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Video | Can You Still Buy a Good Car for $200? Lincoln Mark VII Edition

For those with short attention spans, I’ll answer the question in the title immediately. The answer is NO, absolutely not! It would take a miracle to find a good running car for $200 and the 1988 Lincoln Mark VII LSC I purchased for this insanely low amount was very near the end of its life. So near, in fact, that I was the last person to ever drive it before it was scrapped. So this car review is read more like a eulogy for a dearly departed hooptie.

From the start, the Mark VII was misunderstood. It was Lincoln‘s first response to the invasion of European luxury cars that were stealing away American buyers in droves. Priced at half the cost of its European competition, Lincoln was able to utilize the venerable Fox platform to build something worth considering. It was the first American car to come standard with ABS as well as the first to finally ditch sealed beam headlights after the ancient U.S. government regulation was lifted. It also has four wheel active air suspension, a dashboard mounted trip computer and automatic climate control. Most importantly, though, most Mark VII models came with a large V8 and sent its power to the rear wheels, just as Henry Ford would have wanted.

Being a 1988 model, the Mark VII that I purchased is extra-special, as it came equipped with the same 5.0-liter V8 found in the Mustang GT. Perhaps using the word "special" is a stretch, since it was only 210 horsepower and propelled this giant lump to 60 in an embarrassing nine seconds. That was normal for the era, though, and not the reason why this car wasn’t as well-received as it should have been.

Most thought the styling of the Mark VII was too awkward and I have to agree. The lower window line and thicker middle section doesn’t line up to the rest of the sleek body, which fails at being modern and classic at the same time. The previous Mark series of Lincoln were ridiculously giant land yachts but much more proportional and design elements like the throwback continental wheel-shaped trunk bump made sense. With the Mark VII, the bulge was purely a design element, as the modular spare tire was fitted into the driver’s side rear quarter panel, and it looks goofy.

So it’s obvious why nobody shopping for a Mercedes 560SEC or BMW 635 would have considered this Lincoln as a viable alternative to those understated, classy European options and, perhaps due to sluggish sales, Lincoln never bothered to update the Mark VII until it was replaced in 1993 by the Mark VIII. Since it was a sales loser and Lincoln was seeing great success with their more traditional Town Car and Continental sedan models, the Mark VII might be the reason why Lincoln was reluctant to modernize its offerings to keep pace with European competition. As their customer base began to literally die off and young people were looking for the technology Lincoln engineers had never thought about, it took a long time the brand to find their footing again. This has only happened recently thanks to Matthew McConaughey — and a wide range of SUVs.

While this Mark VII may have done more harm than good for Lincoln, it’s still a car worth remembering and this horrible $200 example I purchased seemed to have served its prior owner well enough. With nearly 260,000 miles, forget continents with this Continental. It has driven well past the distance to the moon — and the engine is still running great. I also found it remarkable that all the electrical accessories still work and, despite the tattered condition of the interior, it still drives down the road smoothly and quietly.

Despite having a destroyed interior that smells like the smoking section of an IHOP circa 1995, this car might be worth saving if it weren’t for the terminal rust. Every panel is affected at this point, some of which have gaping holes, and, despite a few attempts to stop the rot with bondo and fiberglass over the years, this Lincoln is the perfect example of the old adage "rust never sleeps." This amount of rust is to be expected with any Midwest car that’s been driven daily and according to the Carfax, this Mark VII hasn’t lived the most blessed life. It’s managed to survive three accidents during its 31 years on this earth but still kept going.

I suspect the previous owner, who owned this car since 1995, according to the Carfax, would have kept on driving it until rust split the body in two — or if it weren’t for the failing transmission. Sadly, shifting gears results in a vast nothingness inside the transmission, allowing the engine to rev freely as if it were in neutral. Despite this terminal affliction, though, this Lincoln still refuses to die, as it drives well enough in first gear.

So after three decades on this earth and a trip to the moon, this mortally wounded Lincoln was still able to drive its faithful owner to a nearby Ford dealer to get traded in. I bought it with no intention of saving it, as the honor of driving this Lincoln to its final resting place was worth the small loss of selling it for scrap value. I’m sure this Lincoln’s parts, like the great running V8, will live on in other Fox bodies with less rust. Despite its misunderstood birth, this Mark VII lived a noble life befitting the name of a great American president. Now it can finally rest in pieces. Find a Lincoln Mark VII for sale

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