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Modern Art Monday: The Future of the Lincoln Motor Company

Juan Barnett December 10, 2012 Featured, Modern Art Monday 30 Comments

Ford has shifted into overdrive on its journey to reinvent its luxury division, Lincoln. In 2010 Ford Motor Company retired the Mercury brand and announced new investments in Lincoln. The Blue Oval wanted to put the days of badge engineering behind it. Ford partnered with ad agency WPP, led by Cameron McNaughton, and charged it with redefining the luxury brand for the 21st century. The first step: a new old name – Lincoln Motor Company

To celebrate the new name, Lincoln Motor Company launched a collection of new creative spots online. The brand has finalized its media talking points, which someone was nice enough to ‘cam’ a media event here. When I asked him, Mr. Jim Farley, Ford’s Chief Marketing Officer and now Head of Lincoln Global, to describe in three-words the future of Lincoln, he replied “provocative.”

Most importantly, the Lincoln MKZ is launching. The first ‘new’ product since Ford declared war on badge engineering. The new MKZ is a good looking vehicle, but is it enough to sway buyers from the smoking hot (pun intended) 2013 Ford Fusion? Did Lincoln design go far enough?

Last December I was introduced to Mr. John Manoogian II. Mr. Manoogian has held design positions throughout the automotive industry and is now a design consultant and visiting professor at the College of Creative Studies (CSS) in Detroit, Michigan. Last year he gave his senior class an interesting project – design a Lincoln for the year 2025.

Mr. Manoogian was kind enough to send me photos of their work, with students’ permission of course. Click the jump link to see a full gallery of what they came up with. This is what tomorrow’s designers envision for a brand being restored today.

  • topdeadcentre

    Dear Lincoln:

    Luxury brands aspire to be the style leader. You don't get to be the automotive style leader by imitating Cadillac's current design language (or anyone else's, for that matter). (photo 23, etc)

    Also, the driver's rear 3/4 view and rear view are important. Please stop finding new ways to block it.

    The upswept beltline designs often means riding in the back seat is riding in the penalty box instead of riding in luxury. Most of these models passenger compartment proportions make it look like you're going to be manufacturing for midgets, or for people who like to have their head banging into the headliner.

    Thanks from someone who might consider entering Lincoln's luxury sport segment if there were strong enough reasons (that is, cars) to do so.

    Oh yeah, the guy in a suit in photo 9? Tight high-water pants and sleeves too short aren't a mid-career big-man power suit look, no matter how much you see it on the runways.

  • Scandinavian Flick

    Interesting design cues there, but I think the students seem to be missing the inevitable direction of car design and function. I see a lot of large land yachts well in line with Lincoln's history and aesthetics, but nothing with any real practicality or efficiency. In the year 2025, that's going to be key, and luxury marques will have to adapt. I would be more interested to see that adaptation reflected in these concept ideas.

    But solely as a design exercise, I suppose this worked…

  • Jay

    My prediction for Lincoln in 2025: Lincoln will be a CDM-only brand, and will compete there with 15 diff Buick models, while we'll be down to 2.

    Yeah, some of these are undeniably feature Cadillac design language, while some have a whiff of Saab to them.

    #17 is a Russo-Balt concept
    #23 is actually a pretty neat reinterpretation of the 61 Continental
    #9 suit is horrible

  • Lincoln Motor Company: Inspired By Others

    <img src="http://hooniverse.com/wp-content/gallery/lincoln-motor-company/slide21.png&quot; width=500>

    Evoque, anyone?

    • I see an Infinti FX.

      • SSurfer321

        I see BMW X6

    • Jay

      There's a couple of these sitting in the forecourt of a BMW dealership in my hometown.


    There were two modernizations of the 60s Continentals in there that weren't too bad. Otherwise everything there was derivative (of Cadillac or of Infiniti) and ugly. I was completely unimpressed. If they want a direction to travel design wise they should look more to the Interceptor concept of a few years back. That looks like a properly modernized Lincoln, and would make a great MkIX.

    <img src="http://www.diseno-art.com/images_2/Ford_Interceptor_concept_side.jpg&quot; width="600">

    • Sjalabais

      Looks a bit too much like a fruit drop, with the rounded edges and the hood bump. But apart from that a nice concept, clearly American, masculine and powerful in its looks. But also incredibly conservative.

    • JayP2112

      When the 300 was selling like hotcakes this was Ford's counter. The FiveHundred was NOT a good looking car and made it look like Ford gave up. This was something to be excited about when the only thing hot with Ford was the Mustang.

  • What is it that makes every art school student car design scream "Art School Student Car Design"?
    Perhaps it's the total lack of consideration given to aerodynamic stability, practicality, maneuverability, or manufacturability.
    I realize they were asked to do pie-in-the-sky styling exercises, but I think their pies got tossed beyond the sky and into orbit.

    • Vairship

      Exactly! What's the point of coming up with a design sketch if you already know it can't be made or will never be street legal?

      And also: draw the concept with wheel/tire combo that is reasonable. Nothing worse than a styling sketch that looks great on paper, but looks dorky when you put real-world tires and wheels on it.

  • Devin

    I'm very disappointed in the guy who cribbed the CTS roofline for his concept.

    It is kind of neat to see what cues have been adopted by almost everyone, like how most of these concepts have a very prominent proboscis, something I never associated with Lincoln.

  • Sjalabais

    There is a lot of rubbish here, but that's a part of brainstorming. To know what you want, you also need to know what you do not want. A retro design inspired by the 40s or 60s – Lincoln's strong decades in my point of view – would be a good starter. Retro cars are en vogue. It would also be important to do something unexpected. The Mercedes R class and the Renault Avantime were cars that were beyond cool, but never a commercial success. A convertible would be daring, too. Another SUV trying to be an Evoque or a X5 is a lame try – that could become a success in numbers after the brand is revived, though. I am also a bit split by whether it would be wise to go after European sleakness or American boldness in design language – who would buy a posh Lincoln anyway?

  • BrianTheHoon

    I understand the hate, sort of. It's best to keep in mind that these are styling exercises at this point; none of these are production designs, right? We all want Lincoln to build a modern version of the early Conti, replete with suicide doors. They've gone off the reservation with some of these, for sure but … maybe that's a good thing? I'm actually encouraged after seeing these because they look nothing like designs constrained by current platforms.

    • Vairship

      The trouble is that most styling exercises look great only because they're way out of proportion. The Acura grille probably looked great on the 12 foot wide and 3 feet tall styling sketch car, but simply drawing it to scale with real world proportions would have revealed it as an ugly monstrosity. Doing this at styling stage would have allowed the designer to throw it away before some VP thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread (or a bread slicer, whatever) and ordered it into production – killing Acura sales for years to come.

      • ademrudin

        Something I always try to beat into the heads of my (engineering) students is "Design with REAL dimensions in mind from the start." There's nothing more unproductive than wasting a lot of time on a design that physically won't work.

        Sure, it's fun to doodle ludicrous hotrod-esque ideas, and freehanding stuff is a great way to get a lot of ideas out on the table quickly, but sooner rather than later, you need to starting thinking about the reality of the product.

  • Mr. Queeg

    Wow, for the most part, really deriviative, even copy-cat. I do like the white streamliner thing, reminds me of the original Zephyr. I think these students struggled with the same thing Lincoln does, it doesn't know what it wants to be.

    • schigleymischke

      The problem comes from the long period of design and engineering draught for all the Detroit 3. Recall when retro first came into vogue? The car mags were quickly complaining they'd had enough of the neue-retro. But, the Detroit brands didn't have much else to go on. They'd lost their way for so long, they needed to go back and start over. Unfortunately for Lincoln, they're greatest hits are almost all huge. How do you mutate historic design DNA that's built around long, straight lines to smaller cars? What's a Lincoln 5-series or E-class look like?

  • Remdog

    This was so great to see. Even if some were questionable, just seeing the designs, impeded by little to no practical concerns, was quite interesting. If you could have more photo galleries showcasing the design work at these schools, that would be fantastic. I'm sure they appreciate it, too.

    The last model, 48 and 49, is really good looking. The back is quite unique. I'd love to see a brand attempt almost no ornamentation except for those two creases at the decklid and bottom. I hate how trunk lips, license plate recesses, and flairs (like the new civic…) make the rear so busy. Is there regulation for how low a licence plate can be located?

  • JayP2112

    It was a kick to the chin to Lincoln when Cadillac intro'd the Ciel.
    The best Lincoln had to offer was that Focus-based luxohatch.
    <img src="http://www.brownsafe.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Cadillac-Ciel-03.jpg&quot; width="600">

  • Felis_Concolor

    It's hard not to notice the Eames lounge chair in images 4, 5 and 6; that is the ideal in form, function and style any luxury automaker should aspire to. Now well into its 6th decade of excellence, the only changes to the option sheet are the sustainable and import-restriction-friendly veneers which form the shell.

    I like what I see in images 28-30, and can readily see how that form could be bludgeoned with compromises to become the MKT, which needs a serious rethink of the rear seating area. I can see it working with a fore-and-aft layout to provide a conference room feel and maximize use of the combined floor space. That would be a useful livery vehicle, although the high belt line and gun port glass need to go.

  • That lead picture is the best enormous white station wagon that Alfa Romeo never built.

    • e24tony

      The BATwagon

    • pj134

      Could also be a pointy modern DS.

  • carter

    I dig the grille/front fascia on number #16. Makes me think of Boba Fett….

  • salguod

    Only one or two of these capture the understated elegance that was Lincoln at its peak in the 60s.