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.
My dad’s parents, Bob and Ruby Klockau, were big Ford fans. Grandpa Bob always had Lincoln Continentals or Marks, and Grammy always had a T-Bird. When my grandfather passed away in 1989, Grammy took over his Rose Quartz Metallic 1987 Lincoln Continental as her primary driver.
She did keep her 1977 Thunderbird though, and it became the backup, or the loaner when my Aunt Bobbie and Uncle Ron would visit. It was very similar to this one, but with a black top and black side moldings.
Same interior too, but with bucket seats and center console, and no wind-up windows on her car! My grandparents’ cars always had full power.
For a long time I wanted that T-Bird for my first car. It was mint even in the late ’80s, and low mileage. I loved the color combination too. Sadly, it was rarely driven, so it got sold around 1991. I never saw it again.
But back to the Lincolns! We always did lunch in the summertime when I was on summer vacation. I looked forward to these excursions almost as much as I looked forward to Christmas. A typical outing would start out at Bishop’s Buffet at South Park Mall, a visit to Toys “R” Us, where I would get to pick out a model car, and then we’d move on to the car dealerships: Sexton Ford, then South Park Lincoln-Mercury, which later became Classic Lincoln-Mercury, and is today a Kia dealer.
Grammy would always ask to see the new Thunderbird at Sexton, and the new Continental at South Park. The salesman would usually walk us over to the nearest one, and of course we would get a brochure. Grammy wasn’t really out to buy, she was just that rare woman who enjoyed cars–and she knew I loved cars as well. I specifically remember looking at a circa-1990 Continental out front, in dark red with a dark red cloth interior. She always decided to keep her Continental.
So in late 1992, the 1993 Mark VIII debuted. We naturally both wanted to see one up close. So once again, off we went to Classic L-M in Moline. They indeed had a Mark VIII in the showroom, in the striking combination of bright white with aquamarine leather interior. For the first time in our many visits, I strongly encouraged Grammy to get one. I loved that car–especially the aqua interior!
She certainly could have, and there was no need to trade in the ’87 Connie: She had sold her ’77 T-Bird in 1991, and the two car attached garage would have accommodated both Lincolns nicely. My grandfather had been a successful attorney and insurance company executive, so it would not have been a question of money either. She seemed interested, and asked a few pointed questions to the salesman.
We were sent off with a plush Mark VIII catalog (which I still have, to this day), and a few weeks later, when we were visiting, I asked about the Mark. As I recall, she said something along the lines of “Oh, I really didn’t need that car, and I’m used to the Continental.” She did, however, buy my Dad’s ’91 Volvo 940 SE later that year, however, when he got a new ’93 850GLT.
A couple years later, I saw what had to be the car in the showroom parked in a driveway in Rock Island. I could have spotted that aqua interior from a hundred yards away. I saw it in traffic a couple of times (I rode my bike a LOT as a kid) with an elderly lady behind the wheel. Indeed, she appeared older than Grammy, who was still very spry and active at 73.
As for the Mark VIII itself, it had a lot of promise. It was very advanced, with its 280-hp 4.6L DOHC V8, air-ride suspension and four-wheel disc brakes. Zero to sixty came in 7.5 seconds–quite good for the early ’90s.
But personal luxury coupes were on the way out, and the VIII never really took off. A 1997 refresh included a new nose, neon taillamp section and other refinements, but it really did no good: a mere 14,357 were built in 1998, its last year.
As a tribute to the Mark Series, a Collector’s Edition was available in ’98, available in Cordovan or White Pearlescent. A small four-page brochure was printed, and is somewhat hard to find. It did not appear in the final deluxe Mark VIII brochure.
All of these memories were refreshed back in Autumn 2012 when I came across this Evergreen Frost Mark VIII at the nearby golf course while out on a walk. This is the same color as the 1994 Lincoln Town Car Signature Series our neighbors had. The Kendall’s car also had Evergreen leather interior and a dark green padded coach roof. After they brought that car back from the dealership, I fell in love with that combination. I had forgotten over the past couple of decades that it was also an available color on the Mark VIII. This car is still around too. I saw it in traffic just a couple weeks ago, and it is still pristine.
I don’t recall ever seeing a Mark VII in this color back when they were new cars. This one is either a 1995 or ’96, as it has the swept-spoke alloys introduced in 1995, along with the revised instrument panel that added genuine wood to the center console.
The 1993-94 IP was criticized back then for being too stark for a Lincoln, resulting in the lashings of genuine tree trim for ’95. Wood or no wood, I love the wraparound instrument panels on these. They still look modern today.
The Mark VII and Mark VIII were the only really sporty versions of the long-lived Mark coupes–particularly the LSC models. It all started with the ’84 Mark VII LSC, which was decidedly non-Broughamy compared to the previous Mark VI. What if Ford had kept that momentum that began with the Mark VII LSC going?
It is interesting to think what would have happened if Lincoln had kept the Mark Series in production. There was so much brand equity in the Mark and Continental nameplates. With Lincoln’s recent comeback and the return of the Continental nameplate, it’s possible that we may see a new Mark after all. Perhaps a retractable hardtop convertible? Who knows. But I for one am glad that Lincoln in 2018 is moving away from MK-everything nomenclature and is introducing some more compelling models. Perhaps they’ll get their groove back after all!