Better start drinkin’, cause there ain’t no hot rod Lincoln

My title is from this song: \”Hot Rod Lincoln\” by Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. It’s an ode to a Ford Flathead powered Lincoln getting into a drag race, and a classic piece of kitsch. I love it because it’s one of the few songs about Lincoln.

I’ve always been a fan of the brand. In fact, my first car was the 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III in the photo above. It never ran because it had electrical problems out the wazoo and I didn’t have enough space to take it completely apart and fix it. Only once did the engine run properly, after I’d chopped off the left side exhaust pipe somewhere under the driver’s seat, and it was magnificent. Imagine Zeus himself gargling nitroglycerine and you’re in the ballpark. 

I loved everything about this car. It’s size. It’s upright, stately lines. It was from a bygone era when gas was cheap and luxury meant completely isolating yourself from the rest of the world––including the road. (Please ignore the dog in the corner. Her name is Freckles and she did not come with the car. The vents in the hood, however, did. Unfortunately, I never got rid of them.)

The Mark III was a huge hit for Lincoln. It outsold the Cadillac Eldorado in its first couple of years and Motor Trend thought it was better than the Eldorado. That was a big achievement for Lincoln and something that it hasn’t really pulled off since. It’s always been in Cadillac’s shadow, and now GM CEO Dan Akerson is saying that Lincoln is “over.”

That gets me all in a tizzy. I would love to take Mr. Akerson apart bit by bit for that little statement. I would thoroughly enjoy recounting Cadillac’s losses over the years and how, though it has come quite far, it isn’t anywhere near where it needs to be. I want to shout from the hilltops that this man is as wrong as Neville Chamberlain when he said that he secured peace in our time.

But I can’t, because he’s kind of right.

Lincoln, much to my dismay, is basically a slightly rebadged Ford. While I really like the styling, in particular the MKZ and MKS below, they’re just warmed over versions of the Ford Fusion and Ford Taurus, respectively.

That’s just not good enough for a luxury brand. When it’s possible to buy a Ford for over $45,000, such as the Ford Flex Titanium, why should anyone buy a Lincoln? There’s just no unique selling proposition for Lincoln at the moment besides the fact that it’s not Lexus, Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW, Acura, or Infinity. Again, that’s just not enough. There has to be a compelling reason for people to seek out this brand, and having a hybrid MKZ for the same price as the regular one isn’t going to cut it.

Lincoln needs its own products. They need to have one or two models that aren’t based off a US Ford product. I realize that saying it and making it happen are two completely different things because Ford is on a product consolidation spree. Everything in America and Europe has to share major components, so its inevitable that Lincoln will continue to be heavily Ford based. But I think there’s a way to differentiate it. 

Ford’s been wondering for a while about what to do with it’s Australian division. The Aussies have long been RWD-centric and it doesn’t fit in with the rest of the Ford empire. If they were to start building Lincolns off of those RWD platforms, and keep the RWD away from all Ford products but the Mustang, there’s instant brand separation. Ford becomes the FWD/AWD brand while Lincoln becomes RWD/AWD. So if consumers want a Ford product with the power going to the back they’ll be forced into a Lincoln.

It’s not the most subtle plan, but it is better than what’s going on now. Lincoln must have more than different sheetmetal and a few bits of technology to make it a viable brand. Ford management realizes this, but they aren’t saying how they’re going to fix it. Instead they keep reassuring dealers that they’re working on it without showing the products. That’s not very comforting.

They have a new head designer for Lincoln that was poached from Cadillac, so that could be why we haven’t seen anything yet; he needs time to put his mark on the new models. But it still bothers me that we haven’t heard a peep other than the promise that we’ll see seven new or redesigned models in the next five years.

I want to see genuine progress. I want to see Lincoln pull itself back from irrelevance. I want to see products that have soul. I know Lincoln can do it. They made the 1961 Continental that’s a style icon and the Mark III that I love. It’s a brand with a long, storied history and I don’t want to see it go away.

We’ve already lost so many old brands already. I don’t want to see another one disappear.

2 Responses to “Better start drinkin’, cause there ain’t no hot rod Lincoln”
  1. Paul Richards says:

    Akerson is not right. Wait until november.

    • Jason Lowrey says:

      I am, anxiously. I read a Wall Street Journal article this morning about the new MKT and MKS slated for early next year. It sounds as though they’re banking on the tech angle, so I’ve got my fingers crossed and hoping that they’ll make a splash.

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