Revisiting the golden era of the 1970s Lincoln Designer Series

As American car maker Lincoln marks 100 years, we celebrate its 1970s foray into designer collaborations that saw the Lincoln Continental transformed by Bill Blass, Hubert de Givenchy, Emilio Pucci and Cartier’s Ralph Destino

Lincoln Continental Mark IV Givenchy Edition Car
(Image credit: press)

The American brand Lincoln celebrates its 100th anniversary this month (February 2022). Now considered one of the pillars of American luxury, alongside Cadillac, Lincoln has an impressive history of catering to those who wanted American-made statements of solidity, grace, and imposing scale. This includes the mighty Continental model, first introduced in 1939 and ultimately becoming one of the most iconic of all American cars. In 1955, the Mark II was introduced, a hand-built coupé designed to go head to head with European luxury cars. The Mark IV Continental became the ideal platform for American presidential vehicles, while subsequent generations epitomised the big, brash, boxy styling of 1970s Americana.

Lincoln Continental fourth-generation model

The 1961 Lincoln Continental was the fourth-generation model, and pre-dated the Designer Series

(Image credit: press)

The name ‘Continental’ endured almost up to the present day, with the tenth-generation C (opens in new tab)ontinental marking the last of the line. Elegant though it was (with optional coach doors that nodded to the great Mark IV models of the 1960s), the contemporary Continental just couldn’t cope against the domination of SUVs.

Today, Lincoln builds four SUVs of slightly varying enormity, the Aviator, Navigator, Nautilus and Corsair. It still builds a sedan, the elegant Lincoln Zephyr, for the Chinese market.

Lincoln Continental Mark IV Bill Blass Edition

1976 Lincoln Continental Mark IV Bill Blass Edition

(Image credit: press)

Lincoln Continental Mark IV Cartier Edition

1976 Lincoln Continental Mark IV Cartier Edition

(Image credit: press)

The brand was also pioneering in different ways. Way back in 1976, when the idea of ‘designer’ fashion was growing in popularity and before licensing and cross-brand collaborations had really taken hold, Lincoln introduced the ‘Designer Series’. The company invited Bill Blass, Hubert de Givenchy, Emilio Pucci and Cartier’s Ralph Destino to create four unique trim levels for the Mark V Continental.

Described as comprising ‘high-fashion cars … to appeal to the style-conscious buyer’, the Designer Series was a huge hit with Lincoln’s customers, accounting for nearly a quarter of all Mark Vs sold.

Red Lincoln Continental Mark IV Pucci Edition

1976 Lincoln Continental Mark IV Pucci Edition

(Image credit: press)

Lincoln continued these designer partnerships right up into the late 1980s. In keeping with the tradition of annual model revisions, each season afforded the designer quartet opportunities to try new combinations of colour and trim. In 1978, the company boasted that each model included the designer’s signature in the Mark V’s ‘opera window’ (the small opening in the rear of the roof), as well as a ‘22-carat-gold-plated instrument-panel plaque engraved with the owner’s name’.

Inside and out, the designers dipped into the treasure trove of 1970s style. Blass gave the 1978 model a body in ‘Midnight Cordovan’, paired with a ‘Light Champagne Valino grain vinyl roof’. The interior was also finished in Cordovan. Givenchy added stripes to the bodywork, with a leather-and-vinyl interior in ‘Midnight Jade’, while the Cartier model bore the company’s crest and logo, amongst other details.

dashboard clock from the 1977 Cartier Edition

The dashboard clock from the 1977 Cartier Edition

(Image credit: press)

These designer specifications are utterly of their era, reflecting not just trends in clothing and colours, but also illustrating the inflexibility of 1970s and 1980s car design to accommodate anything other than superficial changes.

Along with the rest of the industry, Lincoln has evolved substantially when it comes to incorporating custom specifications. It’s also gearing up for an electrified future, marking 2030 as the date by which its fleet will be either hybrid or pure EV. Perhaps a new generation of designers will come on board to mark that new milestone.

Lincoln Continental MkVI Givenchy Edition

1980 Lincoln Continental MkVI Givenchy Edition

(Image credit: press)

Artwork of Continental Mark VI Pucci Designer Series

Artwork for the 1981 Continental Mark VI Pucci Designer Series

(Image credit: press)

White Lincoln Town Car Cartier Designer Series

1989 Lincoln Town Car Cartier Designer Series

(Image credit: press)

INFORMATION

lincoln.com (opens in new tab)

Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.