10 Forgotten Classic Lincoln Models You Probably Never Knew Existed
Blue Oval luxury division’s obscured former models
After covering the forgotten classic and models, it’s now time to complete the FoMoCo set by turning our attention to the premium Lincoln division. Unlike the Ford and Mercury divisions which had always boasted plethora of models to choose from, Lincoln usually offered a limited inventory. Lincoln’s premium status simply didn’t allow it to do otherwise. Yet, despite that, the last surviving Ford’s secondary division still managed to offer a few models that most of us have long forgotten or simply didn’t think about for a long time. Classic Lincoln models that probably deserved better than that. Some of them have, at least. Some, on the other hand, are rightfully forgotten. Not only by us, but by Lincoln as well.
What Lincoln division lacked in quantity, they compensated with special edition models. Take the Lincoln Town Car for example. During its 30 years on the market, Panther full-sizer had spawned more than a dozen of special edition siblings. And it wasn’t the only Lincoln that’s done so. That’s why you shouldn’t be surprised by some obscured special edition Linclons on otherwise well known nameplates. These will be joined by what are basically completely forgotten classic Lincoln models that I’ve mentioned above.
Whenever premium automakers tried to market something out of the ordinary, it usually ended up in failure. Such was the fate of a plushy blue collar Lincoln’s pickup truck from the early 2000s. Blackwood was, naturally, based on Ford’s own F-150 crew cab truck and assembled in Blue Oval’s Kentucky plant. First Lincoln to be assembled outside of the state of Michigan since 1958 when Capri started the trend. Yet, Blacwood wasn’t really intended as your run of the mill workhorse. It also wasn’t the first upmarket pickup truck. So, what went wrong?
Reasons are many. For starters, buyers still weren’t ready for full-size trucks serving as personal carriers at the turn of the millennium. Then there was the issue of Blackwood’s fragility. Would you load a 1,000 pounds of rocks on that soft, carpeted, power tonneau-covered bed of his? Me neither. So, as you can see, Blackwood was neither a workhorse nor a personal carrier. And its price tag of $52,500 (more than $70,000 in 2017 dollars), didn’t exactly help the poor Blackwood. As expected, Lincoln decided to pull the plug after only one year and 3,356 sold units. 50 of them were the special Neiman Marcus editions which started from $58,800.
It’s ironical how personal carrier luxury pickups are common these days – only a decade and spare after Blackwood’s failed attempt to establish itself as one. Blackwood might have suffered from more than a few shortcomings, but it would seem that wrong timing was the worst of them.
Aviator’s another hulking Lincoln from the early 2000s that’s largely forgotten by now. It served as a junior to the flagship Navigator and a stablemate to the Ford Explorer. Yet, despite being smaller and more affordable than the Navigator, larger of the two sold around 10,000 more units on average during 2003, 2004 and 2005. And that’s quite a difference in the luxury SUV segment.
But body-on-frame mid-size SUV didn’t look like a bad move. At least not initially. Apart from being plushier, it also came with a more powerful engine than its Explorer sibling. Aviator’s 4-valve version of the 4.6L V8 developed 302 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. 63 hp and 18 lb-ft of torque more than what concurrent Explorer had thanks to a 2-valve version of the same Modular V8 mill. It even outclassed the Navigator, albeit by only 2 horses. And Navigator also packed 55 lb-ft of torque more than the Aviator. Aviator’s most shining moment was arguably the Kitty Hawk special edition introduced in order to commemorate the centennial of the Wright Brothers’ first flight. 865 total units were tastefully done in exterior black, while interior featured Zebrano white wood coupled with black leather seats.
Although Aviator disappeared promptly after its arrival, and Lincoln hasn’t used it since – it would seem the nameplate isn’t done yet. Lincoln is apparently planning on reintroducing it as a replacement for the slow-selling MKT. It should yet again share the Explorer’s underpinnings. This time around, however, both vehicles will be crossovers based on the new C6 platform.
1976-1983 Continental Designer Series
Year was 1976 and most American automakers offered a version of USA’s bicentennial-themed pickup or passenger car. Instead of jumping on a bicentennial wagon, however, Lincoln took a more bourgeois approach. They started offering their famous designer edition packages on then Lincoln Continental Mark IV. Original designer series would pass onto the Continental Marks V, and VI before finally dispersing after 1983 model year. Despite being popular back in the day, after 30 odd years of hiatus, original classic Lincoln designer series are now rarely spoken of.
Aforementioned 1976 was the last year of Mark IV cars, and the first year of designer series models. Bill Blass, Cartier, Givenchy and Emilio Pucci were responsible for one special edition model of their own. Each came with different unique treatment including colors, materials and extras, but all were graced with the same blank 22 karat gold-plated plaque on the instrument panel, ready to be engraved with its owner’s name. Designer series model was successful and all four special editions carried over onto the Mark V and Mark VI. Starting with 1982, Emilio Pucci edition was exclusively offered on sedans, while Bill Blass and Givenchy could have been ordered with coupes. Cartier edition was transferred to the Town Car. Finally, in 1983, Givenchy special was dropped entirely.
Lincoln Continental designer series didn’t simply disappear with the Mark VI, however. They continued on well into the 2000s. Original quartet of Blass, Cartier, Givenchy and Pucci was dissolved with the coming of the Mark VII, though. Only the Bill Blass edition had survived the transition and it was offered alongside the new arrival Versace until 1985.
1976 Continental Mark IV Givenchy
Lincoln Versailles was introduced solely in order to counter the advance of smaller German luxury sedans and rather successful Cadillac Seville. One of the smallest Lincolns ever produced wasn’t much more than a rebadged and refurbished Ford Granada, and its sales reflected that fact. Although not initially, Lincoln buyers quickly figured out the ruse and Versailles’s sales fell well under Ford’s projections. Only around 50,000 units were produced over the span of four years, while Seville averaged as many units yearly.
Apart from sharing the same platform as the Ford Granada and Mercury Monarch, Lincoln Versailles also shared their 133-horsepower 302 cu in Windsor V8 engine, while 351 cu in V8 offered only marginally improved performance rated at 135 horses. Leather seats weren’t enough to make this a true luxury car, but its sticker coming to $11,500 ($46,500 adjusted) certainly captured that premium segment’s essence. At least Versailles came with a few aces up its sleeve. It was the first American production car with a clearcoat paint, halogen headlights and a built in garage door opener.
Versailles was ultimately seen as a pig in a poke. How else to describe a car with the highest price tag in a whole division that’s, on the other hand, based on a compact three times cheaper? Deceptive or not, Versailles has managed to find a number of followers of its own. Just like every single car out there that’s ever been produced.
10 to 20 years is hardly enough time for one model to become forgotten, but with Lincoln’s nomenclature change, Jaguar’s ownership change, and a fair distance between the LS and current Lincoln models, there isn’t much to be said about the LS. But, what does Jaguar have to do with it? You’ll remember that Ford had owned the Jaguar (alongside the Aston, Land Rover and Volvo), and Lincoln LS was nothing other than a poor man’s Jag.
Every LS sported a Jaguar engine to begin with. Whether a V6 or a V8. Smaller of the two had 3.0L in displacement, and developed 210 horsepower initially and 232 ponies towards the end of LS’ run. Latter was a 3.9L V8 with between 252 hp and 280 hp. 5-speed automatic was usually tied to both of them, but 5-speed Getrag manual (first manual transmission on a Lincoln since 1951!) appeared on select few 2000-2002 V6 models as well. However, the stick could be ordered exclusively with an optional sport package. That’s why only 2,331 of them were ordered ultimately. Even rarer were special edition LSE models of which around 1,500 were made.
Lincoln LS was hardly a bad car, but it sure lacked some identity. Where Germans offered exclusive refinement and performance, and Japanese strove for perfection, Lincoln only came up with bland styling and a bit of everything mentioned. That wasn’t enough for a luxury sedan where appearance counts the most. North of 260,000 LS’ were produced over the span of seven years, and that figure fell well below Ford premium division’s expectations.
Zephyr is, without a doubt, one of defining nameplates for the Lincoln Division. Introduced in 1936 in order to bridge the gap between pedestrian V8 Ford models and upscale Lincolns, Zephyr featured a unique V12 engine for its class, which adopted the model’s name going forward. 2006 marked the 70th anniversary of the original Zephyr, and Lincoln decided to pay a homage to the icon by reusing its name on their fresh mid-size luxury car. Lincoln Zephyr was born anew.
This time, however, Zephyr wasn’t exactly all-new. It replaced the aforementioned Lincoln LS in hopes that it’ll exhibit much more eminent personality than its Jaguar-powered predecessor. Power came from Ford’s in-house engine this time. 3.0L Duratec V6 with 221 hp and 205 lb-ft of torque was the sole option. Zephyr featured more contemporary styling and finally started building a new reputation for the aging brand. Finally, instead of being built in Wixom, Michigan, Zephyr’s production was transferred to Hermosillo, Mexico. This made it more affordable to build and singlehandedly cut its ties with Lincolns of old.
Despite being a step in the right direction, Zephyr disappeared after only one year. At least the name did. Come 2007, Lincoln introduced a whole new nomenclature starting with an MK for almost all of their models. Only the Mark LT, Town Car and Navigator would avoid the name change. Former two disappeared quickly, however, leaving the Navigator a sole survivor of this rebranding. Navigator is now joined by the revived Continental. As far as Zephyr goes, on the other hand, you know it as the MKZ these days. It’s as successful as Lincoln intended it to be, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
2010-2011 Town Car Continental
Lincoln Town Car Continental marks the end of one beautiful friendship between the two nameplates. It completes the figurative circle which both the Town Car and Continental had undergone. Town Car nameplate started its journey in 1959 as a sub model on the Continental before becoming a model of its own in 1981. On the other hand, Continental was retired in 2002 and Lincoln reused it briefly as a special edition package on none other than the Town Car. Just as the full-size sedan was marked for retirement itself.
But Lincoln failed to honor either of its iconic cars by mashing them up for one last time. Continental package could hardly pass as an effort to rejuvenate the aging and neglected Town Car. Moreover, the package itself was hardly that interesting. Continental stitching on the seats, some badges, and 18-inch wheels already available with the Signature trim are hardly worth the mention, let alone remembrance. It was an anticlimactic sendoff for the Town Car, but at least the end came. A euthanasia of sorts considering all the Town Car’s struggles after more than a decade of neglect.
And, while Lincoln has recalled the Continental nameplate from retirement, Town Car hasn’t had such luck. Maybe the cycle will begin anew. Maybe the Town Car’s future is yet again tied to the Continental. But maybe it isn’t. Whatever the case, these classic Lincoln models will never again be the same.
Lincoln Lido was the result of a harsh reality. FoMoCo was still lagging behind the GM during the early post-war years. Especially in the hardtop convertible segment where they didn’t offer the answer until 1952. Lincoln’s EL-Series debuted as early as in 1949, though, and competitors had already addressed the aforementioned issue by then. Before Ford managed the funding for the hardtop convertible, they did the only thing that was available to them. They offered a conventional coupe with the hardtop styling. Entry-level version of such stylish coupe was called Lido, while more upscale version of the Cosmopolitan coupe was called Capri.
Apart from receiving rather unique styling cues such as a contrasting leather-look vinyl roof covering, a gold-color Cosmopolitan hood ornament, rocker moldings, and twin door mirrors, Lidos featured a very different engine than previous Lincolns. Instead of a venerable V12 under the hood, the entire EL-Series drew power from similarly ancient flathead V8. 337 cu in L-head V8 developed 152 horses for 1950 and 2 ponies more for 1951. It was mated to a GM-sourced Hydra-Matic auto trans since Ford didn’t have an automatic of its own at the time. Other choice was a 3-speed manual.
Despite the effort, Lido and Capri proved to be slow sellers. Only around 2,000 Lidos and 1,000 Capris were likely produced per year. This makes them quite collectible these days, however, as not many have survived to witness the turn of the millennium.
2006-2008 Mark LT
Previously mentioned Blackwood wouldn’t be Lincoln’s last upscale pickup truck. In 2006, they introduced its successor. Lincoln Mark LT initially sold much better, but ultimately failed to reach the sales goals in the end. It probably wouldn’t have gotten that far in the first place hadn’t Lincoln offered them at a huge discount throughout most of their lifespan. Some even $10,000 below the initial MSRP. And the original sticker of $40,000 was already far lower than that of Blackwood’s.
Just like Blackwood, Mark LT also wasn’t more than a rebadged and softened up version of the F-150. At the same time, it also came with 5.4L Triton V8 capable of producing 300 horsepower. There were two different versions of the LT, both based on the crew cab configuration. First was the U.S. and Canada version with a short bed produced in Dearborn, and the other is a Mexican version with a long bed assembled in Cuautitlán. More than 36,000 units were sold in U.S. and Canada before Mark LT was replaced by the Limited trim level on the F-150. Mark LT was, however, the most popular Lincoln vehicle in Mexico, so Ford continued offering a revised version of it there until 2014.
Lincoln hasn’t marketed a pickup ever since the recession struck and Mark LT disappeared from the scene. That might change in the future if Ford deems another niche truck worthwhile, but probably not before they squeeze every cent they can from their current luxury full-sizer; the F-150 Limited.
1984-1985 Continental Mark VII with BMW Diesel
From the outside, it’s just as inconspicuous as the rest of Mark VII Continentals. As far as Lincoln Continental and inconspicuousness go, that is. Under the hood, however, this plushy Ford hides a secret. It’s powered by a German engine. And not just any German engine, but one of the . The iconic BMW M21 straight-six turbodiesel that started the trend of BMW diesel mills altogether.
Ever since the first, and especially second oil crisis, American automakers strove for better fuel efficiency. Unlike GM who went the Oldsmobile Diesel way, Ford decided to take a more subtle approach. They simply bought a bunch of M21’s from BMW and installed them in then-new Fox-bodied Mark VII Continentals. BMW’s 2.5L straight-six was capable of putting up 115 hp and 155 lb-ft of torque and it was tied exclusively to a 4-speed ZF automatic. Maybe it doesn’t look like much, but much larger and way less efficient Oldsmobile Diesel V8 generated 10 ponies less. Despite the positives, BMW diesel soon got caught up by strict regulations, and Lincoln had to cease offering it. Only about 400 or so Mark VII Lincolns ended up having one.
Rest of the stock got sold to Vixen who installed them into their short-lived RV projects. But that’s a story for another time and another place. As far as classic Lincoln models go, there weren’t too many more obscure and rare as these Mark VII Continentals with factory-installed continental Europe’s turbodiesels.