The Mark VII and the Mark VIII get a passing grade for effort, but that’s not good enough in the car business. There was no way these coupes could could begin to offset the damage that was simultaneously being done to the brand by that lame-assed 140 hp V6 powered Continental sedan. Dressing up this Taurus to compete with the Mercedes W124 and Lexus LS 400 was just a revival of the deadly sin they committed with the Versailles. There may have been enough suckers to buy this pig in a poke v.2, but they were all over seventy years old. Not the way to build a viable brand, especially in the face of the most withering competition for luxury car dollars ever.
I really can’t speak from personal experience regarding this Mark VIII; I know some here will fill in the intimate details. Lets just say that my friends and I were the perfect demographic for it when it first came out in 1993. I helped recommend and picked out a Lexus SC 400 for a close friend. Do you think the Mark VIII even appeared on the radar? Not in Silicon Valley in 1993. It has nothing to do with the merits of the Mark VIII, or the LS sedan that followed it. The Lincoln (and Cadillac) brand was simply not acceptable to a very big chunk of the target demographic, and not just in California. The fact that the SC was probably a better car didn’t exactly help either. But that’s the grave Lincoln dug for itself; and is still struggling to extricate itself from.
The Mark VIII was solid effort (unlike its perpetually leaky air springs), and is dear to the hearts of its fans. It’s the last of the breed: the all-American RWD high performance coupe; well, until the CTS-V comes along here soon. Sitting on a modified T-Bird platform with independent air suspension all-round; a healthy 32 valve version of the modular V8 with 280 to 300 hp; electronics at work all over the place: the very model of a modern major coupe. The styling was not without controversial aspects, like the deeply scalloped sides and the by-now-truly-dispensable trunk hump. Note to Lincoln: some of us didn’t want to be reminded of Mark IVs; in fact way too many of us. The question Lincoln’s product planners should have asked themselves about the hump: will it hurt us more with the Lincoln faithful if we ditch it, than with the Lexus/BMW/Benz cross-shoppers if we keep it? Enough humping.
And don’t get me started on all the srew ups regarding the unfulfilled potential of the LS sedan and the whole PAG debacle. Oh well; it’s all water under the bridge now. And Lincoln survived, somehow, barely. Well, its future is pretty murky-clear now too: more Versailles and FWD Continentals, just executed a bit more deftly. The Lexus ES and RX are the models of The Way Forward; not surprising coming from that ex-Lexus driver Al Mulally. Had the LS arrived looking like the Continental Concept, we might be having a different conversation. But it didn’t, and as much goodwill as I have for Ford in general, Lincoln’s future is not one that will likely cross with mine.