In addition to drawing crowds to auto shows and make the enthusiasts’ hearts beat faster, concept cars usually have a purpose. Most of the time, they hint at incoming production cars or at least the direction that the brand will eventually take even if the actual concept remains vaporware. Sometimes they just represent a statement, an exercise in style, like the 1987 Vignale. Every now and then though, a concept car comes that fits in none of those categories. Meet the 1988 Lincoln Machete.
A styling language of its own
When 1988 rolled in, Lincolns were still wearing the aerodynamic yet classic look first introduced on the downsized Panther Continental/Town Car of 1980 and refined with the 1984 facelift of the midsize Fox Continental. If anything, the future looked reassuring with the incoming release of the 1988 Front-Wheel Drive Continental.
And yet, early that year, at the Chicago Auto Show, Lincoln revealed the Machete, a full-size two-door sedan which looked as if it had landed from another planet and, appropriately, spoke a design language of its own. The only hints of Lincoln canon that could be found were a stylized vertical grille carved out of the front bumper, as well as a number of Lincoln logos.
Overall, design was clearly influenced by science-fiction and probably, no joke intended, by the movie “Predator” released in 1987. It showcases sculpted mirrored front and rear bumpers whose strong lines are joined by scalloped sides and flared side skirts. A smoked plastic section separates the main part of the white body from the curiously subdued hood, beltline and trunk and also serves as housing for the front and rear lightbars. By comparison, the roof line and window area look particularly traditional, with their thin pillars and canopy-like coverage.
Full wheel-covers reinforce the aggressively aerodynamic lines but can’t fully hide the visual weight of the car, especially from the rear where the massive overhang must have at least allowed for a lot of space-suit storage. As it is still the norm today, mirrors are replaced by diminutive cameras at the base of each A-pillar and pop-up door handles help the brave driver to step inside.
An advanced interior design
As much as the exterior’s lines have aged and decidedly bring us back to the 1980s, the interior has remained quite contemporary. Indeed, the gentle curves of the dashboard, flowing console and production-ready steering wheel, surrounded by reconfigurable LCD screens seem odly similar to that of the 2009 Chrysler 200C EV Concept. It seems that, twenty years and many design revolutions later, people still enjoy comfortable cockpits allowing for some relaxation. The white and blue interior treatment also helps the cabin feel airy and is quite the constrast with the menacing exterior and blacked-out passenger compartment.
Copyright Lifetime Vision LTD, 1990
Copyright Jim Choate for Allpar.com, 2009
At the back, two individual seats are separated by a travel console featuring an LCD screen. The large glass area at least provided a lot of light to the passengers of this full-sized galactic coupe.
Its fifteen minutes of fame
Although some of its cues maybe made it to another concept-car four years later (namely, the Marque-X convertible), the Machete vanished into hyperspace after the 1988 auto show circuit, its excess only to be forgotten with the release of the beautiful 1990 Town Car. That being said, for such an obscure concept-car, it managed to grasp its fifteen minutes of fame not once, but twice.
Copyright Lifetime Vision LTD, 1990
First, in 1990, it was featured in the elusive documentary “Concept Cars”, which is heavily referenced on the Internet Movie Car Database (IMCDb.org). This presentation, which gave us lots of screen grabs of the Machete for posterity’s sake, showcased a number of dream vehicles from the 1950s all the way to the late 1980s. Whoever kept a copy on VHS has something pretty rare indeed!
Copyright Columbia Pictures, 1993
Then, in 1993, the Machete got itself a cameo in the excellent Clint Eastwood movie “In the Line of Fire”, an action thriller starring Eastwood himself and John Malkovich. In the movie, the car appears with a mysterious “GTX Convertible” concept on the cover of the fictional New Age Modeler magazine. Since its name is not mentioned, it’s fair to say that the makers of that movie were probably looking for a nondescript concept-car that would manage to convey the excitement of model making without looking too much like product placement.
Conclusion: The Odd One Out
If you were to ask your average auto enthusiast about that concept, you would probably get a few blank stares or maybe a few answers mentioning a Japanese brand. And yet, while does not really fit with any other Lincoln concept car that came before or after, it’s an interesting part of the Lincoln story. It is, I find, an “odd-one-out” type of find, one that only comes up in the discussion every once in a while but makes it a quirky discussion every time.