The Fox Body We All Forgot About
Most car enthusiasts have probably heard of the 3rd-generation, “Fox body” Mustang. Many of you will know that the name refers to the Fox platform, upon which Ford also built the Thunderbird/Cougar/Mark VII, Fairmont, Granada/Zephyr, and even the SN-95 Mustang. It was Ford’s most versatile platform that dragged them through the Dark Ages of the Automobile that were the 1970s. Yeah, the Fox bodies weren’t bad (for the 1980s), but, unless you are talking about a Mustang, Thunderbird TurboCoupe or EricTheCarGuy’s Ford Fairmont, the majority of Fox body cars have faded fairly quietly into the back pages of the automotive history books.
But none of the Fox bodies are deep into the slimy, black realms of obscurity as the seventh-generation Lincoln Continental. From Ford’s point of view, this might not necessarily be a bad thing.
You see, the Lincoln Continental that was produced from 1982-1987 marked a footstep in Lincoln’s journey to the bottom of the luxury car milieu. It marked a point in time where even those who remained stoic through the bout of automotive mononucleosis in the 1980s could still cringe at some of the trends in American “luxury” cars. Even if you could make the argument that Lincoln was just different enough to not be considered a Ford trim level, it really didn’t matter too much. To be fair, Lincoln did smarten up after the unmitigated badge engineering failure that was the Ford Granada (oops, I meant Lincoln Versailles). Although the Lincoln was based heavily on the Fox-body Granada platform, it was styled in such a way that the majority of buyers would theoretically be none the wiser.
Those who do remember the Continental’s semi-distinct styling pattern will no doubt remember that it was much smaller looking than the Conti that came before it. Part of this was due to the change from the Panther platform to the Fox platform. The other part came from the distinctively cringeworthy “bustle back” trunk styling, which seemed to be a worryingly popular trend in American luxury cars of the 1980s. Did all that LSD from the 1970s seem to find its way into the designers of the Lincoln (and the even more slope-assed Cadillac Seville)? I mean, if I wanted my car to look like that, I would have backed it into a train. To their credit, Lincoln did mercifully ditch the slant back in 1984, although the “spare tire” trunk lid remained.
Needless to say, the Continental didn’t really jive with the majority of its potential customers. Part of the reason was the looks, while the powertrain options left little to be desired as well. Power came from either Ford’s boring 3.8-litre Essex V6, a strangled version of the classic 302, or a rarely-ordered BMW V6 turbodiesel that only lasted until 1983. Clearly, the car was as concerned about performance as Liberace was about having too many diamonds on his jacket. And, like any 20th-century Lincoln, you could expect the suspension to feel like jumping on a water bed after smoking a couple of ‘shrooms. And, of course, you can’t have a 1980s Lincoln without the cheesy trim label promotions from designer brands such as Valentino and Givenchy.
Still, the Lincoln made no illusions about what it was supposed to be (a sin that Lincoln started committing shortly after). For what it was, the Continental wasn’t actually a bad car. At the very least, when compared to the Cadillac Seville, it didn’t break down as much (hey, that’s pretty good). The real problem with the Fox body Continental was Europe. Audis, Mercedes-Benzes, BMWs and Jaguars became the new must-have fashion accessories for the jet set. The Lincoln, by comparison, looked like a pair of $40 shoes that Christian Louboutin designed for Walmart. It was a Lincoln in badge only. It just didn’t have the overtly massive, cushy persona of a big ol’ Mark V. It tried to be more...modern, and that’s exactly what Lincoln wanted. But it still carried that Lincoln air about it, and it kind of disappointed in that sense. Although it was undoubtedly better than the Versailles it replaced, the Fox body Lincoln just didn’t stack up to the modern era of luxury.
Unfortunately for Lincoln, they kept playing that broken record for 20 years with the Continental. It was nice enough, but not good enough. In a day and age where the E30 3-Series is now considered a modern classic, most 7th-gen Continental “collectors” have paid for them by the pound. It’s neither loved nor remembered by the majority of car enthusiasts today. Mind you, the greatest thing that Ford has ever achieved with the Fox body Continental is that very fact.