The 1974-1975 Lincoln Continental Mark IV models may not have been a big success, but they were only a warm-up for 1976. This was the first year for the successful Designer Series options.
There were four in all, each named for a famous fashion mogul who allegedly had a hand in creating it: Bill Blass, (Hubert) Givenchy (Emilio) Pucci, and Cartier. Of course, Cartier was a jeweler, not a couturier, but who cared?
Despite a $1,500-$2,000 premium, the Designer Series was an instant hit, accounting for more than a quarter of 1976-model sales, which recovered to 56,110.
And that wasn't the end of it. Though the Gold and Silver groups were dropped, the Lipstick and Blue Diamond were joined by four new treatments: Gold/Cream, Red/Rose, Light/Dark Jade, and Jade/White.
More exclusive still were three Spring Editions introduced in March: Black Diamond, Lipstick/White, and Desert Sand. No production figures are available for those, but it's estimated that only 50-100 of each were built. (There was also a Black Diamond group for the big Continentals.)
Announced at the 1976 Detroit Auto Show, the $1,064 "Black Diamond" option wore Black Diamond Fire metallic paint that could be set off with optional silver pinstriping and black premium body side moldings.
The oft-chosen black padded roof had "Cayman-grain" vinyl that looked like patent leather and was used only on the top's rear quarter. Full-length "Normande" vinyl also was available.
The interior could be all-black with leather or crushed velour and patent-leather assist straps on the backs of the front seats. For those who thought black too funereal, dove gray was available with either leather-and-vinyl or Versailles velour.
The Lipstick/White group combined white or Lipstick Red paint with a landau roof carrying Lipstick Red Cayman vinyl on the aft quarter. The interior was white leather-and-vinyl, with Lipstick Red assist straps. Those straps and the Cayman vinyl top distinguish this option from previous Lipsticks.
More involved was the Desert Sand, which was tan on body sides and rear deck, and dark-brown metallic on nose, hood, the very tops of the doors, and around the rear windows. Discreet pinstripes separated the colors. The all-vinyl roof was also tan, but there may have been a rear landau roof with tan or dark-brown metallic paint on the front.
The interior offered a choice of dark-brown crushed velour or saddle leather-and-vinyl. Like other 1976 Spring Editions, this one also had assist straps.
Last, but not least, was the "Silhouette" package, which saw just 200 installations. Supposedly created to honor the 1976 presidential election, this was probably finished in black only, with a black rear landau roof, red body pinstripes, and a black or red interior.
Opera windows were blocked out, replaced by "Silhouette" script, and brushed stainless steel adorned the front of the roof.
With so much lily-gilding, the 1976 Mark IV had to be the most consciously fashionable car since Kaiser's early-1950s Dragons. But it was a nice way to end a banner four-year run of 278/599 units, a single-model Mark record. (The successor Mark V would sell even better for 1977-1979, though.)
While some of those trim options were undeniably gauche, the Mark IV appealed to a whole new breed of luxury-car buyer. In so doing, it made Lee lacocca a Dearborn hero once more.
But did this success also contribute to his abrupt firing by Henry Ford II in 1978? Quite possibly lacocca may have been a genius, but as HFII would remind everyone --especially lacocca -- "It's MY name on the building."
Go on to the next page to learn about the legacy of the Lincoln Continental Mark IV.
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