By on November 27, 2009

arse-in-air syndrome

In my CC hunts, I come across quite a few Lincolns with air suspension issues. Usually, they’re just hunched down on the suspension stops in a Citroen DS or lowrider imitation. But this one has been catching my eye for quite some time, because it gets driven like this. I suspect it’s not intentional, but I do tend to lag in my awareness of the latest automotive cultural fads. Given that this Mark VIII is also lacking a rear window adds to my theory.

We all know that one of our own is a big fan of these: T-Birds with better interiors and air bags. Oh, and that four-cam engine. Did I miss something else? A price almost double that of the supercharged T-Bird SC. Enough ribbing. We all love hot-rod Lincolns. And for lovers of the genre, the Mark VIII was a high point, literally in this case. It was compared favorably to the import luxo-coupes of the time; or is that my memory recalling Lincoln PR speak? The truth about the Mark VIII is that it’s a car that I’m highly unqualified to talk about. It’s from exactly that era in my life when luxury coupes were the very last thing on my automotive radar. I guess I wasn’t the only one, because the shrinking market for the genre meant cancellation after five years, with sales shriveling to a mere 6100 units in 1998. And now Cadillac is unveiling their CTS Coupe. Is there a Mark IX in your future?

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46 Comments on “Curbside Classic Outtake: Calling Sajeev Mehta Edition – Lincoln Mark VIII...”


  • avatar
    porschespeed

    One of these days I’m gonna build a ‘hot rod Lincoln’.  But it’ll probably be a Mark V. 

    As I recall, the VIIIs were decent to drive, but I never owned one. Coulda been fun with a 5/6 speed and a bit more sporting intent , but that was never Lincoln’s target audience for the Mark product.

    The SC T-Bird was better looking, IMHO.

  • avatar

    I think I’d cry like a little girl if I ever saw my s550 looking like this.

  • avatar
    Zarba

    The VIII was a great looking car whose design has stood the test of time fairly well.  The interior is also very nice, if you can stand the swoopy dash/console combo.

    As for a Hot Rod Lincoln, give me a 1970 Mark III with the 460/365.  Warmed over T-Bird, but what a timeless design. Last great gasp for Lincoln.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      IP only looks futuristic and cool until you try and read the LED displays and notice that it is nearly impossible given all the reflection off the lenses covering them.

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    That was a good looking car, except for the goofy looking hump on the trunk lid, which I guess was supposed to recall Continentals past. I especially liked the last couple of years when they touched up the design a bit and added the neon taillamps. Too bad it wasn’t sporty at all, and was so expensive when compared to top end T-Birds. I wouldn’t mind picking one up for the right price (with the right miles), but I fear parts availability and the toll that time has taken on most of them. A pro-street Mark VIII might look pretty sinister though, and at that point who needs parts when it’s just a body and a roll cage?

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’ll give credit to Ford, the Lincoln Mark Series is the only American PLC I can think of that always lived true to its mission (although they did eventually mess up the Cougar and T-bird).
    _
    The Eldorado and Toronado lost their style. The Riviera had its awful 7th generation. The Monte Carlo turned into a two-door Lumina/Impala. The Cutlass name was grafted onto everything in the Olds lineup. The Grand Prix and Regal lost their 2-door option then devolved into unloved fleet cars.

  • avatar

    Thanks Paul, you made my day. I needed that.
    Actually the Mark VIII did compare favorably, at least the 1993 models because of their more aggressive suspension and computer parameters. As per usual Detroit-think, they neutered the design in later years…even though they didn’t need to with the forthcoming LSC trim level.
    If Mark VIII’s had less vinyl covered plastic and more wood grain, if they had the Super Coupe’s sway bars from the factory and if Lincoln-Mercury dealers weren’t in the mix, I suspect there’d be far less fans of the Lexus SC400.  It was a fantastic car that was almost there, literally. My minor tinkering makes it a helluva car that still stands the test of time.
    Maybe one day I’ll write a CC of some more modern metal like my Mark VIII, but I don’t think I can do it justice just yet.

  • avatar
    willbodine

    I don’t see many of these with front or rear suspension sag. But then, I don’t see many of these Marks, period. More likely is the wiggle-y rear window molding. They were all pretty much defective. If I am not mistaken, owners couldn’t order just the new molding; it came only as a rubber-cum-glass assembly. For beaucoup coin, needless to say.
    I can also take a bit of responsibilty for some aspects of the design. I was invited (by a murky, nameless “marketing” firm) to participate in a styling clinic held at the San Francisco Cow Palace circa 1988 or so. Although the “client” was never identified, one would have to be retarded not to realize it was FoMoCo/Lincoln. I was probably picked from a DMV list, not as a Lincoln owner (I owned 2 ’65 Continentals at the time) but rather because of my daily driver, an Acura Legend Coupe (‘memba them?)  I say this because the parking lot was full of Acuras, Volvos and Alfas (it was the Bay Area, natch.)
    Anyway, we were shown a variety of car and dashboard mock-ups and asked to vote on them. I remember chosing analog over digital instruments. And also the final styling version (but sans tire hump.) Win some, lose some.

    • 0 avatar

      1. Yes the moulding came with new glass. They were bonded from the factory like that.  Most new cars are done this way, but the Mark’s problem was the sheer amount of exposed rubber on that design.
      2. Google the 1988 Lincoln Machete concept car.  There were several styling mules for the Mark VIII by this time, it’s safe to say this car was purely a 1980s creation.  But, much like a Porsche 928, it still drives like a modern GT car.  Some vehicles don’t really age much. At all.
      3. The tire hump is still recognizable after over a decade of its departure. Some kid (I say kid because he was certainly born in the mid 1980s) saw my car and immediately called it a Continental.  And loved it.
      Try that in any of Lincoln’s latest rolling nightmares.  If it wasn’t for the big badges from every angle, even I’d have no clue where they came from.
      Point is: the Continental kit works in a segmented market with loyal buyers.

  • avatar
    IronEagle

    These are fine cars. The best part is you can find whole 4.6 DOHC V8 Initech engines in the salvage yards for $125+$50 core charge. My friend has an 89 Mustang LX  5.0 that was stripped down to repaint. We are thinking of doing the 4.6 DOHC swap in this Mustang. Just use a 96-04 Mustang V8 crossmember and steering rack. He has all the pieces. We are also going to get 95 Mustang rear disc brakes for it if we go with this swap. It is tempting! I just don’t know about putting my girlfriend in a Fox Mustang. No side door bars and no airbags.  Plus that pinto style fuel tank right behind the rear bumper is just a bad design.

  • avatar
    IronEagle

    These are fine cars. The best part is you can find whole 4.6 DOHC V8 Intech engines in the salvage yards for $125+$50 core charge. My friend has an 89 Mustang LX  5.0 that was stripped down to repaint. We are thinking of doing the 4.6 DOHC swap in this Mustang. Just use a 96-04 Mustang V8 crossmember and steering rack. He has all the pieces. We are also going to get 95 Mustang rear disc brakes for it if we go with this swap. It is tempting! I just don’t know about putting my girlfriend in a Fox Mustang. No side door bars and no airbags.  Plus that pinto style fuel tank right behind the rear bumper is just a bad design.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I always dug this car, particularly the later models in all-black. Looked like something Darth Vader would have driven.

  • avatar
    IronEagle

    How about that sweet LED brake light setup on the 97-98!
     
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElGb2-Vg1ns

    • 0 avatar
      Daniel J. Stern

      Not LEDs — it’s neon tubes behind that big central brake/tail light panel. The drive transformers tend to be problematic.
      But since we’re talking about the lighting system: totally, utterly worthless headlamps on these cars. They’re far, far too small for the job—even projectors would’ve been hard-pressed to give decent performance within these size constraints. The basic halogens are useless, the optional HIDs are troublesome—they’re a DC-operated design with special bulb and ballast, neither of which was used on any other make or model, and for which replacement parts can no longer be had—and both types degrade in a big hurry, because the tiny reflectors and lenses sit so close to the hot bulb.
      Ford liked to crow about their “leadership” in lighting at the time.

  • avatar
    majo8

    This CC brings back some memories.  I’ve owned two MK VIII’s, a 94 and a 97.  Like Sajeev said, this car did drive like a modern GT — plenty of power from the DOHC V-8 ( same as used in the Mustang Cobra ), and it handled very nicely for a car it’s size.  I used to drag race my stock 94, and regularly ran 15.1′s in the quarter — no power brake, just launch at idle ( no posi ).  Both cars averaged 29-30 mpg highway.
    I think these cars will become collectible some day.  They were the last of the domestic RWD V-8 two-door personal coupes.
    They also had lots of nagging issues that appeared rather frequently amongst MK VIII’s, which I experienced first hand — I fixed or replaced the following items:  front strut air bags, broken tach, inoperable tranny o/d switch, broken exterior door handles, the 1-2 tranny valve actuator ( ther spring breaks in two ), IAC valve, rear shocks mount plates, front ball joints ( twice ), etc.  Most of these can be repaired at home if the owner has some experience turning wrenches, and the help of MK VIII web sites ( especially markviii.org ).
    The motor is tough as nails though!
    Even with all the problems, I’d get another one.  If your looking to pick one up, avoid northern cars — the rockers on MKVIII’s ( as well as T-Birds and Cougars of this vintage ) rust away from the inside out, and once it starts, your done………
     
     

  • avatar
    Swervin

    I have always loved these cars. I have had several Thunderbird Turbo Coupes and a currently drive a 94 Thunderbird SC as my summer car. If it weren’t for the desire to have a manual transmission I might have gone with one of these over my T-Bird.  I love the fact that Ford threw everything they had at this car and dynamically they have aged very well.

  • avatar
    cRacK hEaD aLLeY

    At least it’s sagging in the correct way. If it was sagging in the rear, now THAT would be cool to drive.

  • avatar
    educatordan

    I love personal luxury coupes period.  But the Mark series is my favorite, I love the fact that I can search eBay Motors for just the Mark series, cause there’s not a single one I wouldn’t buy (except the trucks, what a bastardization of a great name).  The Mark VIII are my favorites because of their “hot rod” ability, I have a nostalgic soft spot for the Mark VII just cause my dad has a buddy with one that he’s been keeping pristine (deep midnight blue, almost black, gray leather interior) but he still drives at least once a week.  My second favorites are the Mark V  just because they’re so outrageously conspicuous and in you face.  Does any American car (except Eldorados from the same era, or Vettes from any year) get more up in your face and scream “I’M HERE, now go take your poseur car and scram!”?
     
    I’ll even take one of the smog choked one’s just cause I know with a little work you can get the power back to respectable levels.  Throw in a modern transmission or a Gear Vendor’s Overdrive and the mileage would be tolerable.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      (BTW I’m only replying to myself cause the damn edit function doesn’t work on Firefox.)
       
      I’m going to be starting as an School Administrator next year I was talking to my girlfriend about my love of personal luxury coupes and possibly in the next couple of years getting a car like that that says “I’m an up and comer.”  I was talking about how the “old” ones were the only ones that get my blood pumping.  Her reply was: “Why not just get a new car that says: ‘I’m an up and comer.’”  I told her new cars don’t have soul.  She chuckled and rolled her eyes.
       
      Some people just don’t understand.  Sigh.

  • avatar
    B10er

    I’m going to go against the grain here and say that I seriously doubt this car will widely be considered a classic or of any interest (outside of its enthusiast following), but my generally negative perception is not aimed specifically at the MK.VIII, but rather the MK.VIII and cars of its era.
    I believe that very few cars of the 1990s will become true classics, and this stands true for the 2000s and many from the 1980s. This has been said endlessly, but cars are becoming ever more generic, with fewer and fewer but larger and larger makes dominating the market. True, automobiles are much more competant, better built, and are generally superior in virtually every respect with each passing year, but they are giving up their ‘humanity’ in the process.

    Once upon a time, different makes had different design philosophies and were created by actual humans who put their stamp and creativity on an automobile. A VW for example, in technology, design, and concept, was radically different from a BMW, and a BMW similarly was radically different from a Cadillac.

    Today designers of course still design cars, but they are constrained by increasing government regulation, computerized effeciency (wind tunnel testing), and the reality that development costs are so great, a huge  number of cars must be sold to cover those development costs, so anything that could impare mass sales, as in creative design, is phased out.

    Instead, a bubble is designed, and then ‘distinct features’ are grafted on almost as an after thought – the Subaru corporate grill or the spare tire bulge on the MK.VIII are examples. This is not even to mention the reality that cars are treated like appliances – they are expected to work every day, anyone can use them well with little to no skill, and we throw them away when they break. None of this is nessecarily bad for transportation, which is what cars are for,  but it doesn’t lend itself much to the creation of genuine classics.

    Thank you!

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      I think you are right the Mark VIII will not be a classic. But then again are any of the Marks widely classics outside of enthusiasts? Not like a slab sided suicide door Conti is anyways.

      As any consumer good becomes more commodotized, as automobiles surely have over the years, design philosophies converge, product differentiation is reduced etc. So this is to be expected. Not that there are not still high water marks.

      I am however, glad that there is a movement to appreciate “classics” outside of those who think the automotive world stopped in January 1974.

  • avatar

    You know, if that had some big ol’ slicks in the rear, it’d look like a Funny Car…
     
    I drove a few of these while searching for a replacement for my old T-bird.  Two were beaters; the third I might have bought if not for the slimy dealership experience.  They drove exactly like my T-bird, only slightly larger and with a lot more motor.  Great interstate cruisers, less eager in the corners than the T-bird (I blame their size.)  Dinosaurs now, and maybe even when they were new, but if they were the last of the big personal luxury coupes, then the type certainly went out in style.

  • avatar
    dastanley

    If that jacked up rear end is intentional, then it looks like a throwback to the 60s and early 70s muscle cars – back in the day the inspiration for this were the dragsters of that era.  As we can see, results varied.

  • avatar
    supremebrougham

    I’ve driven quite a few of these, and they, along with the Thunderbird and Cougar of that era were far and away some of my favorite 90′s era cars.  It was obvious that Ford employed true engineers during that time, cause those cars could handle!

  • avatar
    mtypex

    It’s still more appealing than an MKT.

  • avatar
    majo8

    B10er — Good points.  I don’t think the MKVIII’s will be classics either, but I think at least the LSC models will have some degree of collectability.

    I agree with you on 90′s cars in general…….very few will be considered classics.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      While it certainly seems that way, look at what is happening with 80′s cars.  There is growing interest in cars like Hurst/Olds Cutlass models and other oddball stuff that was harpooned by the press when new.  So you just never know.

  • avatar

    B10er: low mile 1998 Mark VIII Collector’s Edition models go for good money. One sold for $18k about a year ago, it had all the swag from the owner’s kit and less than 10,000 miles.
    Not that I’m disagreeing, you have to be a fool to buy a Lincoln (any Lincoln that wasn’t owned by Elvis) for anything other than the love of the marque.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I don’t think the example in the picture looks that way by accident.  Somebody thinks that’s cool.

  • avatar

    No, that’s what happens when one of the front bags springs a huge leak.  I was treated to this exact view one night in grad school as I entered the student parking lot.  Ironically, it was a reman bag (maybe 3 years old) that failed, the 12 year old original Ford front bag was fine. Ish.

    • 0 avatar
      majo8

      I walked out to my car on cold mornings and saw that same nose-down look many times.   The bags will eventually develop leaks — once the leak starts the air bags develop “folds” where the car bottoms out and then it’s time to replace the bags.  Even my 10-year old ’97 with 40,ooo miles sank in the front after a month of storage.

      I’ve never seen the rear that high though.  My guess is the owner of the pictured MK adjusted the air-bag height sensor in the rear to achieve this look………

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      Sajeev,

      I thought this is the famous “snow mode” failure, something like a pressure sensor has failed in the rear, so the computer thinks the car is unloaded and sends the rear wheels all the way dow in search of traction. Can’t see how the rear would get that high if the front bags were deflated.

      I don’t think it is intentional, I see a Mark VIII at the work parking lot every day, it had this exact same condition for 2 days a couple weeks ago, by the third day it was fixed. The owner doesn’t seem like the type to jack her Lincoln up at all.

    • 0 avatar

      Power6: there’s a rear height sensor, and if the car thinks its sagging it could possibly jack it up all the way. Combine that with leaky front springs that unfold and leak as the rear moves, that could cause the problem. And eventually the compressor will burn out trying to fill the front bags (more load to fill the fronts than the rears) and the end result could be as pictures. Yeah, that seems possible.
      Seriously, the air suspension is stupid easy and somewhat cheap to fix.  Replace the bags every 10 years with OEM parts and you’ll never need to do anything.  Most problems I’ve seen are from long-term neglect and idiots hacking up the system.

  • avatar

    I’ve lived in France, and I’ve seen Citroens even recently, in both the Boston and DC areas, and I’ve never seen one sagging like this.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    6100 units? Would anyone know, how does that compare to the 1991-1999 Lexus SC/Soarer?

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    I have thought about buying one of these a couple of times but in the end, the prospect of having to rebuild that 4 wheel, computer controlled air suspension scares me too much.  When the rear air bags went out on my ’92 Town Car I just got one of the coil spring kits, much cheaper than new bags and compressor.  But you can’t do that on a Mark VIII.

    Interesting about these Intech engines being available cheap.  Would they be an easy swap into a 1991-97 Town Car?  Now that would be a Hot Rod Lincoln.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      Physically speaking the swap shouldn’t be too hard, all the 4.6s were pretty similar dimensionally, but where or where is one of the best and brightest to step in and speak to the transmission, speedometer, and related issues?  I know it would be a hell of a lot easier with the “new” motors computer, wiring harness, and such.

    • 0 avatar

      The only way to make a Town Car fast by any modern metric is with a BBF swap, like a 460.
      Air Springs aren’t cheap, but compared to the springs of European cars?
      That’s the Achilles Heel with the Mark VIII, and Lincoln’s in general: they have easy to fix, dirt cheap parts relative to other luxury cars but nobody spends the 10 minutes required to understand the air suspension…but people will absolutely pay through the nose to have a Mercedes/BMW/Saab/Volvo/Lexus specific shop fix their prized possession.

  • avatar
    majo8

    American Air Suspension carries all four coil springs to convert a MKVIII to a conventional suspension set-up.  They have them in standard and lowered ride heights.

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    In the last couple of years I’ve seen quite a few pimped MKVIII’s.  Usually it involves tinted glass, excessive brightwork and 20″ + wheels with skin for tyres.  Basically making them look like a life-sized Hot Wheels car. 

    I keep wondering where the orange vinyl track is.

    This one looks like it’s got a bad case of bag sag.  Must be a bitch to drive, with the cg off and the headlights pointing 3 feet ahead of you.  Good think it doesn’t have a carb, or he’d never get it running.

  • avatar
    rtz

    Regular struts to replace the air setup:

    http://www.strutmasters.com/lincoln-mark-viii-suspension-s/41.htm 

    Pretty smart I think.

  • avatar
    relton

    This condition is sometimes caused by water in the air system. This confuses the sensors and solenoid valves, and causes all sorts of malfunctions. Water gets in the system because the air dryer on th ecompressor has rusted away. It should be another maintainence item, at least in humid climates like Michigan. Or, it should have been made of stainless, so it would last forever.I’ve had enough experience with Mark VIIIs to think that they will never become a classic. All of the poor quality problems listed above, and then some, will keep this car from classic status. I never had a car leave me places, multiple times, until I had a Mark VIII.  Plus, of course, the threat of fire from a bad cruise control switch. Which, just to make things more interesting, you have to remove the front bumper cover to get to.Yet another reason I have a BMW now.Bob


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