Curbside Classic: 1995 Lincoln Mark VIII – A Vision In Evergreen Frost

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Today we celebrate the last Mark. Despite teasing us with intriguing Mark IX and Mark X concepts, Lincoln has seen fit to give us luxurious but identity-free sedans and a chromey SUV in 2013 instead of anything interesting–or anything clearly identifiable as a Lincoln. The odds are that the Mark VIII of 1993 to 1998 is going to be the last Mark, part of a series dating back to 1939. And yes, I am aware that the VIII is not perfect. Parts are decidedly hard to find for cars that ended production a mere 15 years ago, repairs can be complicated, and on and on. But I was an impressionable thirteen year old when the VIII debuted, and thanks to my Grandma Ruby’s love of Lincolns, the last Mark will always have a place in my heart.

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As has been written in other Lincoln posts this week, my dad’s parents, Bob and Ruby, were big Ford fans. Grandpa Bob always had Lincoln Continentals, and Grammy always had a T-Bird. When my grandfather passed away in 1989, Grammy took over the 1987 Fox Continental, and her last T-Bird was eventually sold in 1991.

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We always did lunch in the summertime when I was a kid. 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 (later Classic L-M, and known today as Courtesy Lincoln Kia).

1991 Lincoln Full Line-03

Grammy would always ask to see the new Thunderbird at Sexton, and the new Continental at South Park. We would usually walk out to check it out, and of course 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.

Mark8cimage: markviii.org

In 1993, the Mark VIII debuted. We naturally both wanted to see one, so it was once again, off to now-Classic L-M. 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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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All of these memories were refreshed last fall 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 ’94 TC my neighbors had (as related in the ’94 Town Car CC earlier this week) and I had forgotten that it was also an available color on the Mark. I especially was taken with the Evergreen leather seating. As some of you may recall, green is my favorite color.

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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.

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The 1993-94 IP was criticized for being too stark for a Lincoln, resulting in the tree trimmings for ’95. Wood or no wood, I love the wraparound dash on these–they still look modern today.

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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. What if Ford had kept that momentum going?

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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. Would we have a Mustang-based retractable hardtop Mark XII in 2013, perhaps as a 3-Series competitor?

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Who knows? All I know for sure is that current Lincolns do not remind me of Lincolns of yore. Indeed, the ’13 MKZ reminds me more of a modern Olds Delta 88 than a Lincoln. Hey, I like Oldsmobiles, but this is supposed to be a Lincoln! Think 1961 Continental, 1968 Mark III, 1986 EFI Town Car. Yes, I’m sure it is a nice car, but there are dozens of “nice cars” on the market.

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And yes, I know that Sunday is technically the first day of the week, but Lincoln Week didn’t start until Monday, so there you go.