We finished last year’s run of visits to The Carchive at the turn of the ’70s with a look at a Simca 1100, the car without which the Hooniverse Podcast graphic would be nothing. Let’s stay in that decade and take a long, admiring glance at the ’73 Lincoln Continental MKIV. I’d also like this car to redress a balance. I spent a couple of stories last year reflecting on The American Car and its turbulent design journey over the last four decades and I singled out the Lincoln Versailles as a demonstrative whipping boy for all that was wrong with American design by ’79. Well, to me the Mark IV was the opposite. This, for better or for worse, was what I always wanted The American Car to be.
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“The 1973 Continental Mark IV. Quite simply, the most beautiful automobile in America. Perhaps because it is the only one that successfully blends both classic and contemporary styling”. I always thought that this car, in silver, looked like something that Gerry Anderson might have dreamt up with help from Syd Mead. The “classic” bits that the brochure hints at were, presumably, the Rolls-Royce style grille and that slightly pretentious spare-wheel moulding in the trunklid. Contemporary was the rest. Sitting low, wide and longer than you ever imagined possible, somehow the Mark IV’s extreme 223″ doesn’t seem anywhere near as grotesque as it might. I think it looks magnificent, and looks better today than it did then. Of course, there were many, many colour and trim combinations which relatively added or detracted from the overall effect, but in this colour, with these wheel covers, it looks fantastic, and much better than the downsized MKV which followed. “And the interiors of the Continental Mark IV are every bit as beautiful as the exterior” This is possibly a little more fanciful a claim. Of course, the carpets were deep enough to hide in and the buttoned leather couches front and rear required three thousand glove-soft cattle apiece to clad. There was technology to spare, too, six-way power seats, automatic temperature control and a Las Vegas worth of interior illumination and warning lights. But the actual design wasn’t a huge departure from convention, with a a bluff, square console in woodgrain, a simulated rendition of which was also applied to the thin, spindly steering wheel. Instrumentation was dominated by an electric clock, branded by Cartier, and marked with Roman Numerals which would have been more at home on an Art Nouveau mantelpiece than in a cutting-edge highway cruiser. “On the road, Mark IV is predictably smooth, steady and quiet. Riding comfort is extraordinary. The Sure-Track Brake System us standard equipment, providing safe, even stops”. That system was a vacuum-assisted, dual-circuit one with discs up front and drums out back. They opposed the forces of a standard 460Cu in 90deg V8, with no quoted power output, although I presume there was plenty. “The 1973 Continentals. Anticipating the most demanding test of all… an evaluation by you, from behind the wheel.” As I said at the top, this is what I always wanted the American Car to be like, something that could never possibly emanate from anywhere else in the world. There was a time when the Lincolns and Cadillacs of this world only had each other to compete with, and expensive cars from Germany were thousands of miles away and consequently irrelevant. Nowadays, Job #1 for the “premium” US brands is to fight the imports. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Lincoln or Cadillac had the confidence to offer a range-topping, no-holds-barred machine to people who want The Best American Car and don’t give two hoots about overseas brands? Something like the Cadillac Sixteen concept which showed just what could be done if the designer and the brand were given a free reign. The last of the Personal Luxury Lincolns, the MK VIII was very good car, and great looking if rather restrained by 1973 standards. It was the right car for the time. Today is different. Although conspicuous consumption will never be politically correct, a domestic manufacturer putting out a showcase, signature car has never been a better idea than it is now. Maybe call it the MK I. A new dawn. (All images are of original manufacturer publicity materials, photographed by me on the back seat of the Audi. It was raining like a bastard outside and really gloomy, you kind of get a sense in the photos. Copyright remains property of Ford Motor Company)