By on December 19, 2018

Plenty of digital ink and hurt fingers and bums occurred over the past few days, after Lincoln announced its limited run of Coach Door Edition Continentals (don’t call the doors by their common lexicon name).

But I’m here today to ask you whether any of it matters.

I was there in the comments, calling out this 2019 and 2020 custom door exercise. But that’s not what we’re here to talk about today. No, the present question pertains to coachbuilding, and whether it has relevance in today’s broader automotive landscape. Allow me to explain.

Bespoke features and coachbuilding have long been a costly exercise, as Lincoln surely realized before creating this limited edition of the Continental. Customers will foot (at least some of) the bill, when they pay over $100,000 to alight from their Continental with grace and style like people in the Sixties. Maybe they’ll have a lit Lucky Strike in hand as well.

Whether or not you appreciate the particular long-wheelbase and door arrangement, or even the Continental more generally, Lincoln has done something different with this edition. They’ve offered a coachbuilt car at a much lower entry point than the norm. These limited edition cars are not altered by the factory. They’re shipped to the Washington D.C. suburb of Massachusetts, and modified by Cabot Coach Builders.

Modern manufacturers are willing to give you coachbuilt detailing like special doors, unique interior trim, or some crazy paint scheme. But the customer must be willing to pony up tens (or hundreds) of thousands atop the base price of an already expensive luxury vehicle. The Bentley or Rolls-Royce in question will cost $225,000 before any special accouterments are added. And to those very well-heeled customers, it’s worth it.

But is it worth it on the lower end? Aside from temporary Twitter titillation, do the Coach Door Editions have a purpose? As the well-educated B&B you all are, do you think there’s a demand for coachbuilt vehicles at a lower price point? Said customer might want something special, but is unable to spring for the ultra-luxury marques. Would other marques do well to emulate Lincoln’s example, and start offering modified versions of their standard vehicles? Or is this all just a waste of time? Off to you.

[Image: Lincoln Motor Company]

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42 Comments on “QOTD: Coachbuilding for the Relatively Regular Customer?...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Custom American luxury cars conjure up images of landau vinyl roofs and continental kits… Ugh, too soon, no thanks

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Well, even though none of the Coachbuilders of the past became automakers, it would appear that Coachbuilding as an art is making a comeback, first with the Presidential Limos over the decades, then Stretch Limos for Carriage services, and now this, for the well-heeled individuals who like to drive themselves.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    For me, no. Get the design right the first time, and none of this is necessary. As was said in the article, this Conti should have had the “coach” doors standard.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      Even if they wanted to do a long wheelbase like this and keep the normal short wheelbase it would make sense. I don’t know what making this version more rare than a R63. The average person will likely never see one in person outside an auto show. This would make a great livery vehicle, and might slowly get some normal sales, as executives who are picked up at the airport like what they are picked up in. Ford doesn’t have that type of long term vision though. If people don’t line up and buy millions in the first year, it’s not worth building for them.

      • 0 avatar
        Yankee

        Having worked for a limousine company in the past I was thinking the same thing. The demise of the panther platform Town Car left companies struggling to find an alternative, leading most to go to obnoxiously large SUVs to fill the void. A few companies went to German makes (Mercedes, Audi A8, etc.) and sorely regretted their decision due to the dreadful reliability and inability to service them themselves. Just not practical to have your fleet at the dealer getting a module reprogrammed every other week. A car like this (assuming reliability even 75% of what the old Town Cars were (many in the fleet had 300,000 miles) would be a far more elegant solution.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    For years we have been pontificating on this site that Cadillac and Lincoln need a ‘halo’ vehicle.

    Well in one swift swoop, without having to retool, and at very minimal cost, Lincoln now has one. $100k for a Lincoln and there will probably be a waiting list for these 80 vehicles.

    Time for a new Fleetwood to ride the coat tails of this marketing miracle?

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Interesting question, Arthur. If Lincoln sees a bump in sales from this, maybe Caddy should try it. But I suspect that won’t be the case.

      • 0 avatar
        01 Deville

        Agreed. As we reasons to suspect that Cadillac is preparing Escala (which is hopefully a properly executed and larger CT6) wouldn’t hurt to make Ciel out of it using similar order of magnitude volume.
        I would assume Escala ATP to be around 100k and I am sure Cadillac can find 100-200 buyers for $150k 4 door convertibles that stnads out from S-Class coupes and even lower end Bentleys.

  • avatar

    Why would anyone buy a sedan based on a platform headed for extinction.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Now, nobody should by any car at any time, since eventually, the platform will be out of production. That is such a red flag. Only buy cars that will be built in their current form for at least the next 70 years.

      Rest assured, being a Lincoln has NOTHING to do with this astute observation by our esteemed comrade here.

    • 0 avatar

      Why do you care about where platform is going? You have to be insane to even ask this kind of questions. Normal people buy a car and enjoy it.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Here’s another question: will Continental sales see a bump as a result of this “halo” car?

    If I were a betting man, I’d bet on “no.”

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Custom coachbuilding is still going on just not the way it did in the past.

    https://rockymountaintruckworks.com/

    That’s the kind of custom work that people want now, just as surely as moneyed set wanted custom bodies for their Duesenberg’s.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Excellent point. Some still pay for custom vehicles, they just arent cars anymore. It could almost give the impression that cars (vehicles other than light trucks) have fallen out of favor with the general population.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        …which makes the Conti coach door conversion pretty pointless. I’d have done it to a Navigator instead. Maybe call it a “Navigator Continental.” Why not? Lincoln’s a dead brand walking as far as sedans are concerned anyway.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    Because some people still prefer a sedan.

  • avatar

    According to the current lot of the B&B, if it isn’t a gender neutral, completely modular platform that doesn’t have an end production date, Japanese engineered and non union built, CUV that looks like a vagina, plug in hybrid with a diesel V8, small truck that is blocked by the chicken tax, the car I bought my grand daughter or daughter after college

    …then it isn’t worth building. If it fits into the above category, only allow a coach builder to retrofit it onto a Panther frame with a Buick V6 and paint it with the blood of Elon Musk’s first born.

  • avatar
    xflowgolf

    Even if they lose money selling these, it was a home run from a marketing perspective. I’ve seen this car discussed all over social media and front pages of major news networks. There hasn’t been that much ink (digital or otherwise) spilled over Lincoln in quite some time.

    Even if they end up losing some money on the sales, the marketing/halo effect was likely a win, without all the R&D cost of actually building a loss leader halo vehicle from scratch.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Agreed – this was a marketing hit.

      But if they’d done this to a Navigator, I think it’d have been a home run.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        The current Navigator is already a home run.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Grand slam, then.

          • 0 avatar
            Kita Ikki

            Navigator already has a long wheelbase model, and that model’s rear door has a nearly vertical trailing edge. Conversion to “coach door” is almost trivially easy. Maybe the internal side impact structure needs to be re-engineered, otherwise it’s a slam dunk.

          • 0 avatar
            Kita Ikki

            2020 Navigator “Continental Edition”
            Based on long wheelbase model
            LED “carriage light” on the B-pillar
            Rear-hinged rear doors
            Body colored C-pillar cover to recreate oval opera window
            Optional vinyl roof, full roof or landau.
            Covered, centrally mounted spare tire on the tail gate, with “CONTINENTAL” chrome letters in a half circle around the cover

  • avatar
    James2

    I’d love it if someone came up with “simple” bolt-on modules to fix the styling of certain Hondas and Toyotas. Not coachbuilding in the traditional sense, but something to spare my eyes. Imagine being able to dream up a different grille or bumper and having some mighty 3D printer churn it out in a few minutes.

    • 0 avatar
      Bimmer

      The current 3D printing technology allows to print metal parts up to 400×400 mm and plastic parts of up to 700×700 mm. And it takes hours, not minutes.

      Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qD1x_egMgZU

  • avatar
    RangerM

    Perhaps they don’t fit the ordinary definition of “coach built”, but I remember the convertible Dakotas, Eclipse (F-and-F era), and other special models that, while not expressly factory built, came with full factory warranties.

    The level of brand exposure given this very limited Continental has probably been worth the profit lost to produce them.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    Washington D.C. suburb of Massachusetts? Am I missing the joke?

    I’m curious about how Lincoln can sell this through dealers as a new car without having to crash test it in every conceivable way and prove that the airbags are still doing what they’re supposed to be doing. I’m sure they wouldn’t try a dubious legal argument instead of actual compliance like they did with their Turkish vans. Didn’t Rolls-Royce need a special dispensation just to sell suicide doors, let alone ones that weren’t on the car during type approval.

    • 0 avatar
      ghostwhowalksnz

      The large RR limousines , Phantom and Ghost only have suicide doors, so thats how it got crash approval- its not a variation. Even the 2 door Wraith has the rear hinged door.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        Suicide doors were illegal for years, and they may still be. Rolls-Royce got a special dispensation to allow them to include the feature on the Phantom, and conceivably other models since. Perhaps the rule is no longer on the books, but it was an issue when the Phantom came out.

        • 0 avatar
          TR4

          Can you cite this law?

          • 0 avatar
            ghostwhowalksnz

            Honda Element and Toyota FJ Cruiser had them as well. Dont think it was illegal as such.
            Seat belts and better door locks mean the door wont open
            wide and passengers fall out while moving.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            The Element and the FJ(and a bunch of pickup trucks) have suicide doors that can only be opened after the front door is opened.

            I can’t find evidence of a DOT law on suicide doors. I recall when the Phantom came out back in 2003 that there was some discussion about needing to create an interlocking system so they couldn’t be opened in motion. Perhaps it was an English law, or perhaps I am wrong about there being a law. I would think Ford would still need to crash test something that changes the vehicles dimension, construction and weight, if they’re going to sell the cars as new.

  • avatar
    Jagboi

    Coachbuilding by outside companies has been around for a long time, it makes sense as a way for a manufacturer to test a concept with low risk. Jaguar used Hess and Eisenhardt to make convertibles for the US market before making it a factory product.

    I think it was smart of Lincoln to do this, it got them a lot of attention for very little cost. Who knows, it might encourage more buyers to look at Lincoln who might not otherwise have done so.

  • avatar
    Kita Ikki

    Navigator already has a long wheelbase model, and that model’s rear door has a nearly vertical trailing edge. Conversion to “coach door” is almost trivially easy. Maybe the internal side impact structure needs to be re-engineered, otherwise it’s a slam dunk.

  • avatar
    Keith Tomas

    Another gimmick added on to a gimmicky luxury car based on an economy car platform. It’s interesting, but Lincoln would have done better to add a more sophisticated transmission (8 speeds or more) and a less frumpy design. The Conti is a decent car, but it’s a decent car awash in a sea of outstanding ones.

  • avatar
    ryanwm80

    To answer the question – yes, it’s worth it. When I saw this it blew me away, and it made me want one. I don’t need it, but I want it, and I think that’s what companies need to do, especially today. We see the decline in sales of passenger cars, and I think one of the reasons is that they’ve become so generic. Here’s a car that’s a standout, and the reaction from people is that the rear doors are a gimmick? That’s what makes cars fun. If cars didn’t have special features and were only built to be practical then there wouldn’t be anything to get excited about and it becomes difficult for the manufacturer to sell a car when their product is nearly identical to their competitors. As a consumer, I don’t care if the work is done on an assembly line or is sub-contracted out. I care about quality, craftsmanship, and there is value in having something exclusive – not just in price, but limited quantities. Thank you Lincoln, for daring to be different!


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