Piston Slap: Bleeding Edge Lincoln Technology Edition

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap bleeding edge lincoln technology edition

In case you missed it, Paul Niedermeyer’s excellent overview of Lincolns greatest hits and misses is worth a second look, considering the “firsts” attributed to the Lincoln brand: halogen lights and clear coat paint (Versailles), gas charged shocks and auto dimming rear view mirrors (Fox Continental), composite headlamps (Mark VII) and the industry’s first use of High Intensity Discharge (HID) lights in the Lincoln Mark VIII. And while some innovations quickly spread elsewhere, Lincoln’s HID system was outdated and orphaned in less than a decade. If you are crazy enough to drive an HID-equipped Mark today, finding a new bulb for less than $600 is impossible. And a used bulb fetches $100 or more on eBay. Such is life when you live on the bleeding edge far beyond anyone’s expectation.

Welcome to my little slice of hell. But first, a bit more about my 1995 Mark VIII LSC: the LSC’s originally wore HID lights, but were removed at the factory due to (unknown?) problems. So FoMoCo sold the car with conventional lights, which I converted it back to HIDs using the sorted, implemented system from a 1996 Mark VIII LSC. It was a one-year only system, as the Mark VIII sported significant changes in it’s 1997 redesign. Last month I lost a headlight bulb, thankfully with plenty of advance notice. So grabbed one of my spares from the junkyard. Now with one spare left, I am looking for an alternative.

With nobody to blame for my predicament, my forthcoming solution is the fourth headlight system in my car since it rolled off the assembly line. But it’s the last, as the right move is to ditch the antiquated HIDs for (widely-adopted) modern componentry. I talked to noted automotive lighting guru Daniel Stern, finding my way to a Mark VIII fanboi who made an adapter to mount the modern “D2S” bulb into the original lense. Only problem? He made one set, for his car only. Fantastic.

After several failed attempts to contact the engineer behind these adapters, I mailed a check to purchase the rights to this part. So I am now like Microsoft, only poorer and with very little chance at turning a profit. Which is fine, because I am more interested in helping anyone with this car, lest they lose faith, jump ship and scrap their fully depreciated, wholly undesirable ride.

With blueprints in hand, I’m currently looking for a local shop to turn my blueprints into CAD drawings. Drawings that will feed a CNC machine the necessary information to spit out several adapters. So much for my hopes of an easy conversion! And the word is out: Lincoln nuts on the Internet know that somebody is updating this antiquated system. All three of them. No matter, it’s too late to turn back now.

If anyone has experience making limited production, limited interest components or has worked with machine shops in a cost effective manner, I’d appreciate your advice. Thanks for reading.

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2 of 43 comments
  • OMG_Shoes OMG_Shoes on Feb 16, 2010

    Yes, it's correct the BMW E34-type 7er was first with HIDs, including in the USA. I remember the first time I saw one at night, in 1995. As for other firsts...should we really be celebrating that Ford successfully lobbied the US DOT to allow the plastic headlight lenses we are now cursed with whether we want them or not? They're grossly inferior to real glass lenses in every way that counts (cheap production cost does not count). Should we celebrate that Ford got the DOT to rubberstamp their horrifically crap USA-only system of replaceable headlight bulbs instead of doing something sensible like advocating the adoption of a modified form of the European lighting code used everywhere else in the world? Clear coat paint, yes, I am pretty sure that was indeed an American-car first, on the Versailles. Thus ended effective inexpensive paint repairs. As another poster points out, there are lots of different types of gas shock, so the claim of a Lincoln first here is dubious. How about other Ford firsts...that fluoro (neon-tube?) taillight in the later Mark VII could win the title of First Hideously Expensive Unrepairable Taillight That Fails Early And Often. The notorious automatic transmissions of the 1970s (to early '80s?) could win First Automatic Transmission that Jumps Randomly Out Of Park And Is "Fixed" By Applying A Decal To The Dashboard That Reminds The Driver to Use the Parking Brake. The Pinto...no, can't do it, that's too easy of a target. Back to the orphaned HID lights under discussion here: I am not sure I agree that "such is life when you live on the bleeding edge far beyond anyone’s expectation". Somehow the Europeans managed to devise a standardized system of HID bulbs and ballasts that didn't have the ridiculously high and quick failure rate of the Lincoln system. That European bulb-and-ballast system was available right on the shelf at the time the Mark VIII was being engineered and specified. Ford could have built their HID lights around that bulb, but I guess the pathetic system Ford came up with was one of their "better ideas", right? Sometimes the reason why nobody's ever before done a particular thing in a particular way is because it's a stupid way to do it.

  • PeterKesel PeterKesel on Mar 03, 2010

    HID light are designed to be more powerful than ordinary factory installed lights and are thus an ideal choice of all those automobile enthusiasts out there.

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