Ford’s Mid Size Luxury Car / 1979 Lincoln Versailles

The Lincoln Versailles was advertised as the automobile with elegance, great engineering and comfort. Two of it's engineering achievements included a computer run Electronic Engine Control System as well as a Variable Venturi carburetor.

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The 1979 Lincoln Versailles featured in this article is a big car but it was offered as Lincoln's  mid sized entry. The Versailles was categorized as a compact luxury car. Ford Motor Company engineers built a compact car with all the bells and whistles you'd find in the luxurious Continental. The Versailles was only available as a four door sedan and the 1977 Versaiiles was Lincoln's first mid size model. The Versailles came out with several firsts for American auto manufacturers including Halogen headlights and a clear coat finish.

The Versaille Sedan

The Versaille Sedan

The Lincoln Versailles Design

The Lincoln Versailles was in many ways a product of it's times. The fuel shortage crises of the early 1970's left Lincoln without a mid size vehicle to sell. Car buyers suddenly became quite fuel efficiency conscious. Two of it's competitors, Cadillac and Mercedes-Benz did have a mid size offering and the Versailles was designed and built to fill that gap.

This was the era in the 1970's when Ford Motor Company's president was Lee Iacocca who rose through the ranks of Ford to become their president in 1970. Iacocca's involvement with the design of the Ford Mustang was among his significant achievements while at Ford.

Lincoln Versailles trunk design

Lincoln Versailles trunk design

Ford Motor Company not having a great deal of money in the mid 1970's to design a new car from scratch took some body designs of the Lincoln Continental and the Mercury Monarch to come up with the first Versailles in 1978. The car's overall platform was inspired by the the Mercury Monarch and Ford Granada which was preceded by the Ford Falcon. So many of Ford's 1960's and 1970's designs and concepts began with the Falcon.

One very apparent part taken from the Continental was the grille. The tire bulge in the rear trunk area was an idea taken from the Continental Mark.

Lincoln Versailles front end light arrangement

Lincoln Versailles front end light arrangement

Power everything including seats, windows, steering and brakes were all standard equipment with the Lincoln Versailles as well as an automatic transmission. Entry lighting, remote mirrors, lighted visors and intermittent windshield wipers and more were also standard. So many of these features came as standard equipment that there really were not too many add-on options for the buyer to consider.

The Versailles interior included twin lounge or bucket seats in the front and a bench seat in the rear. Head room was a good 38 inches.

Lincoln Versailles tail light

Lincoln Versailles tail light

The Lincoln Versailles had only a 3 1/2 year production run and only some 51,000 were built. Out of this total around 21,000 1979 models were sold. The Versailles model proved not up to competing against it's primary American competitor the Cadillac Seville. The Versailles was discontinued after 1980.

1979 Lincoln Versailles Specifications

Engines on the 1979 Lincoln Versailles were 301 cubic inch V-8's providing 130 horsepower.

Transmission was an automatic three speed and brakes were power disc front and rear.

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The 1979 Versailles wheelbase was 109.0 inches. Compare this to the Lincoln Mark V with a wheelbase of 120.3 inches. Overall length was 201.0 inches and the car's width came in at 74.5 inches.

Curb weight on the Versailles was about 3,850 lbs compared to the Mark V weighing in at about 4,800 lbs.

New car base price for the 1979 Lincoln Versailles averaged around $12,500.

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The 1979 Lincoln Versailles Collector Car

The 1979 Versailles has not been considered a sought after collector car. By the same token, such a limited number were built over 3 1/2 years that you'll not find them too common. The Versailles, as mentioned above, came with a lot of bells and whistles. A fully restored original would have plenty of gadgets and electronics. Probably the biggest challenge for a Lincoln Versailles restorer would be to make sure all of the car's electronics are in working order.

1979 Lincoln Versailles grille and dual headlights

1979 Lincoln Versailles grille and dual headlights

As a side note, classic car restorers find the rear end assembly from the Lincoln Versailles is near a perfect match for the Ford Mustang. The 1965 and 1966 Mustang rear is just about the same size, perhaps only a quarter inch shorter. Some however say that the width of the Versailles is a bit more than the 65/66 Ford Mustang and may require custom wheels. As such, many old Versailles have been taken apart by Mustang enthusiasts.

In a way the Lincoln Versailles is a classic car nevertheless and came about in a large part because of the oil embargo of the early 70's. The model gave Lincoln a chance to compete against Cadillac's mid size Seville. Moving forward the automobile may attract more collectors.

As of this writing, asking prices for 1979 Lincoln Versailles automobiles depend entirely on the car's condition. A Versailles in like new condition may have a price tag in the mid to high teens. Non restored Versailles will be under $10,000 and more likely around $5,000. Some non restored yet in very good condition Versailles have been offered in the $5,000 price range.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 AutoMuseumOnline)

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