It’s time again for another visit to the Chicago Auto Show, thanks to my friend Jim Smith. You see, he’s been attending the event for fifty years. And took quite a few pictures in that time. Lucky for us! So let’s dive into a world of Broughamage and wood-sided wagons, and see what kind of new rolling stock is on display!
I often ask myself whatever happened to the Lincoln Town Car. It was doing so well before Dearborn got caught up in the SUV craze, followed by the combover, er I mean crossover, craze. It seemed the venerable TC became largely ignored by product planners in the Glass House, before finally disappearing after a small number of 2012 Town Cars were built in mid-2011. Perhaps Panther fans’ love of the 1990-97 model and subsequent watering-down of said top-dog Lincoln had something to do with it. Making essentially identical cars from 2003-2011 certainly didn’t help, but those final boxy 1995-1997 just seemed a little more distinguished. A little more special.
I am well known for my love of Ford Motor Company’s flagship, the Lincoln Continental. Very few people, at least those who appreciate classic cars, would argue that the 1961-69 Continental was anything but a classic design and a true American luxury car, but I also am rather fond of the 1970-73 version. Remember those? They’ve kind of faded from memory over the decades, with the ’60s Continentals on one side and the square-rigged, luxury railroad coaches that were the 1975-79 Continentals.
I certainly remember them. A big part of that is due to an old, forgotten triple black 1971 Lincoln Continental that was sitting in a 1920s-era one-car garage not far from my neighborhood. From the age of approximately five through the end of junior high, my beloved bicycles took me where I wanted to go. Heck, I still have my first bike sitting in my garage!
Today we celebrate the last Lincoln coupe, the Mark VIII. Despite recent successes with the 2017 Continental and 2018 Navigator, the odds are that the 1993-1998 Mark VIII is going to be the last. Coupes just don’t sell. Crossovers are now eating even the midsized, mid-price sedan’s lunch. But it was a compelling car. It was the final chapter of a series of luxury coupes and cabriolets dating back to 1939.
The VIII was a technically sophisticated luxury car when new and its statistics are rather impressive even today. Upon its introduction in Autumn 1992, I was an impressionable twelve year old. Sure, I liked Porsche 911s and Corvettes, but even then I had a serious soft spot for domestic luxury cars, thanks to my grandparents’ patronage of premium FoMoCo products since the mid-Sixties.
Folks, let me tell you a story–a nightcap, if you will. Perhaps you may enjoy a gin and tonic while you read. Go ahead, I’ll wait. OK, ready? Once upon a time, there was a classy luxury car called the Lincoln. About ninety years ago, she came into the world. Well made, aspirational, comfortable and imposing. The Lincoln was worthy of any man of taste’s attention, and if you treated her right, she would be a friend for life.
Things actually got off to a bumpy start. Her benefactor, Mr. Leland, did not skimp on her finery, but in so doing, ran into the rocks financially. So the Lincoln was sold off to a rich industrialist. He wasn’t actually all that interested in the Lincoln, but his son, Edsel, took a shine to her, and the resulting Lincolns of the ’30s were remarkably beautiful, luxurious and worthy of your attention. While the Depression era was not particularly kind to them, Lincoln hung in there and the 1936-up Zephyrs and Lincoln-Continentals of 1940-48 were, again, remarkable cars.
Mr. Lido A. Iacocca is a polarizing figure. For some, he took all the glory, imposed his will at his own peril, and took credit for the work of others. Alternately, he was a super salesman, made his career from nothing, created some new market segments no one else had ever thought of, and saved a car company at the brink of being toast. Few are neutral about the man. But I fall a bit more into the latter camp, and the subject of today’s daily dose of Lincoln is why: The magnificent Continental Mark III.
1970 was a big year for Lincoln-Mercury. The Continental Mark III was a sales success, the recently refreshed Marquis/Monterey were strong sellers, the final performance Cougars, namely the 1970 Eliminator and XR7, went on sale, and there was a new Continental. Yes, the 1961 Continental had single-handedly saved the marque from oblivion, and its clean, classic lines and throwback center-opening doors made it an icon of the 1960s.
And the look was deftly maintained throughout the decade. These new Sixties Continentals looked nothing like prior Lincolns, and especially unlike the enormous 1958-60 models. Sounds a lot like 2017, when the new Continental appeared, doesn’t it? But I digress.
In 1987, Lincoln was making hay while the sun shined. After the drastic downsizing of arch-rival Cadillac, which started in 1985 with their FWD Fleetwoods and DeVilles then continued with mini-me Eldorados and Sevilles in 1986-87, Lincoln was poised to take advantage by offering some traditional American luxury!
For the eight of you who have been following my automotive scribblings here on RG since early 2017, you likely have gathered that I like the premium offerings of Ford Motor Company. This is of course true. It must be if I have two Town Cars. Two! But despite my close relationship with my local Lincoln dealer, and the great service I’ve gotten from them over the years, as late as 2015, I hadn’t driven any Lincoln automobile newer than a 2011 model, and tended to favor the good old final-generation Town Car. At the time I had a 2000 Town Car and a 2006 Volvo V50 station wagon.
Back in the summer of 2015, I stopped in to check out the used cars at Strieter Lincoln and yak with my favorite salesman, Peter Clarke. I’d been eyeing the last generation MKZs, as CPO 2010-12 models were frequently sitting on the lot with attractive pricing, say 22K or so. Not bad. Sure, it was based on the Fusion, but the upgrades were nice, especially the interiors.
An especially appealing 2011 MKZ was on the lot with black cherry metallic paint and off-white leather. Peter was more than happy to throw me the keys. It was a V6 model.
I turned out of the lot and stepped on it. Holy crap! This thing was zippy! I enjoyed driving it, but ultimately my cheapskate…err, frugal personality overrode and I returned the keys without making an offer.
Note: Four years ago, on October 14, 2013, I bought my first domestic car, after nearly twenty years of driving Volvos. This was originally published on the other site, but I thought it was time to move it over here, in a revised and expanded version! Four years, 40,000 miles added to the clock, and I’m still pretty happy with this car. I liked it enough that I now have two of them, so I guess it made an impression.
One of the things that slowly but surely happened when I started writing about old cars in late 2011 was that, despite being a car nut since I was approximately two years old, I finally started thinking about getting an old or at least older car of my own. Despite my love of 1977-79 Pontiac Bonnevilles (Dad had one) and 1990-92 Cadillac Broughams (no one had one, I just love them), the right car was apparently looking for me, and found me. One nice thing about acquiring an extra car I don’t need is that I have no wife or girlfriend to say, “oh no you don’t!” Hey, wait a minute. I don’t need spousal/significant other approval! I have the money. I can do whatever the hell I want! So I bought a 2000 Lincoln Town Car. Continue Reading →