(first posted 5/2/2014) We all like to talk about the great brougham epoch, and we have an idea of when and how it began, but establishing its peak–and more importantly, its epitome–is a different matter. So let’s make an attempt to more clearly address this question: Which car was the Mayor of Brougham City?
I’d like to nominate this lovely Mark V, which was the pinnacle of Ford Motor Company’s lineup back in 1979. This Collector’s Series car is essentially a carryover from the Diamond Jubilee edition of 1978. Indeed, this was a top-of-line auto-mo-bile and is, ironically, also sitting on Poplar Avenue, the same street where I found the Mark III.
For $22,000 (equal to $70,000 today), you got midnight-blue cloth bucket seats and a full console–unless you opted for leather, in which case the console went away. The Mark V had shed 400 pounds versus the Mark IV– the heaviest Mark ever built–and in an attempt to further improve fuel economy, the 460 V8 gave way to the 400 cu in Cleveland engine as the standard Mark power plant. It was Jimmy Carter’s penultimate year in the White House and the year I walked out of high school and into college–and the start of many other changes that would affect American society and culture.
As we all know, when Ronald Reagan moved into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the nation’s bright, Broughamish marquees had already begun to dim–although Lee Iacocca seemed to want to keep on pushing them, at least until the reins at Pentastar were taken from him. Maybe he figured that the Mark III had been a big hit, and tried to make lighting strike twice. He was booted from Ford by the time our featured car was made, however, and with opera windows banished to lesser models and the 460 V8 taken off the options menu for the 1979 model year, it illustrates the slow passing of his influence. Sadly, when the Brougham-meisters took away the opera windows, they slapped on a compensatory vinyl covering on the “Continental hump.” I’m not sure if this bumper needs a redo, or if it’s showing the omnipresent pine pollen that accumulates at this time of year.
The gold-plated grille slats are somewhat hard to make out in this photo,. While they may or may not be your cup of tea, they’re an outrageous touch that adds a little more weight to my “top brougham” argument.
But they balanced everything out with these wheels. As Borat would say: “Very nice”!
Now, you’re probably wondering why I said “Mayor of Brougham City” rather than “King of the Broughams” or “Lord of the Broughams.” Well, as Paul has so wonderfully pointed out, the brougham epoch started with the Ford LTD, which caused a big leak in Alfred Sloan’s hierarchical balloon. Indeed, you could say that most of Lee Iacocca’s career was built on undoing Detroit’s Sloan-era paradigm–then still very much in force–by providing something perceived as unattainable to the masses–be it sporty cars, luxury trimmings, a car that said “I made it!”, or something that could haul your entire family, and also fit in the garage, without breaking the bank. And remember, this was also the era of the Mustang II Ghia. A Brougham in every garage, indeed. Mayor does seem a much more democratic title for such an example of an appeal to popular taste instead of critical approval.