Cohort Classic: Lincoln Mark LT – A Study of Silly Pickups

“O-kay,” someone at Ford (probably) said after the last Blackwood was sold “That…didn’t really work out did it? It was hideously expensive, we had to get the beds from Europe, and to top it all off it turns out people want to feeeeel like their truck can haul stuff about! Even if all they do is throw grocery bags in there!”
“Still, that doesn’t mean the idea itself isn’t sound. What if we give it another go?”

So…I’ve already written a couple of choice words on the Lincoln Blackwood once. If you haven’t read that one,  I end up comparing its flaws with the Chevrolet SSR. After all, both were around at the same time and shared a similar approach to practicality. The key difference between them, however, was the initial concept. The SSR was brilliant execution of a flawed concept. I’m sure everyone at GM thought that a concept car made manifest by massive fan reaction would be a hit. Alas, it went about as well as anything that asks fans to put their money where their mouth is.

By contrast, the Blackwood was an inadequate execution for an ultimately good concept. The luxury pickup truck has been a thing ever since luxury meant “poncy velour seat covers” and “Two-tone paint”. By trying to move it closer to what you would normally classify as Luxury on a car/SUV, Lincoln was just trying to follow the natural evolution of the concept. It just so happened to have been a little too close to a luxury car to be fully accepted. Still, it was a reasonable idea. And if Ford needed any further evidence that the concept itself was sound, they only needed to look at Cadillac.

Cadillac had also decided that they needed a luxury pickup truck based on their Full-size SUV; and, like the Blackwood, the Escalade EXT had its own bed gimmick. In this case, it shared the Avalanche’s silly “midgate” bed arrangement. Ostensibly designed for the man that wanted increased risk of damaging their interior when hauling stuff, the midgate allowed you to remove the window and divider between the bed and the cab. The result was a longer bed on command. I would love to see the numbers on how many Avalance/H2 SUT/EXT owners actually took advantage of this feature. In lieu of that, I’m going to go ahead and speculate that the numbers are about the same as the people who took the roof off their final-generation Broncos.

But I digress. The EXT was selling in some numbers, partly because the Escalade was a hot commodity at the time, partly because it could actually function as a pickup truck and nobody thought carpeting the bed was a good idea. Ford certainly took notice. Which is why when a new generation of the F-series was released in 2004, they decided that giving the Lincoln Pickup truck idea was worth another chance.

The Mark LT (Luxury Truck?) was released in 2005 carrying a sticker price of $40,050 ($50,300 in 2018 dollars), or about ten grand less than what Lincoln had asked for a Blackwood. Styling was…done by bean counters. For as much flak I gave to the Blackwood, it was at least distinctive. FoMoCo took the time and expense to make it look like a Navigator pickup. The result was nobody complaining about the design (or indeed anything) in front of the C-pillar on that one. With the Mark LT, on the other hand, it seems distinction would’ve been too much. And so the final product looked like little more than a Ford F-150 with a chrome grille. A chrome grille so loud the Lincoln logo is practically camouflaged in the middle of it. Ford apparently noticed, as 2007 models added oversize MARK LT badges to set the record straight.

On the plus side, and I can’t stress this enough, the bed actually functioned as a bed on this one! And you got novelty reflectors on the tailgate to compliment the tailights.

Inside, GM badge-job alarm bells lowered their volume slightly. Yes, it was indeed still an F-150-interior, but it was fitted with enough wood and chrome to make it feel as though you actually got your money’s worth. A feeling that was reinforced when you grabbed any touch surface to discover that they were lined with the finest leather that the Eagle Ottawa Leather company could produce.

The results? In its first year the Mark LT tripled the total volume of the Blackwood (10,274 against 3,356). 2006 was even better, with 12,753 buyers. Sales would go down from there but the concept was already proven. There was indeed a market for a luxury pickup and customers would gladly pay a premium for it.

But did it need to be a Lincoln? Surely everyone who bought one could readily see that the Mark LT was nothing more than an F-150 wearing a shiny suit? May as well cut the charade out and save some in federalization costs. And so, when the new generation of F-series was released in 2009, the Mark LT stopped being offered. In its place, you had the F-150 Platinum trim level. For the man who wanted the last word in comfort but also needed to do the occasional run to the DIY store; and also the first in a series of high-sticker trucks made by Ford which culminates today in the F-150 Limited and its $61,300 price tag. Proving that Ford had the right idea all along, they just needed a couple of iterations to polish it to a (Platinum?) shine.

Special thanks to T-Minor for uploading his wonderful Mark LT pictures to the Cohort. And congratulations at finding one in Austria.