By on July 7, 2009

[Tragically frequent] Piston Slapper Theodore writes:

OK, you talked me out of putting any more money and effort into the Thunderbird. But that’s no reason not to own another old Ford, is it?

Today’s discovery: a double-black 1992 Lincoln Mark VII with just 73,000 miles. It’s not perfect—some of the electrical gadgets don’t work any more, there’s some rust on the front fenders, the clearcoat has burned through in places and the paint underneath is fading. The biggest concern is a broken front passenger seat; the power part is fine, but the seatback is lying flat and will not stand up. I am unsure how to fix this, or even if it can be done in a way that will make it safe for passengers. And for reasons that will be readily apparent to anyone who read about my Thunderbird, I am leery of Ford automatics of this vintage.  Is the one in the Lincoln any better than the one in the ‘Bird?

On the other hand, even with fading paint the Mark VII still looks pretty sharp. There’s a hint of what was—and maybe of what will be. It’s a Fox-body car with a 302 motor; there have to be plenty of go-fast parts available.  What would it take to turn this old LSC into a badass beater and gen-u-ine Hot Rod Lincoln?

Sajeev writes:

What does it take? Money, stupidity, stubbornness and a lot of forum searching on Speaking from experience, there’s little you can do that hasn’t already been covered there.

The Mark VII LSC is a great American Gran Tourismo, a perfect blend of Lincoln swagger combined with easy WOT burnouts, going sideways at opposite lock with a shit–eating grin on your face. My favorites are the 1988-89 models, because of their combination of awesome bucket seats, firm(er than the later models) steering and suspension parts and the sweet 5.0 HO motor.

But there are problems galore after 18 years of use: expensive and somewhat hard to find ABS parts (this was the first car in America with four-channel ABS), rotted air springs, worn out air suspension compressor from said airbags, faded paint that plagues all cars made in America at this time, and any problem normally found on a neglected 5.0 Mustang. That includes the transmission, but at that mileage you might be fine if you change the fluid and keep it up.

If you’ve lost your marbles, go ahead and pull the trigger, especially if it’s the monochrome black Special Edition.  And here’s my gift, to get you started: the flat seatback is probably from a bad power recliner switch. Remove it (on the door insert’s padding) and spray contact cleaner in there.

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13 Comments on “Piston Slap: My Pappy’s Driven to Drinkin’ Edition...”

  • avatar

    It is probably worth investigating whether this fits:

  • avatar

    Awesome!! another DAVIDSFARM fan. Anybody who wants to see some fun with cars after their lives are just about over, well this is the place.
    A little fun fact at the farm: Volkswagens seem to be the first to fail under “skyhill” abuse…enjoy!!

    I owned a ’88 LSC – bought out my dad’s lease. Car was really great and was reliable. I would express concern with the airbag suspension system – mine never broke, but I would image by now the air bladders have to be replaced. There are conversion kits to make the air bags go away, but I would suggest fixing the air suspension. Other than that, these cars really shouldn’t have issues that any other car would have at this age. And yes, most of the world of Mustang 5.0 HO parts are yours to exploit, too. I actually have all the factory manuals for Mark VII, including the expensive emissions book. I’d consider letting them go…If you look through these books, it is amazing how some of the built in diagnostic modes are engaged…open/close driver door 3 times while depressing the gas, etc. Pretty cool!!

  • avatar

    Most of the “transmission” problems with Ford of this vintage are sim-ly a broken spring in the 1-2 accumulator. Thisis easily replaced without removing the tranmission. Of course you will get a shot of trans fluid in the face…

    The other problems in the trans are caused by using the wrong fluid. All these Fords with the 4R70W trans are supposed to use MERCON V, which cost, around here, $3.00/qt. Ford service bulletins have repeatedly stressed this, despite the marklings on the dipstick that call for MERCON III.

    In my experience, the air suspension is pretty bullet proof, if maintained. On a car that old, the air dryer will be shot. This keeps warter out of the system. Replace it right away with one of the aftermartket replacements made of stainless steel, and the problem will be solved forever. Also, replace leaking parts right away to keep the air pump from dying of overwork.

    The broken seatback may just be a swith, as Sajeev suggests, but it could also be broken recliner parts. The seat mechanisms for Fords of this vintage are qall similar of not identical, so a junkyard fix is pretty easy. Assuming you can disassemble and reassembly the leather trim. I suggest softening it beforehand with a cleaner and leather treatment.

    Good luck.


  • avatar

    Sweet ride. I’ve had several late-eighties thru early nineties Fords, and contrary to popular belief, they are very interesting and rewarding vehicles. My stable has included an ’85 T-bird, 3 Fox body 5.0 hatchback mustangs, a ’91 F-150, and my latest project, a 1988 Turbo Coupe (the identical 1987 model was Motor Trend’s car of the year).

    These Lincolns are super easy to hot-rod, but of course 4.10 gears, stiff shocks, and flowmasters take away from the essence of the car. If you want to retain the luxury aspect but still want a little speed, I’d swap a performance intake manifold and decent set of headers on it. The noise level of the cabin may increase a little bit, but these mods will be plenty for street use. If you really want to get wild, a set of aluminum heads will make big power as well. Unless you have a top-notch tuner, non factory turbos and superchargers can be hard to live with on the street. Ford AOD’s are notorious pieces of crap, and forced induction just shortens their already pathetic lives. Anyway, have fun with the car, and here’s a little something to help you with your ABS issues.

  • avatar


    “The other problems in the trans are caused by using the wrong fluid. All these Fords with the 4R70W trans are supposed to use MERCON V, which cost, around here, $3.00/qt. Ford service bulletins have repeatedly stressed this, despite the marklings on the dipstick that call for MERCON III.”

    I thought only Chrysler did this. When the new 4 speed auto (A604 “Ultradirve”) was introduced in 1989-1990 it required ATF+3. The dipstick and the owners manual said Dexron. A lot of transmission failures because of this or if you were lucky, just lousy performance until you got it changed back to the right fluid.

  • avatar

    Today there are about half a dozen tranmission fluids around. It can be challenging to find the right one, especially since the transmission itself is sometimes mis-labeled (Mazda 6 for example) and the wrong fluid can sometimes cause a catastrophic failure.


  • avatar

    I’d pull the seats & carpeting, especially the rear seat, and closely inspect the floor pan. I’ve owned two Ford Fox chassis vehicles and they both developed multiple large cracks in the floor pans; at the seat mounts and at the top of the arc of the driveline hump under the rear seat. Once these things start, you can’t stop ’em, they just get longer & longer, & the car more flexible.

    When I first saw this happening, I thought back to a ’49 Ford that our neighbor lady would sometimes haul us kids to school in, in the winter in northern Illinois in the mid 1950’s. I remembered my innocent amazement, looking at the wet & snowy road surface speeding past through a hole in the floor right by the rear mounts for the front seat. A good 40 years later, I had my own Fords and the Blue Oval Boyz still hadn’t managed to get it right. Quality is Job 1, my ass.

    The broken front seat make me think it might have been rear-ended while somebody was in the car. Check for collision repair evidence in the trunk.

    If I were you, I’d hire a neighbor to hit me between the eyes with a 2 x 4 every time I even thought about buying the car in question.

  • avatar

    If this car is going to be your daily driver–forget about it. But if this is your weekend or play car. Go for it if the price is right.

  • avatar

    429/460 engines can be inserted in this car with a degree of difficulty. The results are awe inspiring though.

    I would go 351 windsor for an easy engine swap and maybe step back in time with a C-4 or C-6 (if a C -6 will fit) but you may need a custom drive shaft (been there done that before) and welded transmission mounts.

    Leave the paint the way it is, makes it look decrepit and slow, like a sleeper should.

  • avatar

    These cars are so fun. After having an 89 Mustang GT as a teenager if I were to get another Fox body it would be a Mark VII or Turbo Coupe Thunderbird.

    The thought of a 460 HO Mark VII makes me all warm and fuzzy!

  • avatar

    Drove the car the other day. It is the antithesis of my Miata – big and floaty. Still pretty nice, in an American personal luxo-barge kind of way. And it makes a great sound.

    Remarkably, the air suspension is in good working order. The seat problem isn’t electrical, but rather something in the seat itself. Apparently the owner’s rather large daughter sat down in it very heavily one day. The passenger door also will not open – looks to be something loose between the handles and the latch. That should be an easy fix.

    What do the B&B think would be a fair price for this car?

  • avatar

    Oh boy.

    These seat frames are spot welded (or so I’ve been told) in a few places, so pulling back the fabric/padding, unbending, and rewelding is in order. Or get another seat.

    Unless they have receipts for new(er) air springs, assume they are way too old, or are aftermarket units that could be on their way out. And assume they replaced Ford OEM LSC bags with the reman Bill Blass (soft) bags. The conversion to stiff Roush (yes, Roush made parts for the Mark VII) bags is only a click away, on Lincolnsonline.

    If the interior is close to perfect (aside from the seat), dash isn’t brittle or cracked, $2000 would be a generous price.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I was thinking more in the lines of $700.

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