We’ve reached the end of the road for the Lincoln Mark series. Through 50 installments on these pages that span history back to 1939, the Lincoln Mark (née Continental Mark) met its end in June of 1998. To celebrate the occasion of the Mark’s demise, it was time for one last go at a very special version: the 1998 Collector’s Edition. A trim package like Lincoln created previously for the Mark V in 1979, Collector’s Edition introduced some luxury features that should have been standard on Mark VIII all along.
In our last Mark VIII installment, we reached the coupe’s final (and divisive) styling refresh that debuted for the 1997 model year. Arguably more bulbous, less cohesive, and with a trim design that highlighted the many instances where there was less than perfect build quality, the Mark VIII entered its final two years with a new look. There were some changes underneath the skin too, and even a couple of very special limited-run trims in a similar vein to the Diamond Anniversary package of 1996.
When the Mark VIII debuted for the 1993 model year with a daring and sleek new body and an interior to match, it was indicative of the forward-looking, modern direction of Lincoln’s personal luxury coupe. This new school of design was evident inside and out: No longer were there acres of velour, tall hood ornaments, and goofy color schemes created “by designers.” Instead focus was on a generous helping of luxury features, high-tech doo-dads, and a singular trim level. Sorry, Mr. Bill Blass.
Last week we examined the curvaceous organic exterior styling the new Mark VIII wore for its 1993 debut. As one of the early offerings from the Super Smooth Soap Bar School of Design that arrived in the Nineties (think Chrysler LHS, Lexus SC 400, Toyota Celica), the Mark VIII looked much different from the more conservative Mark VII. And it had an interior design aesthetic to match. Beware: Sweeping swaths of plastic lie ahead!
When the MN12 platform project was launched in 1984, Ford’s plan to take on European two-doors saw the standard Thunderbird and Cougar chassis lightly revised (via more aluminum) into the FN10. The FN10 was used exclusively in the Lincoln Mark VIII and also debuted an all-new sophisticated aluminum V8 engine. Unlike the Thunderbird and Cougar which shared body panels, the Mark VIII was deemed worthy of its own styling. The development of said styling was a long and bumpy road and led to a considerable delay in the Mark VIII’s launch.
Ford spent a lot of money and a lot of time on the development of the MN12 platform. An intentional move on the company’s part, the plan was to catch a more elevated customer than those persuaded by the Fox body trio: Ford Thunderbird, Mercury Cougar, and Lincoln Mark VII. In particular, BMW was on the mind of all domestic manufacturers in the Eighties as yuppies pursued status and Ultimate Driving Machine pleasure. Ford attempted to deliver the same experience for less money with its MN12 coupes and derivative FN10; a lightly reworked MN12 chassis used exclusively on the new Mark VIII.
We bid a sad farewell to the Mustang-adjacent Mark VII in our last installment. The first Continental Mark to adopt modern styling and disconnect itself from the Mark III of 1968 was also the last of its kind to wear a Continental badge. And as Lincoln sought to clarify its product lineup by separating the Continental sedan and allowing the Mark to stand on its own, the company also attempted to bring in a new, sportier customer. And that customer became the target at which the Mark VIII was aimed.
Here we are, the 40th installment in the Lincoln Mark series cars. After the debut of the exciting new Continental Mark VII in 1984 heralded the arrival of modern styling and a Luxury Sports Coupe (LSC) trim, Lincoln’s management made minor trim alterations in 1985 before Big Time Changes in 1986.
As we’ve learned in the prior two installments to this series, the Continental Mark VII was a new take on Lincoln’s halo PLC theme, inside and out. With a distinct move away from huge chrome bumpers, excessive trim, and bench-style seating for six, the Mark VII also wanted to move its trim designations beyond the leisure suit era that affected the prior two generations. The new trim hierarchy would end up the final time a Designer Series was available on a Mark.
After a review of the Lincoln Continental Mark VII’s completely revamped and modernized styling in our last entry, we’ll spend this today on its interior. As Lincoln attempted to draw a new, more youthful well-heeled customer base to the Mark, the PLC traditionalist of yore faded away. And said youthful customer - usually with an eye on European cars - was less interested in acres of faux wood panel, ruched velour, traditional instruments, and overstuffed button-tufted interiors.
As we learned in our last entry, the new for ‘84 Lincoln Continental Mark VII headed in a different direction than any of its PLC predecessors. It was smaller and lighter than even the downsized Mark VI that came before it and rode on the newer Fox platform shared by the Mustang, Thunderbird, Cougar, and indeed the Continental sedan. The Mark’s Eighties evolution was a necessary measure as European luxury competition came in hot, and the disco-traditionalist type PLC customer of the past was no more. Lincoln’s designers had a tall order in the earliest days of the Eighties: Maintain the Mark’s identity generally as a Lincoln and a luxury coupe, and move its looks beyond everything prior to 1984.
When Lincoln’s new Continental Mark VII arrived for the 1984 model year, the sleek new coupe offered immediate relief from the tired (and lousy) Panther platform Mark VI that languished at dealers between 1980 and 1983. The move to the Fox platform with the likes of the Thunderbird and Cougar was accompanied by a big step forward in drivability, technology, and general modernization for the Mark. Finally!
It didn’t take very long for the chilly reception of the downsized and Panther-based Mark VI to reach Ford HQ in Dearborn. Despite the seductive and elegant four-door Mark VI’s presence, sales were nowhere near those of the outgoing Mark V. Things continued on their downhill trend for the model’s four-year duration. It was time for an all-new take on the PLC from Lincoln.
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