Curbside Classic: 2002 Lincoln Blackwood – Versailles, Part II

Take a basic “mainstream” car, slap on a lot of extra chrome, a more prominent grille, some fancier wheels, a more luxurious interior, and (optional) some sort of distinctive signature styling element, and Voila! You’ve cost effectively cheaply created a luxury car. It’s a formula American automakers have been using for many decades, and whether you like it or not, one they still use, though they’ve arguably gotten better at it.

In the late-1990s/early-2000s, SUVs were among the easiest vehicles to “glamify”, taking an already high-profit vehicle and increasing profit margins even more by adding a few upscale touches and a luxury nameplate. Extending this practice to the fullsize pickup truck seemed like the next logical move… or did it?

Enter the 2002 Lincoln Blackwood. Inspired by its name, or possibly the other way around, the exterior of the Blackwood’s bed was trimmed in “yacht paneled” simulated burled blackwood. Following up on the success of the Ford Expedition-based Lincoln Navigator and conceived at a time when gas was cheap and large SUVs were all the rage in the U.S., Ford saw an opportunity in extending the “Lincoln treatment” to the related Ford F-150 pickup.

Indeed, the Blackwood did come generously equipped, and rightfully so, considering its $52,500 price tag (73,400 adjusted in 2018 dollars). Standard features included an all black interior trimmed in Connolly leather, heated and cooled front seats, power moonroof, 7-speaker sound system with in-dash CD, power-adjustable pedals, side-impact airbags, and rear parking sensors.

For $1,995, the only option was an in-dash navigation system, mounted rather poorly deep down in the center console just forward of the cupholders. The sole powertrain was Ford’s 5.4L DOHC Triton V8, making 300 horsepower and 355 lb-ft torque, and mated to a 4-speed automatic. Unfortunately, in this potential opportunity, Ford overlooked a few key factors.

First off, there was space efficiency. Whereas the massive Navigator was a vehicle that undeniably offered far more passenger and cargo space than the average buyer ever truly needed, the Blackwood was an equally large vehicle that lacked much usable passenger and cargo space. Versus the Navigator, which sat up to 8 and over 110 cubic feet of cargo capacity with its rear seats folded down, the Blackwood only sat up to 4 and offered a paltry 27 cubic feet of cargo capacity from its short bed.

Secondly, and related to the issue of space, there was Blackwood’s lack of versatility. While most SUV owners never took their sport utility vehicles off-road, the majority of pickup truck owners actually used their trucks for hauling around items and tools related to their professional trade, weekend runs to Home Depot and such. Yet the Blackwood was only offered with a 56-inch bed, featuring split barn doors, a permanent power operated tonneau cover, and lined with stainless steel sides and a carpeted floor — hardly an effective hauler for bulky and/or messy items.

Furthermore, while most SUV owners (and pickup owners, for that matter) never took their SUVs off-road, four-wheel drive was nonetheless an appreciated feature, as a large percentage of them lived in areas seeing anywhere from mild to severe snow in winter months. Unlike its Navigator and F-150 relatives, the Blackwood was available exclusively in rear-wheel drive form, as if its appeal wasn’t already limited enough.

For a vehicle that seemed like a very good idea, in practice, the Lincoln Blackwood could not overcome its critical shortcomings. Despite projections of 18,000 units annually, Lincoln sold less than 3,400 Blackwoods total and quickly discontinued the model midway through its inaugural 2002 model year. Ford would soon try and market a Lincoln-badged F-150 again, in the form of the 2005-2008 Mark LT (which was sold exclusively in Mexico for 2010-2014). Although it sold slightly better as a result of its better practicality, the Mark LT was still a slow seller, much like its Cadillac Escalade EXT competitor. Perhaps a full-fledged luxury pickup just isn’t a viable segment?

Featured car photographed in Hingham, Massachusetts – June 2018

Supplementary Blackwood photographed in Los Angeles, California – February 2017