The vehicle that would become the modern Lincoln personal luxury coupe had its genesis in the mid-1950's when Edsel Ford, the son of Ford founder Henry, decided to revive the Continental name which had lain dormant since just after the Second World War. While the Lincoln division was going strong, Edsel wanted to create a second premium brand that would be able to compete with European car makers on their own turf. This lead to the decision to build the Continental Mark II, a spectacular coupe that would be sold for only two years before the Continental name was once again folded into the Lincoln family.
While four-door sedans would continue to ply the Continental name for the next few years, the luxury coupe had not been forgotten and for 1969 the Continental Mark III, a two-door whale of a car, was released with the intention of being a direct successor to the Mark II. Far less extravagant than the vehicle which inspired it, the Mark III was nevertheless the prototype for the next 25 years of Lincoln coupe development: a long body, big motor, and a ride which attempted to balance sport with luxury.
The emphasis was definitely on the luxury side of the equation, at least until 1984 when the Mark VII was unveiled to the public. The car was based on a more compact chassis and displayed a host of technological improvements such as self-leveling air suspension, electronic anti-lock brakes (an industry first for Detroit automakers) and unique non-standardized headlights. The Mark VII had a healthy dollop of power in the form of a 5.0-liter V-8 engine, and it attracted a new wave of buyers to the brand happy to pick up a true sport coupe that was capable of holding its own against the likes of Mercedes-Benz.
In the early 1990s, it became clear that the Mark VII needed to be updated in order to continue its sales success. The 1993 - 1998 Lincoln Mark VIII would be the final expression of Lincoln's high-tech coupe program, a vehicle which combined gee-whiz features, performance and comfort in a very attractive package that straddled the line between luxury car and sporty two-door. The Mark VIII would fall victim to the dwindling sales of all personal luxury vehicles in North America, but to the end it would hold its head up high as the best used coupe ever sold by Lincoln.
1998 Lincoln Mark VIII
The 1998 Lincoln Mark VIII has some of the most appealing and forward-thinking styling to be seen on a vehicle in the 1990's. Whereas other efforts by the Ford Motor Company to differentiate their products based on appearance failed miserably (notably, the Taurus update in 1994), the Mark VIII manages to combine a wonderfully aerodynamic shape with fluid lines that speak of power and presence. The long hood suggests a beefy power plant, and the short deck bears a vestigial 'continental kit' to emulate the spare tire mounting of old in a nod to the Mark's past.
The engine provided in the 1998 Lincoln Mark VIII is the most powerful V8 produced by any member of the Ford family throughout that decade. Displacing 4.6-liters, the Intech motor cranks out 290 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque in LSC models of the car - a slight power bump over the standard Mark VIII. This is backed up by a 4-speed automatic transmission that feeds power to the rear wheels. The Mark VIII rides on a fully independent aluminum suspension front and rear, and an innovative air shock system that actually lowers the car at highway speeds in order to reduce drag, increase performance and improve fuel efficiency.
The LSC model comes with the greatest number of options, including HID headlights and trim which is painted to match the vehicle's body color. All editions of the Mark VIII see a rich leather interior, vehicle information center, a moonroof and standard luxury features such as memory seats, cruise control and power everything. Space in the rear of the coupe is somewhat cramped for taller passengers, but the front offers superb accommodations, with drivers benefiting from a wrap-around dash that is canted towards their seating position for greater ease of use.
The 1998 Lincoln Mark VIII's rear-wheel drive platform, excessive amounts of horsepower and firm, comfortable ride make it the high point of 1990s personal luxury two-door development, and a definite solid buy as a used coupe.