The cars we loved.
By the mid-eighties it seemed everyone had at least one big high-end performance coupe in their stable. For Ford, it was the Lincoln Mark VII LSC. The LSC (luxury sport coupe?) represented Lincoln at its most driver centered and Euro-like. You couldn’t help but to be a bit sarcastic when remembering big lumbering Lincoln cars from just a few years before. For the Mark VII, part of that ancient heritage carried on in the form of the old Fox platform, the foundation for some of Ford’s most important cars from the 70’s and 80’s.
Inspired By Thunderbird
The Mark VII offered the highest degree of personal luxury from the Ford Division, although it resembled the Thunderbird with its aero inspired shape, the notchback design retained old school flourishes like a wheel hump in the trunk and more than its share of chrome bits. It offered even more luxury with lifestyle editions from Bill Blass and Versace (a trend from the 70’s). For those seeking performance, the LSC was the most expensive Ford had to offer in a personal luxury sport coupe. The extra money got a more driver centered interior free of the lacy and plaid bits of the designer editions. Lincoln was clearly going for a performance car image. The Mark VII was even raced in the Trans-Am series in 84-85, but the unsuccessful season did little to increase sales or awareness of the LSC’s performance potential. It did manage to capture the imagination of some of the media, with Car and Driver magazine voting the LSC to its Ten Best list for 1986.
In the quest to make a more “European” like car, Lincoln’s LSC was to compete directly (on paper) with the likes of BMW and the Mercedes. As ambitious as that might have sounded, the LSC was more likely to have been crossed shopped between the Eldorado and late Chrysler Imperials. In the early Eighties, neither Cadillac nor Chrysler had any cars that catered directly to ‘Europhiles’ quite like the LSC did. The LSC was not the first big American luxury ‘Euro-style” car, but it may have been the first coupe, while pre-dating the trend that matured with the Cadillac Seville STS and Chrysler’s 300M.
Rare In the Marketplace
Those cars were sedans, as this type of car in coupe format was more likely to be a smaller car like the Buick Regal GS or the Thunderbird. In fact, the LSC’s closest competitor may actually have been the cheaper Thunderbird which also used a version of the Windsor V8. The LSC was an attempt to further distinguish the Mark VII’s performance potential from the Ford branded platform mate. The Thunderbird was much more “European” in spirit than the Mark VII, which seemed more like an old school muscle car in a suit.
The Mark VII line initially came with two engines, a rare BMW built 2.4 L turbo diesel straight 6 or a 4.9 L V8 in standard or high output versions. Oddly, in the sport minded LSC, the turbo diesel with only 115 hp was offered for only one year (1984) in the LSC alongside the then 140 hp V8 versions. The German built engine with it’s ZF four speed auto transmission proved to be unpopular. Apparently one of the biggest incentives to buy the turbo diesel beyond fuel efficiency was a check from the government’s Super Fund anti-pollution initiative.
Most Mark VII customers did not care about gas mileage so the turbo diesel was dropped in 1986. The LSC’s engine of choice, the Windsor V8 eventually reached 225 hp thanks to sequential electronic fuel injection (a 25 hp boost over the standard 5.0 in other models). After 1987, all models of the Mark VII would get this Mustang GT sourced engine. Prominent fog lights, a sport suspension, leather sport seats, dual exhaust and big 16’ rims would distinguish the LSC from other Mark VIIs.
Although the Mark VII had humble origins in the Fox platform, it did quietly introduce some innovative firsts to the American auto industry. After a long and hard fought battle with government safety regulators, the Mark VII was the first to offer composite headlights in America. European Ford models had been using them since the late 60’s! An electronic four channel anti-lock brakes (months ahead of the Corvette) was also a industry first. All of these innovations were lost on most customers who simply wanted a more grown up hot rod, which the LSC excelled as. It’s 0 to 60 time of around 8 seconds was ponycar like, but it was a much better highway cruising proposition than the comparatively crude Mustang. If needed the LSC could reach a top speed of 120mph. Although performance may have been high on the list of some buyers, shifting their own gears was not.
All Mark VII’s had a four speed automatic transmission. A few exceptions like the Cars and Concepts prepared Mark VII GTC, had a special monochromatic paint scheme, a manual transmission and performance upgrades (from Roush Racing that included a 5.8 L engine)e. The LSC did not have a fully independent suspension, but it was aided with air shocks, electronic stabilization and height adjustment technology. Thicker anti-sway bars also improved cornering ability over standard Mark VII’s. At 3631lb., the coupe was no lightweight, but had a comfortable ride and was cabin that was well insulated from outside noises (save for the faint roar of the engine at speed).
Like a gadget obsessed Japanese car, the LSC came loaded with its share, most of them useful like a trip computer and digital instruments. Later LSC’s would forgo these frivolities for more useful analogue controls from 1985 on. The interior was drastically updated in 1990. The overhaul was in response to the escalating competition and the fact that the 80’s Thunderbird inspired styling had expired years ago. A new larger and more refined Thunderbird in 1989 was starting to put the heat on the Mark VII. No scheduled changes were in the works until 1993, leading Ford to introduce a new model of the LSC called the Special Edition. There would in fact be quite a few special editions in an attempt to keep buyers interested. Some were prepared regionally by dealers or customizers with Ford’s blessing like the White Lightning package by California based Roll-A-Long in 1986.
Future Modern Classic?
By the time the last Mark VII rolled off the assembly line in 1992 the automotive landscape for big personal coupes was quickly evolving. Cars like Cadillac’s Eldorado and Buick’s Riveria were injecting new life into the market. Production numbers of the Mark VII had tapered off from a high of over 38,000 in 1988 to a low of 5,439 in 1992. The Mark II would be replaced by the more powerful and ultra-sleek Mark III in 1993.
Today the Mark VII sits in a nebulous region of collect ability. It’s too recent to truly be a classic, but it’s V8 engine and plush ride and interior make it a unique car that blends old school luxury with muscle car performance. It can be futher enhanced with parts that are interchangable with Mustang and other performance cars, making it a popular candidate for SVO-like modifications. It was in many ways a throw back to the big luxury oriented muscle cars of the 60’s like Ford’s Galaxie 500. Except for early models, quality and reliability was rather good. Ford has come a long way with its “Euro” influenced cars to the point that they really are Euro models because many of its newest cars are indeed world cars with individual national traits removed. That makes cars like the Mark VII LSC all the more special to fans of American muscle – with a slight Euro twist.