By Tim Howley
Originally published in the Nov/Dec 1999 issue of Continental Comments (Issue # 231)
Both the President and Executive Vice President of LCOC have recently acquired Continental Mark VI Bill Blass Series. However, the Mark VI has yet to achieve the popularity in our Club of the Mark V.
Given the temper of the times it is hard to understand how Lincoln was able to downsize so quickly for the 1980 models. The revolution in Iran brought about a sudden fuel crises in February which brought about an equally sudden decrease in car sales, but not in the sale of Lincolns, at least not at first. Things got much worse in the spring of 1979 and finally times caught up with Lincoln. By summer it was clear that the day of the big Lincoln was over. By now Lincoln inventories were so huge that production was halted on June 8. Yet, knowing the required lead times for new car designs in Detroit, Ford and its competitors had to be anticipating the trend to smaller luxury cars as early as 1977, and redesigned and re-engineered accordingly.
The downsized 1980 models were introduced in the fall of 1979, and at first sales were not much better than for the 1979 models. The Mark VI two-door chassis was down from 120.3” in 1979 to 114.4” and the overall length was down from 230.3” to 216”. A new addition to the Mark lineup was a four-door sedan on a 117.4” wheelbase, same wheelbase and essentially the same body as the Lincoln Continental which was downsized from a 233” wheelbase in 1979. The overall length of the Mark VI four-door and Lincoln Continental was 219.2”.
Lincoln four-door buyers now had a choice of the mid-sized Versailles, Lincoln Continental, Lincoln Continental Town Car option, Continental Mark VI, and Mark VI Signature Series.
With all of this downsizing one might expect that all of the full-sized 1980 Lincolns would be much smaller inside. Not so. In most models the interior dimensions were increased as a result of the new body styling. Rear seat legroom was increased and even luggage capacity was increased. The styling done either by or under Eugene Bordinat was extremely square and crisp with knife edges on the fenders. To this day the downsized styling remains controversial. Lincoln lovers tend to either love it or hate it.
1980 was the first year that the Continental Mark two-door was no longer a pillarless hardtop. The Lincoln Continental Coupe became a pillared two door sedan in 1974, but the Mark remained a true hardtop through 1979.
With all of the models, colors and options available for the Mark VI, 1980-83, it would take a small book to cover everything in detail. Therefore we will limit this article primarily to the Mark VI Designer Series and the changes in this series for each of the four years. The Designer Series seems to be the most sought after now, and we are beginning to see a few of them show up at our national meets. Our President and Executive Vice President are taking the lead.
The 1980 Mark VI offered the eight colors of the Lincoln Continental, plus Bright Red and Pastel Rattan on the two door only, Dark Maroon on the Signature Series only, and Medium Pewter Metallic, a standard Lincoln Continental color was
offered on the Cartier Series only. In addition there were nine optional colors as opposed to eight on the Lincoln Continental, the ninth color being Silver Metallic offered on the Mark VI Signature Series only. There were 14 Valino grain vinyl roof colors and 13 accent stripe colors.
Getting down specifically to the Designer Series: The Bill Blass had a white carriage roof with the look of a classic convertible complete with the Bill Blass anchor. (All of the Designer Series Models carried the designer’s signature in
one form or another. ) Body uppers were white. Body sides and body side moldings were Dark Blue with dual gold accent
stripes. Lower body sides were stainless. Lacy spoke aluminum wheels were color keyed. The leather seating surfaces were
in White with Midnight Blue accents or in all Midnight Blue. (A personalized engraved instrument panel nameplate further
defined all of the Designer Series models.) The Bill Blass was the only model in the Designer Series that lacked the oval rear window.
The Givenchy Mark VI had a light Fawn Metallic vinyl roof, body uppers and lowers, and Bittersweet Metallic body sides and body side molding. Accent stripes were Light Fawn on the Bittersweet panels and Bittersweet on the Light Fawn panels. Wire wheel covers further defined the Givenchy Series. The seats were Bittersweet leather with no accents.
The Cartier had a Medium Pewter Metallic vinyl roof and body uppers, Light Pewter Metallic body side and body side molding and stainless steel body lowers. On the Cartier the vinyl roof was the landau type. The Cartier had single dark red accent stripes. Wheels were color keyed turbine spoke aluminum. Buyers had a choice of leather or cloth seats in a combination of Light and Dark Pewter.
The Pucci had a Light Fawn Metallic landau type vinyl top and uppers and Medium Fawn Metallic sides and lowers
and moldings. There was tri-band pinstriping. The wheels were color-keyed lacy spoke aluminum. Seats were medium champagne leather with light champagne bolsters.
The Designer Series was only available in the two-door sedan in 1980. A four-door in the Designer Series did not appear until 1982.
The standard engine for 1980 was the 302 with Electronic Fuel Injection and Electronic Engine Control. The optional 351 Cleveland or Windsor engine was equipped with a Variable-Venturi carburetor which proved extremely troublesome. Both engines had automatic overdrive transmissions. The 302 developed 132 hp, which was not nearly enough, and the 351 developed 140 hp which was probably a conservative figure. All 1980 Lincolns and Marks had EEC, a new Electronic Engine Control that incorporated an onboard computer and seven sensors to monitor engine operation. The Mark VI had an Electronic Instrument Panel with Message System, optional on other models. The Message center told you miles-per-gallon, distance to empty, had a Trip log, and monitored 11 vehicle functions. In practice this early computerization was not very reliable, and one or all computer units were frequently replaced, if not within the warranty period, after a few years or maybe 70,000 miles or so. A much more reliable new feature in 1980 was the keyless entry system which was standard on the Mark VI.
For 1981, the Signature Series and Designer Series were continued. There were 21 body colors offered on the Mark VI and seven were new. There were 11 standard colors, eight optional moondust colors and two Signature Series only colors. New interior colors were Nutmeg, Light Fawn, Medium Fawn and Gold.
The Lincoln Continental and Continental Mark VI engine was now reduced to one choice, a 302 developing 130 hp at 3,400 rpm.
In the Designer Series Mark Vis, the Cartier came in a Medium Pewter Metallic with matching landau style vinyl roof and matching leather or luxury cloth seats. Accent stripes were dark red. The Givenchy had its upper body sides in black, body sides in Dark Pewter and lower body sides in stainless steel. The interior was in Pewter with leather or cloth seats. Wheels were color keyed lacy spoke aluminum. The Givenchy also had a black vinyl landau style roof. There were red and gold accent stripes on the hood, body sides and decklid. Body side moldings were black. Wheels were wire spoke aluminum. The Pucci came in a Medium Fawn Metallic with a Light Fawn interior. The Pucci had a full vinyl roof in Fawn, tri-tone accent stripes on the body sides and decklid and Fawn body side moldings. Wheels were wire spoke aluminum. The Bill Blass had Medium Blue Metallic body sides with lower body sides in Light Fawn Metallic. The carriage vinyl roof was a midnight blue cloth. There were dark blue accent stripes on the body sides, and light fawn accent stripes on the decklid contours. Body side moldings were Light Fawn. The wheels were color-keyed lacy spoke aluminum. The interior was dark blue with light fawn bolsters. Seats were leather.
In 1982 the horsepower of the fuel injected 302 was raised to 134. The newly introduced Continental also offered a V-6
engine—and a Givenchy Designer Series. The Lincoln Continental Town Car became a separate series for the first time
and now added a Cartier Designer Series. The Mark VI was continued in the standard series and Signature Series. The
1982 Mark VI Designer Series was reduced to a Bill Blass two-door and a Pucci four-door, although a Givenchy two door
appeared later in the year. The Cartier was eliminated. There were minor trim changes on all models. There were 11 standard colors, five optional moondust colors and three two-tone paint options.
The Pucci was painted with Pastel French Vanilla uppers over French Vanilla Metallic body sides. The lower body section
was all stainless. There was a Pastel French Vanilla specialty roof in Bayville textured vinyl. Accent stripes were deep Dark Brown and Gold. Wheels were turbine spoke aluminum. The interior was all French vanilla with leather seats. An excellent example of a 1982 Pucci sedan is Richard Fiolek’s car from Detroit which won a Ford Trophy at the 1999 Eastern National Meet in Ellenville, New York.
The 1982 Mark VI Bill Blass was an interesting change from previous years which were always dark blue and a lighter contrasting color. There were now three Blass color combinations. One was a White Diamond Carriage Grain roof, white uppers, rich red midsection and white lowers. The second combination was a White Diamond Grain carriage roof over a stark white body. Both of these combinations had Opal leather seats dramatized by Red straps and buttons.
The third combination was a Black Cambria carriage roof, black body uppers, red body midsection and black body lowers.
The interior was all black with either black cloth seats or black leather with contrasting Red straps and buttons.
On all models accent stripes were white and red, and wheels were either aluminum or full wire, not just wire wheel covers.
The Givenchy Mark VI had a Black upper and Medium Dark Pewter Metallic lower with a black vinyl grain coach roof. Lower body sides were stainless. There was either a Pewter cloth or leather seat trim with Givenchy seat buttons. The Givenchy further had black body side moldings, and Red and Gold dual accent stripes.
Those who attended the 1999 Eastern National Meet had the rare treat of seeing a black and red 1982 Bill Blass recently
acquired by LCOC Executive Vice President Mike Simco. Brad Luse found the car for him on a used car lot in Albany, New York. It was owned by an old couple who bought the car new and only put 84,000 miles on it. Just before selling the car they spent $1,100 on the computer electronics and replaced the Black Cambria carriage roof. The car is loaded with accessories including a CB radio located in the glove compartment. The car still drives like new and gets 23-24 mpg at
highway speed utilizing automatic overdrive.
For 1983 the Continental was offered in a Valentino and Givenchy Designer Series. (Evidently the V-6 was dropped. The horsepower of the V-8 was back down to 130. Eleven new colors were available on the base Marks plus seven new dual shade combinations. These colors were the same as the Lincoln Continental except Antique Mahogany Mist replaced Scarlet. The Givenchy Designer Series was dropped and the Pucci was now available in a two door as well as a four-door. The Pucci was painted Blue Flannel Mist and had a carriage roof in Dark Blue Cambria cloth. Opera windows were deleted. There were wide body side moldings with a dark blue vinyl insert and silver sparkle accent stripes. Lower body sides were stainless. Wheels were turbine spoke aluminum.
The interior was Academy Blue with either leather or cloth seats. The Bill Blass was either Midnight Black uppers and lowers with French Vanilla body sides or French Vanilla uppers and lowers with black body sides. If the car had Midnight
Black uppers and lowers there was a black Cambria cloth top and French Vanilla interior with leather seats. If the car had
French Vanilla uppers and lowers then the top was a French Vanilla vinyl grain and the French Vanilla interior was cloth. Body side moldings matched the predominant color and accent stripes were the reverse of the body color. Wheels were
Our front cover car is Doug Mattix’s 1983 Bill Blass Mark VI photographed in back of his home in Rowlett, Texas. Doug purchased the car about two years ago from a member in San Diego, California. The car has since received much mechanical attention and will soon have a later model 302 engine.
Doug Mattix points up several problems with 1980-83 Lincolns and Marks. If the 302 engine was not cared for from the time it was new and if the oil was not changed regularly the oil has a serious problem of stopping up the oil screen and the oil pump and the engine loses oil pressure. Plus the timing gear and timing chain are weak spots on any of the 302 motors from this era. They have a plastic cam gear that wears and a timing chain that stretches and at 70-80,000 miles they need to be changed. If you wait for the cam gear to break then you lose timing and it bends the valves and you go through even more damage than if you replace the timing gear and chain in time.
They also had an EEC2 (engine management system) that was only used in 1982 and 1983. They had several problems with this system which they never did get worked out so they went to an EEC4 system in 1984 with a throttle body fuel injection, and then in 1986 they went to a sequential port fuel injection and a different engine management system which has proved to be virtually trouble free.
To overcome the inherent problems with the 302 in Doug’s 1983 Mark VI, he has decided to replace the original engine with a later model sequential fuel-injected roller cam engine. Instead of having hard lifters that ride on the camshaft like in a racing engine. They started putting in the roller camshaft engines in 1987. With dual exhaust these engines put out 150 hp
as opposed to a mere 130 hp in the 1983 Lincoln. By changing the chip in the computer you can probably get 175 hp out
of these later engines.
In purchasing any 1980-83 Mark VI two-door today you will probably find that the driver’s side door panel is worn. Good
used panels for this door are not easy to come by and you will probably end up respraying the door panel you do find to
match the rest of your car’s interior. Since the Town Cars with their shorter door panels are more plentiful you can buy a
cover that glues on and you can dye it to the color of the door panel. It is not a perfect fix but it is an easy and cheaper fix
than buying a whole door panel. Unfortunately, they do not make these covers for the two-door models.
We do not know why there are so many more Mark Vs than Mark Vis showing up at LCOC National Meets. Production is certainly not the reason. From 1977 through 1979 Lincoln produced 36,562 Mark Vs. For 1980 there were 20,647 two-door Mark Vis, then 18,740 for 1981, then 11,532 for 1982 and 12,743 for 1983. This is two-doors only, not four doors, and in most years four-door production was greater than two-door production. There is no production breakout for the Designer Series.
The conclusions for the limited number of the Mark Vis surviving as collector cars are rather baffling. Despite the much higher production of the Mark VI than Mark V, far more Mark Vs are in our club, and in fact, today you will probably see more Mark Vs on the road than Mark Vis. The reason for this could be the problems that Doug Mattix has pointed out with the earlier 302 engine. It was not a very powerful engine, which made for not a very popular used car. The problems with the engine resulted in engine failure at an early age and when the engine went the car was junked.
Doug Mattix believes that right now the Mark Vis are at their low point in value, and now is the time to buy one, if you are
lucky enough to find one with low miles or in otherwise premium condition.