: Test Drive Review: 1988 Lincoln Mark VII LSC

10-17-10, 11:05 AM
I came away surprisingly impressed.

Hazzardjohn called me up today, telling me he wanted to buy this Mark VII and he wanted me to come along on the test drive. I drove JD's this February, but since his needed some work, I wanted to drive a much nicer one to compare it to. This one has won a few different awards from various Lincoln clubs and shows in the area. It's a very nice example.


Exterior Design: 9/10
I really like the way the Mark VII's look. They've got a great "made in the '80s" angled, rigid look to them, but they're still very aerodynamic and handsome. I think they look best in profile, their profile reminds me of a mixture of a Fox-Body Mustang and and 80-85 Seville, and I love how the trunklid still has the stereotypical Continental spare tire hump in it, even if it's very vague. My only nit-to-pick with the VII's was the giant composite headlamps. It doesn't look "bad" per se, but they're definitely not small. The Mark VII was the first domestic vehicle to use composite headlamps though. Compared to other '80s luxury coupes, I still think that the 79-85 E Bodies are the better looker, but the Mark VII blows away the 86-91 E Bodies and I actually prefer the VII's design to the 633csi's and between the Mark VII and W126 coupe, it's close... I find the Mark VII to be better looking than the Mark VIII though. I prefer the '80s blockiness to the '90s "melted soapbar" look.

Interior design: 7.5/10
While the interior is very driver oriented and very informative, I still prefer the Mark VIII's interior, as it feels warmer with more wood grain trim and a smoother, more flowing design. The VII's greatest interior assets were it's comfortable, supportive seats that offered great (adjustable) side bolsters and lumbar. The LSC in '88 did not have any accent pieces in the interior, whether it be faux metal or faux wood, but after they redesigned the interior in '90 or '91, they gave the LSC a strip of faux aluminum across the dashboard. The Bill Blass edition always had faux wood, softer seats and a digital dash. But IMO, I think the LSC edition is more fitting to the car's design and engineering. What else was really surprising about the interior was it's overall quality and fit and finish, it really was great! No squeaks or rattles, and no misfitting panel gaps or awkward angles. They really made these very well, even if the materials used were rather drab and dull.


I however still prefer the Toronado/Riviera/Eldorado with their soft, deep split bench seats, column shift, loads of faux wood and chrome and "know nothing" instrumentation. It's just classic Americana to me, as opposed to the German influenced Mark VII.

Drivetrain: 8.5/10
The 5.0 HO is a great engine, 225hp and 300 lb/ft. Pretty fast for 1988, especially compared to Cadillac's 4.5, 155hp and 240 lb/ft. The 5.0 actually made more torque than Mercedes renowned 5.6L SOHC V-8, but not as quite as much horsepower, 238hp and 287 lb/ft. So I could see how this was one of the quicker luxury cars in '88. The power is definitely there and at a high 15 second 1/4 mile, it's not exactly slow, it's not like a Northstar or Mark VIII, but it's not bad. The biggest problem in the powertrain is the AOD four speed automatic. I'm not sure how they stand up in terms of reliability and durability, but it is SLOW to downshift! We took it out on I-35, where the speed limit is 70, and I was doing about 70, then I put it to the boards and it took a couple of seconds to downshift and then once it finally downshifted, it really took off pretty good, saw the speedo climb to the 85mph cutoff pretty quick and had to back off. The Ford 5.0 made more power than Cadillac's 4.9 (I drove a '93 SDV earlier this week), but it wasn't a night and day difference. The 4.9 definitely is more snappy, especially out of the hole, but the 5.0 has more midrange and top end power to balance out. So, the 4.9 would get it out of the hole, but the 5.0 would pass it and keep pulling away as the speeds increased.

The throttle response isn't like a typical GM V8 car, it's not sharp and snappy, but rather you have to roll into the powerband, and even under WOT, it's just not as quick to get the RPM's up and moving. I'm not sure if that's a fault of the 302, but probably typical of the AOD. I'm sure this car would be a LOT quicker with the Mustang's 5-speed manual, but alas, it wasn't ever offered with it.

I must admit that the 302 is a lot more powerful sounding in here than it is in your typical Town Car or F-150. It's got a real good tone to it as well, unlike any of the small block Chevys, it's smoother and more of a tenor as opposed to the Chevrolet's deep, resouding bass.

Overall: great engine, crappy transmission.

Ride and Handling: 9.5/10.
This is my favorite part of the car. The car has four wheel electronic air suspension and automatic level control, so it rides much like a Town Car (soft, slightly floaty) when you're driving the car in a relaxed fashion, but when you put the reins to it, she stiffens up quite a bit and is really tight and fun to throw around. And she'll take a fast corner or tight curve really, really well too. It's truly the best of both worlds. :) The steering wasn't nearly as numb on center as it is in a Town Car from the same era.

Overall, what do I think?
It's certainly one of the best Lincolns in recent history. It's got a great exterior design, a great engine and a great suspension setup that makes it feel really sporty and taut, even if it's not paired with the best transmission ever nor that the fact it's interior is a little cold and clinical compared to some other luxury cars out there. I myself prefer the Riviera or Toronado, because they're more my style, but this is definitely very good. I do however prefer driving this to that Mark V I drove last month, as this one is a lot more communicative and much more tossable, and offers greater visibility.

But, being as though this one is in such great shape, it's definitely the perfect candidate for anyone who really wants a Mark VII LSC.

10-17-10, 11:37 AM
It's too bad the Mark VIII's got kind of ugly, externally (sorry to those who like it). Like you state, the VIII had it over the VII in the interior department, and the drivetrain improvements are relatively large. The 4.6 makes better power than the 5.0, though the performance difference isn't as big as the numbers would suggest as the 4.6 is a little weak out of the hole, even in 32V config. But the bigger influence is in efficiency... the 4.6 is a gas-sipper in comparison to that old 5.0 and the 4r70W had quite a few improvements over that garbage AOD that really firmed the driveline up a bit, if you know what I mean. I've made a promise to myself that I'll never own a AOD car, and hell if I'm gonna break that promise.

Mark VIII interior and drivetrain in the Mark VII would rock.

10-17-10, 12:14 PM
I really like the VII. The VIII looks good from certain angles, but from others it looks downright ridiculous. Especially from the front, it looks bloated and bland.

Cool review. I could drive a VII, but all the interior buttons would drive me nuts.

10-17-10, 02:11 PM
Nice looking car! :) The non-LSC Mark VII models are not too bad looking either.

10-17-10, 05:19 PM
The man who was selling this VII was a Lincoln nut, an ex Lincoln salesman with probably 40 years in the business, now he just buys these old things, fixes them up and sells them in a real nice, low pressure environment. He says he owns probably 30 Lincolns right now, and his all time favorite being the 68.5-71 Mark III. He says he was selling these Mark VIIs when they were new, and the LSCs outsold the Bill Blass models 5/1.

10-17-10, 07:26 PM
I like the VIII but I do prefer the 80s styling on the VII. Its more formal.

10-17-10, 08:02 PM
In all honesty, I'd rather have a VIII for everyday ownership, as it's more modern, has a better drivetrain and more electronic niceties that the VII never did.

The guy that was selling this Mark VII had a bit of a "classic Lincoln paradise". Here's some other pics from there.

I drove this very nice '88 Town Car Signature Series before I drove the Mark VII. John and I were talking about how much more power it has than the Broughams, atleast how it feels like it has more power than the 90-92 Broughams, regardless if it's the 5.0 or 5.7. The throttle response is a lot better in the Lincolns.

Here's a fully loaded '89 Town Car Signature Series, even has the optional (and super rare) CD player.

1978 Town Car parked next to an '88.
I swear the hood on the '78 was atleast six inches longer than on the 88, and a few inches wider too!

Behind the wheel of the '78.
Good god that hood is long. Visibility behind the wheel is a LOT better than the Mark V (one of my biggest complaints about the V), and it's got a lot more room inside, especially headroom.
Look at how thin the steering wheel rim is in the '78.

10-17-10, 08:08 PM
Do you guys really fiddle with all those buttons controlling all that electronic stuff you seem to want, if not demand, in a car today?

ted tcb
10-17-10, 08:23 PM
Great review, Chad.

I owned the twin to your test car ... a 1998 LSC, purchased used in 1992.
I believe the car retailed new in Canada for about $40k, and I bought mine with about 50k on her
for about $16k ( back then, it would've been around $12k USD).
Prior to that, I owned a 1988 T Bird Sport with the 302.
Same platform, but nowhere near the same car. The T Bird had about 140hp, and was dog slow.

My Fox foglights were always burning out, the ABS failed one day, and the biggest issue was
clear coat that would break down terribly on the roof. Ford refused to help me on that one, because
I wasn't the original owner.
I seem to recall that Mercedes threatened Ford with legal action over the power seat controls ... they
closely mimicked MB design. I loved those seat controls on the door panel.

Best part of the car for me was the aggresive style ... I loved the BBS styled rims, flared wheel arches, traditional
chrome grille, spare tire hump, Recaro styled seats, trip computer, powerful motor, and killer stereo.
In 1992, I cannot think of a nicer used personal luxury cruiser for the money.

The only negative for me was long distance road trips.
I also owned a 1985 Maxima, which tracked much better on the highway.
The LSC wasn't an effortless cruiser ... you had to account for small changes in the road.
By comparison, I also drove a 1990 fwd Fleetwood to Florida, and both the Caddy and Maxima
tracked nicer down the road.
Maybe its a fwd vs rwd thing.

Chad, how many miles and how much money was the guy asking?
Did your friend purchase the vehicle?
One weak spot on these cars are the side bolsters on the driver's seat.
Was the driver's seat showing damage?

10-17-10, 08:28 PM
121,000 miles, and he was asking $3995. My friend has not bought it (yet). The side bolsters still worked well and the driver's seat had a few minor wear marks, but nothing bad.

The seller also had a 1986 Fleetwood Brougham in black with the blue velour base interior, and going from the 78 Town Car to that, the Brougham felt more natural and more "me".

10-17-10, 08:38 PM
The answer is I am probably going to buy it. I love this car, but coming from the world of LT1 B-bodies, This car needs to be woken up a bit. I loved just about everything about this car except how small the Lincoln interiors are. I am 6'3" and 285 pounds so I am a big guy. I struggle to not hit my head gettiing in and out of either the LSC or the Town Car that we drove. I am a big car guy, I have owned several Roadmasters and a 95 Impala SS. That is where I feel at home. This car is as close to a sports car as I will ever get, it handles great, and has the looks I like. I just need to decide if I am ok with a cramped car. It is ok when I get into it, but the seat needs to be back ghetto style to keep my heaad out of the roof, and I don't like that.


10-17-10, 09:20 PM
My 1996 black Continental had that same Ford clearcoat failure Ted talked about, absolutely ruined an otherwise beautiful car. That stuff got bad enough at one point I remember it made national news on 20/20 or Dateline NBC or something.

I have to say, as time has passed I am really beginning to appreciate the Mark VII's over the Mark VIIIs. Having owned a 1997 LSC, I really never could used to that rear end... It's like a good novel that has no ending.

10-17-10, 09:37 PM
If you're 6'3", I don't know how you can deal w/a B-Body. I'm 6'0 and it's marginal....

10-17-10, 09:40 PM
I have the benefit of being short - at 5' 7 I feel like I have acres of room.

10-17-10, 09:44 PM
5'6" and I feel roomy in most cars, but that VII was a lot tighter than an '88 Town Car.

10-17-10, 10:00 PM
If you're 6'3", I don't know how you can deal w/a B-Body. I'm 6'0 and it's marginal....

Plenty of head room in a B-body. Owned many over the years. They are the only cars I have ever really been comfortable in. Other than that I tend to stick to pickups for legroom. My 75 Caddy has no legroom at all for me. The front seat does not go near as far back as I think it should,


10-17-10, 11:14 PM
Great review, Chad.

I owned the twin to your test car ... a 1998 LSC, purchased used in 1992.

So you bought a 1998 car used in 1992? How is that Delorean holding up Marty?:lildevil:

10-17-10, 11:16 PM
The Mark VII was a very nice and advanced car for it's time. My only quarrel with them was that they looked too much like a T-bird with a continental hump in the trunk lid. The interior also left me cold.

Let me know when you find a Mark VI to test.

ted tcb
10-17-10, 11:17 PM
At 6'1", I never had a problem with my LSC, even with the moonroof cover closed.
Never felt the need to move the seat down either ... toughest thing was climbing over the seat bolster.

Coming from a Prelude, the interior was quite spacious.
Taking friends out to dinner, an adult coupe had plenty of rear seat room.

Today, I find I'm quite comfortable in my Miata, even with the roof up.

I simply refuse to miss out on great cars because I'm a little bit tall.
I'd much rather be "one with the car", as opposed to driving a minivan full of
empty bus seats behind me:)

Hope you grab the car, HJ.
I wouldn't let it get away from me.

10-17-10, 11:57 PM
The seats look great which are always the first thing to go (not counting the air ride...).

I prefer the VII to the VIII as well -- the VIII doesn't have enough headroom and the rear window seal wrinkles up like a sharpei....

ted tcb
10-18-10, 12:37 AM
So you bought a 1998 car used in 1992? How is that Delorean holding up Marty?:lildevil:

Oops, thanks for the proof reading:)

I was driving a black 1989 4WS Prelude, camel interior.
I drove by a friend's dealership, saw the LSC, and it seemed like so much more car for
the same dollar value.
We traded even ... back in 2002.
Living up here in central Ontario, I needed snow tires.
Back then, we only put two snows on , and on the back tires.
It was almost impossile to find 16" snows back in 2002 ... funny how things change.