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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Venom Vellum: 1972 Continental Mark IV | Hagerty Media

In my thirteen years of Continental Mark IV ownership, I've grown to believe that badge engineering is acceptable-at least when a face this stunning is selling the goods. Ford and Lincoln tried the strategy again 34 years later, when the (then new) Fusion-based, Lincoln Zephyr/MKZ hit the streets in 2006.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/opinion/vellum-venom/venom-vellum-1972-continental-mark-iv/
23 REPLIES 23
Sajeev
Community Manager

And for the record, this was far more badge engineered compared to the Mark III before and the Mark V after. 

The III was Thunderbird based, as it used the coupe's inner body structure but bolted it to the sedan's longer wheelbase and gave it a unique interior and exterior. 

The V was basically the Tbird/Mark IV on the inside, but totally unique outside.  Of course the uniqueness stems mostly from the Thunderbird shrinking down to the Torino chassis in 1977, not because Lincoln opted to make a special design for the 1977 Mark Series. 

MeanMrMustard
Intermediate Driver

It was my understanding that the IV was the Torino / Thunderbird chassis. Didn’t the 1977 V actually grow in length over the Mark IV ?  The first real downsizing came with the FOX chassis in 1980. 

Sajeev
Community Manager

Hello @MeanMrMustard, yes the Torino and Thunderbird/Mark IV chassis are similar, but the Torino is significantly smaller. No press materials ever suggested they shared a common chassis back then, but they sure look similar under the skin. I have 1972 Torino headers on the Mark IV profiled here, and they fit with a little modification. (More proof they aren't 100% a shared platform.)  

 

The Mark V was indeed longer and lighter than the outgoing IV, which was awesome. Even though earlier 70s Lincolns were better in many ways, the V is still my favorite. 

 

You are correct on the downsizing, but that was with the Panther chassis in 1980. The Continental got even smaller in 1982 thanks to the Fox chassis. 

MeanMrMustard
Intermediate Driver

Yes , the Torino chassis was reworked for the T-bird but then that rework was also used for the Mark IV which was also built exclusively at the Wixom plant. The Mark in the T-bird chassis is nearly identical so you don’t need to see press materials to see that you can compare shop manuals and it’s there in black-and-white. Also what do exhaust headers have to do with a chassis? They’re pretty much an  identical fit though for the 429 and the 460. Since you’re mentioning an engine part , the Thunderbird was the same 460 that they dropped in the Mark IV with no horsepower difference or anything . But again this whole idea of badge engineering has been with Ford and the rest of the car companies almost since their inception. I mean the entire lineup of GM cars from the 50s was practically the same car just reworked for each model line. Engines were different and they had to give the engineers little perks and pats on the head here in there but primarily everybody was dipping into a parts bin and taking what they needed and building on that. In the case of the Mark IV well I guess that Iacocca was just a little bit more obvious about it.

Sajeev
Community Manager

The aftermarket headers prove the chassis is very similar, because getting long tube headers to snake around a chassis' hard points and unique bits (like steering and brake systems) takes a lot of engineering. The passenger side header fit just like a Torino, but the driver's side had to be modified to clear the Mark/Tbird steering system. So no, they aren't identical, but they are quite similar (wheelbase aside).  

There is no modification needed from 429 to 460, it's the same motor in terms of bolting up a header to the exhaust port of a 385-series Ford engine. All headers for these motors (Boss 429 aside) interchange, it's the chassis that becomes the sticky bit. 

 

I am splitting hairs here, but the 1972 Thunderbird didn't have a 460, it had a 400 or a 429. The 460 was another unique bit reserved for Lincolns at this time. (That changed circa 1974.)

 

Agreed with your assessment of badge engineering, the issue here is that the Mark IV was indeed more obvious (good phrase) and paved the way for future grievances like the Versailles, Mark LT, and Zephyr/MKZ.

 

 

Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

It's hard not to see this as another Aviator/Explorer situation where the Ford product was deliberately crippled so as to let the Lincoln shine. The nose and tail of the Bird just look awkward by contrast.
MeanMrMustard
Intermediate Driver

Hmmm.  There are plenty of examples of prior and after badge engineered cars coming out of Ford, and the big 3. The Mercury Bobcat comes to mind.. talk about crippled, but here, it was the Merc that was crippled by ladling on “Mercury” styling. They took the clean simple Pinto and dressed it in Mercury chrome and gave it a honker of a truncated Mercury grill.  And back to the Mark IV,  since you could get a 1972 T-bird equipped exactly like a Mark IV for 2500 less, I wouldn’t say the Ford was crippled there either. The Mark just had extremely well targeted marketing, appealing to newly moneyed business people who wanted to standout from the Cadillac hoards. All because of that riff of a Rolls grill.. which to me makes the Mark III the beginning of the so called retro look, truly Art Deco revival, but better executed in the Mark IV. The 70’s did embrace a return to the Art Deco period in fashion, and design and even movies such as “The Great Gatsby”, “Funny Girl”, right up to “Xanadu”, and these Marks fit right in. 

RokemRonnie
Instructor

A high water mark in American automotive design, my favorite Continental after the '56 Mk II.

The Mk IV and the Thunderbird were assembled at the Wixom plant, on the same line if I'm not mistaken. A friend's father had a Mark that had one Continental side mirror and a T-Bird mirror on the other side.

Besides sharing platforms and the factory at Wixom, there's another relationship between the Continental and the Thunderbird. The 1961 Lincoln, which established the look of the brand for two decades, started out as a styling proposal for the Thunderbird. The way the story goes, Ford brass was undecided about how to proceed with Lincoln styling until Robert McNamara, then Ford president, saw a clay model of a proposed Thunderbird, and suggested adding two doors to it and making it a Lincoln.
Sajeev
Community Manager

Very good point!  There as also another moment like that, the 1982 Continental Concept 90 and 1983 Continental Concept 100 were concept cars with styling cues seen in both the Mark VII and 1983 Tbird.  We don't have any insight like we do for the 61 Conti, but there's a chance the Tbird was heavily influenced by Lincoln designs of the early 1980s. 

Land_Ark
Intermediate Driver

Thank you as always Sajeev! I suspect this one was one of the easiest for you as it was likely a labor of love. I really dig how the mirrors match the grill, that's something I'd never noticed before.

Sometime around 1998 I was getting the Land Ark's annual inspection done and the guy at the shop told me he wasn't going to pass me unless I put amber bulbs behind the front marker lights. Like this car, mine came with running lights next to the headlights on the corners of the fenders. Mine are opaque and almost an ivory color. When lit up they are sort of yellow-ish owing to the incandescent bulb behind it. I pointed out that everything was how it left the factory but this was the time when putting clear corner lights on cars started becoming popular and he was certain I had done that - to a 1967 Impala. The covers at that time were unobtanium, let alone available on the aftermarket in altered form. He took them apart to get the bulb size to replace them with amber and after a few minutes of searching he had to concede that no one made amber bulbs in that size. He probably also noticed that the trim around them had not been removed for a very long time and he put it back together and sent me on my way with a passed inspection.
Sajeev
Community Manager

Thank you again for your kind words and encouragement! Yeah this one only took like 5 hours from the first photo to hitting the submission button. 😂

 

Funny you mentioned it, as I put in newer amber turn signal bulbs (these were dim and I had better ones from a low-mile Mark VII, ironically) and I've always loved the clear lense that turns amber at the flick of a switch. I had no idea there are some bulb designs that weren't available in both clear and amber! 

CitationMan
Gearhead

Great design review Sajeev! After all these years, not many people realize it’s badge engineered, so I think it’s safe to say that it stands on its own now. Has it been a reliable car for you?
Sajeev
Community Manager

Thank you for reading @CitationMan! Yes, for a car so old it's needed very little.  I have done more modifications (not that you can tell in photos) than I have restorations.  The only big ticket items it needed to remain functional was a brake booster (hard to find), A/C compressor and a new transmission, the latter chronicled here: 

https://www.hagerty.com/media/maintenance-and-tech/modern-ish-transmissions-from-a-ford-c6/ 

spoom
Technician

She's a beauty, one of my favorites of all time. I remember as a kid in NY in the early 60's one day, the United States, the France, the QEII and a Continental MKIV were all berthed at their home piers on the Hudson at the same time. Wish I'd been on the NJ side to get a pic 😉

Sajeev
Community Manager

Oh wow, I'd pay for a pic of that! 

drjim
Advanced Driver

Thank you for the analysis, Sajeev. I've always thought these were really classy cars, and my Dad, who was a huge fan of the Robert Conrad TV series "Cannon", loved them, too.

- Jim
Sajeev
Community Manager

Thanks for reading!  And yes, Cannon was a great show and he had pretty fantastic taste in cars. I've never seen a blue/red Mark IV like his ever in real life! 

CitationMan
Gearhead

Sajeev
Community Manager

I've seen later 70s Fords with the Mark treatment, but wow!  That is a first for me!!!!

CitationMan
Gearhead

This is the best information I could find, but they don’t mention a 1970. The hood is fiberglass, so whoever manufactured this went the extra mile.

I kind of like it.

http://automotivemileposts.com/tbird1971markt.html

Sajeev
Community Manager

I can't say that I dislike it, but I am definitely more of a Bunkie Beak fan. 

MeanMrMustard
Intermediate Driver

I own a Mark IV and lucky for me when I purchased the car it came with all known ephemera, all the brochures, even the showroom take home trifold color chip selection guide. All the shop manuals too. Mines a fully optioned rig, with the farmed out non factory sunroof ( farmed out by Ford ).
If y’all notice in that grill close up photo you’ll see that there’s about a foot of nothing behind that grill so in the event of an accident you’re gonna lose that entire thing, but what a beautiful thing it is being fashioned all out of metal, even the vanes. Also those concealed headlamps do transform the car. By comparison the Thunderbird with the exposed lights and that rather Mercury looking egg crate grill just comes up short. Still even with the hood differences front and rear end styling motifs, the cars in silhouette are nearly identical, with the exception of that Tiffin commissioned cut Lincoln star opera window, which leads me to a cool coincidence. I live in Fort Worth Texas and the guy who runs the shop that does my oil changes , his brother is Jim Maxwell , the man who was hired by Tiffin Glass Company in Michigan , to cut each one of these Lincoln stars for these opera windows. Jim was 17 at the time. He now owns what is left of Tiffin , their molds etc. and does custom commission glass work out of his home. The knowledgeable will know that at first these opera windows were an option but they proved to be so popular by mid year 72 Lincoln decided to make them standard. They were a brilliant styling move that people like to make fun of today but it truly set the tone then, and it was mimicked by several other makes, including the Thunderbird in later years.
MeanMrMustard
Intermediate Driver

Amendam…. I say that the cars silhouette is the same as the Thunderbird but in actuality I have noticed that that rear sculpted belt line of the rear quarter is actually a softer upswept curve on the Thunderbird rather than a full radial bend like it is on the Lincoln. Look at photos of the both and you’ll see I’m right. I think despite the bean counters, the designers of the Lincoln were really trying to set it off as much as they could within budget from it’s Thunderbird cousin.