Lincoln Motor Company and Stockholm Syndrome

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

Much has been written about Stockholm Syndrome. It’s been critical to the plotlines of countless books, movies, and television shows: someone gets taken hostage and yet inexplicably sympathizes with and develops positive feelings towards their captor. I truly believe this thought process extends to inanimate objects as well. Case in point: a colleague of mine refuses to give up her Blackberry. My automotive equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome is Lincoln … ahem, excuse me … the Lincoln Motor Company.

To the delight of certain other TTAC contributors, my past is littered with examples of big Fords: five Crown Vics (including a wagon) and a Grand Marquis. I know, right? Most of these vehicles darkened my driveway for a maximum of six or seven months and were, without exception, terrible examples of the breed. The floor of my second Crown Vic was so rusty that the carpet eventually caught fire from resting on the exhaust and filled the cabin with apocalyptic amounts of dark smoke. My solution after I put out the flames? Cut off the exhaust. My neighbours hated me.

But back to Lincoln. It was the purchase of a 1989 Mark VII LSC in 2003 that brought me down the rabbit hole of inexplicable Lincoln fandom and cemented my own personal automotive Stockholm Syndrome. It, too, was a terrible example (sensing a trend here, folks?) with a suspicious twist to the front bumper and an interior that smelled like a Philip-Morris factory. I always admired the Mark VII. When one popped up for sale locally in those early days of eBay, I visited the owner with a bag of cash. It was all fives and tens, but still a bag of cash.

Fast forward to 2007. Married, with a newborn on the way, I still owned the Mark VII, enjoyed its presence and defended its occasional air ride induced psychosis. A five-speed manual Mazda6 hatchback served as our daily driver. By now, I was employed as a regional sales rep by Atlantic Canada’s largest telecom company and needed a second set of wheels so my pregnant wife wouldn’t be marooned at home while I peddled cell phones and Centrex systems to business customers. She refused to drive the Mark VII. She was (and remains) smarter than me.

This is where the Lincoln LS enters our story.

It appeared for sale at a Lincoln dealer just a couple of hours from our home. Three years old, 35,000 miles, clean interior … a fairly standard lease return. We trekked to the dealer, in a February snowstorm I might add, for a look-see. In typical Canadian fashion, negotiations were firm but polite and I was soon rolling in what was then a freshly discontinued member of the Ford family. I was happy with my purchase; still am. But, as Lincoln’s biggest cheerleader, I’m also its harshest critic.

The Lincoln LS was supposed to be the luxury division’s answer to BMW’s 5er and Merc’s E-Class at a price which rivaled German cars a class below. Developed jointly with the Jaguar S-Type (remember the Premier Automotive Group? I hope not), the DEW98 platform on which the cars were based, was a rigid chassis that featured independent double-wishbone (short-long arm) front and rear suspensions for excellent handling and ride quality.

Rather than take advantage of the chance to pivot towards buyers not heading to the early-bird special at the Golden Corral, Ford — then under the flinty and cost cutting eye of Jacques “The Knife” Nasser — sought to save money by sharing many parts between the LS and S-Type. The company provided each car with its own design team, where it spent most of its budget. This resulted in the Jaaaaaag being purchased by well-heeled American dentists and the LS being purchased by, um, well-heeled American dentists with an honorable sense of patriotism. Nevertheless, the LS was a well-intentioned effort.

Heck, a full two years before the origami-inspired Cadillac CTS showed up with its manual transmission, Lincoln sold — at the approximate rate of glacier progression, natch — its V6 LS with a five-speed manual. Remember, when the LS showed up in 2000, the sales staff at Lincoln were charged with selling the then-rapped-about Navigator, the stoic Town Car, and the milquetoast Continental. Not exactly a cohesive lineup. The Blackwood wouldn’t darken Lincoln showrooms until the following year.

Dynamically, when new, the LS was not bad. Through copious use of aluminum in the Lincoln’s body, engine, and suspension, Ford held the weight to a respectable number, managing to achieve a nearly 50/50 weight distribution. Locating the heavy battery and its cables in the trunk helps in this. (I’m of the opinion this battery relocation was borne out of necessity since there was simply no room for a battery under the hood.) A horsepower rating of 280 horsepower out of the optional V8 under that aluminium hood doesn’t sound like much today; not when today’s V6 Camry makes only twelve fewer. An electronic parking brake (appearing in 2003) and a dashboard mounted ignition key, items foreign to most domestic buyers in the early 2000s, lent Yurpean touches to the interior.

As was Ford’s North American myopia during the early to mid Aughts, its efforts were focused on high-margin trucks and SUVs, to which customers were flocking in droves. This is a familiar refrain. The lack of significant development over this Lincoln’s life of six model years caused sales to slide from over 51,000 in 2000 to under 9,000 six years later. Sadly, truck sales and their fat profits held the attention of purse-string holding execs so the LS was allowed to wither on the vine until it was put to sleep in 2006.

I’ve enjoyed my LS — despite its foibles and often exorbitant repair costs, the result of a bastard 3.9L V8 engine on which Ford stopped development and has since received little aftermarket support. With nearly a quarter of a million kilometers under its aluminium belt, the LS remains in our family. It’s currently parked at the end of my long gravel driveway and shared by my father and me, whoever happens to need an extra set of wheels at the time. Electrical gremlins and a relative lack of parts availability have conspired to scupper resale value, but they don’t all need to end up in the junkyard.

My father just bought an MKX and I recently spent several days driving a 2017 MKZ Hybrid press car, confounded by its rear styling but entranced by its ability to average 40 mpg over a week’s driving.

My Lincoln Stockholm Syndrome continues.

[Images: © 2016 Matthew Guy/The Truth About Cars]

Matthew Guy
Matthew Guy

Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.

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  • Kenwood Kenwood on Aug 02, 2016

    Is this the same engine and trans used in the retro Thunderbirds? What goes wrong with the 3.9? How bad is it? I dig those T-Birds and wouldn't mind getting one of those.

  • Middletuckybiker Middletuckybiker on Aug 03, 2016

    Have to comment on this article since I currently own two of these things: a Red '03 LS V8 Sport, which has a bad motor and is my current parts car source, and a Black '04 LSE V8, which was a limited-edition cosmetic trim level that was offered as a GEN I in '02 and as a GEN II in '04 and '05. They are quirky and sometimes temperamental, but I love how this car looks and drives. Since resale value is not strong with these, you get a lot of car for the money on the used market. Not as quick as my '13 Coyote 5.0 Mustang, but it handles much better, even with worn bushings. Picked the LSE up on Craigslist and drove to Indianapolis to purchase. For the price, no regrets - and not many people know what it is, as I've seen fewer LSE's on the road than other oddball vehicles I've owned, such as my old Mazdaspeed 6.

  • Lorenzo The unspoken killer is that batteries can't be repaired after a fender-bender and the cars are totaled by insurance companies. Very quickly, insurance premiums will be bigger than the the monthly payment, killing all sales. People will be snapping up all the clunkers Tim Healey can find.
  • Lorenzo Massachusetts - with the start/finish line at the tip of Cape Cod.
  • RHD Welcome to TTAH/K, also known as TTAUC (The truth about used cars). There is a hell of a lot of interesting auto news that does not make it to this website.
  • Jkross22 EV makers are hosed. How much bigger is the EV market right now than it already is? Tesla is holding all the cards... existing customer base, no dealers to contend with, largest EV fleet and the only one with a reliable (although more crowded) charging network when you're on the road. They're also the most agile with pricing. I have no idea what BMW, Audi, H/K and Merc are thinking and their sales reflect that. Tesla isn't for me, but I see the appeal. They are the EV for people who really just want a Tesla, which is most EV customers. Rivian and Polestar and Lucid are all in trouble. They'll likely have to be acquired to survive. They probably know it too.
  • Lorenzo The Renaissance Center was spearheaded by Henry Ford II to revitalize the Detroit waterfront. The round towers were a huge mistake, with inefficient floorplans. The space is largely unusable, and rental agents were having trouble renting it out.GM didn't know that, or do research, when they bought it. They just wanted to steal thunder from Ford by making it their new headquarters. Since they now own it, GM will need to tear down the "silver silos" as un-rentable, and take a financial bath.Somewhere, the ghost of Alfred P. Sloan is weeping.