blass

Despite the LSC being the best remembered (and perhaps, rightly so), there WAS a full lineup of Mark VIIs from the beginning in 1984. Models included the standard Mark VII, the Bill Blass and Versace Designer Editions and, of course, the LSC.

Mark VII emblem

 

The Valentino edition only lasted for 1984 and 1985. Starting in 1986, the same year of our featured car, the Bill Blass became the sole Designer Edition Mark VII.

The Designer Series, of course, had been around since 1976, when Cartier, Givenchy, Pucci and Bill Blass versions were offered. It was a brilliant idea, take a high-toned luxury coupe and doll them up for a premium price. In the ’70s, they were the ultimate Marks.

By 1986, each Lincoln model had a Designer version. Bill Blass for the Mark, Cartier for the Town Car and Givenchy for the Continental. Of course, being a two-door, the Mark VII was the sportiest. You’d be right at home at the yacht club!

One nod to the Mark’s illustrious past was seen in the spare tire hump, which was now a shadow of its former self. But really, would a tire hump straight off of a Mark IV or V, with the little chrome letters, have looked right on such a modern design? Probably not.

Mark VII 05

Another tired chestnut some stay-at-home bloggers like to drag out is that the Mark was just the ’83 T-Bird with some Broughamy bits tossed on. In fact, the Mark VII was designed first. All the sketches and hard points were complete, but FoMoCo wanted flush composite headlamps instead of quad sealed beams as on the Thunderbird. So it was decided to let the Continental Mark VI carry on for the 1983 model year, so that the new Mark would have the modern headlights from the first. The T-Bird was designed from the Mark, not the other way around. And now you know the rest of THAT story!

The 1986 Mark VII Bill Blass was offered in one color combination: Sandalwood Clearcoat Metallic over Dark Sandalwood. Interiors were done in Sand Beige, and were available in either cloth and leather, Ultrasuede (which this car has) or full leather.

The Blass Mark VII had an MSRP of $23,857. As with all models, they had an overall length of 202.8″ and a 108.5″ wheelbase. All were powered via a 5.0 liter, 302 cubic inch V8 with multi-port fuel injection. Power was up for 1986, to the tune of 150 hp for the standard and Blass Mark VIIs. Anti-lock brakes, four-wheel disc brakes, electronic air suspension on all four wheels and automatic level control were all standard as well.

20,056 Mark VIIs of all types were built in 1986. The base Mark VII coupe was dropped after the 1987 model year. From that point on only the LSC and the Bill Blass Marks were available, this would last all the way to 1992, the final year for the VII.

This particular Mark was on display at the 2014 LCOC meet in Rockford, IL back in September of 2014. I hadn’t seen one this nice in a long time, and was smitten. I especially liked the pinstriping, done in Pewter and Bright Blue. The combination, along with the Ultrasuede interior, whitewall tires and spoked aluminum wheels made for a very swank looking car!

These are modern classics. They have an elegance that transcends their 1980s origin. Heck, the fact that they lasted all the way to 1992 with no significant changes other than interior trim and wheel options proves it! Maybe it shouldn’t have been in the lineup that long, but even at the end in ’92 it didn’t really look like a dated ’80s car.

Beauty, comfort and timelessness. That’s the Mark VII Bill Blass!

Mark VII 07

6 Replies to “1986 Lincoln Mark VII Bill Blass: Sporty Elegance”

  1. Ryan

    Shortly after having me, my dad traded his 82 Mustang GT (t-tops, radio/AC delete) in on a black LSC. I (we) have fond memories of that car. Unfortunately, he traded it on a Sable and thus descended into what he calls dubbed the “family man automotive doldrums.”

    Two weeks ago he started a new job. While the position came with a decent pay bump, it’s the first time in ~20 years that he doesn’t have a company car. The past month has been spent scouring craigslist for a “mint” LSC. He doesn’t seem to understand what a terrible purchase that is. At least we know where my affinity for dubious automotive purchases comes from.

    Reply
  2. John C.

    I can see why your relatives were hard pressed to see the advantage of the Mark VII over the Mark V. The interior trim is at a much lower level, where is the wood and that cloth is several steps below. One can see from the sales numbers that the 70s ones were in the sweet spot. They were also smoother and quieter and no one was going to smell Fairmont.

    I can see the attraction of a slightly better Mustang in a tuxedo, err sportcoat. But that is what a Cougar should be, not a Lincoln. The foreign car buyer was always going to stay away, so why not give the customer what they really want. They would have paid the guzzler tax. Remember even the reputationally cheapskate Chrysler fans paid it happily to get a small taste of old Chrysler with the Fifth Avenue.

    People like to point out how smart Don Peterson was to give customers what he thought they should have, fake Euros, instead of what they want, biggies. GM took the other route and tried to make the new smaller cars drive like the older, bigger ones. In my mind a bigger engineering challenge, and one they had a fair amount of success with. All inspired by the first Seville, which was head and shoulders smoother and quieter than MB, with a similar economy and footprint.

    Reply
  3. stingray65

    A car from back in the day when Lincoln sold way more cars in the USA than MB, BMW, Audi, Volvo, and the Japanese upscale brands did not yet exist. These were all over flyover country in the 1980s and 90s, but it has been a very long time since I have seen one in the wild – nice that a few people have preserved them.

    Reply
  4. Carmine

    Never knew about the suede interior option on these, I’d seen the leather cloth and the all leather one, but never this combo. These were pretty slick, though I still see “Ford Tempo” everytime I look at that steering wheel.

    Its funny how the digital dash in these apes the Town Car’s “3 window” digital display and with woodgrain on the BB, sort of a retro-futuristic sort of look.

    These were nice, and they were full boat lux cars, most of the ones I’ve seen all had auto dimmer and auto lamps, plus full power on everything, I think the trunk on these is also lined to match the color of the interior.

    Reply
  5. manfromlox

    In, I think, 1985 my best friend’s mom traded in her Swedish brick for an Aero Bird. Blew my young mind.

    The LSC remains a good looking car to me; the others a bit too baroque.

    Reply
  6. Glenn Kramer

    Tom,

    Just catching up, remember the car at Rockford! I had an ’87 LSC, one of the best cars I’ve ever owned. Great performance comfort, reliability and mileage. The article, as always, is as good as the car.

    Reply

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