You know it's late winter in Cleveland Town when the "car show" rolls into the old tank factory near the airport known as the "I-X Center". That's "eye-ex" and not "nine" by the way; it's for "International Exposition Center". The belle of the ball this year, for me at least, is Ford's all new, Lincoln Continental. Read what I wrote about it here about a year ago. Now designated a 2017 model, the new Continental is Ford's latest attempt to revive a brand that was never all that alive in the first place. Rather than rehash this car, whose styling I believe derivative and is ridiculously over priced, let's step back in time nearly thirty years and look at another over priced attempt by Ford to revive Lincoln.
Like I mentioned in my blog about the new Continental, you'd swear that "Lincoln Continental" was the most awesome nameplate in American automobile history. Well, if that was the case, why did Lincoln stop using it after the 2002 model year? It was because "Continental", which for a time in the '30's and '40's and even in the '60's, was arguably the most alluring luxury automobile in America, had eroded down into just another old American luxury car marquee like DeVille, Town Car and New Yorker. What was worse, it was a marquee that had become more associated with the blue hair set than the "monied" set.
New for 1988, the "D186" platform based Continental, this is a 1990 model, shared much with the Ford Taurus and replaced the Fox bodied, "hunchback" Continental sedan that was introduced in 1982. It was amazing that a nameplate that at one time was the stuff of dreams had been reduced to sharing running gear with a plebian family car. A good family car but a plebian one none the less. At least the Continental and Taurus shared no sheet metal or interior bits and pieces.
Bowing to public demand for the conventional, Lincoln sold these front wheel drive Continentals along side rear wheel drive Town Cars. Cadillac did the same.
While much of the blame for the "graying" of the Continental lays at the tires of that Fox bodied Continental this replaced, and honestly, the debasing of Continental goes back to 1970 when Lincoln discontinued suicide doors, this car was nothing remarkable at a time when bold and innovative design was sorely needed at Lincoln; Lincoln played it safe. If anything and incredibly, this car made the entire Lincoln division of Ford even older. The '88 Continental's styling was handsome if not ordinary, but ultimately, forgettable. My millennial sons are enamored of suicide doored Lincolns; can't say they'd think much of this car.
Which brings us to the age old question, "what IS a luxury car"? Up until around 1960 or so, a luxury car offered amenities that you could not get on lesser cars. As those lesser cars became available with the accouterments once exclusive to luxury cars and luxury car makers offered nothing more than a stretched wheel bases and perhaps better interiors, lines blurred. Lines blurred and Lincoln, and let's be honest - Cadillac was as guilty as Lincoln, sold their cars on reputation more than anything else. Cars like this are luxury cars only inasmuch as the advertising brochure and salesperson told prospective customers that they were.
Hard to say what's going to happen to Lincoln. Many believe the brand doomed and honestly, I don't see the new Continental being that savior. Then again, what do I know? I happened to believe that the 2013-2016 MKZ was a brilliant looking automobile above and beyond that it's a Lincoln. My wife likes that car so much she'd like me to find one for us and she hates the Lincoln brand. One thing I do know for certain, as nice as the 1988 Lincoln Continental was, it didn't do nearly as much good as it should have and if anything continued the downward slide of an automobile marquee that is currently at the brink of extinction. As it seems it always has been.