Curbside Classic: Lincoln Blackwood – Gentrification Gone Wrong

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I am not one to sneer at the efforts of car manufacturers to make luxury meals out of working-class bones. If done well, you can end up with something altogether better than the sum of its parts. But when you get it wrong…read on.

Ford introduces the all-new Ford F-150, the reinvention of America's favorite truck. It is the toughest, smartest and most capable F-150 ever -- setting the standard for the future of trucks.

As you know,  pickup trucks are getting ever-more luxurious. You can, as of this writing, buy a Ford F-150 with a sticker price of $58,770 before you put a single option on it; rather a huge step up from their humble beginnings. Hindsight being always 20/20, nowadays it’s easy to see how they evolved to be the new family cars of choice and symbols of the American way. The traditional American cars were getting pummeled to the ground by the new competition from the Japanese and the Europeans, and encountered difficulties in adapting to new regulations and tastes. The current F-150 with its aluminum construction and efficient V6 engines is objectively a lot better (much as it pains me to write that) than any of our beloved brougham chariots without succumbing to any other country’s ideals on luxury or comfort. It’s the true American car of the times.

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The results speak for themselves. If you had gone out to a nice part of town in 1991 and told people there that they would soon buy a pickup truck as their main family vehicle, you would have been lucky if laughter was the worst you got. And yet, just 10 years later, the market for pickup trucks was already so upwardly mobile that Lincoln felt it was the right time to come out with the ultimate luxury pickup.

1999 Lincoln Navigator Front Passenger Side

Lincoln’s lineup for 2001 was incredible, a far cry from the compromising position that they would find themselves a couple of years afterwards. The LS was one of the best sports sedans on the market, the Continental was about to bow out but was still there alongside the Town Car and the Navigator. It was the Navigator’s resounding success that made Lincoln go ahead with the Blackwood. I mean, if the Expedition got the luxury treatment and was incredibly successful, surely the F-150, already the best-selling vehicle in America, would blow it out of the park.

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With the Blackwood, Lincoln set out to make the most exclusive pickup truck the world had ever seen. That meant going so far as to make it completely useless as a pickup truck. They must’ve realized, correctly, that the sort of people who would buy this thing  would treat is just like they would a big sedan and not dare use it to haul bales of hay, muddy quadbikes or anything that could spill. So they called Magna-Steyr and asked them if they could come up with something distinctive and exclusive for the Blackwood.

Magna-Steyr, then busy making the roof of the Mercedes SLK and the European versions of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, came up with the goods. Instead of having to make do with a plain metal bed like the ordinary F-150 Supercrew, this would be the trunk to end all trunks. The inside was finished in stainless steel with plush carpeting and a power barn tailgate/hard tonneau cover. The bed itself was made from composite plastic, but finished to emulate burl walnut and topped off with aluminum stripes.

Every single creature comfort you could ever possibly want was fitted as standard, as well as it should on a car that was priced at an eye-watering $52,000 ($69,563.14 on 2016 dollars.) Lincoln was very proud out of the Blackwood, as evidenced by the fact that they made fifty-extra special models with a cooler and a 7-inch DVD player to sell through the Neiman Marcus spring catalog at $58,800 a pop ($78,570). They expected to have so many buyers that to preserve its exclusivity they would limit production to 10,000 Blackwoods a year, no doubt causing distress to innumerable buyers as they trampled each other to get one of them.

“What could possibly go wrong?” He asked, remembering his earlier comment about hindsight.

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Well, the problems started even before the trucks even reached the dealers actually. It seems that those elegant beds were more difficult to make than expected, causing the Blackwood to be delayed until October 2001 as a 2002 model. The second problem made itself known quite quickly, and if you read my article about the Chevrolet SSR or have ever worked as a salesman of any kind and know how buyers think or even just looked at the Blackwood you should see it coming a mile away. It’s all well with luxury pickup trucks never being used by their owners as trucks, but they like to know that they could use them as such. It’s the same reason that people buy a Toyota Land Cruiser even though the toughest terrain they’re likely to encounter is a slightly damp driveway because the guy in charge of the garden overwatered the lawn. You couldn’t even take the tonneau cover off with anything resembling ease, and the short bed and unusual tailgate meant that even if you said “screw the carpets” you couldn’t get, say, a motorcycle in the back. All of this without mentioning that, with the best will in the world, there were a lot of better cars available for the money.

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The results spoke for themselves. These trucks (can I call it a giant sedan? It’s a giant sedan and everyone knows it) languished on dealer lots unless dealers began throwing discounts at it like it was dancing for them. In the end all of 3,356 Blackwoods were made before they pulled the plug in 2002. The basic principle behind the Blackwood was actually quite sound, as evidenced by all the F-150 Limiteds and Laramie Limited Rams (what are all these limited to? the number they sell?), it was just that they took it way too far. Graz, Austria to be precise.