Lincoln "Black Label" A Stupid, Yet Somehow Brilliant, Way To Resurrect The Audi "Atmospheres" Concept

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
lincoln black label a stupid yet somehow brilliant way to resurrect the audi

Say it with me in the Don LaFontaine voice:





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 [s]Phaetons[/s] 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?

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  • Tklockau Tklockau on Aug 18, 2013

    OK, this sounds hokey to me but I kind of agree with Jack--appealing to shallow, style-conscious bozos might just be the ticket for Lincoln. It has done wonders for Porsche (and I say that as a Porsche fan). But, I have another train of thought. Here's an idea: Drop the pretentious names, and just offer nice leather in dark red, navy blue, white, green, black and saddle tan, just like the 1975 Continentals. No Rubbermaid colors allowed--"ecru," "shadow" and other equally ridiculous names for shades of gray. Do this on all Lincoln models. The new MKZ has grown on me since seeing one in person, but a Lincoln should ALWAYS have vertical bars on the grille. The horizontal bars make it look like an Oldsmobile or something. Also, an MKT with "Town Car" badging is not a Town Car, no more than a 1982 Cimarron is a Cadillac. Please knock it off and give us a proper, RWD V8 Town Car sedan. You know, like the one you killed off in 2011? Oh, and bring back the Continental name!

    • Lie2me Lie2me on Aug 18, 2013

      "Mr Farley... Mr Farley, please wake-up sir, you fell asleep at your desk again and must have had that same horrible dream where you start yelling, V8! Continental! Suicide doors! over and over, like your trying to decipher some cryptic message in secret code that no one understands"

  • AoLetsGo AoLetsGo on Aug 26, 2013

    I realize this is an old post, but I just saw an ad for the new high-end cycling clothes from Voler. You guessed it they call it "Black Label"

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion:
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?