Say it with me in the Don LaFontaine voice:
IN A WORLD…
WHERE EVERY SOURCE OF “PREMIUM” HAS BEEN EXHAUSTED…
AND MASS-PRODUCED GARBAGE IS REBRANDED AS LUXURY GOODS FOR AN INCREASINGLY FECKLESS, IGNORANT, AND NAIVE UPPER MIDDLE CLASS…
A BRAND SHALL RISE…
Seriously. I’m sick unto death of “premium”. Luckily, there’s almost none left to be had. Even now, the signs of desperation among the tastemakers cannot be ignored. The most recondite and worthless watch brands from 1820 have all been resurrected to sell ETAs in gold cases to the BRICs. Every clothing designer in history has signed on to do a TV show or a line at Target or a Chrysler 300. There’s actually a company that makes John Wayne signature whiskey and guarantees that it’s just like the whiskey he used to drink, except said whiskey was probably just Jack Daniels or something even cheaper.
The past and present have been mercilessly and methodically mined and drilled for all applicable stories and sources of prestige and premium and upscale. It’s like oil, which makes what’s currently going on at Pebble Beach the equivalent of fracking shale.
Pebble Beach was once a place where people got together to show off their cars. It’s now a place where automakers have placed the dirty boots of the PR departments all over the grass and the cars have been subordinated to the marketing message and journalists buy red pants and $199 “blazers” so they can cosplay being the people who used to tell their grandparents to scrub the underside of the toilet rims in the guest house better next time.
The new BMW M4 “concept” is there, of course. This is the only time such a vehicle will ever appear at Pebble Beach; none of them will ever survive or have parts availability long enough to make it there on their own merits as vintage restorations. There are various Jags and
Phaetons Bentleys and whatnot. Last but not least, and just to show that all the cool has been forcibly sucked out of the zipcode, Lincoln’s arrived with their so-called “Black Label” line of interior decorations.
Our sister publication AutoGuide notes that
The Black Label collection features three separate themes that clients can choose from. Indulgence was inspired by rich chocolate and its associated sensory experiences. Truffle-colored leather and exotic zirciote wood trim are the highlights of this selection.
Next is the Modern Heritage theme, which centers on a classic-looking black-and-white interior. But that’s not all. Things have been spiced up with subtle red accents and special engineered wood trim with a unique metal flake between its layers, something that creates an eye-catching sparkle.
Lastly there’s Center Stage, which is the most striking of the three options. Supposedly fashion and theater were its inspiration. The cabin is Jet Black in color but the headliner, roof pillars and package shelf are trimmed in “Foxfire” red Alcantera suede.
I mean come on, guys, this is just “Audi Atmospheres” with more colors. Or fewer, I’m not sure. You remember the Atmopsheres, right? It was all the rage in 1997 when the “Bauhaus” A6 came out. Three different interior trim combinations. Audi didn’t bother to debut it at Pebble or anything, but it was cool, and it flopped, and it was discontinued.
The use of Ziricote is interesting. Paul Reed Smith uses Ziricote for overseas markets where he can’t legally export Brazilian Rosewood. Since I live in the United States and have been able to get PRSi (which is how douchebag collectors such as myself refer to multiple PRS guitars) with Brazilian rosewood necks and fretboards, I’ve never bothered to try the Z-wood but I’ve heard it’s cool. Of course, the veneer thickness used in automotive interiors means that Lincoln can probably make a hundred MKZ Ziricote interiors with the amount of wood needed to carve one decent neck for a guitar.
A lot of automotive journalists seem to be confused about “Black Label” as a name, thinking it has something to do with whiskey. It doesn’t. It’s from the world of fashion, where certain designers like Armani use a black label for their couture/handmade lines. Armani Black Label costs more than white-label Armani or Collezioni or, G-d help us, MANI. Ralph Lauren, on the other hand, uses it for mid-level stuff; Purple Label is the baller RL stuff and it’s usually made by his betters, such as the RLPL shoes which are secret Edward Greens. If you ever see a set of RLPL shoes in an outlet for under $500, buy them regardless of whether they fit. You see? All sorts of stuff you can learn on TTAC. RL Black Label shoes used to be Crockett and Jones, but I don’t think they are any longer.
There’s something intellectually dishonest and just plain pathetic about calling some interior upgrades “Black Label”. When the peso-paid crew at Hermosillo’s bangin’ out a couple extra Center Stage MKZs at the end of the day under the influence of mescaline and scorpion-frying heat, there won’t be anything upscale or exclusive about it. The rarefied and artificial environment of Pebble Beach is very far away from the actual origins or likely destinations of these vehicles. It’s fakey-doo and not cool.
And yet… There’s something interesting and fun and brave about the colors and design choices. If you can put aside the 10k-gold-plated-plastic nature of the marketing hype surrounding Black Label, it’s a real and valuable contribution to the luxury market. Lincoln used to do this stuff brilliantly with the Designer Mark Vs and whatnot and when the cold, grey, characterless era of the German austerity-mobiles arrived it was deeply missed. (Full disclosure: Benz used some neat zebrawood back in the day and the W140 could be had with some baller-class burl walnut.) I’m glad to see them back in the business of creating interesting and involving design themes again.
Tell you what, Lincoln. If you agree to drop these stupid names and just call it the MKZ Givenchy or Bill Blass, I’ll put in an order. I don’t even care if the gas flap falls off. Call it the Givenchy. Out of respect to your heritage, your customers, and DJ Quik. It’s the right thing to do. And then we can get into my MKZ Givenchy and drive the hell away from the lamers at Pebble Beach, back into the American heartland, okay?