Lincolns and Lattes Leaves Us Longing for the Past
For more than two decades all we had were land yachts—beautiful ground-based metalcraft that sailed down interstates with the stately elegance of the SS United States, whisking pipe-smoking men in grey wool suits across town or across the country with equal, effortless alacrity.
Among the greatest names of this era was Lincoln, whose Town Cars and Continentals kept ad men working late and executives hammering after their bonus checks so they could afford to buy one. It was these cars that represented American post-war opulence better than almost anything short of expanding suburbia.
Last weekend, Lincoln celebrated these rulers of the road with a brief, one-time-only revival of the original Cars and Coffee at what used to be Ford’s PAG headquarters in Irvine, California, at an event called Lincolns and Lattes. You had to know someone to get in and it’ll never happen again. The word went out and the faithful made the pilgrimage.
“To me, it’s a rolling piece of sculpture that you can enjoy, touch and play with,” said John Burge, who drove his 1974 Lincoln sedan out from Palm Springs, where he keeps a fleet of 42 cars. “It gives you a whole different sense of reality versus looking at a painting on a wall or going to the Louvre. Yes, I can see a painting, but I can’t touch it. I can’t play with it. I can’t have fun with it. And you know, at the end of the day, I still have something I can sell.”
“It’s a form of expression,” said Bazil LaRouche of his 1967 Continental sedan in Palomar blue. “You certainly know what kind of car it is. It doesn’t blend in with anything else. It’s just a standout car. And it’s got so much character and style. It’s just a wonderful car to drive and to own.”
For Russell Harmon, who drove to Lincolns and Lattes in a 1964 model, the car is part of an era.
“We live everything vintage. We live in a ‘50s ranch home and all of our appliances are pretty much either from the ‘50s or ‘60s. It’s almost, kind of, a lifestyle. You know, it’s almost fulfilling the dream of living in that era. And getting as close to it as we can with all the vintage appliances and stereos and records and everything else we have. The car is just kind of the cherry on top because not only do we get to live in that style home, but then when we go somewhere, we can take the car.”
Lincoln also brought three beautiful and recent concept cars to Lincolns and Lattes. The L100 debuted at Pebble last year as an all-electric autonomous concept meant to show what cars will be like when we no longer drive them, “Our vision for the future,” a voice says on the Lincoln YouTube video, as the clamshell roof and doors open to accept passengers.
It is certainly striking, especially those lit wheels. And then there was the “Anniversary” Lincoln concept designed by students at Art Center in Pasadena that so inspired Ford execs that they decided to build it, with its debut at The Quail in 2021.
If the L100 and Anniversary concepts were coupes—which may not be in the product plan, as far as we can tell—the Star concept, also from last year, is at least in the shape of a big crossover, the body style that makes up all Lincolns sold today. Lincoln says the Star is a precursor to three fully electric production Lincolns promised by 2025.
It adds coach doors in keeping with Lincoln’s tradition of such openings, along with innovative tailgating seats in back and the suggestion of an autonomous driving capability. It debuted in LA last April.
“This is a shining example of what happens when we combine Lincoln luxury with flexible electrical architecture to create unimaginable experiences for customers,” said Ford CEO Jim Farley at that car’s unveiling last year. “We can truly revolutionize how people engage with the brand and scale it across an exciting lineup of products that catapult Lincoln into the digital, connected age.”
At Lincolns and Lattes, all those futuristic concepts and all the beautiful, formidable Lincoln heritage cars of the 1960s and ‘70s surrounded one curt row of Lincoln’s current offerings: all rebranded Ford crossovers or SUVs. The Navigator, Aviator, Nautilus, and Corsair were lined up diagonally in a row that could have been any four utility vehicles anywhere. Why isn’t Lincoln building anything that inspires as much as its heritage or thrills as much as its future concepts?
“As the archivist and historian for Lincoln I get that every day,” said Ted Ryan, Lincoln Heritage brand manager who had spent the morning ogling the beautiful cars at Lincolns and Lattes. “People ask, ‘How come you’re not making sedans?’ Fortunately, or unfortunately, that decision is above my pay grade,” he deferred, before admitting what we all know too well: “SUVs are what the public want and that’s what they’re buying.”
We have met the enemy and it is us.
If you didn’t make it out to Irvine for Lincolns and Lattes, you can ogle 12,000 images recently opened to the public online at Fordheritagevault.com. In the used car market, excellent examples of classic Lincolns go for between $30,000 and $90,000 on BringATrailer.com and other sites. This is where we are in the modern evolution of the automobile: We all say we want gorgeous sedans and coupes, but we all buy SUVs. We are the problem. Have a solution? Let us know in the comments below.