Best as in completely f*cking stupid, if not borderline insane. As promised in my first post on Oppo I would like to tell you about my journey of bringing an old, neglected Lincoln Mark VIII LSC back on the road, and how I plan to make it my permanent daily driver.
I am still not quite sure where I want to go with this. Expect an ongoing column that is a mix of Mr. DeMuro's regular automotive adventures (mainly how things fail on his Range Rover) and Tavarish's articles about bringing back an old luxo barge from the ledge of car heaven (except that without help from others, there's no guarantee for success...). With Doug being in the middle of importing a 25 year old Skyline from Japan, this column should also be a rare insight into the import and registering process of a vehicle from America on the other side of the Atlantic, and will show what kind of challenges lie ahead if you think about getting one of those American hoopties yourself.
Now buying and driving an 20 year old car isn't exactly the most exciting thing to write about, especially if it is a Lincoln. There are still tens, if not hundreds of thousands of old Continentals and Town Cars on US roads today happily doing their regular duty of transporting their trusty, gracefully aged owners to an exciting afternoon of Bingo, the local orthopedist, or full speed into the next storefront. Atleast that seems to be a popular thing to do these days.
In this case, things are a bit different though. Not only is it a Mark VIII LSC, maybe one of Lincoln's most un-Lincoln cars of the last few decades, as many auto journalist in the early 90's would have attested. It is also the only one around. Not just in the neighborhood, or town, or even state. It is the only one of its kind on the whole continent. That's because I am living in the UK, after moving from Germany 2.5 years ago.
Lincoln never sold cars outside of North America, with very few exceptions, the Mark VIII for the Japanese market being one of them. When making this decision, Lincoln's sales prospects must have sounded brilliant, with year over year growth probably in the range between 3.000 and 1 billion percent. The only issue is that the only thing Lincoln must have sold there before was a set of funky wire wheel covers for Natsuko's freshly imported Ford Festiva. Or maybe one of those fancy fake-ass Landau tops. Judging by the information you can find on the internet, sales numbers for Lincolns in Japan must have topped out at two.
That's the reason Lincoln never even bothered selling a car here. All Mark VIII's that made the journey over to Europe are grey market imports, often privately bought and shipped over by their original owners over 20 years ago. If you browse the German/UK equivalents of Autotrader or have a look on Ebay, you can often find a handful of these cars offered for sale at a time, often there for months, sometimes years due to a lack of interest in these kind of cars. Most of them are "base" trim Mark VIIIs of the first few model years (pre-facelift, often referred to as gen1), not the sportier LSC I got. They were originally bought by doctors and business men that regularly visited the states, the kind of people that thought these cars were a novelty when new, and believed the idea of owning a truly individualistic car was worth the hassle of importing and registering it back home, without the chance of ever finding a mechanic who would be trained to service the car anywhere even remotely close. Others were brought over by US Army personnel stationed in Europe and sold before returning home. You can also find cars from later model years (gen2) which got a substantial redesign 2 years before they were discontinued, but there are noticeably fewer of them around. So, while there still might be a few dozen Mark VIIIs in the whole of Europe, I have yet to find a single image of a first generation Lincoln Mark VIII LSC that has been taken over here. Which makes the car pretty unique.
Before I get into explaining why I bought my car, I want to provide a bit of background information about Lincoln's last big coupe.
The Mark VIII was Lincoln's answer to the increasingly intense fight for customers in the personal luxury coupe car market segment of the early nineties. Hinted at by the Machete Concept car at the 1988 Chicago Auto Show and four years later more clearly by the Marque X Convertible Concept, it was set to compete against Cadillac's brand new Eldorado, as well as Lexus' new SC400 and Acura's Legend Coupe. Based on a modified version of the Thunderbird and Cougar's rear wheel drive MN12 platform, with fully independent rear suspension, a brand new, state of the art 280 horsepower 32 valve four cam aluminium V8 that was later base for the engine in the Mustang Cobra, as well as the Koenigsegg CC and Panoz Esperante, and a self leveling airride system that automatically lowered the vehicle's ride height at highway speeds to decrease its wind resistance and increase highspeed stability, the Mark VIII had very good chances to compete successfully in a crowded market segment that lost more and more of its customer base to the impending SUV craze of the 90's and 00's. The LSC (Luxury Sport Coupe) was introduced in 1995 and added a true dual exhaust which pushed the horsepower rating to 290, a more aggressive rear axle ratio, the first HID headlights in a domestic car, perforated leather seats and a monochromatic exterior trim design (less chrome), among other changes. However, it was not meant to be and dwindling sales numbers forced Ford Mercury Lincoln to discontinue the FN10/MN12 platform by '98 and along with it the Thunderbird, Cougar and Mark VIII. The Mark VIII was build for six straight model years from late 1992 to June 26th 1998 and was the last generation of Lincolns flagship Mark series.
So how exactly did I get the idea of buying an aging, V8-powered, over-complicated, american fullsize luxury coupe that is not exactly known for its stellar reliability record, from a manufacturer that never sold a single car in a five-and-a-half-thousand kilometer radius, that is rarer than pretty much anything that Lamborghini, Ferrari or any proper boutique supercar brand has to offer right now?
Pretty simple: I just saw it on the internet and loved it.
I might be one of the very few people out there that genuinely think that the organic, smooth and aerodynamic designs of the 90's were a high mark in the history of automotive design. I believe this was especially apparent in the American and Japanese auto industry in which, for two decades, boxy, often extremely conservative designs dominated the market in almost all segments. There have been plenty of exceptions with cars like the Corvette and sleek third gen F-bodies, and Ford was one of the very first manufacturers that embraced the aero look in their mass market cars with the '83 Thunderbird and of course the '86 Taurus. But it was the early nineties that saw a sudden, radical change across the whole industry, with the exception of Volvo, with the move towards more sporty, wind cutting and smooth designs like Chrysler's cab-forward cars or Oldsmobile's Aurora; and the renaissance of the american auto industry. At least for a short while.
The Lincoln Mark VIII was part of that era. I love the sleek, uncluttered, no-bullshit design (looking at you, Lexus and Infiniti), the un-compromised, no-fucks-given proportions. Conversations in Lincoln's Design Center around 1990 must have sounded like this:
Head of Design Lincoln: "Maaan, the hell is dat sheeit, car looks all stubby and shit!"
Designer: "You think the car needs to be longer?"
Head of Design Lincoln: "Yeahh, gotta stretch that mothafucka."
Designer: "I don't think I agree, its a 2 door coupe, that's how they usually look like. I think we are stretching the guidelines from head office quite far here already."
Head of Design Lincoln: "Ain't got no balls to do ya own thang? No worries brotha, I'll deal with dem bitches from head office. Just slap dem 2 feet overhang on the front and dat ass, shits gonna look tight!"
Designer: "But the car would be 18 freaking feet long!"
Head of Design Lincoln: "Whats your problem busta? Got a problem with dat? Ain't know shit about our customers demands. Thats why I am yo motherfuckin boss, and yo ain't, punk ass busta."
Designer: "I don't care if you are head of this department or damn Santa Clause, 18 feet is ridiculous!"
Head of Design Lincoln: "I wanna see 3 feet of booty on this mothafucker or I gonna blast yo ass, empty your desk and all dat sheeit!"
Designer: "Well yeah great, fine! I'll add the extra overhang! Cannot believe this..."
Head of Design Lincoln: "Yeeah dats what Im talkin bout brotha, always gotta keep dem customers in mind. Now somebitch get me the number of dem head office mothafuckers, and tell my homie Bling Daddy to get Tanisha and the bitches for tonight, got lots work to do... And bitch wheres muh coke!?"
It is clear that volumetric efficiency wasn't a high priority while designing the Mark VIII.
There are plenty of other things to like about this car: the fantastic, characteristic american sound of its V8 engine. It is reasonably quick (0-60 somewhere between 6.5 and 7.5sec) and practical (there's plenty of space in the trunk for the stereotypical mobster bodies with room to spare, as well as 3 passengers) and naturally its the perfect highway cruiser. People love to comment on it and it is a great conversation starter.
However, the path to ownership is long and exhausting and and there are still plenty of challenges for me ahead. Next time you will read about how I have found my LSC through an extremely unlikely coincidence, and why this is in fact my second Mark VIII. I hope you liked it and will see you in the comments. Tell me what you think!
Schaefft is the author of this single blog post and founder of nothing. He's currently living in the north east of the UK (u wot m8?), owns an old Bmw and Lincoln and believes that everything that is written on the internet is true, especially Tavarish's articles on Jalopnik about how owning a cheap luxury car for the price of a potato is the only way of living. It took him way too long to write this article so you better read it to the end or else...