1978 Lincoln Versailles
1978 VERSAILLES IDENTIFICATION
The 11-digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is stamped into a metal tab that is riveted to the instrument panel near where it meets the windshield on the driver's side of the car. It is visible from outside. A typical 1978 Versailles VIN would look like: 8W84F8#####.
Those digits decode as:
VEHICLE CERTIFICATION LABEL
The Vehicle Certification Label is affixed to the left front door lock face panel or door pillar. It identifies the vehicle as manufactured by Ford Motor Company, and provides the month and year of manufacture. The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is provided, as well as front and rear Gross Axle Weight Ratio (GAWR). A statement certifies the vehicle conforms to all standards in effect on the date of manufacture. The VIN appears and the type of vehicle is also included on the same line.
Near the bottom, codes for paint and vinyl roof color and type, district sales office, body code, interior trim code, scheduled build date, axle type, transmission, and an air conditioning code appear. More about these codes follow the example, below. (This label describes the Dark Red Versailles pictured above.)
VEH. IDENT. NO. = Vehicle Identification Number (detailed above)
You Can't Pick Your Family
Above top: 1978 Lincoln Versailles in optional Dual-Shade Silver Metallic.
After a promising late model year introduction in 1977, Lincoln and its dealers were excited at the prospects of seeing how many customers would choose a Versailles in its first full season. The 1978 Versailles was little changed from its debut year, with changes limited to colors and some mechanical improvements. It didn't take long for that excitement to turn to panic, however, as dealers began to report large inventory stock of the Versailles. Customers just weren't buying the Versailles in 1978.
Lincoln's marketing people immediately went to work, and it was determined that Lincoln's customers were objecting to the Versailles' close resemblance to the Mercury Monarch, a model which cost well under half that of the Versailles. Immediately, Lincoln dealers began to do what they could locally to reduce the comparisons. Emphasis was placed on making sure the Versailles was parked among other Lincoln models, and not adjoining the Mercury models. Particularly on showroom floors, there needed to be distance between the Monarch and Versailles, even to the point of not featuring both of them at the same time.
Sales of the Versailles crashed from 15,434 to 8,931—just 57.9 percent of the previous year. Lincoln knew that something would need to be done—and quickly. Because the Versailles represented Lincoln's first foray into the smaller luxury car market, and because all Lincoln models were being redesigned on a more compact wheelbase for 1980, it was imperative that the Versailles wasn't viewed as a failure. To make matters worse, Cadillac dealers were experiencing strong sales of the Seville, racking up 56,985 in 1978, in what was the first generation Seville's best sales year. It would seem that some of those sales may have come at the Versailles' expense.
Senior Ford executives took notice of the Versailles poor sales, and put pressure on Lincoln to do something about it. But Lincoln's stylists had their hands full at this point, with little time budgeted for anything more than a very modest Versailles update for 1979. In fact, the emphasis was on finishing up the 1979 cars, which also had a weight reduction mandate, as well as focusing on the extremely important 1980 redesign. Not content with leaving it all up to Lincoln, Ford's senior executives closely monitored the styling studio and late in 1978 decided they needed to head in a different direction.
Enter American Sunroof Corporation (ASC), which had been working directly with auto manufacturers in recent years to design and produce special editions in addition to installing sunroofs and T-Tops. After explaining the situation to Heinz Prechter, founder of ASC, and advising him of the very short time table, ASC immediately brought in a group of people to provide feedback on the Versailles. ASC determined that the front of the car was not an issue, as its strong Lincoln resemblance with the Mark V grille was very distinctive, and people knew at once what it was.
The rear of the car was not an issue, either. The deck lid kick-up immediately identified the car as a Lincoln, and the unique Frenched rear window treatment also made it stand out. The issue was with the profile appearance of the car. With badges and Lincoln-specific trim removed, the test group couldn't easily identify the car as a Lincoln, and frequently mis-identified it as a Monarch or Granada. Bingo! ASC now knew exactly what area it needed to target.
Because there wasn't any funding or time for unique new body panels, ASC would have to work with the current parts, and modify them or add on to obscure the current look, and reduce the family resemblance to the Monarch and Granada. ASC's styling revisions did the job, and sales improved dramatically for 1979.
Lincoln's attention to weight reduction included the use of plastics, thin glass, and high-strength low-alloy steel and aluminum. The use of these materials was researched and implemented wherever possible, although the Versailles benefitted the least from these efforts, which made sense since it was of a later design than the other Lincoln models. Even at that, the 1978 Versailles weighed less than the 1977 models.
Top left: Electronic Engine Control System computer module.
Engine performance in the 1978 Versailles was provided by the 302 CID 2V V-8. The standard 351 formerly provided was dropped. A new Electronic Engine Control System maximized performance and economy by monitoring engine temperature, air temperature, barometric pressure, and throttle plate position. Seven sensors fed information to the computer module constantly, adjusting spark timing and exhaust gas recirculation automatically. The air/fuel mixture was precisely controlled by a new Variable Venturi carburetor.
The 1978 Versailles was the second-lowest production year of the four year model run. A considerable restyling for 1979 would alter the look of the car, giving it a somewhat heavier appearance. The 1977-1978 models have a sportier, less formal appearance which some prefer over the models that followed.