On Your Marks (Part Two)

Continuing our tour through the illustrious history of the Lincoln Mark line, illustrated by the brochures that promoted each generation.

Image: lincoln.com

Concerns about air pollution and a fuel crisis being about a change in direction for the Mark line.

Mark 4 1972-1976

The larger, heavier but less powerful Mark 4, again based on the Ford Thunderbird, ushered in the (often clumsily executed) federally required ‘5mph’ bumpers(1), but also introduced the successful Designer Series. America and its roads were changing in the early seventies: the exciting muscle cars were all but gone and there was a shift towards luxury and convenience features as regulations effectively strangled the large V8s with anti-pollution devices. Those big blocks had never been designed with low fuel consumption or clean emissions in mind, so any expectation of stirring performance had now become futile.

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In this market environment, introducing styling features like opera windows, which first appeared on the 1972 Mark 4, and bringing out the Designer Series in 1976 were understandable responses. Weighing in excess of 5,000 pounds and at just over 19 feet long, the Mark 4 could deliver only adequate performance, even with its 460 cubic inch V8, but it did so with admirable silence and refinement.

Bill Blass, Cartier, Givenchy and Pucci all lent their names to specially styled versions of the Mark 4, starting with the 1976 model year cars. These featured no bodywork changes, just special colours and unique exterior and interior trim. The Cartier version would prove to be the most popular. And speaking of popularity, rolling off the lines at the Wixom plant as before, the Mark 4 was a good seller, yearly finding between 47,000 and 70,000 owners.

A 1972 and 1976 brochure are shown here. The first presents the car in its original, slim bumper form as the stylists intended. The 1976 item showcases the Designer Series which made its debut in that year.

Mark 5 1977-1979

Not totally new, but rather an extensive reskin with more rigid, straight-lined looks, the Mark 5 was even longer (230 inches) than the Mark 4, yet more than 400 pounds lighter. This was achieved by using thinner sheet metal and glass, removing the rear quarter window motors (the windows were fixed in the Mark 5) and making a smaller 400 cubic-inch V8 engine standard equipment. The 460 was still available as an option but only in 1977 and 1978 as, from 1979 on, the CAFE(2) standards forced Ford to eliminate the biggest V8 engines from their line-up in order to comply.

The vinyl roof was a delete option: the Mark 5 came with one as standard and you had to specifically ask for it not to be fitted (not that many did). Michelin X radial tires were standard equipment, and a then novel ‘illuminated entry system’ where a lighted ring around the door lock and the interior dome light came on as you lifted the door handle was optionally available. The much-loved Designer series continued as before.

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1978 was the year of the Ford Motor Company’s 75th anniversary and one of the ways it celebrated that occasion was with the introduction of the Diamond Jubilee Edition. Limited to just one car per dealer (5,159 in total) this was a Mark 5 with all the trimmings, and then some. Adding a substantial $8,000 to the price of the standard Mark 5, the Diamond Jubilee Edition offered such niceties as unique colours, an umbrella stored in the armrest, a leather-bound owners manual and toolkit, extra thick carpet, the illuminated entry system, specially bevelled opera windows with a simulated diamond embedded in the glass and more. At the time it was the most expensive Ford vehicle yet.

The Jubilee Edition was followed in 1979 by the Collectors Series, which was not limited to one car per dealer. A peculiarity of that particular Mark 5 edition is that it did not have opera windows. The Mark 5 would go into history as the best selling Mark series of all time, 228,262 cars spread over its three model-year production run.

The 1977 brochure alludes to the styling lineage of the Marks since 1940; note that the 1958-60 cars are nowhere to be seen.

Mark 6 1980-1983

As GM’s Bill Mitchell once famously remarked: “styling a small car is like tailoring for a dwarf.” These days that remark might not pass the political correctness test but there is definitely an element of truth to it. Stylist John Aitken had to somehow create a credible new Mark with all the relevant visual cues, but on a smaller scale. Of course, the resulting totally new Mark 6, based on Ford’s Panther platform, was only small by American standards as it was still between 216 and 219 inches long. Its weight had dropped quite a bit once more though: the Mark 6 shed around 700 pounds compared to its predecessor.

Although it superficially looked quite similar to the car it replaced, the Mark 6 had a decidedly stubbier appearance which was not helpful in achieving ‘the Continental look’. Ford’s 1980 Thunderbird and Mercury’s Cougar suffered in a similar way.

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For the first time since the ‘banished’ 1958 Mark 3, a four-door version was available; the standard engine was now a 302 cubic-inch V8 with, only in the first year, a 351 cubic inch V8 as an option. A new Signature Series, available only in burgundy or silver, was the successor to the previous year’s Collectors Series. The Designer Series was again present but the Givenchy variant was dropped in 1983.

With slightly more than half the number of cars sold compared to its predecessor, despite one extra year’s production, the Mark 6 was a disappointment in more than just the visual stakes and Ford knew it had to make radical changes to keep the Mark line viable.

The 1981 brochure shows that a definite something was lost in the transition from Mark 5 to 6.

Mark 7 1984-1992

Ford’s radical and audacious switch to more aerodynamic styling as seen in Europe with the Sierra and Scorpio was also implemented on the other side of the Atlantic. In 1983, a totally new and forward-looking Ford Thunderbird had put the flightless 1980-82 car out of its misery and, one year later, it was Lincoln’s turn with the new Mark 7. Now sitting on the Fox platform as used by the Mustang and Thunderbird, this new Mark broke with tradition: it may not have been as smoothly aerodynamic looking as the Thunderbird but was arguably the better for it. The Mark 7 had a substantial, hewn-from-solid look and just enough Lincoln styling cues left to not alienate too many traditional Mark buyers – the opera windows were out, though.

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With a wheelbase of 108.5 inches and overall length of 202.8 inches, the Mark 7 was modestly sized for a Lincoln. Power was provided by a 302 cubic-inch V8 or, only in 1984 and 1985, a BMW M21 2.4-litre turbodiesel six. The diesel option proved unpopular as, in the USA, gasoline remained inexpensive and the owner of a diesel powered car mostly had to replenish their reservoir in between the Kenworths and Peterbilts, which did not fit with the luxury car image.

Another sign of change in direction at Lincoln was the introduction in 1986 of the Mark 7 LSC (Luxury Sports Coupe), a de-chromed and more GT-like variant with a more powerful V8, retuned suspension, sports seats and analog instruments instead of digital ones. To satisfy the still important more traditionally inclined customer, the Designer Series remained, but in reduced form: Bill Blass or Versace were the two only remaining choices. Sales numbers of personal luxury cars declined in general as the eighties went on and the Mark 7 was no exception; slightly over 190,000 found an owner, the numbers sold nose-diving in the final two years of its life.

The brochure from 1986 illustrates just how much of a change the Mark 7 represented compared to its predecessor.

Mark 8 1993-1998

The (until now, at least) last of the Mark line was a fully paid up member of the ‘jellybean aero styling’ club. Credited to designer Kyu Kim, the totally new Mark 8 used the FN10 platform, a development of Ford’s existing MN12 platform that underpinned the Ford Thunderbird and Mercury Cougar. The traditional spare tyre hump was still present and the grille was a modern interpretation of the classic ‘waterfall’ item that graced the front of the 1940 and 1941 Marks.

The Mark 8 was longer and wider than its predecessor and had a wheelbase of 113 inches. A sophisticated air suspension that lowered the ride height at speed was standard equipment. Also new was the engine, a 4.6-litre DOHC 32-valve Intech V8 delivering 280bhp. In 1995, the LSC returned, powered by a slightly more powerful V8 with 290bhp and an automatic gearbox with altered ratios.

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Designer editions were now a thing of the past but, in 1996, a Diamond Anniversary package to commemorate Lincoln’s 75th birthday was offered. Near the end of its life, for the 1997 model year, the Mark 8 was subject to a facelift with dubious results: the spare tyre hump at the rear was de-emphasised and an end-to-end neon brake light was added. At the front, the grille was slightly enlarged and no longer visually connected the headlights of the car.

The bonnet, which previously was made of aluminium, was now a composite plastic item. Because the new bonnet was shorter, there were now a few extra shutlines where previously there were none. Around 126,000 cars rolled off the Wixom production line until, in mid-1998, the end of the line was reached. A Mark 9 and Mark 10(3) concept were shown in 2001 and 2004 respectively, but neither of them was developed into a production car, sadly.

The 1993 brochure naturally made sure to emphasise the all-new styling and engine. An interior devoid of wood (fake or otherwise), chrome and a Cartier clock was quite a departure from the traditional Marks, although the Mark 7 had already partly paved the way in this regard.

With the current economic climate and move towards a different kind of mobility in mind (and the recent discontinuation of that other Lincoln crown jewel, the Continental) we should not expect to greet any further additions to the Mark lineage any time soon, if ever. Nevertheless, Lincoln’s Mark models served the brand well for many years and, at times, the Mark was the only domestic rival that could beat the Cadillac Eldorado, or at least give it a real run for its money.

(1) Only the 1972 Mark 4 would be spared this defacement.

(2) Corporate Average Fuel Economy: federally mandated minimum standards for weighted average fuel economy across each manufacturer’s range of passenger cars (excluding pick-up trucks).

(3) The Mark 10 was a two-seater convertible based on the 2002-2005 Thunderbird.

Author: brrrruno

Car brochure collector, Thai food lover, not a morning person before my first cup of coffee

35 thoughts on “On Your Marks (Part Two)”

  1. The Marks IV to VI have so much front overhang you might almost think they were front wheel drive.

    1. How do you spell “Wasted opportunity” in Dearbornese? Those concepts are lovely. I noted also that that later cars (in the title photo) have dementedly long overhangs at the front. What was the reason for that?

    2. And here, for completeness’ sake, is the Mark X that followed in 2004. It seems to be basically the same car but now a convertible with a different front end design:

      Those substantial overhangs at the front (and the back too for that matter)? I don’t really know, but my two best guesses would be 1) the styling fashion in the USA in the 50s, 60s and 70s- most full size cars had quite a bit of overhang front and rear, and 2) in the 70s it was perhaps not necessarily fashion anymore but large overhangs may have facilitated the mounting of the large and heavy mandatory “5Mph bumpers”.

    3. How hard can it be a great car to build and put it on sale?
      With this look, an absurd price (production costs plus a hefty profit) would certainly not have been a problem for a lot of customers.

    4. Fred and Bruno,

      The proportions of the IX and X are not at all the same.


      In the article linked above, Gerry McGovern talks about Charles Eames, Eero Saarinen, Frank Lloyd Wright. Pablo Picasso is mentioned as having owned a 1961 Continental. The ambition expressed for Lincoln by this concept and it’s creators is exceptionally high, too high apparently.

      One might imagine that a productionized Mark IX could have ridden on a modified X150 platform, or maybe X350 (quite heavily modified), or in some alternate universe the forthcoming Aston VH platform. But there was no way that Ford was going to lavish that kind of expense on Lincoln, never mind countenancing that Lincoln might possibly equal or surpass Jaguar or AML in any manner or fashion.

      The X on the other hand appears to be a re-skinned DEW98* Thunderbird. Considering how that turned out, and bearing in mind that the Lincoln LS was noticeably de-contented as compared with its platform mate Jaguar X200, it’s probably for the best that they didn’t pursue it.

      See also: https://driventowrite.com/2018/04/28/2002-lincoln-continental-concept-gerry-mcgovern-david-woodhouse/

    5. Gooddog, Thank you for pointing that out- although the cars do look pretty similar at first glance, there is for instance an almost 13 inch difference in wheelbase. To me they still look good today although (as you also remarked) the production 2002-2005 Thunderbird did not go over very well and a Lincoln version would have been substantially more expensive, so I can see why Lincoln left it at that.

  2. My favourite Lincoln Mark era! I like the Mark IV, V, VI and VIII. The Mark VII always looked a bit dumpy to me but it has the credit of being the first US car to feature flush headlights. Apparently, after much lobbying with the Department of Transportation (DoT), Ford managed to convince them to give a waiver to the decades-old sealed-beam headlights requirement (probably using aerodynamics and fuel saving arguments). After that, the floodgates opened and the DoT had to change the regulations and allow flush headlights for everybody.

    The often unloved Mark VI holds a special place in my heart because it was one of those cars from my childhood. Built from CKD (completely knocked-down kits) and local components in my native Venezuela, the Mark VI was sold as the “Conquistador”. Not a Lincoln and not really a Ford either (it’s complicated), it was sold and serviced in selected Ford dealers. To my impressionable child’s eyes it looked awesome, from its voluptuous, overstuffed caramel coloured leather seats, to those oval “opera” windows, to of course that sharp, coffin-like front end with hideaway headlights. Although not officially a Lincoln, the Conquistador was the first Lincoln model to be built outside the US. The story of the Conquistador, in its three generations, is quite interesting and worth a more detailed description than this rushed comment while, ehem…, at work…

    In the meantime, I hope I’m able to get this 1980 Conquistador advert picture to show in the comment.

    1. Hello Cesar,
      That Conquistador was unknown to me and its story sounds interesting, definitely DTW material IMHO. Could you be persuaded to contribute an article about it if you have the time and inclination?

    2. Thank you Bruno for the kind words, it would be an honour to contribute to my favourite car site! I shall get my research started!

    3. I second that motion. I’ve never heard of the Conquistador, would love to read more about it!

  3. Good afternoon, Bruno. I had no idea the Mk VII could be had with a BMW diesel engine. I’ve seen them around every now and then, but all with the V8.

    Ford indeed wasted an opportunity with the Mk IX as well as with the Interceptor and 427 concepts. Maybe the numbers didn’t work out for these cars, but I really like the way they looked.

  4. Thanks Bruno, up to the Mark V these are properly big cars. Most of these full size (or is this mid size to Americans?) cars have huge overhangs. I would imagine it’s simply a matter of the outer dimensions having balooned whilst the chassis didn’t keep pace. That said, the Mark VI seems to have equally big overhangs and a shrunken wheelbase…

    Wonder what it would look like with a longer wheelbase. Ah.

    I like VII as well. The VIII is a bit too aero for me and that facelift is almost Fiat Charter stuff. The IX and X are gorgeous, but maybe Lincoln was a bit tarnished back then? It would a bit like bringing back Alfa Romeo at this point: you’d probably need two or three convincing generations of Giulia models to get anywhere near BMW or Mercedes levels of sales (or image), which would be quite the investment. And that would be in stable market conditions.

    My culture pessimist side is sure that at some point there will be a huge SUV (probably electric) that is called Mark IX or something.

    1. I did a photomanip of the Mk.VI, moving the front wheels slightly forward. The real version (bottom) looks almost implausible in my opinion.

    2. That’s made a huge improvement in its stance. Nice work, Bernard. 👍

  5. I have had several American friends tell me I would have to have been there at the time to fully understand the rationale behind these cars. But it’s fun to look and comment. Not necessarily to poke holes, but my goodness these were big. And that overhang; does nobody ever have to do a U-turn between walls over there? I guess not; a Lincoln owner would get valet parking.
    That Bill Mitchell quote about ‘tailoring for a dwarf’ has always annoyed me ( no, at 178cm I’m no dwarf). Plenty of European designers over the years have had no problem in turning out beautiful-looking small cars. To me this says more about limited talent on Mitchell’s part, seeking to excuse frumpiness and dumpiness rather then looking to work successfully within a smaller package. And yet his company did turn out some atractive smaller cars – Vega, Camaro… I wonder whether he wishes he had never said that? The Mark VI shows this mindset; I think the problem is the height of the roofline. But you have to put your head somewhere, even if many people these days seem to drive with their brains elsewhere.
    These cars are certainly impressive, and not just for sheer size. But not to my personal taste.

    1. Seconded on the annoyance about the quote, Peter: to me, this kind of attitude smacks of intellectual laziness. “There is no other way to do this. No. We didn’t bother to ask anyone else.”

    2. Maybe the ‘dwarf’ quote didn’t refer to the length of a body but to its circumference.
      For me these cars are inextricably linked to a movie detective called Cannon who had similar bodily dimensions to the Lincoln he drove.

    3. Gosh, that’s a blast from the past, Dave. I remember the TV series from the early 1970s. Frank Cannon, played by William Cannon, was certainly an unlikely hero with his receding hairline and, er, ample build:

  6. Very interesting – I think my favourites are the later, aero versions. There’s a good video on YouTube showing how the MK 8 lowers its ride height at speed.

    I know that many of these cars are somewhat brash in terms of today’s tastes, but I admire them for their theatre, comfort and advanced features. The long overhangs must make ramps a bit nerve-wracking, though.

    Here’s a video for the 1975 model year.

    Re the Bill Mitchell quotes – I think it’s safe to say that he was quite a character. One thing I like about him was that he railed against people in the industry who saw cars as a commodity – something which can become pervasive in a large manufacturer.

    1. Apart from it being said by him in a different time from today, my feeling is that Bill Mitchell made his (in)famous remark in the context of luxury cars, which especially in America were without exception long and wide. Indeed he was also responsible for the 1963 Corvette and the early Camaro, neither of which are very large even today.
      The 1961 Lincoln Continental was of course quite a bit shorter and less wide than its predecessor, but still hardly what one would call a small or even medium sized vehicle. Here the fact that the 1958-1960 Lincolns were simply gigantic distorts the picture a bit.
      The “problem” Mitchell alluded to was not only demonstrated by the Mark VI but also by the futile attempts of cash-strapped Chrysler to create luxury cars on the K-car base in the eighties.

    1. What a fascinating site that is, Charles! Their Beetle sedan in the pic has an early cabriolet engine cover….. 🙂

  7. A lot of people have asked here what made ridiculously long overhangs (especially front), acceptable to American eyes from the late 1960s through the 1980s. My theory is that it was the advent of mid-engined cars. Take for example, the Berlinetta Boxer, and its successor the Testarossa. There’s no engine up front, and nothing else of critical importance related to packaging went into that space.

    Not to blame Pininfarina entirely, the trend caught on and went global, for example the Lotus Esprit, Aston-Martin Lagonda, Citroën SM and CX. Although it seemed like BMW and Mercedes resisted this trend for the most part, the C111, and M1 indicate that even they weren’t fully immune. What would have looked silly ten years earlier became the state of the art. Designs emanating from Dearborn, further catalysed by Bunkie Knudsen of notorious “beak” fame (see everything he touched including the 1971 Mustang) were especially affected.

    Surely the trend was then further re-enforced by the advent of “safety cars”(e.g. Volvo’s), their outsized front overhangs ostensibly providing additional crush space; and compounded the misguided bumper boom instigated by the daft US insurance industry.

    Aerodynamics obviously played a role too, which goes back to many of the jet and rocket inspired concepts from prior eras.

    So what people noticed about the 1972 Mark IV (and its immediate successors) was that it was an evolutionary, fresher, more progressive, and modern design than what had come before, which was expected.

    It is only in hindsight that we notice that the template for upmarket saloons such as W124/W126, or E30, which set the template for luxury cars (which still remains intact now) actually bucked this trend. Thus from today’s perspective the Lincolns’ front overhangs look somehow “wrong” if not ridiculouus, but that was not the case at all to observers in 1977.

  8. There was also this mk1 German Granada derived 1973 Lincoln Mark I concept by Ghia

    Interesting to compare with Ford Europe’s own attempt at a more upmarket Granada

    The De Tomaso and Monteverdi saloons including the prototype Granada based Macho concept give an approximate idea of how a Euro-specific Lincoln could have evolved, with the 1982 Concept 90, Lincoln LS and more productionised 300-esque 2002 Lincoln Continental providing an altogether different vision from the 1980s to the 2000s

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