This was the finale for the American full-size luxury car
The 1977-1979 Lincoln Continental MK V was the finale to a legend. It was the end of an illustrious era in motoring when the final Continental TownCar and Continental MK V rolled off the assembly line in 1979. These were the largest production passenger cars made in America, and the largest vehicles of their class in the world. While GM and Chrysler haphazardly chopped up their luxury offerings, the Continental remained true for the traditional luxury car clientele. Ford has always made a car for everyone in every price range to suit many tastes.
The Continental MK V was a large front engine rear drive luxury coupe. It was 230.3” in luxury length, 79.7” wide, with a 120.4” wheelbase. It had full frame construction with front upper and lower control arms with coil springs. The rear utilized a live axle, trailing arms, and coil springs. It used 4-wheel disc brakes with front ventilated discs as standard. If you saw the sales brochures from 1977-1979, it’s almost as if Ford was writing the epitaph for both the Continental TownCar and the Continental MK V.
Ford went “plastic” in the 1980s, and to drive one was like motoring along in a big hunk of something terribly nondescript, plastic, and fake…….Their faux luxury cars created an image problem that forced the owners of the Lincoln brand to defect to Mercedes, Lexus, Infinity, and Acura, and only because they couldn’t go to Cadillac because Cadillac no longer made cars, they just manufacture gross repair bills, or merely a “trade-in on a trade-in.” A Cadillac never becomes a used car…..it becomes a nightmare.
For the 1978 model year, Ford offered a first for the American car industry. It was an option called the “Miles-To-Empty feature.” An amber readout located in the place of the “low fuel” warning lamp, would calculate the distance left to empty in the fuel tank using average speed and driving habits that affect fuel consumption. This was also the first dash LED display of an automobile’s mechanical function. A fully digital display would be available for the MK VI in 1980.
The Continental MK V was the last series to use the 7.5 litre 460 CID V8 engine. The standard power train for the 1977-1979 models was the Ford Cleveland Series 335 6.6 litre 400 CID V8. It used a Motorcraft 2150 2-bbl carburetor. The Ford Series 385 7.5 litre 460 CID with a Motorcraft 4350 4-bbl was optional at extra cost for the 1977-1978 model years. The 7.5 litre V8 wasn’t available in California during this time frame because of the inability to meet smog requirements. The legendary power by Lincoln was diluted per mandates by the EPA, and the Oil Embargo of the mid-1970s didn’t help much either. The power dwindled as follows:
For the 1977 model year the 6.6 litre 400 2-bbl produced 179 hp @ 4,000 rpm with 446 Nm of peak torque @ 1,600 rpm. It went from 0-60 mph in 12.6 seconds, 0-100 mph in 46.6 seconds, and had a top speed of 112 mph. It could do the ¼ mile @ 75 mph in 19.1 seconds. The 7.5 litre 460 4-bbl produced 208 hp @ 4,000 rpm with 483 Nm of peak torque @ 2,000 rpm. It went from 0-60 mph in 11.4 seconds, 0-100 mph in 36.8 seconds, and had a top speed of 117 mph. It could do the ¼ mile @ 78 mph in 18.4 seconds.
For the 1978 model year the 6.6 litre 400 2-bbl produced 166 hp @ 3,800 rpm with 433 Nm of peak torque @ 1,800 rpm. It went from 0-60 mph in 13.6 seconds, 0-100 mph in 51.9 seconds, and had a top speed of 109 mph. It could do the ¼ mile @ 74 mph in 19.7 seconds. The 7.5 litre 460 4-bbl produced 210 hp @ 4,200 rpm with 484 Nm of peak torque @ 2,200 rpm. It went from 0-60 mph in 11.2 seconds, 0-100 mph in 34.8 seconds, and had a top speed of 119 mph. It could do the ¼ mile @ 80 mph in 18.3 seconds. (drum-roll….it gets even worse….)
For the 1979 model year, this big beautiful car had embarrassing performance. The dinky, under-powered 6.6 litre 400 2-bbl produced a mere 159 hp @ 3,400 rpm with 427 Nm of peak torque @ 1,800 rpm. It went (barely) from 0-60 mph in 15.3 days, oops I mean seconds, 0-100 in 67.2 seconds, and had a top speed of a whopping 106 miles per hour…….Frankly speaking, your lawn mower has more power than a MK V with that pretend V8 engine. And adding insult to humiliation this tiny little motor used a 2 barrel carburetor. YES a 2-bbl to power all of that sheet metal! (boo-hissss)
Ford Cleveland Series 335 6.6 litre 400 with Motorcraft 2150 2-bbl carburetor
Ford Series 385 7.5 litre 460 CID with Motorcraft 4350 4-bbl carburetor
It was as if Ford reduced their full-sized cars to the “big-wheel” lane on the sidewalk. The useless pollution controls required by the EPA forced American luxury car automakers to de-tune engine power. This tiny little 6.6 banger belongs in one of my die-cast model cars. Ford reduced the powerful Continental MK V to an elegant puddle-jumper. Ford made some really bad judgments regarding their other products as well through the years.
How about Ford’s horrid little Mustang II that was so awful the chrome horse emblem on its grille could outrun the car….and it’s inanimate! Remember the collaboration between the Ford Motor Company and Dr. Kevorkian to create the fabulous Ford Pinto? How in the world did their designers ever find their way to their desks at work before the invention of the GPS? Priceless……………
Ford offered a special limited edition Thunderbird and Continental MK V for the 1978 model year. The Diamond Jubilee Edition MK V celebrates Ford Motor Company’s 75th Anniversary. The MK V edition was built at a restricted pace of 5,159 vehicles.
It was available in Diamond Blue or Jubilee Gold. The color chosen was repeated throughout the car. The color scheme included special clear coat paint, vinyl cladding to the lower premium body side moldings, the vertical bars in the grille, bumper guards & run strips, turbine vaned cast aluminum wheels, and a matching vinyl insert mounted to the rear deck lid around the ersatz spare tire in a semi-circle.
The interiors for The Diamond Jubilee Edition were the most luxuriously appointed in Lincoln’s history. It feature front bucket seats upholstered in a luxury cloth with a unique sew-style. A padded center console concealed an umbrella and also provided extra storage. Padded leather was applied to high-wear areas. Ebony wood tone inserts were applied to the dash, door trim panels, front seat backs and console, ignition and door keys. The glove box contained a leather-bound owner’s manual and tool kit.
The exterior opera windows had beveled edges with the Diamond Jubilee Script and a simulated diamond chip. The unique hood ornament featured a crystal insert with the Lincoln star emblem. The customer could also request their initials monogrammed onto the doors interrupting the pin striping. Most every Lincoln luxury feature was standard.
This was the most expensive American passenger production car in 1978 at $22,000. Among the few options available were the 7.5 litre V8 engine, a dual exhaust system, power moon roof, and a 40 channel CB radio. (no scoffing folks, remember this was 1978 BEFORE everyone had a cell phone and iPod)
The Designer luxury groups were popular for all three model years. For the 1977 model year, the Bill Blass Edition was finished in Midnight Blue Metallic with a Chamois full or landau vinyl roof, the Cartier Edition was finished in Dove Grey with a matching full or landau roof, the Givenchy Edition finished in Dark Jade Metallic with a Chamois vinyl roof that covered just the front portion of the large top, and the Emilio Pucci Edition finished in Black Diamond Fire with a White Cayman Grain Patent Leather textured full or landau vinyl roof.
The 1978 model year included the Bill Blass Edition finished in Midnight Cordovan with a Light Champagne full or landau vinyl roof, the Cartier Edition finished in Light Champagne with a matching full or landau vinyl roof, the Givenchy Edition finished in Midnight Jade with a Chamois Lugano Grain vinyl roof covering just the front portion of the top, and the Emilio Pucci Edition finished in Light Silver with a Black Cayman Grain full or landau vinyl roof.
The 1979 model year included the Bill Blass Edition finished in a Tu-tone Midnight Blue Moondust with a White Carriage Roof, the Cartier Edition finished in Champagne with a Light Champagne landau vinyl roof, the Givenchy Edition finished in Crystal Blue Moondust with the front-half Valino Grain vinyl roof in Dark Crystal Blue, and the Emilio Pucci Edition finished in Medium Turquoise Moondust with a Midnight Blue full vinyl roof. (that one was awful, turquoise and midnight blue, was that designer color-blind or just tasteless?)
The 1979 model year was the finale for the full-sized American car. The Continental MK V and the Continental TownCar were the last full-sized traditional luxury cars to roll off an assembly line. To commemorate this historic event, Lincoln offered the “Collector’s Series.” For an extra $8000 it brought the MK V to $22,000. The Collector’s Series offered virtually every Lincoln luxury option as standard equipment. Ford Motor Company used actor Tom Selleck (Magnum PI) for media advertising.
The Continental MK V Collector’s Series was initially offered in Midnight Blue Moondust or White, but later in the 1979 model year, Light Silver Moondust and Diamond Blue Moondust were available. The Collector’s Series deleted the opera windows. They were identified by the “Collector’s Series” script affixed to the rear C-pillars, gold pin striping, gold-colored bars in the grille, and a padded contoured deck lid accent with a vinyl insert.(Vinyl on the trunk lid? Excuse me, people didn’t want to properly seal their vinyl roof, did you see how these turned ugly over night? That big car turned raggedy so fast that it was disgusting! And nothing was more HORRID than seeing something that large with a tattered roof and crap hanging off the trunk……priceless)
The interior for The Collector’s Series was upholstered in Midnight Blue cloth. Front bucket seats with center console were standard. The interior was also available in leather in blue or white. There was a price reduction for the leather clad interiors as they did not utilize bucket seats and the center console. The leather interiors had 50/50 Twin Comfort Lounge seats with a full bench rear seat. Out of all the Mark Series, The Diamond Jubilee and The Collector’s Series are the most collectible.
The 1977-1979 Continental MK V was the final curtain call for a luxurious legend. This was the last generation of the full-sized luxury car. The MK V was completely restyled from its predecessor the Continental MK IV. It was also 400 pounds lighter than the MK IV. The under powered 6.6 litre 400 2-bbl V8 engine was standard all three model years with the 7.5 litre 460 4-bbl as optional at extra cost in 1977 & 1978. It was unavailable for the 1979 model year. I couldn’t believe the designers allowing a car of this magnitude to be powered by a dinky little Matchbox engine, why, one could park and run faster than the 1979 Continentals.
I still own a 1979 Continental TownCar and it is quite the guzzler! That car can pass everything except a gas station, but the older it got….the thirstier it became. I am going to have it totally restored to new and will replace the 6.6 litre with the proper 7.5 litre 460 4-bbl. So it just takes up space as a garage ornament for now. People ask me if it runs, I reply “yes”…….then I tell them how large the gas tank is and they too agree, being parked is best for the 1979 Lincoln TownCar. But I will always love it because of its sheer size. I call it Lonnie and she is triple dove grey, and still looks good. It will be the ultimate 1970s cruiser. It is the last of the breed. What came next was mass-pandemonium in the auto industry in America……..when American luxury car buyers turned to Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, BMW 7-Series, Infinity, Acura…..do you catch my extremely heavy drift? Notice I didn’t mention Cadillac? What happened to Cadillac anyway, they don’t even make a flagship……..?
The 1977-1979 Continental MK V
The 1972-1976 Continental MK IV (1976 shown)
The 1969-1971 Continental MK III
The 1956-1957 Continental MK II
Click on the photos to enlarge