For 1976, Lincoln added one more level of exclusivity to its luxurious Continental Mark IV with the introduction of the Designer Series.
Celebrity and lifestyle co-branding have become fairly commonplace in the car biz. We recall the Eddie Bauer edition Ford SUVS, the L.L. Bean Subarus, the North Face Chevy Avalanche. But in 1976 it was a relatively fresh approach to automotive mass marketing. That’s when the Lincoln division of the Ford Motor Company put the technique on the map, so to speak, with its Designer Series for the swank Continental Mark IV.
In response to the problem of how to offer something exclusive to luxury car buyers when you are already offering them something exclusive, presumably, Lincoln offered a series of four Designer models for 1976 (the final year in the Mark IV product cycle). Each one was endorsed by a famous name from the world of fashion and style: Bill Blass, Cartier, Hubert de Givenchy, and Emilio Pucci.
Hubert de Givenchy, the famed French fashion designer favored by Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy, lent his style and name to the Givency edition (above) which featured Aqua Blue high-metallic paint, a white vinyl roof, and your choice of two interior combinations in Aqua Blue leather or Aqua Blue velour. It’s interesting to note that in all four Designer Series models, the velour cabin cost more than the leather version: $2000 vs. $1,500, added to a base price of just over $11,000. Like all Mark IVs, the Designer Series models were an imposing 228.1 inches in length—just over 19 feet.
Known for his lively colors and bold geometric prints, Italian fashion designer Emilio Pucci made his Mark IV Designer model a study in red: Dark Red Moondust Metallic exterior with all-red upholstery inside in either Dark Red Versailles Velour or Dark Red Leather. All four Mark IV Designer cars were essentially identical in mechanical specifications, and all four wore the same dished aluminum wheels that were standard in the Designer Series.
American clothing designer Bill Blass, noted for his classic taste, contributed his name and ideas to the Bill Blass edition. The cabin was finished in Dark Blue velour or leather, while the exterior paint was Dark Blue Diamond Fire Metallic with a contrasting cream-colored vinyl landau top. All four Designer models bore the appropriate signature in the Mark IV’s trademark opera windows in the rear C pillars, and each featured an engraved, gold-plated emblem on the instrument panel.
The only car in the Designer Series lineup not associated with a clothing designer was the Cartier edition, which was co-branded with the renowned Paris jewelry maker. The Cartier (also shown in the lead photo at top) got Dove Grey exterior paint with a matching Dove Grey vinyl roof covering, while the cockpit was finished in Dove Gray cloth or leather. All four Designer Series cars launched on October 3, 1975 along with the rest of the Mark IV lineup.
The Designer Series program was apparently a very successful one for Lincoln, as the various models carried on in the Continental Mark series for many years after the 1976 intro. The Cartier name was eventually transferred from the Continental Mark to the Lincoln Town Car platform and continued all the way to 2003. Will we ever see a Designer Series from the Motor City again? Sure, why not. But where we’re headed , it will most likely be on a battery-powered SUV.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.