By on September 8, 2014

TTAC Commentator furiouschads writes:

A Mark VII is in my sights.  I like the Mark VIII air suspension control that lowers the car when it hits 60 mph.  Will a Mark VIII suspension control box work in a Mark VII?

Sajeev answers:

WOW: you mean someone actually can afford to spend the $300-2000 in new/used/aftermarket/OEM replacement parts to make a functional Lincoln air suspension system on a fully depreciated hooptie? You mean someone else out there doesn’t pigeonhole these systems with the nightmares made by manufacturers in a more European locale?

So sure, why not lower a Mark VII air suspension at speed?  I poked around the wiring diagrams for a 1988 Mark VII and 1993 Mark VIII and wasn’t totally horrified at what I saw.  Matter of fact, I’d be tempted to integrate the 1982-83 Fox Continental variable ratio steering system into it, as the Mark VIII’s air suspension “control box” also controls its speed sensitive power steering.

But being a complete Fox Body geek isn’t a great idea —welcome to my hell!– and adding the Mark VIII’s lowering capabilities is already challenging.

1988-1989 Mark VII LSC

It isn’t easy because the Mark VII air suspension is a different beast: boasting the same number of ride height sensors (two front, one back) but each sensor has an extra (4th) wire. The reason escapes me, as someone ran off with my Mark VII service manual. While it might be possible to convert to Mark VIII sensors, hopefully that isn’t necessary.

The “hard” part is actually the easiest: the lowering feature comes via communication to the VSS (vehicle speed sensor), readily available at the engine computer (in the kick panel, tough) or speedometer (easy).

If you get a Mark VII that isn’t hopelessly in need of attention, get a Mark VIII suspension computer and mock it up. After you get the shop manuals for both and do a good job with RTFM…son!

Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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43 Comments on “Piston Slap: to Mark VIII the Mark VII Air Suspension...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    While I think its a pretty neat idea, I never knew anyone who *wanted* to keep the air ride in a Continental Mark VII.

  • avatar
    friedclams

    That struck me as well. Although maybe the VIII’s implementation of air suspension was much improved over the VII’s, and therefore worthy of transplanting.

  • avatar
    mikedt

    Holy Crap! $450 a month 20 years ago?!?!

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      That’s what I was thinking. That’s a big lease payment even NOW! You can get a very nice BMW lease for that sort of money.

      But then again we must remember interest rates in the 90s were very high, so lease prices were reflective of that.

    • 0 avatar

      Lease rates weren’t super sweet in the early 1990s (from what little I’ve read on that) and this was a $40,000-45,000 car when new!

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Sheesh the 98 model was more expensive than the Corvette.

        Mark $39,320
        Corvette $37,995
        Riv $32,500
        Eldorado $38,495 / ETC $42,695

        And for fun:
        SC400 $53,000
        SL500 $79,900
        SL600 $125,000

        ALL of these things cost more than I thought they did. Especially the Eldorado and SC.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Cadillac has always had stupid high pricing on their products. The irony here is by MY98 Northstar was known to be junk and yet people bought them anyway (and grossly overpaid). I’m guessing the Mark VIII was priced so high in order to “compete” with Eldorado.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Hey while you’re here 90s Cadillac man, tell me what you know about Couronne. :)

            I’m very interested.

            http://www.ebay.com/itm/1991-Cadillac-DeVille-Base-Sedan-4-Door-4-9L-/291233659523

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I’d pay $450/mo today for this in half a heartbeat, and I haven’t had a car payment in years.

    • 0 avatar
      redman

      Interest rates were just a bit different then, eh?

  • avatar
    mistermau

    I have COVETED a Mark VIII for years now. I SHOULD have bought one instead of my Cadillac a few cars ago, and I’ve actually been stalking them on Craigslist the last week or two. Simply a stunning design. Just great.

    I’d love one as a kickaround car. Black on Black please. If I had the space and an extra $3K sitting around, it’d already be done. What makes me sad is that decent examples probably won’t ever get much cheaper. 2 years from now, still $3K.

    I can practically taste it.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Pfft, everyone else wants black on black too, and they carry a price premium accordingly.

      Either way they’re very hard to find in any decent condition – it’s either crap for $500 or pristine for $8000.

  • avatar
    furiouschads

    There are good original ones out there that still have working air rides. A lot of the ones with coil conversions have other undesirable mods.

    Thanks Sajeev. Looks like this unnecessary complexification is indeed possible. My dad at one point had two dead 60’s Lincolns in the back yard. Maybe I can do better. Maybe not!

  • avatar
    snakebit

    Up until two years ago I sold Lincoln parts through a dealer, and can tell you that parts unique to the Mark VIII are getting discontinued weekly, and air suspension items are included in that news. Whether working on a MB 600 Pullman or Lincoln Navigator/Continental, I would think long and hard before committing to a car with air suspension. The last time I looked for Mark VIII parts (front grille and headlight assemblies) I found them only from doing a national inventory check performed by a local Ford dealers dcs, they were no longer available directly from Ford Motor Company. Sajeev, if your inquirer was looking for a real challenge, he’s found it in what he wants to try to do.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Perhaps better to pick a different coupe to play with, whether it be Cadillac, Buick, or something Germanic.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      You bring up a great point about OEM or aftermarket support for parts. Such a shame Ford is cutting the cord but it is a reality of the business.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        There is good support in the aftermarket for the suspensions on these Lincolns. http://www.arnottindustries.com

        With prices like that, it’s no wonder Ford is discontinuing these parts, they can’t compete.

    • 0 avatar
      DevilsRotary86

      “Whether working on a MB 600 Pullman…”

      The Pullman would be easier actually. Mercedes-Benz has a program where they will source any part for any Mercedes-Benz ever made. The program is at:

      http://www.mbusa.com/mercedes/enthusiast/classic_center

      The prices will probably make your hair stand on end, but they won’t say “no” just because it’s an old model.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Well, they’ll source it, in that they’ll look in every MB inventory on the planet.

        But as I found when looking for parts for my w115, that doesn’t mean they actually *have* any given part.

        (On the other hand, you might actually have better luck with the Pullman, since there may be less demand on the stock of parts…)

  • avatar
    Avatar77

    For the money and trouble of the swap, surely you could just step up to a Mark VIII??

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Depends on what you like as they are two different things. Fox body HO 5.0 OHV/AOD vs FN10 (derived from MN-12) 4.6 DOHC/AOD-E. If racing is your game, I’d venture to guess there are more Fox body mods out there given the age and use of the platform vs MN-12 and its derivatives.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    I have a neighbor that shares my absurd fixation with unusual metal. The day I was attempting to sensor lower my car, he came up and said a profound thing – “why”? This from a man with a 64 Chev Panel Suburban, my old 75 450SL, a 92 Road King, a 59 Jeep Wagon and a new Mazda3. But, as in my case also, it was appropriate and correct. I love the air suspension, so my default is not to coils. Were I in his shoes, I would lower the car 2″ and call it good. Use the extra time to sweeten the exhaust sound from that excellent 5.0. Or, do like me and go 1-2 sizes up with wheels. I am willing to bet the MK.VII looks great with 18’s filling up the wheel well. Also, please do nothing to correct the widespread belief these air ride Ford’s are impossible to work on. They’re really made from unobtainium and the manuals are in Sanskrit. Good luck.

  • avatar
    clem151

    I’m surprised nobody has mentioned the fact that the Mark VII and VIII have totally different suspension architecture. The VII is solid axle rear and the VIII is fully independent. The air suspension computer does more than just lower the car at speed, so hooking up a Mark VIII computer to a Mark VII might not be a good idea.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Excellent point.

    • 0 avatar

      Tell me how the different mechanicals can affect the air suspension’s electronic inputs: both use three level sensors, four solenoids, four air springs, all computer controlled. And both VII and VIII do about the same thing (even venting the system when the door closes) except the VIII lowers itself at speed.

      I’ve done too much swapping between various FoMoCo cars to think this is a concern: the 4th wire in the Mark VII’s sensor is my only concern.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        The rear sensor on the VII measures from the body to the axle housing to determine rear height. No such measurement exists in the same way on the VIII. The programmed height (voltage) readings are likely different, so you’d have to figure out what the module wants to see for your given height then figure out a way to mount the sensor to achieve that reading for the desired height.

    • 0 avatar
      furiouschads

      I was surprised when I found out that the ocho had three sensors despite having IRS. That is what got me started down this path of inquiry.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Been fascinated by air ride suspensions with raising and lowering capability since I first saw one. This particular case however seems like a potential can of worms. Would it be easier to go with a full aftermarket system like the vehicle never had air ride to start with?

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Personally I always saw air ride as a slap in the face to the owner/second owner in order to reward the repeat leaser since air ride never works well in the long term (esp Ford’s system). So many pristine Contis and Marks back in the day always had that $4-800 “tax” on them to “fix” the air ride system if you intended to buy and keep the car.

      • 0 avatar
        jacob_coulter

        +1

        Only it’s much worse, it was a LOT more than $400 to $800 if you actually went to the dealer to get replacements. Like $1,000 per air strut, so $4,000 for all 4 corners in parts, plus installation.

        It could easily become a $4500 job if you wanted OEM parts. And that’s not including all of the other accompanying parts like the air compressor, leveling sensors, that also go out.

        I know there’s all sorts of ways to get around this, but it’s a huge outlay for a really gimmicky feature imo.

        I think most of it it to just have something for the Lincoln dealer to point to for why it’s so much more than a Thunderbird or Mustang. You could easily come up with a steel coil suspension that had the right blend of comfort and handling.

        For the record, I love the Mark VIII and I love reading articles about them here, but I think owning a vehicle with air suspensions is like having a transmission that you know is going out out at 80k miles. I just don’t think the tradeoff is worth it.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I’m reaching here but I seem to recall the coil suspension replacement parts at being roughly $100-125/wheel and labor at the time varied but I think we could get it done for roughly $100 in labor (this was ten to twelve years ago). $4K was and is armed robbery, but this explains why we could pick up Contis nearly for free. In 2004 my boss’ son has a 97 Conti with high miles (130K) and I believe we had $1500 in it. The car had a number issues over its three years with Jason (power window regulators, aforementioned air ride, coolant/rad problems) but for 1500 bucks it was a steal (esp since Jason destroyed it anyway by both driving drunk into stationary objects at low speeds and heavily smoking in it).

          You’re probably right about the gimmicky approach, “well ma’am the Lincoln has air ride suspension so its got a cushioned ride vs the Mercury [insert model]”

          “For the record, I love the Mark VIII and I love reading articles about them here, but I think owning a vehicle with air suspensions is like having a transmission that you know is going out out at 80k miles. I just don’t think the tradeoff is worth it.”

          I agree but yet we tolerate it. Those of us infected with Lincoln love are the real victims having to fix Ford’s various boondoggles in the models. FTR I see it as, if spending X money makes the car worth keeping/driving in your mind, you spend X money.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    You mean someone actually likes the air suspension?

    Good God. Just when you thought you’ve heard it all…

    Perhaps the suspensions aren’t too terribly bad.

    I’ve got one too many images of these tired old things bobbling along, ass ends riding about an inch or so off the pavement, with questionable characters navigating them.

    The City of St. Louis is king of the well-worn hoopty, although I’ve never been to Detroit. Methinks we’d take a close second place only to “The D”.

  • avatar
    relton

    As usual, there are lots of posters here who don’t really know anything about air suspension.

    Most of the Ford horror stories are the result of people trying to fix a system they know nothing about. Often expensive parts are replaced when all that is needed is a retaining clip on the link from the axle to the sensor. A common problem on the rear axles of Town Cars and Continentals.

    Millions of Fords have air suspension that works so well the owners don’t even know they have it. Every year, millions of perps ride to the slammer in Ford cop cars with rear air suspension. Millions of Ford SUVs are driving around with completely functional air suspensions. And, now, over half a million Ram trucks & Grand Cherokees have left the factory with air suspension.

    Really, if air suspensions are such a bad idea, why does every tractor trailer and transit bus have an air suspension? Busses since the 50s. Not to mention nearly every high end car, and lots of special off-road Jeeps.

    As far as grafting Mark VIII computer systems to a Mark VII, I suspect that it would be a major project. I think the VIII has a different set of protocols than a VII. I am sure that the later VIIIs are different than the first VIIIs.

    If you want to change the height manually, it is relatively easy, conceptually, t wire a resister either in series or in parallel with each sensor (here you have to read the manual. I can’t remember whether the resistance increases or decreases with a height increase). Then wire a bypass switch around the resistors. When the resistors are bypassed, the system will maintain the standard ride height. Flip the switch and the ride height will change. If you just want to lower the car, you can simply adjust the length of the links to the sensors. Either way will retain the constant height and constant ride frequency of the air suspension.

    There used to be a company, All American Air, that made parts for Lincolns, and was run by a very competent guy. I haven’t messed with Lincolns for a few years now, so my memories of specifics isn’t what it used to be.

    I’ve said this before, but my experience with Fords is that their steel springs fail quite often, much more than their air suspensions fail. Google “Taurus front springs”, for example. The MN-12 cars, in northern climates, also suffered broken springs. Parts places used to keep them in stock.

    Bottom line: keep the air.

    • 0 avatar
      jacob_coulter

      Uh, no, steel coils do not fail more often than air bag suspensions in passenger vehicles.

      Even if you want to cherry pick some rust belt part of the country where coils can eventually rust from heavy salt exposure, replacements are around $100 a spring vs $1,000 for a new air strut. And that’s not even considering all the other equipment that air systems require like the compressor, tank, height sensors, etc.

      It’s an apples to oranges comparison, but many heavy rigs use air suspensions because they can better adjust for the weight with such huge variance in loads. They can easily raise and lower themselves.

      Big rigs also use rely on air brakes, that doesn’t mean they’re superior to hydraulic braking systems on passenger cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Compaq Deskpro

      Cop car Crown Vics definitely do not have air suspension. They have springs so stiff they have a raised butt stance when the trunk is empty. This is to compensate for hundreds of pounds of radios and gear. Air suspension would never cut it for this application.

      While the Taurus’s springs are indeed junk, you never see coil spring equipped Vics with a sagging butt.

      • 0 avatar
        relton

        That’s because Crown Vics usually have air springs in the rear. I worked on the cop car programs, and I know for a fact that 98% of the cop car Crown Vics have rear air springs. As do Town Cars & Grand Msrquis.

        Google Ford Spring recalls for a complete, and extensive, list of Ford steel spring failures. And, some recalls. Tauruses and Windstars had a recall that, instead of fixing the springs prone to break, they simply added a plastic shield so when the spring broke it didn’t tear the tire open.

        It is possible to make steel springs, coil or leaf or torsion bar, with an infinite life. The calculations are easy. What’s not so easy is getting management to pay extra for infinite life springs, and spring companies to exercise the manufacturing discipline to make sure they are made properly. And the assembly plant to avoid damaging them during installation. (the source of yet another Ford spring recall)

        If you’re old enough, you may remember when all big rigs had steel springs. Then, some trailers went to plastic springs, and got triple the life of steel springs. Now they all have air springs. If they weren’t reliable and durable, none of the big rigs would have them. Same for transit busses. A lot of GE locomotives now have air springs also. If air springs can work for a locomotive, I’m sure they are adequate for a 2 ton cop car.

    • 0 avatar
      furiouschads

      relton: exactly.

      i’d like to try out the air ride on my poorly maintained midatlantic asphalt and concrete.

      thanks for the constructive comments. who knows if i really will do this. if it isn’t a rewiring job, it could be an interesting raspberry pi project.

    • 0 avatar

      Brilliant, thanks again relton. Glad to hear from you again.

  • avatar
    redman

    The Mark 7 was a fine effort – classic Lincoln styling cues coupled with boy-racer Mustang power. Factory BBS-type wheels also added a great touch.
    Now the Mark 8, that one hit a whole new high: world class 4-valve per cylinder DOHC V8; computer-driven four-corner air suspension (Caddies of the era were rear air only); and that look – that sharp, razor-edged front end and fighter-cockpit interior the likes of which we haven’t seen since.
    Make mine triple black with a moonroof and chrome Octastar wheels.

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