New Lincoln Car Museum Revealed
The Battle Creek Enquirer (where’s my cereal toy?) reports that The Lincoln Motor Car Foundation will be building a Lincoln-centric museum on the campus of the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan. Naturally, Ford Motor Company will be kicking-in some dough for the project. With Lincoln all but dismantled at this point, a museum dedicated to such a storied marque makes a truckload of sense. Sort of like a pre-historic fly caught in amber, only nicer. And you can extract the design DNA without unleashing rampaging dinsoraurs. This new museum should provide car fans a terrific opportunity to check out some classic American Lincolns from the days when the only thing the brand worried about was Cadillac and the occasional Imperial. [Note to RF’s former press car provider John Lawlor: time to donate LBJ’s limo. Summer’s fine and the tax credit’s are easy.]
I feel honor-bound to point out that while the fifties and sixties Lincolns were competitive with Cadillac in style and performance, Cadillac outsold them by more than five to one. In fact, Cadillac usually outsold Lincoln and Imperial combined by at least three to one. Even in their stylistic heyday, they were a niche player. It wasn't until the 80s and the advent of the Town Car that they really became a serious Cadillac competitor, which was as much because Cadillac stumbled (8-6-4, 4.1L, Cimarron, downsizing) as because Lincoln was doing anything right.
It's true that Cadillacs were still vastly more popular than Lincolns in the 1950s and 1960s, although I think part of that may have been because Cadillac usually offered a much wider lineup. From 1961-65, for example, the entire Lincoln line consisted of the sedan and convertible sedan. A two-door hardtop wasn't even available until 1966, while the Coupe DeVille had always been a strong seller for Cadillac. Lincoln's relatively low sales numbers in the 1960s made them seem more exotic and "special" to me than comparable Cadillacs. That, and the distinctive style and suicide doors.
For a marketing company, Ford made some pretty stupid mistakes with Lincoln in the 60's. Sales for the 61-65 period averaged about 35K per annum, about 20% of Cadillac's output. Adding the 2 door coupe in 66 increased sales over 15K. But it was the Marks III and IV that sent Lincoln sales into overdrive and in the 70's Lincoln finally caught up with and then outsold Cadillac. Unfortunately, in the same period Mercedes (and to a lesser extent, BMW and Jaguar) offered cars more and more acceptable to the high end US car buyer. They offered high technology and that foreign cachet when Cadillac and Lincoln just offered more of the same ole same ole. Class is a hard-to-define concept, but this was when Detroit ceded the high-end to Europe (and later Japan.) They are very late to the party and seem to be stuck in the "near luxury" category. Which is why I think something outrageously unexpected is needed to signal that they intend to compete with the world's best.