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1977 Lincoln Versailles
Original Owner Interview

Image: 1977 Lincoln VersaillesAutomotive Mileposts interviews Margie, an original owner of a 1977 Lincoln Versailles, about why she decided on a new Versailles in 1977, and about the other luxury cars she and her husband had owned over the years, as well as her impressions and remembrances of them.

(Legend: AM = Automotive Mileposts; ME = Margie E.)

AM: Thank you for setting aside the time to talk to us today.

ME: You're quite welcome, I'm pleased to speak with you.

AM: Over the years, how many luxury cars have you owned?

ME: Oh goodness...let's see...quite a few. My late husband, Harold, liked to buy a new car every few years, but we didn't always get around to it. I kept his old car once, and it became the first car I ever had of my very own, but I've had my fair share of new cars over the years as well. When I bought a new car, we'd wait a year or so before Harold got his next one.

AM: Do you remember what your first luxury car was?

ME: It was a black Cadillac coupe, perhaps a 1955 or 1956 model, I'm not sure about the year.

AM: Do you remember anything else about it?

ME: It had a black and white interior, the cloth was kind of rough, if I remember correctly. It wasn't one of the expensive models, it was the cheapest one you could buy. We'd had an Oldsmobile before the Cadillac, and I was a bit embarrassed at owning a Cadillac at first.

AM: Why?

ME: We were the first among our group of friends to buy a Cadillac. I didn't want people to think we were getting too big for our britches. I didn't want to talk about it, and I guess it was a little silly of me to feel that way, but having a Cadillac back then was really something, people did treat you differently if you drove a Cadillac, at least they did in my neck of the woods.

AM: So the Cadillac was a Series Sixty-Two Coupe?

ME: If that was the least expensive one, yes.

AM: Was it a good car?

ME: I don't recall that we ever had any trouble with it. Harold took very good care of our cars, so they didn't have much of a chance for anything to go wrong with them.

AM: How long did you keep it?

ME: At the time, it was our only car. Harold and his business partner would drive to work together every day. They switched off driving every other day, so I had the car as well when I needed to run errands or had an appointment. We kept that arrangement for several years, and Harold bought a new Cadillac in 1958, so the old one became my car full time at that point.

AM: So your husband obviously liked Cadillacs if he bought a second one...

ME: Yes, he did. But that second one was the last time he bought a new car without me! (Laughs.)

AM: Why was that?

ME: The car he came home with was just awful. It was a 1959 Cadillac, and it had those huge fins in back. It was a Sedan deVille, and I thought it was the ugliest thing I'd ever seen. (Laughs.) It barely fit in the garage, and I had a bruise on my leg for months because I kept banging into the front bumper when I had to go around the car to get to something in the garage. I finally had Harold switch sides with me, so my car was closest to the door going into the house. Oh, I still remember the ugly purple bruise I had! (Laughs.)

AM: So you could say the memory of that car is a painful one?

ME: (Laughing) Yes, painful for me, certainly.

AM: Was there anything you liked about it?

ME: Not much. It was our first car with air conditioning, and that was nice, but it needed it because there was so much glass. In the sun, the glare was really bad. The chrome on the dash was blinding if the sun hit it just right, and you felt like you were sitting there with a glass dome over your head. I don't see how anyone could have driven one in a hot climate without air!

AM: Your black coupe didn't have air conditioning?

ME: No, it was the cheapie model, and I think everything on it was extra cost. We paid extra for whitewall tires and power windows, and it had a power seat as well, but no air. But I still preferred to take it over the new one.

AM: You really were not a fan of the '59, were you?

ME: Absolutely not. The only thing I liked about it was the air. I didn't mind fixing my hair and freshening up when we arrived if we drove the black one. It really was embarrassing to me to be seen in that white one.

AM: So the '59 was white in color? What was the interior like?

ME: Yes, white. Inside it was a brown or beige leather. Really bland looking. That was just not a nice car, and it seemed like it was 10 years old after the new cars came out the following year.

AM: How long did you keep the '59?

ME: Not long. I refused to drive it. It was just too big and I really didn't care for the way it looked at all. I can't imagine what they were thinking, but Harold was never trusted to buy a new car alone after that.

AM: What did you replace the white '59 with?

ME: We bought a 1960 Chevy Impala, right off the showroom floor. We were in the white Cadillac running errands one day, and the new cars had just come out and as we passed by a Chevrolet dealer I saw a beautiful blue one parked right in the window. I mentioned it to Harold, and about an hour or so later we drove it home. It was just like the one on the sales brochure, blue with a white roof and a white stripe on the side.

AM: Did you experience any culture shock in going from a Cadillac to a Chevrolet?

ME: No, not that I remember, but of course I wanted to get rid of that Cadillac so bad I would have been happy with almost anything. The Impala had air and power windows, and it seemed to have a lot more pep than the Cadillac. It was smaller, so I thought it was much easier to drive, too.

AM: And you still had your black car at this point?

ME: Oh yes, I still drove it regularly, although I was spoiled at that point by air conditioning. Harold began mentioning to me that we needed to trade it since it was getting up there in years, but I didn't mind because it still ran good and it always took me where I needed to go and brought me back home again.

AM: How much longer did you keep it?

ME: (Laughing) Not long! I had a good friend named Eileen who bought a pale yellow Thunderbird with a sunroof. I'm not sure what year it was, but it was somewhere around 1959 or 1960...

AM: Ford offered a sunroof option on the 1960 Thunderbirds.

ME: Well, that's what it was, then! The interior was a really beautiful saddle leather. We'd go shopping in that car, and it was just so compact compared to so many of the cars at the time. It was easy to park and it had plenty of room inside. It had air, too and was just a lot of fun. So, I decided I wanted a Thunderbird. Harold had never had a Ford before, and he wasn't sure it was a good idea, but I held firm and before long he realized he wasn't going to win this battle, so he gave in.

AM: So your next car—your first brand new car of your own—was a Thunderbird?

ME: Yes, it was. And it was a doozy, too!

AM: Tell us about it.

ME: The new models were just about to come out, so we decided to wait and buy a brand new one. The salesman said he'd call us as soon as he could tell us more about the new ones, and had something for us to see. Well, on the day he called I think my poor old black Cadillac knew it was about to be traded, because it had leaked anti-freeze all over the garage floor! I had driven it the day before, and it was fine and neither of us noticed anything later that night, but when we went out to take it to the Ford agency, the floor was covered. It was like it was crying, I felt so bad. That was the first car that I could truly call my own, and I hated to part with it because it seemed like I was saying goodbye to an old friend.

So...there was nothing we could do at that point but take the Impala, and the Ford salesman had a new 1961 Thunderbird parked right out front waiting for us when we arrived.

AM: Is that the one you bought?

ME: No, I didn't care for the color of that one. It was a bright metallic aqua, and I thought it was a little too flashy for me. But we did drive it, and I just loved it. It was so easy to drive, it was almost like it anticipated where you were going and just took you there. I knew that was what I wanted, so we sat down on the spot and ordered one. I decided I wanted a convertible, so that's what we ordered.

AM: What do you recall about it?

ME: It was a creamy beige color with a white leather interior. The top was white. It was fancy. It had bucket seats and the top was power and folded down into the trunk. We ordered air on it, which seems a bit silly but it worked very well with the car all closed up. We drove it on vacation that year, and there was no room to store any luggage in the trunk with the top down, so we left the top up the whole trip. Harold eventually warmed up to it, and I think was quite fond of it after he'd driven it a few times.

AM: Did you keep that one for long?

ME: Quite a while. My next car was a four door Thunderbird, and I want to say it was a 1969.

AM: So it was a good enough car that you were sold on Thunderbirds?

ME: Oh I never had a bit of trouble with any of the Thunderbirds. In fact, the leak on the old black Cadillac was just a split hose, so it wasn't much trouble to fix as I drove it for another month or so until the convertible came in.

AM: And how did your like your four door Thunderbird?

ME: Oh, it was a wonderful car. It was just beautiful. It was a metallic gold color with an alligator top in a creamy white and a gold interior with embroidery on the seats. I told them to just put everything that was available on it, and boy did they! It had things I didn't even know were offered!

AM: Such as?

ME: Well, I knew about the sunroof, and I specifically asked for that because Eileen's car had that and I loved it. Oh, I don't know...there were little lights behind the back seat that you could see in the mirror to check on your lights in the back, and the steering wheel automatically popped out of the way when you opened the door. And it had a temperature dial like the house that you could set the temperature you wanted, and it would keep that temperature inside. When it arrived, it had flashy chrome wheel covers on it and I didn't care for those. They were beautiful, but just not my taste. The dealer replaced them with another set that kind of looked like vanes, and didn't charge us anything to do it.

AM: Did they stick out from the car with a thick chrome cap on the end?

ME: Yes, I think they did. They were very nice. Heavy, if I recall as my gas station man told me that once when he rotated the tires for me.

AM: How long did you keep the second Thunderbird?

ME: Quite a while, my next car was one of those little baby Lincoln Versailles' that came out in the late seventies. I didn't care to get a new car all that often, as I became comfortable with the one I had. My cars were all friends, and I didn't want to replace them once I got used to them.

AM: What was Harold driving during this time? How long did he keep the Impala?

ME: He had the Impala for a few years. Since I had the new T-bird, we drove it for a year or so, and he traded the Impala on another Cadillac, but of course I helped him pick it out.

AM: What did you and Harold choose?

ME: I think it was a 1963 or 1964 car, it was a special model at the time...I want to say it was a Fifth Avenue, but I can't say for certain that is what it was...

AM: Was it a Park Avenue? Did it have a short rear deck?

ME: That's it! Yes, it was shorter, a special model made for urban areas. It fit in our garage much better than the other Cadillacs we'd had. With the little T-bird and the short Cadillac, there was a lot more room in the garage.

AM: No more bruised legs?

ME: No more bruised legs! (Laughs.)

AM: Did you like the Park Avenue?

ME: Oh, it was alright. I liked my T-bird better. I thought it was a prettier car than the Cadillac, and the interior wasn't as busy.

AM: Did you drive it?

ME: From time to time, it was still a big car, but a lot easier to drive than the others.

AM: What came after the Park Avenue?

ME: Harold's next Cadillac was a '65 Calais Coupe, I remember that one because we had quite a bit of trouble with it!

AM: Really?

ME: If it was one thing, it was a dozen. He bought another silver one, but this one had a black interior instead of a red one.

AM: The Park Avenue was silver with a red interior?

ME: Yes. I wasn't thrilled with the red interior, but it looked nice with the silver paint on the car. The '65 was more masculine, I thought, and the black also looked nice with the silver paint.

AM: What kind of problems did you have with the '65?

ME: I can remember a few times when we couldn't get it to start. I don't remember what was wrong with it, but each time it was something different, it seems. My T-bird, which was now a few years old, was more dependable and I can remember a few times we took it instead of the Cadillac because we were concerned we'd be left stranded.

AM: I guess the '65 didn't last long...

ME: No, it did not. And that turned Harold off on Cadillacs for a while, too.

AM: What did he get after that?

ME: He went back to Oldsmobiles for a few years. We picked out a beautiful maroon four door hardtop with black interior. It was one of the less expensive models, and it was a very good car. Harold put a lot of miles on it, and never had a problem with it. I believe this was around 1967, so the Calais lasted for two years, but they were a long two years. It probably had very few miles on it, as neither of us trusted it enough to drive it very often.

AM: I think the Delmont 88 was the least expensive big Oldsmobile in 1967. Chances are your Calais never gave the second owner any trouble at all.

ME: That sounds about right. And if the Calais behaved itself for its next owner that's fine by me, I wouldn't want to push off a bad car on anyone. It's so frustrating to have a car problem that no one can seem to figure out the cause.

That '67 Oldsmobile wasn't a Ninety Eight. Did you say Delmont 88? That sounds right. It was one of the best cars we ever had, and Harold put a lot of miles on it, as I said. We took it on vacation that summer, and I know we drove at least 3,000 miles because we were gone for a month. It wasn't fancy, but it was very nice and rock solid.

AM: What came after the Delmont 88?

ME: My Thunderbird was a year or two after the Delmont, and Harold was sick for a while and wasn't driving much, so the Delmont sat in the garage for a long time. I used to drive it from time to time just to make sure it would start. Harold's next car was a 1972 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight Regency, that was a special model built for Oldsmobile's anniversary, I'm not sure which one...

AM: 1972 would have been Oldsmobile's 75th Anniversary.

ME: That sounds about right. It only came in a gold metallic color, and we picked a matching gold vinyl roof for it with a black interior. The interior had matching gold embroidery on the seats. That was Harold's last new car. He wasn't driving as much at that time, and I was the one doing most of the driving. My T-bird was getting quite a few miles on it by then, and he kept telling me we needed to trade it on a new model. Of course, at that time the new T-birds were huge, and I didn't want that. We had the Oldsmobile, which was a big car, and I didn't want another big car.

AM: So what came next for you?

ME: A neighbor bought one of the new Cadillac Sevilles, and I thought that was a very nice car. Of course, neither of us had fond memories of our last Cadillac, so I wasn't sure that was the way to go. We'd had good luck with the two Oldsmobiles, and of course both of my T-birds were mostly trouble free as well, the Seville was just so expensive, and I just didn't want to spent that much on a car.

Harold was beginning to fail by that time, and we both knew it. He wanted to make sure I had a new car, as both of our cars were now older, my T-bird was now seven years old and his Olds was four years old. We started looking around, and I just wasn't in love with anything I saw. Some of the new cars were smaller that year, but I just didn't especially care for their looks. And honestly, I didn't want to spend what could have been Harold's last months looking at cars, I wanted to do things that he would enjoy.

AM: So you traveled?

ME: Some, yes, and we visited relatives. Not by car, though, we flew most of the time.

AM: How did the Versailles come about?

ME: Oh, well I found out about that car when I had to take the T-bird in for repairs. The power windows were beginning to act up, and the headlights were opening after the car had sat for a few hours. I also wanted them to go over everything and fix anything that might need attention. They did, and it was good as new when I picked it up, and as I was leaving the service area, I saw a new Versailles sitting in front of the showroom. This was a Ford dealer, but I guess they also had a Lincoln-Mercury dealership as well. Harold was following me in his car, and I did a sharp left and pulled in next to the Versailles to get a better look at it. Of course, before long the salesman driving the car came out to say hi as did another salesman. I loved the Versailles, and I even liked the color, which was a Wedgewood Blue, very similar to that first T-bird I drove that I didn't care for the color. I guess over the years the turquoise shades must have grown on me. A few days later, we went to the Lincoln place and I found another Versailles there that was also Wedgewood Blue, but it had bucket seats which I'd come to like because both of my T-birds had them. It also had the Power Moonroof and just about everything else you could get on one. I thought it drove very nicely, so we bought it on the spot.

AM: You traded the '69 Thunderbird in on the Versailles?

ME: Yes. I didn't even think about it until we got home. The Versailles wasn't ready for delivery, as it had just come in and still needed to be cleaned up. We were supposed to take the T-bird back to the dealership so their used car people could see it and tell them how much it was worth on trade. I was very depressed about giving up my T-bird, and we'd pulled it out of the garage to unload my personal items from the trunk and glove boxes. A neighbor came over and we told him what we were doing, and he said he wanted to buy my T-bird. His wife had an old Galaxie 500, and he wanted to replace it. We agreed on a price, and he brought us a check and drove it next door and gave it to his wife. She was thrilled, and I could still see my old friend and know that it was being cared for. He spent days really detailing it, and it looked so nice. I don't think they ever let it get dirty.

We called the Lincoln salesman and told him there would be no trade, as we had sold the T-bird to a neighbor. I picked up the Versailles the next day.

AM: What was your impression of the Versailles?

ME: It was very well built, I thought. It sounded really solid when you closed the door or trunk. It was really quiet inside, you could barely hear it running. It was compact, easy to park, and I liked that a lot. It was easy to drive, and I was very happy with it.

AM: Any problems with the Versailles?

ME: Just one. It wouldn't start once after a long trip. Harold and I had gone to visit some friends for the weekend, and I wanted to stop at the grocery store on the way home. When we got in the car, it wouldn't start. The engine turned over, but it wouldn't start. We had to call our neighbors, and they showed up in my old T-bird to pick us up! This was late on a Sunday afternoon, so we called a tow truck to take the Lincoln to the dealer. Harold took the keys to the Lincoln and left them with the grocery store manager, to give to the tow truck driver when he showed up.

On Monday morning, first thing Harold called the Lincoln dealer and told them why our car was sitting outside their shop. The tow truck driver had put the keys in a key drop, and the service manager got on the phone and said he'd had to move the car first thing so they could open the service bay doors. He wanted to know what we wanted done to it. Harold told him it wouldn't start, and the service manager said it started right up for him! He said they'd go through the whole car and see if they could figure out what might have caused it to not start.

AM: Did they find a problem?

ME: Not that I recall, they said everything looked fine. Since it had been on a long trip, and was sitting for a short time when it wouldn't start, they thought it might be related to a fuel line that got too hot, so they wrapped the fuel line or something. It never happened again, even after long trips, so maybe that was it after all.

AM: How long did you keep the Versailles?

ME: I had it quite a while. Harold passed on in 1982, and we still had his Regency at that time. He hadn't driven it in a few years, and kept saying he was going to sell it but never seriously got around to it, and I didn't do anything about it because it was his car, and I felt like he took some comfort in knowing he still had his car in the garage. I drove it from time to time, kept it serviced, and it still looked and ran great even though it was ten years old.

Not long after Harold died, I traded his Regency and my Versailles on a new Oldsmobile Toronado Brougham. It was a 1983 model, I think. It was hard for me to part with both cars, because they were the last ones Harold helped me decide on. I cried when I left the Versailles at the Olds place. I remember thinking how awful it was to be driving a new car home for the first time, and crying because I missed the old one.

I couldn't stand to drive Harold's Regency to the dealer, so they said they would send someone to pick it up the next day. That night, I went out in the garage and took pictures of the two Oldsmobiles parked next to each other. I had done the same thing the night before with the Versailles. Then I sat in Harold's car and remembered some of the old times we'd had in that car. I took it for one last drive, as I had done with my little Versailles.

When the Oldsmobile man came to pick up the Regency, I gave him the keys at the front door, along with a garage door opener. I asked him to please walk around and open the door, then just leave it open when he left. I told him to put the door opener on Harold's work bench in the garage. I just couldn't bear to see the Regency being taken away. I went into my bedroom and waited about 10 minutes, long enough to make sure the car was gone.

Then I took what seemed to be a very long walk across the house and out to the garage. There sat an empty space where a few minutes earlier, Harold's Regency had sat. I told myself I wasn't going to cry, but I did anyway. I closed the garage door and brought the remote into the house. It was the one that had been in Harold's car for years, and I put it in his top desk drawer.

I know cars are inanimate objects, and that they don't have feelings, but our cars were always such an important part of our lives. We made the decision early on to not have children, due to our family histories, so our cars were kind of like our kids. I know it sounds silly, but all of our cars had personalities. Perhaps they were a reflection of our personalities. (Long pause.)

AM: Did you like your Toronado?

ME: Oh yes, it was a very nice car. It was a silver metallic color, with a light gray vinyl top on the back half of the roof and a matching light gray leather interior. I held onto it for quite a while, but traded it in because I could hear Harold telling me, "You're going to need to get rid of that T-bird before you start having trouble with it." That is what he used to tell me about my gold Thunderbird. I should add that our neighbors kept that gold Thunderbird for another 6 or 7 years before they sold it to a collector, and they hated to sell it as well. They didn't tell me they'd sold it until after it was gone, but they made sure I had seen it the day before it left, I just didn't know it was leaving at the time.

AM: What came after the Toronado?

ME: Another Toronado! I bought a 1990 Toronado, it was a new design that year and I thought they were beautiful. It was the last new Toronado. I bought a black one, I think it was the Trofeo edition. It had bucket seats, a floor shift, and it was really sporty for an old woman like me to be driving around! (Laughs.) The interior was gray leather.

AM: And you followed that one with what?

ME: Well, I think I lost my mind momentarily, because I bought a white Infiniti after that. It was a late 90's model, and it was just awful. I found it very difficult to drive and I really missed my Toronado, but they weren't making Toronados any more.

AM: So you didn't keep the Infinity for very long? Which model was it, if you remember...

ME: It started with a letter. I think it was Q something?

AM: Q45?

ME: I think that's it. I've tried to forget it in the meantime.

AM: I understand.

ME: The Cadillac dealer was happy to take the Infinity in on trade, I don't think it had more than 5 or 6 thousand miles on it at the time.

AM: What Cadillac did you buy?

ME: A Seville. It was a bit bigger than I really wanted, but it was nice and it had a very pretty leather interior.

AM: What followed the Seville? We must be getting close to your current car.

ME: (Laughing) I have had quite a few, haven't I? It didn't seem like a lot at the time, but we're covering 55 years! Oh my, that does make me feel old! I kept the Seville and traded it on a Cadillac STS, which I kept for a few years but thought it was a little too racy for me. I traded in the STS on a 2009 Lincoln MKZ, which is what I have in my garage right now. Would you like to see it?

AM: Sure, I'd love to.

(Margie escorts us to her garage, where a shiny black MKZ is parked. The interior is Sand leather, a shade so light it almost looks white.

ME: Well, there she is. This will probably be my last car, I'm getting to the point where I don't like to drive. I never drive at night anymore, or if the weather is bad. I go out when traffic is light and when I want to.

AM: How does your MKZ compare to your Versailles?

ME: Oh, this one is much more sophisticated, but of course thirty years from now, if people are still driving cars, this one will seem ancient. The Versailles was up to date for the times, probably more sophisticated than most other cars on the road at the time. It was boxy, and the bumpers were a bit clunky, and it was a bit over decorated, but that was the style back then, and I loved it.

AM: What do you miss most about the cars from the past?

ME: The pretty colors. They used to make cars in a rainbow of shades, with interiors to match. Today, you can choose from 2 or 3 interiors and 4 or 5 paint colors, and that's it. There's no opportunity to make them yours any more, you can't express your personality, unless it happens to be black and beige, and that doesn't say anything flattering about a person, does it? (Laughs.)

AM: Which of your cars is your favorite?

ME: Now you don't expect me to pick just one, do you? (Laughs.) I have a special spot for my first black Cadillac, probably because it was the first one that was mine. My four door Thunderbird was a wonderful car, I was still a young woman when I bought that one. I kept it a long time, so there was something very special about it. The Versailles is probably the one I would have kept if I had the chance, I really loved that car. It was such a pretty color, and it was the easiest to drive of all of them. Yes, I think I would have to say the Versailles is my favorite, followed by the Thunderbird—the four door Thunderbird—as a close second.

Editor's note: Automotive Mileposts would like to thank Margie for her time. She was delightful to meet, and her memories of her automobiles over the years are as fresh today as they were when her cars were new. To protect Margie's privacy, we are not providing her last name or location. Thanks again, Margie, we had a great afternoon meeting you and we so very much appreciate your setting aside some time to spend with us.