It wouldn’t fly with the 21st Century car buying public, but restyling an existing vehicle by adding a few redone inches on one or both ends of the car, then selling the result as a new model under a different name (often while retaining the original rendition in the lineup) was a practice resorted to by several car manufacturers in the 1960s and 1970s.
Using a pre-existing base is, of course, less costly and, in those more naive times, enough potential buyers were either oblivious to the car maker’s sleight of hand, or simply didn’t care that the new model was not as new as it appeared to be at first glance. A selection of these cheap ‘n quick stretches will be covered in this series(1). Continue reading “Long Story (Part One)”
It was not realised by many, except perhaps for the senior management of the troubled Packard company itself, but the 1956 model year would turn out to be the last that a customer looking for a large American luxury car could still choose between all four domestic manufacturers that traditionally served this field(1). Using illustrations from period brochures, we examine the models offered by Lincoln, Packard, Cadillac and Imperial for 1956.
1955 had been a record-breaking year for the domestic US car industry. The forced austerity and hardships of World War Two and the immediate post-war period were, thankfully, increasingly distant if still unpleasant memories. 1956 also proved to be a good year for the car manufacturers, although not quite as stellar in terms of sales numbers as the previous year and, within a year, the country’s economy would be suffering a recession. For the time being, however, things were just fine and putting a lavishly equipped, fast and confidently styled luxury car on their driveway was the ultimate ambition of just about every American driver. Continue reading “Luxury Problem”
Continuing our tour through the illustrious history of the Lincoln Mark line, illustrated by the brochures that promoted each generation.
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. Continue reading “On Your Marks (Part Two)”
The North American car buyer has never been entirely comfortable with the notion of good things in small packages. I generalise of course, but in automotive terms at least, attempts at creating a more compact telling of the automotive fable have not met with rapturous success.
Not that all foundered on purely ideological grounds – these attempts frequently proving a somewhat difficult stylistic pill for the consumer to swallow, having been weaned on considerably more expansive nostrums of automotive desire. But as cities became ever more congested and environmental concerns grew, US carmakers sought more inventive ways to Continue reading “Please Indulge Sensibly”
A recent short visit to Savannah, Georgia afforded a chance to peruse the roadside vehicle population of the South.
Many people visit Savannah to enjoy its urban milieu: late Georgian and early Victorian architecture situated among lines of old, large trees draped with Spanish moss. I had a look at all that but also hoped to see a reasonable sampling of faces familiar mostly from photographs. I found some surprising juxtapositions and odd vignettes. It’s a place of contrasts. If you Continue reading “Savannah Postcard (1)”
Guiding his Oldsmobile carefully up the driveway to the garage of his house in the suburbs of a typical midwestern American town, Scott Hewitt had something planned for the evening. It was 1968, a year that would prove to be pivotal in world history as well as a bloody one. Presidential candidate Robert Kennedy would not see the end of the year alive, and neither would Martin Luther King.
The war in Vietnam escalated with the fierce Tet offensive, and the awful My Lai massacre would change many people’s minds about why and if the USA should have ever been involved in it in the first place. Violence and unrest were not limited to Southeast Asia- witness student riots in Paris, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and the ignition of ‘the troubles’ in Northern Ireland. Significant if less deadly pointers to Continue reading “1968: A Question of Choice”
Editor’s note: A version of this piece was originally published on DTW in May 2018.
Don Henley’s 1984 Grammy-winning hit single, Boys of Summer was a meditation on reminiscence and regret. It plays on the slick US West Coast values of the lyricist’s Eagles heyday, deftly subverting its MOR rock sheen to underline more mature themes of ageing and loss. The track was not only a sizeable success in the US and elsewhere, but gained Henley a critical credibility he had perhaps hitherto lacked. After all, looking back to the past can be instructive, and in some cases, a virtual necessity. However, true folly lies with those who attempt to Continue reading “Boys of Summer”
Softness: increasingly difficult to find in this harsh world. Interiors can cosset but can an entire car be defined as soft? Practically 2.3 tonnes of metal, glass, plastics and leather suggests otherwise, but Dearborn’s luxury arm begs to differ. Lincoln, until recently home to stately sedans have chosen to park that genre for vehicles of a physically larger nature – taking a more tender route – if one which only those in the US and selected regions can sample.
In an ever-competitive luxury marketplace, the new for 2022 Aviator sees Lincoln up the ante in a most restful manner. Aviator can be optioned with air glide suspension where the car bows to greet the driver or assist with loading – the area lit by what the maker dubs a welcome mat, along with headlights that greet your appearance. For such a well mannered and relaxing-natured car, should it surprise that the interior contains 28 speakers? If only perhaps to Continue reading “Livin’ It Up”
Apart from huge metropolises such as New York or Los Angeles, most of the United States’ land area is quite sparsely inhabited, with large areas of undeveloped land. A consequence of this abundance of space was the many salvage yards(1) where cars were simply parked at their presumed final resting place instead of being stacked on top of each other, disassembled, flattened or crushed.
While not necessarily the most environmentally-friendly storage method, salvage yards do provide an invaluable source of spare-parts for those restoring a piece of classic Detroit iron. For those with an interest in classic cars in general and who, like your author, appreciate the peculiar air of nostalgia and romance one feels while walking amongst discarded vehicles in varying stages of decay, these yards are also irresistible. In truth, I should probably use the past tense these days as the vast majority of these salvage yards have now disappeared due to ever more stringent environmental laws and policies that started to take effect, especially since the turn of the millennium. Continue reading “Ashes to Ashes (Part One)”
Today we tell the story of the Batmobile, the automotive hero of the 1966 children’s television series that was based on the comic book adventures of Batman and Robin.
DTW readers of more mature years will immediately recognise the apparently random selection of words in the title above. They are lifted from the opening credits of Batman, a 20th Century Fox children’s television programme that ran from 1966 to 1968 and made an indelible impression on one childish mind at least.
The hero of the programme was Bruce Wayne, a wealthy bachelor played by Adam West, who led a double life as Batman, protecting the good citizens of Gotham City from the dastardly deeds of a variety of colourful, if inept criminals including The Riddler, The Joker and The Penguin. At Batman’s side was Robin, a.k.a. Bruce Wayne’s young ward, Dick Grayson, played by Burt Ward, and their indefatigable and unflappable butler, Alfred Pennyworth, played by English actor Alan Napier. Continue reading “WHAP!…POW!…BIFF!…OOOF!”
The silence was deafening, broken only by the faint hum of the ventilation system in Ford Motor Company Vice President Robert S. McNamara’s office. “Bob, you can’t really do that, can you?” uttered general manager Ben D. Mills after a few uncomfortable seconds. “You bet I can do it” was McNamara’s terse response.
McNamara had just announced that based on Lincoln’s dismal financial projections (and it had never made a profit since its inception) he had decided to recommend that the brand be terminated. It was only after a long and heated discussion that Mills, chief engineer Harold McDonald and executive engineer Harold Johnsson managed to persuade McNamara to Continue reading “Knocking On Opportunity’s Door”
DTW marks the last of the traditional American body-on-frame sedans.
The Ford Crown Victoria and its Mercury and Lincoln siblings were the last in a long line of traditional body-on-frame full-size rear-wheel-drive sedans that were for decades a defining feature of the American automotive landscape. They were simply engineered, but tough and reliable cars that were perfectly suited to the wide variety of private, commercial and institutional roles in which they served.
So long, farewell, adieu: This week has seen a lot of fervid happenings in the land of the free / home of the brave, but one which perhaps got lost amid the signal and noise of that election was the official cessation of Lincoln Continental production – which has either already ceased or is scheduled to Continue reading “The Art of Saying Goodbye”
A mid-decade blow-in from the US prompts some blue oval-based soul-searching.
The car which was once so dominant that it came to embody an entire socio-demographic UK class is fading from sight. The decline of the Ford Mondeo signifies a number of things, but perhaps primarily that this, coupled with the recent withdrawal of the Edge SUV from UK market (owing to a lack of buyer interest) illustrates most starkly the upper limits of brand-Ford in 2019.
For clarity, I enclose the following sales figures. Last year the Mondeo racked up sales of 49,596 cars across the entire European region, while this year to July, 25,125 found new homes, suggesting that the model line will struggle to Continue reading “Blowing in the Wind”
Concluding our examination of the 1961 Lincoln Continental’s domestic design influence.
The first major change for the Continental: to silence criticism of its comparatively somewhat stingy rear legroom once and for all, the wheelbase was increased by three inches (from 123 to 126 inches).
The overall appearance of the Continental was unchanged however. Other alterations were a slightly altered roofline/DLO and the replacement of the previously curved side glass with flat glazing. This was a cost-cutting decision which was not universally liked by the press as it was seen as a step backward. The buying public obviously could live with it because sales increased by 20% over the previous year. Continue reading “Continental Congress (Part two)”
Supersize becomes rightsize – how the 1961 Lincoln Continental subtly altered US luxury car design.
The 1961 Lincoln Continental is almost universally regarded as one of the finest car designs ever to come from the USA. Daringly sparse of embellishment and relatively compact (by the standards of the day at least); smoothly geometrical and slab-sided, it marked a breakaway from fins, complicated shapes, panoramic windshields, gaudy colour schemes and superfluous decoration.
This accomplishment would alas prove to be only temporary, as witnessed by the majority of American cars (Lincoln included), that would follow over the next decade. Nevertheless, the 1961 Continental was such an influential design–gamechanger that its competitors Cadillac and Imperial reacted swiftly to Continue reading “Continental Congress (Part one)”
Design, among many things, is about attempting to control how a product will be seen by the user. Control has limits.
The other day I had the opportunity to see a 1998-1994 Lincoln Continental roaming around the city. Unfortunately for Driven to Write’s readers I could not take a photo in time, so a stock photo will have to suffice. Until that point I had not seen one of these in motion. My impression of the car differed markedly from that based on photos like the image above.
2019 might seem so very far away now. Who knows what the world will be like then. One thing we do know now is that Ford won’t be present at the 2019 Geneva motor show.
“Ford said the decision was made because the show’s timing didn’t fit its launch schedule and therefore wouldn’t represent good value,” wrote Automotive News Europe. Not launching enough cars, then Ford, eh? Furthermore, we need double quote marks for this next bit: “‘It costs a sizeable amount of money,’ a Ford of Europe spokesman said. ‘If you’re not going make a return on the investment in terms of media attention or people on the stand, why do it?’”.
Sizeable is relative. It costs lots of money in relation to my annual salary, yes, but a few million euros for some wooden stands and pretty ladies in Lycra is a rounding error in Ford’s turn-over, no?
Having made a less than critically acclaimed stab at reinvention with Ghia’s 1996 Sentinel, Lincoln’s Gerry McGovern hit the bullseye with the 2002 Continental concept.
With the Jack Telnack era of design leadership coming to a close in 1997, Ford’s styling centre in Dearborn entered a new phase under J. C. Mays, who following a two year stint as design consultant for the Blue Oval, was selected as Ford’s new design Veep. With a new face came a new broom, Mays telling journalists at the time, “I have been brought in to make some changes and I fully intend to do that.”
The legacy of the 1961 Continental lays heavily upon Ford’s Lincoln division. Today we begin an examination of two concepts aimed at re-establishing that defining car’s visual pre-eminence.
Europe does not have a monopoly on history or heritage. Long shadows of the past also haunt the American automotive landscape, as the big-name US automakers struggle, just like their European counterparts, to reinterpret the past while straining for relevance in a rapidly approaching future.
… it’s full from the middle up. We’re talking of the 1986 Cadillac Sedan de Ville, naturally.
That’s what the photos show. However, more newsworthy is the announcement** that Joel P. is leaving his position as Ford’s European design chief to make way for Amko Leenarts, an RCA alumnus. Previously he oversaw Ford/Lincoln interiors at Dearborn. Joel P. goes back to Dearborn after a few short years to a newly created (read: not very powerful) position. That’s probably because he a) Continue reading “The bottom half of the glass is empty”
We’re definitely not in Kansas any more, Toto. But where in heck are we?
Acquisitions by Detroit big-hitters was not a phenomenon restricted to the latter-1980’s – it began well before that. Ford had made several stabs at acquiring Ferrari in the late ’60s to no avail, but in 1970, they purchased (from Alessandro de Tomaso of all people) the Italian coachbuilder, Carrozzeria Ghia. In addition to using the Ghia logo as a ‘brougham’ trim level, initially for their European model lines, Ford also used Filippo Sapino’s Ghia studios as an advanced styling skunkworks, commissioning a series of conceptual styling studies and pre-production prototypes over the following two decades. Continue reading “Cars That Could Have Been Citroëns – 1983 Lincoln Quicksilver”
Everyone else is doing it so why can’t we? That was the plaintive question asked by Irish folk-rock-pop balladeers the Cranberries in 1993.
The Cranberry question applies to Ford’s Lincoln division who must be squirming in their corporate seats. The Genesis G90 saloon will be sold with a V8 as we well know and it looks the part. The other day Car & Driver revealed more details of the V8 Cadillac will be fitting to their CT6 which also looks the part. Considering that Genesis is a newish entrant in the upscale V8 market and that Cadillac is selling fewer cars than they were a decade ago (and so short of cash), Ford’s unwillingness to Continue reading “Oh No, Not Again”
Further to our discussion of the visual attributes of the 2017 Lincoln Continental, here is a view of the current car and one where I generously added more length front and back.
Put together like this you can see how wrong the Lincoln really is. There is no point in making Lincolns off Ford platforms. They should do it the other way around. It looks like the front wheel is about half a wheel’s diameter too far back on the existing design. It could be that my version would be too long in reality. It just shows you can’t design a car piecemeal. Proportions matter.
In December 2014 we ran an item about the changing styles of luxury car interiors.
A year or so later we find someone answering our calls.
In an article about how Lincoln do not want to copy the Germans, there is also discussion of the Lincoln Continental’s blue interior option. Here is a chance then to see if blue interiors are something that appeal to anyone other than automotive design commentators. My impression is that this is a welcome bit of bravery on the part of Lincoln. The all-blue colourway creates a very pleasant atmosphere that manages to Continue reading “Be Careful What You Wish For II”
Car and driver headlined an article about Lincoln with wording about the brand’s focus on luxury over performance. They didn’t really address the point.
I’ve been very busy so it’s taken me eleven days to get around to drawing your attention to this one. After the boiler-plate text about there not being any chance of European sales (there will never be European sales of Lincolns), the blog from Car and Driver gets down to the point and notes how luxury not performance is the main focus of the new Continental.
The LS racked up a few awards, namely Motor Trend’s car of the year 2000 and it was nominated as American Car of the Year, although it was pipped by Ford’s Focus and Audi’s TT. The LS was also Lincoln’s first attempt to fight off its reputation as a car for the nearly dead. That battle is reminiscent of Cadillac’s fight for a younger image, a fight Lincoln is still losing 15 years later.
The LS shared its main elements with the Jaguar S-type and Ford Thunderbird and had a similarly contentious styling. Of the two saloons (while we’re comparing) the Jaguar managed a better job than the Lincoln. The 2000 Car Buyer’s Guide called the design ‘ho-hum’. I’d call it a derivative mash-up of VW Passat, Mitsubishi Diamante, Opel Astra, Ford Edge Design details and Lincoln motifs.
Today I will turn my attention to Lincoln. How good does it look for Ford’s premium brand? What are they selling? Read on to find out what the main UK-based websites** aren’t telling you.
Lincoln’s range of vehicles has changed dramatically in the last decade. For nearly the entirety of its history the brand sold luxury cars in varying flavours of large. Not all of these have been particularly well-regarded but Lincoln has also managed to avoid overt product disasters. It has no equivalent to the Cadillac Cimarron, for example.
As Lincoln’s Simon Woodhouse gets a quilted leather handbag in the chops courtesy of his Bentley opposite number, are the designer gloves off for good?
This week’s pique-fest courtesy of Bentley’s Luc Donckerwolke is interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, it breaks a tacit understanding that rival stylists do not publicly criticise one another’s work. Secondly, it prompts the question, is it possible to Continue reading “Continental Drift”
It has a “choice” of a 3.5 or 3.7 litre V6 engine. The smaller one is tuned for economy. And the engines drive the front wheels. Odd looking thing, isn’t it? The customers have been few. In its first full year on sale 7,435 buyers wrote a cheque. And in 2013 just over 6000 customers were found. Ford fondly imagine it is a competitor for the V8 Audi Q7. That’s what Motor Trend reported.