Saving Lincoln

Now that the Ford Five Hundred, Freestyle, Mustang, and Mercury Montego are ready for launch, the talk in Dearborn these days revolves around reviving Lincoln.

Now that the Ford Five Hundred, Freestyle, Mustang, and Mercury Montego are ready for launch, the talk in Dearborn these days revolves around reviving Lincoln. The process originally began with the introduction of the LS in the late ‘90s, but faltered as the brand was shuffled in and out of the Premium Automotive Group and to and from California. Worries that Lincolns would compete against Jaguars in the upper reaches of the luxury sedan market, the burst Ford profit bubble, and the $2-billion cost for a new and unique Lincoln platform reportedly put the renaissance on hold. Today, rumors abound, and center on producing a trademark sedan either based on the Five Hundred/Montego or a heavily modified LS. No matter which one is chosen, the resulting Lincoln will be uncompetitive with almost any opponent you care to name. Not because the underpinnings are substandard, mind you, but because the vehicle in question—and the vision for Lincoln itself—lacks imagination.

Lincoln may owe its existence to Henry Leland and his son, but it was Edsel Ford and designer E.T. “Bob” Gregorie who made it into the luxury leader. From the legendary KB to the Continental and Zephyr, these gentlemen—in every sense of the word—created the look and feel that made the rest of the industry take notice—prior to World War II. Only the bull-headed stubbornness of Edsel’s father, Henry Ford I, forced them to use pedestrian—and increasingly obsolete—Ford mechanicals to keep costs down. With the untimely death of Edsel and retirement of Bob Gregorie, Lincoln fell from grace, becoming nothing more than a fuller than full-sized Ford that cost more than a Mercury. Only rarely did vehicles like the 1956 Continental Mark II or 1961 Continental break this dreary mold.

A Lincoln should be special. Therefore, I propose that all future Lincoln automobiles be rear-drive and powered exclusively by V10 engines. For this, two families of V10s are necessary, the first a development of the engine first seen in the 427 Concept, the second a marriage of two Volvo inline five-cylinder engines around a common crank. The larger of the two is perfect for powering a large sedan, coupe, SUV, and the lamentable Mark LT pickup. With cylinder deactivation and a six-speed automatic, fuel economy need not suffer in order to provide performance commensurate with their status. The smaller V10 is compact enough to be used in a larger LS replacement, two/four-passenger convertible (not some T-Bird rehash), a performance/luxury coupe as stunning as the Zephyr Coupe of the 1930s, and a roomy and stylish Coupe Sedan. Eventually, the handsome Aviator SUV Concept would be altered to take this powertrain.

Thoughts of moving downmarket with Mazda6 variants should be banished forever. They would bring in short-term profit, but prevent the re-establishment of Lincoln as a true luxury marque. The current move toward adoption of a 1961 Continental-style nose and overall shape is spot-on, and would support using the Lincoln Continental name on the smaller series. The larger cars would simply be Lincolns, delineated by model designations and body styles. By mixing refined, modern shapes with Art Deco overtones, the large cars would be sleek, simple, forward looking, and stand out from the competition—both foreign and domestic. They also would be true to the spirit of Lincoln envisioned by Edsel Ford and Bob Gregorie: vehicles of spirit, class, style, and power wrapped in a refined American covering. You couldn’t ask for better.