Automotive Mileposts  

1979 Lincoln Versailles
Production Numbers/Specifications

October 6, 1978
84 54M Versailles 4-Door Sedan $12,939
Weight: 3848 Built: 21,007
F - 302 (5.0 liters) 302 CID 2V V8
Bore and Stroke: 4.00 x 3.00
Compression Ratio: 8.4:1
Brake Horsepower: 130 @ 3600 rpm
Torque: 237 lb.-ft. @ 1600 rpm
Carburetor: Motorcraft 2150 variable venturi 2-barrel
Electronic Engine Control System
U SelectShift 3-Speed Automatic

2.50:1 (Traction-Lok)
FR78 x 14 SBR WSW
Original brand: Michelin X
Power assisted front and rear disc brakes
Front: 11.03"; Rear: 10.66"
Brake Swept Area: 433.7 sq. in.
109.9 inches
Front Tread: 59.0
Rear Tread: 57.7
Length: 201.0
Width: 74.5
Height: 54.1
Trunk: 14.6 Cu. Ft.
Front Measurements
Head Room: 38.0
Shoulder Room: 55.6
Hip Room: 53.4
Leg Room: 40.6
Rear Measurements
Head Room: 37.3
Shoulder Room: 55.6
Hip Room: 51.2
Leg Room: 35.6
Overall Steering Ratio: 21.3:1 Fuel Tank: 19.2 gallons
Cooling System: 13.9 quarts
1979 would be the best sales and production year for the Lincoln Versailles.

New styling helped to conceal its modest beginnings, and Lincoln's customers were showing their approval by purchasing the Versailles in record numbers.
New on the 1979 Versailles:

-Standard electronically-tuned, AM/FM stereo radio with Quad-8 tape player
- Choice of two half-vinyl roof treatments at no charge
- Premium Bodyside Molding became optional
- AM/FM stereo radio with cassette tape player option (credit issued)
- First car with standard halogen headlamps as standard equipment
- Electronic voltage regulator
- Standard rear seat reading lamps
- Ignition lock modified for improved theft resistance
- New integrated Coach Lamps with brushed stainless steel wrapover molding


The 11-digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is stamped into a metal tab that is riveted to the instrument panel near where it meets the windshield on the driver's side of the car. It is visible from outside. A typical 1979 Versailles VIN would look like: 9W84F6#####.

Those digits decode as:
Digit #1 = Year (9 - 1979)
Digit #2 = Assembly Plant (W - Wayne, Michigan)
Digits #3-4 = Body Code (84 - 4-Door Sedan; Versailles)
Digit #5 = Engine (F - 302 CID 2V V-8)
Digits #6-11 = Unit Production Number (starts at 600001)

Image: 1979 Lincoln Versailles


The Vehicle Certification Label was revised for 1979, and is affixed to the left front door lock face panel or door pillar. It identifies the vehicle as manufactured by Ford Motor Company, and provides the month and year of manufacture. The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is provided in both pounds and kilograms, as well as front and rear Gross Axle Weight Ratio (GAWR). A statement certifies the vehicle conforms to all standards in effect on the date of manufacture. The VIN appears and the type of vehicle appears on the line below.

Near the bottom, codes for lower paint color, upper paint or vinyl roof color and type, and district sales office appear above a series of numbers identifying the body code, vinyl roof code, exterior moulding code, interior trim code, air conditioning code, radio equipment code, sunroof code, rear axle code, and transmission code. More about these codes follow the example below. (This label describes the Diamond Blue Versailles pictured above.)

Image: Ford Vehicle Certification Label

VEH. IDENT. NO. = Vehicle Identification Number (detailed above)
TYPE = Passenger (Rated for passenger use)
EXTERIOR PAINT COLORS = (38 - Diamond Blue Metallic paint; TB - Diamond Blue Valino Grain Half-Vinyl Roof)
DSO = District Sales Office (84 - Home Office Reserve)
BODY = Body Code (54M - 4-Door Sedan; Versailles)
VR = Vinyl Roof Code (TB - Diamond Blue Valino Grain Half-Vinyl Roof)
MLDG = Exterior Molding Code (Blank if not equipped)
INT. TRIM = Interior Trim Code (UB - Wedgewood Blue Leather Bucket Seats)
A/C = Air Conditioning Type Code (A - Automatic Climate Control)
R = Radio Equipment Code (6 - Electronic AM/FM Stereo Radio with Quadrasonic Tape Player)
S = Sunroof Code (Blank if no Sunroof or Moonroof)
AXLE = Rear Axle Code (J - 2.50:1 ratio; locking type)
TR = Transmission Code (U - XPL Automatic; C6—followed by additional identifying code of two letters and two numbers)

1979 Lincoln Versailles:
Record Sales and Production

Image: 1979 Lincoln Versailles

Above: 1979 Lincoln Versailles in Cordovan Metallic (paint code 5R) with Silver Accent Stripe (code 6), and a Dark Cordovan Cavalry Twill Half-Vinyl Roof (roof code JF). Options shown include Wire Wheel Covers, which were a no charge option. (Click image above to view larger version in new window or tab.)

After a promising late model year start for its first year, the Lincoln Versailles experienced a sharp sales and production decline for 1978. The reason for this decline was quickly identified as exterior styling that was too much like other, less expensive Ford Motor Company models. Actions were taken to quickly update the styling to eliminate as many objections as possible, and to minimize any appearance similarities between other models. The result was a new formal town car roof line that dramatically changed the overall appearance of the car. And the changes made were effective.

Sales of the 1979 Lincoln Versailles skyrocketed 235 percent, totaling 21,007 at the end of the model year. This would be the Versailles' best year for sales during the model run. Versailles' top competitor, the Cadillac Seville, had experienced its sales peak in 1978, but was still selling in much greater numbers than the Versailles. In 1979, Lincoln was marketing its final full-sized luxury cars, and this may have taken some sales from the Versailles as people early in the model year replaced their cars so they could have one of the last "big ones." In fact, Lincoln's big cars were so popular at this point that strong sales resulted in pulling down Ford's corporate average fuel economy dangerously close to the 19 mpg minimum required for the 1979 models!

Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, was a federal program designed to increase fuel economy by penalizing auto makers for building gas guzzlers. So, every car made by a manufacturer was averaged out to come up with a corporate average fuel economy number. That magic number for 1979 was 19 miles per gallon. Sales of cars with higher fuel economy numbers helped to pull the average fuel economy number higher, which was a good thing. Sales of the larger cars, such as the traditional Lincolns, however, tended to pull the number lower.

The penalty for failing to meet the average mileage requirements was severe—for every one tenth of a mile per gallon below the requirement, five dollars per each car produced was levied. By December 1978, Ford was so close to going under its 19 mpg average that it was forced to raise prices for the Lincoln line to encourage people to consider smaller, less expensive cars. The sales performance of the Versailles in 1979 in light of this fact is even more spectacular.

The Iranian revolution caused a sudden fuel crisis in February 1979, which sent gas prices escalating to new heights. In a way, this crisis actually helped Ford avoid penalties for failing to meet its CAFE requirements, as new car buyers began seeking out more fuel efficient cars. During the late spring of 1979, long lines began forming at gas stations across the country, bringing back memories of the fuel shortages of 1973-1974. As a result, sales of big luxury cars came to an abrupt halt. During the summer of 1979, Lincoln dealers were faced with inventories that weren't selling, and as late summer arrived, many became anxious to get rid of existing stock to make room for the new smaller 1980 Lincolns, which would begin arriving soon.

Lincoln's timing almost couldn't have been better. As fuel costs soared and no one knew for certain what the future held as far as the availability or cost of gasoline, Lincoln's final traditional, full-sized luxury cars passed forever through the doors of history, making way for the new smaller, lighter, more efficient Lincolns of the eighties.

So, for 1979, initially strong sales of the last big Lincolns were a challenge for the Versailles, but higher gas prices and fuel shortages later in the year drove customers to the smaller, more efficient, and newly restyled Versailles.

Image: 1979 Lincoln Versailles

Above: 1979 Lincoln Versailles shown in Light Champagne (paint code 52). Light Champagne was one of six new shades for 1979.

The Versailles would return in 1980 for its final appearance. Believe it or not, quite a few changes would be made to its standard equipment, making it even better equipped than the 1977-1979 models. But Lincoln's first smaller luxury car would be overwhelmed by the attention given to Lincoln's newly down sized line, which included every model except the Versailles.

The Cadillac Seville sold well over twice as many units as the Versailles did in 1979, which leads many to believe that the Seville was the better of the two cars. Both cars were extraordinary in their own right, and in direct comparisons, the cars usually wound up in a tie or were so close that neither was truly the clear winner. The real problem with the Versailles was one of perception, an issue it was never able to truly do away with.

Lincoln would not market a smaller, specialty compact in 1981, but would introduce a new smaller Continental in 1982. It's not clear if this car was originally supposed to have been the first major redesign of the Versailles, but if it was the decision was made to kill the name as the Versailles had not been a huge success for Lincoln. But, it had not been a failure, either, as ultimately it did what it needed to do. It provided a smaller Lincoln for Lincoln's customers to consider if they were seeking a more efficient luxury car. Many of the Versailles' critics have never driven one, they have based their opinions on appearance only. And there's so much more to a Versailles than just its looks. Inside, it is incredibly quiet at highway speeds, and offers a smooth, silent ride. This was a pretty big achievement when you consider the wheelbase it rides on. Drive one, then decide if the critics are right. We're guessing you won't agree with them. The Versailles is a special car.

If you're considering a Versailles as a collectible or to restore, you should know that values are not terribly strong, and often run about the same as a Town Car of the same vintage. Undertaking a restoration is a difficult task, not for the weak at heart. The electrical systems on these cars are complex, and because production for the entire four year run was 51,156 cars, parts specific to the Versailles can be a challenge to find. Engines, transmissions, many electrical components, and the like were shared with other Ford, Lincoln, or Mercury cars in many cases, and locating parts for those items isn't usually a problem. What will be tough to find are the trim pieces, because they were often specific to the Versailles.

Look for signs of rust and corrosion around the moldings, vinyl roof, and at the lower edges of the rear quarter panels and doors. Soft trim such as the Cavalry Twill vinyl can also be difficult to find. If you can find new Dorchester Cloth material, it will set you back a pretty penny, as will leather in the correct shades. Keep that in mind when considering anything less than a very well cared for car.

The Versailles was well built and well designed, especially considering the short time frame Lincoln had for development of the car. Automotive Mileposts finds the Versailles to be one of the stand out automobiles of the seventies, all things considered. It's one of our favorites, and we know many feel the same as we do about them.

Buy the best one you can find. Look for low mileage, original condition examples, with a thorough service history. They do exist, even today. The original owners loved them, too, and many took very good care of them.