A look back at Lincoln and a rare Continental Mark VII ‘BMW’ Diesel
Q: Hello Greg, and I would like to know if there was ever a Lincoln Continental that featured a BMW Diesel engine? Also, can you give us readers some Lincoln history? Thanks very much, Bob L., Sunbury, Pa.
A: Bob, there was indeed a Lincoln Continental built in 1984 and 1985 that offered a BMW built 2.4-liter, turbocharged 149 cubic-inch inline-6 diesel engine as an option. It produced 115-horsepower and was available only those two years in both 2-door Mark VII and 4-door sedan models.
Less than 2,000 of these “BMW Lincoln” Continentals were built, as sales were not good. I remember I received a letter from the owner of one of these BMW Diesel Lincoln’s back in 2007 and nearly threw it in the circular file, as I didn’t remember any such diesel Lincoln. However, I contacted a Lincoln expert in Philadelphia by the name of Jack Cohen, the then the Chairman of the Board of the Lincoln Mark VII Club, and was glad I didn’t throw the letter out. Cohen quickly recalled this Turbo Diesel and that very few Mark VIIs were sold through 1985. He also noted that the BMW turbo diesel Continentals were about 400 to 500 pounds heavier than the 302-V8 counterparts. Cohen recalled only seeing about “three or four” Lincoln diesels at car shows and was doubtful many survived. All came with four speed automatic transmissions.
As for my memories of Lincoln and Cadillac, surprisingly the same person, Henry Leland, initially designed both Lincoln and Cadillac cars.
Leland brought Cadillac to market back in 1902 and then sold the marquee to William Durant’s growing General Motors Company in 1909. Leland then put all his efforts toward the World War I campaign building Liberty Aircraft Engines at his now Lincoln Motor Company, established in 1917.
After his successful war effort, Leland and his son Wilfred returned to the auto manufacturing business at the Lincoln Motor Company. Things went well initially, but the Leland’s ran into financial problems and in 1922 sold the Lincoln brand to Henry Ford. Still aimed at the upper-class consumer, the first Lincoln that Leland designed in 1920 survived until its next generation upgrade, which took place in 1931. Historically, Lincoln always competed with Cadillac in the luxury class, with Cadillac usually selling more cars.
Reasons I feel Lincolns didn’t sell as well as Cadillac’s were what I call a “similarity problem” with Mercury later in its timeline. Although the 1952 and 1953 Lincolns were the first models to replace the Ford Flathead V8 with a new overhead valve Y-block V8, and two full years ahead of the Ford models Y-block intro, they looked very similar to the Mercury offerings those same years. Other than the new engine upgrade, Lincoln’s were just too similar in all other manners to Mercury and sales were far behind Cadillac, which always looked independent to its Olds – Pontiac – Chevrolet – Buick General Motors siblings.
However, Lincoln finally figured out its “likeness problem” and developed totally different designs beginning in 1955 to compete better with Cadillac as a true, exclusive, luxury vehicle. When I look back at Lincoln during my lifetime, I will give credit for outstanding models like the 1956 Continental Mark II, although at that time Continental was a separate Ford standalone company and not yet an official Lincoln brand. Continental then became an official Lincoln marquee in the 1958-1959 years and other notable designs include the suicide door Continentals that appeared in 1961 and those massive 1958 to 1960 Lincolns. None of these cars looked like Mercury’s, that’s for sure.
Although Cadillac was still ahead of Lincoln in the overall sales wars, Lincoln didn’t always take a back seat. The 1980 to 2011 Town Car many times outsold the largest of Cadillac’s and is considered perhaps the biggest success overall in full-size sales comparisons. As a matter of fact, in 1992 the Town Car accounted for over 70% of Lincoln sales, while the mid-size front-drive Continental sales suffered.
I always liked the 1969 Mark III to 1978 Mark V two-door Lincolns that went head-to-head with the Cadillac Eldorado. These short deck and long hood Lincolns were very popular.
Fast-forward to 2023 and Lincoln is one of two Ford brands left, as Mercury ceased production in 2011. I like the current Lincoln offerings, especially its SUV styling. Cars available are the Zephyr, MKZ and Continental.
Thanks for your letter, Bob.
The hot L79 1966 and 1967 Chevy II 327
Q: Greg, I’ve always been a fan of the 1966 and 1967 Chevy IIs with the 350 horse 327 engines. They were called the L79 option. Also, can you tell me how many 1966 Chevy IIs were built with the 327-inch, 350-horse? Dave H., Endicott, N.Y.
A: Dave, I’m happy to assist. I remember well those L79 powered 1966 and 1967 Chevy IIs. Back then, the L79 featured what we called Chevy’s “hot hydraulic” camshafts as some powerful muscle cars back then came with solid lifter cams and a 600 cfm Holley carb. Hydraulic cams meant you didn’t have to adjust the valves regularly via a feeler gauge between each of the 16 intake/exhaust rocker arms and the valve tip. (I performed this weekly on my 396/375 L78 engine Camaro.)
This 327-inch, 350-horse L79 was very popular with the high-performance crowd when it arrived in 1965. The L79 was available in the Chevy II, Chevelle, El Camino and Corvette models. Further, you could also order a solid lifter L76 360-horse engine in the Corvette and Chevelle or the solid lifter L84 375-horse 327, which was a fuel injected version.
The 327 L79 350 was pretty much a Corvette design motor, featuring an 11 to 1 compression ratio that could move the lightweight Chevy II (less than 3,000 lbs.) to quick quarter mile times with just a bit of work. If you added headers, a 4.56 gear, Mallory ignition, slicks, larger Holley carb, and a good tune, you could easily run in the 12’s at your local drag strip quarter mile.
This combination made for one the most unheralded muscle cars ever built as any of these L79 style 327s could get the job done.
As for the number built in 1966, I found 5,481 utilized the L79 327.
Thanks for the question, Dave.
(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist who welcomes reader interaction on auto nostalgia, collector cars and motorsports at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, Pa. 18840.)