Junkyard Gem: 1979 Lincoln Continental Mark V Bill Blass Edition
The car news in 1979 America wasn't all bad, despite gas rationing and Detroit V8s producing 25 horsepower per liter of displacement. That's because some of the plushest, flashiest, white-powder-ready luxury coupes in history were rolling off assembly lines at the time. Ford's game was strong when it came to such machinery; there were long-snouted Thunderbird Town Landaus, opulent Cougar XR-7s and — best of all — the special-edition Lincoln Continental Mark Vs. The Lincoln Division had partnered with four prestigious fashion houses to lift the Mark V to unheard-of levels of conspicuous snazz, and I found one of those cars in a Denver car graveyard.
The design houses that worked their magic on these Mark Vs were Givenchy, Pucci, Cartier and Bill Blass. Each had a distinctive color scheme and mob-boss-grade interior. The Pucci cars were the rarest, with only 763 built during the 1977-1979 model years whereas 6,720 Bill Blass Mark Vs were built during that period. Today's Junkyard Gem is the second 1979 Bill Blass Mark V I've found in this very junkyard; the previous find happened back in 2015.
Bill Blass was an Indiana native who began his design career as a member of the 603rd Camouflage Battalion of the United States Army during World War II, helping to deceive the Germans with a fake "Ghost Army" poised to hit the beaches far from the actual D-Day sites. Blass worked with Ford from 1975 through 1992, when the last Bill Blass Mark VIIs were built (Cartier stuck it out much longer).
The 1979 Bill Blass Mark V came with "Tu-Tone Midnight Blue Metallic" and white exterior paint, while the interior was done up in white or blue leather with contrasting straps and buttons bearing the Blass logo.
This one is pretty icky after 44 years, but hints of its former glory can be seen.
A white padded-vinyl "carriage roof" was standard equipment on the Bill Blass Mark V. It was a $1,200 option (about $5,286 in 2023 dollars) on ordinary Mark Vs. The one on this car trapped water against the sheet metal and caused it to rust out.
All 1979 Mark Vs got the Cartier clock, with calendar function.
A 400-cubic-inch (6.6-liter) V8 was mandatory on all 1979 Continental models. This one made 159 horsepower and 315 pound-feet, which was grim for a coupe that scaled in at nearly 4,600 pounds.
The MSRP for the '79 Bill Blass Mark V was $16,546, or about $72,880 in today's money. The Collector's Series Mark V cost even more that year: $22,029 ($97,031 after inflation).
This is the very best audio system you could get from the factory in a 1979 Lincoln: a quadraphonic AM/FM/8-track player with digital frequency display and station-search function. This futuristic rig was standard equipment in the Collector's Series, but Bill Blass Mark V buyers had to shell out an extra $413 for it ($1,819 today).
For 1980, the Continental Mark went onto the smaller Panther platform, becoming the Mark VI (and getting a four-door version) in the process.
This car had a 1989 Ken Patterson baseball card inside. Perhaps it had been parked since that time.
This Lincoln's neighbor in its final parking space is a special-edition GM two-door from the same era: one of just seven 1980 Cadillac Eldorado San Remo Dorado convertibles built.
As sleek as a luxury cruiser. Mr. Blass himself makes an appearance in this commercial.
It deserves to be in the art museum.