Mark of Success: The Lincoln Continental Mark Series

This car, another of Lee Iacocca’s many product planning brainstorms, was one of Ford’s greatest successes in the late sixties and early seventies. A gaudy, overstuffed personal luxury car that critics aptly described as an overgrown Thunderbird, it was nonetheless a hugely profitable exercise and one of the most stylistically influential cars of its era. This week, we look at the origins and history of the 1969-1979 Lincoln Continental Mark III, Mark IV, and Mark V.

1970 Lincoln Mark III badge


The first Lincoln Continental was a customized version of the Lincoln Zephyr convertible, designed by Ford design chief Eugene T. (Bob) Gregorie and built in 1939 for the personal use of Ford president Edsel Ford, becoming a limited-production model in 1940. Although the Continental was mechanically undistinguished, its styling was widely acclaimed and is now considered a classic. (We remain unmoved by the Continental and consider the facelifted post-1942 models rather grotesque, but we recognize that we’re in the minority on both points.)

There were plans for an all-new postwar Lincoln Continental, but they fell victim to the Ford Motor Company’s financial predicament, so the Continental disappeared after 1948. However, in the early 1950s, Ford decided to try again, launching a new Continental division to produce a single high-end, ultra-luxury model. It was called simply Continental Mark II, suggesting a spiritual continuity with Edsel Ford’s original “Mark I” Continental.

The Mark II was extremely well made and quite tasteful for its era, but it was a commercial failure: In two model years, only about 3,000 cars were produced and the division lost money on each of them. The Continental division was shuttered in July 1956 and the Continental again fell under the auspices of Lincoln-Mercury.

The Mark II vanished at the end of the 1957 model year, but Lincoln applied the Continental name to the top series of the gargantuan 1958-1960 Lincolns. Unlike the Mark II, the new Continentals were much the same as lesser Lincoln models, distinguished mostly by trim and a unique reverse-slant roofline with a retractable rear window (later recycled by Mercury for its 1960s Breezeway sedans ). To create a sense of continuity with the entirely unrelated Mark II, Lincoln called the 1958 Continentals “Mark III,” the 1959s “Mark IV,” and the 1960s “Mark V.” Designer L. David Ash, expressing the view of many even within Ford, later dubbed them “phony Marks.”

These big Continentals sold better than the Mark II (mostly because they were almost 40% cheaper), but they still didn’t sell very well and were not particularly special. In 1961, Lincoln applied the Continental name — but not the “Mark” designation — to all its cars. The new Continentals‘ crisp styling earned them great critical acclaim, if not runaway sales success, and helped save the venerable Lincoln marque from cancellation.

1963 Lincoln Continental front 3q
The basic styling of the 1961 Lincoln Continental lasted through 1969 with only modest changes. The final sixties Continentals were somewhat bigger than the ’61, but shared the same body shell.


While the 1961 and later Lincoln Continentals were not the money-losers their predecessors were, they were still not as profitable as Lincoln-Mercury would have liked. Despite sharing some structural commonality with the Ford Thunderbird, which helped to reduce engineering costs, the Continental did not sell in large enough numbers to be a big money-maker; even in Lincoln’s best years, Cadillac outsold it by at least six to one.

Why? The Continental was a match for a contemporary Cadillac in most objective categories except trunk space and acceleration (neither a major priority for contemporary luxury car buyers) and the Lincoln’s styling was cleaner and arguably more tasteful. Cadillac had backed off from the excesses of 1959, but still had a space-age jukebox flair, where the Continental was understated and largely free of gimmicks.

If the goal of the Continental was to appeal to wealthy aesthetes, it succeeded, but its lack of ostentation did not necessarily appeal to the masses. As we noted in our article on the 1967-1970 Cadillac Eldorado, the success of Cadillac hinged on its popularity with working-class and middle-class customers, quite a few of whom would eagerly beg, borrow, or steal to get their hands on one. A buyer prepared to scrimp and scrounge for three or more years to put a symbol of prosperity and achievement in the driveway was not interested in understatement. The whole point of purchasing such a car was to win the approval and the envy of friends, neighbors, and coworkers. What good was it if nobody noticed? Chrysler had gone too far in the other direction with its early-sixties Imperials, which moved well past ostentatious into the realm of the grotesque, but we suspect that many Cadillac buyers simply found the Continental too bland.

Lincoln-Mercury did not help their case by offering only a limited selection of models and body styles. The four-door Continental convertible was a novelty in which few buyers were interested. While Cadillac offered an assortment of pillared or pillarless coupes and sedans, sometimes with a choice of different roof styles, Lincoln had only the four-door pillared sedan. It took Lincoln until 1966 to even add a two-door hardtop, consistently the era’s most popular body style. Lincoln seemed out of touch with the tastes of the actual luxury car market.


In the mid-sixties, Ford, like GM, maintained styling studios for each division, including both production studios and “preproduction” studios developing concepts for future models and a separate Advanced studio. For certain projects, Ford would stage competitions between multiple studios, commissioning several alternative designs from which senior management could select — the Ford Mustang was designed in this way in the summer of 1962. Lee Iacocca described this strategy as the chocolate and vanilla approach; it gave management more options and encouraged a healthy sense of competition among the stylists.

It was for this reason that in 1965, styling vice president Eugene Bordinat put stylist Dave Ash in charge of a new Special Development Studio, with Ken Spencer and Don Kopka as his executive stylists. Ash’s group was what Lee Iacocca dubbed the “strawberry studio,” offering a third alternative to compete with the existing groups.

By that time, Iacocca, riding high on the success of the Ford Mustang, had been promoted from vice president and general manager of Ford Division to group vice president in charge of the Car and Truck Group, responsible for all of Ford’s automotive divisions, including Lincoln-Mercury. Iacocca had an excellent sense of his buyers’ tastes and priorities and his commercial insights in this era were usually astute. He also had a strong grasp of the bottom line.

One of Iacocca’s early ideas was to give Lincoln-Mercury its own Thunderbird-style personal luxury model. There were several compelling rationales for doing so: For one, the four-seat Ford Thunderbird was already positioned firmly in Lincoln-Mercury territory in price and image, about halfway between the most expensive Mercury and the cheapest Continental. For another, Ford wanted to utilize more of the capacity of the Wixom, Michigan, factory where the Thunderbird was built, so as to spread out more of the plant’s overhead costs.

The task of designing such a model was assigned to Ash’s team in the summer of 1965, although Iacocca took a keen personal interest in the car’s development. Initially, the new car, which reached the full-size clay model stage by late 1965, was a cautious amalgamation of Lincoln and Mercury design cues applied to the Thunderbird ‘package.’ That was appropriate given its intended market position, but the general consensus was that the design lacked the sort of pizazz that had made the four-seat Thunderbird such a success.

Later that year, Ash got a late-night phone call from Lee Iacocca, then out of the country on business. Iacocca had had a late-night brainstorm: to jazz up the Lincoln-Mercury personal luxury concept by giving it an upright, formal grille reminiscent of Rolls-Royce and reviving the Continental Mark II’s distinctive rear deck treatment, with its spare tire hump.

Although Chrysler design chief Elwood Engel (a former Lincoln designer) had recently cribbed the faux Continental hump for the 1964 Imperial, both of these ideas ran contrary to the conventional wisdom of most contemporary stylists. Although there had been a revival of Continental spare tires in the fifties, that fad had largely faded by sixties. At least in the U.S., stand-up radiator shells were also considered archaic, an antiquated throwback to the days of hand cranks and wooden artillery wheels. Ash said later that if he had suggested any such thing without Iacocca’s imprimatur, Gene Bordinat would have flatly refused. Nonetheless, Ash liked the concept and said he and his team would get to work on it. In fact, Bordinat was not fond of the additions, but went along with them out of a reluctance to contradict his boss.

1970 Lincoln Mark III grille
Naturally, Lincoln-Mercury could not and did not simply copy the famous Rolls-Royce grille, but the Lincoln Continental Mark III’s mammoth grille, an elaborate and complex zinc die-casting plated with copper, nickel, and chrome, is imposing in its own right. Note that there is no hood ornament; Dave Ash says one was designed, but concerns about federal safety regulations led to its omission, although Lincoln-Mercury dealers did sell a few as paperweights!


The first clay models of the new car, completed in mid-October 1965, were provisionally dubbed “Launcelot,” apparently at Dave Ash’s suggestion. The Arthurian name was his second choice; Ash’s original suggestion, which Lincoln-Mercury had rejected, was “Merlin,” derived from MERcury-LINcoln and alluding not only to King Arthur’s legendary wizard advisor, but also to the highly successful Rolls-Royce Merlin engine that had powered some of the greatest military aircraft of World War II.

The initial clays did not include the upright grille or Continental decklid hump, but those features were incorporated into a subsequent full-size clay model, completed by mid-January 1966. Neither Gene Bordinat and Lincoln-Mercury general manager Paul Lorenz liked the results — nor did the participants in a Lincoln-Mercury consumer marketing clinic, who preferred the original clay — but Iacocca loved the look and overruled the division’s objections.

Fortunately for Iacocca, company chairman Henry Ford II liked the revised design even more than Iacocca did. When Henry viewed the mockup on March 24, his reaction was not only positive, but positively covetous. He gave an immediate green light for production.

1970 Lincoln Mark III front
The Lincoln Continental Mark III and its Mark IV and Mark V successors had concealed headlamps with “Continental” lettering on the left cover. As with other cars of this era, the covers were not very reliable, and were often disabled by owners. (The covers also snap open if the mechanism fails.) Note the bladed fenders of the Mark III, which gave a sense of styling continuity with the Continental sedans.


To keep the engineering budget to a minimum — $30 million, less than half what Ford had spent on the Mustang — the Launcelot would be mechanically based on the next-generation Ford Thunderbird, which was all-new for 1967. The new car would also be assembled in the same plant in Wixom, which remained an important financial consideration. The Launcelot would share the Thunderbird’s cowl, windshield, roof panel, inner door structure, door glass, and the inner trunk and rear fender structures, although Dave Ash and Gene Bordinat had eventually convinced Iacocca to authorize new outer panels for the doors.

Launcelot also shared the new Thunderbird’s perimeter frame. Up until that point, all the cars built at Wixom were unitized (including previous four-seat Thunderbirds and the 1961–69 Continental), but the 1967 Thunderbird had a separate frame, functioning as essentially a full-length subframe for the semi-unitized body shell. While the next-generation Thunderbird would be offered in both two- and four-door forms, the Launcelot would be available only as a two-door hardtop, albeit sharing the longer wheelbase of the Thunderbird four-door Landau (a suggestion from Lincoln-Mercury product planner Hal Siegel) to allow a bit more interior space and, more importantly, a hood of appropriately heroic length. (Regular readers might recall that Pontiac later used the same strategy to create the long-nosed 1969 Grand Prix.)

1970 Lincoln Mark III front 3q
The Lincoln Continental Mark III’s mammoth 460 cu. in. (7,536 cc) engine was powerful, but it had to contend with 4,900 lb (2,226 kg) of curb weight. The Mark III was a little slow off the line, but had strong mid-range power; 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) took around 9 seconds, but top speed was at least 125 mph (200 km/h). Fuel economy was predictably dire, averaging around 10 mpg (23.5 L/100 km).

Even with the longer wheelbase, the Launcelot’s interior space was unimpressive for the huge exterior dimensions, but its appointments — supervised by Damon Wood and Hermann Brunn, son of the famous coachbuilder — were suitably lavish. Occupants were insulated from the outside world by over 150 lb (68 kg) of sound deadener. The standard upholstery was a very slick tricot knit that Ford designers called “panty cloth” (also used by the Ford LTD) with real leather optional. To create a posh English men’s club feel, the cabin made heavy use of wood trim, although in typical American fashion, it was plastic, offered in either “English oak” or “East India rosewood” grains. A while after launch, the car also gained a rather ostentatious Cartier dashboard clock, marked with Roman numerals.

1970 Lincoln Mark III interior
While the 1969 Lincoln Continental Mark III offered an array of fake woodgrain, 1970 and 1971 models like this one substituted genuine walnut veneer. Hermann Brunn specified the wrinkles in the leather to give the upholstery a plusher look, which nearly gave Ford’s quality control teams — more accustomed to flat, seamless vinyl — a fit of apoplexy. The Mark III’s interior does look notably richer than that of the contemporary Eldorado, which feels comparatively Spartan.

Beneath the prodigious hood and upright faux radiator shell — a daunting piece of automotive architecture that cost Lincoln-Mercury about 10 times as much as an ordinary grille — was Ford’s largest engine. Part of the “385-series” V8 introduced on the Thunderbird in 1968, the new car’s engine was expanded from the T-Bird’s 429 cubic inches (7,027 cc) to 460 (7,536 cc). Although this was actually fractionally smaller than the 462 cu. in. (7,565 cc) M-E-L engine used by the big Lincoln Continental, the 460 was a much more modern design better suited to the new U.S. federal emissions standards. In initial form, the big engine was rated at 365 gross horsepower (272 kW) and an even 500 lb-ft (675 N-m) of torque).

The sheer size of the car caused considerable strife with Lincoln-Mercury engineers, leading to an unsuccessful attempt by Lincoln-Mercury chief engineer Bert Andren to trim 4 inches (102 mm) from the car’s prodigious front overhang in the interests of better weight distribution. Ash steadfastly refused to alter the design and Bordinat went over Andren’s head to ensure the design would go forward unmolested.

1970 Lincoln Mark III hump
Like the old Mark II, the Lincoln Continental Mark III featured a simulated Continental spare wheel, intended to evoke the “Continental kit” of the original 1939-1948 cars. Unlike the Mark II, the Mark III’s spare-wheel bulge is purely cosmetic; the spare is laid flat toward the back of the trunk.


As the new car’s development proceeded, its name became a pressing issue. Everyone accepted that “Launcelot” was a placeholder, but no one had yet offered an acceptable alternative. Since the car showed a clear design kinship with the Mark II, someone — most probably Iacocca, although some sources say Henry Ford II — suggested reviving the Continental Mark designation.

Logically, this would have made the new car the Mark VI, but as mentioned, no one at Ford had been especially fond of the 1958-60 Marks. In fact, they were sufficiently unpopular internally (and had been enough of a commercial failure) that barely a decade after their demise, it had apparently become acceptable for Ford executives to publicly criticize them. On the other hand, the commercial failure of the contemporary Cadillac Eldorado Brougham had not moved Cadillac to abandon the Eldorado name or dissuaded them from applying it to their new personal luxury coupe, launched in late 1966 as a 1967 model.

News of the new Cadillac Eldorado had a definite impact on Lincoln-Mercury’s plans for the Continental Mark III. Late in its development, the division (possibly prompted by Iacocca) decided that instead of being a Thunderbird rival positioned between Mercury and Lincoln, the new Mark would be a top-of-the-line model, Lincoln’s most expensive and prestigious offering and a direct rival to the front-wheel-drive Eldorado. The battle between the Eldorado Brougham and Mark II 10 years earlier had been inconclusive, so the imminent clash between the Mark III and the new FWD Eldo represented something of a rematch — a new front in the ongoing war of corporate egos.

1970 Lincoln Mark III side
The Lincoln Continental Mark III is 216.1 inches (5,489 mm) long on a 117.2-inch (2,977mm) wheelbase, about 9 inches (229 mm) longer overall than a Thunderbird four-door, but some 5 inches (127 mm) shorter than a regular Lincoln Continental sedan. The prominent flares around the wheelhouses help to stiffen the body, which was more rigid than the Thunderbird’s, despite the larger dimensions. Note the rear quarter windows; as with the contemporary Thunderbird, the rear panes side backward into the sail panels rather than retracting downward or swinging out.


Iacocca was fond of mid-year introductions, which, as the Mustang’s launch demonstrated, were an effective way for new models to stand out from the herd. Therefore, the Lincoln Continental Mark III bowed on April 5, 1968 as an early 1969 model. It arrived about 18 months after the Eldorado, which had already found an eager market.

The Continental Mark III’s starting price was $6,585, a mere $20 less than the Eldorado. That price tag included many standard amenities, including power steering, power brakes, and automatic transmission, but not air conditioning or a radio. With a full load of options — as most Marks were equipped — the price rose to around $9,500, enough to buy two well-equipped Mercury Cougars. The Mark III was still somewhat cheaper than the old Mark II and on an inflation-adjusted basis was about 30% less expensive.

With its extravagant styling and unexceptional engineering, the Continental Mark III was not the sort of car to appeal to enthusiasts. No one at Ford was concerned. Even before the Mark III’s introduction, the designers and engineers had noticed that the design provoked the same lust in working-class factory workers as it had in Henry Ford II. The Mark was in no way subtle, but it looked like money and buyers with money responded enthusiastically. The late introduction limited first-season sales to 7,770 (compared to 24,528 1968 Eldorados), but for the Mark’s first full-year, the tally rose to 23,088.

1970 Lincoln Mark III rear 3q
The Lincoln Continental Mark III is low, but with an overall height of 52.9 inches (1,344 mm), it’s not as low as it looks. Dave Ash’s team raised the rear deck — the “upper back panel” in Ford parlance (sometimes called the “Dutchman”) — by about 2 inches (51 mm) compared to the Thunderbird, visually lowering the car and giving the roof the cut-down look of a fifties Carson padded top. The vinyl top was a $136.85 option on 1969 models, but fewer than 100 cars were built without it, and it became standard in 1970.

While the Eldorado had done little to increase Cadillac’s total sales, the Continental Mark III boosted Lincoln’s business significantly. Lincoln sold only 39,134 Continentals in 1968 and 38,290 in 1969, so the Mark III accounted for more than half of Lincoln’s total volume. More importantly, it was an exceedingly profitable model. The Mark III’s 1968-69 sales grossed around $275 million, which enabled Lincoln to recoup the modest tooling and development costs very quickly. The Mark III also appears to have been far less costly to build than was the FWD Eldorado; Lincoln’s profit margin on each car was reportedly around $2,000.

1970 Lincoln Mark III rear
Unlike the 1961-1969 Continental sedans, which used leaf springs in– back, the Lincoln Continental Mark III (and the Thunderbird on which it was based) had a three-link rear suspension with coil springs and a Panhard rod for lateral location. The Continental adopted this system in 1970, along with body-on-frame construction similar to that of the Mark. All Mark IIIs had front disc/rear drum brakes, even with the optional Sure-Track system. Four-wheel discs became standard on the Continental Mark IV in 1976.
1970 Lincoln Mark III wheel
The 1969 Lincoln Continental Mark III used the same wheelcovers as the Continental sedan for cost reasons, but Bunkie Knudsen demanded that they be more distinctive, so later Marks got revised wheelcovers with a distinct octagonal center, like the one seen here, designed by Dave Ash and Art Querfeld and incorporating a octagonal shape inspired by the red hexagon wheel centers that Packard had used for many years. This car’s tires are authentic; in 1970, all Marks got standard Michelin X radial tires, still rare on American cars of this period.


In early 1968, Henry Ford II promoted Ford Motor Company president Arjay Miller to vice chairman, which left Ford in need of a new president. This was a particularly challenging decision for Henry Ford, who was reputedly angling for President Lyndon Johnson to give him an ambassadorship if Johnson was reelected that fall. Although Lee Iacocca clearly wanted the Ford presidency, Henry thought Iacocca too young and was already becoming somewhat wary of Iacocca’s ambition (a conflict that would eventually lead to Iacocca’s firing in 1978). Instead, Henry decided to look outside the company, setting his sights on GM executive Semon E. “Bunkie” Knudsen.

Bunkie Knudsen was a second-generation GM man. His father, William “Big Bill” Knudsen had worked for Henry Ford’s grandfather in the teens and early twenties and went on to become the president of General Motors. Bunkie, who joined GM in 1939, became a rising star in the fifties with a very successful career at Pontiac, followed by a stint as general manager of Chevrolet. Knudsen had looked like a strong candidate for the presidency of the corporation, but in the fall of 1967, the board selected Ed Cole instead. By February 1968, Henry Ford had lured Knudsen to Ford.

Like Lee Iacocca, Knudsen was an ambitious, energetic executive with considerable chutzpah and very strong ideas about product development. He and Iacocca clashed almost immediately and their battle of wills raged throughout Knudsen’s tenure, forcing other executives, designers, and engineers to choose sides. Many sensed that Bunkie’s Ford career would be short-lived and chose Iacocca.

When Knudsen arrived, Styling was considering proposals for a successor to the Lincoln Continental Mark III, to be called Continental Mark IV. During an unannounced visit to the styling studios in mid-1968, Knudsen took a fancy to a design proposal developed by Wes Dahlberg’s Advanced Styling studio (actually the work of Jim Arnold and Dean Beck) and immediately approved it as the production Mark IV. Gene Bordinat, who hadn’t liked Dahlberg’s design, tried to talk Knudsen out of it, but to no avail; Knudsen also resisted Bordinat’s subsequent attempts to alter the design. That may have been Knudsen’s prerogative, but it did not endear him to either Bordinat or Iacocca, who took a paternal interest in the Mark series. It was also a bold move considering Henry Ford’s well-known fondness for the Mark III; few executives would have had the brass to revamp the chairman’s favorite car without consulting him.

Bordinat continued lobbying for changes, so Knudsen grudgingly allowed him to create an alternative design. At Bordinat’s direction, stylist Ron Perry and Steve Sherer of Don DeLaRossa’s Corporate Projects Studio subsequently developed a new Mark IV clay that both DeLaRossa and Bordinat liked much better than the Dahlberg car. Bordinat, apparently hoping Knudsen would quit or be fired in the near future, took the daring step of ordering DeLaRossa to continue developing the Perry/Sherer design as a potential stopgap.

As Bordinat had predicted, Knudsen’s presidency was short, ending a little over 18 months after it began. It may not have helped that any dreams Henry Ford II might have had of an ambassadorial or cabinet post died after Lyndon Johnson announced that he would not run for reelection in 1968, but in any case, Knudsen’s tenure was both contentious and brief. Henry fired him in early September of 1969. After a brief interregnum, Lee Iacocca assumed the presidency in late 1970.

Knudsen’s departure did not happen soon enough to substitute Perry and Sherer’s design for the one by Arnold and Beck, which went into production in the fall of 1971 as a 1972 model. It maintained many of the styling cues of the Mark III, although the Mark IV was noticeably bigger. It continued the Continental Mark III’s fake spare-tire hump and upright grille while adding a new neo-classical element: round “opera windows” in the sail panels. (The windows, conceived by stylist Bill Boyer, were initially an $81.84 option, although few Marks went without them; they became standard in 1973.)

1972 Lincoln Mark IV front
The 1972 Lincoln Continental Mark IV still used the same 460 cu. in. (7,536 cc) engine as the Continental Mark III, although the big V8’s compression ratio was reduced to allow it to burn regular-grade gasoline, costing it between 15 and 20 horsepower (11-15 kW). Thanks to the adoption of more realistic SAE net ratings, the drop looked far more drastic than it was: the 460 was now rated at only 212 net horsepower (158 kW). The Mark IV was a bit slower than the 1971 Mark III, but the difference was not vast.

One now-ubiquitous item introduced on the Continental Mark IV was the moonroof, a sunroof with a glass panel that allowed it to do double duty as a skylight. Conceived by Heinz Prechter of the American Sunroof Corporation (ASC), the moonroof became a very expensive option on the Mark IV in 1973. The Mark and Thunderbird had also offered a steel sunroof since 1969, which remained available as an alternative.

The Mark IV was even more popular than the Mark III, selling nearly 50,000 units in 1972 and nearly 70,000 in 1973. Even in 1975, its worst year, the Mark IV sold 47,145 units, better than the Mark III in its best year. The Mark usually accounted for nearly half of Lincoln’s total sales and most of its profits.

1972 Lincoln Mark IV rear 3q
Even the 1972 Lincoln Continental Mark IV was bigger than its predecessor: 220.1 inches (5,591 mm) long on a 120.4-inch (3,058 mm) wheelbase. Curb weight was similar, still around 5,000 pounds (2,268 kg). As with the contemporary Cadillac Eldorado, the effort to retain the styling cues of the Mark’s predecessor with more curvaceous lines made it look rather bloated, although buyers were evidently not dissuaded. By 1974, its base price had soared to over $10,000, thanks mostly to increases in standard equipment.

After Knudsen’s departure, Gene Bordinat ordered Don DeLaRossa to supervise the design of the Mark IV’s replacement, the Lincoln Continental Mark V, which would be closely based on the 1969 Perry/Sherer proposal. Introduced in 1977, the Mark V’s dimensions were much the same as its predecessor’s, but it was about 300 lb (136 kg) lighter, thanks in part to a smaller standard engine. The Continental Mark V proved to be the most successful Mark of all, selling around 75,000 units a year during its three-year run — remarkable considering its eye-opening prices.

Popular as they were, the two-and-a-half-ton Marks were not compatible with the demands of Corporate Average Fuel Economy requirements, nor were their massive engines suitable for ever-increasing emissions standards. In 1980, Lincoln replaced the Continental Mark V with the downsized, Panther-platform Mark VI. Sales immediately dropped by half and never really recovered. The 1984 Mark VII was a decided improvement over the Mark VI (and its LSC version was the first Continental that could be called sporty with a straight face), but sold no better. By the time the sleek Continental Mark VIII arrived in 1993, the market for all personal luxury cars was evaporating; the Mark finally died in 1998. While Ford showed Mk 9 and Mark X concept cars in the early 2000s, there has been no move to revive the series.


The styling and concept of the Lincoln Continental Mark III were hugely influential both at Ford and elsewhere. By the early seventies, the Thunderbird, whose sales had slumped badly, became increasingly Mark-like. So did the Mercury Cougar and later the Ford Torino. Soon, Ford had a host of pseudo-Marks at various price points, as did most of its rivals. It’s fair to say that we have the Continental Mark III and Mark IV to thank for the upright grilles, opera windows, and other neoclassical gimmicks that blighted American automotive styling well into the 1980s. Don DeLaRossa, who followed Lee Iacocca to Chrysler in 1981, made no apologies for recycling Mark styling cues as late as the 1990-93 Y-body Chrysler Imperial.

1978 Lincoln Mark V front 3q
The Lincoln Continental Mark V was even bigger — a whopping 230.3 inches (5,850 mm) overall — and more expensive than ever, but had rather anemic performance; its standard 400 cu. in. (6,590 cc) engine had only 179 hp (134 kW) to move its nearly 4,800 pounds (2,175 kg) of heft. Nonetheless, it was by far the most popular Mark ever, selling 228,862 units in three model years.

We may even hold the Mark III responsible for the later obsession with retro styling. As Dave Ash remarked to Dave Crippen in 1985, prior to the Mark, few stylists were terribly interested in such old-fashioned-looking themes. The Mark demonstrated that there was a lucrative market for looking backward; it was eerily prescient of the overweening nostalgia that gripped American culture a few years later.

At the risk of sounding snobbish, we consider the Continental Mark III and its successors to be supremely vulgar. We mean that both in the sense of being tasteless — we know these cars have many fans, but frankly, the Mark series’ heavy-handed and self-conscious ostentation makes us want to avert our eyes — and also in the most literal sense of the word. “Vulgar,” after all, is derived from the Latin vulgus, which simply means “common people” or “the masses.” The Mark was too expensive to be a truly mass-market car, but there’s no question that it had a strong appeal to the man on the street.

1978 Lincoln Mark V rear 3q
This 1978 Lincoln Continental Mark V is a Cartier Edition. Lincoln began offering these “Designer Edition” models in 1976, bearing famous names like Pucci, Givenchy, and Bill Blass. Each had specific paint and trim combinations; the Cartier Edition had this “Light Champagne” scheme with matching landau top. These packages were quite expensive, costing between $1,800 and $2,000, but were very successful. The Cartier Edition was the most popular, accounting for around 8,500 units in 1978 and almost 9,500 in 1979.

The Continental Mark was perhaps the perfect car for the seventies. The giddy futurism of the fifties and the naive idealism of the sixties had collapsed by then, giving way to a queasy hangover of economic malaise, environmental anxiety, and political scandal. It’s little wonder that overstuffed personal luxury cars were so popular in that era. Americans often value symbols of success more than success itself and tend to see expressions of wealth as the highest of virtues — a tendency that becomes more pronounced when actual prosperity is hard to come by. The self-indulgent affectation of the Mark and its imitators was a palliative for the disillusionment and disaffection of Watergate, the energy crisis, Vietnam, and inflation.

It’s not difficult to see the connection between the Continental Mark and the SUV craze of 25 years later. The specific signifiers are different — brush bars and skid plates rather than opera windows, big rims instead of Continental decklid bulges — but the gaudy grilles, the needless bulk, the fuel-sucking engines, and the sheer look-at-me grandiosity are much the same. As they say, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.



Our sources on the development of the Continental Marks III, IV, and V included L. David Ash’s 1985 interview with Dave Crippen (David R. Crippen, “The Reminiscences of L. David Ash,” 25 January 1985, Automotive Design Oral History Project, The Benson Ford Research Center, Accession 1673, www.autolife.umd.umich. edu/ Design/Ash_interview.htm (transcript), accessed 30 July 2009); the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, “1972-1976 Lincoln Continental Mark IV,”, 9 October 2007, auto.howstuffworks. com/ 1972-1976-lincoln-continental-mark-iv.htm, accessed 1 August 2009, and Encyclopedia of American Cars: Over 65 Years of Automotive History (Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International, 1996); Automotive Mileposts, “1969-1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III,” “1972-1976 Lincoln Mark IV,” and “1977-1979 Lincoln Mark V,” automotivemileposts. com, accessed 31 July to 2 August 2009; “AUTOS: The Biggest Switch,” TIME 16 February 1968, www.time. com, accessed 13 May 2010; “AUTOS: Why Knudsen Was Fired,” TIME 19 September 1969, www.time. com, accessed 13 May 2010; Thomas E. Bonsall, The Lincoln Story: The Postwar Years (Stanford, CA: Stanford General Books/Stanford University Press, 2004); Jim Farrell, “Don DeLaRossa: Seeing It All,” Collectible Automobile Vol. 19, No. 6 (April 2003), pp. 68-77; Jim and Cheryl Farrell, “Continental Style: A Contest of Wills: Lincoln’s Mark IV,” Special Interest Autos #199 (February 2004), pp. 44-47, and “Mark III Magic: A behind-the-scenes look at designing the 1969 Continental Mark III,” Special Interest Autos #196 (August 2003), pp. 36-39; Jim and Cheryl Farrell, “Saving Grace: The Design Story of the 1961 Lincoln Continental,” Collectible Automobile Vol. 20, No. 2 (August 2003), pp. 28–41; David Halberstam, The Reckoning (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1986); Tim Howley, “A Mark of Distinction: 1969 Lincoln Continental Mark III,” Special Interest Autos #58 (July-August 1980), reprinted in The Hemmings Book of Lincolns: driveReports from Special Interest Autos magazine, ed. Terry Ehrich (Bennington, VT: Hemmings Motor News, 2002); Lee Iacocca, Iacocca: An Autobiography (New York: Bantam Books, 1984); Michael Lamm and Dave Holls, Century of Automotive Style: 100 Years of American Car Design (Stockton, CA: Lamm-Morada Publishing Co. Inc., 1997); Michael Lamm, “1961 Lincoln Continental,” Special Interest Autos #34 (May-June 1976), reprinted in Lincoln Continental 1961-1969 Performance Portfolio, ed. R.M. Clarke (Cobham, England: Brooklands Books Ltd., ca. 2000), pp. 130-136; Karl Ludvigsen, “Skid-free Stopping a Reality in ’69,” Motor Trend Vol. 20, No. 7 (July 1968), pp. 38–41, 76, 105; and “Thunderbird 4-Door: Ford’s Shapely Prestige-Maker Is also an Industry Pace-Setter,” Car Life February 1967, reprinted in Thunderbird Performance Portfolio 1964-1976, ed. R.M. Clarke (Cobham, England: Brooklands Books Ltd., ca. 2000), pp. 54-59.

We also consulted the following period road tests: “Rampant Nostalgia: The new Continental Mark III,” Road Test March 1968; “Continental Mark III: It’s Thunderbird size and owes little to the classic Lincolns and Continentals,” Car Life March 1968; Edward Eves, “Lincoln’s New Continental Mk. III,” Autocar 15 February 1968; Robert Irvin, “Continental Mark III” and Bill Sanders, “First Driving Report: Continental Mark III,” Motor Trend March 1968; Graham Robson, “Driving the Lincoln Continental Mark III: The latest American status symbol,” Autocar, 18 July 1968; Charles Fox, “Viewpoint: Lincon Continental Mark III,” Car and Driver August 1968; “Continental Mark III: Prestige & Luxury? Dream car of many less than perfect,” Road Test April 1970; “King of the Hill: Road testing the Lincoln Continental Mark III and Cadillac Eldorado,” Motor Trend July 1970; John Lamm, “King of the Hill: Eldo-Mark III Revisited,” Motor Trend July 1971; “Distinctive Styling and Boundless Luxury: The Continental Mark IV, A Brand New Ballgame,” Car Life December 1971; and John Lamm, “King of the Hill: Cadillac Eldorado vs. Lincoln Continental Mark IV,” Motor Trend July 1972, all of which are reprinted in Lincoln Cars: Lincoln Continental 1969-1976 (Brooklands Road Test Books), ed. R.M. Clarke (Cobham, England: Brooklands Books Ltd., ca. 1992).

Our inflation estimates were based on the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics Inflation Calculator, data.bls. gov/ cgi-bin/ Please note that the inflation figures cited in the text are approximate and are provided solely for general reference — this is an automotive history, not a treatise on the historical value of money, and nothing in this article should be taken as financial advice of any kind!


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  1. I recently saw a Mark V parked on the street, and while those pictures are very well taken, images and numbers alone cannot describe how huge these things are. Great work as usual!

  2. While the seventies cars had some pretty regrettable tie-ins with clothing designers, I’m curious what other collaborations might have been like. I’m especially intrigued with the idea of an Alexander Girard (designer of Braniff’s Flying Colors) edition of the Porsche 914. I’m still racking my brain for a car appropriate for Armani, though. What would Grace Jones drive?

    1. Grace would and did drive the Citroen CX Turbo.

  3. I recall being in a Lincoln-Mercury showroom several times in 1971-72; a friend of my parents’ (who had long been a Pontiac sales manager) had just taken over the L-M dealership. I noticed that all the sales literature for the then-new Continental Mark IV omitted the word “Lincoln,” which of course was also missing from the car itself. Was Ford perhaps trying to subtly resurrect the idea of Continental as a separate division?

    (Shortly thereafter our family owned a demonstrator ’72 Continental 4-door, with the antilock brakes and probably every other option then offered except the sunroof. What a great high-backed tuck-and-roll black leather rear seat that car had.)

    I wish one aspect of this story were clearer: The ’72-’76 Mark IV was clearly related to the Thunderbird of the same generation (same windows, etc.), whereas the much less costly ’77-’79 Thunderbird was based on the LTD II (formerly Torino) of the same period. Is it possible that the Mark V was a standalone among Ford cars?

    I like this site a lot – just discovered it today; someone linked to it within a comment on an entry at The Truth About Cars.

    1. The Mark V was based on the platform of the Mark IV, although it did part company with the 1977 T-Bird, as you say. I think that did indeed make it a stand-alone platform in ’77-’79, although not a bespoke one, if you see the distinction.

      The Continental name clearly still had an evocative ring for Ford in this period. Looking at how Ford applied it in the sixties, one gets the impression that they were tempted to phase out the Lincoln name entirely, although as far as I know, no one seriously discussed that. Iacocca definitely wanted to establish the Mark as something distinct and special, however, which they did pretty effectively.

    2. Actually, I may be mistaken. I found some indication that the Mark V was also on the LTD II platform, although presumably on a stretched version of the longer sedan chassis (118″, rather than 114″). It was not any smaller than before, but it was somewhat lighter, even accounting for making the 400 cu. in. engine standard, rather than the 460.

  4. The mid sized for chassis,used for the 72-up torino, mercury montego, LTDII and 77-9 thunderbird was pretty much a carbon copy of the chassis for all of the bigger fords, lincolns and mercurys.
    The only real differences were minor hardware pieces and wheelbases.

    1. Thanks for the information — I figured something like that, but I had no details.

  5. Hi, great article.

    However, I’d like to point out that the Mark VI is a Panther based car. It was released at the same time as the Panther based Town Car for 1980. It was just a coincidence that the Fox based T-Bird/Cougar were new for 1980.

    Vintage buff books and Panther car fans sites confirm this. The Mark VII was definitely a Fox based coupe.

    Tom M.

    1. Oops, you’re quite right. Fixed!

  6. The Panther platform Mark VI also had a sedan version, the only Mark sedan (unless you count the 1958 to 1960 models).

  7. The 1972 Torino/Cougar/Mark V was NOT a clone of the full size chassis. It was developed with a coil spring rear suspension called sta-bul by my late father, Klaus Arning. Any resemblence in purely co-incidental. Although it was not the suspension design he would become known for, it was the last production rear suspension design he did before becoming manager of Advanced Safety Car Design at Ford.

    1. Thanks for the clarification! I seem to recall reading that your father was also involved in developing the abortive independent rear suspension for the 1965 Mustang — is that right?

      1. Yes, he was. I rode in the prototype when I was a kid. The front suspension change was used on the Shelby GT 350.

        1. My understanding was that they came up with a fairly inexpensive bolt-in independent rear suspension, but that they found that the racers could get by with lowering the front A-arm pivots about an inch, raising the roll center, so the independent suspension was canceled. It’s too bad — it would have been an interesting option. (Although in all likelihood, it would have been rarely ordered and eventually canceled anyway…)

    2. I realize that I’m a little tardy on my comments on this auto review but what the heck; since when does anyone give a dam about what a writer like this has to say? I find it laughable that he uses terms like tacky and tasteless to describe these great pieces of American automotive history. Given that the author is entitled to his own opinion, shouldn’t that opinion by confined to something that he knows the first thing about? I didn’t see listed anywhere in the citations his design or marketing accomplishments. The Mark II and Mark III are beautiful cars. While the post ’71 successors were nothing more than boxes with motors, the II and III were unique statements of automotive luxury of their times. I only wish there was an American luxury offering today for sale that could compare.

  8. Hello! I am sure you know by now, I am surprise you did not get this right for such a thorough and articulate article, that the Continental “Kit”, trunk on the 1956 and 1957 Mark II is real and totally functional. Not a skin deep gimmicky detail as seen on so many newer models with the “bulged trunk”. Cheers!

    1. The word “fake” was perhaps an inopportune choice of words for the Mark II’s rear-deck hump, but I’m not sure I would go so far as to call it real or functional. It did contain the spare wheel, so in that sense, it was not simulated (as were the bulges on later Marks), but it wasn’t a ‘real’ Continental kit (which is an external spare wheel in some kind of decorative carrier). The spare wheel’s position also imposed some pretty significant compromises in trunk space and access, so its functionality was limited.

      Even though it contained the spare tire, it was certainly a styling gimmick. John Reinhart, who styled the Mark II, recognized that the prewar Continental had spawned many imitators. It certainly didn’t originate the “Continental kit,” but it definitely popularized it. It was a styling theme that was strongly associated with the Continental, but Reinhart didn’t want the Mark II to seem to be imitating the imitators — hence, the decklid bulge.

      I didn’t get into that here because it’s ultimately outside the scope of this article, but one of these days, I’ll do the Mark II itself, and talk about its styling in greater detail.

  9. You guys are assholes for your snide remarks about these cars – they are quintessentially American (for the era) and sold extremely strongly. Its you who who are vulgar.

    Also, Rolls Royce were far from the only company with a framed vertical grille.

    1. There’s any number of things that are supremely popular in their time that I find astonishingly tacky; the Marks III-V are on that list. The article clearly explains that they were very popular at the time, and you’re under no obligation to share my opinion of their aesthetics.

      Yes, Rolls-Royce hardly had a monopoly on vertical grilles, but both Lee Iacocca and Dave Ash have said the Rolls grille was the direct, conscious inspiration for the Mark III.

  10. I agree that the MarkIV and V were tacky and blocky looking, but I like the styling of the MarkIII. I think it was cleaner looking overall.

  11. While looking for a 70’s Cadillac last year I stumbled upon a 76 Mark IV. It was much cheaper and in better condition than the GM’s I had seen,even with 90,000 miles. I bought it on the spot and drove it home(200miles) without any problems. Remarkable I thought for a car that had been in storage for 20 years. It’s been love ever since with my leather couch on wheels. What a fantastic car! Driven gently it returns 14mpg city, 20mpg highway. Not bad considering how heavy the car is and the engine size. Gosh, how I miss the 70’s…

  12. I own three of these beautiful boats in great condition — and they always draw the impressed stares of young and old. Of course they are excessive, but that’s at the heart of the best car designs since the ’30s. The ’72 was the last year of the integrated bumper Mark IV, before the govt-mandated 5 mph bumpers added 6-inch bumpers to front and back. And it’s styling is classic, stylish and tasteful.

  13. Who ever said that these vehicles are tacky and blocky looking needs to go to Lenscrafters for an eye exam! I still have my parents ’76 Mark IV, all original. While people have called it a ‘Banana Boat’, they never reffered to it as tacky and blocky looking. It drives great on the highway, just like its floating. Just try and get something to last 36 years now a days! I am glad that I still have this piece of ‘AMERICANA’ While it is not a ‘cream puff’, it is in excellent condition and it gets all the looks like Mr. Luma just said!
    I thought this was a great article except for the tackyness, and blockyness, and I know that’s your opinion and I do not have to agree with it,,,,, And I don’t!!
    Now you see, I didn’t refer to anyone as an asshole to get my point across, oop’s, I sincerely apologize.

    An English speaking AMERICAN, and not a Hyphenated one either!!!

  14. I own a 1969 Lincoln Mark iii in Australia it has been converted to right hand drive I see teenagers here with mod cars like Nissan utes etc and they think they are hip lowered with a set of wheels until they see the Mark iii there jaws drop; rare here and these kids would not know they exist. These cars were the last of American extravagance before they all changed to Pick up trucks. All I know people spin out where ever I go have had screaming to people who just follow me to watch it.

  15. Citroen CX, of course!

    1. Now why didn’t I think of that – Grace Jones driving an Armani CX! But I’d want the CX to be first generation, not the ’80’s one shown in the ad. I just could never get on with those big plastic bumpers!

  16. I just received a 1972 Lincoln Mark 1V in excellent condition even though it did need a few minor repairs, non the less I’ve forgotten how beautiful these cars were and the time when American car manufacturers were leaders in their own right.
    Even though this car doesn’t exactly get choice gas mileage, its great to know that if it breaks down I can fix it, not like the plastic computerized junk they build today.
    This is a real car, built for real people who appreciates the time when America built good solid quality cars.
    I use my 93 Caravan during winter and I enjoy the summers more driving in class.

    1. I bought a 74 Mark IV on the very day you wrote this, New Years Eve 2011, and I totally agree!

  17. i currently own a ’78 Diamond Jubilee edition gold… and i find it funny when reading articles about these old cars of how bad they were or how good they were when they’re compared today. you have to remember when these cars were new no one knew any different of there was “better” they were “better” than say one of 1970! they were what they were.
    i think given a corvette of the same year with its lack luster 180hp 350 these big ol cars would run right along with them and the Mark’s were set up with quite an elaborate suspension for handling all the weight the worst thing i’ve found is the lack of a quick ration steering box.. if it would turn quicker it would handle curves quite nicely! i’ve replaced the front sway bar on mine and at 30mph it has very little body roll even at 60 for that matter but of course more than todays cars.

  18. what is the color of the wood grain above the glove compartment,and what kind of peel and stick wood is it called PLEASE HELP

    1. Depends on the year. On early Mark IIIs, there were two woodgrain options, depending on interior color: English Oak and East Indian Rosewood. I assume the applique was DI-NOC, but I don’t know; I also don’t have a list of which colors went with which grain. On 1970-71 Mark IIIs, the wood was walnut — it wasn’t an applique, but real wood veneer.

  19. Perhaps you missed the ads with the original Continental, the Mark I, II and the Mark III! Later in 1972 they did an advertisement with the I, II, III and IV.

    The following statement is utterly untrue:

    "Resuscitating the Mark name was an interesting decision. It’s a sign of the Mark II’s commercial failure that barely a decade after its demise, it was apparently acceptable for Ford executives to publicly criticize it."

    If anything Lincoln was distancing themselves from the 58-60 "Marks". The TRUE successor to Mark II was the 69 Mark III. That it was a commercial "failure" doesn’t mean it was a stylistic failure. If you want to put a spin on it, it was probably to honor Edsel Fords reputation, and continue THAT history.

    1. I agree, the 1969 Mark III was explicitly positioned as the successor to the Mark II; there’s no debate about that.

      However, whatever one thinks of the Mark II stylistically (I happen to like it a lot, although some people really did not, reportedly including Henry Ford II), it was a commercial flop and Ford executives of the late ’60s DID publicly criticize it: see for example the remarks of Gene Bordinat to [i]Motor Trend[/i]’s Robert Irvin in March 1968). Granted, those criticisms centered more on its price and marketing strategy than its concept, but the point remains.

      As the text notes, however, you could say the same about the earlier Eldorado and Eldorado Brougham, which didn’t make Cadillac drop the Eldorado name. Obviously, in both cases, the divisions decided that the name still had some equity, even if the earlier iterations hadn’t sold well.

  20. I bought my Fathers 76 Black diamond Mark IV in the early 80s. I understand production was limited. Can anyone tell me how many were produced? It is a great road car.

  21. Great article! Can you extend it to cover the Mark VII and VIII?
    The 7 was, like the Tbird turbo coupe, a sign of life and a way forward for Ford.

  22. I own two MK lll’s a 68 and a 70. They both need to be restored and I can’t wait to be cruising them in the California sun. My wife has a restored 68 LTD and a restored 1930 model A . Yeah we love our FORDS. I will probably need some help locating some parts so any info or input would be appreciated.

  23. The article states that the M-E-L 462 was used in the Mark II. Not true. The Mark II’s had the 368 Y-block. M-E-L 430s were used in ’58-65 Lincolns and the 462 did not debut until the ’66 Lincoln.

    1. Oops, you’re absolutely right. Fixed.

  24. Okay, so I’ve had 10 Lincolns (all but one of them variants of the 61-69 Elwood Engel design). The one exception was a 1979 Bill Blass Mark V I bought in 1995 with 86,000 miles on it. I have always thought that the 77-79 Marks were, like the Mark II before them, fine examples of styling restraint in an era of styling excess. Granted, both had their gimmicky qualities (the wrapped windshield and the filler pipe behind the taillight on the Mark II, the opera windows on the V), but overall they were both simply beautiful automobiles.

    The Mark V I had, however, had been in a pretty severe wreck at some point (and repaired quite professionally as well), but the frame was never quite right. As a result, the ride wasn’t as smooth as other examples of the car, and I ended up having to replace the U-joints every 7,500 miles or so. It also had a mystery leak above the windshield on the passenger side that defied discovery until, one day while driving to work, the fake convertible top became detached and flew into the air, before crashing to the pavement and shattering into about fifteen pieces. At that point I learned two things:

    1. The water leak was from a point on the roof where it had rusted out (at one of the attachment posts for the fake convertible top); this is what had caused the top to catch the wind at highway speeds and go AWOL.

    2. The guys who worked the assembly line were practical jokers, since I found on a metal panel that had been screwed over the opening for the opera windows, written in sealant, the words “Made in Japan”.

    I ended up donating the car to Goodwill in 1997 when gas started getting really expensive, the U-joints needed replacing (again!), and the vent window mechanism on the driver’s door just sort of … fell into the door, making it impossible to get the driver’s window up again without disassembling the entire door and replacing everything but the switch. I do miss it … the seats really were like a sofa (albeit one with a fairly radical recline angle), and I always found the Bill Blass edition to be a very striking example of that particular beast. I would love to get another one, and drop a modern 300 hp V-6 into it so that it would actually have a bit of scoot and be able to go more than 50 miles without needing to be filled up again.

    SIDE ANECDOTE: During one of the blizzards we were hit with in the winter of 1995-96, at one point the snow was so deep the car was completely buried in a drift, and the only way I was able to locate it was by the antenna sticking up through the snow. No point to the store, really …

  25. Having difficulty with determining difference in info re Mark VIII. Stats say 2nd generation or 3rd, but I have a 1977 Mark VIII. What’s the story? Bob

    1. Bob: I don’t think I understand your question — a 1977 Mark would be the Mark V, not the Mark VIII, in any case.

  26. I’ve looked over the article, no haven’t read it all ..When I see words like gaudy, ostentatious,, “look at me grandiosity”..I kinda get that the author isn’t a fan, or he doesn’t feel for this type of car. Commenting on the style of a car is like talking about a partners appearance..keep those comments to yourself,or you’ll get your head headed to you.

    When I look back at these cars from Mk11 to MkV ( the second version)..the Mk11 has quality in finishing and a quiet look .. I’m not certain the proportions still hold up like the Mk 1.. Much like the 67 Eldo ( no vinyl top) I love the feel of it but the rear overhang bothers my eye. The MK 111 is a handsome car though no match for the quality of a Mk11. Btw that Mk1V pic ( rear shot ) with black walls, a black painted hump? Really? That is one sad version to show off that style. Now that’s ugly! Couldn’t you find a prettier one..yikes!

    I’m probably alone liking 58,60 Continentals not for their quality ..or lack there of.. But the wow factor, how unusual they were.. And the colors , size, multi colored interiors.. What a period piece! Certainly of that era. Which is my point with the second version of the MKV.. This was handsome in its day.. They all had faux everything and were oversized and garnished to the max.. But that portion still looks okay to me even in its vastness.

    While I clearly will get heat for saying this but who cares.. When you go to a car show you want to be dazzled.. Like a 540k , or Duesie would be visually entertains and showy.. Who wants to see boring and simple? And who pays hefty dollars for materninly cars? Look at what brings the cash, 59 , 58 Eldos, 53 Skylarks,63 Sports Roadsters, and others..folks pay for gloss and sparkle.. So please don’t knock it.

    Now you have my two cents!

    1. The Mark IV was admittedly in sad shape, but it happened to the only Mark IV I’d seen in conscious memory at the time this was written. I could probably find something better at this point if I ever have a little time to poke at it.

      While it’s hard to avoid looking at any of these cars with modern eyes — particularly ones that were before my time — what I’m really trying to analyze is how they were perceived in their time rather than through the skewed lens of a modern auto show-goer. From the point of view of a curious spectator wandering around funky old cars on a hot summer day, I would certainly agree that the odder and more grandiose the better; people become jaded about Mustangs and Camaros, but will crowd around the once-maligned ’58 Edsel. However, most people don’t approach buying a new car the same way, and it’s really only folks at the outer ends of the bell curve that seriously contemplate getting a daily driver that screams, “HEY LOOKIT ME,” y’know?

      I make no secret of the fact that I am not a fan of most of the Marks from an aesthetic standpoint. The ’50s Mark II is probably closest to my taste, and it’s impressively executed, to be sure — it was a deliberate return to the kind of elaborate attention to detail that characterized the better prewar luxury cars. I’ve softened a little on the Mark III over the years, although I still find it aesthetically inferior to the 1967–68 Eldorado (the Mark III is preferable to the 1971 Eldorado, I’ll grant that), but it’s hard for me to look at the Mark IV and Mark V as anything other than ’70s kitsch. Obviously, plenty of people loved the look and laid out very serious money for these cars when they were new, but while they’re entitled to their preference, it’s not one that I share.

  27. I have to correct a comment I made.. The front over hang on the MKV is a ft too long! Moving the front wheels forward would have been a better statement of classic proportions ( short tail, long nose) . Someone mentioned it and the designer in me took a long look at it again. Much in the way the rear over hang bothers the in the 67 Eldo, that front over hang in the MKV is excessive.
    While the MK11 is pleasant overall with odd yet unique windshield shape and general quiet look, those protruding headlights still peek out too far for me. I grant you the interiors, door jambs, trunk detailing were nicely executed,but some style cues don’t stand the test of time.
    As for the aforementioned MKV, for the sculptured side detailing and shark gills were both of the time period (Corvette?) and a nod to the classic hood louvered of the 30’s. Overall a pleasing design on steroids, it still looks more appealing to me than the MK1V..
    On the 67 Eldo.. That is the only one that remains stylistically interesting to me. The other years were watered down in my opinion. R

  28. I just bought a 1975 Mark IV – the body is beautiful, just a bit of corrosion on the chrome, engine is a bit rough (that’s what happens when the dealer drives it around with only a litre of oil in it. Just needs a wee bit of reupholstering, and an over the winter 150 hp upgrade. Only 39,000 miles, and stored for 11 years. My wife loves the seats (but not opening and closing those massive doors), so that is half the battle. Everyone at work thinks it is really cool, and I’ve been getting polite honks on the road. Sadly, up here in Canada, it will be in the underground parking for the winter in a few days.

    It was great reading about the history of the car. Thanks very much, Aaron.

  29. I still have my 1969 Mark III. I took it for a drive last weekend. It is still a head turner.

  30. You can simply say at the end ” plus ça change, plus c’est pareil ”

  31. Regarding the caption on the image describing the Mark III grille, the statement “… an elaborate and complex die-casting plated with copper, zinc, and chrome” is incorrect. A more accurate description would be “… an elaborate and complex zinc die-casting plated with copper, nickle, and chrome”. The copper, nickle and chrome plating process is also referred to as “triple plated chrome”. In most cases, the zinc base is actually pot metal with a high zinc content.

    I used to work in chemical/electrical plating. You have built a great site, I thoroughly enjoy your writing style.

    1. Thanks, Doug! I made that clarification in the text. (I don’t know much about metallurgy, and occasionally it shows!)

  32. Yeah I had a few 73 mark iv it was quite a car. Surprisingly enough it handled curves quite well at high speeds on the highway. I put the overdrive transmission in it from 1986 Lincoln and it bolted right up. Don’t know if fuel economy increased but it wouldn’t go into overdrive until 115 and that’s when you could get your last relaxing smooth blast of speed. I currently am restoring a 77 she rides quite well but it has the 460 with upgrades. This one can’t go around a small curve at 40mph very sluggish with acceleration but given the true amount of torque and hp which is unknown a very comfortable vehicle to drive. You got to like these things to own one today. Brakes are upon par with 80’s technology brakes and some 90’s cars. Hydroboost works fine. Relax ride and enjoy. Maltese falcon (Lincoln Mark V)

    1. (I took the liberty of editing your comment slightly to fix what looked like an AutoCorrect error: I assume “overdrawn I’ve” was supposed to be “overdrive.”)

      1. Just a general comment. I think the Mark III was the best of the Mark’s, but the ’70 and ’71 were the best of the Mark III’s. The ’70 and 71’s exterior had some updates, the hidden windshield wipers, thicker Lincoln style exterior side mirror, the restyled wheel covers, and some other changes made the ’70 & ’71 much nicer than the 68 1/2 and 69’s and the interior was much nicer on the ’70 and ’71. And the hi-compression, non-emissions 460 that put out 365 hp and 500 lb ft of torque performed much better than the lower compression, emissions 460 of the Mark IV and Mark V. Although the ’72 Mark IV was the best looking of the of Mark IV’s with it’s smaller pre- impact bumpers.

        P.S. I know the early production Mark III’s that came out in early 1968 weren’t officially referred to as ’68 1/2’s, they were considered 1969’s, but I call them 68 1/2’s. There were some running differences between the early 69’s (manufactured in early 68) and the the later 69’s. The early 69’s manufactured in early ’68 didn’t have head restraints , the clock on the early 69’s manufactured in early 68 had Arabic numerals in the clock, the later 69’s had Roman numerals, and differences in the coloring of the lettering in the instrument panel, I can’t recall exactly.

        1. I’m of a mind that except in situations where it’s legally relevant (like registration or insurance), the “½” designation (like the early ’64½ Mustangs) is perfectly reasonable, since it DOES often indicate differences that are significant to restorers, technicians, and collectors. Obviously, state DMVs aren’t going to care about clock numerals and the like, but for owners, it does matter.

  33. I have a 79 Mark V for over 37 years and it still gets people’s interest when I drive it in the summer. It has style and body lines that today’s aerodynamic cars just don’t have.

  34. Great piece of historical information. Still lovn my 71 Mark III.

    Thank you

  35. I believe that’s an octagon in the center of the wheelcover, not a hexagon.

    I could never get over the fender gills on the V or the odd A pillars of the IV–or the ridiculous front overhang on either. The III was a model of restraint in comparison.

    The ’71 Eldorado had a retro rear half (mid 50s) with the first modern opera window (standard), but it was such a come down from the striking ’67-70 that its impact was less than the IV’s.

    1. Ack, yes, that is indeed an octagon! I’ve corrected the text.

      I agree about the Eldorado. The ’67–’70 Eldorado is such a sharp design — really the quintessence of Cadillac style, in my estimation — that it would have been a hard act to follow in any event.

    2. I laughed when I saw the wheelcover picture. The new long-hood Grand Prix had just started aping Duesenberg with their Type S and SJ, but I’m pretty sure Duesenbergs have octaganal hubs.

      I imediately assumed the new cover was a subtle yet satisfying dig on GM.

      Guess it’s the kind of thing that crosses your mind when you’ve read this site a lot ;)

  36. According to this site, the ’72 Eldorado had an optional landau (cabriolet) roof with opera window (I believe the first), which became a greater and more widespread sin against good taste than the Continental grille or hump. They were all but required on GM’s PLCs and big coupes for over a decade.

    1. Both the vinyl roof and the opera windows were to at least some extent attempts to evoke the vibe of high-end prewar luxury cars, and it’s probably fairer to describe the ’70s obsession with them as a revival rather than trying to identify a particular starting point. I assume the object was to remind typical buyers of custom-bodied limousines and the like they may have recalled from their youth, although aesthetically the results were often a mishmash at best.

      (BTW, I fixed the link in your original comment and removed my previous reply about it for clarity.)

  37. Considering their quality, radios were rather pricey back then, or really cheap now. The window antennae didn’t help.

    1. The inflation-adjusted cost of high-end car audio equipment from that period is an eye-opener, to be sure. Of course, it’s still entirely possible to spend an appalling amount of money on custom audio setups, but a fairly basic standard-equipment stereo with an AUX input today likely sounds better and is more versatile than the optional radios on a lot of older high-end models.

      The other area where we’re spoiled lousy in that respect is clocks. The last cars I saw that didn’t have digital clocks also didn’t have radios, and unlike the fancy automotive clocks of the sixties, they usually work reliably until the car is hauled off to the junkyard.

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