Getting creative during the oil crisis.
The 1995 Mark VIII was a strong finish to the era of Lincoln coupes
Today we celebrate the last Lincoln coupe—so far, anyway: the aero-styled Mark VIII. Despite a rash of recent successes like the 2018 Navigator and 2020 Aviator, it seems unlikely that the Motor Company will ever take a chance at another full-sized coupe, which means that the 1993-1998 Mark VIII is going to be the last Lincoln two-door. Coupes just don’t sell these days. Crossovers are now eating even the luxury sedan’s lunch, as the recent announcement of the Lincoln MKZ’s discontinuation strongly suggests. But the Mark VIII was a compelling car. It was a beautiful car. And it was a fitting final chapter for a series of luxury coupes and cabriolets dating back to 1939.
1993-94 Lincoln Mark VIII
The VIII was a technically sophisticated luxury car upon introduction. Its statistics are rather impressive even today. When it debuted in autumn 1992, I was an impressionable, car-obsessed, twelve-year-old kid. Sure, I liked Porsche 911s and Corvettes, but even then I had a serious soft spot for domestic luxury cars, thanks to my grandparents’ patronage of premium FoMoCo products dating back to the 1960s.
My father’s parents, Bob and Ruby Klockau, were big Ford fans. Grandpa Bob always had Lincoln Continentals or Marks, while Grammy always had a T-Bird. When my grandfather passed away in 1989, Grammy took over his Rose Quartz Metallic 1987 Lincoln Continental sedan as her primary driver.
She did keep her 1977 Thunderbird, however. It became the spare car, occasionally used when my Aunt Bobbie and Uncle Ron would visit from Champaign-Urbana. It was, in your author’s humble opinion, a beautiful color combination: Black with a black vinyl roof, white interior with bucket seats, console, red carpeting and dash, and factory AM/FM stereo with CB! For a long time I wanted that T-Bird for my first car. It was mint even in the late ’80s, and low mileage. I loved the color combination too. Sadly, it was rarely driven, so it got sold around 1991. I never saw it again. Even today I would love to have that car as a summer driver. I wonder what happened to it?
From approximately first grade through my early high school years, my grandmother and I always did lunch in the summertime when I was on summer vacation. I very, VERY MUCH looked forward to these excursions. Almost as much as I looked forward to Christmas or my birthday. A typical outing would start out with a feast at Bishop’s Buffet at South Park Mall, a visit to Toys “R” Us, where I would get to pick out a model car (Corgi Toys and Matchbox Models of Yesteryear were frequently selected), and then we’d move on to the car dealerships: Sexton Ford, then South Park Lincoln-Mercury, which later became Classic Lincoln-Mercury, and is today a Kia dealer.
Grammy would always ask to see the new Thunderbird at Sexton, and the new Continental at South Park. The salesman would usually walk us over to the nearest one parked outside, and of course we would get a brochure. Grammy wasn’t really out to buy, she was just that rare woman of the era who enjoyed cars–and she knew I loved cars as well. I specifically remember looking at a circa-1990 Continental out front, in dark red with a dark red cloth interior. She always decided to keep her current Lincoln, but was always interested in the features and specifications of the brand new model.
When the all-new Mark VIII debuted. We naturally both wanted to see one up close. Off we went to Classic Lincoln-Mercury. Naturally, they had a Mark VIII front and center in the showroom, in the striking combination of bright white with an aquamarine leather interior. For the first time in our many visits, I strongly encouraged Grammy to get one. I loved that car—especially the aqua interior!
She certainly could have bought it, and there was no need to trade in the ’87 Connie: She had sold her ’77 T-Bird in 1991, and the two-car attached garage would have accommodated both Lincolns nicely. Money was not even a factor. My grandfather had been a successful attorney and insurance company executive. She seemed interested, and asked a few pointed questions to the salesman.
I got all excited. Oooh, a new car! This is great! Ultimately we were sent off with a plush Mark VIII catalog (which I still have, to this day), and a few weeks later, when we were visiting, I asked about the VIII. As I recall, she said something along the lines of “Oh, I really didn’t need that car, and I’m used to the Continental.” She did, however, buy my Dad’s ’91 Volvo 940 SE turbo later that year, when he got a new ’93 five-speed 850 GLT.
A couple years later, I saw what had to be the same car in the showroom parked in a driveway in Rock Island. I could have spotted that aqua interior from a hundred yards away. I saw it in traffic a couple of times (I rode my bike a LOT circa 1991-95) with an elderly lady behind the wheel. Indeed, she appeared older than Grammy, who at the time, was still very spry and active at 73.
As for the Mark VIII itself, it had a lot of promise. It was very advanced, with its 280-hp 4.6-liter DOHC V-8, air-ride suspension and four-wheel disc brakes. Zero to sixty came in 7.5 seconds–quite good for the early ’90s.
But personal luxury coupes were on the way out, and the VIII never really took the world by storm. A 1997 refresh included a new nose, neon taillamp section and other refinements, but it really did no good: a mere 14,357 were built in 1998, its last year.
As a tribute to the Mark Series, a Collector’s Edition was available in ’98, available in Cordovan or White Pearlescent paint. It did not appear in the final deluxe Mark VIII brochure; instead, a separate four-page brochure was printed, copies of which are somewhat hard to find.
All of these memories were refreshed back in Autumn 2012 when I came across this Evergreen Frost Mark VIII at the nearby golf course while out on a walk. This is the same color as the 1994 Lincoln Town Car Signature Series our neighbors had. Their car also had Evergreen leather interior and a dark green padded coach roof. After they brought that car back from the dealership, I fell in love with that combination. I had forgotten over the past couple of decades that it was also an available color on the Mark VIII. This car is still around too. I saw it in traffic just a couple weeks ago, and it is still pristine.
I don’t recall ever seeing a Mark VII in this color back when they were new cars. This one is either a 1995 or ’96, as it has the swept-spoke alloys introduced in 1995, along with the revised instrument panel that added genuine wood to the center console.
The 1993-94 IP had taken some flak from the press for being a bit… spartan by Lincoln standards, thus the lashings of genuine wood trim on the center console and HVAC/radio fascia in the facelifted cars. Wood or no wood, I love the wraparound instrument panels on these. They still look modern today.
The Mark VII and Mark VIII were the only truly sporty versions of the long-lived Mark coupes–particularly the LSC models. It all started with the ’84 Mark VII LSC, which was decidedly non-Brougham-y compared to the previous, ornate Mark VI. What if Ford had kept that momentum that began with the Mark VII LSC going?
It is interesting to think what would have happened if Lincoln had kept the Mark Series in production. There was so much brand equity in the Mark and Continental nameplates. But coupes, having peaked during the Personal Luxury Car era in the 1970s, slacked, crashed, and were more or less extinct by 2000. Shame.
Given Lincoln’s recent comeback with the Navigator, Aviator and Corsair, could it be possible that we may see a new Mark after all, perhaps a retractable hardtop convertible? Probably not. But I for one am glad that Lincoln in 2020 is once again healthy, moving forward, and eliminating the MK-everything nomenclature that confused so many. It seems their groove is back. As for myself, while I dearly love sedans and coupes, I was recently at the local Lincoln dealer and found myself drooling over a new 2020 Corsair in Flight Blue-with decidedly decadent blue leather seating!