Results 1 to 14 of 14

Thread: Luxury, 70s-style: The 1977-1980 Lincoln Versailles

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    The Land of The Edentulites
    Posts
    22,740

    Luxury, 70s-style: The 1977-1980 Lincoln Versailles

    Luxury, 70s-style: The 1977-1980 Lincoln Versailles
    By Eric Peters
    for immediate release

    In 1976, Cadillac launched its "international size" bustleback Seville compact luxury sedan -- which became an immediate hit and left Lincoln desperately scrambling for something to offer buyers as a potential alternative. Like all the domestic U.S. manufacturers, Ford Motor Co. had been caught with its pants down by the double gut-punch of gas shortages caused by OPEC (with help from the Nixon adminisitration in the form of price controls that led to endless queus at the pump) and draconian new emissions control requirements, passed almost overnight, that forced a wholesale extinction of the 19-foot, 5,000-lb. road sharks that had previously dominated American roads.

    Since it takes years to design and engineer an all-new model "from scratch," Lincoln, like GM's Cadillac division -- which used the lowly Chevy Nova as the basis for what became the Seville -- had to work with what it already had in the stable when the time came to come up with a competitor for the alarmingly hot-selling Caddy. And what it had on hand was the mid-sized Granada -- a bread and butter Ford compact sedan that was in many ways the Toyota Corolla of its day. It was from this gene pool that a new, "personal" luxury sedan sprang forth -- the 1977-1980 Lincoln Versailles.

    Riding on the same basic chassis and suspension as the grocery-getting Granada (and its slightly up-trimmed cousin, the Mercury Monarch) Lincoln worked hard to separate the Versailles from its plebian origins. Stringent quality control guides were established to assure superior fit and finish relative to the Granada on the production line. In addition, the Versailles received more sound-deadening material and insulation than even the full-sized Lincoln road barges of the time and its suspension was tuned with softer bushings and specific shocks to deliver a posh, quiet ride. An array of comfort and convenience touches included standard power four wheel disc brakes (unusual in an American car in 1977), alloy wheels (also unusual) and the first integrated electric garage door opener ever offered in a U.S. car. There was also automatic temperature control air conditioning, an automatic parking brake release and electric rear defrost. It was, as the expression goes, "fully loaded" -- though oddly enough you still had to pay extra to get power door locks, rear defroster or tilt wheel -- features that even the feeblest Hyundai usually includes these days.

    Still, there were a number of innovations worth mentioning, things we all take for granted today -- including the use of a dual-stage basecoat/clearcoat finish, which provided a luster unequaled by any other mass-produced car of the time. In addition, Lincoln partnered with Sylvania to fit the Versailles with the first-ever high-output lighting system -- sealed beam halogen headlights, something no other American car had at the time. And finally, the Versailles (in 1978, the second year of production) presaged the age of computer-controlled engines to come. The air/fuel ratio, ignition timing and other engine functions were governed by Ford's EEC I electronic engine control system -- the ancestor of all current Ford engine "brains."

    For power, buyers in all states except California (which had and has more stringent emissions control requirements than the other 49 U.S. states) had their choice of two available V-8 engines. Standard was the 5 liter, 302 cubic inch V-8; available as an extra cost option was the slightly more potent 5.8 liter, 351 cubic inch "Windsor" V-8.

    Neither was a dragstrip champ, with even the larger 351 requiring almost 13 seconds to get the Versailles it was chained to from rest to 60-mph. But compared to the Seville -- especially the ultra-doggy diesel version -- the Versailles was light on its feet and compared quite favorably to the other cars of its time. Top speed for the Versailles was just over 100-mph, but that was adequate in the 55-mph world of mid-70s America.

    While by today's standards a 130-hp 5-liter V-8 would be regarded as both miserable and wastrel, in the mid-1970s it was solidly middle of the road -- better than average, in fact. And besides, the Versailles was never intended to be a "hot rod Lincoln" like the later Mark VII LSC. The 5.0 and 5.8 V-8s were torquey and provided good low RPM thrust, which is what most luxury car buyers wanted -- in addition to reasonably decent fuel economy, which the small V-8s also delivered. A light foot could keep it in the 20-mpg range on the highway, excellent economy for the time. The simple, cast iron, 2-valve pushrod V-8s were also workhorse reliable -- with no fancy and not yet-ready-for-prime-time gadgets, like GM's disatrous V-8-6-4 "variable displacement" V-8. With decent care and regular oil changes, notmuch in the way of service or upkeep was required to keep them happy.

    Given the constraints under which it was conceived -- and the general awfulness of the era -- the Versailles was, in retrospect, a more than decent effort -- even though it never caught up to the Seville in terms of sales or popularity. In its best year, 1979, the Versailles did come within three percentage points of the Seville in terms of market share and number of units sold. But by 1980, that had slipped to a meager 6.4 percent compared to the Seville's dominating 17.3 percent market share. Clearly, the writing was on the wall -- and Lincoln cancelled production after the '80 model year.

    Today, the Versailles is experiencing something of an uptick in its fortunes. Book values for nicely kept/restored examples are rising -- approaching $10,000 for a near-perect one. That's about what a brand-new Versailles cost back in 1977, so not bad. And given that it was produced in far fewer numbers than its more successful Cadillac rival, the relative handful that remain in service are more rare -- and thus more valuable. Be on the lookout for unusual/low production variants like the 1980 model with the Fashion Accent package -- a factory two-tone paint scheme that only sold a handful of examples.

    Those interested in the '77-'80 Versailles can find more information about the car in "Lincoln and Continental, 1946-1980: The Classic Postwar Years," by Paul R. Woudenberg. There's also an excellent web page devoted to the Versailles at www.lincolnversailles.com.

    END








  2. #2
    Staff
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Houston, TX
    Posts
    3,126

    Re: Luxury, 70s-style: The 1977-1980 Lincoln Versailles

    Back in 1977, my dad was trying to choose between the Versailles and the Seville. I encouraged him to get the Seville, as the Versailles reaked Ford Granada much more than the Caddy reaked Chevy Nova. Even with that said, I'd much rather have driven a Chevy Nova versus the Granada. The Seville had a 180 HP fuel injected engine that took the 4200 lb car from 0-60 in 11.4 seconds. Not great, but better than most of the slugs around at that time. He ended up taking delivery of a beige 1978 Cadillac Seville on October 31, 1977. The car cost an outrageous $17,000 with the AM/FM Stereo, , Auto Dimming headlights, two tone paint job (from the dealer), wire wheels, and get this, a Rolls Royce grill (I tried to stop him....).

    In 1981, I drove it from New York to Washington DC at a constant 70 mph. It got 19.5 mpg on the trip down and on the return trip at 75 mph it got 18.5 mpg. I was passing almost everyone on the road. Those were the dark days of 55, ones that this country ought never repeat. The cars were slow, crappy and the speed limits were slower.

    The Seville handled the highway very well at all speeds, although it was kind of a beast around town. It wasn't that good on the twisties either, but it wasn't terrible. I miss that car in a way. Other than it being a car afor a 55 mph America, it reminds me of a simpler time when life wasn't quite as hectic. It ws the days of Corvett Summer, the Gumball Rally, and the movie, Stingray. It was the day when $20 would fill the tank, and we still had jobs in America. The only bad things were Jimmy Carter and the 55 mph speed limit

  3. #3
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    The Land of The Edentulites
    Posts
    22,740

    Re: Luxury, 70s-style: The 1977-1980 Lincoln Versailles

    Hi Swamp,

    Beautifully said; the nicest elegy to the Seville I've come across. I have similar feelings for/memories of the big Oldsmobiles my parents used to drive through the early-mid 1980s (the last was an '83 '98 with a 307 V-8).

    Per all your other comments: I'm grateful I'm among the lastgeneration of Americans to have grown up pre-computer, pre-"free trade" corporatist state, pre run-amok illegal immigration and, of course, pre "warnterr" (as Fred Reed so succinctly put it). I don't envy today's 20-somethings and am glad I managed through good timing and (I like to think) some smarts to punch my ticket wellbefore the scheisse hits the fan, which I think is imminent. We left DC at the height of the real estate bubble - and just in the nick of time. Used the proceeds from the sale of the old house to pay off everything - and buy a great place up in the mountains outright. That does a lot to ease any worries about being downsized and outsourced - and puts to rest completely having to deal with the grind up in DC, or taking scheisse from a boss (I work for me)or sit in traffic, etc. And if the worst does come to pass - economic collapse, a chimp-inspired war that ends up with a major attack on the US - we're capable of self-sufficience (and far away from the blast zones and urban chaos, etc.)

    We may yet get to live "The Road Warrior" for real!

  4. #4
    Senior Member Mase's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    840

    Re: Luxury, 70s-style: The 1977-1980 Lincoln Versailles

    Ayeup.


    A man's greatest mistake is to think he is working for somebody else.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Mase's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    840

    Re: Luxury, 70s-style: The 1977-1980 Lincoln Versailles




    A man's greatest mistake is to think he is working for somebody else.

  6. #6
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Little Rock, Arkansas
    Posts
    3,408

    Re: Luxury, 70s-style: The 1977-1980 Lincoln Versailles

    The Lincoln Versailles was an easy source for disc brake rear axles for Mustangs.

  7. #7
    Staff
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Houston, TX
    Posts
    3,126

    Re: Luxury, 70s-style: The 1977-1980 Lincoln Versailles

    I like that picture of the Seville. I miss those cars.

  8. #8
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Little Rock, Arkansas
    Posts
    3,408

    Re: Luxury, 70s-style: The 1977-1980 Lincoln Versailles

    BTW, the Granada was yet another compact Ford based on the 1960 Falcon platform, as were the Fairlane/Torino/LTDII/Mustang/Maverick.

  9. #9
    Staff
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Houston, TX
    Posts
    3,126

    Re: Luxury, 70s-style: The 1977-1980 Lincoln Versailles

    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    BTW, the Granada was yet another compact Ford based on the 1960 Falcon platform, as were the Fairlane/Torino/LTDII/Mustang/Maverick.
    That's interesting. A rhetorical question would be how those cars drove compared w/ each-other.

  10. #10
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Posts
    1,783

    Re: Luxury, 70s-style: The 1977-1980 Lincoln Versailles

    When I was in high school my grandfather gave my family his 1978 Granada ESS - (European Sports Sedan which came in both 2-door and 4-door version) which was about 8 years old at the time and only had 19,000 miles. Ours was the two door ESS Granada with sport trim which even included a formula style leather wrapped steering wheel. It had a 302 2bbl V8 with about 139 horsepower (it was the top motor on the Granada for 1978). The car drove and rode well, and was tough car. It got banged up pretty bad and never showed any scars. The car was rear ended 3 times yet no damage. It also hit in other areas showing very little damage. The car was side swiped while it was new when a teenager hit my grandfathers door. A new door and paint and it was back in business. The car never rattled and always ran. Unfortunately styling was not the most appealing.

    Concerning the Versailles it was a nice car based on the Granada, however it could not hold a candle to the '75 - '80 Seville. The Seville was a far superior car, Cadillac did a great job engineering the car. It was reliable (so was the Versailes), and every hi-tech option and luxury option available back in the 1970s. It was the first American car to have a successful electronic fuel injection system. When you compare the interiors of the Seville and Versailles, the Seville wins hands down.

    When I was in grade school, I would get a ride to school in my neighbor's new Sevilles (they always owned at least two at a time, and traded them in every two years). They owned different '75 - '80 models. Riding in the back of those Sevilles, I felt like a king. The interiors were more luxurous than most limousines at the time. When the neighbors traded in one of their Sevilles for the new 1981 Seville (chopped off rear trunk), it was still luxurious but the car just did not seem to have the class of the previous model.




  11. #11
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Posts
    1,783

    Re: Luxury, 70s-style: The 1977-1980 Lincoln Versailles

    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    BTW, the Granada was yet another compact Ford based on the 1960 Falcon platform, as were the Fairlane/Torino/LTDII/Mustang/Maverick.

    The 1960 Falcon platform was unibody and the Granada, Maverick, Monarch, 1970s Comet, and Versailles were all unibody too. The first generation Mustang was built on the Falcon's unibody platform. However the Fairlane, Torino, LTDII, etc. were all body-on-frame designs.

  12. #12
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Little Rock, Arkansas
    Posts
    3,408

    Re: Luxury, 70s-style: The 1977-1980 Lincoln Versailles

    I'm pretty sure my '66 Fairlane was a unibody with front subframe.

  13. #13
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Little Rock, Arkansas
    Posts
    3,408

    Re: Luxury, 70s-style: The 1977-1980 Lincoln Versailles

    Okay, I looked it up -- The Torino got a new perimeter frame platform for 1972. The '62-'67 Fairlane and '68-'71 Torino had the Falcon platform unibody with front subframe.

  14. #14
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Posts
    1,783

    Re: Luxury, 70s-style: The 1977-1980 Lincoln Versailles

    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    Okay, I looked it up -- The Torino got a new perimeter frame platform for 1972. The '62-'67 Fairlane and '68-'71 Torino had the Falcon platform unibody with front subframe.
    You are right, I was thinking of the mid-late 1970s Fords like the Torino, Elite, LTD II, etc. which were body-on frame. You are correct the 1968 - 1971 Torino was unibody and in 1972 the Torino went to body-on-frame. And the '62 - '70 Fairlane was unibody.


Similar Threads

  1. 1977 Chevrolet Caprice
    By chiph in forum Video clips
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 01-10-2010, 09:43 PM
  2. 1977 VW Rabbit Diesel
    By Eric in forum Piece of sheet cars
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 08-31-2009, 11:15 PM
  3. 1977 Can Am - the Last GTO
    By Disco Man in forum Performance/Muscle Cars
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 04-14-2009, 01:35 PM
  4. 1980 Cheese Review
    By Disco Man in forum Video clips
    Replies: 18
    Last Post: 03-19-2009, 04:36 PM
  5. 1980 Trans Am Movie
    By Disco Man in forum Performance/Muscle Cars
    Replies: 8
    Last Post: 09-11-2007, 09:49 PM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •