A look back at a true American classic: the 1977-79 Lincoln Continental Mark V

A star during the 1970s boom in “personal luxury” cars, 1977-79 Mark Vs are highly sought after today for their clean styling, and last-of-their-kind XL classic dimensions.  This ’77 base model features entry level wheel covers and vinyl roof delete.  SEE PHOTO SLIDESHOW AT BOTTOM OF ARTICLE FOR MORE PICTURES

A star during the 1970s boom in “personal luxury” cars, 1977 – 1979 Lincoln Mark Vs are highly sought after today for their clean styling and last-of-their-kind extra large dimensions.  By the 1979 model year, every other make and model large car sold in the United States had been downsized to meet 1980 fuel economy regulations except Lincolns, which held on for one final year…truly making them making them worthy of the phrase “Old School’s last graduate”.

(Photo slideshow with large pictures detailing all Mark V variations is at end of article)

The 1977-79 Lincoln Mark V is decidedly old-school.  Truly the last 1979 passenger car 80 inches wide and 230 inches long with fuel economy barely in the double digits, and with a design putting styling over aerodynamics….the Mark V embodies what traditional “Amercian luxury cars” were known for since the dawn of the automobile.

A handsome car in its day, the V’s elegant and crisp lines have stood the test of time well making it a period piece that still turns heads today.  Produced for only three model years, many collectors consider it as recognizable an icon today as a 1955-57 Ford Thunderbird, a 1964-66 Mustang, a 1968-70 Dodge Charger (Dukes of Hazzard), or even a 1995-97 Ferrari F50…all vehicles with three-year model runs also.

That said, it’s fair to say the Mark V is more an evolutionary design than a revolutionary one.  Improving on its predecessor (the 1972-76 Mark IV), the ’77 used the same 120-inch wheelbase as well as same front/rear tread width.  While 2.2 inches were added to the overall length for styling, engineers diligently brought curb weight down from 5,000 pounds to 4,600 pounds.

Sheetmetal, grille, and bumpers were all new for ’77 and embodied a sharp-edged more angular theme rather than the more rounded and heavier-looking styling of the Mark IV.  Three vent slats along both front fenders were new, and served to improve interior ventilation.  Evolutionary styling carried over the previous Mark IV’s narrow Rolls grille, vertical “blade” style parking/turn signal lights in front fender extensions, simultated spare tire hump in trunk, concealed headlamps, and opera windows in roof c-pillars.

In a 2003 interview, Ford Motor Company designer Don DeLaRossa reflected in Collectible Automobile Magazine back to the Mark Vs development in the 1970s.  “The starting point for the Mark V was an alternate design proposal for the Mark IV that had been championed by Gene Bordinat, corporate styling vice president. Bordinat didn’t like the Mark IV design he approved for production. We extended those lines of the Mark IV, straightened them, and kept them flowing….Gale Halderman (head of Lincoln-Mercury design studio at the time) said taillamp blades that wrapped over into the rear fender tops were considered until they proved unpopular in market research.”.

1977 MODELS INTRODUCED October 1, 1976. Base price: $11,396 (80,321 sold).

To view a commercial from Autumn 1976 introducing the Mark V at the New York Museum of Modern Art, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=daN4tYCssSI. Note the vehicle shown in this “modern art” theme has no vinyl roof.  The narrator was actor John Houseman.

The standard engine for 1977 through 1979 was a 179-horsepower 400 cubic inch V8 (6.6 liters), with a 210-horsepower 460 cubic inch V8 (7.5-liters) optional only for 1977 and 1978.  All Mark Vs offered mechanically advanced 4-wheel disc brakes as standard, and technologically advanced anti-lock braking systems (“Sure Track”) as a $280 option.  Automatic climate control, a Cartier dashboard clock, and full power accessories were all standard.

Options of Note: dual exhausts ($71), C.B. radio ($285), cruise control ($124), power no-draft windows ($85), tilt steering wheel ($73), silver molding strips underneath doors ($28), leather trim in place of velour ($252), passenger side remote mirror ($33), power glass moonroof ($938).

Padded vinyl roofs covering the rear half of the roof were a $187 option.  All models built from the factory were so equipped unless custom ordered without one.  The vinyl roof was offered as a delete option, and gave a credit to customers ordering 1977 and 1978 models.  For 1979, vinyl roofs were standard and could not be deleted on the order form.  A full (not half) vinyl roof covering was an additional $185+.  For pictures of plain, half-, and full-vinyl roofs, see pictures at the bottom of this article.

1978: $12,099 (72,602 sold)

Mechanically, ’78 models were updated with wider radiators for better engine cooling, a modified transmission torque converter, and a freer flowing exhaust.  The electrical system gained a maintenance-free battery and an electronic voltage regulator.  A slightly smaller gas tank was fitted.  The base 400-cubic-inch engine was detuned to 166 horsepower in the interest of higher fuel economy.

While the two choices of aluminum alloy wheels were unchanged from 1977, base model wheel covers were redesigned from a flat disc appearance to a more three-dimensional shape.  Wire wheel hubcaps were introduced for the first time on all Lincolns as a $233 option this year.

A $900 “carriage roof” option which simulated the look of a convertible top was introduced for ’78.  Made out of vinyl textured to resemble canvas type grain, it covered the whole roof and featured fake top braces and stitching.  It was quite convincing.

A digital Miles To Empty gauge ($125) was a new option that calculated the number of miles a driver could theoretically travel before running out of gas.  While computer controlled fuel injection was never an option on Mark Vs, a rudimentary on-board system used engine vacuum pressure instead to guestimate fuel economy, then multiplied that by the amount of fuel remaining in the tank.  While crude compared to today’s standards, it was the first use of a digital gauge showing a mechanical function in any production car.

A limited production Mark V “Diamond Jubilee” Edition was offered to celebrate Ford Motor Company’s 75th anniversary.  Available in light blue and gold metallic colors, Diamond Jubilees cost $8,000 extra and featured every available option.  Unique body color matching of the turbine spoke alloy wheels, bumper rub strips, vinyl roof, and spare tire vinyl cover were features unique to Diamond Jubilee editions.  5,159 were produced.  Note: similar Diamond Jubilee packages were offered on the 1978 Ford Thunderbird.

The optional C.B. radio ($321) was redesigned to feature a digital display for channel numbers.

(SEE PICTURES AT BOTTOM OF ARTICLE FOR A CLOSER LOOK AT ALL MODELS AND FEATURES DESCRIBED)

1979: Base price $13,067 (75,939 sold)

-Mechanical changes for 1979 included the discontinuation of the automatic parking brake release, a heater core inlet and supply line enlarged for improved performance, and ignition and door-lock modification for better antitheft protection.

-The 460 cubic-inch V8 engine (7.5 liters) and dual exhaust options were dropped after 1978, and were not available in the Mark V’s final year.  All ‘79s were equipped with the 400 cubic-inch V8 (6.6 liters), two-barrel carbuerator, and single exhaust.

-Diamond Jubilee editions had proved very popular the previous year – but because Ford’s 75th anniversary would not translate to 1979, the packages returned in another guise.  By 1979, every car sold in the United States except the Lincoln Mark V and Continental sedan had been downsized to meet upcoming 1980 fuel economy laws.  To commemorate the Mark Vs unique XL holdout status in its final year, the “Collector’s Series” was created.  Also selling for upwards of $8,000, Collector’s Edition interiors, exteriors, and features were identical to Diamond Jubilee – only in different colors.

Offered in just two colors initially (midnight blue moondust metallic and white), two additional Collector’s Edition colors (light silver moondust metallic and diamond blue moondust metallic) were offered later in the ’79 model year.  All Collector’s colors featured navy blue paint in between alloy wheel spokes, navy blue interiors, and gold paint on the front grille slats.

-Two new radio choices debuted, an 8-track stereo with digital memory settings, display and scanning function.  Also new was an AM/FM non-digital stereo with a more modern cassette player (see photos below for details).

TELEVISION AND MOVIES HEAVILY FEATURING THE MARK V:

-Dallas (1978-91 television show)

-Starsky & Hutch (1975-79 television show)

-Knots Landing (1979-93 television show)

-many appearances during highway scenes in “CHiPs” (1978-83 television show)

-North Dallas 40 (1979 movie)

-Robocop 3 (1993 movie)

-No Man’s Land (1987 movie)

-Provinces of Night (2010 movie)

-Alanis Morrisette’s 1996 music video “Ironic”

So…aerodynamics?  Who needs aerodynamics!?  As Enzo Ferrari once said, “Aerodynamics are for people that can’t build engines.”

CLICK ON ANY OF THE PHOTOS BELOW TO SEE LARGER IMAGES.  HIT ARROW BUTTONS UNDER EACH PICTURE TO SCROLL BACKWARDS OR FORWARDS.

 

 

 

 

 

About Sean

Welcome to Classic Cars Today Online! We seek to explore the subject of classic vehicles from the 1950s through today. It is our belief that a car needn't be old to be respected and admired for graceful design, historical significance, and future value. As founder and Editor-In-Chief, I welcome contributions from you about your own car-related interests and ownership experiences. As far as myself, I've worked in the automotive service field and have been a contributor to Autoweek Magazine, The Star, Mercedes Enthusiast Magazine, Examiner.com and more. Currently, I'm a copywriter and own several foreign and domestic classic cars. In my spare time, you'll find me serving as Technical Editor and officer of several car clubs, being a concours car show judge, and meeting some great folks around the tri-state NY / NJ / Pennsylvania area at car shows. - Sean Connor
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  • Sammy Haggerty

    Tis true Lincoln gave the middle finger to the government in 1979 and refused to downsize; however, Lincoln wasn’t the only car maker to refuse. Pontiac was the other one to stand firm in 1979. Pertaining to muscle cars engines, whereas Chevy caved in/wimped out and stuck the 350 in the Corvettes and Z-28′s for that year, Pontiac held on to the big Pontiac 400 and kept them in the Trans-Ams.

    California (being the liberal state it is) enacted draconian laws against Pontiac and had outlawed the Pontiac 400 motor for 1979. Pontiac was so determined, as an answer, Trans-Ams made at Van Nuys plant in California got the big 403 Olds (because it burned cleaner). Trans-Ams made in Ohio got the 400 Pontiac motor.

    In a late issue of Hot Rod Magazine (or possibly a different car mag) they have a pic of a 1979 Trans-Am with the caption: “It won’t pass this way again.”

    Yes the Lincoln got physically bigger, but Pontiac held on to the bitter end, also.

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