Rare Rides Icons: The Lincoln Mark Series Cars, Feeling Continental (Part XLV)
In our last Mark VIII installment we explored the continual styling setbacks Lincoln encountered during the development of the Mark VIII’s exterior. Initially slated for a 1990 model year release (one year after Thunderbird and Cougar), the Mark VIII required several rounds of styling revisions that meant its introduction was delayed to the ‘93 model year. Lincoln execs felt great concern when they saw previews of the new Nineties PLC competition, which led them to scrap the idea of a “newer Mark VII” look in favor of a totally different styling direction.
Similar to the stylistic leap forward that occurred when the baroque Mark VI became the blocky Mark VII, the Mark VIII eliminated almost all hard edges and went for a more organic, aerodynamic look. The formerly upright waterfall grille was leaned backward considerably, and shrunken from the almost Georgian facade of the Mark VII. Thin grille vanes were closer together and uniform in their distribution with a single thicker vane in the middle.
For the first time in the model’s long and illustrious history, there was no hood ornament above the grille. Nor was there any rectangular Mark badge to indicate its number. Both those features were replaced by a centrally-mounted Lincoln logo in the grille, with a red background. Atop the grille, a thick chrome strip ran the full width of the hood and formed the border of the headlamps and corner markers. The trim served to draw the front end into cohesion and added a sleek, Wide-Track look.
Wide rectangular headlamps flanked either side of the grille and transitioned into sharp corner markers. The following year, Chrysler would debut a fairly similar front end on the new full-size LHS. Underneath the striking lamps was a fully integrated bumper. Another first in the Mark’s design, there was no rectangular chrome shelf sticking out in front of the grille. The bumper was always finished in body color and contained a thin strip of chrome that wrapped around the front end and paused in the middle to accommodate the lower portion of the grille design.
The firsts continued as the extended wheelbase pushed wheels closer to the Mark VIII’s corners, and made for a more aggressive stance with much less overhang front and rear. Wheel wells went without chrome outlines for the first time on any Mark. In its efforts toward Ultra Smooth Styling, the Mark VIII lost its wheel arch bulges: The surface area around the arch was flush with the body. Underneath those smooth semicircles, tires wore a polished lace alloy design, and (in another first) there were no wheel covers on offer.
The smooth hood lacked a defined power bulge and flowed to a fender devoid of a firm character line. The upper character line was only a suggestion - part of the organic shape that made up the side profile of the Mark VIII. The Mark VII’s thick band of lower chrome was thinned, refined, and moved almost to the middle of the door. It was set into a body-colored door rub strip that ran from the front of the door to the rear wheel.
Above, heavy chrome dogleg door handles of the past were replaced by a body-colored design borrowed from the Taurus-based Continental that debuted in 1988. Similarly stripped of chrome was the door mirror, which hugged close to the A-pillar and was less square than on the Mark VII. The mirrors neatly matched the shape of the overall side glass, which was sportier than before.
A faster A-pillar and smaller door glass were paired with a B-pillar about the same size as the Mark VII, but a curved rear side window was much less formal than on Mark VII.
The C-pillar was also less formal, and much thinner on the Mark VIII. It went without any Lincoln badging and flowed down onto the rear fender and formed part of the surround for the very large rear window. Mark VIII’s organic shape meant there was no real place to put the expected vertical tail lamps, so lighting was horizontal instead.
Mimicking the general shape of the front lighting cluster, a full-width lighted heckblende spanned the back of the Mark VIII. Its top edge wore a thin chrome strip and sprouted a Lincoln logo right in the middle. Lamps were notable in how they wrapped around the rear and took up a large portion of the fender’s real estate in addition to the trunk lid.
Reduced to its most minimal design ever was the traditionalist Continental tire hump. Molded into the smooth lines of the rear deck, it was sort of out of place and was nowhere near the shape of an actual car tire like it was on the Mark VII. Similarly minimal was the rear’s chrome trim, which picked up after the rear wheel and wrapped around to the other side. Mark VIII’s bumper stuck out notably at the rear, and its size made for a high liftover into the trunk.
In contrast to the Mark VII, Mark VIII moved the license plate back into the bumper area. Roughly the same position it last occupied on the Mark VI, Mark VIII’s rear end was more cohesive and less cluttered than the Mark VII. It’s easy to think how the Mark VII’s design would have benefitted from a lower rear license plate location.
As the Mark VIII brushed aside most traditions for a futuristic look, its interior also looked to the future. Swooping angles replaced an upright conservative dash design, and the Mark VIII sported a driver-focused cockpit well beyond the design used in the Mark VII. We’ll pick it up there next time.
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