It’s somewhat appropriate that I start the Memphis portion of my curbside career with a find that’s a block away. And no, Elvis did not own this, as far as I know….
Like ‘the King,’ this Mark’s eyes have been semi-permanently dilated for at least the two years I’ve seen it sitting here. It still looks good, considering it started out as a way to spread out the tooling costs of the Thunderbird. While Virgil Exner may have had the sense that the Great Brougham Epoch was coming with his revivals, Hank ‘the deuce’ Ford and Lee Iacocca knew what would sell, and more importantly, weren’t sitting on the sidelines after presiding over some ‘plucked chickens’.
Iacocca went on record in 1984 as counting this as his greatest hit over the Mustang (one wonders what he would say now, as the minivan was still in its infancy) due to the fact that the Mark lifted Lincoln into a solid contender in the personal luxury field.
And they had the good sense to ignore the 1958 Mark III (and here) as an aberration and start over. They were rewarded by nearly tying the Eldorado in sales with 23,333 units. Not bad for a re-bodied Thunderbird.
For 1970, the vinyl roof was made standard, the windshield wipers were concealed, and the federally mandated ignition lock made its debut, although sales declined to 21,000. In 1971, high-back buckets and tinted windows were made standard, and 27,000 sales were recorded.
While the Mark IV appeared in 1972, the Mark III set the theme for Lincoln styling for a good thirty years by marrying Elwood Engel’s crisp styling from 1961 with a faux Rolls-Royce grill and adding the continental ‘hump’ that would become the Mark’s calling card. And its influence is still felt – look at Lincoln’s naming scheme with the models being MKC, MKX, MKT, MKS, and MKZ (MK= Mark). The only holdout is the now hoary Navigator, which has avoided becoming the MKN or MKU largely because it appeals to a more traditional audience.
I wonder about the folks in Dearborn who are trying to keep Lincoln from putting both feet in the grave by casting allusions to the 1940’s in their styling, ignoring the fact that it was in the 1970’s and 1980’s that Henry Leland’s second brain child gave the first, the self-procliamed ‘Standard of the World’, a run for its money. To me, it feels eerily like the ‘Not your Father’s Oldsmobile’ campaign in its attempt to run away from an era now associated with tackiness. Sometimes you need to embrace the past to get to future, even if that past conjures up polyester dresses, leisure suits, disco balls, and vinyl roofs.