Concept Classic: 1973 Lincoln Mark I – What Could Have Been?

(first posted 1/6/2017)     The Versailles was a commercial and critical failure for Lincoln, a tarted-up Ford Granada with a laughably ambitious price. Wouldn’t it have been better if, like the 1973 Mark I concept, the Versailles had been a tarted-up Ford Granada. A European Granada, that is.

There’s not much information out there about this particular concept other than it was designed by Ghia and based on the European Granada. With that Mark-style grille and squared-off hood the front has a rather Mercedes air about it, while elsewhere the styling is crisp and suitably upscale.

Ghia’s styling tweaks appear to have been limited mostly to a new front fascia and a revised rear door design. Presaging Cadillac’s use of the Opel Omega for its Catera, a European Versailles would have been markedly different from the Mercury Monarch also sold through Lincoln-Mercury showrooms. Rather than a platform with its roots going back to the 1960 Falcon, a European Versailles would have used the Granada’s coil-sprung independent rear suspension and double wishbone front suspension. The Granada was 4 inches narrower and quite a bit shorter than the Versailles — by around 20 inches — although the Granada’s wheelbase was less than 3 inches shorter. The largest engine available in the Euro Granada was a 3.0 V6, however Ford’s South African operations showed the platform could be adapted for V8 power–there, they inserted the 302 cubic-inch V8.

The interior of the Granada was as inviting as that of the Versailles, although its design was arguably more stylish.

Here’s the Versailles’ interior for comparison, clearly showing its humble US Granada origins. It’s not as though the US Granada was a bad car and it certainly was handsome and ultimately successful, however it wasn’t really competitive at the Lincoln Versailles’ price point.

It’s tempting to wonder how the European Granada would have sold as a Lincoln Versailles, offering a credible competitor to Europe’s best and ushering in a new era for Ford’s luxury brand. But it’s also entirely possible it could have sunk like a rock, priced too high because of the exchange rate, if it was imported, or misunderstood by dealers used to selling Town Cars, like what happened to the Merkur brand. Conservative Lincoln buyers may also have been turned off by the lack of visual gingerbread or by the unfamiliar way in which it drove, much like what happened with the Cadillac Catera.

We shall never know how a European Granada-based Versailles would have sold but it would have been a much more compelling offering than the thinly disguised American Granada that Lincoln eventually sold.

Related Reading:

Curbside Classic: 1985-89 Merkur XR4Ti – Too Close To The Sun

Curbside Classic: 1988 Merkur Scorpio – Yes, I Finally Found One!

Automotive History: 1997-2001 Cadillac Catera – Caddy’s Dead Duck

Curbside Classic: 1977 Lincoln Versailles – Pig In A Poke