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Lincoln Versailles

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Image: 1978 Lincoln Versailles mechanical details

If you liked the 1977 Versailles, you probably liked the 1978 Versailles as well. Since it was a late introduction in its maiden year, there weren't many changes for 1978. And that was unfortunate, perhaps, as sales and production plummeted during the first full season, even from the shorter than normal 1977 season levels.

What happened to cause this? It seems that everyone who really loved the Versailles bought one when they were first introduced, and that meant there wasn't much of a demand during its second year. Despite being a great car, this was a case of beauty being only skin deep, and in the case of the Versailles, even using that theory to rationalize the slow sales doesn't make sense, because the Versailles was a great looking car. The problem was in its heritage, having evolved from the lowly Ford Granada and Mercury Monarch platform.

Lincoln knew pretty quickly that changes were necessary, and they were on the way for 1979. So...what does that leave us for 1978? Well, not much unless you consider a beautifully styled car with a smooth ride, an incredibly quiet interior, state of the art electronics and testing procedures, every creature comfort you could think of at the time as standard, quality control second to none, fit and finish bordering on perfection, and performance that is capable of meeting any situation presented to it. All in all, a pretty good consideration for buyers of compact luxury cars in 1978.

Actually, we've got to wonder what the heck was wrong with people in 1978 that they would go out and spend more money for a Mercedes, BMW, or Jaguar when they could have purchased a Versailles instead. Mercedes styling at the time was nothing to get excited about, and its interiors were rather plain. The ride was a bit...well, we'll say harsh at times. BMW...styling left a lot to be desired, as did its repair history. Jaguar...well, it had great styling but you never knew for sure if it was going to get you where you were going.

While the exterior appearance may have been mostly unchanged, there were a few changes between 1977 and 1978. One of the more important changes was the addition of the 302 CID 2V V-8 engine to the standard equipment listings. It had been the California engine the previous year, but was now the only power plant offered. A new Electronic Engine Control System increased efficiency, and a new Variable Venturi carburetor improved fuel economy by maximizing the fuel to air ratio.

New options for 1978 included a 40-Channel Citizens Band Radio with a hidden chassis, removable microphone, and multi-band power antenna. An Illuminated Outside Thermometer was also introduced, along with a Wire Wheel Cover option, which was offered at no additional charge, so customers could decide between the new Wire Wheel Covers or the Forged Aluminum Wheels.

A new Dark Red Metallic Clearcoat paint finish was offered, along with a matching vinyl roof and interiors in cloth or leather. All of the base interior colors (except for Dove Grey) were available paired with White Leather to create stunning two tone color-coordinated interiors. The instrument panel, steering wheel and column, console, seat belts, and carpeting would all contrast with the White seating, trim panels, headliner, and roof moldings.

The base price increased by $1,029, which was $1,738 less than the Cadillac Seville. The Lincoln Versailles was a better value overall, as it had a lower base price and a higher level of standard equipment than the Seville. Things like a passenger side illuminated visor vanity mirror were optional on the Seville, while Versailles provided dual lighted mirrors standard. On Versailles, customers could choose between Wire Wheel Covers or Forged Aluminum Wheels at no charge, while Seville charged extra for anything other than the standard wheel discs. The Seville included a 350 V-8 engine, which was larger in displacement and horsepower than the 302 V-8 in the Versailles for 1978, but some have said there wasn't really that much difference in performance between the two. And besides, how much performance is worth the extra $1,738 when either car will arrive within seconds of the other.

Chances are, you could have made a pretty good deal on a 1978 Versailles, since most Lincoln dealers had a better selection of them in stock at the time than they would have liked. And while some may have felt the difference between a top of the line Monarch model and the Versailles wasn't worth the additional cost, we disagree. The Versailles had a much nicer exterior appearance, with unique Lincoln styling touches that were hard to mistake for anything else. Inside, the most luxurious fabrics found in any automobile at any price, and an almost uncanny sense of silence while underway. You knew there was a world outside, but you really couldn't hear it. For the base price, you got almost every luxury convenience and power assist available at the time. You just had to pick your colors, and you were set.

The 1978 Lincoln Versailles offered all the luxury anyone could want, in a compact size that was easy to handle, and easy to park. It isolated the passenger compartment from the world outside, and had one of the smoothest, quietest rides of any car ever built. We think it was a beautiful car that stood out from the rest of the bunch at the time. And had we owned a new one in 1978, we would have been as proud of it as any Seville or luxury import driver. We think the Versailles was a pretty special motorcar. And it still is today.


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