By on September 1, 2014

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Reader Request: discuss the Lincoln Mark VIII, preferably the second generation’s modest restyle. He likely didn’t care for my reply, as it follows my disapproval of the Original Testarossa versus that rolling abortion that disrespectfully ended Ferrari’s most iconic series.

Then I parked beside a 2000 Mercury Sable on a fine Houston evening.

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Allow me to explain with Lincoln-Mercury fanboi facts. The 1993 Lincoln Mark VIII was an avant-garde reinstatement of Lee Iaococca’s “Thunderbird designed by a guy named Vinnie” : blending delicious proportions of the 1989 Thunderbird, sculptural elements of the 1993 Ford Probe and the once-mandatory Continental DNA of the once-relevant Lincoln Brand.

The 1996 Sable, avoiding the ovoid pitfall of its Taurus sister ship, went four door Mark VIII: right down to the elegant roof and slender tail lights!

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Both the redesigned Mark VIII (1997) and the redesigned Sable (2000) took the original idea and milquetoasted it hopes of regaining lost sales. Neither worked, literally.

So let’s go back to the parking lot.

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These brothers couldn’t be more different, even if they are the same. How did the original coke-bottle remain appealing (if you like American luxury coupes) while its younger brother got married, had a family and multiple failed careers after 1999?

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When these two brothers meet their maker, bodies reincarnated into crap we buy at WalMart, their souls will uncomfortably meet in heaven. Those two kids lived unique lives, but they know there’s no escaping the genetic connection. Blood is always thicker than water.

And the Cain and Abel reference? That’s more for the bloodbath between the Testarossa and the 512M. That’s gonna get ugly: 512M ugly.

Thanks for reading, I hope you have a lovely week.

 

 

 

 

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50 Comments on “Vellum Venom Vignette: My Brother’s Keeper...”


  • avatar
    olddavid

    You GenI drivers probably have a better looking car, but mine is mechanically superior with 90% of the design DNA. And much more comfortable and functional. But keep the flame burning, as I believe Lincoln will come back. I would buy one more new car if they build a Mark successor worthy of the name, not just more alphabet soup. Until then, I make do with the newest good one. PS- the Mustang wheel thing has been done to death. There are other choices that fit over the brakes.

    • 0 avatar

      Not quite: stock brakes, Ford Motorsport Thunderbird wheels that I got for $300 from a friend who had them (ironically enough) on a 2000 Taurus. Plus I put a Lincoln center cap on them, and I’m probably the only guy to do so.

      And Gen II owners win, I am the loser. Most people like the styling better and they seem to command a far higher price. Vellum Venom is far from what actually motivates people, its just a guy’s opinion. And it will stay that way.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Dat tail lamp, bro!

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        Funny you mention Taurus wheels, that’s what I’m looking for right now. My ’95 T-Bird needs a spare and some crappy wheels for winter tires, and the Windstar and Taurus share a bolt pattern with the MN12 cars.

        • 0 avatar

          Offset is different, but not different enough to matter, IIRC.

          Nice to see you still have a cool obscure car, even if the Buick went away.

          • 0 avatar
            olddavid

            I took the center cap off of the directionals and installed them on my F1’s. That makes two anal Lincoln drivers.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            I’m glad the Buick went away, it’s developed more problems since I last drove it.

            The cheapo aftermarket wheels the T-Bird has right now are a near perfect match for one of the five spoke wheel designs on the fourth-gen Taurus. If I can get one of those for cheap as a spare, nobody will even notice that I had a flat tire!

          • 0 avatar

            I wish I coulda done that…I had to get late model MK-whatever centercaps and paint them silver! Cobra wheels are bigger on the hub apparently.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    How do you keep the paint so fresh on a 20 year old car in the Houston sun?

  • avatar
    omer333

    I never gave a flip about the Mark VIII, but after seeing these shots of yours, I have to admit that I’m feeling tingly.

    In a good way.

  • avatar
    Panther Platform

    It’s been about 15 months ago since I sold mine. It had 186,000 miles when I sold it to a mechanic and just about everything that typically goes wrong with these (blend door, air ride, door handle, etc.) happened to mine. I swore I would never get another one, but if I saw a relatively low mileage one for sale I would probably start another journey. I feel tingly too every time I see one.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I’ve always been a big fan of the Mark VIII. Futuristic personal luxury with a much needed return to big power (for the era). I’ve done the “J Mod” to the transmission of a few of them and that livens them up a bit. They moved out well and would bark 2nd gear without much trouble.

    Sadly, most of the examples found today haven’t aged well due to poor care and feeding as well as a finicky air suspension system.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    I love the Mark VIII, it’s one of my favorite coupes of all time. If I could find a clean one at the right price I’d snatch it up. It seems the ones I do see have been badly neglected.

    I had a 1992 Thunderbird SC, I absolutely loved that car, it was basically the same chassis as the Mark VIII.

    I wonder why the coupe market evaporated? It was just like a switch flipped and there were no more large coupes.

    • 0 avatar
      Panther Platform

      I love the big coupes too and was always a fan of the late 80s and 90s T-Birds and Cougars. I will always hope against hope that Lincoln will do a Mark IX, but I doubt it will ever happen.

    • 0 avatar
      OneAlpha

      I had a $600 ’93 Thunderbird SC when I lived in Chicago and that thing was perfectly ghettoflaged – looked rough as hell inside and out, so it was never a theft risk.

      So much torque that I never needed to get far off idle to move it around town, which was good, because the main and rod bearings, not to mention the transmission clutch packs, were all disintegrating faster than modern American society.

      Spent 13 hours doing a head gasket job from start to finish in the parking lot of a 24-hour VatoZone one day.

      God, I loved that piece of crap. Wish I still had it.

  • avatar
    omer333

    Has anyone ever seen a Mark VIII at a Cars & Coffee? Or would it be more likely to see one at Concours de Le’mons during Car Week in Monterey?

  • avatar
    relton

    I loved my Mark VIII until it turned on me and started stranding me in different places. It go so bad I was afraid to take it out of town. Multiple failures of Ford replacement alternators was the last straw. It’s almost as though this car was designed to go 140,000 miles, and no more.

    I personally prefer the earlier version of the Mark VIII, though the differences are small. I would have like the HID lights of the later Mark. Mt sense, based on some subjective rides, is that the interior of the earlier Mark was better put together than the later one. Even so, at 140,000 miles and 10 years, the interior of my Mark was on the verge of disintegration. It still looked good, but you could see the vinyl beginning to shrink away from its retaining parts, the dash was beginning to warp, the driver’s seat had sagged more than an inch, and so on.

    I still like the look of these cars, but I’m not tempted to buy one.

    • 0 avatar
      Panther Platform

      “It’s almost as though this car was designed to go 140,000 miles, and no more.” Relton you hit the nail on the head. I foolishly took one from 144,000 to 186,000 miles and paid a huge price, literally and figuratively.

    • 0 avatar
      jacob_coulter

      That’s the problem with most American luxury cars, especially in that era.

      They looked great when new, and seemed competitive with the European and Japanese offerings at the time , but they just sort of disintegrated with age.

      The interiors were especially bad. After a few years, it’s like the cheap car underneath it all comes out. Creaky interiors, cracking plastic, warped dashes, trim falling off etc. And these cars were usually babied by elderly owners.

      I could understand if the Cadillac and Lincolns were huge discounts to their import rivals, but they weren’t. A Lincoln Mark VIII in today’s dollars would be around $50,000.

      • 0 avatar
        relton

        Mark VIIIs were about $50,000 in 1993 dollars, too. The sticker on my ’95 was 48,700. No sunroof. Prices were later cut by about $14,000 for 97 & 98. It didn’t help sales any, though.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s pretty wild. All the sun baked ones I see in the yard have surprisingly good interiors. Mine is at 178k and the interior is great except for the vinyl coated hard plastic: same peeling problem the VAG products have.

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    Sable LS Premium had the aluminum Duratec 200 hp 24V DOHC engine. Good power plant for a family car. Up to around 2000 4 wheel discs then cheaped to rear drums. Auto 4 speed AX4N tranny last modification of the original 1986 tranny. Good inexpensive family hauler. Ours 2005.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    If I ever get rid of my 95 T-Bird LX 4.6 I would consider an upgrade to a Mark VIII in particular the LSC version since it has the handling package and real gauges. The only drawback is the air ride which has to be replaced or upgraded with springs and shocks. You see some on the road or for sale that look like low riders.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      Yeah, if I got one, I’d be getting rid of the air ride ASAP too.

      But I plan on driving my T-Bird until the engine conks out or it suffers some kind of structural problem I can’t afford to fix. A V8 and 4 wheel independent suspension is just too fun.

      • 0 avatar
        jacob_coulter

        I don’t know why automakers keep screwing with air ride suspensions. Are they really proven to make a car ride that much smoother?

        My wife’s Lexus just had the rear air bags go out, and I would have gladly taken the ride penalty with a smooth riding steel coil instead of the hefty bill for replacement.

        • 0 avatar
          Panther Platform

          After my lesson with my Mark VIII I converted my Grand Marquis to coils at the first sign of trouble.

        • 0 avatar
          relton

          Actually, they are. Better ride, constant ride height, allows spring rates to be matched more closely to the car’s needs. That’s why all big-dollar cars have air suspension, even though they don’t make much of it.

          It’s also why Ram trucks offer air suspension. The difference is even greater in a pickup truck.

          My air suspended Mark VIII performed flawlessly for the first 140,000 miles. By then, my wife’s 95 Cougar was on its third set of rear, steel springs and second set of front steel springs. Ford made air suspension so reliable and transparent to the owners that lots of people don’t even know they have air suspension. Note, too, that almost all big trucks ride on air, all busses, and lots of railroad cars. Some locomotives, too. Truckers and bus operators and railroads wouldn’t be paying for this if there wasn’t some advantages.

          • 0 avatar
            jacob_coulter

            But what are you comparing the air ride to?

            Just because you have a car that rides smooth with air bags does not mean it would not ride smooth with coils.

            I’ve converted a car and found it to actually ride smoother.

        • 0 avatar

          I love air suspension, the subtle smoothness in transitions is totally worth the $1500-$2000 in parts to completely rebuild one. Well, Ford stuff is far cheaper than European air ride.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Well see, I got an entire T-Bird for $1500…

          • 0 avatar

            “Well see, I got an entire T-Bird for $1500…”

            Such is the life of all mainstream machines at the bottom of the depreciation curve.

            30 years from now we’ll be spending tens of thousands on restoring these stupid things.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Right now I can’t even afford to do paint and rust repair, maybe I should stow this thing in a dry garage somewhere and take it back out in 10 years. :p

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        A couple of weeks back I noticed a clunking in the rear on mine. It was the rear sway bar bushings wearing through the bolts. I brought it to my mechanic and had them replaced along with the original 20 yr old, 120k shocks with a set of KYB’s for a mere $300. The stock springs seemed fine and now it handles much better.

    • 0 avatar
      Exfordtech

      Check this one out. http://boston.craigslist.org/nos/cto/4641735271.html
      Less than 50k on it, $3995 is the asking price. Interior is mint, as I’ve seen it. Needs tires, rotors and pads up front, and brake lines are not long for the world, but if you’re mechanically inclined its a good deal. Air ride has no issues. I’ve had air ride in a 99 Continental. Got 177k out of it before the AX4N gave out. The 32 valve Intech is a sweet engine. Everything else was flawless. They are among the unloved cars out there. If you could bolt up a 6F50 to a 4.6 Continental (and have a PCM that could handle it) you’d have a phenomenal highway cruiser.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        I’d love to even have a 5 speed auto in my 95, but unfortunately the only sane options are the J-mod and a 5 speed manual swap of some kind. Dunno if a good old T5 will fit…

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    To me the VIII looks like someone took a design sketch for the first Lexus SC and ran it through a focus group of WWII vets.

  • avatar

    I always liked Lincoln Mark VIII but thought it has no relationship to Taurus. I owned 2002 Sable with 3.0L Duratec. The only accident I had with Sable was a close encounter of 3rd kind with Lincoln Mark VIII owned by some unemployed white trash. Sable got some scratches on the head lamp and hardly visible crack on the bumper. I sanded off scratches and painted affected spot on the bumper with a touch-up paint.

    Sable was a good comfortable commuter and reliable car and the first problem it had was an ignition coil failure at 147,000 miles. At 175,000 miles it happened again. I would replace ignition coil myself this time but could not to get access there unless removed the upper manifold. And besides I had a feeling that I am running out of luck if I keep it any longer.

    Sables downsides were weak breaks, suspension did not filter out road imperfections very well and trunk opening was an afterthought making it difficult to put there larger boxes.

  • avatar
    Crosley

    I bet if you polled car owners outside of the warranty, 90% would say they hated the air suspension. You take it to a dealer and people are thinking of totaling out the car. What did a Lincoln dealer charge to do all 4? $6,000 or so?

    I find it be mainly a gimmick, I think with the Mark VIII at high speeds it would slightly lower itself? No telling how many ended up in the junkyard for that dumb feature.

    I’ve experienced both types of suspension, and whatever increase in ride quality is not perceptible to me. In fact the smoothest cars I’ve driven were with a conventional system.

    I like the Mark VIII lines though, I think they could have made the exterior a bit smaller though.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      That’s always been the thing with cutting edge luxury car techno gizmos that have no hope of lasting in the hands of the 3rd or 4th owner. The manufacturer is designing the car for the first owner or lessee who’s unlikely to keep it any longer than the warranty.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      At a dealer if they replaced every single component in the VIII you are looking at no more than $3000 including labor and the reality is that they don’t need that yeah the air-over shocks on the front aren’t that reliable but everything else is. The big advantage in the air suspension is that the ride and handling is consistent no matter if it is just the driver or if you’ve got 3 dead hookers in the trunk and the concrete blocks to make sure they don’t float up.

      It also handles better because by their nature they are variable rate, the more you compress the suspension the stiffer it gets.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Well, you’ve made me rethink my my passive ignorance about Sable designs.

    I actually like the 2000 better…and certainly more cohesive than the Taurus.

  • avatar
    furiouschads

    Sajeev-ji/b&b, would the mark viii air ride control work in a mark vii? I like the idea of lower-at-speed mated to the fox platform.

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