1978 Lincoln Versailles
8-cyl. 302cid/133hp 2bbl
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
The Lincoln Versailles was an all-new car introduced late in the 1977 model year. Based on the same mid-size sedan platform as the Mercury Monarch and Ford Granada, the Versailles was Lincoln’s answer to Cadillac’s successful mid-size Seville. The Versailles was a traditional front-engine, rear-drive machine, with a standard three-speed automatic transmission. All Versailles were four-door sedans based on a steel unibody chassis.
For the short year of 1977, the standard engine for the Versailles was the 351 cubic inch “Windsor” V-8, except in California where the car was fitted with Ford’s 302 cubic inch V-8. The 351 delivered just 135 hp, but 275 lb-ft of torque was enough to get it moving. The 302, meanwhile, offered 133 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque. For 1978, all Versailles were equipped with the 302. Engine power dropped to 130 hp and 237 lb-ft for 1979, then went to 132 horses and 232 lb-ft for the final year of production in 1980.
The Versailles engines were among the first to offer “electronic engine controls.” While still utilizing a carburetor, Lincoln’s EEC monitored engine performance and could adjust spark and exhaust gas recirculation dynamically. The Versailles was also the first domestic production car to use a base coat and clear coat paint system, and the first to offer halogen headlights.
All Versailles models were offered with four-wheel power-assisted disc brakes, and the suspension was optimized to give a full-size ride in the mid-size platform. The front suspension placed the springs above the upper A-arm, and made use of double-isolated shock absorbers. In the rear, standard leaf springs held the solid Ford nind-inch axle. Ford’s Traction-Lok limited slip differential was optional.
Inside, the Versailles was comparably equipped with other luxury cars of its era. Leather seating, power windows and seats, air conditioning, and a digital clock by Cartier were all state of the art. A sunroof was available, as was cruise control. A Continental-style trunk lid featured Lincoln’s signature bulge, and a prominent hood ornament displayed the Lincoln star.
The Versailles was not a big success for Lincoln. The inaugural half-year of sales saw just over 15,000 Versailles made and sold, and that number fell to just under 9,000 cars for 1978. A 1979 facelift came along, including a longer cabin with “French” rear quarter windows and more padded vinyl on the roof and trunk bulge. That resulted in Versailles’ biggest sales year, with just over 21,000 cars made. For the final year in 1980, though, sales again slumped to 4,784 cars before Lincoln pulled the plug on the model. Plans were already underway to downsize the Continental into the mid-size space, and that move left no room for the Versailles.
While the Versailles was not a high-volume car and most cars of that era found their way to junkyards or the crusher a long time ago, there should be a reasonable number of cars on the market, especially in the sun belt. While mechanical parts are not rare, interior restoration pieces could prove very hard to find at this late date, so the savvy buyer will look for a garaged example.