We got this from an anonymous source, stuck to the Jalopnik HQ trailer door with a wad of nicotine gum. It's supposedly a picture of the upcoming Lincoln MKZ Mark II, and it's clearly supposed to be a ridiculous amalgam of old Lincoln design cues. The trouble is, I'm not so sure it's such a terrible idea.
I mean, sure, it's absurd — the chrome dog-dish hubcaps on the whitewalls, the vinyl top, the crazy tacked-on, skirted fender — but you know what it's not? Boring. Can you say the same thing about the current MKZ?
Lincoln is currently in the midst of a pretty severe identity crisis. They have a pretty rich history they're too afraid to really do anything with, and as a result they're building cars, like many other premium manufacturers, that ape the sorts of European performance/luxury cars that have come to define the segment. And those cars aren't selling all that well because, frankly, they're boring.
The MKZ isn't a terrible car, but what would be the motivation to actually get one over a BMW or Audi or Mercedes, really? I don't think Lincoln should be so slavishly chasing that market, anyway, and I think this joke actually contains some hints of a much better idea.
Think about it: let's say you're teleported to any major city at night. You find yourself dressed up, a fat wad of cash in one pocket and a flask of some magic non-driving impairing booze in the other. I'm already teleporting you somewhere, so let's just go with that, ok?
Nearby are some sexy people of your preferred gender ready to go out with you, and all you have to do is pick a car. A brand-new MKZ is there, next to this joke Lincoln. Which do you choose?
For me, the overdone, crazy one. Because at that moment I'm not really looking for a performance machine, I'm looking for something with some presence, some sense of occasion, and something fun, comfortable, and memorable.
Lincoln has toyed with shamelessly revisiting their heritage in the past, like they did for their 2003 concept, the Navicross. Sure, it was on an explorer chassis and felt a bit like a factory-produced Donk, but that body design was a lovely update of their handsome, '60s-era square rigged, suicide door sedans, and, given a more rational ride height, I think could have been a really standout car, in a way similar to how Chrysler's 300 was.
Lincoln should be looking at this joke and laughing, sure, but only to loosen them up to the idea that there's a good bit in there worth learning from. I think Lincoln is still extremely nervous about being too associated with the big, ridiculous old-people barges their cars became in the later 70s and 80s. But that doesn't mean all their identity has to be thrown away.
Lincoln once had a very distinctive, stylish, refined character, and it was very American. They need to find their way back to what made them great back when they still had confidence, and stop trying to be another Audi or BMW.
Maybe that will mean taking some bold new looks at distinctively American luxury car traits like bench seats, skirted wheels, and vinyl roofs. I know it'll be scary, because you could get teased, but I think the risk could be worth it. I'm pretty sure it could be done, because I've seen some young designers take a pretty good stab at it.
Yes, that fake rendering is pretty funny. But it's also a little sad.