(first posted 2/9/2017) One of my many interests is in physics, especially in the outer edges like quantum mechanics and special relativity where odd things start to happen. For example, the Twin Paradox states that if you were to take two identical twins, send one into space and back at relativistic speeds, the one who stayed behind would be much older than the one who went on the trip. Our separated-at-birth feature cars both appear to be the astronauts left behind, as neither one has aged gracefully.
Another quantum mechanics chestnut is Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, which roughly states that we cannot know the exact position and momentum of any particle, and therefore can never be certain where a particle is at any given time. This perfect pairing 1990’s luxury coupes I found parked next to each other each demonstrates their own uncertainty principle, unsure of whether they are a sports coupe or a boulevard cruiser. (OK, the Eldo is a 2001, but it is very much a product of the ’90s, so roll with me on this one).
The 1990s were a difficult time for Cadillac and Lincoln. On the one hand, you had a steady stream of sales from WWII-era retirees, whose definition of luxury was formed in the Brougham epoch (roughly the mid-60s to the mid-80s). To these buyers, luxury meant button-tufted upholstery (to complement the pillow-like ride), upright chrome grilles, and vinyl roofs (of either the landau or full variety). But most of all, to them luxury meant BIG – Big overhangs, big wheelbase, and a big engine.
On the other hand, you had their baby-boomer children, eschewing the traditional definitions of luxury for tiny BMWs, Mercedes, and Audis with tiny engines and almost no chrome. These buyers, who came of age in the rebellious 60s, were not about to settle down and buy their parent’s Oldsmobiles.
This put Lincoln and Cadillac in a precarious situation. While they were selling Town Cars and deVilles as quickly as they could make them, the buyers for these cars were rapidly aging and moving past their peak earning years. So they needed to make a play for the import-leaning Boomers to safeguard their future, but without alienating their current buyers.
Both of these coupes represent Detroit’s own solution to the uncertainty principle, by attempting to be in two places at once (or at least two cars at once)
The featured 2001 Eldorado ESC represents a mildly facelifted version of the 10th generation Eldorado that had been on sale since 1992. With the last Eldorado rolling off the line in 2002, this example represents the penultimate model year. Since it was already well past its sell-by date in 2001, it is fair to compare it to the 1990 Lincoln parked next to it.
The 2001 Eldo was available in two trims, ESC (Eldorado Sports Coupe), and ETC (Eldorado Touring Coupe), which surely must be among the worst automotive abbreviations ever (really, Escape and et. cetera? Did no one at Cadillac see this?). The ETC was nominally targeted at performance buyers, but with little to differentiate it from the ESC than a body-colored grille, we can start to feel Heisenberg levels of uncertainty as to who exactly the target buyer was.
In either ESC or ETC guise, the sole engine was the failure-prone 4.6L DOHC Northstar V8, with a slight bump in power for the ETC. It also put down its power through the wrong wheels (front), which unfortunately for Cadillac was one of the few things both groups of buyers could agree on.
Clearly, the ESC feature car here was not traditional enough for its original owner, having been “upgraded” with a fake convertible top, chrome wheels, and whitewall tires.
On to the evil twin, the 1990 Mark VII LSC, another victim of mission uncertainty if ever there was one.
When it came out in 1984, the Mark VII was a radical departure from the Mark VI that preceded it (much like the 1983 Thunderbird on which the Mark was based was from its predecessor). However, rather than going all in on aero styling like the ‘Bird, Lincoln hedged their bets with a have-it-both-ways strategy. The middle of the VII looks very similar to the Thunderbird on which it is based, sporting such 80’s Ford aero touches like “aircraft” style doors with hidden rain gutters, flush window glass and vinyl-less roofs. Indeed, if you squint really hard, you can see a hint of E24 6-series in the greenhouse.
Any illusions of BMW-ness are quickly shattered once you get to the front and back ends, which are pure traditional, with their chrome bumpers, upright chrome grille, and obligatory fake spare tire hump in the trunk lid. The composite headlights (The Mark VII was actually the very first car to have them) and factory fog lights are the only concessions to contemporary style on the front end.
The overall impression is one of trying not to offend either group of buyers, while ultimately appealing to neither. What is interesting is that it didn’t have to be this way. Early concepts for the Mark VII went all in with the aero look, with an angled grille, body-color bumpers, Mercedes-inspired wheels, and apparently AMC-style door handles (as seen in the picture below). The grille, in particular, hints at what was to come on the Mark VIII. Apparently, someone at Ford blinked and decided that this might have been a bridge too far for traditional Lincoln buyers, leaving us to wonder what might have been.
Much like Cadillac with the Eldorado, Lincoln tried a two-pronged strategy with the Mark VII in an attempt to appeal to both traditional buyers and their time dilated younger twins with the same car. The Base Mark VII (pictured below) featured such traditional styling cues as wire wheel covers, whitewall tires, and fake wood interior. The LSC (Luxury Sport Coupe – what’s with all the three letter acronyms, anyways?), meanwhile was ostensibly targeted at import buyers with faux BBS alloy wheels and blackwall performance tires. And like the Eldo, the differences were little more than skin deep, as all Mark VIIs came with a 302 cu in Windsor V8 (save for the rarer-than-rare 1984 and 1985 models available with a BMW diesel engine).
So you were to find yourself time dilated to 1992, which of these two rides would make your particles accelerate? Given the choice between the two, I would probably take the Mark. Even though it is down on power to the Eldo, it at least puts its power out through the rear wheels. And since the Mark (loosely) shares a platform with the contemporary Mustang, there is at least a promise of a hotrod Lincoln here.