AT this year's Los Angeles Auto Show, Lincoln pulled quite the clever PR coup: they stacked their display with a smattering of historical greats, from a 1929 L Dietrich Convertible Coupe to a breathtakingly blue '56 Continental Mark II coupe once owned by Elizabeth Taylor.
The next day the classics were gone and Lincoln's modern lineup took centre stage.
The consensus? Put it back the way it was before.
Now, there's nothing wrong with the current crop of Lincolns, be they MKS or MKT or MKZ or . . . whatever the other ones are (I know they're still making the Navigator). Can we have
real car names back again, rather than the current obsession with alphabet soup?
Anyway, Lincolns are fine vehicles, smooth in operation, loaded with features and technology, not ostentatious in the least. Just one problem: they're not really desirable.
No young person has a picture of a Lincoln on their bedroom wall these days (or their Tumblr account) unless it's one of the chrome-smeared behemoths of the past. Like Ozymandias, the current lineup of Linc's is a pair of trunkless legs standing alone in the desert, the lone and level sands stretching away as a reminder of the way the brand has been steadily eroded.
Now, Ford's not about to let their premier brand go quietly into that good night, in the manner of the fallen Mercury. Instead, they've refreshed the looks of the range, giving them grilles that look more swoopy - the previous baleen-like slits gave off the impression that the cars ran on krill - and by changing Lincoln's name to The Lincoln Motor Company.
Now that'll fix everything.
Lincoln doesn't need this sort of Band-Aid. They don't need a radical change to their line-up and they don't need a new brand focus on motorsports or a re-badged upscale version of the Mustang or any other of that nonsense. What they need to do is quite simple: they need to build the Continental again.
And not as a concept car either. We've seen the Cadillac Ciel and it's a lovely thing, but Caddy is going to sell a boatload of base, four-cylinder ATS's off the performance creds of the CTS-V series, and Lincoln needs to do the same thing. They need a real halo car, a brand-defining machine that's not just a much nicer version of an available Ford, but a future classic.
You might be saying: but what of the development costs? What of them? Chrysler was able to take an old Mercedes-Benz chassis and come up with the 300C, a car that instantly banished the memory of horrible excreta like the Intrepid. The 300C wasn't particularly good, mind you, but it was striking, unapologetically American and, above all, desirable.
When the opening credits rolled for HBO's Entourage, essentially a homage to the excess of Hollywood, the gang all rolled up in a black drop-top Lincoln Continental. It had suicide rear doors, glossy paint, and in a sea of Mercedes-Benzes and BMWs, it stood out as the genuine article. It was a vintage Rolex in a glass case filled with giant-faced nouveau-riche wrist-bling.
Yes Lincoln, we remember your illustrious history. We remember that you used to be able to charge as much as a Rolls-Royce for one of your glittering, Great-Gatsby-esque land yachts. We remember that the most lionized President in U.S. history used to roll around in your machines, a shining example of Camelot.
We, the public, remember, but the link has been broken for some time. What's more, the simple fact is that Ford puts out such a good product range these days, why would you bother stepping up to the Lincoln end? Why buy an . . . um . . . (one quick trip to the Lincoln webpage later) an MKX, when you could just get a Ford Edge Sport? The MKZ is a great-looking little rig, but the new Fusion looks like an Aston-Martin for crying out loud.
I'll tell you why you'd buy one. You'd buy an entry-level Lincoln if it was a competent, smooth, quiet machine - if when you told the neighbours that you drove a Lincoln, they'd immediately be able to picture what a modern Lincoln looks like. A modern Lincoln should capture the public's attention, it should be in all the music videos. It should feature prominently in the opening credits of whatever badass movie Martin Scorsese is working on these days.
It should be a Lincoln Continental.
Acura's not going to make any money on the NSX. Lexus lost buckets of cash on the LFA supercar. Even Cadillac doesn't sell that many CTS-V sedans. Halo cars don't need to turn a profit on an individual basis, but they're worth their weight in gold when it comes to brand identity.
Trust me, bringing back the Continental would work. After all, who doesn't want to drive Cleopatra's chariot?
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