Auction Classic: Lincolns in Scottsdale 2018, Part 2 (1972-1995)

Any lover of American cars has some Lincolns that are on their short, or at least their long, list of favorite automobiles. For some of you, those cars may have been highlighted in my last article on collectible Lincolns I captured on camera during Scottsdale, Arizona’s classic car auction week. I suspect that for many here, some of the following nine cars are more likely to be on their favorites lists. In any event, click through for a broughamy good time.

The ’67 Continental convertible is the last “collectible” Lincoln. Many Lincolns after that are certainly loved and bought by enthusiasts, but they haven’t historically brought big prices or been the subject of full restorations. Most post-’67 Lincolns seen at auctions are well preserved originals, which there seem to be no shortage of.

 

The first example of one of these is a 1972 Continental Mark IV which sold at Barrett-Jackson for $11,550. It has a great copper color (original paint, of course) that looks sharp with a black vinyl roof and black leather interior.

The big, square, stand up grille dips deep into the bumper for a kind of dramatic effect. Optional, though, was a horizontal front bumper guard giving the bumper a more conventional look which our  car here unfortunately has. The grill on the auction car looks a little funky on the edge, but that’s just a reflection.

 

The Mark IV had a 460cid V8 making 212hp (net). I haven’t included a lot of engine pics or talk in these Lincoln articles because Lincolns are not really about maximum power but more like Rolls Royce’s traditional approach of providing “adequate” power, as smoothly and quietly as possible. Being the ’70’s, naturally it took almost maximum displacement to get barely adequate performance.

Looking at pictures of the Mark IV, it jumped out at me that they really had quite good looking engine compartments for the ’70’s. By this time of increasing emission controls, most large accessory-laden cars’ engines were starting to get buried under hoses and whatnot, but these engines are still pretty visible, and painted in a nice bright blue.

 

Also at Barrett-Jackson was this 1973 Continental Mark IV.  It’s got 13,000 miles on it and sold for $13,200, which works out to just about $1 a mile. That may be the most nonsensical metric ever, but it still somehow seems significant. Any way you cut it, it’s a lot of perfectly preserved brougham luxury for the money. I believe it even has original tires.

With regulations kicking in in 1973, car makers in the U.S. market were losing the flexibility to shape their bumpers purely for styling effect. The Mark IV sprouted protruding, bulky-looking front bumpers that did its looks no favors, but if you were involved in a minor collision, you’d be loving them.

 

The flowing, underswept rear bumpers stuck around for one last year before 1974, when the rear would match the front for more symmetrical ungainliness.

The Mark IV had unusual proportions. The window sills were high and side windows narrow. In that way it could fit in with many 2018 cars, except for the opera window and lack of a B pillar. The front end kind of mimics modern front wheel drive proportions as well, with the large amount of front overhang and comparatively short front axle to cowl distance. Today, only the Europeans continue to build large two door luxury cars. The tradition of big, ostentatious grilles lives on in modern full size pickup trucks.

 

It’s a comfy looking interior but here’s ’70’s luxury at its worst: at least two varieties of fake woodgrain here, neither a very plausible imitation. Also the instrument panel has only the bare minimum of gauges and they figure the time is just as important to you as your speed. At least the speedometer still goes to 120, not that anybody would want to drive it that fast. The gas needle on E is probably a common sight on these cars, even when running.

 

Silver turned out to be the Land Of Lincolns, as we’ll continue to see in this article (though it sadly means no auction results were available for many of these cars). They also had a 1973 Mark IV which looked just as nice as Barrett-Jackson’s car, but in a very ’70’s green inside and out.

I noticed all the Mark IV’s headlight covers were up. Is this a common malfunction, or do they always stay up if you leave the lights on? Maybe somebody reading knows (Paul’s ’70 Mark III find last Tuesday may have shed some light on this).

 

With the windows down, I got a good look at the interior and could spot nothing that looks like wear or any flaw. Though these low mile, preserved cars have lead pampered lives, it still is impressive to me that there is no discoloration, fading, cracking, etc.  I think you’d have to say Ford engineered these interiors well and used good quality materials based on their durability over time. Anybody have any personal experience with ’70’s Lincolns and how they last when well-used?

I like the 8-track tape player, not sure if it is original.

 

Representing what I consider to be one of the most successful facelifts restyles ever is a 1977 Continental Mark V.  Lincoln cut about 400lbs out of the car, though with the same wheelbase, width and two extra inches of length, I’m not sure how they achieved that. The sharper edged styling really fit this car well, I think, and just about every detail change is for the better. Big among them are the bumpers, which are still large energy absorbing units, but narrower so they don’t protrude out the sides of the car. Small things can make a big difference.

This Bill Blass package car has 11,000 miles and sold for $29,150. Perhaps these cars are starting to get their due with collectors, because in Barrett-Jackson’s past sales there is very little precedent for that level of price. Just two years ago a 1979 Mark V with less miles appearing to be as good condition sold for $15,950. Three years ago, a 1977 Mark V sold for $35,200, though that one took low mileage to a whole other level with only 443 miles.

This photo highlights some of the challenges of photographing cars at auctions. If a car is parked on the last row in a tent and the sun is coming in in the morning or afternoon, you really can’t get a great picture with the car in half shade. It’s not a problem for looking at cars, just photographing them, but a great car will shine through even a poor photo.

 

So how do you improve a car that already has a Rolls-Royce style grille, a Landau top, opera windows,  fender louvers (functional!) and a fake continental spare tire hump? Tailfins! From the rear, it looks like a return to the ’50’s. That’s not to say it looks bad. The rear matches the bladed front fenders and totally fits with the styling of the car.

Surprisingly, any style vinyl top was optional. I can’t recall ever seeing one with a full steel roof. Base engine was now a 179hp 2-barrel 400, with the 208hp 4-barrel 460 optional (does that account for the weight loss?).

 

Interiors were little changed from the Mark IV. They did improve it by at least having only one style of woodgrain. My pet peeve about ’70’s Ford products is what I call Ford’s Corporate Dashboard. Most every car they came out with had the same basic dashboard styling, be it a Mustang II, Cougar, Granada, or whatever. Same with the steering wheel, which even extended to trucks.

 

The car appears to have its original tires, which I always love to see. Sure, it would be wildly impractical to drive a car even short distances on 40 year old tires. That doesn’t make it any less cool to see a normally disposable item still in excellent condition all these years later.

The Mark V was a big hit. 1977’s 80k sales was a 44% increase over 1976’s already good numbers and handily besting Cadillac’s Eldorado. ’77 was the all time high water “mark” (sorry), but ’78 and ’79 sales were not far off. After 1979, Mark sales never came close to those numbers again and were dominated by the Eldorado through 1985. Incidently, Ford’s other brilliant move in 1977 was to split the Thunderbird from the Mark. The ’72-’76 T-bird was virtually the same car as the Mark IV and sold in similar numbers. By moving the T-bird down to the midsize platform, they hit the bullseye of the 1970’s coupe-crazy market and increased sales by 600%.

Not everyone bought coupes in ’70’s. This Silver car is either a ’78 or ’79 Continental, I don’t remember and again, Silver’s auction list isn’t available on line. It wasn’t in quite as perfect condition as the Marks above, but still very nice.

Lincoln was on a tear in the late 70’s, as even the Continental sedans enjoyed a healthy sales increase. 1977 sales saw a 54% spike, stayed almost the same for 1978 then went up 14% again for 1979. How much did Cadillac’s downsizing contribute? It’s hard to say, but when Lincoln downsized their big sedans for 1980,  sales dropped almost 50%, even counting the Mark VI sedan.

 

After a one year absence, Lincoln replaced the Versailles with a much more appealing compact sedan for 1982. Silver had this 1983 Continental, the second year for the body style. The Versailles was far too obviously a Granada, whereas the Continental was not nearly as obviously a Fairmont, especially after it got an attractive new front end for ’84-’87.

 

It might have been wise for Lincoln and Chrysler to have waited to commit to copying the 1980 Seville until they saw how it worked out for Cadillac. In any case, of the three Detroit bustlebacks, I like Lincoln’s version best, especially the ’84-’87.

Lincoln avoided the famous-on-Curbside Classic engine missteps of Cadillac, providing standard in all their 1983 models a reliable, if uninspiring, fuel injected version of the 302cid V8 putting out 130hp. The Continental was only about 300lbs lighter than the Town Car and Mark VI, but everything helps when you only have 130hp available.

 

Ford was still suffering from a form of corporate dashboard and steering wheel. This interior looks an awful lot like those in other Fox body cars of the time. The Fox Continental used pretty much the formula of the original Seville with a unique body over the chassis of a basic compact Ford sedan, and having the price leapfrog over the full size Lincolns, to a 24% premium. They didn’t nail it like GM did with the first Seville, but at least it was a much better effort than the Versailles.

 

In January this year there was a lengthy discussion on CC about this creature of the ’70’s and 80’s: the drum style outdoor thermometer. It looks to me like it is reading 90 degrees, which I would say is about 20 degrees off from the temperature that afternoon. Later electronic thermometers were much more reliable and long lasting (my 1996 model’s is still works very well), but these were a good low-tech feature at the time.

One last bit of trivia: 1984 was the last year that an 8-track tape player was available in Lincolns.

 

This should excite a few of you out there: the car most enthusiasts consider the best Mark ever and probably the ultimate version of the Fox body. Silver had this 1992 Continental Mark VII LSC, in fine original condition.

As most of you know, the Mark VII came out for 1984 with radically modern styling on the existing Fox platform shared with the Thunderbird and Cougar, among others. Exterior styling was not changed in any substantial way during its nine model years, so by 1992, while still a good looking car and beloved by many of us here, it was not looking so fresh to the market’s eyes. Sales plummeted from 1988’s high water mark of 38,000 to 5,700 in 1992.

 

Since 1988, the Mark VII had a 225hp 5.0 V8, essentially the same engine found in the V8 Mustang. For the last several years of the Mark VII, Lincoln simplified its lineup to two models. However, in 1992 the LSC and Bill Blass were identical mechanically, had the same BBS wheels and differed externally only by the LSC’s foglamps and badging. The only differences were in interior features.

 

Lincoln hit another home run in its extensive revision of the Panther-platform Town Car for 1990. After the Brougham fest of the ’70’s and ’80’s, Lincoln re-dressed their big sedan in a tasteful and restrained new suit. To my mind, it was not unlike the ’61 coming after the excesses of the ’50’s. I remember when it came out and thinking it looked really modern. Lincoln even won the Motor Trend’s Car of the Year, for the first time ever.

The first two years, Lincoln did not even offer a vinyl roof and it never offered wire wheel covers.

In my opinion, this car is crying out for thin whitewalls. If there are any Town Car experts out there, perhaps you can help me out. I don’t remember what year the seller’s description on this Silver car said it was. I’m thinking 1990, but the wheels are throwing me off.

Interiors were not a radical departure, but were nicely done. Like the exterior, the dashboard was tasteful and attractive, if not as modern.  The door panels blend into the dash very well. Pillow top upholstery was banished. I prefer this original design to the 1995 interior redo. Corporate steering wheel still present and accounted for.

Lincoln did very well with its Town Cars in the ’80’s and ’90’s. They appear to have been the main beneficiary from Cadillac’s missteps, with volumes increasing in the mid ’80’s as fuel prices dropped and Cadillac downsized. 1988 for some reason was an incredibly good year for Lincoln. Sales of the Town Car more than doubled and the division as a whole outsold Cadillac for possibly the first time ever. Lincoln never sold that many Town Cars again, but the 1990-97  generation was a strong and consistent seller, keeping Lincoln in the black and close on Cadillac’s heals in an era of increasing foreign competition.

 

Last up is a 1995 Mark VIII. The Mark VII arguably stuck around for a bit too long. New platform  Thunderbirds and Cougars arrived for 1989, but the Mark VIII (no longer a Continental) didn’t come out until mid 1992 as an early ’93 model. It never set the world on fire, saleswise. First year sales of 32k were decent, but never reached that level again. The 18k 1995 models sold underscored the fact that the glory days of the Lincoln Mark series and American luxury coupes were receding into its electrochromatic auto dimming rearview mirror.

During this period when Cadillac and Lincoln were fighting for the scraps of the luxury coupe market, the Mark did at least did manage to outsell, by small margins, the Eldorado in 1988, 1990 and 1993.

 

Even if the Mark was no longer very popular, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t an appealing car. It was the first recipient of Ford’s 32-valve DOHC Modular 4.6L V8, sending 280hp and 285 lb-ft of torque to its now independently suspended rear wheels. Interiors were super swoopy, in Ford’s rounded ’90’s style. This photo is the 1993 brochure spread (thanks oldcarbrochures.org). The 1995 interior was modified a bit with woodgrain accents. Exterior styling was very streamlined and sleek. Not everyone loves it, but it would be hard to argue that it is in any way homely. The trunk spare tire hump was about as subtle as it could be while still being recognizable. It was even available with a pretty impressive selection of 15 exterior and 5 interior colors. That’s five full interior colors, not just seats and door inserts that pass for color choices with many cars today.

Well, that wraps up my encounters with Lincolns in Scottsdale. Going back and reviewing all these cars kind of makes me wish I had a nice one in my garage. If you wanted to drive somewhere in style and comfort, Lincolns were a great choice. Feel free to chime in below with your experiences, thoughts and opinions on these latter day luxury cruisers.

If you missed them, here are previous articles in my Scottsdale auction series:

Various unrestored originals

Cadillacs-part 1 restored cars

Cadillacs-part 2 unrestored cars

Fords

Chryslers

Imports

Name That Tailfin

Chevrolets

Corvettes and Camaros

Oldsmobiles