This past Friday evening, I eschewed my normal, low-key, indoor routine for a bus trek up to the neighborhood of Rogers Park, which is the one just north of mine (Edgewater). Sometimes a four-day work week, even though shorter than a normal, North American Monday-through-Friday, can feel even longer – especially if it falls at the end of the month. When I was a teenager, my dad used to call me out all the time for procrastinating (which I deserved), but what I’ve learned is that such behavior is often just human nature. I’ve sometimes been rewarded with some of my greatest triumphs when I had waited until I was good, ready, and inspired to execute the task ahead of me.
With that said, last week I experienced a combination of frenzy, dishonesty, and laziness from many of my external-facing clients that was maddening. (When does someone else’s failure to plan properly become your problem?) I dealt with it. Regardless, as of last summer, Rogers Park and its beautiful, leafy side streets and tranquil beaches facing Lake Michigan have become something of a haven for me, and some solitude within earshot of softly lapping waves was exactly what the doctor had ordered last Friday night. My heartbeat started to return to a normal level, my thoughts slowed their racing, and an inner calm set back in. I gave myself pats on my own back for muscling through that tough week. On my way home from one of those quaint, picturesque beaches, these Lincolns came into view.
My initial thought was that they must be owned by the same household, given their proximity to one another and the presence of the matching rubber bumper-cover guards. Due to the narrowness of the street on which they were parked, I was unable to get a full profile shot that included both cars from stem to stern (hence the composite image above), but I was gobsmacked by the huge disparity in the proportions and overall look of both cars.
Both are attractive, but while the Mark VIII was still adhering to the long-low-wide aesthetic as late as the 1990s, the current MKZ is decidedly taller, stubbier and blockier. The high-waisted MKZ looked almost like a truck in front of the low-slung Mark VIII.
Granted, twenty years separates the initial introduction of each example: this generation of MKZ came out for model year 2013, and the first Mark VIII (the last in the reborn Mark series of personal luxury coupes that appeared for each consecutive year from 1969) made its debut for model year ’93. This Mark VIII features the mild refresh that arrived for ’97 and held on for swan song ’98. This second-generation MKZ is from before the 2017 facelift, as it still has the “walrus teeth” grille up front.
These cars and the years that separate them perfectly illustrate the final shift in the tastes of luxury car buyers from two-door personal luxury coupes to four-door sedans. I’m unable to distinguish the exact model year of the newer car outside of it being from the 2013 – 2016 model years, but in each of those years, in excess of 30,000 units were sold, with the four-year average being roughly 32,000 sales. By comparison, the final Mark VIIIs sold in paltry numbers: only about 16,400 for ’97, and only 6,100 for ’98. (This was against about 20,100 Cadillac Eldorados for ’97, and 18,400 for ’98. The Eldorado would also soldier on until model year 2002.)
Our own Jason Shafer had written a compelling precis earlier this year on an ’84 Lincoln Town Car that effectively summarized the history of the styling and brand identity of various Lincolns over the years, and perhaps that’s what inspired this piece. I had always assumed that the Mark coupes had always been the flagship models (and during some years they were), but as early as ’82, they were not necessarily the most costly cars in the Lincoln lineup. Similarly, the MKZ is a mid-range vehicle within Lincoln’s current product porrfolio. A case could be made for both cars occupying a similar space within their respective Lincoln lineups, as fundamentally different as these designs are from one another.
Echoing my own challenges from the past workweek, my thought is that there may be some panic going on within the Lincoln Motor Company right now, as this brand still seems to continue to struggle (for what now seems like decades) to find solid, lasting success with their contemporary lineups. I’m sure some of the product planners, engineers and marketers of 2019 are asking themselves why their predecessors let so much brand equity escape over the years, having procrastinated as they had done with attempting to keep the Lincoln brand current and relevant in the general marketplace as their core buyer demographic aged. Still, I get it – old-style Lincolns had still been selling, as unchanged as they had been, to older buyers.
Count me as a fan of the new Continental, and I had high hopes for its success, though sales continue to falter. Here’s hoping for another reinvention for the Lincoln brand that more successfully links the cachet of its past with a distinct product line and styling keyed for prolonged success here in North America. Regardless, it was a pleasure and very nice end to a not-great work week to run into these distant relatives while on the way home from one of my places of tranquility.
Rogers Park, Chicago, Illinois.
Friday, May 31, 2019.