Venom Vellum: 1972 Continental Mark IV

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Sajeev Mehta

In my thirteen years of Continental Mark IV ownership, I’ve grown to believe that badge engineering is acceptable—at least when a face this stunning is selling the goods. Ford and Lincoln tried the strategy again 34 years later, when the (then new) Fusion-based, Lincoln Zephyr/MKZ hit the streets in 2006. Here’s the kicker: The Lincoln-Fusion had a unique interior to accompany each badge; the Mark IV was essentially a Thunderbird with a different beak and a rounder butt. Perhaps time heals all wounds, however, because a 2000s-era, wrong-wheel-drive sedan will never turn heads like a Mark Series on its 49th birthday.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

Covered headlights give the Continental Mark IV a clutter-free demeanor, letting the eyes focus on that grille and the tapered, sculptural front bumper. It’s a logical yet radical rethink of the DNA forged by the outgoing Continental Mark III.

While a far cry from a Porsche 911’s heritage, the Mark IV’s front clip proves that design DNA inspires future generations; the look influenced Lincolns well into the 1990s.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

DNA and all that nonsense is great, since the Ford Thunderbird influence stops with the Mark’s clean face, blade fenders, power-dome hood, and radically tall grille.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

This 1972-only front clip sports, for lack of a better phrase, a floor-to-ceiling grille, an architectural element nestled behind a rail-thin chrome bumper. The power-domed hood logically begins from the grille’s chromed bevels, thus creating an air of exclusivity without resorting to the more assertive grille/hood textures seen on Cadillacs of the era.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

That’s not to say the Mark IV’s grille is just a bunch of flat planes. This rim makes the transition from grille shell to grille teeth both logical and packed with surface tension.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

The bumper protects the grille from absolutely nothing upon impact. While this Mark came with the optional crossbar, I removed it shortly after taking ownership.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

Here’s a better shot of the aforementioned planes/bevels, ending at vanishing points far to the left or right of the body.

Hey man, that’s a nice shot. This delicate hood ornament made its mark on Continentals for 12 more years.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

The Mark III’s beveled, scarlet emblem lost its Continental star (hence the hood ornament) when transitioning into the Mark IV but gained a thick metal frame so that it rests at a different plane than the grille. The emblem’s rimmed negative area makes a snazzy little black pinstripe, too.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

The sculpted chrome bumper is a three-piece affair: Corner end-caps emulate the trajectory of the blade fender, extending their shape downward and inward (underneath the body).

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

The bumper’s cutline doesn’t use the hard transition between the fender blade and the horizontal stretch, but at least the current cutline does match the headlight doors.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

For the younger readers out there: Lincoln chose a more Audi-like path in the wake of Cadillac ostentatiousness. Sleek, minimal designs inspired by the suicide-door Continentals got even cleaner with the advent of covered headlights.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

The obligatory Continental script emblem rests above a gentle bend that creates a “V” shape across the front fascia.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

Sadly, it wasn’t until 1973 that Ford switched from exposed screws to mounting bolts inside the body.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

Notice how the fenders extend several inches ahead of the fascia: All this expensive metalwork gets crunched in the smallest of collisions.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

It’s miles away from a slab-sided 1961 Continental, but the Mark’s blade fenders definitely display brand continuity.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

Those long, decadent fenders paired with the thrusting grille/hood make the 1972 Mark IV utterly unique. Downstream lies the problem: A problem of Thunderbirdian proportions.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

The bumper’s curvature is somewhat replicated in the lights: A parking/turn signal visually perches atop the bumper, the side marker sits lower, while the cornering light lives in a chrome panel that “feels” like it could be the bumper’s point of origin.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

Shockingly, only the first inch illuminates. The rest is a reflector.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

I mentioned the cornering light’s chrome panel only feels like it matches the bumper—because it clearly does not.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

Lack of whitewall tires is unfortunate, but the tire size (and the wider steel wheels beneath) explains this is actually a sleeper Hot Rod Lincoln. While the motor makes itself known at times, the factory minimalist disc wheel covers are perfect for such a clean design.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

The octagonal wheel center with gold Continental star was a design hallmark for decades … until it wasn’t.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

Cab-backward design is not space-efficient, but the tiny emblem and pinky-finger-thin rub-strip allow unfettered appreciation of all that wasted space.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

While the dash-to-axle ratio presents well, it gets lost when compared to the front overhang. Ferrari touring car this ain’t.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

Another case of minimal design adding more excitement than the alternative. Invisible cowls/wipers need to make a comeback.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

The best angle for the Mark IV’s blade fenders, wedge grille, and hood is still from behind, setting off the excellent use of negative area to best effect. The Mark’s designers and clay modelers spent quality time removing copious amounts of clay from this front end before the design made production.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

This balance of hard creases and gentle curves is absolutely perfect for a flagship luxury vehicle.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

This design makes for a stunning picture of the road ahead, and parking is a breeze with those fenders.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

While panel gaps are inconsistent, the logical transition from fender to A-pillar is admirable. The edge of the hood also forms the line for the end of the fender and the beginning of the door’s DLO (daylight opening).

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

The addition of a texture (i.e. the vinyl roof) gives extra depth.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

The sleek A-pillar and scalloped door turn into a gentle upward curve after the B-pillar. Too bad the same tooling was used for the 1972 Thunderbird.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

The mirror reminds you that the Mark ain’t no T-Bird, but its exposed screws are more offensive than the turn signals.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

The subtle vinyl-top grain and oval quarter window (yes, this was the first Lincoln to wear the feature) set the Mark apart from the Thunderbird—for the better, too—but the two cars share the same sheetmetal underneath.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

The body protection moldings are unique to the Mark IV, but the disc wheel covers are the main differentiator between this and the Thunderbird.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

It’s a shame that this scalloped carve-out of negative area was also available at a Ford dealership.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

The beveled, jeweled Continental star sandwiched in the Mark IV’s opera window dances relative to the position of sunlight.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

Not only is the vinyl roof bulky and “visually heavy” atop an otherwise sleek body, but the bean counters had their way via multiple trim pieces.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

The B-pillar trim’s unfortunate joinery suggests that combining straight pieces with bendy bits into a single part was out of the question.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

The windshield trim lacks the black-painted groove seen everywhere else, making it harder to notice the multiple pieces.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

There are far too many trim pieces to call out individually, so this is a good place to stop.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

That said, the three pieces of vinyl that form the padded roof look both logical in design and somewhat expensive in craftsmanship.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

Behold personal luxury before it became attainable in Cordobas and Gran Torinos. Styling for such a posh segment dictated a trunk sized for a few overnight bags and golf clubs, a back seat useful for those with short legs, and vulgar amounts of decadence for the two up front.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

Perhaps this roof is better for a Mark Series, and the Thunderbird needed a less massive affair?

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

Wafer-thin metal door handles mount flush to the body. Wonderful execution, but shared with the Thunderbird (and the 1971 Mustang, but who’s counting!).

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

Make no mistake, this monstrosity is sleek and sculpted: The door’s tumblehome ensures this personal luxury coupe translates into a form-fitting cabin.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

The sleek, tapered quarter panel is hamstrung by the roof’s staid and static demeanor.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

You can see (former GM designer) Don “D.A.” Johnson’s inspiration for the Zimmer Quicksilver.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

There’s a sliver of chrome just like this at the front. Too bad that the trim continues clumsily around the quarter panel rather than ending at the blade fenders.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

There’s a fair bit of blade in the rear, too: Massive negative area in the trunk allows each corner to pop above the horizon. And a Continental Mark Series simply demands a Continental kit rising majestically above it all, right?

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

Thick lower trim at the rocker/quarter panel is a stark contrast to the painted bodywork’s unfettered freedom to gently bend and sway into a slant back, Continental-kitted posterior.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

The aforementioned flow is a stark contrast to the basic and dowdy roof design.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

Even so, the whole package works, because the bumper/fenders logically translate up the roof pillar’s tumble-homed curve.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

Deeply recessed taillights are a nice consolation prize for the failure to replicate the front’s covered-headlight treatment.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

Concentric forms and the smearing of taillights around the bumper keeps the Mark IV from looking like the 1971 Dodge Dart.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

Backup lights emulate the Continental kit’s form, while the triangular gaps between bumper and license plate shows how dramatically the bumper tapers inside the body.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

It’s kind of a shame the Mark IV lamp treatment didn’t extend further to the Mark IV’s centerline: The Lincoln Continental sedan/coupe of the era had longer lights with three bulbs to make that happen.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

The extended Continental kit is a forgotten victim of 5-mph bumper regulations. It’s making a statement, much like the front grille.

The trunk lock hidden behind the red Continental star is a nice visual tie-in to the grille, too.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

If you couldn’t see the bends/creases that make the Continental kit so remarkable … here they are.

1972 Continental Mark IV
Sajeev Mehta

The Mark IV’s slant-back trunk found the ideal dance partner in this elegantly sculpted rear bumper. The two components combine to bless the 1972 Mark IV with the pinnacle of pointy posteriors in the pre-regulatory period of product design.

While the Thunderbird DNA is inescapable—the situation is far, far worse inside—the 1972 Continental Mark IV stands on its own as a Lincoln product. Even if you aren’t supposed to call it a Lincoln, as FoMoCo spelled C-O-N-T-I-N-E-N-T-A-L out for all the haters.

Or whatever haters were called back then. Thank you all for reading, and I hope you have a lovely day.

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