A few weeks ago, Ford of Europe announced the revival of the Vignale name on a line of luxuriously trimmed products such as the Mondeo midsize sedan and the upcoming S-Max sports minivan. In a way, that idea reminds us of Lincoln’s own Black Label line of exclusively trimmed vehicles, for which the American brand has designed dramatic interiors and selected specialty materials.
It would not be the first time that Lincoln and Vignale cross paths in Ford’s global universe but before we get to the main subject of this article, a little history is needed. The Carrozzeria Vignale was a design studio founded after World War II by Alfredo Vignale, a former employee of famed designer Gian-Battista Pinin Farina, and known for custom orders as well as production designs often based on Italian cars.
After twenty years of success, Alfredo Vignale sold his business to Alfredo de Tomaso, himself a famous car executive whose namesake company was then owned by the Ford Motor Company. The studio was eventually merged with the Carrozeria Ghia and sold by de Tomaso to Ford when the two companies parted ways. After that, the Ghia name became Ford’s top trim level in Europe and a sign of luxury in North America, while the Vignale name only found its way on the 1993 Aston Martin Lagonda Vignale concept and later on the 2004 Ford Focus Vignale Concept.
Or did it? On this side of the Atlantic, the Vignale name graced an exclusive one-off concept presented by Lincoln at the 1987 Detroit Auto Show.
Although striking in its elegance and simplicity, the Vignale concept did not share much of the styling cues then used on production Lincolns such as the Mark VII. The waterfall grille was refined to its simplest expression and flanked by intricate headlights composed of eight elements and browed by a chrome bar that isn’t unlike that of the Mark VIII. The narrow, aero look of the front does share some DNA with that of the 1989 Mercury Cougar and to a lesser extent that of the 1989 Thunderbird, too.
The streamlined rear barely carried a hint of the Continental spare motif, acting merely as the dividing plate between bold smoked tail lenses, the tonneau cover leading into a smooth trunk lid. Inside, the dashboard design is very similar to that of the 1989 Thunderbird and Cougar.
Now, the side is maybe the most telling aspect of the contest. Very European, streamlined, barely disturbed by the third brake light obviously added as an afterthought (to be fair, it only became mandatory in 1986), the clean design holds its own next to another Italian superstar of 1987: the Cadillac Allanté.
A Pininfarina creation, the Allanté was a big gamble on the part of Lincoln’s archrival Cadillac. Seen in that context, the Lincoln by Vignal seems to be a fair warning to Cadillac that, should the Allanté succeed, Lincoln would be right behind. As it turned out, the most exclusive of Cadillacs missed its mark and Lincoln didn’t follow against Mercedes in the top-tier luxury coupe market.
The design of the tenth-generation Thunderbird and seventh-generation Cougar did prove to be successful, so all was not lost!
Photo credits: Ford Motor Company and General Motors.
Some snazzy color pictures from Allcarindex.com. In color and in the metal, the Vignale definitely gave the Allanté a run for its money.