No comment. I said it all here: CC 1977 Lincoln Versailles: Pig In A Poke
Did Lee Iacocca invent badge engineering or did he just perfect the art?
the ultimate Ford Falcon and
ultimate Lincoln fail
If one follows your “logic”; then a Cadillac Seville is the ultimate Chevrolet Nova.
By that logic the DeVille Fleetwood is the ultimate Chevy Impala. Execution is key.
so you are not immune to logic, yes, the Seville was based far more successfully on the Nova.
it’s well known that the Falcon was the basis for many Ford endeavors, the Mustang, the Maverick, the Granada and the Versailles – all successes but the Versailles.
The Seville differed significantly more from the Nova than the Versailles did from the Falcon. Plus the Nova was a much newer and better platform than the Falcon.
Can’t really blame Ford for the Versailles. GM had just had good luck with the Nova-based Cadillac Seville. The problem was the Seville didn’t look like a Nova, whereas it was all too easy to see the lowly Granada (aka Falcon) origins of the Versailles. It was just a Granada with a Lincoln snout and trunk lid, and a really a weak effort, particularly considering how great a success the totally rebodied Falcon-based Mustang had been.
OTOH, Chrysler sure got a lot of mileage out of the rebodied Aspen/Volare M-body. Maybe the trick was not to aim too high when doing the rebadge thing.
Worst of all, the Versailles may have inspired GM to give the rebadge-an-economy-car-to-create-a-luxury-car trick a shot with the Cimarron.
the LeBaron was a much better car than the Versailles and it looked better too
Iacocca hung just about every piece of bad taste on the poor Versailles – JC Whitney should have sued
in stark contrast the Seville was elegant and restrained – some say it was the first “sheer” look car by GM and was widely copied by others – including the LeBaron
plus the Nova was a great handling car when properly equipped – I remember C&D calling it an American BMW in that respect.
so the Seville was not just looks, it had good bones
or maybe it was Paul after all
“Vintage Review: 1975 Chevrolet Nova LN – Chevy’s Take On A BMW
BY PAUL NIEDERMEYER – POSTED ON NOVEMBER 30, 2016”
when it came out I drove a new one back from Chicago and was impressed
Chrysler sure got a lot of mileage out of the rebodied Aspen/Volare M-body.
Not saying they meant to do so, but the original couple (or more) years of the M-body had sooo many teething problems, as mentioned in this space, that the upscaling of those roots, combined with Chrysler learning ironing out the kinks, gave the buyers of the badge engineered rigs the correct feeling that they were driving a better car, not just a plusher and more lux-appointed one.
(My Aspen was on the favorable end of the distribution curve. I have no idea how that happened.)
Paul and I have agreed on the merits (and detriments) of more than a few cars over my time here; but on this car we part ways.
Yes, it looks too much like a Ford Granada/Mercury Monarch.
Yes, Lincoln followed Cadillac’s lead and set the price way too high. (Although quite the automotive bargain today; esp when compared to a surviving Seville or a German or British luxury car of this time period.)
Taken on it’s own merits, today, this is not a bad car.
The sound deadening and suspension augmentations provided a car that, even today, is very quiet inside and smooth riding. (The band-aid additions that turned a Nova into a Seville have not held up well over the passing of time.)
The climate control HVAC system is as good (better) than in the same year Seville; and a couple of generations ahead of the German and English luxury cars of this time period.
The interior seats, carpeting and headliner rivals any other small luxury car of the time period. Perhaps even better than some German cars of this time.
Although not a “sporty” car by any definition; it is a highly comfortable, competent and effortless driver today. Not the car for twisty two lane driving; but how many of us do that kind of driving in 2021? In modern traffic and Interstate driving; this car is quite comfortable, competent and a serene highway cruiser.
Judging by the condition of most of the surviving cars; FoMoCo used high end, high quality materials inside and outside on this Versailles.
(My opinions may be slightly biased as I now own one.)
Hard agree. These were decent cars. And I’ve always found their sharp creases especially with the Lincoln end caps to be very attractive.
They were hardly badge engineered. They added real technical content: RR disc brakes; EEC; IIRC quad halogen lamp (IIRC an industry first.)
And that made it worth three times the price of a Granada?
And the same (adjusted) price as the superb ’61 Continental?
I’ve never once said or suggested that this was a bad car; it was just priced very cynically. But then that was straight out of Iaccoca’s playbook. Except he overdid it this time; let’s not forget that the Versailles was a flop. You can only sell a pig in a poke so many times. Or for so much. The market called him out this time.
Exactly. If you were looking at buying a new Granada or Monarch in 1979 or a depreciated used 77 or 78 Versailles get the freaking Versailles! New however cannot imagine how much effort it took for the salesmen to spin what made that car over double the cost of a Monarch in the LM showrooms.
IIRC: Lincoln copied GM when they priced the Cadillac Seville at the top of the price ladder?
If my recollections are correct; why was it cynical of Lincoln but not of Cadillac?
Because it looked to everyone just like a Granada or Monarch with a Pep Boys grille and rear conti kit pasted on.
The Seville looked utterly new and unique.
There’s a very big difference between those two approaches. And not surprisingly, the market wasn’t quite as dumb as Lee thought it was. It embraced the handsome Seville and shunned the kitschy Versailles.
The Versailles is the equivalent of the Cimarron. Neither one fooled anyone; well except for a few. Were you one of them?
Paul, the “Pep Boys grille” on the Versailles and the similar one on the 1980 thru 1989 Lincoln Town Cars are one of the most recognizable & admired front ends ever produced.
One could speculate that the Versailles styling was what the later Town Car models became. To support my styling comment I have included a picture of the two cars.
Your comment about me and a few others being fooled is immature and provocative. It reeks of pithiness and cheap shot artistry. From a man of your intelligence and automotive knowledge I expect better.
That pictures is of two Versailles’, a 1977 (left) and a 1980 (right), isn’t it? From the Lincoln Versailles website.
My sincere apologies. I regretted writing that later.
I have to assume that the failure of the Versailles in the market is because of the reason I gave, but I understand it has its loyal fans too.
But you did ask a leading question, and the difference between the Seville and Versailles is rather stark, at least to me.
FWIW, if Ford had invested in a unique body for the Versailles, I’m quite sure it would have sold well. Buyers at that price point demand exclusivity.
You are correct, Jim. Both cars are Versailles models with the different roof lines.
They do rather resemble a 1980’s Lincoln Town Car, don’t they!
They did not have quad halogen lamps, at least not at first. The ’79s had halogen high beams, the first US-market car to come with halogen sealed beams of any kind. The ’80 “Grand Versailles” had all four halogen sealed beams. The propaganda was the usual “brighter and whiter” jive, and to some degree that was true for the high beam, but not the low beam, and in fact the halogen sealed beam system was designed and implemented primarily to lower vehicle build cost.
Did a double take on that “Grand Versailles” – as far as I can tell, that was just one car someone modified. Pictures of it are here.
Oop, looks like you’re quite right. I hadn’t heard of it either, until I saw its “spec sheet” on that very site—I’d gone into it thinking none of the Versailleses came with halogen low beams, and once I found that bit I didn’t try to go fact-checking it.
So now I’m back to thinking they all came with halogen sealed beams for the high beams only.
I’m lacking the automotive lighting chops you have, though I’ve admittedly spent more time geeking on the subject than would probably be considered healthy for a well adjusted child/adult. That said, I’m pretty sure I remember seeing a 1979 or 1980 Versailles sporting the earlier style Sylvania halogens (with the “Sylvania” and “Halogen” in the upper corner of the lens, as opposed to the large block script in the center used from ~1983 or 84 on) in the low beam position. GM mixed halogen high beams with standard low beams in this size format throughout much of the 1980’s… probably not a huge loss in regards to illumination, what with the weak-chested 35/35 watt burners utilized in low beams at the time.
I also remember a lot of Sylvania’s halogen sealed beams of this era filling up with condensation long before they actually burned out, and it was common to see cars with one or more headlamps that were completely black inside. At night, the bulbs lit up, but there was no reflector left to put any of the light on the road.
I could certainly be wrong; I do have a canonical list of what makers used which sealed beams (this one), but it ends at model year 1974.
You’ve nailed it exactly with the wattage. The low beam filament was a 60-watt item in the plain tungsten (pre-halogen) small round and small rectangular sealed beams. These gave a peak low-beam intensity (maximum in the “hot spot”) of about 25,000 candela.
For 15 years after the 1962 introduction of the world’s first halogen headlight bulb (the H1), American industry laffed about those Yurpeen dummies and their pointless messing around with halogen headlamps—hee hee hee, haw haw haw, the US is right, as usual, and the rest of the world is wrong, as usual, and Europe should drop their silly pretense and adopt the American sealed beam.
In 1978 the US reg was changed to increase the high beam allowable maximum from 37,500 candela to 75,000 per side of the car (still in effect, and still a fraction of the rest-of-world high beam intensity). This increased high beam intensity limit wasn’t practical to approach without halogen technology; it would’ve required very high filament wattage, which aside from unacceptable power consumption would also have meant short lamp life and poor beam focus because of the large filament. So: halogen sealed beams.
But unlike European automakers who went “Hey, cool, with the increased efficacy, the higher lumens-per-watt that we get from halogen, we can put more low beam light on the road so the driver can see better!”, US automakers went “Hey, cool, with the increased efficacy that we get from halogen, we can reduce the wattage so we can use cheaper switches and smaller wires!” They actually argued, with straight faces (or maybe more like poker faces, in context of the cars they were selling) that reduced-wattage headlights would benefit consumers by increasing fuel economy. Um, no.
Compared to the 60-watt pre-halogen filament, the 35-watt halogen low beam filament produced significantly less light; peak intensity was about 18,000 instead of 25,000—nearly 30 per cent less light. Much poorer beam focus, too. But they had a “whiter” appearance, which doesn’t actually help with vision but makes them look subjectively brighter, which was marketable. And the automakers got to squeeze those few pennies out of the cost of building the cars.
You’re also right about Sylvania’s sealed beams: they were always poorly-made junk, right from the start. As you mention they weren’t well sealed against water entry. And the focusing stage of their manufacture was a pathetic joke. The pre-halogen filament assemblies had been focused to give maximum peak intensity; that is a dependable indicator that the filaments are in the right place. With the halogens there was all kinds of stray light bouncing off the walls of the inner bulb, so they used a manual process that amounted to “just get it somewhere near the ballpark”: the burner was adjusted until the glare values were under the legal limit, and that was called good enough. Complete rubbish.
T.A.: You are correct, sir.
Here in hot, humid and often rainy New Orleans, partially filled with rain water halogen headlights were not unusual.
More than once I tried to slowly, carefully drilled tiny drain holes in the bottom corners of these in a futile effort to avoid premature replacement.
The Versailles wasn’t a bad Granada in the same way a Cimarron wasn’t a bad Cavalier.
That’s gotta be the best description of the Versailles I’ve ever seen.
I’d forgotten there was a Versailles before the semi-bustlebacked one. Like the Seville, the first generation was better looking, but unlike it, not ground-breaking at all.
I drove a ’56 Olds in HS. Freshman year of college, I drove someone else’s Granada down a 55 mph two lane to the next town. The Ford was scarier to drive because of the numb steering and spongy front end. I doubt the Lincoln’s ride improvements helped that. You must have to get used to it–or be used to it to buy one.
110” wheelbase! That’s less than a current Honda Accord, just a few inches longer than the Civic. But the Lincoln has quite a bit more roadhugging weight.
Given all of the different wheelbases and widths that the Falcon platform spawned, it seems a shame that Ford didn’t at least give the Versailles a slight wheelbase stretch, particularly since this was the most expensive Lincoln sold at the time (although less expensive than the Seville).
Ford did do that with the Mercury Comet, didn’t they? A Lincoln V with two or three more inches would have given the folks in the back some needed foot room.
“The Comet was initially based on the compact Ford Falcon, then on the intermediate Ford Fairlane and finally on the compact Ford Maverick. As a Mercury, early Comets received better grade interior trim than concurrent Falcons, and a slightly longer wheelbase.”
No wonder these were disparaged, considering how much they cost and how little Ford actually did to them. I like how luxury feels on the highway and how quiet the Lincolns I’ve ridden in or driven felt on the road, but they all were too big. A Versailles with the feel, ride and noise level of a Continental would have been just right for me. The perfect garage for me from that time would have been a V and a VW Scirocco Mk. 1.
Add more footroom, craft a different snout (I do like the trunk on these), make a 4bbl 351W with dual cats and exhaust a Lincoln only option (calling Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen) over a standard 302W 2bbl…
A big part of Seville/Cimmeron and Versailles was for CAFE compliance. Totally re-engineering the body shell and floor pan of the Granada for a stretch would have been very expensive compared to what was done; would have likely made the project not worth pursuing.
It would have required some work, but the expense of “totally re-engineering the body shell and floor pan” wouldn’t have been that substantial in this case.
Remember, the Torino had a similar track and a 113/114-inch wheelbase, so much of the tooling already existed. It doubtless would’ve been easier than what Lincoln did for the 2019 Continental Coach Door Edition.
Even though the Falcon, Mustang, Torino, Maverick and Granada were on the “same platform” the actual structural sheetmetal between them was rarely actually the same where it would be as simple as dusting off the 71 Torino floorpan dies for use on the Versailles. It’s important to keep in mind when talking “Falcon platform” that it’s defined largely by its across the board similar running gear and unibody construction, not interchangeability.
They might have been able to reuse the Torino floor pan bits but that would have been the cheapest part of doing a stretch. The roof and doors are the complex parts, which would need to get stretched if they wanted more passenger space.
No arguments on any of the expenses you guys mention, but this was THE MOST EXPENSIVE MODEL of Lincoln. And at least starting with 1979, much of the unique pieces (like the roof) were done by a third-party contractor (for some reason Cars and Concepts comes to mind).
For what they were charging, and the possibility of additional sales, the lack of differentiation from the Granada/Monarch was just plain silly. Even when the Versailles came with more standard equipment, and was built to a much higher standard.
I agree that with its intended market and price point there should have be more unique body pieces for the Lincoln.
Not that there are vast differences in Ford/Mercury/Lincoln styling themes in the late 70s but the Versailles looks so much more Mercury than Lincoln, where are the headlight doors? Where are the vertical bladed taillights? The only thing actually Lincoln like to the Versailles is the comically exaggerated continental hump, the rest of it screams “sign of the cat”. It’s almost as though designers originally intended it to be a refreshed Monarch and Lido stepped in and said “make that a Lincoln!”
The front end is nice looking, I’ll give it that, but this it’s best angle by far. The other end with its hump and Dodge Custom 880 looking taillights not so much. Not much of a fan of that formalized roof plug they had either.
Regarding the hidden-headlight thing, there may have been a width problem with quad rectangular sealed-beams. I don’t recall there ever being a car that used them. The last sealed-beam hidden headlight cars had the larger (but not as wide compared to quad) dual rectangular units.
Still, hidden headlights, even with dual rectangular bulbs, would have been a significant improvement for the look of the Versailles. It definitely would have made it more of a Lincoln than a Mercury.
The 1987-1992 Chrysler LeBaron coupé and convertible had hidden quad rectangular sealed beams, as did the ’88-’91 Chrysler New Yorker. The ’79-’81 Dodge St. Regis also had quad rectangular sealed beams hidden (sorta) behind a cover that started out more or less clear, but its clarity didn’t matter because it swung out of the way when the lamps were switched on.
The last cars with hidden sealed beams…h’mm. The last ones that come to my mind are the ’96 Corvette with single large rectangulars, the ’93 Dodge Stealth with single small rectangulars, the ’97 Ford Probe with single small rectangulars, the ’93 Isuzu Impulse with quad rounds, and the ’93 Chrysler New Yorker with quad mini oblongs.
The facelift 1998-02 Pontiac Firebird had H4703 and H4701 sealed beams under its covers, which replaced the single H4666 or H6545 used from 1993-97.
And the 1997 Mazda Miata for single large rounds.
Well, there are some nits to pick on the rectangular side-by-side question. The St. Regis (as well as the 1978 Dodge Magnum), although they were side-by-side, weren’t technically hidden because they had clear covers.
Likewise, the LeBaron and New Yorker hidden rectangulars weren’t technically side-by-side, either; the inboard high-beams were slightly ahead of the outboard low-beams.
But it does show that hidden side-by-side rectangular quads ‘were’ possible, even though they might be tougher to do because of the greater width than round bulbs.
Those Dodges did technically and legally have hidden headlamps. The regulations prohibit a cover in front of the headlamp’s own lens while the lamp is in use, no matter whether the cover be opaque or transparent.
This is the first time you’re mentioning it, but how much do you reckon the quad-rect sealed beam lenses not being coplanar (inboard lamps a little further forward than outboard lamps) would shave off the total width?
You’re forgetting the 80-81 Imperial. Truly hidden behind opaque doors and directly beside each other.
I would imagine there was zero width benefit in non-coplanar placement.
But, as Matt pointed out, the whole point is moot with the ’81-’83 Imperial. They are no quibbles since the lights are hidden by solid covers and coplanar.
I just thought it was a lilttle strange that it was only Chrysler that did anything with the hidden, quad rectangular thing, with Ford and GM completely bypassing what would have seemed to be another headlight fad. You’d have thought that Ford, at least, would have had at least one Lincoln with them.
A devoted owner’s website here, with all the details you could want about year-to-year, unique content, advertising, shop manuals, and so on. I just remember when everyone was scouring the recycling yards for the 9″ rear end with the disc brakes.
After marc reimer’s writeup, I’d really like to see a well-preserved one in person and compare it to my long-ago Granada:
Iacocca on a roll, just another of his cynical badge-engineered, massively-overpriced brougham-tastic confections foisted on the willfully clueless American luxury car buyers of the era more interested in superficial style than intrinsic substance. Its failure must have confused him…
Paul: Apology accepted & appreciated. I’ve already gotten over it.
As many loyal readers here may have noticed: we both have our own strong opinions on various cars. Very often we agree.
Gawd knows there have been times when I regretted some of my snarky replies here but too late to delete them!
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