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Hot Rod Lincoln

DouglasR DouglasR
New User | Posts: 24 | Joined: 12/07
Posted: 12/11/07
04:13 AM

"Now the fellas was ribbin' me for being behind,
so I thought I'd make that Lincoln unwind,
Took my foot off the gas pedal,
and man alive, I shoved it down into overdrive"

Charlie Ryan wrote the lyrics first recorded by Souvenier Records in 1957 and rereleased October 26, 1959 on 4Star. If you drove any-kind of Lincoln, then or now, sooner or later you know the tune. Inspired by a chopped down V12 Lincoln Zephyr 292 riding with a Model A Coupe body on it that Ryan built.

Messrs Ford, Fields, Mays, Horbury, and notably Mr. Allan R. Mullaly (ARM) should replay that song everytime before they think about Lincoln's future. From the time of the 357 CID 100 Bhp Model L Lincolns, when police departments in Chicago and Detroit, San Francisco and New York City used the Leland V8 as their car of choice to catch bootleggers (themselves driving the same car!) Lincoln has always hat that 'gentlemen's' Hot Rod nature.

The big K Lincoln's, from the 381 to the 447 and finally the 414 V12 at 125-150Bhp all had stump pulling torque that brought buyers to the wheel. Edsel Ford pacing Indy in a KB V12 in 1932, a feat repeated by his son in a 1948 Continental, kept Lincoln at the forefront. The 292 overdrive Zephyr V12 inspired that same loyalty which caused songwriter Ryan to modifiy his Zephyr sedan into a sleeper hot rod.

The Road-Race Lincoln 317 V8 at 205-225Bhp cemented that reputation, winning in class the Cararra-Panamerica between 1952-1954 running up to 125Mph. The Big 368 CID Mark II engine serenely sat at 70mph @ 2,100 rpm with room to spare. The 430-462 V8's all had equally hearty engines when it came to thrust through the mid-range. The 460 "385" series engine of 1968-69 was a true Hot Rod Motor by all accounts and performance. Whether in the vaunted Continental Mark III or its heavier unibody Lincoln stablemate, You could move that 5,250 Lincoln Continental well past 120mph on a straight.  

The LSC Lincoln Mark VII played into the theme, and the Mark VIII with its bona-fide 155mph driveline underscored the point. The boys (and certain ladies) the like to drive with their right foot! Like the ad says: "Lincoln inspires the loyalty of those who know it best..." And we like it best when that foot is down.

Since Mr. Reitzle was shown the door in 2001/2, a lot of promising and enticing Lincoln show cars went right with it. The Mark IX, a mouthwatering and enticing design that you could just hear the sound of that motor, and wanted to drive! The Continental sedan that never saw the light of day, whom many would have lined up to buy, fitted as it could have been with a small block V12 as the Zephyr's and Continental of yore. Even the Continental Mark X convertible teased us, but neary a strong heart stood in the halls at the top of the Glass House to build it---dying as it did with T-Bird. Bill Ford should have been proud of those designs, Edsel Ford would have been.

Nixed. No serious revamp of Town Car with a true torquey V8 under the hood appeared. No Hurricaine V8 edition TC for us. No, Ford closed the venerable Wixom plant in lieu of real-estate tax gains and shipped Town Car lock stock and wing nut to St. Thomas. It will live as a foreign built car another two seasons before becoming a memory.

So Mark S, revamped slightly and rolling off the line in Chicago this March is all we have to hope for. The Mark R, a sometimes brilliant yet seemingly an aglomeration of every single Lincoln design cue packed into one car...but will it run? Four cancelled Lincoln show cars say it won't. We can't blame MR. Horbury for trying. Disdain for Lincoln seemingly entrenched in certain quarters at the Glass House killing our enthusiast's dreams for a true Lincoln---not just a warmed over Hermisillio Milano.

Long languishing Lincoln made it to the top, more than once since September 14, 1920 when the first official production car rolled off the Warren Avenue plant under the guise of Henry and Wilfred Leland. Remember when Lincoln beat Cadillac? Ford was poised to pass GM---could have been done with nerve and verve from Schaeffer Avenue. Edsel saved Lincoln for decades, and Henry II, and William C. Ford Sr. put the blessings on some of their greatest cars, but young William has foresaken that tradition during his tenure at the top.  

Where, then, is the champion for Lincoln at Ford today? ARM bravely drove his Lexus into the Ford building parking space his first day, now routinely draws from a series of cars to test. But when will there be another 'Hot Rod Lincoln' to inspire the song-writers of today? That's what we remember, restore, and what inspires us today, that loyalty to the stump pulling torque and acceleration---all swathed in the finest of designs.

Mullaly with have to arm himself with more than just another platform shuffle to reinvigorate Lincoln---otherwise Lincoln and Ford's fate might fall the same way as that of the last motorcar company run by an aero-executive when Curtiss-Wright's Roy T. Hurley took over Packard July 27, 1956---lasting two years before the final lugnut was turned. Though things aren't quite that bad yet, Ford Motor having nearly wiped out quarterly losses and posted its first sales gain in months, with Lincoln leading for the last 14.  

The chips are down at Ford Motor, but Lincoln should become its talismen for the gentlemen's express. They can outwit Messrs Wagoner, Lutz and Taylor at Cadillac with their V Series, and impending V12 with a true Lincoln bespoke of the same dash and verve that put Chicago and Detroit Police behind the wheel, and later played the strings of our hearts so well twanged by MR. Ryan. They can outwit the Benz Boys (what do you think the AMG is all about---nothing but the German version of what that Road-Race Lincoln, a car which also inspired the Chrysler 300 was all about!). At best, they can perhaps pull even with the Bavarians, for smoothness and svelte design hiding a lion underneath. And checkmate a nascent Imperial---especially now that MR. Nardelli has gone weak in the knees and spanners, and cancelled the 300 SRT8 derived Imperial---so the door is wide open at Ford and Lincoln for a right-foot stomping sybaritic revival. Lincoln's answer to the V series Cadillac could incorporate more than just a small percentage of production.  

At the end of the day, as the song goes:
"We had flames' comin' out the side,
Feel the tension man, what a ride,
I said, 'look out boys, I've got a license to fly'
and that Caddy pulled over and let us by"

The bits are in the bins boys, Ford Motor has all the pieces to torque together and unleash even greater Lincolns, and Continentals that would do that song proud, and put so many competitors' headlights in the Lincoln rear-view mirror---which is where I'd like to see them and leave Lincoln more than just the memory of a 4Star song.


(Sources: Charlie Ryan, 'Hot Rod Lincoln' 4Star records; 'Lincoln, Sixty Years of 75 Excellence, Bookman Publishing, Baltimore MD.)  

DouglasR DouglasR
New User | Posts: 24 | Joined: 12/07
Posted: 12/11/07
09:25 PM

Reviving Lincoln: Digging out from the "Cat Box"

"First and foremost in our minds is to make sure that we sell to a buyer that looks to grow it." Staffwriter Amy Wilson of Automotive News quotes Ford North American Executive Mark Fields with respect to the impending Jaguar sale. While Ford Motor must cover its prints after the sale, the $2Bn realized after selling Jaguar to Tata or Mahindra & Mahindra should go to Lincoln---every last cent. Ford Motor should be less concerned about the fate of Jaguar than its own tried and true brands. Applause for their attempt, for had it worked Ford Motor might have surpassed GM and retaken the Number One spot. There's enough blame shifting at Ford ex-post facto for the Big Cat Fiasco to reduce any transmission to scrap suitable for a ZF recasting.

Lincoln however needs the rebuild. GM's $1.5Bn payment to Fiat to break-off the merger was the capital utilized by Mr. Marchione to revive the Italian firm. So if FIAT can come back from the precipiece of the dead, given the new 500, Maserati, and Alfa, Lincoln can do likewise with the same money.

That every last dime from that sale belongs to Lincoln is evident in the huge cash drain that turned the acquisition of Jaguar into a $6Bn cat box. BMW AG and VWAG spent half as much to revive Rolls-Royce and Bentley, only to reap untold profits from both brands in the decade since their acqusition. In 1998-2000 Lincoln was a leading player in the market, but quick glance at the numbers shows how far Lincoln fell at Jaguar's expense. For every dime spent on Jaguar was a nickel that Lincoln never got, a process speeded by the departure of Mr. Reitzle who had championed the Lincoln brand proposing to spend $1.2Bn-$2Bn in 1999-2000 for future product---all of which would have bowed in 2003-4. All Lincoln received instead was a fancy wrapper from Hermisilio, much brand confusion, and closing of Wixom.

Car sales only/Source: Automotive News

BMW and Mercedes had a clear advantage in car sales from the outset, but Lincoln bested them when their truck-range sales were included. Cadillac has held its own with its revamped range, and now on a roll with the 2008 CTS. But by any standard Lincoln was competitive at the time of the Rietzle proposals, and now sits vanquished in fifth place---a fortune it has never had to endure in its entire history since the first Leland built Lincoln rolled off the line at Warren Avenue. The uptick in sales for 2006 brought about because the Zephyr's anemic engine was uprated with the 'Mark Z' and sales predictably increased.

But Jaguar's numbers sit in stark repose, a free fall of public confidence in direct proportion to the dollars spent and actual improvements to the larger models---but the smaller Jaguar's killed the cat. Only the XK is gaining, all others falling continuously by double digits for several years. Jaguar selling as many cars now as it did in 1985 when owners traded war stories over toasty wiring.

Irrespective of where the lumps lay in the big cat box at Jaguar, the remunerative dollars now belong to Lincoln. One new platform, and two new engine/chassis packages can be realized from that $2Bn, a long overdue expenditure at Lincoln. That would buy a twin-charged 4.6Litre engine, and ability to stuff the 6.0-plus Litre V8/V10 into a "super Lincoln" or a new Continental, introduced a year after the first series revamp. Mark S could be but a stepping stone from Chicago.

Public acceptance of the new Cadillac a clear demarche to Lincoln, the sell-out of the SRT8 Challenger likewise showing that people are willing to pay for performance exclusive of the bread and butter models. Cadillac/GM's Wixom Engine Performance Plant a perfect example of what can be accomplished in the fine fettle of the high-horsepower metal. There's no stopping Ford from that for Lincoln given what they had accomplished at Astons. Lincoln can only be thankful that the following advertisemnent isn't going to appear in 2010: "Lebaron SRT8" with the Imperial Eagle, knowing now they won't lose half their customer base to Chrysler. Gold bedecked Lincoln "Premiere" Town Car Models with faux convertible tops need never grace the showroom floor ever again, and we can throw pedals on the grave of Mr. Pucci.      

"One track at a time" Mr. Taylor at Cadillac has proclaimed in their conquest of buyers from "those other luxury cars". But Lincoln has an ace up the sleeve: they did win at the track, when Cadillac's 'Le Monstre' was trying to win (err, place) at LeMans, Crawford, Stroppe, Smith and Stevenson were right up against Karl Kling's 300SL---10mph apart from each other---in the time trials and the Carerra! Yeah, it was 50 years ago, but then Bentley is still successfully using its 1959 Rolls-Royce derived 6.75 Litre Engine in twin-turbo guise, and the customers don't mind a bit while paying the ante. So fade to the future from the best of the past, and Lincoln can win again. Take that "Mark S" and throw it round Charlotte Motor Speedway and see what happens. Insane? Have you driven a V Series Cadillac lately at Nurburgring?? If Cadillac can do it then, as it was once written: "Lincoln has no peer in sticking to the road" and maybe that could be made true again.

The pistons pack the punch, and with them Lincoln can bring back the lore of the past to a glorious page in the future. Bill Ford has the chance to outpace his famous forefathers...and he can start by relinquishing the wheel of those red F150's and Mustangs of which he is so enamored (do we blame him?) and spool up the superchargers and the turbos on the next generation of Lincoln engines from V6 to V8 to V10.

I'd pay almost any price, and bare almost any burden just to have the chance, and push that Continental Star's backside past the Benzes, Bimmers, and vanquish the Lexus literatii, and emancipate the notion, one more time, that our home team can't excel.


(Sources: Automotive News; AutoWeek; Automobile Magazine; Thomas Bonsal, 'Sixty Years of Excellence' Bookman Publishing 1981; 'Lincoln' Maurice Hendry, Ballantine Books 1971)  

DouglasR DouglasR
New User | Posts: 24 | Joined: 12/07
Posted: 12/14/07
12:28 PM

Packing the Punch: it's 1952 all over again at Lincoln!

"Whilst not a show stopper and clearly a design forced to share much with its Ford sibling the Mark S is a good illustration of how design can effectively create a distinct and appealing product within tight constraints. The Mark S also has a level of perceived quality that does much to deliver the 'authenticity' that this market sector demands."  Car Design News states with respect to their review of the Mark S unveiled this week in Los Angeles. This Taurus based Mark S far removed and massaged from the car I saw at the Washington D.C. Auto Show two years ago. But not winning all the hearts and minds.

"As replacement for the rear drive perfectly proportioned Lincoln LS, this large flagship sedan looks oddly and ungainly, until you realize its really a front (or awd) driver. Even then its not so good, too stretched out and none of the tight overhangs of its predecessor...too Altima-Sebring like and where are all those Lincoln cues we were told to look for?" Autoweek staffwriters declare in their blurb about the new Mark S.

Whether or not you like that car almost, really DOES NOT matter. It's 1952 all over again at Lincoln. "The body design appears to be highly controversial and its approval is somewhat dependent on the manufacturer's aims, for if it was intended to be simply another automobile, the result is adequate. But if the primary objective of the Lincoln Division was to produce a car of distinction comparable with their Lincoln-Continental---individuality---the fundemental requirement is obviously missing" Speed Age staffwriter Ted Koopman wrote of the new '52 after a 2,000 mile road test through the hills of L.A. and southern California. The same might be now said of the Mark S.

Lincoln had concurrently spent the money on the driveline, engine and brakes for 1952 rather than flashy appurtanences that would catch fancy with the public like Dagmars---those protruding chrome bullits associated with female anatomy on the front of Cadillacs and loving called 'Dagmars' after the cartoon character. Lincoln shied away from the glitz (and t-ts) to sell their new car. Putting the car on the road and later track, pushed Lincoln in a direction that was then very promising. The public responded too, with Lincoln gaining sales under constraints of the Korean War to 31,992 and other Ford Divisions losing to those constraints in 1952 over previous years!

It didn't take long for drivers to push that now 50 plus year old design to its limits---and they were not embarassing ones. Average speed runs pushed the car above 100 with ease. Lincoln bumped engine output the next year to 205Bhp, and rising to a potential 225Bhp through 1954.

During the 1953 Pan-America Carrera the mettle of the car was summed up by Chuck Stevenson, one of the drivers: "With Lincoln's new 205Bhp engine we had that important first advantage. That's why when we got to Oaxaca Lincolns driven by Walt Faulkner, Captian Bobby Korf, Johnny Mantz, Duane Carter, and myself held five out of six places...with that engine, and Lincoln ball-joint front suspension, we had begin to feel real affection for a factory new car when your saw toothing moutain country, cutting corners in the toughest run in the driving business." Stevenson won the race with a time of 21 hours, 15 minutes 38 seconds in the stock car class of 29 entrants for the 1,938 mile race. The average speeds for the Lincoln team for 1953 were equaled by the winning Lincoln in 1954, with Ray Crawford averaging 92.22 mph! Only Karl Kling in his Mercedes 300SL took the second first in the sports car class of 27 entrants and 10 finalist with an average speed of 102.359 mph! A 4,250 pound Lincoln nearly as fast as a 300SL half its weight!        

Herein lies an answer for Lincoln today, now operating under extreme political and budgetary constraints not unlike that faced by Ford Motor as it pulled from third to second place to pass Chrysler between 1949-1952. With no apparent champion for Lincoln at Ford today, (other than William Clay Ford Sr., who sits on the Finance Committee and still retains a board seat, and MR. Horbury who wants to keep the project and Lincoln alive), then Lincoln can pull a champion from the pistons and the horsepower under the hood.

Success would be assured because NO ONE would expect it. Any prospective buyer would be pleasantly suprised if Mark S had punch hiding behind its "tight constraints".  NO ONE expected Lincoln ever to build a race winning car in 1952, especially if you owned the sea-bass front-end inspired bathtub 1949-51 Lincoln Cosmopolitan!! And Lincoln has built alot of cars reminiscent of a "sea-bass" in the handling department since then too!!!  Lincoln was working then as now under the same constraint of the ghost of the past---people wanting a Continental approach, but practical engineering and platform economies held sway. Especially if the chassis tuning engineers put the punch into the corners and the pockets, Lincoln could regain customers. Now that Jaguar no longer competes for their energies, time, nor holding sway over the corporate coffers, in Mark S and any successor Mark R, the S could stand for "Stupendous" on the road, and R for "Racing" within sight of Daytona.

No one expected Cadillac to get serious about their V Series, and that effort has paid off with CTS sales increasing by 75% over last year. That is the kind of victory Lincoln desparately needs now. The clock is ticking at Ford, while it's still a few minutes to midnight, but the midnight oil burning in the pits of the engineering staffs could right the ship. Between the Mark S and R, perhaps 50,000 buyers might come back to the brand. But Lincoln engineers  would have to put the punch back into the Lincoln name...people HAVE TO  respond: "this car really moves", and overlook what they can't see from the driver seat. Otherwise Lincoln will have just "gone fishing", and the hook will remain empty---but it won't matter when the clock strikes midnight at Ford Motor, and the receiver's hammer starts to fall.    


(sources: Ted Koopman, Speed Age Magazine June 1952; Arch Brown,  SIA #128 Lincoln Capri Race Car; The Mercedes-Benz Racing Cars, Karl Ludvignsen, Bond-Parkhust Books 1971; Autoweek; Car Design News)  

DouglasR DouglasR
New User | Posts: 24 | Joined: 12/07
Posted: 12/20/07
10:21 AM

How Much Power??

If Lincoln is to pull itself out of the doldrums, and meet upcoming corporate average fuel economy standards signed into law today by the President Bush mandating 35mpg by 2020, there is only one recourse for Lincoln. Benson Ford had it right when he told Crawford, Stroppe, Stevenson, and others to massage the '52 Lincoln to win. The slightly modified '54 had a power to weight ratio of 18.86lbs/hp. Putting the punch back under the hood can be done even with existing engine architecture at Ford Motor. Adding the spice with superchargers, twin-charging, and/or a turbo would do the trick without sacrificing economy or emissions standards. Likewise emissions have become an important issue for CO/2g/km with the EU Commissioner Stavros Dimas imposing a $26 (E20) per gram average fine starting in 2012, rising to E95 ($125) per gram fine much like CAFE standards violations for the EU-European market. With Cadillac selling and building cars in Europe, and beloved Mercedes and BMW's having to meet the standard, not to mention top-range models as Ferrari, Bentley and Rolls-Royce, what Lincoln does in response will be just as important whether or not they ever have the nerve to sell Lincoln overseas.

Thus the engineers at Ford Motor are working under a duel constraint. They have to shoe-horn whatever is sitting on the shelf into the new platforms all while meeting stringent new standards. Not only does the new engine have to perform, it has to better the competition too. A quick look at Lincoln through the decades shows that performance more often than not made for memorable cars behind the greyhound or the Continental Star. It also provides a road-map of where Lincoln has to go: offer the public performance and American design and luxury in a package they can't get anywhere else, without alienating potential swing buyers.

1956-57/Mark II/V8/17.10/lbs-hp
1968-71/Mark III/V8/12.49/lbs-hp
(SAE Net post-1971)
1972-76/Mark IV/V8/23.60/lbs-hp
1980-82/Mark VI/V8/29.85/lbs-hp
1982/Continental sedan/V8/25.67-lbs-hp
1986/Mark VIILSC-HO/V8/18.13-lbs-hp
1993/Mark VIIILSC-HO/V8/13.08-lbs-hp

When Lincoln dropped near or below 20-lbs-hp, you knew you had a memorable automobile underneath your right heel. That the Mark VII LSC was as good as it was, despite its originally anemic 130Bhp motor (even Versailles, the drag-queen of Lincolns had 5Bhp more, but weighted down with that hideous transvestite of a bodyshell---killing its performance) still managed to put the "D" in drive. Pre-WWII Lincolns faired very well for the time, with competitors as Packard, Pierce Arrow, Cadillac, and Rolls-Royce (when it was built in America), having higher numbers on many models, so Lincoln remained the "hot-rod", thus the darling of bootleggers and police departments alike. All the memorable Lincolns came to life when you put your foot into it, the power-to weight ratios tell the story. Lastly, the Mark VIII set a tone, but cancellation of the Mark IX left Lincoln customers adrift, and driving to the competition.

Jaguar can provide one additional solution for Lincoln: an aluminum bodyshell. Having learned how-to-do it at Castle Bromwich, Lincoln can benefit from the billions spent and transfer the technology to the upcoming R type, and future top-line models. Audi has blazed a path in this respect. But they were not the first, Peerless last prototype V16 chassis was all-aluminum, with an aluminum bodyshell built in 1932, designed by Franklin Q. Hershey, weighed 4,060 pounds against 5,350 for a Cadillac V16---which allowed the prototype to easily exceed 110mph!. Before it transformed itself into Carling Brewery Peerless bettered the competition, but Peerless Motors went bust before the public ever found out. Decades later, what's good for Mr. Winterkorn at Audi, now Mr. Mulally's Lincoln can incorporate aluminum increasing its power to weight ratios to gain advantage over the competition. Twin charging the 4.6 Litre engine would push its power peak past 300Bhp, and removing the body-in-white weight before the first stitch of electronics, seats and automotive accountrements were installed would hand Lincoln what they need to win customers they badly need. Supercharging and twin-tuboes would also accomplish the same thing---keeping the cost economies of engine manufacture down. "Green" people would be happy, and so would the "right foot" crowd.    

That the stakes are high is demonstrated by the fact that one friend, a former BMW owner switched to a stick-shift Lincoln LS, only to find after 100K of driving, there is no new Lincoln like it to buy---and back to BMW she'll go. 50,000 people have "walked-away" from Lincoln for similar reasons in the last five years. Walking in an affluent neighborhood grocery-store/mall parking lot, of the 150 or so cars I surveyed, only 5 were American cars---my Lincoln, two Cadillacs, and a few Ford's among them---before I stopped bothering to count. Who will buy Lincoln if there is no exciting enticement, either performance wise or quality/feature wise within the product?? All the stakes are on the new S, and it is not too late for the back-room boys to pump up the metal in the second-year editions of that car come 2010. Sure, they can 'load' the car up with features, but in the end how its responds will matter most.

All the memorable Lincolns had excellent power-to weight ratios for their time, with torque to boot. Something new and exciting can still be nurled from the crankshafts turning, pistons pumping, and spin more than just the wheels on the ground, the next Lincoln must rev up a tempest on our own "tach" when we turn the key. And from the very beginning, before the first Lincoln chassis was ever built, people sent in their deposits for the new Model L from Europe, South American and the Far East. Will Lincoln ever reach that height in the future? The weighted hand of power will tell, if we ever get to drive that 'Hot Rod Lincoln' again.


Sources: Automobile, Motor-Trend, Road & Track, Car & Driver Road-tests 1949-2000; Lincoln, America's Car of State, Maurice Hendry Ballantine, 1971 NY; ibid., Bonsall.'Sixteen Cylinder Motorcars', Roy A. Scheider, 1985 NY; 'Peerless Part III'. Carl Zahn, Cars & Parts Magazine  

DouglasR DouglasR
New User | Posts: 24 | Joined: 12/07
Posted: 01/27/08
01:36 AM

How Much Quality?

Kelvinator White. "Coldspot" chromium script adorning the door of the refrigerator in my childhood basement. More images of rows of ruined appliances after Katrina in The Big Easy awaiting scrappage ran through my mind as the new Lincoln Mark S did its slow spin cycle on the turnstyle at the Washington DC Auto Show. How cruel the wrong shade of white can be.

I felt sorry for Mr. Horbury. He worked so hard to rejuvinate the Mark S show-car that I had seen two years ago in the very same spot, but it had also been painted in a horrid shade of pea-soup green redolant of things your dog does on a bad day in the wrong spot, perhaps after eating chinese dog food. This latest iteration of the Mark S clearly the better of the two. Even with the tight budget constraints at a Ford Motor that lost $3.5Bn in North America in 2007, this roll of the dice seems to have a chance. If only they had painted that car the same shade as the Rolls-Royce Phantom displayed in cobalt blue on the lower level with a marvelously contrasting pale parchment and not quite white interior. The lines of the MK S disappeared behind all that arctic colour. I half expected a Polar Bear to come out from underneath the floor...or perhaps even a stuffed version like the old Cougar cat displayed across the roof!! The marketing people did not stop there. The same colour applied to the interior. Only the top roll of the instrument panel was done in a contrasting colour of grey.

Unlike the last Mark S show-car, this one struck a chord with the people who sountered up to see it. No one had anything truly negative to say about it, and I asked people what they thought about the colour. "Looks like something in my kitchen" one well dressed women answered. "Where's the blue racing stripe?" one young man said outright. Despite its obvious similarity with the XF across the aisle, this Lincoln did seem to have something new: shutlines were very tight on this car. Given the sheer sides, and the crisp swage line down the side of the car, it had to be.

Thus at Chicago, as the first BIW's are prepared for this roll-out, the Body-In-White has to be perfect. Not just "good enough" but perfect. 2,000 plus robots likely will weld together the key piece of architecture that will make or break Mark S. I tried all the door shuts on almost every Ford Motor car on their stands, and compared to other brands, Ford still seemed to need something special. Only Jaguar XJ seemed to have the perfect fit and sound (and lack there-of when the door was shut) closing the door.  That special "thunk" that tells you your car, and wallet, will not rattle to pieces.

One piece of equipment that Lincoln can use to improve their fate are machines like the hand-held Leica LTD840 Laser Tracker now used by Mercedes-Benz to check body tolerances on C and CLK class cars built at their Bremen assembly plant. Coupled with the software, workers there can scan an entire bodyshell for fit immediately. Thus the new technology allows scanning each part on rotational surfaces down to parameters far less than a millimeter. Automotive Manufacturing Solutions quotes Mercedes Henning Siemers, operational engineer in charge of BIW at Bremen: "One of the new applications we have found is inline calibration. IN the past BIW's were inspected by being placed inside a grid station and measured using tradition CMM equipment...when you have 150 Pallets and want to measure high tolerances, you're reaching the limits of traditional methods." The system allows accurate measure of both the bodyshells and the tools that make them. Improving the tolerances and parameters in build quality to higher levels.

This is what Lincoln is up against. The XJ's I saw were beautifully made and amazingly quiet sitting inside the car with throngs of people outside. That quality needs to find its way into the Mark S. How far is Mr. Kuzak and Mr. Horbury's team willing to go to dial in quality? Cows, of course, die for the dinner table and Bridge of Weir Leather used in the new Mark S and the driver's who sit in them. But leather has become a common-place garment for upholstery of automobiles, with lowly Hyundais equipping their cars with hide. So it will take more than just that. Because Lexus is right down the street with soft and sensual sensory inputs from the interior's of their cars. Even Buick seemed to have nice accoutrements in some cases better than the Ford/Lincoln products I saw. Cadillac and Inteir Corporation are doing a bang-up job on their new products as CTS-V. Bentley bodyshells made for the Continental series are made to a tolerance to allow for the depth of the paint and the primer on the metal, so that the finished product is pefect to the touch.

Truly, if this car is to win acceptance and buyers from other brands, then it must far surpass the quality levels Ford is installing in their trucks, the Mark Z, and the current Town Car. Like Audi in the 1990's under Piech, spending 8% capital expenditures vis a vis sales revenues on product, Lincoln has to fall within that parameter too and redefine what the word "quality" means. No one is going to trade in their Lexus for a Lincoln without a true "shocker" when they get behind the wheel: has to be better. Like a blue-printed engine, with the parameters falling within 1/20,000 of an inch, an eighth thickness of the human hair, Lincoln Mark S has got to stand quality on its head. The gaps and fits have to be perfect, the textural and sybaritic feel has to impart perfection in a way they have not seen before. Gimicks and buttons won't do the trick, though it might sway the few, it won't sway the many. "WoW" is what the buyers are going to have to say when they sit behind the wheel...irrespective of whether the white paint is hiding the design above those wheels.

Next time go look at the fits and gaps on a Honda, a BMW, and a Mercedes and ask yourself if you think those same levels are on an American car, much less a Lincoln? A matchbook cover is .017 of an inch, and no more than two of those is all the margin of error a Lincoln door, hood or trunk should fit between them and the bodyshell. But it isn't just a matter of that visual accuracy, the whole body must fall within that parameter or less. Not to mention the accoutrements within it. If Lincoln is lucky that is what is happening on the Chicago line now as they prepare the production run.

Otherwise Lexus will still be selling a lot of cars. Cadillac another 214,726 cars, Mercedes 253,400 customers, BMW 293,795 drivers, and so forth. Saying "tata" to Jaguar will only be offset by the $2.4bn write-down at Volvo. The game is in Lincoln's hands. Will Lincoln "strike the match" and win the fires of the customer's hearts and wallets? Or will they slam the door on that "old refrigerator" of an appliance when they see Lincoln coming? Hopefully Mark S will not come to be known as the Mark of Saddness, or the "coldspot" in the history of Lincoln, putting the firm in the deep freeze of automotive history.  


(Sources: GM, Ford Motor Company, FT, WSJ, Automotive Manufacturing Solutions December 2007, Daimler AG, BMW AG, Bentley Motors Ltd)  

MustangGTCS07 MustangGTCS07
New User | Posts: 4 | Joined: 12/07
Posted: 01/28/08
12:01 PM

Well, as the previous owner of a 1998 Lincoln MarkVIII LSC, I can tell you that there is no Lincoln in the current lineup that comes even close to the beauty or performance of that car.  Ford really needs to get it's head out of its butt and revamp thier entire lineup.  Look at the new 2009 F150.  A beautiful truck indeed, but look at the engine lineup.  Get with it Ford.  How many other trucks has to kick your ass before you bring your horsepower up to the rest of the pack.  The 5.4L engine is a nice one indeed, but come on, 315 HP for 2009???!!!  With Dodge coming up with a 380 HP hemi, Toyota with a 381 HP engine too.  
I currently own a 2007 Mustang GT with the California Special package and I really love that car.  Finally, Ford gave the Mustang 300 HP.  After the Mustang getting its ass killed by every other domestic sports car on the market, and some from the foreign market too.  When GM brings out the new Camaro, look out Mustang owners.  It will be 1994 all over again unless Ford gives the Mustang some much needed horse power.  NO, you can't compare the Shelby GT500, which costs in excess of $50,000, with the new Camaro and Challenger.  Oh well, only time will tell for Ford.  Here's hoping they can turn themselves around and do the right thing.  

PS  I should have never gotten rid of the Mark VIII!!!!  

DouglasR DouglasR
New User | Posts: 24 | Joined: 12/07
Posted: 01/30/08
11:15 PM

"It will be 1994 all over again..."

How true, how true. In the late 1990's Ford Motor held 27.8% of the U.S. market, and as GM had fallen to 29%, the question asked of Ford Motor executives then was:"When will Ford overtake GM?" The thought today is now sadly laughable. Not that Ford Motor didn't have the resources or couldn't have achieved that lofty goal. They still have the bits and pieces in the bins to build great cars again. All one needed do was notice the attention the Shelby GT received at the recent DC Auto Show to know that all is not gloomy at the Blue Oval.

Things are not as bad as they might be. "For a modern business it was pitiful. They had financial statements like a country grocery store. The chief engineer knew as much about designing cars as a pig did about Christmas." Earnest Breech commented about what he found at Ford Motor Company when a 28 year old Henry Ford II brought him on-board in July 1946. 43 years before that Henry Ford saved his second automotive firm by selling his first Model A for $850 July 15, 1903 to Dr. Ernst Pfennig--corporate coffers were down to $223! Within six months Ford had sold 658 cars to garner $98,000 in revenues, and the Ford Motor Empire began. William Clay Ford Jr. task is harder only in that the competition is so much tougher than it was for Henry Ford II when he took over Ford September 21, 1945.

Prior to that an ailing Henry Ford had threatened to one of his men, Joe Galamb: "Joe, we've got to get back to Model T days. We've got to build only one car, there won't be any Mercury, no Lincoln, no other car." when Ford saw his son Edsel's design for a front-wheel drive economy car in 1942 planned for release after the war. Some argue today that that is where Ford is headed today: Only Ford!

Ford is fighting for its survival. North American losses at $3.5Bn (only half as bad as 2006) underlines CEO Alan R. Mulally's comment that "We are headed in the right direction". At the same time GM CFO Fritz Henderson downplayed GM's retention of its Number 1 status declaring that "We've got to get the job done in the U.S., the emerging markets can't carry GM". Mr. Henderson rightfully pointed out that Toyota's profits and market capitalization are sometimes ten times greater than GM. Across town Chrysler raised additional operating cash by selling off its old Sebring to Volga Automotive in Nizhy Novgorod on the banks of the Volga river north of Stalingrad. Sebring will become the "Siber" in Russia. "The whole robotic production line, hundreds of high tech machines, has been bought lock, stock, and barrell from Chrysler in the U.S." BBC World News staffwriter Rupert Winnfield reported. Given the threats to idle St. Thomas where Crown Victoria/Grand Marquis and now Town Car are built, the same fate might befall them, becoming a product line built in Minsk in 2012 rather than America if things continue to deteriorate at Ford. Nor is Ford going to hang-onto Jaguar and Land Rover as it has in part with Astons. "There's no need for it. Ford really wants to concentrate on its North American operations that is the whole reason why it is selling Jaguar Land-Rover." The other half of the XF is the Lincoln S.

Thus it falls to Lincoln, because an arguement can be made that Ford can't survive merely as a maker of trucks, the whole balance of the company resting with Lincoln. And the Chicago assembly plant off Torrence Avenue to hold the fate of Lincoln Motor at Ford. A group of assembly plants now comprises Chicago operations at Ford. Initially opened in 1924, building the Model T's that Henry wanted to get back to. When the plant and the manufacturing campus were revamped for the current Ford 500/now Taurus, 1.6Mn sq/ft of space built on 155 acres employed 2,311 hourly workers and 137 salaried workers. Additional facilities were built to bring suppliers next to the plant, reducing the "trip time" parts to the assembly line from an average of 425 miles to 125 miles. Integration of the parts becoming key, as most manufacturers don't produce more than 34% of their own cars, the balance built by Tier I and Tier II suppliers (sometimes with less than stellar quality).

Then Ford Global Purchasing Manager at Chicago Tony Brown commented "Our supply campus is not a typical sequencing center in which suppliers receive large shipments and sequence parts for just-in-time delivery to the assembly line. Components are being manufacturered here that gives us tremendous quality control." Sequencing those parts to keep the line moving becomes more than just a piero-ette or dance of the bits and pieces. "There's a lot written about the difficult commercial issues between suppliers and automakers. But really each and every day these vehicles would not be built if there was not tremendous collaboration." Tower Automotive's Kathleen Ligocki added with respect to current Ford production at Chicago. Thus it has come to be that suppliers and Ford are married for better and worse in order for even one car to come down the line with any success. Pilot production for Lincoln Mark S is underway as the Mark S tours America for prospective customers to see.

If Lincoln is not to be relegated to rebranding in Russia, much as was rumored for Packard Senior cars after 1942 as ZIS, and Packard dies from 1956 seemingly resurrected as Tchaika, then Mark S must succeed. Other wise it might become the Mark of Siberia.

A case can be made that the travails that William Clay Ford Jr. has been and is now facing at Ford since 1998, are to some degree worse than the situation Henry Ford II inherited in 1945. Worse because Ford was on the verge of a great era of success. The stakes for the product decisions as great, because failure was not an option, it was not on the horizon. How could they fail when Ford had earned record profits through the 1990's? Ford was third in 1945, Lincoln likewise vying for third in the marketplace behind Cadillac and Packard. In 1998 Lincoln was leading the market in many sectors. But BMW, Mercedes, and Lexus were abeam of the Navigators, Town Car's and the impending LS. Ford is now third again, Lincoln a distant fifth. And the hinge of fate falls to Lincoln.

Performance, power-to-weight ratios, and a redefined quality for the product will determine whether or not the 2,400 people at Chicago can bolt together another great Lincoln. Wixom is gone, relegated to the slagheap of history like Packard's East Grand Boulevard, Duesenberg's West Washington & Harding Street factories, like the old Leland-Lincoln plant on Livonia Avenue in Detroit. The Mark S will only be as good as the CAD/CAM engineering parameters have made it, and the degree to which the engineers having dialed in the quality, and performance of the car. The workers at Torrence Avenue can only bolt together the parts and pieces they have to work with. Whether they fit together properly will have long been determined before the first supply truck backs up to the ramps. Nor can Ford's offer to "buy-out" its UAW rank and file be any great moral booster, with $35-$70K being dangled for those longtime workers still on the line, and those left behind. But it is now up to them.

The Mark R is a long way off from daylight, along with the Mark T CUV. Trucks as the Mark LT will only take Lincoln so far, but they will not hold the line against Mercedes, BMW, and Lexus. The fate of Lincoln will be far worse than that of 1994...when Wolfgang Reitzle's far reaching proposals were being created, only to be rejected at the key moment. Performance Lincolns that might have been built weren't, along with stylish Lincoln & Continentals that would have revived the brand. Now seven years later the mantle falls to Mark S and Chicago. At least Lincoln Model L was popular in Chicago amongst Bootleggers and Police alike. Hopefully their ghosts might inhabit the line at Chicago, with verve and dash finding its way back to Lincoln, just as it had in 1924! 'Prohibition' made Lincoln a favorite of "runners" back then, and hopefuly Mark S will succeed so we will not be prohibited from buying Lincoln again.


(Sources: 'Henry & Edsel Ford, Creation of the Ford Empire, Richard Bak, John Wiley & Sons 2003; Never Complain, Never Explain, Victor Lasky Detroit 1982; Car Connection; WSJ; FT)  

DouglasR DouglasR
New User | Posts: 24 | Joined: 12/07
Posted: 02/02/08
09:15 PM

Winners and Losers....

Lincoln had surpassed Cadillac in 1998, selling 189,191 vehicles to Cadillac's 179,002, also a year GM tried to fudge Cadillac's registrations to make it appear they had not lost the crown. It was also a year that Ford Motor held 27.5% of the market and the question then was: "When will Ford surpass GM?"

In the decade since then, the year that BMW and VWAG battles for possession of Rolls-Royce and Bentley, the two dividing the spoils, the luxury market has indeed doubled within the United States. A quick talley of luxury marks compared between 1997 and 2007 shows how much the market has shifted.

marque/1997 Sales//2007 Sales
Audi/34,160//93,506; 115,629 North America
BMW/122,467//293,795/335,840 North America
*combined U.S. sales 1997 454 Rolls-Royce & Bentley; 414 sales bentley 1998; 1,752 combined sales worldwide

From roughly 700,000 sales to more than 1.4Mn luxury cars took the lions' share of the market and the corporate profits. Winners and losers were rife among them.

Lincoln lost its pre-eminent position in the last decade. More than 50,000 customers deserted the brand, or simply pushed into the arms of the competition, as has happened with many LS owners. Lincoln has fallen to fifth in the last decade, a position it has never had to endure in the past, even when the luxury market was crowded between the wars (WWI & II). The swift change must rankle even more so considering that Lincoln was the leader in the SUV market from the outset, only to cede that position to the competition. Only one new truck (LT), and one new car introduction (MkZ) in seven years against stiff competition has nearly bankrupted the brand. Lincoln selling 131,487 vehicles last year, and hoping to regain half its loss since 1997 in 2008.

Cadillac has managed to claw its way back, gaining as many customers as now separates BMW and Mercedes-Benz for the top slot, having sold 214,726 cars and reporting a 95% gain for CTS for January. Whether Mr. Wagoner and Mr. Lutz have the nerve to continue their V12 program being developed in Australia in addition to a Cadillac version of the Volt will tell the tide for Cadillac against the future, acting as halo cars for the brand.

BMW trebbled its position in the last decade, taking America's luxury segment crown. A superb accomplishment for a company once bankrupt itself in 1959, and maker of Isetta's. Mercedes-Benz has survived its "marriage" with Chrysler, more than doubling its sales in the same time, and surviving quality issues that might well have permanently damaged the brand. Audi likewise established a new path in America, also trippling its position in America making the words of Mr. Winterkorn to sell more than 1Mn Audis worldwide a serious proposition. Audi's accomplishments paved the way for the rise of VWAG worldwide as one of the global Big Three: GM, Toyota and VWAG.

At the pinnacle of the market we find that once dowdy old Rolls-Royce and Bentley under the aegis of BMW AG and VWAG have become case studies in "how-to-do-it" within the industry. Combined the two brands sold 1,752 cars worldwide in 1997, and 454 in the States. Today Bentley has set a record for the firm in its entire history selling 10,014 cars worldwide, 4,196 in America, on a turnover of E1.5Bn with a 10% profit margin of E150Mn. At the same time its top designer Dirk Van Braekel has won awards for design of the Continental and Azure series. Rolls-Royce now sells as many cars in America in 2007 as they did worldwide in 1997! 40% of R-R sales come to our shores, and of the 250 $450K plus Drop-Head Coupes, delivered, the majority of them were bought by fellow Americans some paying $100K plus over list to get them!! Worldwide Rolls-Royce sold 1,010 cars last year, an average selling price of $391,000!! For the money Ford Motor spent on Jaguar, both BMW and VWAG have made millions from their investments in the two venerable old British Brands.

Porsche continues to cement its relationship within the States, having come along way from Max Hoffmann's NYC dinner-table entreaties to Ferry Porsche to design a corporate crest for the brand from Zuffenhausen. Porsche doubled its sales in America like its German counterparts, and is expected to surpass 33,800 sales in America for 2007. Porsche Holdings SE, of course, now controlling the fate of VWAG, and Bentley.

Even Ferrari doubled its sales from 800 plus to 1,635. Lamborghini sold enough cars to keep one L.A. or New York garage busy in 1997, but last year sold a lion's share of 2,406 cars sold worldwide for an estimated 1,800. Maserati likewise was not even officially selling a decade ago in America, and last year found 2,600 American buyers---surpassing Italian sales of 714 and U.K.sales of 611. Even a relaunched Bugatti found 81 buyers to add Molsheim's rolling sculpture to their collections. Maybach likewise found 156 Daimler afficianados to take delivery of a 62 or 57...Maybach selling 30% of Rolls-Royce volume despite a stellar start in 2002.

Jaguar the sad story of the lot. The Billions of Ford money spent on the Big Cat have come to naught. Jaguar sold 12,588 XJ6 in 1997, and 19,503 cars in toto. The X & S, two kittens that cluttered up the box, and has brought Jaguar to lowly depths, selling 15,583 cars in 2007 equal to its performance 40 years ago. January saw a 52.2% drop in sales with only 664 buyers, 202 of which were for the marvelous XJ. PAG Group now but a wisp of a memory, and career killer for Ford executives but one. If only Ford had accomplished with Jaguar what they had with Astons: selling only 60 cars in America in 1997; a revamped a revitalised firm selling more than 1,300 cars last year. Yet Ford cast them aside. Had they succeeded with Jaguar on the same scale as Astons, the Big Cat would have become Ford's "BMW" which was the intent of Mr. Nasser and perhaps William Clay Ford Jr.

Jim Press, former Toyota Executive and father in part of Lexus can only take pride in the performance of the top Toyota Label. 90,800 people drove away in 1997, only to find that three times than many did a decade later selling 329,177 vehicles in America. 200,334 of those were cars. And 35,226 of those were for the top-line LS460/460h and 600H. All cars and all sales that could have belonged either to Lincoln or Cadillac, (or for that matter Chrysler). And Lincoln, like Lexus, is lucky that Chrysler was shortsighted not to develop Imperial or upscale its 300 series chassis, otherwise they would have lost even more sales.

Lincoln can take heart that the MK X sales are up 78%, and prospects for Mark S, and R, plus the Mark T might just make up the difference of the 50,000 customers they lost. In the words of Bentley managing director Dr.Franz Josef Paefgen: "It's not enough just to produce a nice car, there has to be a story in people's minds." Where Bentley can successfully trade on LeMans victories, the Bentley Boys, "Hail Britiania", Lincoln has yet to revive or carve out its own story, or find its champion.

Far from The Glass House, Carol Shelby drove the first of the new Mustang based Shelby's off the assembly line in Los Angeles on his 85th birthday, January 11. The 5.4 Litre V8 engine packing 450Bhp@8.6 psi supercharged lighting a path to the future. "I've worked with the SVT guys for several years now and I know they have the guts, talent, and the passion to deliver the best performance Mustangs ever..." And Ford's Production Manager Andy Davis is there to make sure the Snake lives in every Mustang.

That is the kind of passion that needs to find its way inbetween torxing together the lastest Lincoln. Throw the SVT guys onto Lincoln, and 'SVT' could stand for Mark S, Mark V (for Victory), and Mark T. Otherwise fifteen months of sales gains for Lincoln will come screeching to a halt. "Nice" isn't good enough anymore. Lincoln needs to have its own story again, to separate itself apart from just the winners and losers. Without success at Lincoln, the question we ask now, not whether Ford will surpass GM, but whether GM will "Buy" Ford!!  


(Sources: Automotive News; GM; Ford Motor Company; Chrysler LLC; Daimler AG; BMW AG; VWAG; Lamborghini; Maserati SpA; Ferrari SA; Porsche Holding SE; Bentley MotorCars Ltd; Rolls-Royce Motorcars Ltd)  

sabfsu sabfsu
New User | Posts: 11 | Joined: 02/08
Posted: 02/15/08
11:04 AM

Why would anyone buy a Lincoln, or for that matter, any US luxury car?  Compare the materials, fit and finish, drivability, and performance to Europe and Japan.  No contest!  To drive a Lincoln Town Car is to drive a 1977 Mercury Cougar Brougham, with only slightly better interior.  I'll stick with my German and Japanese cars until Ford gets at least into the 21st century!  

DouglasR DouglasR
New User | Posts: 24 | Joined: 12/07
Posted: 02/16/08
09:21 PM

Getting into the 21st Century

"Why would anyone buy a Lincoln..."

The sentiments succinctly expressed by Sabfsu points to the nexus of the problem facing not only Lincoln, Ford Motor Company, but the indiginous American Automobile Industry in general. It also points to the sorrowful fact that that very same industry has allowed themselves to sink so low in the public estimation that it would seem well nigh impossible for them to even consider visiting a dealership much less take a test drive. Social oppobrium against driving home-grown American cars has been allowed to fester by the manufacturers unabated. Yet I remember a time when "Japanese" was synonomous with junque, but by 1968-69 the pendulum began to swing round, and GM/Ford introduced the Vega and Pinto. Given such attitudes, it would seem market surrender and bankruptcy is inevitable for Ford Motor Company. Automotive News likewise reports that Ford Officials are "vague" about the fate of Mercury. Atleast for Lincoln, the Mark S, R, and T exist, so their future much less in doubt. Such attitudes are also underscored by the reality that Ford Motor conducted consumer comparisons of their cars against Toyota, Nissan and others with potential buyuers, having removed the badges from the cars to find out what people really thought about them without being jaded by the name.

The distinguished Professor of Design Robert Cumberford's remarks in the March issue also lay ruin and waste to the Mark S. If the public reacts viscerally in the same manner, Mark S will become known as the Mark of Sadness. That so many non-American design influences characterize the car from one point of view, the car might also be regarded as the Mark of Surrender.

Mr. Horbury is reaching either for a great number of Pints, or the malox about now given Mr. Cumberford's sabor slashing critique. Nor can I imagine what he would have said without the Horbury revisions to the previous Mark S showcar I saw at the Washington D.C. Auto Show, shocking as it was painted in luminescant shades of light irridescent vomit green metallic. A bad day for Lincoln.

Especially when we reprise just a few of Mr Cumberford's assessments of Mr. Horbury's work: "What could possibly be the purpose of this stamped indent? It simply looks and is wrong..."; "The instrument panel is a mess..."; "This rectangular panel containing the stereo and climate controls looks like something that you might have seen in a 1970's delivery truck"; "This small flash of chrome does what exactly?" Ad Infinitum. Sadly, the few items he does say something positive about as the steering wheel, I found singularly disappointing when I saw the kelvinator white show car in D.C. Taken together, it is no wonder that Sabfsu's remarks strike such a disonant chord. This is what Lincoln is now fighting.

It is hard to take given that many of the great Lincoln's, as the L & K were built with such care based upon the standard set by Lincoln's founder, the 'Master of Precision' Henry M. Leland: engine bearings built within a parameter of one-eighth the diameter of a human hair, or 1/15,000 of an inch. Or examples as the Continental, which was designed in less than thirty minutes by Eugene "Bob" Tiberius Gregory for Edsel Ford in 1938, a design enduring for sixty plus years and recognized by the Museum of Modern Art in New York as rolling sculpture. Many of those cars have endured for decades receiving other accolades for quality and design far outside the industry then and now. Today's cars are massaged and cliniced to death before they see the light of day, and perhaps that is also part of the problem.

It is also hard to take given then Ford Motor Group President Robert S. McNamara's threat to "cancel Lincoln" in June 1958, unless the design staff got off its proverbial spare tire hump and produced a striking new and feasible proposal for 1961. Eugene Bordinat, Joe Oros, and others did just that working round the clock in the basement stiletto studio by the elevator in the Ford Design Center, turning the nascent T-Bird proposal into the stunning 1961 Lincoln-Continental which has endured to this day. McNamara also made Henry II put a 2 Year 24,000 Mile warranty on the car, the first of its kind for Lincoln and the American industry for a luxury car. The '61 also won the Industrial Design Institute Award for excellence. My own example had a quarter million miles on the clock before it passed on, and it was well worthy of the warranty.

Had Lincoln stayed with that concept beyond 1969, they would not now be in the trouble they are in. Wolfgang Reitzle tried to revive it in the late 1990's, only to be shown the door by William Clay Ford Jr. & Co. Leaving Lincoln with no new product to sell other than trucks in a decade. That the Mark S is pregnant within the production lines of lessor vehicles is of no doubt and a constraint of capital expenditure at Ford Motor today that make it that much harder for viable Lincolns to be built, much less proposed. And it makes Jamie Kitman's remark that "we've been taken for chumps" seem especially barbed with respect to American luxury products.

Yet Cadillac is proving with the CTS-V that revival is possible. Contrast today's 2009 CTSV with 'Dowager' Seville V8-6-4 or an '80's Eldorado to see what can be accomplished from the rust of decades past. BMW once made Isetta's and fifty years-on they've revived Rolls-Royce at Goodwood, so Lincoln can still win again by setting the same example. If Mr. Mulally, Kuzak, Farley & Fields, et. al, and others responsible for Lincoln would only realize they could create far more buzz, excitement and verve by bringing similar performance cars back to Lincoln, they could (slowly) entice buyers back to the fore. Nor do such cars have necessarily to be regressively retro to accomplish the fact.

"Lincoln inspires the loyalty of those who know it best..." long stood as a tagline for the brand. Regardless of what they look like, future Lincolns would likewise have to reflect a new level of trust between the consumer and the manufacturer that would make that phrase viable once again: Give me twice as good a car for the buck, and I will be twice as loyal. It only takes 19 hours to build the average Lexus, and that's all the leeway Lincoln has to get-it-right, roughly the time it takes to win LeMans, to build one good car down the line. The 1958-60 Lincoln was a rushed engineering and production disaster, which nearly killed Lincoln under McNamara's threats. The same situation exists today, and it only takes an instant to gain or lose a customer. From the horror of failure can come great cars, but if Lincoln wants to win individuals as Sabfsu, that is what they are going to have to do: build great cars again, if they want to "get into the 21st century."


Sources: Collectable Automobile Magazine; Automobile Magazine; 'Edsel Ford and E.T. Gregorie, Henry Dominguez, SAE'; American Manufacturing Solutions, March 2008  

Ottopartz460 Ottopartz460
New User | Posts: 1 | Joined: 02/08
Posted: 02/18/08
08:14 PM

Great song. Still working on my own Hot Rod Lincoln, although it's a '58 Edsel with a 460 Lincoln motor.

What's wrong with a '77 Cougar Brougham? I'd much rather have that than ANY vehicle produced later than 1990.

Did I hear right that the Town Car will not be produced anymore? That's a shame, even though they were built in Canada (or wherever), they (Grand Marquis and Crown Victorias included) were the last of the REAL American style cars. A big solid four-door sedan body sitting on a beefy steel frame that will survive almost any crash, a healthy, yet smooth V8, 6 passenger seats (with a split front bench seat standard), the largest trunkspace in it's class, and all the options standard is what being American is all about. Well, ok, it could DEFINETLY use some more power.

If I were in charge of Ford, I would keep the Town Car/ Grand Marquis/ Crown Victoria platform alive, but change the exterior styling and beef up the powerplants. I'd offer small V8 turbodiesels as options and I would offer something like a F150 Lightning engine (that's the 5.4L, right?) I would style them after their mid 70's counterparts (big shoulders, lots of chrome, maybe hideaway headlights), and vinyl tops. Of course, those would all be OPTIONS, but that's another nice thing about being American. I believe that an American should be able to walk into a dealer and buy a car that he wants, not what Ford or GM THINK he wants.

Japanese cars are great, don't get me wrong. My wife owns an '05 Corolla, we are thinking of getting a Highlander, and I've always like the Avalon (the older ones with the bench seats and column shift ;D ), but I don't want a Japanese car. I would NEVER EVER be caught dead behind the wheel of a BMW. I'm a tow truck driver and tow more of those than ANY other vehicle (including SAABs and Land Rovers).

What about a car that I want? Why can't I have a big, shiny, chrome-trimmed, V8, lane-hoggin', whitewall tire sportin', AMERICAN built land yacht? With the technology they have today, they can make them efficient, responsive, powerful, and aggressive and still keep the relaxed, smooth, luxurious ride that a car like that is known for. As much as I hate BMW, I drove a 760IL (I think it was a '05) and it was big, handled like it was on rails and threw me back in the seat when I laid on the accelerator. So, I KNOW the technology is out there.

I consider myself to be an average American. My tastes are a little different than most, granted, but I wonder where my freedom is when I walk into an American car dealership looking for a nice car and I am presented with gigantic luxury SUVs (what an oxy-moron that is), minivans, econo-box compacts, and watered down front-wheel drive sedans.

I'm SICK of having car companies telling me what I want, instead of asking me.

So, you can keep your BMWs (you'll be seeing the tow truck and service department so much, it'll make your head spin) and Pile-of-junk Cadillacs. I will hold on to my '77 Cougar Brougham (Actually, I'm driving a '79 Lincoln Town Car right now, it's not exactly a Hot Rod, but humor me) until car companies offer REAL cars again. Maybe, this time they will do it RIGHT!!!

On an off subject, if I wanted to complain to Ford (which I am BURNING with frustration to do), how would I go about doing it? I looked on the Ford website and found little help. I want to be a part of... I don't know... a focus group or something so that I can let them know what I (and people like me, and there are more people like me than you think) WANT out of a car. Big, flashy, POWERFUL, solid cars, like they made back in the 50's and 60's (only safer and more efficient), are what I'm ranting about. Any help would be a appreciated.


DouglasR DouglasR
New User | Posts: 24 | Joined: 12/07
Posted: 02/20/08
09:42 PM

Real Cars...

"I am sick of having car companies telling me what I want..."

OP460 directly states with respect to what is left of our automotive choices sitting on the show-room floors across America. He is not alone, not wishing to be shoe-horned into a car he doesn't want. Not unlike a friend, a professional engineer, who purchased the first Lincoln LS instead of a BMW, only to find 100,000 miles later, there is nothing in the Lincoln stable that replaces it. The MK Z not being up to par with what is available at BMW. But there is a larger issue underscored by what OP460 has to say with respect not only to Lincoln but the American Auto Industry in general. Pointing to a quiet discomfort that has long settled among American buyers with what Detroit has proffered them. It points to what Detroit stopped or neglected to build much less improve upon.

A classic example is GM's decision during the Roger Smith Era to discontinue its RWD platforms in favor of its FWD large car platforms, misjudging the market and handing sales to Ford Motor Company. What has happened with Town Car, and its long lifespan owes much to this miscalculation. One can hardly forget the jibing TV commercials of the 1980's where GM owners confuses their Cadillac's with Oldsmobiles at the valet park: "No that's my Olds, no that's my Cadillac..." One reason why Lincoln was able to surpass Cadillac in 1998, as Lincoln had never abandoned its traditional RWD V8 chassis. I counted no less than 42 Town Car's driving out of Manhatten in the Lincoln Tunnel during a visit to NYC in December, only half of which were livery service cars. Evidence alone that a healthy demand still exists for the big Lincoln chassis, especially with a market for 50,000 cars a year. A situation not like that which befell the Lincoln K in 1940: "We did not stop making luxury cars, people just stopped buying them..." Edsel Ford declared in 1939 when the 1940 Model K was stillborn.

In Lincoln's case today, fortunately they have revived Town Car production at St. Thomas beginning January 11, 2008, so no one can make a case that while people clearly want to buy luxury cars (in a market of 1.4Mn), they stopped building them.  Given that both the MK Z and MK S can be regarded as nothing more than icing on a Ford Layer Cake, being based off lessor platforms, many can argue that such moves might kill the Lincoln name. Mk Z is selling well enough, and portends for success for MK S. Cadillac was never successful with the Catera, much less the Cimarron. Both being warmed over Chevrolet's or Opel's. Not much worse than Versailles, so platform sharing can backfire. Given Cumbeford's remarks, it is possible that Mk S could be in trouble. Lincoln kept their Town Car in production, gradually improving until the 1987-89 drive-lines regularly clocked 250,000 miles and then some. That GM handed Lincoln customers on a platter is supported by the fact that Wixom had its best year in 1988, building a record number of cars. Bodies and trim levels improved (all too slowly) during the 1990's, to a point that Lincoln placed high in J.D. Power's survey's, with Wixom winning "Best Plant" award in 2007. Yet the Town Car cries out for a revamp, plus chassis improvements coinciding with increased power.

Yet OP460's remarks should echo in the ears and remind William C. Ford Jr. when Ford Motor received 750,000 letters as word leaked out Mustang might be quashed and turned into a revamped Probe. Alex Troutman, then Ford CEO granted $750Mn in development money for a new Mustang, "And not a dime more", without it Ford Motor would be in far more serious trouble. Mr. Ford has beneffited greatly from it today. John Rock, the last CEO of Oldsmobile, should have heard the word Cutlass ringing in his ears as they hauled down the Oldsmobile name from the GM building. No series of Cutlass cars were revived with modern drivetrains, world class quality and a design worthy of its name. All you have to do is look at high auction prices on classic Olds of the 1960's to see what they cast aside. There is a good reason why Ralph Gillies designed Chrysler 300 has racked up sales of 1 Million since its introduction.

Yet the silence of Wixom points to the larger issue, one that has also handed millions in sales to the competitors of our esteemed manufacturers. Re-investment and development of the chassis and each series was neglected, justified with longer amortization periods. Honda refined its Accord no less than seven times during the two revisions of Saturn, as Jamie Kitman pointed out years ago. The same example followed for so many American chassis that by stint of incremental improvement Toyota,Datsun-Nissan, Honda, much less Hyundai were able to build competent products at a better price. They steadily reduced their takt time in factories, maximizing production efficiencies and able to increase content of their vehicles. So now the distance that Lincoln and others a have to travel to catch-up to the competition is that much greater, requiring deeper pockets. Lack of product development has merely accentuated  the differences and perceptions of product between American designs and European, much less Asian. Audi's resurgence under Martin Winterkorn a perfect example of what can be achieved. Remember when Audi executives were grilled on 60 Minutes about "unintended acceleration" in their cars? Audi sold a record 924,000 cars world-wide in 2007, a number Oldsmobile used to sell with regularity.

The manufacturers' abject abnegation of their resonsibilites to us, the buying public, to keep the faith and bargain between the us not to sell us substandard and shoddy products, much less those reeking of a malaise of design, is what has happened between Detroit and the American Consumer. The Firestone Tire Disaster/Episode at Ford Motor a perfect microcosm of the problem, and match that lit the fire of Ford's recent decline. No matter how hard it was for Bill Ford to turn on the company of his forefather's (and mother's) at Firestone, the larger duty to Ford's reputation hung in the balance. No more so than GM's spying on Ralph Nader, giving validation to his argument, and subsequently setting the seeds of the destruction of buyer confidence in American small cars. The twain meets within buyer frustration when you add questions as: Where is the Imperial based on a stretched 300 seeing the light of day as "Lebaron SRT8"? Where is the Continental V8, V8 Supercharged, Twin-Charged, or Turbo, much less V12?? Where is, for that matter, the 2009 Cougar XR7? How many cars were never built but should have been given the green light given the product and performance traditions at the various brands? Weak-kneed response in Detroit, and aping of foreign brands has left a bad taste and disappointment behind the wheel. "Murano" isn't for me much less Lexus. But if I have to keep asking: where is the Mark IX? When a Mk X is a CUV, and Continentals consigned to the dustbin of history, what choice do I have then. OP460 is right when he says he wants "Real Cars" again, and that he is not alone.


Sources: WSJ; Automotive News; Automobile Magazine; 'Lincoln & Continental, The Early Years' Marvin Arnold, Taylor Publishing 1989)  

DouglasR DouglasR
New User | Posts: 24 | Joined: 12/07
Posted: 02/26/08
02:21 PM

40% Logic 60% Emotion

"I never intended to get into the automobile business, there is too much trouble in it..." Henry M. Leland, founder of Cadillac and Lincoln once stated in a fit of frustration over the birth pains of the nascent auto industry when he took over Cadillac, Leland & Faucolner's biggest customer, in the winter of 1902. Company Treasurer and Secretary as well as investors William H. Murphy and Lemuel C. Bowen begged 'H.M.' not to leave Cadillac in the lurch: "Either you come and run our factory, or we go out of business..." the two gentlemen replied.

Alan R. Mulally (ARM), the former Boeing Executive and Ford CEO finds himself in precisely the same position as Leland, 106 years later. We could well imagine the same conversation happening aboard the Ford corporate Gulfstream V somewhere over the heartland, or returning from a trip to Ford of Europe, where the company is profitable and its products satisfy the market. The atmosphere at 33,000 feet as thin as Ford's fortunes are on the ground in North America today. The men asking the questions would be the Ford's themselves, yet the answer, more than a year after Mr. Mulally accepted the job, well nigh the same.

Thus those "Ford Layer Cakes", comprised as they are of a Ford, Mercury and Lincoln nameplate spread from a single platform, as Fusion/Milano/MKZ and MKS/Taurus happen to be, are the "hook" upon which Lincoln's fortunes now rest. MK X being an upscale Edge, and lord knows that the MK R will share its underpinnings with the next Volvo. The Town Car still remaining with us, and stretched from Crown Victoria/Marquis progeny. No more unique platforms for Lincoln, as was long the custom between 1956-1979. Those glory days are gone, like so many of the jobs Ford Motor is trying to "buy-out" for $140,000 a person, doubtful to return. Far below the comfort of the Gulfstream V, on the ground the public is screaming like banshee's over the failure of the product committee's and the executives to approve new metal in time, not to mention hurling jibes at what is out there. The natives are restless, and losing faith if something doesn't happen soon. Only F150 and Mustang die-hards need not worry as to the fate of their favorite products because that is what catches the eye of WCF Jr. Not so the fans of Mercury or Lincoln, much less the once fashionable nameplates that graced many a Ford Motor Company vehicle as S55, Maurauder, Cougar, Park Lane, LTD, Fairlane, ad-infinitum. Chevrolet has brought back Impala, Chrysler its 300 and soon New Yorker (and dare if they are brave: Imperial) but Ford is slowly awakening reviving Taurus and on March 4, Fiesta will return.

Mr. Horbury and his team must be sweating it out. The "icing" that ARM is doling out mighty thin gruel in a pastiche of parts that is getting thinner. Despite some improvement the quality of interiors on new Ford products less than that of its competitors. Only J.D. Powers Awards for reliability against them marking a bright spot in 2007. But "what can we possibly do in time?" is the question that hangs like a guillotine over the fate of Lincoln and Ford. Rationalizing and downsizing product and production facilities, cutting costs has consumed the early days of ARM's tennure. The time for action now befalls him, as there is little wiggle room with respect to plants and production remaining. Without product to sell, it will be very hard for Ford Motor to maintain the market share it has even now. The downward spiral of decreasing market share will hit Ford as hard as it did Packard between 1954-56. You can plan on a volume of 3 Million cars and trucks, but when that volume flushes down to 2 Million overnite, you are in trouble and can't shudder or idle plants fast enough before your costs choke you to death on a per vehicle basis. GM made $79 per vehicle before the tax-write-down, and Ford lost $456 per vehicle in North America in 2007. To stay afloat Ford has to keep roughly $35Bn on hand to weather to storm waiting for an up-tick in sales. Roughly the amount of money that Porsche has on hand to buy its remaining controlling share of VWAG. When tiny Porsche makes more money hedging currency (E3.5Bn) than it does selling 100,000 cars, all while making the most profit per vehicle in the world, and its chief executive makes $100Mn in sallary, you know its getting tough out there on the tarmac in the marketplace.

"Don't the customers understand how hard it is to make a car, any car?"ARM should be thinking about now. It isn't a new problem at Ford. "It's a wonder we ever built a car, frankly. The other difficult thing that came up, and this was a policy that the product planners had to work with, and that uses a system that never really allows you to introduce a unique automobile because they had a constant volume concept and would never make any allowance---so if you wanted to bring out a unique body style or something of that nature, you had to justify it within the constant volume. So if you're bringing out a car, it better be one that generates a lot of economic profit or you can't make any sense out of it all, and frequently, you can't make sense of them anyhow." Eugene Bordinat, Ford Design Chief from 1961 onwards, (until his retirement) recounted to David Crippen at the Benson Ford Research Center. Bordinat was responsible for many great Lincolns, along with L. David Ash, as the Mark III happened to be, developed for a pittance at $40Mn between 1965-1968.

Bordinat added that: "The design business is 40% logic, and 60% emotion..." concluding with successful cars that: "that's when emotionalism got into it, and every once in a while our management would say, 'Well, *** the concept, let's go anyhow...'" Lee Iacocca couldn't sleep one nite in Toronto, calling a sound alseep David Ash 'round 1.a.m. and told him: "You know Dave, I've been thinking about this. Why don't you try something like the old Continental rear-end, you know the spare tire effect and maybe something classy like a Rolls-Royce front-end." Mr. Ash answered: "Fine", and a great Lincoln was born. Don Kopka, Damon Woods, Hermann C. Brunn Jr. putting the finishing touches on the four-door T-Bird clay armature that they turned into the two-door Continental Mark III under the code-name "Lancelot". Iacocca's midnight inspirational call went round the system, screwing the myriad of product committees and clinics to make a car with personality and dash. Because it was massaged from the 4-door T-Bird chassis it made Lincoln very profitable for the first time in decades. Yet it stood out as an individualistic and unique product.

Just such inspiration that Ford needs now. "As it sits, the vehicle is almost identical to the original sketch...this project represents a clarity of vision; no committee's or consumer studies diluted the design. There's nothing else out there like it." John Manoogian II of Cadillac spoke of the new CTS Coupe unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show. This new Cadillac Coupe was developed in secrecy at GM, not unlike that of the history of the Mark III designed on the QT in the Special Advanced Products Studio at Ford. "Once we showed it to Bob Lutz, and senior management, they said they can't afford not to do this car...we upset a lot of people on this one because we worked outside the system." The impending CTS  Coupe was given the green light by Ed Welburn and top executives as Rick Wagoner, along with Lutz. It's time for Lincoln to place the chips on the table and let the automotive roulette wheel spin. The same impetus that Iacocca provided Dave Ash and his team is the same type of gamble that Mr. Mulally needs to make with Mr. Horbury and his team now. Because Mr. Welburn is about to outflank Lincoln once again, with an LS9 motor waiting underhood. When the "Gulfstream" lands, one visit to the design studio is all it will take, slashing through the malaise which is gripping every last nut and bolt of the Lincoln studio. Or so it would seem given the paucity of product.

Lincoln and Ford Motor Company can't afford not to respond. A Continental or some such must be in the offing and there is no time to lose. Nor excuses made that no suitable platform nor motors sufficient to counter the LS9's 620Bhp J1379 rated SAE specification. The GM Wixom Engine Performance Plant down the street from the shuttered Wixom assembly plant taunting the Ford team to respond. If the SVT team can build Mustang's that keeps O'l Shell happy, why can't they dare to be great again with Lincoln? Where is the next Continental or Lincoln Road Car? Just as Bill Ford told Ernie Breech: "That's my dashboard, and we're keeping it..." for the Mark II when challenged, the Ford's need to rise to the challenge today. They approved construction of Wixom to build Lincoln and the four-place T-Bird at McNamara's urging when many voices were against those projects. And they accepted the "100% Logic Man's" recommendation to turn a nascent T-Bird proposal into a four-place Continental in 1961. A risk taken that was rewarded with a decade of success from which Lincoln prospered mightily. When Lincoln-Mercury atomatons didn't want the Mark III, Lido knew better, and public acceptance vindicated the design. And Continental defeated Eldorado in sales for the first time. That same bold gamble is what is needed where the special design proposals aren't casualties to the miasma of statistical mean and methods.

At the end of the day, pie charts aren't worth the taste. As Bordinat makes clear, and Iacocca proved, it takes guts, action, and risk to win, the kind that McNamara took. "This business isn't for the faint-hearted..." Iacocca wrote in his memoirs. In a business that a majority share of results is based on emotional response to a design, buttressed by what engineers can achieve, and production people build, Lincoln can't wait. "I'd like to drive that one home..." Henry Ford II exclaimed when he saw the drawings and clay models of the Mark III, a first from Mr. Ford for any initial design proposal. They knew they had a winner. A far cry from what Henry said a decade before  when presented with the first proposals for the Mark II: "I wouldn't give you a dime for that." Today a lot of the new Lincolns might elicit the same response. It's a few minutes to Midnight, Mr. Mulally, and its time to arm yourself for the call. When your corporate plane lands during your next tour, you can't afford to find your team pitching dimes. No one will want a taste of the latest Ford Layer Cake without delectable designs. You need Lincolns or Continentals that people want to drive home. Logic dictates that its time to bet the chips on a car that inspires more than a little emotion. Otherwise you wouldn't want to join the ranks with the last aero-executive to run an automobile company; Roy T. Hurley, the last man at Packard, much less Curtiss-Wright? And you might find yourself echoing Mr. Leland's words and where will that leave Ford, much less Lincoln??


Sources: Interview with David Crippen, Eugene Bordinat June 22, 1984 Benson Ford Research Center; Interview with David Cripen, L. David Ash, January 25, 1985; Edmunds Inside Line, Andrew Wendler, Cadillac CTS Coupe; 'Master of Precision' Henry M. Leland, Wayne State University Press 1996)  

DouglasR DouglasR
New User | Posts: 24 | Joined: 12/07
Posted: 02/28/08
07:24 PM

A Very Fine Line...

"We've re-interpreted the best of Lincoln designs over time, preserving the elegance synonymous with the brand." Peter Horbury, Ford Motor's Executive Diretor for Design commented on the roll-out of the Mark R. His team comprised of Patrick Shiavone, Director of Design; Gordon Platto Chief Designer, Lincoln; Dave Mahoney, Exterior Design Director; Xtij Mistry, Exterior Designer; Soo Kang, James Kuo, and Jason Baldas, Interior Designers; Jennifer Hewlett, Color & Materials; along with Andrew Fulford, Project Manager, hold the fate of the Mark R and Lincoln in their hands. Overseen by Group Vice-President J. Mays, the Mark R must bridge the gap above Mk Z, and MK S. This is the car, if it sees the light of day on a production line, that must hold the chalice at Lincoln in the higher reaches of the market. Since time is of the essence, this proposal the farthest along of any publicly acknowledged, and hopefully will not befall the same fate as the original Mark X and the stillborn Mark IX. Joining Platto is Joann Jung (31); Amy Kim (26), and Jennifer Hewlett (27) working in tandem with the Mark T concept---more cross-over than automobile. Thus Lincoln has two vehicles nearing production, and two potential vehicles considered for manufacture.

Both the S & T, and perhaps R, will be showcased at Pier 94 & 55th Street in N.Y.C. March 6-9, 2008. As part of the Architectural Digest Home Design Show. This stalwart team of young designers on hand with their boss, MR. Platto who will give a keynote address to defend their work in contrast to modern architectural appurtenances. "It's very personal to me, it's like opening my own room to the public, but I want to share it." Ms. Jung states. Platto adds: "Like so many of the artists featured at the Architectural Digest Show, Lincoln is offering responsible luxury, class leading features and high-end designs with low environmental impact". One of Mr. Platto's noteworthy projects at Ford Motor was designing the Harley-Davidson F-150 in conjunction with the famed motorcycle manufacturer. "This vehicle is basically the future...we didn't want to do a retrospective, but we wanted to understand where we've been and what Lincoln means and create a modern interpretation of that." Platto speaks of the R. Not unlike comparisons of the 1961 Lincoln with modern Bauhaus design, as well as minimalist Scandinavian furniture and architecture of the 1960's of I.M. Pei, or designs such as the 'Eames Chair', 'Breuer Chair', among others. MK R is attempting to drive down the same road in terms of trend setting design. Since designers by nature are happiest creating something new to showcase their own talent, as opposed to restyling the work of someone else, it should be no surprise that Messrs. Mays, Horbury and Platto want to place Lincoln in this direction. Nor can we assume that Mr. Mulally will "know" instinctively what is "right" in terms of automotive design, coming from the aero-industry. Bill Ford Jr. certainly has his say as Chairman of the Board, much as his famous uncles once had, but he must by necessity defer to his designers in the cold light at the end of the day.

The baying public, of course, wishes to see what inspires them the most in sheet-metal and sybaritic pleasures of leather and chrome. If you ask a dozen different Lincoln drivers what they want, chances are you will get a half-dozen different answers. I know what mine would be. Thus Gordon Platto finds himself defending his position when asked: "We go to customer immersion events and spend time with our customers in their homes to understand how they use their vehicles. It enables us to better meet our customer can see the influence in our new vehicles."  No doubt, those "immersion events" a necessity mandated by higher echelons. However, beyond the deleterious details of design, Mr. Platto gives us insight into his thinking: "When you're not trying to please the masses, you can go to the edge of styling. You go to market research with an open mind to understand what the customers are looking's not just about styling, it's about function as well." And he adds: "Part of our DNA is to make a bold statement." It falls to Mr. Horbury, Platto and the very young designers slinging the clay and working the CAD/CAM to sort out the noise level from the customers and the clinics to create the very fine line that separates rolling catastrophe from a great automobile.

"I live in the future" Harley Earl, GM's dean of all automotive designers in America, once retorted to a reporter when asked what he thought about the latest cars from Detroit. Indeed, no matter what year anyone asked that question, that would have been his answer as he was constantly thinking half a decade ahead of the public. Through the Motorama's sneak previews and other means, GM tested the waters and teased public opinion into the 1950's, often spending a million per show car. MK R repeats the Motorama experience, allowing the public to see what is coming. The financial sands of the hour glass at Ford, like Dorothy imprisoned in the castle of the Wicked Witch in 'Wizard of OZ' are cascading downwards leaving little time for Lincoln and Mark R. Making the Architectural Digest Show and others like it, that much more important to Lincoln for assessing public reaction to the design. The S more stop-gap than anything else until another range of cars can be built above it if Lincoln is to remain competitive against BMW, Lexus, Mecedes, et. al. For Lincoln designers the future is now, and finds itself expressed in the R.

Nor is their tack a new one. A 31 year old Eugene Tiberius "Bob" Gregorie established the first design center at Ford Motor under the aegis of Edsel Ford. The Design Office was carved from the tincture of Edsel's desire to save the family firm, entrench his own position as titular President of Ford Motor, against the cutting arc of the displeasure at what his father Henry thought as the lack of Edsel's "Boldness". But "Bold" is what Edsel became, guiding the hand of Gregorie, while melding the work of John Tjaarda and Briggs Body to create the Zephyr from a stillborn 1933 rear-engined "Sterkenberg" show-car that Tjaarda had pitched to Edsel. Zephyr becoming the first successfully aero-dynamically designed or inspired automobile in a manner never achieved by Walter Chrysler's Airflow.

"Edsel was very I sat there, and on the back of a blueprint I sketched up this pointed front-end with a kind of inverted boat-hood..." A surprised Gregorie admitted about marrying the concflicting concept of Tjaarda's design modified with Edsel's wishes. Reaching backwards, yet amalgamating the past into the future, the Continental was borne in inspiration as much as the Zephyr from which it was based. "We watched in amazement as the armature for the car was moved into the studio. It was a puzzlement, what was that squared off rear end with an add-on spare tire? That hood, Christ, it's a foot longer than the Zephyr---has Gregorie lost his mind?" a 22-year old Robert Thomas recollected decades later about his first days as a stylist-modeller under Gregorie in 1938-39. Upon those teaque wood polished floors of Henry's old dance school, partitioned off from the rest of the company in the old E Building (and now Henry Ford Museum), came the greatest sets of designs ever to grace a Lincoln, much less any other automobile. The same mandate that Mr. Horbury and Mays are trying to impart to the Lincoln team today. While it would seem that they are fearing to forge a familiar much less a new path, perhaps this is not so when we look behind the scenes. And not so different from the concurrent perspective of the 1930's.

So, is a new ethos being carved out by these intrepid young women and men? So you hear the tag-lines from them scattered across the press-previews: "ambient lighting and contrasting colours" for Lincoln interiors designed by Kuo, Kang, and Baldas. "Guilt-Free Luxury" (!) deriving as Platto & Co. like to claim: "combining motifs derived from classic cars like the 1941 Lincoln Continental" as a New York Times article stated with respect to their work. (I didn't know I felt "guilty" much less had to apologize for driving a luxury car?) "Ice-Blue Lighting", and other accents as dark oak, coupled with contrasting lighter shades of leather are intended to recreate an avant-guard or deco look redolent of the 1940's inspiration from the first Continental.

Consonant with that theme, carried over to the Mark T Concept: "We worked hard to create a sense of elegant movement...this grand touring vehicle concept is at home in the city, as it is in the more wide open spaces, like country lanes meant for performance driving." As a result, the Mk T finds a 415BHp V6 Eco-Boost flex-fuel underhood like the Mark R, rather than a 6.2 Litre V8---no doubt part of the "guilt-free" driving ethos. Without entirely relegating the history of Lincoln or Continental to the dustbin of history, both vehicles hew an entirely new line of thought: "The Mk T concept truly is harmony in motion because all the colors, materials and shapes come together to form a feeling of well-being..." Horbury states, adding that: "We've created a rewarding experience by using soft-tones and tactile materials---subtle touches that demonstrate Lincoln's design strengths, we've struck a perfect balance of the vehicle as both sanctuary and functional work space." So they believe, and wish us likewise.

"Sanctuary & Functional Work Space" the mantra of the leaders of Lincoln today. The very fine line which cuts a scythe across the decades for future Lincoln customers. Will it work? Bold DNA?? Taken together, these are the ace's and king's that Platto's "Platoon" at Lincoln are playing, with MR. Horbury and Mays oversight. Coupled with eco-friendly materials, and miserly engine combinations boosted by "Twin Force" powerteams, as they call them, Lincoln is trying to reach a plateau balancing the product between impending anticipation of future economies, and expectations from new customers, near term owners of the brand, and die-hard traditionalist. Acceptance or alienation likewise falling within a snap of a synapse for these target buyers.

A great deal rests upon that lightening strike of inspiration that Platto's Platoon brings to steel, and Horbury's concept cradles within the cacoon of exotic elements. So will Mahooney & Mistry's perceptions meet within the melding of motion and motoring metal soothing the supercharged expectations of prospective purchasers, and unrequited owners long suffering in the dark decade of the 0's? Can Kuo, Kang & Baldas cast the chrome, cure the leather, fire the woods, or klang a chord within the sanctuary and solace of our mind's eye, providing the beacon beyond the functional where we will find the name Lincoln on the road and in our hearts? Or will Lincoln languish?

So I would urge you, enthusiasts, one and all, if you are within hailing distance of Pier 94 come next week, go to New York City and sound-out the mettle of these women and men, and see the steel for yourself, if you have not had the chance. "Don't bother those designers behind the curtain..." you might think. And when you are there, ask them about rumors of a Lincoln "sports-model" swirling beneath the ethos of the R, a Continental in all but name. Ask them if they are not right to call it Continental? Yet the sands of the hour-glass are shifting, and these are the men and women directing the fate of Lincoln. So, they must hear our voices, for which they toil, and for whom the very fine lines of sand are falling.


(Sources: Blue-Oval News, Ford Motor Company; World-Car-Fans.Com; Lincoln, Ford Motor Company; Toronto Globe & Mail, Jeremy Cato, 02-15-08; Car-Body Design, 01-02-07; The Auto Channel, 12-10-06; The New York Times, 01-14-07, Phil Patton; 'Confessions of an Auto Stylist', Robert Thomas, 1985; 'Edsel Ford & E.T. Gregorie', Henry Dominguez, SAE, 1999)  

DouglasR DouglasR
New User | Posts: 24 | Joined: 12/07
Posted: 03/09/08
03:10 PM

The True Line...

The hand follows the heart. The formative years of a lifetime casting the colors and the lines across the velum and parchment. The tincture of the tones, sharpness of the pencil point,contrasting the sweet scythe of graphite against the page. Sometimes the blunt worn edge of the charcoal capturing a rapture within the surface that the mind's eye sees and only the master modeler or sculpturer can render. It might be a whim that creates the fancy, a stroke of genius within an instant of inspiration. Across those pages, or the three-dimensional clash of clay, those artist, the designers must see what the whole of the picture must be, whether it is  but a part or the overall conception of the design. As Michaelangelo Bouneratti saw "David" within the stone, cutting it with nary a line laid across the marble, but the chisel, today's automotive designer faces a worse fate, and a conundrum which should put any sane person into a quandry, or a straight-jacket of steel. For they are not modelling the human body, nor expressing any mood of it. No, they have "package requirements" and clausterphobic clinic results to please. They must satisfy as well, the most demanding element: the customer they have never met. A customer demanding and expecting the sharp sinnews of lines that personify the product they drive. Those "drivers" a final arbiter of their work, judged instantaneously and wholly unaware of the difficulties involved in bringing those inspirational flashes from the page to production.

A jousting match between the men and women who toil in the design studios, some bathed in swathes of liberal light, and others castrated by corporate mantras, or gelded by guilt about what they build. "We broke alot of rules at GM to make this car..." Robert Lutz declared of the new Cadillac CTS Coupe. (We can't imagine that is how the designers felt in 1956 when penning the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham and Coupe de Ville!) Surely that sad state of affairs culminating in the thoughts of: "why do we have to do it this way..." crossed their minds constrained their pens, pencils and air-brushes in the darkest days of American Automotive Design in the 1980's. Nothing at all like the team that made the new CTS. No matter the degree of computerized technology brought to heel as Cad/Cam/Cas allows, if the higher echelons abjure the freedom of the designers to create what they themselves think is the correct course, the way forward, then one wonders if ever a great design can emerge from the machinations of the automobile industry. Especially when members of the public declaim: "Why would you pay people $35 per hour plus benefits when you can build it cheaper somewhere else..." expressing an attitude laying ruin and waste to the health of the domestic auto industry in America. It is hard to conceive any designer would work to their Nth degree for what they believe in, knowing their work will be debased and tossed into the chalice of cheapness. Designers, surely don't want to hear about "rules" other than those that rule their hearts. But the terrible reality that the design must get approved, built and become an economically viable proposal among many presented means that the devil is in the details.

"Put those tail-lights on the car" Packard's James J. Nance told Bill Schmidt during the planning for the '56 Packard. The "Tower" tailight was born, heart-throb of hot-rodder and customizers of the era, something that even influenced competitors as Cadillac. "Bob, I think you're off package..." Robert Thomas was told by Gene Bordinat, causing an all-nite re-do of the rear-end of the 1961 Lincoln-Continental proposal. Today, the Lincoln designers, the young turks we now meet and who hold the chalice of our much beloved Lincoln, must endure the same from "Green" executives above them at Ford Motor, some of whom worry more about the roof on their plant rather the products made beneath it. Thus we have the mantra of "luxury without guilt", or "responsible luxury" (does this mean the beginning of an era of "Luxury-PC Police?, castigating drivers and designers alike?) The poor devils must devolve their thinking within such deleterious design constraints.

It isn't small potatoes either, when it costs $750Mn to 1.5Bn to develop and produce a new Lincoln, and a design that has to live within an increasingly tight world of CAFE and CO/2 standards. So where the designers take the line is crucial. The opportunity cost of failure extremely high, especially when you can be so easily check-mated by the competition before you know it, as Cadillac is now doing again to Lincoln. The crux the of the debate is not, however, just with wheel-to-wheel competitors. The higher echelons themselves must determine the course, and the designers must by necessity fall under their sway, regardless of the swage of their lines.

Yet, in the dim light of the long night, the hand of history weighs upon the designer when they must consider a specialized product as Lincoln happens to be. They aren't designing toasters, nor the next IPod, products that can morph into whatever technology requires. No these are motorcars, constrained by more than just doors, engines, wiring harnesses, seats, wheels, and the appurtenances and logistics of production. Nor can one be exactly like another, overt copying someone else's design strictly verbotten. You, the designer, aren't sculpting the human body in a new position, you are casting down product which must be more or less the same as it has been before, yet wholly new and preferably unfettered from the past, so you'd like to think.

The die-hards, "traditionalists" as I happen to be, won't let you go. We won't grant you, the designer, that much freedom, unless you are making a new designation of the product. Otherwise, following the path of the ethos of past products, as designers for Mustang, Rolls-Royce and Bentley had to do, we give you little slack. We are merciless in our criticism of your interpretation if what we think and how we think our Lincolns ought to be. Your design, if denigrated, will neither be collected, conserved nor cherished, and relegated to the slag-heap of history: rebated, discounted, discarded, and shredded into bits and pieces at the bone-yard long before its utility is done. Slashing critique nothing at all compared to market oblivion coupled with abrupt discontinuation of the product, not to mention dispersal of your career to corporate "Siberia" if you fail. "Ford is more like Russia, given the despatch of designers..." one very famous Ford designer reflected on his years at the Blue Oval. Look at Roy Brown, designer of the Edsel, whose career went with the fate of the car. Sadly, suicides are not unheard of in the design world for the vanquished, as has recently happened both at Ford and Renault. It is not just the corporate executives you fear, it is also the terror of the traditionalist.

That quorem of drivers: "we behind the wheel", the citizens who form a more perfect motoring union that drive Lincoln ultimately judge whether the designer has succeeded. 'Tis we the traditionalists that write the 750,000 letters to preserve part of American Motoring Heritage on wheels as happened with Mustang a decade ago. 'Tis we the die-hards who deign to try to preserve something of such heritage when the great unwashed masses of the Prius Powered Public would just as soon prefer the isotope of an Infiniti, or the excrement of an Echo. 'Tis we who hold these truths to be self-evident, carved and cast as they are in stainless, leather, the finest veneers, and fettle of fabulous performance parameters able to vanquish those whose viscitudes of the right foot find solace in a malaise of acceleration, bordeline blandness, and the second rate. 'Tis we who que up and order our cars long before production begins for the SRT8 Challenger, our LS7 Corvettes, and LT1 Camaro's, and stratopherically bid the price of the first new Shelby Mustang. 'Tis we who keep production in place for 40 plus year old parts because we cherish the car and its design that much. Yet how much time does a designer really have and how much inclination do they possess to meet customers? How many of us can one designer possibly interact with in order to understand what makes us tick, much less what we demand?

"You can tell a story through a car, giving birth to a real personality..." The young Ms. Amy Kim, whose father was a motorcycle enthusiast, and Lincoln Mk T designer tells us. Her compatriot Joann Jung believes  that a "car is a small building" coming as she did from a desire to be an architect. Ms. Jennifer Hewlett, with an eye towards her previous experience in designing jewelry finds her focus on interior design believing that: "The unexpected, the surprises in cross-functionality, the converging of solutions, all that is just a start..." All three of these young enterprising individuals are responsible in part for the fate of Lincoln. All three featured in interviews in Automobile Magazine by Robert Cumberford.

They are the "them", the designers that receive the accolades and the blame depending on how the pieces fit and fall together. They are the arbiters of the true line. They must defend their work, not only between themselves, but in the long arc of the day to us. Between these three designers, they drive a Volvo, a Jeep and a Land Rover. Not a Lincoln in sight. One wonders, when do they drive the cars that carry the name? Or those that have come long before their era, the cars that have become iconoclasts of the brand? Would they go out and buy one to get the mettle of the machine, or borrow a ride in them? Can we really expect them to do that, much as members of the Rolls-Royce design team had done between 1998-2002 during the gestation period of the Phantom?

Since times and generations have changed, though I would love to ask them, we can surmise that they have never held the bits and pieces of those cars, torn asunder in loving restoration, only to reinstall them to their former glory. No, times, have indeed changed, and they are not toiling away on the week-ends, grease under the finger nails,finding comfort on the card-board under the car on the garage floor, away from the drafting tables building their own cars. For this new generation brings an entirely new perspective and personality to the product. They are by their own admission, and necessity of youth, disconnected from the past products of Lincoln, much less Continental that once carried the name.

That, "Dear William", is the problem. Do they hold sway to what some would call the paleolithic era of Lincoln and Continental, or do they yeild to an obvious inner temptation and desire to create something new cut from whole cloth, putting their hearts into the work of their hands? Or do they cut a very fine line between the ethos of the two contrasting points of view, between making something entirely new or hewing to decades of tradition, a challenge in and of itself? Especially when one considers the design brief for reviving cars as Rolls-Royce and Bentley, isn't fair to say that the same challenge exists for Lincoln today? Robert Thomas thought Eugene Gregorie had "gone mad" when he saw the first Continental in 1938, yet fourteen years later working with the Continental Mark II design team under John Reinhardt and Gordon Beurhig, he would help create a fabulous reprise of that style in the modern idiom which remains unsurpassed half a century later. The caprices of youth later came to understand and interpret the classic approach.

Regardless of what "Dear William" thinks this is the conundrum: which path to chose. When Gordon Platto is given the design brief to "build a new Lincoln", and tells his plattoon if designers to "have at it", it falls to those three intrepid designers among others to fulfill the brief. Like Michaelangelo cutting his marble, they must envision the design evolving it as the hands fall on the computer keys and blackboards, tablets of paper and shards of clay. They are, in secret, designing Lincolns they themselves would want to drive, much as John Reinhardt drove his Mark II and David Ash drove his Mark III after the first production version rolled off the line. Do you end up with a 1949, or a 1958 Lincoln, sharing corporate styling cues yet virtually all new from the ground-up and a market disaster? Or do you end up with a 1961 Lincoln or a 1968 Continental Mark III, award winning and warmly received and highly profitable automobiles? Or must you brave the difference as Gail Haldermann had to achieve for the 1980 Lincoln: revising it substantially and reducing weight by 1,000 pounds all while trying to keep the ethos of the brand intact without slavishly copying the past. And rendering something refreshing while hewing to the corporate platform package requirements, and yeilding a design that stayed in production for a decade.

The True Line for Lincoln is to blend the classic approach with modern interpretation. Lincoln and Continental have attained the zenith of design and influence when the two schools are blended together. You can't afford to ignore the one without the other, for it wouldn't be a Lincoln that has been molded into metal. Such a car would be another amorphous product worthy of the name 'Alereo' conjuring up images of, and as exciting as: facial cream. No, Lincoln is far too powerful a name in our nation's history on many levels to relegate it to such mundane status.

For the next decade, you must revive the ethos that was accomplished by Elwood Engel in 1961, yet working under the same constraints as Mr. Haldermann in 1980 given Ford Motor's current financial straits and fate. A tough brief by any accounting. If you're a designer and part of Platto's Plattoon, would you be bold enough to make that true line happen? So that Lincoln and Continental might yet surpass its competition and live to represent our nation at the pinnacle of production, the engineering excoriating any explianations its owners have to give parked next to the best of them, and exemplar of what we can do. If Volkswagen can build Bentley's, and BMW better Rolls-Royce, there is no reason why we can't and you can't build the best again. We should take pride in doing so, launching a new era with Lincoln, our day carried with Continental.


(Sources: Automobile Magazine, April 2008; Confessions of An Auto Stylist, Robert Thomas 1985; WSJ; FT; Benson Ford Research Center, Interviews with Daivd Crippen, Eugene Bordinat)  

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