Rare Rides Icons: The Lincoln Mark Series Cars, Feeling Continental (Part XXVIII)

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

For our 28th entry in the Lincoln Mark series retrospective, we arrive at a momentous and sad occasion: the end of the traditional full-size Mark V. In 1979, fuel economy concerns of consumers and government meddling in the form of emissions standards were layered onto a car market that contained ever-increasing numbers of economical, reliable Japanese imports. Other Detroit automakers threw up the white flag by 1977 and introduced smaller full-sized cars, but Ford held on to the bitter end. And for its three-year run, the Mark V sold very well, both as Lincoln’s most prestigious car and a full-size holdout at a time when many Americans really didn’t want to buy a smaller car.

The Continental Mark V was a case of the right car at the right time. At the pinnacle of the personal luxury coupe era, the gingerbread-laden Mark V was appealing in all its guises, from skinflint Ace of Base to mid-pack Luxury Group, and on to top-tier Designer Series. Customers even snapped up the true top-tier Mark V via the Diamond Jubilee Edition of 1978 and Collector’s Series of 1979. All-in, the Mark V was the best-selling Continental Mark ever.

A total of 228,262 examples of the Mark V were sold over its three-year run. That's an impressive figure considering its close sibling the Mark IV managed only 278,599 sales over five model years. The best year for Mark IV sales was 1973, when 69,437 examples found homes across the country. The Mark V trounced this sales figure in each of its three years. 

The Mark V had its best sales year at introduction in 1977 when Lincoln sold 80,321 examples. Unfortunately, a breakdown by trim is not available for that year. Sales fell slightly in 1978, down to 72,602 cars. Of that figure, 16,537 were upscale Designer Series trims. 

Of the four Designer Series cars that year, the monochromatic Cartier was the most popular with 8,520 sales. Runner up was Bill Blass with 3,975 sales, its only non-nautical outing during Mark V. Close behind was the more restrained Pucci with 3,125 sales, but the vibrant Givenchy managed only 917. Lincoln raked in the profit margin cash with the invention of the Diamond Jubilee Edition and sold 5,159 examples of the blue and gold beauties that year. 

Consumers were aware that 1979 was a last-of-moment, and they snapped up more Mark Vs than they did in 1978. Sales increased to 75,939 cars, comprising an even greater number of high-end examples. The Diamond Jubilee Edition was rebranded as the Collectors’ Series, and the Designer Series cars continued with their reworked themes. Both were more popular than ever before. 

Though it changed little from the prior year, the Cartier Designer Series Mark V remained the most popular choice with 9,470 sales. With its return to a bold nautical theme in its outgoing year, the Bill Blass was again in second place, with 6,720 sales. The fates of the Givenchy and Pucci were reversed in 1979, as customers much preferred the newly restrained looks of the Givenchy. 

With a color scheme not far from the prior year’s Diamond Jubilee, Givenchy sales increased by 75 percent to 2,262 cars. What customers didn’t really like was the bold new turquoise theme of the Pucci, which managed just 763 sales in 1979. That makes the 1979 Pucci Mark V the rarest of the Designer Series Mark Vs. The $91,000 (adj.) Collector’s Series Mark was nearly as popular as the Bill Blass, and Lincoln sold 6,262 examples.

Though we’ve discussed the engineering and mechanical edits the Mark V debuted when it arrived as a heavy rework of the Mark IV, we haven’t covered the year-to-year edits and overall improvements Lincoln made to its flagship. One important new luxury feature that arrived with the Mark V was the Illuminated Entry System. Available as a standalone option or packaged with the moonroof, the system included 25 seconds of interior lighting upon entry or egress, as well as lighted exterior lock cylinders. On approach, the lighting was activated by pulling either exterior door handle. Worth noting, quickly Cadillac mimicked this setup as part of Twilight Sentinel and included lighted lock cylinders into the Nineties on its cars. 

Engineering improvements were implemented in 1978, as it turned out the emissions-strangled V8s needed better cooling. To that end, a larger radiator appeared, as did new heater core inlets and radiator hoses. Unfortunately for the base 400 cubic-inch (6.6L) engine, there was less to cool: The engine was detuned a bit to net better fuel economy. Buyers of the 460 (7.5L) V8 suffered no such detuning. 

For 1978 the often lighted door lock cylinders were updated, and so was the ignition lock. Both changes were to deter thieves from absconding with the desirable Mark V. Paint quality improved (in some colors) in 1978, as Lincoln added their newly-developed two-stage base and clear coat paint process to the Mark V and Continental. Developed for the Versailles, the paint process debuted with that car midway through 1977. Worth noting, two-stage paint was only available on metallic (Moondust) paint colors. 

The previous year’s detuning of the base 400 engine was in preparation for a bigger change in 1979: The discontinuation of the 460 V8. In the name of meeting new CAFE standards (enforced from 1978), the 400 became the only engine available in the Mark V of 1979. Dual exhaust disappeared from the options list, and all examples made do with just one outlet. 

There was a new standard stereo with a cassette player in 1979, and optional was a high-end electronic AM/FM stereo with a Quadrasonic 8-track player, as the latter form of media began its quick decline into irrelevance. Speaking of which, despite its sales, the huge 230-inch length and 400 cubic-inch engine of the Mark V meant it was irrelevant, too. The following year Ford would downsize all its full-size cars, with an all-new Mark and Continental. 

In a disastrous move for Lincoln, the company downsized the Mark into the Mark VI of 1980 and moved it to the smaller Panther platform. There were two-door and four-door Marks for some reason, and despite twice as many body styles Lincoln managed only half the number of sales. We’ll pick it up there next time. 

[Images: Ford]

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Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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  • Mike Mike on Jan 22, 2023

    Let's start by me saying I love gasoline powered cars and rather ride my bicycle than buy an electric car...but let's think about it...do you fill a swimming pool to rinse your face in the morning? open the valve on a fire hydrant wide open for 5 minutes to brush your teeth? that would be really wasteful and stupid wouldn't it? that's exactly what Detroit has done with a precious energy resource called crude oil for many years building these huge idiotic vehicles and now it's over...do you believe that global warming is why it's going to be electric only for cars/trucks in 10/15 years? nah government just doesn't want to alarm the herd of sheep..the earth will be dry of crude oil in the next decade or 2... period...all the middle eastern sheiks are seeing the wells dry up and saying they are running out of time all wells will be exhausted soon .. they've never seen anything like it...in 30 or 40 years there will be a museum that full grown men will go visit with their children and it will showcase vehicles like the huge Lincoln's Cadillac's expedition etc and it will showcase the stupidity and ignorance of man and how 10.000 years of a natural energy resource was squandered in less than 100 years and changed the climate to the point where the swiss Alps/Austria/north Italy doesn't even have snow anymore... ####Reply to comment###..last 30 years? thats the 90's buddy...funny how you skipped all the cars that looked like land yacht's with a huge V8 getting 5 mpg starting all the way back since Al Capone's crew would ride on the running boards with Tommy guns... what about the 40's...50's...60's...70's...80's...ya all guzzlers Einstein 😂 Lol..your so ignorant it's ridiculous..last 30 years...that's funny man.. your a funny guy.... we've been guzzling oil like no tomorrow FOR 100 YEARS....had Detroit been responsible instead of ignorant fools Elon musk would work at McDonald's and you wouldn't have to shoe horn your fat wife in a Chevy volt real soon...the middle east is running dry and that's all that matters because that's where you find sweet crude...easy on pipes valves distillation Collums hight yield minimal coke after processing.. everyone else has sour crude.The exact opposite..do you know what sweet crude is? think not..low sulfur content.. North America has sour crude...the middle east is almost dry and that's party over..nah I didn't read about it..I worked for Shell oil company for years..class is dismissed.

    • See 1 previous
    • Cprescott Cprescott on Jan 23, 2023

      Revisit your historical recollection - he have not squandered our natural resources in the last 100 years - over the past 30 or so years there was blabber about we had already hit peak oil. Just like the world would end over global cooling and when that was disproved, it went to global warming, and when that didn't hold water, the minions chickened out to promote global climate change without a hint of science to prove that WESTERN CULTURES were responsible for it. And the third world, China, and India have done more to pollute in the last decade than the West has done in the last forty years.

  • Mike Mike on Jan 23, 2023

    You obviously have NOT traveled much...I have personally traveled to most countries in Europe and Asia and they sell gasoline by the litre...4 liters to one gallon..each litre is about the cost of one gallon in the US...99% of everything on the street is micro cars/trucks/small displacement motorcycles..50/70 /100 mile to gallon vehicles...ya they get around just fine too...the only idiots driving around in a 10 passenger vehicle getting 8 miles to the gallon while driving in it with 1 person can be found right here...made in Detroit...and global warming was disproved? that's funny man..why don't you Google this...ski resorts closed in Switzerland due to no snow...then do further research as to the middle east wells are drying up😂 That's funny dude..do you even know why it really doesn't matter who still has crude after the middle east dries up? lol. I'm sure you don't... I'll share...the middle east has sweet crude it's very low in sulfur it's very easy on the refinery easy on pipes and distillation Collums..most of it refines...easy on the amount of coke product after refined..easy on pollutants when refined..most everyone else has sour crude THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF EVERYTHING I JUST EXPLAINED...it really doesn't matter who has crude left...when the middle east dries up it's over rover...nah I didn't read about this..I WORKED FOR SHELL OIL FOR YEARS... 😂

    • Jeff S Jeff S on Jan 23, 2023

      I don't believe we will run out of oil anytime soon but the question is how much are you willing to pay for it when the oil is harder and more expensive to drill for and how much global warming are you willing to live with. The sweet crude as you correctly stated is easy to refine and easier to drill for. The Middle East might eventually run out of oil but that will be long after most of us our gone but the question should be how much control do you want these Middle Eastern oil producing countries to have over us. Saudi Arabia is one of the largest holders of US Treasury bonds. It is much more complex than running out of oil and even global warming which is not to take away from the importance of those. Geopolitical politics and economics should be considered as well. As for these large cars they had their time in the sun and I enjoyed them but things change and nothing lasts forever. I do want them preserved as a part of history and I will pay to go to a car museum to see them along with other classic and antique cars but then I am a car enthusiast and love cars. Since this is The Truth About Cars and I assume most of the readers on this site are car enthusiasts I appreciate Corey's series and the memories that these cars brought to me. I also worked in the oil and gas industry for several years.

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  • Varezhka And why exactly was it that Tesla decided not to coat their stainless steel bodies, again? My old steel capped Volant skis still looks clean without a rust in sight thanks to that metal vapor coating. It's not exactly a new technology.
  • GIJOOOE “Sounds” about as exciting as driving a golf cart, fake gear shifts or not. I truly hope that Dodge and the other big American car makers pull their heads out of the electric clouds and continue to offer performance cars with big horsepower internal combustion engines that require some form of multi gear transmissions and high octane fuel, even if they have to make them in relatively small quantities and market them specifically to gearheads like me. I will resist the ev future for as long as I have breath in my lungs and an excellent credit score/big bank account. People like me, who have loved fast cars for as long as I can remember, need a car that has an engine that sounds properly pissed off when I hit the gas pedal and accelerate through the gears.
  • Kcflyer libs have been subsidizing college for decades. The predictable result is soaring cost of college and dramatic increases in useless degrees. Their solution? More subsidies of course. EV policy will follow the same failed logic. Because it's not like it's their money. Not saying the republicans are any better, they talk a good game but spend like drunken sailors to buy votes just like the libs. The sole function of the U.S. government is to take money from people who earn it and give it away to people who didn't.
  • CecilSaxon Sounds about as smart as VW's "SoundAktor"