QOTD: Terribly Aged Americans of the Nineties?

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
qotd terribly aged americans of the nineties

The past three Wednesday editions of our Question of the Day post centered around the most gracefully aged designs from everyone’s favorite decade: the Nineties. We discussed American vehicles, moved onto Euro rides, and most recently discussed Asia.

But what happens when we flip the question around, and think about designs that aged in the worst ways?

The structure of our submissions will be the same as before, with Three Simple Rules:

  1. All selections must be model years 1990 to 1999.
  2. Picks must be from a domestic manufacturer, even if sourced from an import (eg. Cadillac Catera).
  3. Any body style is eligible except for trucks.

Your author generally finds Nineties design pleasing in an A E S T H E T I C teal and graphic tape stripes sort of way, so thinking of a poorly-aged American ride wasn’t easy. Nevertheless, here’s one:

For 1993, Lincoln debuted the eighth (and final) generation of its Mark luxury coupe. The Mark VIII moved on from the boxy Eighties, ditching the legendary and outdated Fox platform. It was built on the rear-drive FN platform with the Thunderbird and Cougar at the now-defunct Wixom Assembly plant. Ford spent a long time developing the Mark VIII, starting its project in 1984. The first design was completed in 1988, and Ford planned a product launch in 1990.

However, by the late Eighties the luxury coupe game had changed considerably, and after seeing the competition from other manufacturers, the company ordered a complete redesign. This follow-up effort was presented to Ford brass at the end of 1988, and it didn’t go well — executives demanded another rework. Another mock-up design returned to the boardroom early in 1989, and remained under revision until mid-year.

Now, let’s take a break and watch John Davis talk about luxury:

The resulting design was slick and simple, with aero features suitable for the Nineties (the early Nineties). Ford kept its hands off the clay for… not very long. In 1996 the company implemented a design refresh for the ’97 model year, and created a bulbous monstrosity.

New HiD lamps were housed in big plastic blobs up front, and the rear light bar was swapped for an even larger neon lamp. Often, these later Marks came equipped with super pearlescent paint for extra Palm Beach Edition feels, plus chromed turbine wheels which looked current for exactly five months in 1997. Happily, the revamped design lasted only two years before the model’s cancellation. See ya!

Let’s hear about all those bad-looking Nineties designs you hate.

[Images: Ford, seller]

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3 of 162 comments
  • MartyToo MartyToo on May 26, 2019

    Especially true if the Northstar engine exploded like Polaris, the Northstar. Seriously, my friend ditched his Caddy when the engine block or the head cracked. It's so long ago that I forget which. POS engineering.

    • JohnTaurus JohnTaurus on May 26, 2019

      Funny how the Toyota 22RE does the same thing often, yet ITS THE GREATEST ENGINE ON EARTH according to many.

  • Gearhead77 Gearhead77 on Jun 02, 2019

    Count in for Mark VIII love and even the late cars. I'll admit that I'm biased, I owned a 95 Cougar with the 4.6 in this pearl white with the basketweave wheels and trunk mounted luggage rack. I have never seen another car just like it. The cockpit in the T-bird and Cougar was very driver focused as well. I even bought a "Spins Prohibited" placard out of Sportys pilot shop catalog and stuck it by the gear selector. My Cougar was my last "personal luxury coupe". It was no sports car, but it was a great cruiser. I've always wanted a Mark VII or Mark VIII, though I prefer the VII because it was a car of my youth. I actually like the style refresh on these post 97, but it looks better in dark colors, especially black. The side profile isn't as nice, you can really see the T-bird in the side profile and Ford's wheel choices did not age well. 290hp was pretty decent in 1997. My only experience with that motor is in the Continentals of the same time, which I think aged even less gracefully than Mark VIII did. But I remember that motor being strong and smooth, although the soundtrack wasn't as good as the Northstars in the Caddy. Corey said somewhere above that an Eldorado touring coupe from the same time has aged more gracefully in terms of style. I'd agree, but the Fords seemed to be better constructed. I remember sitting in an Eldorado ETC in its last year (2002?) at the auto show. I closed the long heavy door and it rattled the same way my 84 Eldorado did. It was around 45k and it just didn't seem worth it.

  • Denis Jeep have other cars?!?
  • Darren Mertz In 2000, after reading the glowing reviews from c/d in 1998, I decided that was the car for me (yep, it took me 2 years to make up my mind). I found a 1999 with 24k on the clock at a local Volvo dealership. I think the salesman was more impressed with it than I was. It was everything I had hoped for. Comfortable, stylish, roomy, refined, efficient, flexible, ... I can't think of more superlatives right now but there are likely more. I had that car until just last year at this time. A red light runner t-boned me and my partner who was in the passenger seat. The cops estimate the other driver hit us at about 50 mph - on a city street. My partner wasn't visibly injured (when the seat air bag went off it shoved him out of the way of the intruding car) but his hip was rather tweaked. My car, though, was gone. I cried like a baby when they towed it away. I ruminated for months trying to decide how to replace it. Luckily, we had my 1998 SAAB 9000 as a spare car to use. I decided early on that there would be no new car considered. I loathe touch screens. I'm also not a fan of climate control. Months went by. I decided to keep looking for another B5 Passat. As the author wrote, the B5.5 just looked 'over done'. October this past year I found my Cinderella slipper - an early 2001. Same silver color. Same black leather interior. Same 1.8T engine. Same 5 speed manual transmission. I was happier than a pig in sh!t. But a little sad also. I had replaced my baby. But life goes on. I drive it every day to work which takes me over some rather twisty freeway ramps. I love the light snarel as I charge up some steep hills on my way home. So, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Passat guy.
  • Paul Mezhir As awful as the styling was on these cars, they were beautifully assembled and extremely well finished for the day. The doors closed solidly, the ride was extremely quiet and the absence of squeaks and rattles was commendable. As for styling? Everything's beautiful in it's own way.....except for the VI coupe....it's proportions were just odd: the passenger compartment and wheelbase seemed to be way too short, especially compared to the VI sedan. Even the short-lived Town Coupe had much better proportions. None of the fox-body Lincolns could compare to the beautiful proportions of the Mark V.....it was the epitome of long, low, sleek and elegant. The proportions were just about perfect from every angle.
  • ToolGuy Silhouetting yourself on a ridge like that is an excellent way to get yourself shot ( Skylining)."Don't you know there's a special military operation on?"
  • ToolGuy When Farley says “like the Millennium Falcon” he means "fully updatable" and "constantly improving" -- it's right there in the Car and Driver article (and makes perfect sense).