1976 Lincoln Continental Mark IV Desert Sand Luxury Group: Sepia-Toned Sensation
Was 1976 peak Brougham? I think so. It was the last year for the truly large premium sedans. Such as the Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham and ever more over the top Fleetwood Talisman, the Coupe and Sedan de Ville, Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency, and Buick Electra and Park Avenue. Over at Chrysler, you had Royal Monacos, Gran Furys, New Yorker Broughams, Newport Customs, and even the wood-paneled Town & Country station wagon. And at Ford Motor Company, there was no shortage of big luxury cars to fill your requirements: LTD, LTD Landau, Marquis, Marquis Brougham, Grand Marquis, Country Squire, Colony Park, and Continental, and Continental Town Car and Town Coupés to tickle your fancy. And at the very top, personal luxury car-wise, was the finest Lincoln of them all, the Continental Mark IV.
The 1976 model year was the last for the Mark IV, which first appeared in Autumn 1971 as a ’72 model. My grandfather ordered one. Finished in metallic dark green with matching top and leather interior, it replaced his triple-dark-green 1969 Mark III. He came in to the Lincoln brigade in 1966, when he traded his Electra 225 for a new Continental sedan, in dark green with dark green leather and optional 8-track stereo.
I think the 1972 was the prettiest, with its small, integrated front and rear bumpers and that most excellent, massive grille. In 1973, the Mark IV, along with most other Detroit rolling stock, got the new 5-mph front bumpers due to new federal regulations. In 1974, a larger rear bumper was added to match the front.
But I love all the Mark IVs. It goes way back to when I was four or five and my parents got me the blue Pocket Cars 1/64-scale Mark IV. That toy car, along with my Matchbox Mercury Cougar Villager wagon and Pocket Cars Fleetwood Brougham, were my favorite toys. All survived, believe it or not, to present day. The real Mark IVs got plusher and plusher as the model years went by. New wheel options, more colors, more interior options, a power moonroof, and perhaps coolest of all, the Luxury Groups. The first Luxury Group was introduced on the 1973 Mark IV.
Dubbed, for obvious reasons, the Silver Luxury Group, it came in Silver metallic, with a matching top and cranberry interior in luxury cloth or leather. If cranberry was not your preferred interior trim, silver leather could also be specified. It was a nice package, and generated a lot of interest. And so it was that the Luxury Groups would return the following year, with even more choices.
In 1974, the Silver Luxury Group returned, along with a new Gold Luxury Group. But Lincoln was just getting started.
In 1975, even more Luxury Groups were available. Newly added were the Saddle and White Luxury Group, Blue Diamond Luxury Group, and, my favorite, the Lipstick and White Luxury Group.
Is that not a spectacular interior or what? How could you be in a bad mood driving something as comfy and cheerfully appointed as this? If you didn’t want quite that much red, the exterior was available in white as well, and a Landau roof was optional in place of the full vinyl top.
This beautiful example is owned by members of the LCOC Lake Shore Region. I caught it at our trip to Racine, Wisconsin, back in 2018. While this red Mark IV is not the main focus of today’s article, I just had to include it—it’s so amazing! There was such a wide variety for color, trim, and appearance options back then.
But 1976 had the widest variety of color, trim, and appearance options for the Continental Mark IV. On top of all the previous Luxury Groups, the Designer Editions made their debut—Cartier, Givenchy, Pucci, and Bill Blass. With a princely premium, naturally. On a premium personal luxury coupe like the Lincoln Mark IV, it was the perfect idea. Various Designer Lincolns would appear for the next 27 years, finally ending with the 2003 Town Car Cartier. But I digress! Now where was I?
Back to the “standard” Luxury Group Marks of 1976, which were anything but plain, heaven forbid! They may not have had designer nameplates on their opera windows, but they were just as nice—in some cases nicer—and with a lower option group price to boot.
Probably my favorite is the Jade Luxury Group, simply because the 1970s Ford jade metallic paint is just about my favorite color ever. Other Luxury Groups available in 1976 included Blue Diamond, Saddle/White, Lipstick/White, Gold/Cream, Red/Rosé, Jade/White, and Dark Jade/Light Jade. Such choices! But perhaps the least-common Mark IV luxury group is the subject of today’s post, a car owned by fellow LCOC Lake Shore region member Bill Fletcher.
I first saw the car at the previously-mentioned LCOC club meet, held at the famous Frank Lloyd Wright-designed S.C. Johnson Tower in Racine. I’d never seen this Luxury Group Mark in person before, so I took plenty of pictures. More recently, I asked Bill to tell the car’s story and how he managed to snag such a fine example. Here is the car’s history, in Bill’s own words:
“I blame Ann Zarzycki, the Lake Shore LCOC Newsletter Editor, for the acquisition! One night, in the spring of 2016, I had to take a friend to the emergency room (all turned out well, fortunately) and returned home about 4 a.m. Not able to fall asleep, I sat down at the computer and started reading my email. Ann had just sent out the club newsletter, Comments, that evening. That issue had an ad for this car.
“The picture in the ad was from the internet—not the actual car—and it showed a color combination that I had never seen before. I didn’t think that was possible, considering that the MK IV has been my favorite Lincoln since high school, and I have been associated with the LCOC for more than 30 years now.
“I began researching the ‘Desert Sand Luxury Group’ and was not able to find much. All the pictures I could find were of the same two or three cars, but I was able to confirm that it was an actual package offered by the factory.
“It was advertised with 20,000 actual miles and in like-new condition, with a firm asking price that was reasonable for a MK IV in this condition. I spent the rest of the night dreaming and wondering how soon I could call this guy in the morning; he was only two hours away in Bloomington, Illinois.
“Finally, it was 7 a.m. and I called. I was told that I was the first caller, and after a few minutes of conversation I told him I would be at his door two hours after my bank opened—and if the car was correctly described in the ad, the car was sold.
“I arrived at his home at 10:50 with cash in hand. The car was in storage, so we hopped in my car and took about a 10-minute drive to get to it. The owner filled me in on the history of the car and mentioned that he had been getting calls from all over the country that morning.
“I learned that he bought the car new in 1976. He had a Sedan that was in the bodyshop at the dealership, and while checking on it he saw this car on the transport truck out back, headed to another dealer. He said he went inside, talked to his salesman, and bought it off the truck.
“It was stored in a single-car garage, the car was on a battery tender, and with a few pumps of the pedal it started right up. It had a newer battery, and the only repairs it ever had were a new gas tank, sending unit, and new fuel lines the previous year. It still had the factory original tires. Out in the sun, the car showed as showroom new, and I just thought, ‘Who pays $14,000 in 1976 for a car and never drives it?” He must have heard me thinking because he said, ‘We call it the ice cream car; that’s about all we ever did in it was go out for ice cream.’
“I had to ask if the price was negotiable. It wasn’t. I handed him the cash, and he signed over the title. We drove both cars back to his home so we could take off his plates, and when we arrived his wife said he had a few more calls about the car. It turns out the newest issue of Comments had just hit everyone’s inbox, like it had mine, and his ad was in it. I was the early bird. I got permission to leave my 2003 Towncar on the street overnight and drove my new-to-me MK IV home. On the way, I stopped for pictures and sent an email to Ann, blaming her timely newsletter for my new purchase.
“Perry Thomas Lincoln Mercury in Bloomington was the dealership that the car was purchased from. The original owner was a State Farm executive.”
A total of 56,110 Mark IVs were built in 1976, and with such variety, such choice, there’s a good chance no two were exactly alike. The Desert Sand Luxury Group cost $1525 ($7600 today) with leather interior, and $1725 ($8600) with velour Yes, the velour trim was more! This particular Luxury Group was introduced pretty late in the model year, so they are rarely seen. In 1977, the Mark IV would morph into the Mark V, but all the Luxury Groups—and Designer editions—would return.