By on February 12, 2010

Deception (and self deception) is a very significant factor in the automobile business. Unless we buy a stripper Corolla (so conveniently parked here) or the like, we’re happy enough to pay more to feel like we’re not just getting transportation, but something that enhances our sense of well-being and social status. One of the biggest questions for automobile executives forever is how much of a premium folks are willing to pay for that. What’s the upper limit you can charge strictly for the sizzle when there’s little or no steak? It somehow seems fitting that we consider the most extreme real-world test of that question on Honest Abe’s birthday: the Versailles, the ultimate pig in a poke.

The Cadillac Cimarron is usually trotted out as the most egregious winner=loser of the category. But lets take a closer look: the Cimarron’s mark up over the price of a base Cavalier was almost exactly 100%. Same car and engine, except for a nicer interior and some exterior trim. At least the Cimarron was positioned at the bottom of the Cadillac line-up, a small and economical Caddy for those that felt so inclined/suckered. Still, a pretty rich markup (and price, $27k, adjusted) for a wheezy 1.8 liter econo-box with a leather interior. But the Versailles was decidedly more ambitious than that; in its pricing, that is.

Cadillac had rocked the luxury car market pretty hard with its Seville in 1975. For once, GM outfoxed Ford in identifying a new personal luxury car market niche, although with a four door. It seems that Ford’s biggest hits were always coupes. But the Seville was trying to recapture the magic of smaller but more expensive Caddys of the past; the brilliant 60 Special of 1938, and the Eldorado Brougham of 1957, especially in light of the onslaught of the more compact Mercedes sedans, which also were pushing the sizzle envelope in relation to what taxi drivers in Germany were paying for theirs. At least some real steak came with them.

The Seville was loosely based on the Nova platform of the times, which it shared with the Camaro. That was considered to be about the best handling domestic platform then. But that was just a jumping off point; the Seville had a longer wheelbase and a completely different body, tastefully designed for its intended mission. It also got a unique engine, an advanced fuel injected version of the Olds 350. And it was extensively engineered for a decent ride to handling relationship, as well as a completely unique and appropriately upscale interior.

Ford was caught napping with the Seville, which was priced about 20% higher than the most expensive big Fleetwood Brougham. And it did its intended job, selling some 43-55k units per year during its successful first incarnation. So what was Ford’s solution? A pig in a poke. (The derivation of that expression goes back to the Middle Ages, when unscrupulous folks would deceive unwary buyers by to selling a (non-existent) pig sewn into a poke (burlap bag)).

The 1977 Versailles is a 1977 Ford Granada (shown here with its proud Daddy), along with a borrowed Continental grille and fake spare-tire hump on its ass, and some leather thrown around inside.  I’m sure some softer suspension bushings and springs were part of that “notable engineering achievement”. The 132 hp carbureted 302 engine certainly wasn’t. Or the Granada’s notorious mediocre handling. Never mind the build quality.

If anyone could push the pricing frontier, it would be Lee Iacocca. And just how did he price his tarted-up Granada? Exactly three times higher than its lowly donor. $12,529 ($35k adjusted) was a piece of change back then, and like the Seville, the Versailles was the most expensive Lincoln money could buy. There really is a sucker born every minute.

Maybe not every minute, but enough  for Lincoln to move somewhere between 9k and 21k units the first three years. By 1980, the jig was up, there was no pig in the poke (or was there?) and sales collapsed. But there was a replacement in the wings, and this time the Fairmont would be the donor, although somewhat better disguised.

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98 Comments on “Curbside Classic: 1977 Lincoln Versailles...”


  • avatar
    educatordan

    I’ve seriously been looking for one of these as a “collectors” item. I could tear it up to hot rod it (Mustang 5.0, find a three pedal set up and a manual transmission, suspension upgrades) and not feel the least bit guilty about tearing it up like I might with one of the true classics. Slap dual exhaust on it find a way to subtly upgrade the tires for handling and grip, bingo, ultimate sleeper. No one would suspect a Versailles of being a HOT ROD LINCOLN.

    When this car was released it was kind of like the palace of Versailles itself. Thin veneer of gilt over a regime that was a steaming pile of crap.

    • 0 avatar
      john.fritz

      My best friend’s dad had a ’76 puke orange Granada with a 302 and a three speed/overdrive manual. That thing was one of the most beatable fun cars I ever drove. I don’t know what the rear gearing was but you could light up that peg-leg for 1/4 miles at a time. And it was fairly quick for what it was. It wasn’t winning races with my ’68 442 but it would eventually catch up with it on the turnpike going flat out. So my buddy learned how to drive a stick and inherited that car from his dad in 1982. We installed duals with those straight-through painted-red Cherry Bombs (remember those?), a Holley 650 with vacuum secondaries, a Hurst shifter and a Sun tach to teach him what a red line was and how not to blow up the engine. Our little group of car heads had more fun in that Granada than in all our late 60′s muscle cars put together. We whooped that thing daily and it never broke or left us stranded somewhere. Amazing.

      Now, the reason I bore-assed you with tales of my youth is to try and paint a picture (albeit a dim one, I admit) of the fun we had with that car. I strongly encourage you to go forward with your plans to purchase and modify that Versailles, you will have an absolute freakin’ blast. Not only will you have people scratching their heads trying to figure out where the tire smoke came from (couldn’t be that Lincoln… could it?), you will have a truly unique beater-cool car to go out and DRIVE and have just a load of fun with. I know for a fact it will work for you. We’ve already done it.

    • 0 avatar
      MadHungarian

      To understand the attraction of the Granada, you have to compare it to the ugly, bloated monstrosity that the Torino had become. The Granada was a breath of fresh air. For the first couple of years they flew off the lots like Camrys do (did?) now. Chevy tried to pitch upmarket Novas against it but didn’t really have an answer until the downsized ’78 Malibu.

      None of that explains the Versailles. The most important fact about the Versailles is this: every Versailles that gets into a salvage yard has its entire rear axle assembly, disc brakes and all, removed in nanoseconds. It bolts right into a 60′s Mustang. Turns out the Versailles was actually a complicated way to sell a quick and easy Mustang rear disc brake conversion kit.

    • 0 avatar
      purplecamerones

      I have a 1977 lincoln with 94k orginal miles, right now it needs a new steering column, im either trying to sell it or try to find a sterring column so i can drive it again? can any one help? thank you

  • avatar

    Your example is a pretty fair survivor car. I’m impressed.

    • 0 avatar
      amca

      Impressive was never a word associated with the Versailles. I once rode in one – one of the later ones which had the squared off proto-Seville roofline. I kid you not, that car felt like it was riding on marshmallows and fairy dust. Without a doubt the most flaccid ride ever. Ever. And as it rounded a corner, the thing heeled over like a dinghy in a storm. Scary and unsettling.

      Now memory is overtaking me: there was one impressive thing: the introduction advertising. Frank Sinatra singing “The Best Is Yet To Come” as beautiful models ran toward the camera across the gardens of Versailles (or a reasonable facimile) wearing clothes, and in lighting that complimented the cars.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    I saw the tell-tall stains on the tires indicating that this car has not moved in a long time; the photo of the back bumper and trunk hump confirms this. It seems that many of Eugene’s remaining Lincolns are no longer actually used as transportation. Or maybe those that are, are kept in garages and inaccessible for casual photography.

    I understand that the rear end assemblies in these are in demand for rods; so there’s one part that was actually upgraded from the Granada.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      This car had the Ford 9 inch rear end, but it was not the same as the legendary 9 inch of yore that offered bulletproof durability. Some if the parts were the same, but others were not, like the bearings, the grade of iron, among a few others. Again, fitting for the “pig in the poke” theme…

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    These truly were a joke. The Seville was a far superior automobile in every respect. As I think about it in retrospect I’m still kinda amazed that Ford had the balls to try and pull this off. Hard for me to think of a better example of utterly failed badge engineering besides the Cimarron which was worse in every aspect.

  • avatar
    h82w8

    Great post Paul. “Versailles” was an apt name for these monuments to ’70s American baroque poor taste.

    They made good donor cars, though. The only thing worth a s*#t on these POS-es were the rear disk brakes, which you could bolt onto about any V8-powered ’65-70 Mustang with a 9″ rear end, for a cheap 4 wheel disk brake conversion. Probably a lot of Versailles and 4 wheel disk-optioned Granadas were sacrificed for this higher cause.

  • avatar
    crash sled

    Lido hustling Granada… what memories!

    I remember Ford’s commercials of that era. They were so ridiculous and insulting, it was like watching Benny Hill. You literally had to blush for the people who created that ad campaign. They actually lined up Mercedes and Cadillacs, and the pitch was that you couldn’t tell them apart. They all looked the same, as we can clearly see in the ad, and oh what merriment ensued amongst the car owner when his Granada could so easily be confused with a Mercedes.

    Hint. Hint. WHACK OVER THE HEAD. “Ford Granada is like Mercedes, and it’s cheaper.” What a deal!

    No kidding, it was shameful, and shaming.

    Lido sure knew how to come up with some junk. I see a future K-car buried in that Granada’s DNA.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      I still remember a print ad for the Granada: An obviously Jewish, middle aged, New York City-type woman excited as hell that she got a parking ticket for her Granada, and the meter maid wrote it up as a Cadillac.

      That defined the Grenada as well as anything.

    • 0 avatar
      xyzzy

      I remember that ad! Classic (but not in a good way. You can see it in this article: http://www.examiner.com/x-8812-Newark-Classic-Cars-Examiner~y2009m9d7-The-197580-Ford-Granada-had-perhaps-one-of-the-best-ad-campaignswe-copied-the-cars-we-envy

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      The print ads referred to the Granada owner’s kids calling the car “mommy’s Mercedes”….what a joke. Don’t agree with the K car DNA comment though. The K was a far better car relative to its competition than the Granada ever was…

  • avatar
    Quadrifoglio

    Quadrifoglio February 10th, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    This has been a fun and entertaining series. Please don’t cop out at the end with a predictable “Lincoln Versailles as badge-engineered denoument” or “80’s Continental as baroque parody” article. It’s been done to death.

    Well, at least now I know whether you read the comments.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      I read it, and my apologies. But when was the last time you saw one of these? How could I resist? It’s a historical moment in the car industry. I can’t please everyone.

    • 0 avatar
      Quadrifoglio

      Paul, you’re right of course. Just like some NASCAR wrecks just beg for the slo-mo instant replay. But this is one of those times where I pine for our beloved Beverly Kimes and her ability to coax a story from industry veterans.

      I spent a summer internship at a then-Agoura Hills based market research firm run by a former Ford man, around the time of Ford’s Jaguar purchase. The Ford guys I saw there seemed committed and competent(they, if not their superiors, already knew how much they were overpaying for Jag). I’m dying to hear one of those guys dish on what Ford thought they were doing with Lincoln between ’75 and ’95.

      ‘member, this is the bunch that used the (in)famous psychoanalytic study on “soccer moms” to identify the Explorer buyer, and steal that market from Jeep, to great profit.

  • avatar
    kr900

    The more things change… of course the Fusion-to-Zephyr/MKZ transformation is today’s version of this practice, though without as much custom bodywork, and only an $8k price differential between the base Fusion V6 and base MKZ V6, or about 30% more expensive, rather than the 300% you’re stating for Versailles.

  • avatar

    Paul, since that’s an early Versailles, it has the 351W small block. Combine that motor with the big brakes, acres of leather (it’s real, all over the dash and doors too) tons of NVH killers and somewhat unique fascias and the Versailles is still light years ahead of the Mark LT.

    The Mark LT out-Versaille’d the Versailles.

    By a WIDE margin.

    Let’s try to keep that in mind.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Sorry Sajeev, but I have to disagree with that assessment. The Fusion is a much better car, in relation to its contemporaries, than the Granada was at the time. The original Granada was mediocre even when compared to a Nova or a Valiant/Dart. Its basic platform dated back to the original 1960 Falcon!

      At least Ford is starting with a better base for the MKZ than it did with the Versailles. The Fusion is a very good car, and the MKZ benefits from that (just buy it used, after the inevitable depreciation hits). And, like it or not, Lincoln is hardly the only luxury marque that is cribbing a plebian platform and tarting it up for the near-luxury market. Lexus, for example, is doing the same thing.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      Sajeev; The markup of a Mark LT (MSRP 38k) was about 50% over a F 150 crew cab.
      The Versailles mark up was 200%!! Where’s the WIDE margin again??
      You really are the ultimate Lincoln apologist :)

    • 0 avatar
      jpcavanaugh

      Geeber, I have to disagree with you on this one. Although time proved the Granada/Monarch to be not so durable, these were pretty nice cars when they were new. They had a very solid feel to them, particularly compared to the Dart/Valiant or the Maverick/Comet. The old Nova had one of the last of GM’s really good bodies, but the Granada/Monarch was MUCH quieter and had a much better ride.

      The car was well styled (for the 70s) and made a very good impression. My primary car mentor in those days was a diehard Chrysler guy who traded a 72 Newport on a 76 Granada with the 250 cid 6. He considered early 70s Fords to be junk, but the Granada convinced him (albeit prematurely) that Ford had really turned the corner on quality. (A year later, he was lured back to Chrysler by a big brown 77 Newport Custom 4 door hardotp) I also knew other people who got out of GM cars and into Granadas. My mother seriously considered one, but she decided to hang onto her Lemans.

      While I personally preferred the “man in communion with machine” feel of the Mopar A bodies, the Granada felt quite luxurious, at least until we got the benefit of hindsight. As they aged, it became another story and another bad experience that Ford had to live down before their rebirth in the 80s. I have never, ever seen another car that rusted like the Granada coupe – remember all of them with the big hole under the rear quarter window about 6-8 inches aft of the door? Strange.

    • 0 avatar

      Only for the ones made on RWD Ford chassis, Paul. :)

      I was only talking about the Versailles’ content vs. the Mark LT, not the price. Not that anyone would pay more for a Mark LT if it was as (ahem) “unique” as the Versailles…

      The Lincoln Blackwood is another story: now there’s a screwball creation worthy of both praise and criticism of the Lincoln brand. That thing’s gonna look better over time…relative to the Mark LT and the Esca-lanaches that came after it, of course.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      jpcavaugh,

      The Granada/Monarch always struck me as too little, too late. Ford was coming from behind at this time, and it needed more than a tarted-up Maverick. And, if a plush compact was the objective, one could get a Valiant Brougham or Dart SE, or even a Nova Concours (I forget what the upmarket Olds Omega was called – the Brougham, or the Salon?).

      The Granada/Monarch reeks of getting by with the least amount of effort possible. It wasn’t all that competitive with the Nova, and it certainly needed more than a few Continental styling cues and nicer leather to compete with the Seville. At least the Fusion shows that Ford is trying to the best of its ability.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr Lemming

      Geeber, I’m not a big fan of the Granada/Monarch either, but they did better than you suggest. In 1975 Ford produced over 300,000 Granada’s, which topped the Nova’s roughly 273,000. The high-end Nova LN represented less than 25,000 of that total, whereas upwards of 80,000 Granada Ghias were built.

      By 1975 the Valiant/Dart were fading fast, to the point where the newer Maverick was running neck and neck with both at 162,000. Production for the top-end Valiant Brougham was only 24,000, and the Dart Special Edition even less.

      If the Granada/Monarch were “too little, too late,” that was even more true of GM and Chrysler compacts through the mid-70s. The Valiant/Dart dated back to 1967 and the Nova to 1968.

      I don’t say that to argue that the Versailles was competitive with the Seville, but badge engineering a Granada was light years more plausible than a Nova.

  • avatar
    sitting@home

    I’m presuming this was named after the Palace of Versailles, a gigantic squared-off structure with excessive irrelevant ornamentation, rather than the Treaty of Versailles, an agreement that blamed all the evils of the world on Germany.

  • avatar
    geeber

    This has been a great series. I haven’t seen a Versailles in years. The owner of a repair shop/gas station in my hometown was a loyal Lincoln Mark owner, and he bought his wife one of these when it first debuted.

    If I recall correctly, the later versions of the Versailles were the first domestic cars with clearcoat paint and halogen headlights as standard equipment.

    The original Seville was a response to the first fuel crunch and the rise of imported luxury sedans.

    While not a bad car, the Seville proved that General Motors didn’t quite “get” why rich people bought a Benz or a BMW instead of a Sedan DeVille.

    The Seville was a success, so Lincoln was forced to respond – and proved that Ford didn’t quite “get” the reason for the Seville’s success.

    By the way…there aren’t any 1967-70 Eldorados on the street in Eugene? While I know that you wrote that the 1961 Lincoln Continental was Detroit’s last attempt to field a really new and world-class luxury car, I always thought that the first front-wheel-drive Eldorados were Detroit’s last attempt to really set the standard.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      I’m not sure what defines attempt … is it the actually realization of a good car, or the realization that the last car is no good and that the jig is up?

      I can remember during the development of the D/EW98 platform, Ford was extremely committed to building a competent BMW-fighter, and the result of this benchmarking-exercise-galore was the Lincoln LS (the Jag S, and the nuevo T-Bird) …

      Does this not count? Even if Helmut Schraeder’s much-hyped design ended-up looking like a dead-near copy of the previous Mitsubishi Gallant, and the interior was boring too, the platform was at least a serious attempt to do a competitive vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      On the point of “attempt”, I just remembered that Yoda said it better to Luke Skywalker: “Do, or do not, there is no try.”

    • 0 avatar
      packv12

      I’ve held my tongue throughout the Lincoln series, but I take umbrage to some of the details that are glossed over in the coverage. In the introduction to his series, Mr. Niedermeyer states; “Caddy went to GM in 1909, and after WW I, Leland started Lincoln.” Does that really make any sense? No mention the Henry Leland wanted to produce the Liberty Aircraft engine during WW I, but that Billy Durant was a staunch isolationist at the time. Henry and Wilfred left Cadillac and General Motors to start their own company to build these engines for the war effort and named their company the Lincoln Motor Company.

      Henry Leland purposely built plant for aircraft engines was, of course, not really needed once peace was declared. The Lelands rolled over their profits into automobile production, changing the name to the Lincoln Motor Car Company. Then there came the accusations of War Profiteering, which helped place the company into dire financial straights, thus enabling Henry Ford to buy the company for a song.

      Both Lelands were eventually acquitted of all charges without prejudice, but as always, once the government starts an investigation, things move rather slowly and their vindication came too late to save their company for them.

      I will state however that the book, “Master of Precision” is an excellent and must read for anyone interested in the history of the Automobile Industry. It will explain how Cadillac twice became “The Standard of The World”, and how the importance of exact machining changed the auto industry.

      Now to attack Mr. Walter, with whom I have the utmost respect for upon reading his posts, regarding attributing the Lincoln LS design to Helmut Schraeder. I have three presentation drawings for the LS, all drawn by Walid Saba dated 1996. They are the front ¾, rear 3/4, and the profile of the car, and are recognizable as the LS; so although Schraeder may have been the Studio boss, he is only responsible for shepherding the design. This is much like attributing all 1957 Chrysler Products to Virgil Exner and forgetting about the actual design work done by Cliff Voss and Bill Browlie, although Exner may have shepherd the designs, the work was done by others.

      As to how boring the interior is or was, I guess that’s a matter of opinion: It’s sort of like the argument of knowing pornography when I see it. I happen to enjoy the interior of the LS, it’s straight forward without any of the “Gee-Whiz” crap that G.M. always seemed to enjoy included in their products at the time. Although some of the ergonomics are questionable, once time is spent in the saddle, it is not a terrible place to put on the miles. My only complaint would be that it didn’t include full instrumentation, but neither did B.M.W. at the time. And as to your comparison between the Mitsubishi Gallant and the LS, actually it was the Diamante that appeared to be identical to the Lincoln LS.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      @packv12: Thanks for the high compliment (my ego likes these) ;O)

      Please don’t get me wrong, I actually liked the LS, but was really disappointed that it wasn’t somehow different, or better, or living up to the hype … it 15 years on, so I was just putting down my impressions from that time …

      I have no idea who did the details, but I remember Ford making Schraeder available for interviews (w/his Dr. House 5-o’clock shadow), and how Ford hyped bringing him over from FoE to impart a legitimate teutonic style to the car. With all that, and him as the platform styling boss (he even had a reserved spot, with a little blue sign with his name on it, near the LCVC studio, outside Bldg 2) I would have thought him responsible for theme (IDK by then, maybe “J” had time to degrade this one too.)

      I wish I could find good pics, but when the LS was revealed, I couldn’t help thinking, “I like it” and “Haven’t I seen this before?” (as I wrote my comment, I thought it was Galant, but it could have been Diamante, I couldn’t find the good A-B comparo pics like I had in ’96-7.) Then after realizing LS looked like a (admittedly handsome) Mitsubishi, I was crest-fallen after all the hype.

      I still liked it but was disappointed that it was not more, and then was further disappointed when the Company just let it languish.

      btw, what is your relation to Packard? (my dad grew-up in the shadow of the plant).

  • avatar
    a-viking

    I remember a big selling point was a smooth ride. Actually so smooth that a jeweler could split a diamond while riding in the back seat. I have no clue why you would want to do that, but I am sure some add agency got a few bucks thinking that up.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark MacInnis

      I believe the Diamond-cutter-in-the-back-seat ad was for the early 1970′s LTD….I remember that commercial being played every Sunday night during Efrem Zimbalist Jr.’s starring turn in Quinn-Martin’s old “The FBI” series…..

    • 0 avatar
      DweezilSFV

      That was the Mercury Marquis, not the LTD.

    • 0 avatar
      mtymsi

      One of the funniest comedy skits I have ever seen was a Saturday Night Live take off of the diamond cutter in the backseat tv ad. Eddie Murphy was the driver and the backseat passenger was a rabbi performing a circumcision on a baby. After successfully completing it the rabbi uttered “poifect” as the baby cried. Eddie Murphy’s facial expressions were hilarious.

      Regarding the original commercial I always thought to myself, yeah that’s the ticket, isn’t the backseat of a moving vehicle where everyone cuts diamonds.

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      Actually, the very talented Garrett Morris was the driver in SNL’s spoof of the Marquis ad:

      http://www.hulu.com/watch/2323/saturday-night-live-royal-deluxe-ii

  • avatar
    Stingray

    Seville = good

    This POS… burned my retinas. I also puked, even when today I didn’t have lunch.

  • avatar
    Monty

    I think Ford f’ed this up. They should have debuted the Versailles first, prior to the Granada and then crowed about how the DNA filtered down to Ford. If you look at this car without the foreknowledge that it was just a re-badged Granada, it stands by itself as a worthy answer to the Seville. Our neighbours at the time bought a brand new Versailles in 1977, in a nice dark brown, and that thing was a rocket compared to my fathers Bel Air wagon. It was 1977, so it must have been the 351 cid version, ’cause it hauled ass, as in it left burning remnants of rubber on the asphalt when you punched it (I went riding with the neighbour’s 16 y/o son a few times).

    Considering what else was out on the roads in 76/77, this Versailles wasn’t so bad, especially compared to the sucked out Montes, Eldorados, Toronados et al.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    These were embarrassing. I have always wondered if the only thing that kept my father out of one of these in 1977 was the fact that he had bought a loaded up Mercury Monarch in 76. Downsizing seemed like the thing to do, and a Monarch sedan was a serious comedown from a Mark IV. Actually, that Monarch was not a bad car. True, they were rusters and had a lot of issues as they aged, but in the 2 yrs my dad owned his, it served him well.

    I am surprised that the Versaille only had the 302. Dad’s Monarch had the 351, and in a car that size, it would scoot pretty good. I was a teenager at the time, and can certify that it would hit 100. There was enough left on tap that even then I was smart enough to back off. It was WAY faster than my mom’s 74 LeMans 350.

    Ford saw the error of its ways (but too late) when they at least redesigned the roofline on the car in 79. The 79 roof may have disguised the car enough had it been there from the start, but the Granada greenhouse was EVERYWHERE after 1975 and the whole world knew what the Versaille really was.

    When these were new, I had a gig that occasionally involved parking cars, along with another kid. An older fellow drives up in a new Versailles. I knew what it was, but the other kid didn’t. As the old fellow was getting out, my buddy (sincerely) complimented him on his really nice Granada. The old guy did not take it well.

    Sad thing is that today, I think I would take one of these over a Mark IV.

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    Folks, when comparing the Versailles to a Cimmaron, remember that the Caddy was GMs 1st gen FWD architecture.

    And that sucked worse by miles than the drivetrain in the Granada/Monarch/Versailles stable.

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    ^1st gen small car FWD that is.

  • avatar
    Juniper

    Hey there is hope. Lincoln has actually been worse than it is now.

    • 0 avatar
      mtymsi

      Sorry but I have to disagree. While the Versailles was indeed a laughable POS the Town Cars and Marks through 78 still sold very well. Today Lincoln has nothing that sells very well. Most buyers in Lincoln’s price ranges don’t even consider their cars nor do they know what the model names are. Everything is MK something. In the last 35 years the only time Lincoln was in anywhere near the sorry state they currently occupy was 80-81 when they originally downsized the Mark and Town Car.

      The Versailles as a car wasn’t all that bad the problem is everyone knew it was a tarted up Grampanada built in the same plant.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    I must be insane … I always liked these cars, esp. the 1979 … the quad-halogen-lamps, the fat radials on deep-dish alu wheels, the extended rear roof line with the “frenched” rear window and all the little touches carried down from the big Lincolns … cornering lamps, fat-vinyl body-side mouldings, wide bright trim around the wheel-openings, to me the proportions were somewhat refreshing as a kind of contra-poise to the giant lincolns of the time…

    In ’79, I was a high-school kid, and liked the maroon Heritage T-Bird and the baby-blue Lincoln Granada (just like Curley couldn’t say Worstershire (as in sauce), even though I was there, I can’t reliably spell Versailles.) ;O)

    Today, they look funny, but at that time, they seemed a good-looking comprimise…

    (by the way, what was in our drive at the time? ’79 LTD sedan, ’69 Cougar, ’76 Olds Cutlass Supreme sedan, 1972 Chevy Kingswood wagon.)

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      Robert, You are, obviously :)
      Seriously, context is everything. In 1977, I was driving a pininfarina styled Peugeot 404. The Granada looked like…what it was, to me: an improvement over the crap Ford had been building, but a pretty lame attempt to copy a Mercedes nonetheless.

  • avatar
    georgie

    My aunt had one of these P.O.S. new in 1997
    What a pile. Even Frank Sinatra singing it’s praises couldn’t mask the fact that it was just a tarted up Mercury Monarch. Both the Merc Monarch and the Ford Granada were Ford’s attempt to create a car with “Mercedes” like ride and handling. Ford failed miserably.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    I hope you get this series done as quickly as possible. The big Caddies, Lincolns and the wannabe’s like the New Yorkers of the 1970′s were all colossal P’s.O.S. that created the opening which the Toyota’s and the Honda’s of the world danced through into our driveways.

    Looking at it that way, if there were no 1970′s Caddies, Lincolns, LTD’s, Impala’s, Caprice’s or Volare’s, I guess we might not have had the 1990′s Accord’s and Camry’s and Corolla’a and Civic’s and Maxima’s….so maybe Ford/GM/Xsler really did US drivers a favor by f__king up so bad….

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      You hit the nail on the head!

    • 0 avatar
      crash sled

      Yeah, but at least they gave us the Cordoba!

      I remember the commecials for that one, too. They came on with some assembly line rat talking about the wonders of the “Car-DOH-bah”, phonetically just like that, they didn’t even bother with a do-over… just frickin hilarious.

      Plus the Cardohba had “fine corinthian leather”, as Ricardo Montalban informed us in voiceover. Classic, baby.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      I would disagree with that assessment. The domestic cars that opened the doors up to the Japanese were the Gremlin, Pinto, Vega, Chevette and early Omni/Horizons.

      In the 1970s and early 1980s, people, by and large, did not cross-shop the small Japanese cars with domestic full-size and intermediate cars. A late 1970s Honda Accord was beautifully finished and reliable. But it also had a small interior, mediocre air conditioning and a four-cylinder engine that was fully stressed when the car was loaded with four passengers and traveling at 70 mph with the air conditioning on full blast. The Civic was even smaller and more spartan. I know, because I drove a 1977 Civic CVCC hatchback while in college.

      The Hondas and Toyotas of the late 1970s and early 1980s were different from the ones we are offered today.

      My parents had a 1973 Gremlin and a 1976 Oldmsobile Delta 88 Royale hardtop sedan. They later bought the Honda for me (as a used car). They compared that car to the Gremlin, not the Olds. And, yes, the Gremlin was definitely found wanting. But if you had suggested that the Honda was better than the Olds, they would have looked at you like you were crazy.

      When it came time to trade the Olds in early 1983, they went for a very low mileage, slightly used 1982 Delta 88 Royale Brougham sedan. They didn’t even look at a Honda, Toyota or VW.

      Even after two fuel crunches, plenty of people wanted room, a soft ride, great air conditioning, power accessories and a V-8 (or at least a V-6). They didn’t want taut handling, a noisy four-cylinder engine or a manual transmission. Road noise wasn’t a sign of being connected to the road – it was a sign that the car would be tiresome for long trips on the interstate. The wind in your hair meant that you were either too cheap or too poor to buy the air conditioning.

      Sorry, but I can’t blame the big cars for Detroit’s downfall. Those cars had a loyal audience (and they still do – today those people buy full-size pickups and SUVs instead). Detroit in general, and GM in particular, walked away from that market with ill-advised downsizing of its full-sizers and intermediate cars in the mid- and late 1980s. What GM should have done, in retrospect, is refine its full-size and intermediates with better build quality, more efficient drivetrains and better ergonomics, while working harder to upgrade the J-Cars, instead of letting them languish.

      Detroit’s problem was that the cars it built to go head-to-head with the Japanese and VW were awful. Blame those cars for Detroit’s fall from grace. Remember, however, that just like today, enthusiasts were a fringe segment of the market in the 1970s and early 1980s.

    • 0 avatar
      Mike66Chryslers

      To each his own, Mark. I also think this tarted-up Granada is a joke and anyone that wasted their money on one was a huge sucker, but I was still very entertained by the article. If there is a CC for a vehicle that doesn’t interest me at all, I don’t complain that it’s wasting my time, I just don’t bother to read it!

    • 0 avatar
      crash sled

      Yeah, I agree with you, geeber.

      It was with the little cars that the Japanese makers especially established their toehold in North America. First Datsun, which morphed into Nissan. They were the “it” car during the gas crunches. The others jumped right in.

      Then they used that toehold to move into larger and larger vehicles, while the Detroit 3 used small vehicles seemingly only as CAFE offsets, and dumping grounds. Eventually , Toyota and probably Nissan will be pumping out dual-wheel crewcab diesel pickups, and crack open even that market. Can’t have throwaway models, is the historical takeaway, I think.

    • 0 avatar
      mtymsi

      Sorry Mark you not only didn’t hit the nail on the head you missed by a country mile. The only reason these cars were produced and sold in volumes is because they were what many many buyers wanted.

      Geeber hit the nail on the head and Detroit continued to produce far inferior small cars until just recently. In fact when you think about the Cobalt, Sebring/Avenger and Caliber they still are.

      You can not judge any of these cars by present day standards, only by the time in which they were produced. If there wasn’t a huge market for them they never would have been built and consider the length of time they were produced to get an idea of how large the market was for them.

  • avatar
    John Holt

    Paul – excellent work on calling my Granada and raising me the Versailles. You are a master of one-upmanship!

    Oh, how the history of Ford is littered with epic fails. It will make their comeback all the more impressive.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      The Granada is still in the can, and deserves its day in the bright glare of TTAC.

    • 0 avatar
      majo8

      Granada write-up in the future? Cool….

      Let me be the first to nominate the Granada’s dashboard as the worst Ford dash. Ever.

      Sorry…….I couldn’t resist.

    • 0 avatar
      MadHungarian

      @majo8: I agree wholeheartedly. It was an attempt to shrink the Mark IV dash down and ended up looking incredibly cheap and tacky. If they really wanted to build a pseudo Benz, they should have noticed that a Benz came with readable round dials that conveyed a variety of actual information. Even using something like a Mustang II full gauge cluster would have been an improvement. Or the round dials in Torinos/Montegos of the time which I think did have a full (or at least better) instrumentation package available.

  • avatar
    tim850csi

    I’m sorry but for my money I am going to have to go with the 1978 Lincoln Mark V Diamond Jubilee Edition.

    That car… wow

    http://automotivemileposts.com/mark51978diamondjubilee.html

    Just look at that front overhang, opera windows, fender slats (venti-ports??) landau roof, I mean my god it’s the car that defines what Lincoln was in that time frame. MSRP of $20,529 (67,036.01!!!!! in 2008). WOW

  • avatar
    Verbal

    I find it hilarious that they use some form of the term “engineer” a total of eight times in the Versailles sales blurb above. Was any actual engineering involved in the creation of this thing, above and beyond what had already been done for the Granada?

  • avatar
    twotone

    The steering wheel lock is the ultimate example of unbridled optimism.

    Twotone

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      I believe that certain parts – the disc brakes and rear axle – are popular with street rodders. So this car may be bait for those with sticky fingers, although they don’t want the entire car. Just the parts.

    • 0 avatar

      The rear axle is worth $800 or more to street rodders: only in the Versailles (and certain Granada-Monarchs) can you get a 9″ rear axle with disc brakes in one fell swoop.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      A hacksaw or a bolt cutter wouldn’t make it thru the club, but use either to cut thru the mild-steel rim of the stg wheel at the 6:00-position, remove the club, a bit of duct tape to close the cut, and a smashed column lock later you are on your way to strip that baby bare!

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      The reason for the rear end having resale value is because you can bolt one directly into a classic Mustang and get disc brakes easily. Of course, the remainder of the brake system needs upgrading as well, but there is no need to get inside the rear end. Even the spring perches are in the right place. Keep in mind that despite the 9 inch moniker, internally it is not the same 9 inch rear Ford that is legendary for its robust construction.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Took a bit to fine, but the difference in the 9 inch rear ends is this: Typical Grenadas had rather small bearings, and 28 spline axles and cheap grade of iron used in its castings. Not really useful for high horsepower applications. The Versailles rearend featured upgraded bearings, but the other limitations were not addressed. The preferred setup would have a nodular iron housing and stronger 31 spline axles as well. Still, if higher horsepower is not in the cards but four wheel discs are, the Versailles axle will do. Hence it being worth more than the car!!

  • avatar
    tced2

    My boss at the time had a Monarch. He knew that the Versailles was a fancied up Granada/Monarch. He was always making fun of the exposed windshield wipers – “it looks just like a Monarch”. I don’t remember if concealed wipers were coming into fashion at the time.

  • avatar
    MarcKyle64

    There’s one for sale on eBay right now for $2,000. Looks to be in good shape with 53,000 miles on it.

  • avatar
    Towncar

    The exposed wipers were exactly what I remember noticing at the time. The Nova and Granada both had exposed wipers as befitted lowly compacts–intermediates and up had hiddens (although the Camaro did too).

    Caddy discreetly tucked the wipers away when they made the Noville, but the fact that Lincoln left the Granada wipers sticking right out convinced me they weren’t really trying.

  • avatar
    nova73

    In 1982 my boss sold his beloved Mark IV and purchased a used Versailles. He had just replaced one of the Mark’s axles for nearly $300. Wanting to avoid more expensive repairs to his aging chariot, and to save a little money on gas, he searched the used car lots for a baby Lincoln. A coworker who was a good mechanic implored him to buy a Seville, but the boss was a Lincoln man. He took us for a ride in his green Versailles. I had to admit the car was whisper quiet inside, and delivered a smooth ride on the broken pavement of DC. Sure enough, a month later the heater core began gushing green fluid and had to be replaced for…$300.

    For some reason he always mispronounced the car’s name as “Ver-sallies.”

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Toyota later ended up doing the same thing that ford and gm did with the granda/versailles cavalier/cimarron. They stuck lexus badges on the camry and called it the ES300.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Actually, the ES250 would be the best analogy. That car was lipstick on a pig, even if the pig was a good car. By the time the ES300 came out, there was some real differences besides badges and some interior trim…

  • avatar
    BeachBum

    While the Versailles styling was very much like the Granada/Monarch and the Cadillac Cimarron was a lot like the Cavalier and other Js, the price markups over the lesser models was not as significant as suggested if looking at comparably equipped cars. Some items that were options (or not even available) on the lesser cars were standard on the luxury-brand models.

    I understand the Fox-based ’82-’87 Continental was initially going to be branded “Versailles” before they decided to go with Continental.

    Iaccoca was certainly the king of re-badge engineering when you also look at the various Chrysler Corp. models derived from the K-Car platform.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Only difference I saw on the outside was a teeny bit different grille and taillights, if you squinted they looked the same. Roofline was a little different, but like the grille if you squinted there was no difference.

  • avatar
    taxman100

    I went to the Eastern Nationals for the Lincoln and Continental Owner’s Club a few years ago when it was in Columbus. There are people who collect the Versaille.

    Lincoln had factory reps there, along with factory cars to test. If I recall, the collectors didn’t seem that interested in the new Lincolns, other than the Town Car and the Navigator. Even those were considered pale copies of a real Lincoln.

    Both of those are going away very soon – it will be interesting to see when people start showing up at the club meets with a Mexican built Lincoln Fusion.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Navigator was a tarted up expedition, while the escalade is a glorified tahoe.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    Growing up in the 70s, I remember all of the Ford ad campaigns of the era, from the light-bulb “better idea” ones (anybody remember Bill Cosby pushing Ford?), the back-seat diamond-cutting and record-player ads, and of course the most hilarious were the ones already mentioned which compared the Granada to a Mercedes.

    I still vividly remember the mid-70s Granada ads on TV, first showing the Mercedes hood ornament, then a Granada hood ornament. Mercedes wheel cover, Granada wheel cover. And so on and so forth. Even as a ten-year-old, I remember laughing out loud when watching those ads! Shoot, if they couldn’t even fool a kid, sheesh!

    I have to admit that I really like the styling of the last Versailles, the ones with the opera windows in the back, padded roof and all! Back in 1984 during a break from college my dad and I were at the local Lincoln/Mercury dealer at the EXACT moment the original owner drove in with a bronze 1977 Town Car sedan (the Big Ben brother of the Baby Ben Versailles) as a trade-in with only 40K miles on the clock. Being in eastern WA, there was zero rust and it had been garage-kept since new so the paint, padded top, and leather interior were all in pristine conditon (last year of the heavily-smogged 460 which liked to run hot despite the anemic power output and massive radiator). Needless to say, we left the dealership with that car about an hour later. It was like driving a cruise ship on wheels, complete with the milk-filled horizontal-thermometer speedometer that seemed to be a few seconds behind in accurately reflecting the vehicle’s actual speed which could not be ascertained by any other means from within the cabin.

    I actually went and looked at a used Versailles once, and I must say that for the exterior size of it the interior is TINY. I’m 6’1″ and I could barely fit in the front seat and had the feeling of being closed-in upon from every side (dash into knees, door panel armrest into arm, etc). Forget about sitting in the back seat unless you were ten.

    I’ve had thoughts of hot-rodding a Versailles myself, leaving everything in sight bone-stock (well, maybe hide a tach and some gauges inside the dash cluster somewhere). If I had the $ like Jay Leno I’d definitely have one of these in my stable. Sure, build quality was Job 11-teen (I consider the late 70s – early 80s to be the absolute low point in domestic auto quality), but this car has more significance to me than any gazillion dollar Italian sports car because I remember them from my youth and liked them as a kid before I knew any better!

    Thanks for another trip in the way-back-been-there-where’s-my-T-shirt machine!

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      redmondjp, I do remember the diamond cutting commercial. Do you remember Saturday Night Live parody of that commercial? In stead of a diamond cutter, they had a rabbi perform a circumcision on a newborn boy! Remember the name of the car? It was the 1978 Royal Deluxe II.

      “Rabbi: Poifect!

      Spokesman: You may never have to perform a circumcision in the Royal Deluxe II, but if you do, we’re sure you’ll agree with Rabbi Taklas..

      Rabbi: That’s a beautiful baby.. and a beautiful car!

      Announcer: Royal Deluxe II. A beautiful car.”

      http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&VideoID=22112925

  • avatar
    donkensler

    Paul assures us there’s a Granada on the way, so I’ll continue to hold my fire on that particular POS…

    When the Versailles was introduced I had had my Monarch for a few months, and I was appalled at the kind of money Ford was asking for what was obviously a Granada/Monarch with a trim package. And that was before most of the reliability problems with the Monarch began showing up (although not that long – things happened quickly in those days).

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    John, it would take MUCH, MUCH more than adding a holley and duals to a late 70′s smog 302 to help it catch up with an old 442, or any pre-smog big block for that matter. That 442 must have had a couple of dead cylinders.

  • avatar
    packv12

    Mr Walter, Your ego should need no stroking, I’ve enjoyed your posts through out the Toyota debacle. I understand your statements regarding Herr Schraeder, but as I’ve said, the history is in the details. Many designs given due to Mitchell or Lowery were done by subordinates, which should not make them responsible for the glory.

    I actually bought a 2000 LS and took delivery in November of 99, and it has lived up to my expectations. I did cross shop it, but it was far more inexpensive than competitors, so I took the plunge. I am satisfied with my decision, although the B.M.W. 750 was on my list as well. Oh to have a multi-cylinder vehicle. In retrospect, it was a wise purchase on my part.

    The packv12 lexicon is more of a story. Somehow, my grandfather obtained the display model from the auto show circuit in the Thirties. It was never an operational engine, just beautiful to look at. When Grandpa died, dad got the 1957 Chevy, the uncle got the American Flyer train set, and I got the display engine, hence the nomenclature. I have no connection to the Grand, although I’ve contributed to preserve the test grounds.

    I’d be happy to share copies of the proposal drawings, but there is no way to upload them. Paul could E-mail me if he is interested and I’d send them in a minute. I’m pretty sure that he could find my E-mail address through the registration.

  • avatar
    esager

    Interesting perspective from North of the boarder…
    http://www.canadiandriver.com/2010/02/12/motoring-memories-lincoln-versailles-1977-1980.htm

  • avatar
    chrisgreencar

    I’m not sure if anyone else mentioned this, but I’m pretty sure the later Versailles with the formal roofline had an unfortunate little problem — the trunk wouldn’t open all the way because of that huge vertical roof! Oops!

  • avatar
    AccAzda

    GOD…

    I wasnt around to know much of the Granada.. but this Linc.. IS SCREAMING GRANADA!

    P.S
    Someone needs to tell the owner the wheel can be cut in half.. making the CLUB pointless.

    If he disabled the gas pedal.. making it unable to push down for the shift interlock.. then it might be safe..

  • avatar
    bugo

    The Versailles wasn’t a beautiful car, but compared to the Toyota sitting next to it it is stunning. At least it had some style. I hate Toyotas.

  • avatar
    wesley77versailles

    I just picked up a 77 Versailles. (And i’m a mustang guy)Factory 351 Windsor 4 wheel hydro assist brakes ( the most sensitive I’ve ever seen) and 9″ rear end and factory bolt on sub frame connectors. Everything I would like in a mustang. All the gadgets work and the car is a joy to drive. I love it. My plates are ordered HTRDLKN . Guess where this is going?!


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