Much to the delight of accountants at Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn, the new Thunderbird-based 1969 Lincoln Continental Mark III was an immediate sales success. It was a case of the right product (a personal luxury coupe) at the right time. The Mark III went head-to-head with its rival and closest competition, the Cadillac Eldorado.
And though the Eldorado nameplate had a long history and was better established than the Mark, Lincoln’s offering topped the Cadillac in sales in its first year. Part of that was down to an exceptionally long first model year that padded the figures, but credit also went to the excitement generated by the Mark. Mark III was all new in 1968 (for the ‘69 model year), while the front-drive E-body Eldorado had been on sale since 1967. Though a few updates happened within its debut model year (that ran from March 1968 to December 1969), product vice president Lee Iacocca knew his pet project needed additional updates to keep consumer interest going.
Over 14 installments, we’ve finally reached the conclusion of our coverage of Kia’s midsize and large sedans. The Korean manufacturer’s original offerings were borrowed from other companies, most often Mazda. It’s been a long journey, but we finish our tale today with a promising-looking front-drive sedan that’s off-limits to North America. You might never have heard of it.
In 1968, Lamborghini launched two new front-engine grand touring coupes at the same time. It was only the second time the company introduced two new models in the same model year. The two cars in question were the restrained and conservative Islero 2+2, and the larger more in-your-face Espada. While we covered Islero’s rapid demise previously in this series, the four-seat Espada had a much more successful life.
It was the realization of a large four-seat coupe from company founder Ferruccio Lamborghini, who’d wished for a car of said type since the company’s inception. The short-lived Islero turned into a last-of-moment for Lamborghini, as its sales flop proved the company with the raging bull logo was better served by more exciting, outlandish designs.
We covered Espada's styling in our previous entry. Penned by Marcelo Gandini at Bertone, the Espada was nearly a Xerox copy of the Jaguar Pirana concept, at 125 percent magnification. But its large size and generous interior space for four caused some new challenges for Lamborghini’s engineers; the road to the production Espada was not a smooth one.
Big change is in the air at Chrysler and company these days, as the rear-drive LX platform heads off into the sunset. With a longevity of two decades - far beyond the reach of the majority of current platforms - it seems fitting to eulogize the LX at this juncture. The end of the LX represents more than just the end of the rear-drive internal combustion vehicle at Chrysler.
It’s also the end of two gasoline-powered Dodge muscle cars, the Charger and Challenger (only the Charger returns as an EV). The LX is also the basis of the last two remaining full-size American sedans: Charger and 300C. In 2023 all the last LX-based vehicles will roll off the line, wearing their various gaudy special edition gingerbread. Before that time comes, we should consider all the cars that brought us to this point.
Today we return to the Powel Crosley Jr. story, in 1928. As an aftermarket car parts company owner, Crosley saw business diversification opportunities in the burgeoning field of home appliances. In his first foray, he took on established phonograph manufacturers with his value priced Amerinola.
Then as broadcast radio entered public consciousness in the early and mid-Twenties, Crosley began selling simple radios that didn’t require an outside power source. From there, the new Crosley Radio Corporation branched out into powered radios via the low-priced Pup.
Once again, Crosley took on established players like RCA by offering a comparable radio at a fraction of the price. But once customers had their radios in hand, Crosley ran into an issue: It was 1928 and there was nothing to listen to.
After its short-lived first generation outing as a rear-drive car from 1981 to 1984, the PU11 Maxima of 1985 adopted the front-engine, front-wheel drive format the Maxima kept permanently. But that wasn’t the only precedent set by the PU11, as Nissan decided to move forward with V6 engine configurations and leave the inline-six in the past.
The addition of the sporty SE trim with its monochromatic details, and fancy electronic options like a Sonar Suspension System were both indications of where Nissan was headed with the Maxima. It was a sportier and more interesting direction than its stiffest competition, the staid and conservative rear-drive Cressida. Sales showed what buyers preferred, as the Maxima outsold the Cressida many times over throughout the mid-Eighties. And at the end of the decade, Nissan gave customers more of what they wanted with the very first 4DSC, a four-door sports car.
Today we return to the groovy year of 1968 in our Lincoln Mark timeline. In March, the quickly and affordably developed Continental Mark III made its debut at the 12 Hours of Sebring in Florida. It generated plenty of buyer excitement overnight, and went on sale immediately. Based on the fifth generation Thunderbird, Lincoln’s most exciting car was once again a halo personal luxury coupe.
After almost a decade where Lincoln offered a small number of variations of the Continental sedan that debuted in 1961, the Mark III was something different. We covered its development and styling in our last entry, and now it’s time to step inside a world of gently tufted luxury.
Last time in our Kia large car saga, we learned much about the second-generation K9. Kia’s large, rear-drive luxury sedan wore K900 badging most places (including North America) but was also called Quoris on occasion. After a first generation that failed to capture the interest of global consumers, Kia went bigger and better for its second attempt.
The larger, more luxurious, and more refined K900 debuted in 2018 for the 2019 model year. It was as good a car as Kia could offer, a statement that was printed with an asterisk: From inception, any Kia flagship had to be lesser than its Genesis (nee Hyundai) sibling. Not as large, not as luxurious, not as showy, not as expensive, and without a long-wheelbase limousine. Let’s find out how it fared.
We return to our timeline of front-engine Lamborghini GT coupes, but take a step back in time. Our last entry left us at the conclusion of 1969 when the slow-selling Islero ground to a halt. Dealers had a difficult time shifting all 225 examples of the Islero, comprising 125 regular Isleros and 100 of the upgraded Islero S.
Ferruccio Lamborghini dictated the Islero’s restrained and elegant design to Mario Marazzi, after several concepts to replace the aged 400GT did not meet with the boss’s approval. What Lamborghini was really after was a four-seat grand tourer in the finest tradition of grace and pace. The Islero fit most of those qualifications, but was a 2+2 and (as mentioned) almost impossible to sell. Luckily, there was another front-engine Lamborghini GT that debuted at almost the same time as Islero in 1968. Say hello to Espada.
Powel Crosley Jr. entered a new and much more successful chapter of his life in 1916 when he founded the American Automobile Accessories Company (Americo) alongside Cooper Tire Company founder Ira J. Cooper. One of the earliest large-scale retailers of aftermarket car parts, Americo was a pioneer. The company sold parts made by other firms and manufactured its own parts. Many of the latter were invented by Crosley himself.
After just two years Crosley bought out Cooper’s share of the business and pulled in his younger brother Lewis as a new business partner. Despite not having an eye for the financial part of business, Powel was great at sales, advertising, and anticipating what the consumer wanted and needed most. And what they needed circa 1920 were home radios.
Rare Rides Icons has been embroiled in the Stutz story since February of this year. Through six months and 20 total installments, we’ve covered the entirety of the Stutz brand’s evolution. Stutz started with a win at the inaugural Indianapolis 500 and eventually morphed into a manufacturer of high-powered luxury cars. After the emphasis turned to safety and away from racing, Stutz lost its footing quickly and went extinct.
Decades later it was resurrected by a wealthy man with a background in banking. In 1970 the new Stutz Motor Car Company capitalized on a wave of gauche neoclassical styling that the well-heeled of Hollywood and the Middle East so lovingly embraced. From there the Stutz lineup grew larger, more ostentatious, and more ridiculous. For a time the company sold its wares almost exclusively to foreign regimes, the exported vehicles long lost to time.
We finish the series with the largest and most exclusive Stutz ever built. Massive in length, it was much larger than the Duplex, IV-Porte, Victoria, and indeed the Diplomatica. We close out the Stutz chapter of our lives with Royale and a very interesting recent announcement.
After its first few years as an 810, 910, Datsun by Nissan, Maxima by Datsun, Datsun/Nissan, and similar, the Maxima settled into its permanent home under Nissan branding. The well-equipped compact sedan sold over 198,000 copies in the United States between 1982 and 1984 (‘82 is the earliest year sales data is available) before an all-new Maxima arrived in 1985. With its second generation, Nissan veered off to distinguish the Maxima from its most direct competition, Toyota’s Cressida. Picture it, October 1984.
We return to the Lincoln Mark story at a very promising time for the personal luxury coupe. Aside from Ford’s floundering Thunderbird, several other new PLC models arrived in the late sixties. Every major Detroit automaker had one, and circa the turn of the Seventies even more would arrive!
Together, they formed three tiers of personal luxury, segmented by asking price. At the top was the long-standing Cadillac Eldorado, and in the middle were the Thunderbird, Buick Riviera, and Oldsmobile Toronado. They’d be joined in the Seventies by the likes of the Pontiac Grand Prix, Chrysler Cordoba, and Chevy Monte Carlo.
In 1965 Ford’s VP of passenger car product, Lee Iacocca, decided he’d make some use of the fifth-generation Thunderbird’s platform for a higher PLC purpose. With as much parts sharing and cost saving as possible, he’d create a luxurious new Mark that could take on the Eldorado. Ignoring the Marks III, IV, and V of the Fifties, the new Mark would start at III, and attempt to connect itself with the ultra-luxurious Continental Mark II of 1956. We begin today (oddly) with some endurance racing.
In our last installment of Kia’s large sedan history, we took a look at the second generation Cadenza. With its second salvo at the likes of the Toyota Avalon and the Buick Lacrosse, Kia planned to capture the near-luxury sedan customer who cared about value. Unfortunately, the Cadenza didn’t excel at anything in particular, and failed to stand out against more established competition.
A similar story played out a few years before when Kia introduced the first full-size rear-drive luxury car it ever designed in-house. Called the K9 (Quoris or K900 elsewhere), the large sedan shared a platform with the new rear-drive Hyundai Equus. Both sedans were the flagship offerings at their respective brands.
The Equus was flashy and almost American-inspired, while the K9 was conservative and understated. But it turned out a large and anonymous looking luxury car was not to the taste of most customers. Even in its home market, buyers vastly preferred the Equus and its large winged hood ornament. What was Kia to do?
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- Ajla GM didn't do this even when Corvette sales and cocaine use were at their peak.
- Dwford How many more wealthy performance car buyers does Chevy think they can drag into their showroom full of middle of the road crossovers? I guess they will find out
- SCE to AUX It's been done before, with varied success:Ford --> LincolnHyundai --> GenesisGM --> XLR (Cadillac), ELR (Cadillac)VW Touareg --> Porsche CayenneI suspect GM is trying to avoid the Mustang fiasco (which is working for Ford, BTW), by not making the Corvette name a sub-brand - only its hardware.(In the Mustang's case, YTD 46% of "Mustang" branded vehicles are the Mach-E, but they share no hardware. GM's plan is much different and less controversial.)Back to the sub-brand: the XLR and ELR experiments were total duds, borrowing hardware from the Corvette and Volt respectively. Both sullied Cadillac's name - not Chevy's.
- Art Vandelay I don’t care what they do with the brand. But I do want to see how a mid engined platform spawns a 4 door and a crossover
- Varezhka If they’re going to do this, might as well go all the way and make it a standalone brand instead of a Chevy sub-brand. They already have a unique emblem, after all. Shouldn’t there be enough empty former Hummer, Saab, or Cadillac dealer showrooms to house them?