The Lincoln Timeline: 1993

If you look at it from today, the world of 1993 seems like a very different place – in fact, somebody born that year would today be able to vote. Still, right out of the Cold War, the bombings of the World Trade Center were already telling America that another sort of threat was on the rise. In culture, 1993 gave us some landmark movies such as Jurassic Park or The Fugitive. In short, while it may feel like only yesterday to us, it was a whole different place for Lincoln and the auto industry at large!

The context:

For the auto industry, 1992 had been a year to forget: the last throes of the 1990-1991 recession did not allow sales to recover strongly enough, and investments in new products and developments had been either pushed back or reduced, or made but with more significant risk than usual. For Lincoln it had been a stop-gap year, between the important mechanical changes of 1991 and the introduction of the Mark VII’s successor in 1993. Luckily, the Town Car’s strong showing allowed Lincoln to hold its own at the beginning of the 1993 model year.

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By the time it ended, Lincoln sales were up a good 10%, in good part thanks to the release of the Mark VIII, which multiplied sales of its aging predecessor sixfold and a continued success for the Town Car. Continental sales were unfortunately down 50%, a drop symptomatic of the Big Three’s weaknesses in the mid-size luxury class and surely a consequence of the Town Car’s presence since the two cars were marketed at roughly the same price.

Lincoln for 1993:

That year, the Lincoln line-up counted only three cars, covering most traditional American luxury segments: a front-wheel drive mid-size car pushing fuel efficiency and modernity, a rear-wheel-drive full-size sedan for the traditional buyer, and a rear-wheel drive personal luxury coupe intended as a halo car as much as a prestige import-fighter. In short, with two-thirds of its vehicles driven by a V8 engine connected to the rear wheels, it is fair to say that Lincoln was still very much American-minded.

1992 continental

The mid-size, front-wheel-drive Continental was then in its sixth year, the second-to-last. The biggest news for 1993 was a bump in power, as the 3.8L V6 engine gained 5hp for a total of 160 – it must be noted that it was already a heavy duty, High Output version of the “Essex” V6 that was unique to the Continental, its Ford Taurus platform-mate when ordered in police specification as well as… the Ford Windstar minivan.

1993 continental

1993 Lincoln Continental.

On the styling front the Continental was a carry-over for 1993, having been restyled in 1990. Inside though, and for the first time in Continental history, a center console was available as parts of an option package that also included bucket seats in lieu of the split “comfort lounge” bench. It appeared to be an accessible way to align Continental with imports and modernize its image. Interestingly enough though, that center console unit and floor-mounted shifter arrangement was shared with the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable – the otherwise standard chromed column-mounted shifter was unique to Continental. That year, the model remained available in Executive as well as Signature Series trim.

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1993 Lincoln Town Car on the TV show “N.C.I.S.”, courtesy of IMCDB.org – the new grille texture is clearly visible, but headlamps are not original!

Moving up one notch in the Lincoln line-up was the Town Car, which had been introduced to great fanfare in 1990. For 1993, it received a few minor changes: new wheels, the inside motif of the tail lights was tweaked, and a more intricate front grille was introduced. Instead of 8 vertical sections featuring a Mercury-like waterfall pattern, it now presented 14 smaller sections featuring a chromed wave pattern, similar to the motif found previously on the Lincoln Mark VII. The only available engine was a carry-over of the 4.6L “Modular” V8 that had been introduced two years earlier and which for the last time offered a leisurely 190hp – following model years would know a rather significant bump in power. As per Lincoln tradition, the “Townie” was available in Executive, Signature Series and Cartier specifications. Also, and rather fittingly given the profile of the Town Car buyer, the Jack Nicklaus special edition was still available that year: it featured special trim and badges as well as green-themed colour combinations.

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1993 Lincoln Mark VIII.

Finally, top of the crop at Lincoln for 1993 was the all-new Mark VIII personal luxury coupe. We will come back to that model in detail in a dedicated article, but we can already note that it seamlessly replaced its Mark VII predecessor, whose production run went all the way through August of 1992. It would also prove to be the last production vehicle in the storied “Continental” and “Mark” series and overall the swan song of the great American coupe.

Still, its dramatic reveal had already been anticipated: as the “Hot Rod”, angular Mark VII coupe was being phased out, the brand toured a thinly-disguised concept car to announce the direction taken by the new model. The Lincoln Marque X, introduced at the 1992 Detroit Auto Show, displayed the “aero” look of the 1990s in vivid tangerine paint, a much more modern interpretation of the personal luxury coupe featuring full-width, fiber-optics head and tail lights as well as a stylized “Continental” trunk design. Although the production vehicle turned out to be very close to the concept car, including identical drivetrain and interior design, it was never offered as a convertible.

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1993 Lincoln Mark VIII – the overall shape reveals how it is related to the MN12 platform used by the contemporary Ford Thunderbird and Mercury Cougar.

In terms of packaging, the Mark VIII eschewed the traditional boxy look of its predecessor for a “cab-forward” design not unlike contemporary products of the Chrysler Corporation: by pushing the wheels and roof pillars to the four corners of the car, cab-forward design increased wheelbase and offered passengers more glass area as well as more interior volume, even if the rest of the passenger compartment (notably the placement of seats) remained fairly traditional.  Its aerodynamic shape, sculpted by wind, was also pretty groundbreaking and its neon-like rear light bar served slower drivers with a very distinctive signature. And there were bound to be lots of slower drivers out there, too! For its flagship, Lincoln tweaked the 4.6L “Modular” V8 mentioned above with “Four Cam” technology, meaning a double overhead cam (DOHC) set-up and four valves per cylinder as opposed to the single overhead cam (SOHC) 2-valve set-up found on the Town Car.

As a result, the Mark VIII pumped 280hp out of its engine, reached 60mph in just 6.9 seconds and a top speed of over 130 miles an hour. In fact, Lincoln played the card of ultra performance in its marketing of the car, dramatically showcasing in televised commercials a unique, adaptative suspension that lowered the vehicle’s height at highway speed to improve aerodynamics. That feature was itself linked to the Marque X concept-car, which featured a speed-sensitive spoiler tucked underneath the car to achieve the same effect.

Inside, Lincoln took pages out of its European competition’s handbook by offering a driver-oriented dashboard, integral center console with shifter and articulated seats. A sign of the times, the interior was almost devoid of wood inserts and conveyed a much more masculine atmosphere made of colour-keyed plastics and leather – for its first year, the Mark VIII coupe came in only one generously equipped trim level, providing the discerning buyer with a tempting all-inclusive package.

Also, it was progress!, all Lincolns were now available with a fully integrated cellular phone.

The competition:

Back in 1993, Lincoln occupied a very specific share of the market: that of the traditional American luxury car, which put an emphasis on comfort, size and value and catered to a buyer that was unlikely to cross-shop Japanese or German luxury brands. The Continental, arguably Lincoln’s only nontraditional product, prevented buyers willing to downsize from shopping anywhere else and did not act as a true “conquest” product to steal sales from imports. Consequently, its true competition could be found at Oldsmobile, Buick, Cadillac and, to a lesser extent, Chrysler.

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1993 Chrysler Imperial.

Let’s start with the Chrysler Imperial, which was in 1993 going through its last model year. The last iteration of that storied name, it proved rather unsuccessful in the market place: introduced in 1990 alongside strong entries from both Lincoln and Buick, this downsized K car-based Imperial offered front-wheel drive and basic 3.8 V6 power in a rather pricey package that didn’t reflect the car’s humble underpinnings and build quality.

At General Motor’s upscale divisions, Lincoln faced more serious competition: at Oldsmobile, a fresh duo made of the Eighty-Eight (new for 1992) and Ninety-Eight (new for 1991) represented a credible alternative slotting right between the smaller, more sedate Continental and the full-size Town Car. Their traditional yet aerodynamic shapes, as well as their proven engines proved popular with the American public.

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1993 Buick Park Avenue.

At Buick, the aforementioned packaging was available in the shape of the LeSabre while frontal opposition came from the acclaimed Park Avenue. Introduced in 1990 for the 1991 model year, it offered a stately appearance and lots of interior room but stopped short of being the quintessential American luxury sedan: indeed, the Park Avenue was front-wheel-drive and only available with a 3.8L V6 engine, albeit supercharged when ordered in Ultra trim. On the other hand, the unloved and downsized Riviera was finishing its run in relative silence, before a last-chance redesign, and the specialty Roadmaster sedan remained confidential.

Still, the arch-nemesis remained in 1993 the Cadillac division of General Motors. In terms of line-up, it fielded a contender for each Lincoln model, the duels presenting nameplates known for decades: the Seville battled the Continental, the de Ville countered the Town Car and the Eldorado fought the Mark VIII. The Seville, new for 1992, became available in 1993 with the 4.6L “NorthStar” V8 when ordered in STS trim, gaining a strong advantage against the Continental. The aging de Ville was then ninth year in its last appearance before a complete redesign, and appeared in terms of styling and technology dated compared to the Town Car. The Eldorado, as per usual introduced alongside the Seville in 1992, gained the same “NorthStar” V8 in 270hp or 295hp specification, a clear answer to the striking reveal of the Mark VIII – which otherwise severely dated the boxy design of the Eldorado.

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1993 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham, flagship of the GM fleet. Its Roadmaster sedan stablemate remained confidential on the market.

On top of these traditional offerings, Cadillac did unveil a few surprises for 1993: the Fleetwood nameplate affixed to the top-of-the-line but downsized and front-wheel-drive de Ville was transferred back to a full-size rear-wheel-drive platform to offer a longer, wider and even more formal alternative to the successful Town Car. It was also mechanically much more conservative, being only available in 1993 with a 5.7L push-rod Chevrolet V8 which produced 185hp, 5 less than Lincoln’s 4.6L V8 which also featured more efficient DOHC.

Finally, 1993 was the last year for the extravagant Allanté convertible, which was without equivalent in the Lincoln line-up. The exotic Cadillac, whose body was produced in Turin, Italy and then flown to the Detroit Hamtrack Cadillac plant in specially designed cargo jets for completion, remained but a halo car. For reference, while a 1993 Mark VIII started under 37.000$, the last Allantés could be yours for just over 60.000$ before options.

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1993 Mercedes C-Class, a breakthrough in the midsize luxury market.

Even though Lincoln catered to a different kind of buyer, it is interesting to acknowledge what was available from import makes for 1993. From BMW, the 3-, 5- and 7-series were all carrying over that year, and attracted the sports-luxury buyer. At Mercedes, the rather “niche” 190 gave way to the C-Class in 1993 and started the brand’s successful run in the midsize-class. Finally, at Audi, the 80 midsize sedan made its way to the North American market in 1993, but once again directed at buyers who would probably not have considered a Lincoln in the first place.

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1993 Infiniti J30 – a bit too exotic but a good start for the brand.

By 1993, all three Japanese luxury makes (Acura, Infiniti and Lexus) were starting to get a stronger foothold in the North American market. At Acura, all cars were carry-over that year, as the Integra coupe and sedan were about to be redesigned. At Infiniti, the J30 mid-sizer was all new but its lack of interior room did not quite fit with the American standards of luxury. Finally, at Lexus, 1993 saw the American release of the original GS, which would turn out to be a very strong contender in the mid- to full-size luxury market – including against Lincoln’s traditional offerings.

Conclusion:

In 1993, the American luxury market was a decidedly different game: before the arrival of luxury SUVs a few years later, it was still all about sedans. The big contrast with today, or even with the year 2003 which we already covered, is that back then Lincoln was in the full-size class (arguably its strong point) a defender of the comfortable V8 and rear-wheel-drive set-up already abandoned by Oldsmobile and Buick, and only partly maintained at Cadillac. Likewise, the release of the highly technological Mark VIII was a last push in the waning categories of high rolling personal coupes – that year for all intents and purposes reduced to the Mark and the Eldorado.

It seemed to replay at the turn of the 1990s the choice it made at the end of the 1970s, outdoing General Motors in the eyes of the all-American buyer by postponing downsizing in packaging and engines, but maybe leaving that way an open road for the imports (both European and Japanese) to make the best of smaller, more efficient cars and thus get the part of the market not quite tempted by the promise of the SUV.

See also:

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