COAL: 1989 Lincoln Mark VII LSC – The Tail Wagging the Dog

Ever been surprised by something you’ve found in a newly acquired car?  I’ve bought so many used cars, I have found a wide variety of items in them.  Of course, I’ve found common things like coins, papers, cheap tools, and jumper cables.  Years ago, it was common to find half packs of cigarettes and Bic lighters.  Other finds have been more unusual.  Twice I’ve bought cars which were infested with ants.  I once found a person’s driver’s license, another time I found a hidden knife, and a creepy-find was miscellaneous surgical instruments.  I’ve found phones, not just cellular ones.  In an ‘86 Vette I found an old Motorola car phone mounted in the storage bin behind the seat.

What was in the Mark VII could’ve killed me.

The 1984 Lincoln Mark VII was a radical departure from the Mark VI.   The 1983 model was your grandfather’s car.  Boxy, very soft, very traditional.   For 1984 things completely changed.  (I think it would have been interesting to have been a car salesman at a Lincoln/Mercury dealer in the fall of 1983.  You would have had two extremely different Lincoln Marks for sale – probably two different kinds of customers too.)  The ’84 through ’92 Mark VII was certainly closer to a Thunderbird than a Continental.  The Mark VII arrived one year after its new cousin over at Ford.

The Mark was a competent luxury car, but was also a driver’s car.  Mark VIIs were available with all the expected goodies, and four wheel discs too.  It was the first U.S. built production vehicle to have “Euro” style headlights, and it was the first to have standard four wheel ABS.  Virtually all Mark VIIs came with Ford’s 302 cast iron V8.  As years passed, this Mustang 5.0 H.O. was improved and the Mark received similar upgrades.  Later versions of the Mark used the identical 5.0 H.O. used in the Mustang with no changes.

This car was a BMW killer.  A fantastic car in a straight line or the curves.  Back in the 1980s my wealthy boss consistently bought German cars until the Mark VII came along.  I knew it must have been a good car for him to have traded in his Mercedes for one.

Fast-forward twenty years.  When my Cougar sold COAL here I was looking for a project.  A friend from church said he sold his Lincoln Mark VII to a guy, but the new owner never registered it or drove it.  The car had been sitting for a year or so.  Was I interested?   This was the only car I can remember ever buying sight unseen.  I have never bought a car through Ebay or any other online spot which involved a long-distance transaction.  I want to see what I’m getting.

A friend once bought a Buick Century through Ebay.  The car was located in Naples, Florida (a retirement area).  He assumed it was a Florida car.  When the car showed up at his house he found that it was eaten up with rust underneath.  It had spent a lot of time somewhere in the northeast.  Salted roads had done it in.  But it still looked nice on the outside though.

But I digress. The day came when we were to close the deal.  I took our half-ton Chevy Express van to go get the Mark VII.  A third party had loaned a trailer, and when I arrived, the Mark VII was already loaded.   I had a quick look around the car (I had already agreed to buy it.) Then I paid, got the title and we hooked up the trailer to the back of my van.

Towing is not new to me.  I have a CDL and have driven many trucks.  My van weighed somewhere around 6,000 pounds.  I guessed the Mark VII weighed somewhere around 3,700-3,900.  The trailer maybe added a thousand.  I assumed everything was good-to-go.

When I got up to speed on the interstate, I had an unusual sensation.  The trailer started to sway and it was sliding the rear axle of my van side-to-side like a play toy.  This porpoise-ing effect often gets worse, not better.  The tail wagging the dog.  Thankfully, I noticed it right away, and was able to get everything slowed down, I headed toward the shoulder and stopped. I figured that the car needed to come up closer on the back of the trailer.  But when I checked, the car was already pulled all the way forward on the trailer (nose first).  There was lots of weight on the tongue.

I bought the car only a few miles from home, and I was just about a mile from my exit, so I rolled along the shoulder of the freeway.  When I got home, I got in the car to unload it.  Then I began to figure things out.  The back window had a water leak.  It was the rainy season.  The carpet was drenched.  This added at least 200 pounds.  When I opened the trunk, I found it was completely full of spare parts.  There was even an extra Ford AOD transmission and a torque converter in there!  The trunk also had six inches of water in it too, but not a single drip underneath!  My “little” 3,700 pound car was probably tipping the scales closer to 5,000.  When I figured in the weight of the trailer, all of this was more than the tow vehicle.

After this, things were good.  The ownership experience with the Mark was mostly uneventful.  I remember the factory air ride had trouble so I converted the car to coil springs.  I enjoyed the car.  I rarely see them anymore, but when I do, I think of the tail wagging the dog.