Los Angeles Auto Show – Is Lincoln on Life Support?

The Lincoln MXZ

Whither the Hot Rod Lincoln?

You’ve probably heard some cover version of the late Charlie Ryan’s “Hot Rod Lincoln,” maybe by Commander Cody, or George Thorogood. Johnny Cash and Roger Miller also recorded versions. In the song, a guy driving a hot rod with a Ford model A body and a Lincoln V12 (a V8 in the later versions) chases and overtakes a Cadillac sedan up the Grapevine Hill, the pass that connects the Los Angeles Basin with the Central Valley.

The story ends with a punch line, but in case you’ve never heard it, I won’t spoil it. You can look it up on YouTube.

The song had a sequel of sorts. Back in 1952, 1953 and 1954, Lincolns won the stock car class in the Carrera Panamericana, commonly called the “Mexican Road Race.”

An 8mm film of one of those races convinced my dad to drive the family from Grand Rapids to Detroit, where Mom took us kids to the Detroit Zoo while he negotiated the purchase of a slightly used 1953 Cosmopolitan Coupe. I was ten, but I still remember the sound of chirping rubber as the guy who earlier had provided the film took it for a test drive, once we got it home.

1952 Lincoln Cosmopolitan

The 1953 Lincoln we had (ours was two-tone brown and beige) was little changed from the 1952, as shown above, from a contemporary ad.

In that context, what is Lincoln doing at the 2013 Los Angeles International Auto Show, introducing the MKC, a compact SUV concept, whose signature feature is a system that senses the approach of the owner (or whoever has the key I suppose) and lays down a “welcome mat” of light at the doors?

Meanwhile Cadillac is showing the new CTS with 420 horsepower, more than twice that of Dad’s Carrera Panamericana replica coupe. The largest engine available in the similar-size Lincoln MKZ is a 231 hp turbo four. Sorry, Lincoln, 400 horsepower is the new 200.

Lincoln MKC

The MKC compact SUV. Its 2.3 liter turbo four puts out 275 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. This is Lincoln’s idea of an exciting vehicle to boost its image in the luxury car market? Nice try, but . .

Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

The MKZ, Lincoln’s latest sedan (above) features a hybrid drivetrain with 188 horsepower (EPA 45/45 mpg) at no premium over a 231 horsepower turbo four-cylinder gasoline engine, but Cadillac’s base CTS sedan (below) boasts 272 and the top “V” version offers 420, while braking from 60 miles per hour in under 100 feet.

Cadillac CTS

The Market

Historically, luxury cars have typically had big powerful engines. One of their attractions has always been their ability to carry the occupants long distances at high average speeds in safety and serene comfort. For too long American luxury car manufacturers put their emphasis on comfort, exemplified by the ubiquitous airport limo Lincoln Town Car, and  lost sight of the performance side of the luxury equation.

Meanwhile, the European luxury makes emphasized precision handling and outright speed. In-house tuners like those at BMW (“M” Division) and Mercedes (AMG) captured the imagination of those who wanted their expensive cars to go, turn, and stop, as well as look good and cosset them, honing the road manners of their cars on Germany’s famous Nurburgring road race venue.

Cadillac finally embraced that lesson, and began engineering their cars to compete with the best of the Germans. Today they routinely test their cars on the same Nordschleife section of the “Ring,” turning lap times the equal of Europe’s best.

Without Jaguar (sold to the Indian group Tata in 2008, along with Land Rover) to shore up the high-profit luxury end of their market share, Ford may be shooting itself in the foot by leaving Lincoln (now The Lincoln Motor Company) to fight for a dwindling number of old buyers lured by the name.

Lincoln needs more than a prestigious history and electronic gimmicks to sell expensive cars. Ford has a turbo V6 in the Taurus that makes 368 horsepower and 350 pound feet of torque – way down at 1500 rpm! Why are they fiddling with the grille on an SUV when they should be massaging that engine to make a new Hot Rod Lincoln? How about joining two turbo v6s for a 736 horsepower V12?

CARMA is a publication of The OM Dude Press
a service of Options in Mobility

Author, Editor, Publisher, Reporter, Historian, Archivist:
Dick Stewart.

All photographs are by the Author unless otherwise indicated.

Click on the images to view more detail. If the cursor is a plus sign in a circle, clicking again will yield full resolution.

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About carmacarcounselor

I'm one of those people that friends call "that car guy," except I've made it into a profession. Since 1988 when a friend found my help in choosing, finding, and negotiating for a new car was worth a fee, I've helped countless people, listening to their car questions and challenges, and helping with their car purchases, insulating them from the adversarial process that is the new car retail model today. Their word of mouth is my only publicity. My newsletter CARMA won the description "The clear crystal ring of truth" from award-winning automotive journalist Denise McCluggage. Now I'm going global!
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One Response to Los Angeles Auto Show – Is Lincoln on Life Support?

  1. lephraim says:

    Nice article, Dick.

    From my Android phone on T-Mobile. The first nationwide 4G network.

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