Today marks the 20th installment of our coverage on the Lincoln Mark cars, and we’ve reached an exciting point in the model’s history. The brass at Lincoln noticed how the Mark IV’s sales were in decline (like all large PLCs of the time) as the Thunderbird-based boat headed toward its final year, 1976. To that end, Lincoln added excitement and luxury to its halo coupe via a new set of very special brand-themed options packages on ‘76 models. It’s time for the Designer Series.
When the Mark IV debuted in 1972, Lincoln’s personal luxury coupe was larger than ever before and had even more in common with its lesser sibling from Ford, the Thunderbird. As noted in our last installment, even the dashboards were identical between the two cars in this generation. The Mark IV’s debut appearance was short-lived, however, as the following year government legislation forced Lincoln’s designers and engineers to make some unfortunate-looking changes. Tell me, do you enjoy enormous bumpers?
Cadillac led the charge into new Seventies-ready personal luxury coupes with their ninth-generation Eldorado in 1971. The following year, Ford followed suit with the Lincoln Continental Mark IV. Bigger and, in theory, better than its predecessor, it was also lesser in terms of Mark-specific sheet metal and quality interior amenities than the Mark III. The exterior of the new Mark IV was very similar to the Thunderbird since it shared a platform and the majority of its body panels. And those similarities continued right on into the interior.
With its splashy debut and immediate sales success, Lincoln’s Continental Mark II I personal luxury coupe offered up immediate and serious competition to the more established Cadillac Eldorado, which previously had the market all to itself. With its unique styling different from other Continentals and a more upscale interior, the Mark typically won in comparison tests published by the automotive press of the day.
Lincoln was in a bad way at the turn of the Sixties, both financially and in terms of its product. The company lost hundreds of millions (adjusted) in the early and middle portion of the decade, when it invested in and then promptly canceled the Continental Division. Attempting a rebound, Lincoln dumped lots more cash into a new unibody platform that was exclusive to Lincoln models.
The new lineup was on sale from 1958 to 1960 and was unfortunately introduced at the start of a sharp economic recession. However, even after the recession ended Lincoln’s gaudy and overworked styling caused customers to steer clear of Lincoln and purchase Cadillacs instead. Lincoln lost $60 million ($550 million adj.) more.
1961 heralded the arrival of an all-Continental lineup, the Elwood Engel design that was instantly popular and saved the company. However, the new and streamlined (in all ways) Lincoln lineup spared no room for a Continental Mark series. The Mark slumbered until 1968.
We resume our Mark series coverage in the 1960 model year, which happened to be a last-of for several reasons. It was the last of the unibody Lincoln lineup that debuted in 1958, the Continental Mark line of models, and for Lincoln’s model naming scheme as a whole. We covered the visual edits in our last entry; a return to some of the garishness of 1958 that Elwood Engel tried to tone down in 1959. With the additional gingerbread hanging off of every possible surface of the Mark V Continentals for 1960, the lineup grew larger in every direction and heavier than ever before.
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