Worst Car Wednesday: 1977 Lincoln Versailles
The only people that bought the 1977 Lincoln Versailles had never seen a Ford Granada. That’s because the Versailles was a thinly disguised Granada. Ford didn’t even try to hide the fact. How it ever could have expected to sell any of these pigs is the triumph of greed over value, design, perspective, and rational thought. That makes it perfect for Worst Car Wednesday.
Versailles was Ford’s first salvo into “compact luxury” after the gas crisis
Lincoln Versailles was Ford’s first salvo into “compact luxury” after the gas crisis changed everything. Now small was perceived as good and also being a good steward. So it was a mix of overstuffed, brocade, whorehouse interiors combined with thick padded tops and two-tone paint. Oh, and sometimes fake wire wheels. All in a downsized, compact package.
Ford couldn’t pivot as quickly as GM once Cadillac led the way with its more honest Seville. It was a crap-trap too, but GM at least tried with a handsome exterior. It was based on the Chevy Nova. Ford took the hint and fixed up a Granada it already had that looked like it was run through PepBoys with a magnet. It christened the thing Versailles. But when Ford was through there was no mistaking it was still a Granada.
You only needed so-so vision to tell that the Versailles was a Granada
You only needed so-so vision to tell that the Versailles was a Granada with a Lincoln trunk, front end, and opera lights. But the real kicker was that while a Granada had a list price of $4,305, the Lincoln Versailles had a base sticker of a whopping $11,500. Almost three times the cost of almost the exact same thing. To put it bluntly; Ford had massive balls to ask that kind of money for what the Versailles actually was.
The boxy, bland Versailles justified the price jab mainly with a more luxurious interior. At least that’s what Ford thought. Owners could tell themselves that, too. But the reality was that nothing in, on, or around the Versailles warranted that much of a price gouge. Nobody was fooled, least of all Lincoln customers.
Ford expected much better than the 15,000 Versailles it sold that first year
While the Versailles foundered, the big tugboat Lincolns sold well. Ford expected much better than the 15,000 it sold that first year. It quickly got into gear and tried an honest attempt to downsize the entire Lincoln line but that took time. All the while the Granada/Versailles had to be Lincoln’s Seville with much less success. By 1980 the big stinkin’ Lincoln was gone, replaced with silly-looking monstrosities with tiny wheelbases and huge overhangs. What a mess.
Designer Edition Lincolns, fake fog lights bonked onto hidden headlight doors, and big, chrome Mercedes-Benz-like grilles took over the Lincoln showroom displays. Soon there would be attempts at diesel engines courtesy of BMW, and velour button-tufted interiors with half-vinyl tops. One step forward and three back.
Other changes to separate the Versailles a bit more from the Granada helped
Desperate, Ford revised the Versailles for 1979. Now it got a more distinct look by adding a fiberglass box to the back of the top that was covered with a “Landau top” of vinyl. Other changes to separate it a bit more from the Granada helped sales, but make no mistake, the Versailles was not a success.
The Versailles lasted through the 1980 model year when it quietly disappeared. In the end, Ford was lucky to have sold 50,000 Versailles during its four years trying to fool buyers. As with the Edsel name, there has never been nor will there ever be a Versailles Lincoln again. Too much baggage and not enough effort on Ford’s part tarnished the name forever.