Lincoln’s Mark III was born of necessity to do battle in the lucrative personal luxury market against the Buick Riviera, Oldsmobile Toronado, Cadillac Eldorado and even Ford’s own Thunderbird.
Reviewers of the day, however, weren’t impressed:
“What FoMoCo did was take an already overdone car–the Thunderbird–and overdo it some more,” wrote Bill Kirkpatrick in the March 1968 issue of Popular Mechanics. “The Mark III boils down to a fatter, heavier and more plush T-bird.”
It’s true that the Mark III and the Thunderbird were brothers beneath the skin, and the Mark III rode on the four-door Thunderbird’s underpinnings. But to today’s eye, the Mark III looks more like a modern classic, thanks to its upright Rolls-Royce inspired grille and the spare tire hump in the trunklid that harks back to Continentals of yore.
Inside, the Mark III gets the edge over the Thunderbird too, with its square-ish gauge pods, wood veneer trim and, of course, its signature Cartier clock.
The pods are spread out across the dash in a backdrop of oak, rosewood or walnut (by 1970), and the instruments are tilted 13 degrees from vertical to make them easier to read. By late in the 1968 production run, red needles were used on the fuel, oil pressure, coolant and alternator gauges, as well as on the face of the Cartier clock. The fashionable timepiece, mounted prominently to the right of the speedometer in the center of the cluster, was hailed by Lincoln as the “first 5-jewel electronic chronometer in an American motorcar.”
“Transistors actuate the gear movement by continuous pulsations to achieve twice the accuracy of ordinary car clocks,” Lincoln’s copywriters expounded. “The Cartier chronometer is virtually silent because there is no rewind spring to ‘click’ every minute or so.”
Honestly, we’re not sure what that all means, but we do like the Roman numerals on the face, as well as the touches of gold and brushed metal. The Mark III’s Cartier clock, as well as the wood paneling that surrounds it, looks every bit as fashionable today as it did in 1970.
Even a less-than-thrilled Popular Mechanics, circa 1968, offered a back-handed compliment about the Mark III’s insides:
“Interior styling features a theme perhaps best described as being a cross between a jet cockpit, a stately home of England and Las Vegas moderne. There’s something for everybody, particularly the button-happy. Power this and power that abound throughout.”
While the critics crowed, the buying public gave the Mark III a thumbs up. A total of 79,831 were built, so there’s an ample supply available today, usually at reasonable prices.
Not many of the Cartier clocks are still ticking from the factory, but replacements, repair parts and upgraded quartz innards are available.
This article originally appeared in the November, 2013 issue of Hemmings Motor News.