By on November 30, 2015

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GMC just announced an Ultimate trim level for the Sierra pickup truck. That follows Ford’s success with Platinum-level F-150s that can cost up to $80,000. It seems that nowadays you can’t charge too much money for an American pickup or make it so luxurious that it won’t find an eager market.

It’s tempting to say that wasn’t the case in the early Noughts as a means to explain the failure of the Lincoln Blackwood. In production for barely a year, the Blackwood was the automotive equivalent of a TV sitcom getting cancelled after just the first episode. Ford hoped to sell 10,000 Blackwoods a year, but managed to move only 3,356 for its entire production run.

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The truth is that Ford and GM were selling plenty of luxury trucks in late 2001 when the Blackwood hit dealers — though they were SUVs, not pickups. The Lincoln Navigator, a badge-engineered Ford Expedition that was essentially an enclosed F-150, sold pretty well at about 30,000 trucks in ’02. So did the Cadillac Escalade, selling over 36,000 units that year. Even the Escalade EXT, Cadillac’s version of Chevy’s Avalanche, a crew cab pickup with a short, pass-through bed, sold over 13,000 units in 2002.

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So why did the Blackwood fail in the market?

To begin with, it wasn’t a very good pickup truck because it didn’t really have a bed. Instead, it was festooned with a carpeted trunk, lined with brushed aluminum and covered with a hydraulically actuated tonneau cover. Though it was relatively large for a trunk, it was small for a truck bed. You wouldn’t want to carry anything that could damage the trim. Instead, it seemed to have been designed more for tailgating than carrying cargo. Or showing it off at car shows; it’s somewhat reminiscent of how high end customs and hot rods might have their trunks finished.

The truck, though I’m not sure Lincoln ever used the T word (they called it a “luxury utility vehicle”), also didn’t have a conventional tailgate but instead had two small “Dutch” doors that swung open. Reducing its practicality further, the Blackwood was only available in two-wheel drive.

If you couldn’t drive it to your cabin up north and you couldn’t use it to pick up some lumber at Home Depot, for what could you use it? That question was obviously asked by potential consumers, and answered with “not a thing.”

 

The 1999 concept had real African wenge wood. The production Blackwood had "photo laminate".

The 1999 concept had real African wenge wood. The production Blackwood had “photo laminate”.

The EXT might have had a short bed, like the Blackwood, but it was a real pickup bed. The pass-through opening that allowed long objects to reach into the cabin made the EXT even more practical.

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Besides practicality, or rather a lack thereof, there was also the question of the Blackwood’s aesthetics — or at least how the aesthetics were implemented.

The Blackwood first appeared as a concept in 1999. At the reveal, Ford’s styling chief at the time, J. Mays, said the “really interesting” part of the concept was the bed/trunk on which exterior panels were covered with 20 square feet of black African wenge wood panels separated by 4 mm wide brushed aluminum trim strips. That black wood was the source of the Blackwood’s name. While the brushed aluminum made it to production, the wenge wood veneer was replaced with a “photo laminate” film. It’s not the worst fake wood ever used in the auto industry — but with a sticker price of $52,000 (about $69,000 in 2015 dollars), some thought it looked cheap.

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The interior was more or less shared with the Navigator, with the addition of wenge wood accents. Two bucket seats replaced the rear bench seat found in F-150 crew cab trucks, further reducing practicality.

The Blackwood only came in black, like the Model T did for many years, and the only option was the addition of a navigation system.

Another factor affecting sales was that the Blackwood arrived late to dealers. Supplier Magna Steyr had trouble making the cargo box.

 

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Pay no attention to the reflection of the fat man with a camera.

That the Blackwood went on sale just weeks after the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, when there was much uncertainty, probably affected sales of the Blackwood. It’s about as superfluous a vehicle as has ever been sold and, in any case, consumers were not exactly in a buying mood with NYC still smoldering. If you remember, to help get car sales moving again, General Motors offered a 0% financing plan called “Keep America Rolling”.

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Production of the Lincoln Blackwood ended in December 2002. In 2005, Ford took another swing at the general concept and introduced the Lincoln Mark LT as a 2006 model. Essentially a badge-engineered F-150, this time Ford gave the Lincoln an actual bed and tailgate and optional four-wheel drive. Unlike the Blackwood, buyers could also order the options and colors they wanted. It was more successful than the Blackwood, hitting that 10,000 unit mark the first year — even outselling the Escalade EXT. The EXT, however, would gain on the Mark LT and, in 2008, the Mark LT was discontinued in the U.S. market and replaced in FoMoCo’s production planning by the aforementioned Platinum trim line for the F-150.

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So maybe the problem with Lincoln pickup trucks is the Lincoln brand. Maybe Ford can’t sell Lincoln pickups — at least in this country.

In Mexico, the notion of a Lincoln pickup first caught on with the Blackwood, which continued on sale in that country into 2003. The F-150 got its twelfth generation in 2009 and there weren’t plans to make a second-generation Mark LT. That is until Mexican dealers reported that the original Mark LT was the best-selling Lincoln in Mexico. As a result, the Mexican market got an all-new Mark LT for the 2010 model year. That market specific model stayed in production until 2014.

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As you may know, the 2015 model year saw the F-150 move to an all-aluminum body. With relatively limited sales in only one market, the cost associated with making an aluminum Mark LT means it’s not going to happen. Actually, it wasn’t going to happen in any case because of the success of the F-150 Platinum. That probably has a larger profit margin than a new Mark LT would have anyhow.

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Now I don’t know about the Mark LT, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that the Blackwood will be collectible. The single model year will guarantee that. The fact that it is equipped as a luxury vehicle will also help. At the Ford Product Development Center Employee’s Car Show this past summer, there were two Blackwoods. There was also a Mark LT of some sort in the PDC parking lot wearing manufacturer’s license plates — and a Blue Oval on the tailgate covered up with tape.

The full photo gallery of the Lincoln Blackwood can be seen here.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, a

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50 Comments on “Ford Can Sell Expensive Pickups As Long as They Aren’t Lincolns (Except in Mexico) – the Blackwood and Mark LT...”


  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Those pinstripes give it gay butler ass! It’s like watching the Beeb.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I had a guy redo my shower and he used his Mark LT as his work truck. When I asked him about it he said he’d basically inherited it so why not use it? At first I thought it was destroying the value of the truck, but then I started thinking about it and really using it as a truck is actually restoring it’s value AS a truck. I bet he’s the most comfortable guy driving to job sites.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    The irony is that since all Blackwoods were painted black, it is difficult to tell at any sort of distance that their was vinyl wood on the sides of the bed.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I’m the kind of guy who wants a cheap one just so I can paint it white.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        True/False – rarest Blackwood was the special P. Diddy Edition?

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          False, the P Diddy Lincoln line was for Navis.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Ah ha! I always have remembered that incorrectly, then. I have this image in my mind of him signing the back of a Blackwood or something. My mind goes sarcastically, “Is it racist?”

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            This article explains he was being driven in a Navi while evading police in 1999. I can’t remember if it was as simple as he was carrying without a permit or if he killed someone and it was hushed up, but evidently he felt an affinity for the Lincoln model afterward.

            http://money.cnn.com/2003/06/13/news/companies/pdiddy_lincoln/

            “My mind goes sarcastically, “Is it racist?””

            Just f those thoughts and the statist c***rags who put those thoughts there in the first place.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I think he was w/o permit and threw it out the window or something. I remember when that happened, and recall it was around the time he was also dating Jennifer Lopez.

            The thought is sarcastic, and not serious – because I know it’s what some PC sheeple would think to ask in the situation. Not I. :)

  • avatar
    IAhawkeye

    It’s no wonder the Blackwood wasn’t a success, That bed is just plain repulsive. Both in function and looks. Add that to the high price, single color, and no 4wd option(which is huge around here at least) and it was pretty much DOA.

    We actually have a few Mark LT’s running around in my area, I actually kinda like them. They don’t really make sense anymore with all the various high level trims of F-150’s. But for what you got, they weren’t terrible deals.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      The Mark LT I see consistently in my area is owned by a salesman at the local Ford store. The kind of guy who has been working for the same dealership for 30 plus years and spends more time on the golf course than at the dealership.

      • 0 avatar
        IAhawkeye

        So it lives the life of many trucks.. one of the ones in my hometown is like that. The other, crazy enough actually seems to get used for pretty hard work. The guys always pulling something and his truck is always filthy with mud, the guy must like to be comfortable for work, I guess.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      “and no 4wd option(which is huge around here at least) and it was pretty much DOA.”

      That’s what I was thinking. In MN no one runs FS 2WD trucks. Ford had to realize how many new PUs & SUVs they were selling at the time w/4WD. It would be interesting to know the mindset behind deciding to offer it in 2WD only.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Same here in Maine. The local Lincoln/Mercury store had one of these in the showroom for YEARS. As in at least 3-4, maybe more. Absolutely unsaleable. Might well still be there if Mercury hadn’t died and the Lincoln store moved across the street to the Ford store. It disappeared then. Probably in the owner’s warehoused collection of oddballs.

        I don’t believe I have ever seen a Mark LT with my own eyes.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    A luxury or prestige vehicle should be designed from the ground up to fit into what the the suggests.

    A luxury vehicle isn’t just some trashy, pimped up product like this wanna be pickup. Even a sports car is designed from the ground up to be a sports car.

    This Lincoln pickup never gained traction because it’s sh!t.

    This day and age manufacturers are using the term luxury or prestige to value add to a basic sh!tter vehicle.

    Prestige and luxury should give a sense of quality and exclusiveness. This pickup fails. It’s exclusivity has been self generated due to poor execution.

    This can never be in the same league as a Denali.

    As pickups become more and more a car/SUV alternative you will see better performance and dynamics from the vehicles. Look at what refinement has done for FCAs Ram 1500 or better still the Colorado/Canyon. Just adding bling to a vehicle doesn’t denote prestige or luxury. If that was the case heavily blinged Chinese vehicles would rule the roads.

    The more refinement a vehicle offers the easier it is to market as a prestige or luxury product.

    • 0 avatar

      “A luxury vehicle isn’t just some trashy, pimped up product like this wanna be pickup. Even a sports car is designed from the ground up to be a sports car.”

      So how does that explain the Escalade?

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Anytime the BAFO’s offended, Ford should build it. It’s just a trim level with Lincoln badges anyway, and the next logical step up from Platinums and Limiteds. It has to be done.

      It doesn’t matter if it’s not a big seller. But all it needs is a specific group of followers. Like how the real estate crowd really goes for the Navigator and Escalade. Ballers or Hip Hop artists perhaps. A $90,000 price tag, and instant clout.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      “This can never be in the same league as a Denali.”

      Do you live in a world where the Denali trim level GMCs are exclusive and not pimped-up?

      Because that world sounds interesting, but it ain’t the one I live in; here I see “Denali” on the side of a Yukon or Silverado and I think the same thing as “King Ranch”; “my, but that’s an expensive, pimped-up basically-the-same-as-the-XLT/LT”.

      If that brand perception is a real thing, their marketing missed me or the subculture is not mine.

    • 0 avatar
      jthorner

      “A luxury or prestige vehicle should be designed from the ground up to fit into what the the suggests.”
      .
      .
      .
      “This can never be in the same league as a Denali.”

      Say what? The GMC Yukon Denali is just a tarted up Suburban, which is itself just an enclosed cabin version of a Chevy 1500 pickup truck.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        jthorner,
        I totally agree. I have always called the Escalade a Silverado Station Wagon.

        I actually own a high end pickup, leather, auto everything from mirrors, wipers headlights, etc.

        But, it is still a pickup.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    The success of pickups is all bound up in masculinity. In some areas they (and their near relatives, BOF SUVs) are the only personal vehicles that are seen as suitable for a man to drive. And to satisfy those expectations pickups need to be functional. Luxury branding is not seen as functional, and then on top of that the Blackwood had a totally non-functional bed. By contrast Ford/Chevy/GMC/Ram brands are all seen as “tough” and “workhorse” whether or not any individual example had an owner that paid 25k to add $5k of gewgaws.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      You bring up a good point on masculinity which I have argued over the years. The pickup might be the only main stream automotive realm where raw masculinity is still permitted. Sure there are a few other models which scream ‘Murica depending on the trim, but most segments and models aim to be unisex or feminine in use and appearance.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      “The success of pickups is all bound up in masculinity.”

      That could be true where YOU live but not where I live. In my area, the people who choose to buy a pickup truck, or drive a pickup truck as their daily driver, are often women, ladies and girls.

      Haven’t you ever heard of cowgirls? Lost count of how many times the women in MY family drove my trucks as DDs.

      If there are any heifers to be had, it is usually back East. Most women of the West, Southwest and Southern California look pretty damn good.

      They don’t have to be lesbian to drive a pickup truck.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Nothing I said contradicts that women, who in general feel much freer to do stereotypically masculine things than the other way around, can drive pickup trucks pretty much anywhere.

        The question is, in your area, what portion of the *men* have something other than a pickup or BOF SUV as a daily driver? In a lot of places that number is low and getting lower. In big cities like the one I live in “crappy dented used Corolla” is always an option for everyone, but that’s not the case elsewhere.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          “The question is, in your area, what portion of the *men* have something other than a pickup or BOF SUV as a daily driver?”

          dal20402, the answer is “small”. Very small!

          The pickup truck is THE vehicle of choice, especially if the household can have only one vehicle. And many of the financially-challenged own only one vehicle, in many cases a pickup truck.

          Ironically, I scoot around in a 1989 Camry V6 for short-run errands, but I own two trucks as my prime vehicles, a 2011 Tundra 5.7 and a 2015 Sequoia 5.7.

          The little Camry is just a blast to drive and I liken it to my sportscar, not my DD.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            I know the feeling, having just picked up a pretty but high-mileage ’95 Legend and contrasting it with my ’08 LS460. The Legend was a luxury cruiser in its day but compared to the modern flagship it feels decidedly light on its feet and almost sporty.

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    I find it very interesting that you’ve shown the 2010+ Mexico-only Mark LT, not the 2006-08 version those of us north of the border would be more familiar with.

  • avatar
    tooloud10

    There are no $80k F150s from the Ford factory. You’d be hard pressed to pay $60k for one with every option. Not that that’s cheap, but it’s a far cry from $80k.

  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    FYI, the link to the “full photo gallery” set off my antivirus.

    • 0 avatar

      Not sure why. I pay Sucuri.net to keep the site clean of malware.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Probably not your site. Probably his antivirus and malware detector alerted to the possibility of a possible malware signature in the downloaded data.

        I’ve had similar false alarms with ZoneAlert, AVG and Windows Defender.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          highdesertcat,
          This article is also extremely slow for me to use.

          There is a delay when typing, I’m a sentence in front of my actual text.

          TTAC should look at how to protect it’s site. It has become worse.

          Maybe TTAC should invest money into cleaning up it’s software.

          Over the past 4-6 months the site has become almost inoperable for me. This is the only site like this.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    When I read that the Blackwood is going to be a collector’s item, I got all excited to make a fast buck.

    But when I googled “Black wood”, my browser filled up with something unexpected.

  • avatar
    motormouth

    I didn’t know the Blackwood tailgate was split like that. Apart from being a useless affectation (in a vehicle type which frowns upon useless), it must’ve added more than a few bucks to the build quote.

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