Like Jim Cavanaugh — or even more so, if that’s possible — I found the 1980 Mark VI to be rather pathetic: a rolling monument to bad proportions embellished by kitsch. OK; some of that is subjective, and I’m not going to even argue about its many details, like the silly fake front fender “gills”. Beyond the details, there’s a very fundamental problem with the Mark VI: it’s riding on a too short of a wheelbase. That alone makes it look like a kit car: The Fiberfab Mark VI: build your own Continental on a VW Beetle chassis!
As I was looking at this picture late last night, I decided to do a little research to see if the Mark VI’s relationship of wheelbase to overall length (overhang ratio) really was much worse than average, and compare it to other cars. By the time I decided to finally go to bed, I hadn’t yet found a challenger; maybe you can. But here are the numbers so far, as well as those of some competitors:
The Mark VI has a 114.4″ WB (Wheelbase), and 216″ TL (Total Length). By subtracting the WB from OL, we have 101.6″ of OH (Overhang). Dividing that by the TL gives us a 47% OHR (OH Ratio), or in other words almost half of the Mark VI is hanging past its wheels. Is there another car with as much?
The Mark VI’s nearest competitor is the E-Body Eldorado. Just looking at the two in the front is revealing: you would expect the FWD Eldo to have its front wheels set pretty far back, yet the Mark’s are even further back.Yet the Eldo’s OHR is only 44%, a number that as we’ll see represents about the outside edge of what is acceptable to the eye in that regard. Of course that wasn’t the only reason the Eldorado was profoundly better looking than the Mark VI, but it’s a good place to start. And the Eldo outsold the VI by a huge ratio (82k to 11.5k in 1982). Ford essentially handed the luxury car market back to GM with its poorly executed 1980 Lincoln models. Of course, that would change in 1985…
The front wheel location is actually the hallmark of all the Panthers: it had two inches less wheelbase than the GM B-Body, and it appears all of that or more is the result of the front wheels being further back. And the Mark VI is basically a Crown Vic or Grand Marquis (same wheelbase) with lots of additional overhang, especially at the front. The 1980 LTD has a 45% OHR (MGM pictured).
Jim mentioned the Chrysler Cordoba as an example of a downsized luxury coupe that worked much better than the Mark VI. Given its shorter wheelbase, I wondered if it might equal or top the Mark: 112.7″ WB; 209.8″ TL = 46% OHR. That’s getting mighty close, but even a percent or two in the OHR makes a noticeable difference to the eye. As well as the fact that the Cordoba just wasn’t nearly as boxy as the Mark.
Just for perspective, I decided to toss a wide net of other cars to compare, including the monstrous 1958 Lincoln with its huge rear overhang. But with a 131″ WB and 229″ TL (only 13″ longer than the Mark VI, it turns out!), it has a rather modest OHR of 43.7%.
New cars are often criticized for their long front overhangs, partly due to FWD as well as crumple zones. The 2013 Lincoln MKS is one of the longest sedans sold today, so let’s do the numbers: 112.9″ WB; 205.6″ TL = 45% OHR. Right in the typical range. Of course, modern cars are a lot taller, so their overall proportions are very different than from the past. But even if a car has a very large front overhang, as long as the back overhang isn’t too severe, it still doesn’t look ridiculous (in terms of OHR).
GM wasn’t totally innocent of this issue though. The redesigned “whale” 1992 B-Bodies kept the 116″ WB, but added length as well as a lot of width. With a 115.9″ WB and 214.1″ TL, the Caprice has a 46% OHR. Precarious.
The Fleetwood Brougham added inches to both wheelbase and length, and ended up with a similarly-precarious 46% OHR. In this case, it’s very rear-heavy, with that massive roof. The wheelbase (121.5″) just isn’t enough, and the rear wheel looks to be 6″ too far forward.
I thought of the 1990-1991 Riviera, which was the beneficiary of both front and rear extensions to make it look more…something. With a 108″ WB and 198.3″ TL, it has a 45.5% OHR. That’s pushing it, obviously.
And I was pushing it last night, and had to stop there. I suspect there may be others out there that might challenge or top the Mark VI, and I leave that to you to find them. And here’s the perfect resource: the automobile-catalog.com is an awesome resource for specifications. Just enter the year, make and model in their search box, and they’ll take you there.
Undoubtedly, there are going to be some oddballs out there with wild OHR, but we are mostly talking about full-sized cars and such. But finding a car that has over 100″ of total overhang like the Mark VI alone is going to be a challenge. But bring it on…