Iacocca’s Comfy Cruisers: 1974 Lincoln Mark IV vs 1991 Chrysler LeBaron

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Good morning! For this Two-Door Tuesday edition of Shitbox Showdown, we have two seemingly-unrelated cars that have one thing in common: Lido. And I don’t mean Boz Scaggs’s musical protagonist. But we’ll get to those in a minute; first let’s circle back to yesterday’s wagons:

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So a busted V8 beats a rattle-canned runner. And thanks to the commenter who told us the Focus used to be a delivery vehicle for a Mexican restaurant, although as others pointed out, the yellow is wrong if that’s the case. Maybe the hardware store was out of white paint, or something.

Now: Former Ford and later Chrysler boss Lido A. “Lee” Iacocca needs no introduction. He was an industry giant, with a keen sense of the market, and his instincts were rarely wrong. He is best remembered, of course, for the Mustang and the minivan, but as any minor-league ball player will tell you, two home runs do not a career make. Today, we’re going to take a look at a couple of good solid base hits, one from his years at Ford, and one from his tenure at Chrysler, and see which one you prefer. Here they are.

1974 Lincoln Continental Mark IV – $1,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 460 cubic inch OHV V8, 3 speed automatic, RWD

Location: Atlanta, GA

Odometer reading: 53,000 miles

Runs/drives? Yep… but…

Hot on the heels of the Mustang’s success as a “secretary’s car,” Iacocca directed Ford’s designers to create a car for their bosses. The Continental Mark III was created as a successor to the Mark II from ten years earlier, sold only as a two-door, to compete with Cadillac’s Eldorado. The idea worked well enough that Lincoln continued on with the Mark IV, V, VI, VII, and VIII.

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This car, the Mark IV, wasn’t the biggest (that was its successor) or the most powerful (that was its predecessor) of the line, but at nineteen feet long and seven and a half feet wide, it cut quite an imposing figure on the road. Power came from a 460 cubic inch V8 with a four-barrel carburetor. Even though it’s pre-catalytic-convertor, this engine in the Mark IV puts out only 212 horsepower. It’s not a fast car. But in 1974, if you were driving a brand new Lincoln, you were never in a hurry. They were all waiting for you.

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Inside, the big Lincoln is soft and inviting; when this car was built, luxury meant comfort and quality, not gadgets and bric-a-brac. (Okay, fine; a little bric-a-brac too.) It’s not in perfect shape, but it does look mighty comfy.

Sadly, there is one area where this car isn’t quite so nice:

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I don’t know what it did to piss off a tree, but it lost a fight with a falling branch. That one won’t buff out, and it’s not really a valuable enough car to make it worth fixing. The seller says it runs fine, but it’s being sold as a parts car just because of the body damage. I imagine that if you want, you could employ the BFH method and get it to the point where the trunk lid would at least close properly, and just drive it like that.

1991 Chrysler LeBaron Convertible – $2,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 3.0 liter SOHC V6, 4 speed automatic, FWD

Location: Portland, OR

Odometer reading: 76,000 miles

Runs/drives? “Amazing,” according to the ad

After getting fired by Ford, Iacocca landed at Chrysler, where he gutted and rewired the company from the inside out, got a government loan to get Chrysler back on its feet, and introduced a whole new kind of car for Chrysler: the K-car. The strategy worked brilliantly, but Iacocca soon recognized one problem – the K-car was sturdy, no-nonsense, and about as interesting as watching paint dry. To make it more exciting, in 1982, he employed a trick well-known to bar owners and B-movie producers everywhere: he took its top off.

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It had been six long years since any American automaker had offered a convertible, and the imports that were available were all pretty old designs, like the Mercedes R107. Buyers gobbled up the new Chrysler LeBaron and Dodge 400 convertibles. Chalk another one up for Lee. A second generation of LeBaron convertible followed, and three generations of Sebring convertibles followed that.

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This second-generation LeBaron convertible has a scant 76,000 miles on its odometer. The ad claims it was “granny-owned” and “garage kept,” but from the dust, it looks like Granny didn’t get out much. I have a feeling this car sat for a while. It’s being sold by a dealership, and they claim the photos are pre-detailing; if it were me, I’d have waited to take photos until it was clean, but what do I know?

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This LeBaron is powered by a Mitsubishi-built 3 liter V6 and a four-speed “Ultradrive” automatic transmission. The Ultradrive was troublesome in its early days, largely due to improper maintenance, so let’s hope Granny’s mechanic knew what they were doing. With the low mileage, there shouldn’t be too much damage done by deferred maintenance, but a good thorough check is a good idea.

Well, there you have it. Two lesser success stories from an industry titan, one with some damage, and the other in need of getting some cobwebs blown out. Which one is your style?


(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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72 Responses

  1. LeBaron. I’ve always had a soft spot for them…I think they’re well styled even if they aren’t great cars. Plus, it’s a convertible. Open top motoring is amazing and, much like manual transmissions, it’s unfortunately dying out.

    I’d rather have a drop top with a stick (I will make exceptions on a case by case basis) because I feel like it completes the roadster experience…but for 2 grand beggars can’t be choosers. You can have some fun with this even if it’ll likely be a lazy driving experience.

  2. I’m from Staten Island, I’ll take The Mark.

    Also, I remember the Mark III sitting proudly on the podium at the 1969 New York Auto Show–dazzling. After this, it co-starred in “The French Connection.”

      1. I agree, Jack. It’s in my top five.

        Let’s not forget one more star: ’71 Pontiac T-37 driven by stunt driver Bill Hickman, who also played the fed in this film. Yes, the same one who Popeye gunned down in the final scenes.

  3. Supposedly the idea for the Mark III came to Lido in a dream, he woke up, jotted down some notes, then in the morning, called the product development people and told them he wanted to build a Thunderbird with a Rolls-Royce grille.

    I don’t think he ever really liked focus groups or market research of any kind, he just kind of operated on instinct and intuition

  4. Give me the boat, I want the boat. I bet you could talk him down to something closer to $1,000 even. For that price, I’ll gladly spend an afternoon wailing on it with a sledgehammer and then drive it as is. That’s still a lot of car for the money and the damage just means that I wouldn’t feel bad getting into shenanigans with it

  5. Personally I prefer the Mark V. I’ve seen the how the continentals twist!
    Yes the LeBaron is the logical choice, but this is a totally emotional choice. And the mark IV owner has a newer Lincoln, look in the background 🙂

  6. The Lincoln, of course.
    Hang a new fender and trunk lid. Repaint to match the Maize Yellow. Fix the vinyl roof.
    Drill said fender for a ball, spring and 102″ whip so the CB squawks.

    Grow your hair out and ease on down the road like a boss.

  7. Not that Lincolns were much on my radar screen in 1976-1977, but I would have swore the ’77 Mark V shared platforms with the Torino-sized Thunderbird of the same era- I didn’t know it stayed on the Mark IV/big-ass Bird underpinnings. I’ve always kinda liked the Mark IV, and having a fair bit of experience with Ford’s 385-series big blocks (stepmom had a ’75 Bird and it spent a disproportionate amount of time in my high school auto shop with me, owing to her frequent short trips not allowing that beast to properly warm up) I have envisioned an executive hot rod build. This one, not worth the effort.
    Now the LeBaron. Not my favorite combination- that would be the early coupes with a 2.2L turbo and 5MT, even if this one has a marginally better interior (style, that is), but if I had to choose between the two, I guess I’d take the swoopy K-car and wait for the inevitable Ultradrive failure. Then I’d start looking for a 2.2/5MT swap.

    1. If you like indie movies, check out Bellflower from the ’10s.

      An amazing car-adjacent movie that’s a mashup of a John Hughes film and the Mad Max series. It’s basically about the tragedy of a failing romance, but combined with an unhealthy post-apocalyptic fantasy obsession.

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