As S.M. Darby mentioned earlier today, Ford announced that it’s spending some money on its luxury brand. Up to this point, it’s been a succession of tarted-up Ford models and a commercial starring a baked Wooderson from Dazed and Confused. The sad part is, between 1996 and 2009, Lincoln has shown some really kick-ass concepts.
We’re not talking about heavily photoshopped artist’s renderings of cars drawn by art students, either. We’re talking about real deal, in the flesh concepts that Lincoln showed at either the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the LA Auto Show or the New York Auto Show, as indications that yes, Lincoln was in fact a brand that still had a pulse.
Honestly, Lincoln could build any one of these cars RIGHT NOW and have a car that people would be more excited about than anything in its current product line. There’s hope for the future, but there was hope in the past, too, as you’ll see in these galleries:
1996 – Lincoln Sentinel
he Lincoln Sentinel was a proposed replacement for the Lincoln Town Car displayed at the 1996 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Lincoln assembled a design team from both the United States and Europe, and took inspiration from classic Lincoln models, as well as cars like the Facel Vega Excellence.
The Sentinel concept was never anything more than a fiberglass shell mounted to a network of angle iron, but the design was pretty stunning for 1996. The proposal was that the Sentinel would have a 6.0-liter V-12 under the hood. In 2009, the concept showed up on eBay for $48,000.
2001 – Lincoln MK9
In 2001, Lincoln showed the MK9 concept at the New York Auto Show. It was a visually stunning concept that brought the personal luxury coupe back to the Lincoln brand after it disappeared with the demise of the Mark VIII in 1998.
You’d be forgiven for thinking it came off the Thunderbird platform, but it had a wheelbase almost a foot longer, and dimensions larger in every direction, to allow for an actual usable back seat, which the Mark VIII really lacked.
At the time the car debuted, what was more remarkable than the exterior was the interior, loaded with heavily lacquered Dark Cherry and tailored white leather. Lincoln Design director Gerry McGovern made special note of the MK9’s seats, which were modeled after Eames Lounge Chairs. You can see McGovern’s work — which is strikingly similar to some of the cues in this car — over at Land Rover, where he’s now the Design Director.
The only thing Lincoln ever made use of from the MK9 was its absolute worst feature, the horrible naming convention it’s forced on the car-buying public.
2002 – Lincoln Continental
The Lincoln Continetal concept debuted at the 2002 Los Angeles Auto Show, and set the fledgling internet ablaze with rumor and innuendo that it would actually be built. It was the moment when Ford’s J. Mays was pitching “Retrofuturism” as hard as he ever would.
Some of the designs from the Lincoln Continental came from J. Mays’ 024 concept, like the sliding drawer that replaced a traditional trunk. For a while, it looked like this could possibly be the replacement for the Town Car, but then the Premier Automotive Group imploded and the car was never heard from again until 2010, when it sold at auction for $56,100, and again last month, when RM Auctions announced it was selling the car again on November 14 and 15 of this year.
2003 – Lincoln Navicross
The Lincoln Navicross showed up just two years after the Lincoln MK9 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, but its design is fresh enough to show up at this year’s show.
The two polished aluminum accent bars on the fenders were a design element that the MK9 and Mark X concepts both had, which Lincoln never utilized, which eventually made their way to Gerry McGovern’s Range Rover designs.
The Navicross features rear opening doors which according to Ford, gave “unrestricted ingress and egress to the luxurious interior.” The interior features power adjustable, climate controlled leather seats and a symmetrical dash with wood and aluminum accents.
The Navicross concept had huge — for the day — 20-inch alloy wheels and with a supercharged 4.2 L V8, with permanent all-wheel drive and Hill Descent Control for some semblance of off-road manners.
2004 – Lincoln Mark X
The confusingly named Mark X (pronounced “Mark Ten,” not “Mark X,” like “MKX”) debuted in 2004 and traced its lineage right to the DEW-chassis Ford Thunderbird. Instead of the Ford’s folding canvas top, the Lincoln Mark X had a retractible roof, which seemingly every manufacturer was trying to build in the early 2000s.
The Mark X also had a more upscale interior with Lime Sorbet leather, white Corian accents, polished aluminum, dark chrome, natural grain leather seating surfaces, plush sheepskin flooring and tailored tone-on-tone stitching.
2007 – Lincoln MKR
The Lincoln MKR appeared at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit as a “four-door coupe,” based on the Ford D2C platform that underpins the Ford Mustang.
The MKR introduced what was then called the TwinForce power plant, which is now referred to as the EcoBoost family of engines. In 3.5-liter form, this twin-turbocharged V-6 was good for 415 hp. Its closest production relative is the 3.5-liter V-6 in the Ford Flex and the new Lincoln Navigator.
The MKR was introduced alongside what eventually became the Lincoln flagship, the MKS. Both cars feature the now-signature “Bow Wave” grille design.
2009 – Lincoln C
The Lincoln C is the most recent of the “we’re waiting” concepts from Lincoln. Unveiled at the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the Lincoln C was a small, crossover SUV powered by a 1.6-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder, mated to a dual clutch, PowerShift six-speed automatic transmission. It’s based on the Ford Global C platform, which was the underpinning for the Ford Focus and the Ford Escape.
The program was abandoned not long after Ford jettisoned Mercury. The successor was the MKC concept from 2013, that eventually became the Ford Escape/Kuga-based production version of the MKC.