In 1978 Ford started their downsizing by introducing an all new compact platform or chassis that was internally code named, "Fox". What would become known as the Fox body platform, in varying wheelbase lengths, would come to underpin a wide variety of vehicles for the Ford Motor Company including the 1978-83 Ford Fairmont and Mercury Zephyr, 1979-94 Ford Mustang, 1979-86 Mercury Capri, 1980-82 Ford Granada, 1980-88 Mercury Cougar, 1980-88 Ford Thunderbird, 1982-87 Lincoln Continental, 1983-86 Ford LTD, 1983-86 Mercury Marquis and the subject of our blog today, the 1984-1992 Lincoln Mark VII. Our feature car is a 1988 Bill Blass edition.
Compared to the boxy Mark VI that came before it, the Mark VII was as radically different looking as the suicide door 1961 Continental was compared to a 1960 Continental. Thanks to MacPherson struts up front, the Fox platform also gave the Mark VII handling capabilities like no other Lincoln before it. Including the "Panther" body based VI that in and of itself was a radical departure from the levianthesque Mark V it replaced.
Performance aside, though, the Mark VII had a difficult and very tight line to drive. Luxury car buyers are a notoriously fickle and are abhorrent to change. The styling of the VII couldn't stray too far from Lincolns of yore yet could not being as staid and true to older models like the knife edged, boxy VI if they had any shot at younger buyers. The polarizing trunk hump as much a nod to Lincoln's past as it was a styling differentiation from the similar Ford Thunderbird and Mercury Cougar that it shared the Fox platform with. While the VII has aged quite well, buyers, particularly older Lincoln clientelle, were indifferent towards it at first. That indifference stemming in large part from the car's much tidier dimensions compared to the VI; the Greatest Generation were sold on the the size of a car being reflective of ones stature. The Mark VII, and its four door version the 1982 Continental, much like the 1975 Cadillac Seville and German makes and models like the Mercedes Benz 280 S, went a long way towards changing that age old bigger is better paradigm.
Lincoln did have challenges within the Ford Motor Company to charge the premium they did for the VII since it did share as much as it did with Thunderbird and Cougar; VII's sticker priced in the mid to high $20,000's while Thunderbirds and Courgers cost maybe half that much. Styling and "premium" nameplate aside, to make the Mark VII as exclusive as possible, the "High Output" 5.0 liter V-8 from the Mustang GT was made available on the VII and was never made available on either Thunderbird or Cougar. That engine, incidentally, helped give the VII it's tongue in cheek moniker, "Hot Rod Lincoln".
Save for some luxury accoutrements found on even the most plebeian of vehicles today, the interior of the Mark VII was virtually indistinguishable from that of a Thunderbird or Cougar of the same vintage. Have to imagine there had to have been more than just a handful of people who cross shopped these cars and wondered why the Lincoln version of the Thunderbird was priced so much higher.
The idea of a four passenger, two door sedan seems almost as foreign today as trying to imagine a world without wifi. As good as the Mark VII was and as much of a value as it was compared to similar vehicles from Germany, even by the mid 1980's, consumer tastes were moving away from doggedly impractical, expensive vehicles like this. If luxury buyers bought domestically, and that was a big if even back then, they began buying stylish and infinitely more practical sport utility vehicles. Lincoln replaced the VII with the the flamboyant Mark VIII for 1994 but by then SUV's had really taken hold in this country leaving not only the market for the Mark VIII tiny, but the market for two door sedans in general tiny as well. Lincoln hasn't made a two Mark, or anything with two doors, since 1999. Although the Fox platform underwent a near complete redesign for the 1994 Mustang, it technically remained in production under the Mustang through 2004 making it, along with Panther chassis and Model T, one of the longest running and successful platforms in Ford history.
"Hot Rod Lincoln" is a song by singer songwriter Charlie Ryan and a recording of it by Johnny Bond was first released in 1955. The song is about a hot rodded Ford Model A powered by a Lincoln V-12 engine and not a song, literally, about a Lincoln automobile. The most famous version of the song was recorded by Commander Cody and released in 1971.