Landau yachts: The historical past of Lincoln’s Designer Collection

The Lincoln Designer Collection was launched in 1976, on the finish of the imposing Mark IV Continental era. 4 big-name trend designers of the period – all-American nation clubber Invoice Blass, psychedelic Italian pattern-maestro Emilio Pucci, venerable French jewelry-maker Cartier, and à la mode French fashionista Hubert de Givenchy – have been requested to slather their class on Lincoln’s private luxurious coupe.

This experiment was a wild success. In response to paperwork uncovered within the Lincoln archives – with the incomparable steering of official model historian Ted Ryan – the Designer collection “accounted for greater than 27% of Mark IV gross sales” shortly after its introduction. It was such a runaway hit, that it continued on all through the even bigger Mark V era (by the way, the longest coupe ever produced by Ford Motor Firm), and didn’t actually peter out on these large two-doors till the early Nineties.  

However the true historical past of the collection effectively predates the period of opera home windows, crushed velour and wire wheel covers.

“If you happen to take a step again even additional, when Ford bought Lincoln in 1922, Edsel Ford was put answerable for the corporate. However greater than that, he helped set up the primary design studio at Ford,” stated Ryan. The essential Mannequin T didn’t take a lot design. Lincoln was completely different. Edsel is famed for his quote. “Father wished to make the most well-liked automobile, I wished to make the most effective.”

The precise genesis of the Designer Collection, nonetheless, got here alongside because of a long-term private reference to the marque’s first chairman. “Edsel Ford had a relationship with Cartier, and correspondence going all through the Twenties and ’30s,” Ryan stated. “His private playing cards and stationery have been at all times ordered from Cartier.”

This enduring hyperlink wasn’t formalized till the late Nineteen Sixties. “I discovered in product improvement recordsdata, in 1967, that Ford had gone to Cartier for a particular 1970 Cartier Continental coupe,” Ryan stated. In response to inside paperwork, this bundle would come with distinctive inside leather-based/fabric/vinyl surfaces and trim, modified dials, and a Cartier jewellery field, in addition to golden plating on the steering wheel decoration, dial face ornaments, keys, C-pillar ornaments, door monograms, and dashboard plaque.

“Consider that. A automobile that by no means was, that would have been,” Ryan stated, wistfully.

Some Cartier magic did get glossed on Lincolns within the late Nineteen Sixties. A Cartier-branded dashboard clock originated within the Lincoln Mark III for 1969, and continued to be accessible on the Mark IV earlier than the launch of the Designer Collection.

The ultimate impetus for the collection got here from an much more unlikely supply.

“The concept for the involvement of outdoor designers originated in 1974 with a Mustang program known as ‘Fashions N’ Wheels’,” stated Ryan. This idea concerned Invoice Blass designing clothes and accessories that may be offered alongside the then-new Mustang II. “This concept was an enormous success, main administration to contemplate the way to increase it,” Ryan added.

The concept went all the best way up the chain of command, to firm president Lee Iacocca.

“We don’t have the pitch deck that went to Iacocca, I simply have one thing that claims, Lee Iacocca authorised, on this date, this specific program,” Ryan stated.

With a view to give the collection’ fashions specificity, and preserve them recent as they modified year-over-year, the designers or their representatives got here to Ford headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan, yearly, for a competition of material and trim swatches, inventive conferences, idea approvals, and wining and eating. Paint and inside colours and supplies shifted yearly. In the end, this course of grew to become a signpost, an occasion, within the Motor Metropolis.

“The introduction of every new designer version grew to become one thing like a trend line being premiered in Paris or New York,” stated Ryan.

Nevertheless, the adjustments have been generally lower than thrilling. “We’ve product planning committee minutes, that are dry as toast. It simply reads, Representatives from XYX designers got here to Dearborn and chosen colours. Adjustments made embody this, this, and this. The extent of humor and enjoyable is troublesome to discern.” Ryan stated. “In one of many Invoice Blass ones, he stated that he wished to only add a pink stripe on the again of the rearview mirror.”

The Designer Collection continued practically all through the top of the Mark coupe vary, dying out solely with the introduction of the ultimate Mark VIII, within the early Nineties. Gleefully, earlier than it ran its course, the scion of overwhelming Italian opulence, Gianni Versace, obtained a flip for 2 years within the mid-Eighties. However by the top of the Mark VII, and the collection, solely Invoice Blass was retaining the design embers glowing.

Much less clear is why precisely this system got here to an finish. “We don’t actually know now why it ended. We don’t have any documentation on that. I speculate that it simply ran its course. Each good automobile line runs its course,” stated Ryan.

Different trend manufacturers – together with Ermenegildo Zegna, Thom Browne and Zac Posen, John Varvatos, Isaac Mizrahi, and KITH – have, in recent times, experimented in automotive cross-branding. And it may very well be argued that AMC predated Ford with its Levi’s, Pierre Cardin, and Gucci editions within the early-to-mid Nineteen Seventies. However AMC is lengthy gone, sadly, and by no means got here near hitting the 100-year mark.

The follow stays a distinguishing function of Lincoln throughout its century-long automotive reign, and one which aligns with the model’s foundational mythologies. Edsel Ford was the one who introduced in Diego Rivera to Detroit to create the Detroit Business murals on the Detroit Institute of Arts. He was a designer, and artwork lover, at coronary heart.

“The DNA of Lincoln was at all times such {that a} designer collection would have matched it, and matched Edsel’s imaginative and prescient for what Lincoln was and may very well be,” Ryan stated. “He could be smiling to know that his firm had performed this position.”

Patrick Moore

Patrick is our chief editor and he's very passionate about cars. He has a bachelor's degree in marketing and he studies journalism. His favorite brand is BMW and he drives an X5 series. When he's not writing for, he enjoys spending time with his family and 9 years old son.

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