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One-Of-A-Kind: 2004 Lincoln Mark X Prototype

Most concept cars and prototypes don’t live very long past their original purpose. But exceptions do occur, and this 2004 prototype from Lincoln is one of them. Built 20 years ago as a Lincoln version of the then-current Ford Thunderbird, this one-off vehicle eventually ended up in the hands of the FOMOCO designer who made it happen.  That person has since passed away and the car will go to auction here on Mecum, Glendale, Arizona, in early March 2024. What a fantastic tip this is and it comes to us via Barn Finder PRA4SNW!

Ford resurrected the Thunderbird in 2002 as a modern version of the original (and iconic) 1955-57 two-seat personal luxury car. It would be modestly successful at 68,000 copies in four years, but nearly half of them were sold in the first annual. Lincoln’s chief of design at the time started to “what it” the company’s luxury marque would sell a version of its own. And, thus, work on the Lincoln Mark X (prototype convertible) was initiated. Its underpinnings and drivetrain would be borrowed from the new T-Bird.

The Mark X debuted at the North American Automobile Show in 2004 as an exercise in market research, i.e., seeing if people would take to a “Lincoln Thunderbird”. We’re assuming the results weren’t satisfactory as no such car was ever given the green light to go into production. One of the cool features of the prototype is a power-operated hardtop with a huge glass panel. The machine hung around somewhere at Ford until 2010 when it went to auction rather than the crusher. There it was purchased by the guy who did the original design work himself, James Powers.

You’ll only get a bill of sale for this car if you buy it, and it may be unlikely it will ever see the road again. But some work has been done to revive it from an extended down period. The battery is new, the fuel system is flushed out, and 4-wheel disc brakes were “carried out”. From 2010 until 2023, the car was in the care of Powers, who died last year. So, the vehicle is no doubt being given to auction by his estate.

What we see here is a very futuristic-looking vehicle. And it may be a shame that the project never progressed past the prototype phase. Because it’s not a production vehicle, Mecum is clear in saying that some of the features of the automobile may not work – and may not have from the beginning. What would you do with the car if you were to buy it, and how much do you think it will go for when the gavel falls?


  1. Avatar photo Bakyrdhero Member

    What a pretty car, and to think Ford was in or entering a down period in terms of vehicle styling.

    Like 23
  2. Avatar photo Nevada1/2rack Member

    A quandary, to say the least. Here we have (IMHO) a unique part of American automotive history in a very nicely styled car that may not be fully functional and yet begs to be driven. Do you treat it as art and just show it at special events? Do you complete what Powers started and drive it, albeit in a controlled environment or use it for its originally intended purpose, a personal sporty car and drive it wherever?
    Someone will unfortunately and most likely buy this to say “Look what I’VE got!”
    If Lincoln was more than just an expensive shell for a common everyday Ford this would make some dealership a great stand out as eye candy, but then again most of that crowd would care less nowadays..
    Too bad it never had a chance but at least Powers got to enjoy his creation.

    Like 20
  3. Avatar photo Bob_in_TN Member

    This is interesting to me.

    It is my understanding that “show cars” like this were typically not fully functional. Maybe, since this was a (extensive) rework of the T-Bird, this one did run and drive. But, probably not functional enough, or “legal” enough, to garner a VIN? For the above reasons, it seems like it should have been crushed, like most show cars. The reference Russ supplied fills in the back story.

    Several years ago I was wandering the back lot of a large Houston-area dealer (killing time during a lengthy car show) and stumbled upon a couple former show cars, poorly stored in a lean-to shed. I wondered how the dealer ended up with them, and what ever became of them.

    Are “show cars” even a thing nowadays?

    As for this car, I think it looks pretty good. Perhaps, even better than the T-Bird, because it is not beholden to the 50’s styling cues.

    Like 21
    • Avatar photo Nevada1/2rack Member

      Good question about the VIN, Bob. If someone were to make this fully functional is it possible to get a state issued VIN as “Experimental” or “Homebuilt”..

      Like 14
      • Avatar photo Chris Eakin

        Maybe if you bought a 2004 T-bird and put the Lincoln shell on the T-bird platform?

        Like 11
  4. Avatar photo AndyinMA

    Why can’t we have nicely styled cars? All we get are grayscale blobs with black interiors. This would be great today, electric or ICE power.

    Like 18
    • Avatar photo JoeNYWF64

      & all we also get is 4 door only for the most part & big ugly plastic mirrors & unevenly sized & parked wipers & too much cheap fadeable exterior plastic trim. & many times, angry or stupid looking front ends & sometimes rears too, like on the latest corvette.

      On this protoype, there are no side marker lights & i don’t see any wipers, unless they are hidden.
      Mercury should have made its 2003 Messenger concept for production, IMO

      Like 15
      • Avatar photo NZO

        Joe, there is nothing wrong with the Corvettes front or rear. They’re selling faster than Chevy could build them. Can’t discourage or fool all those buyers.

        Like 5
      • Avatar photo JoeNYWF64

        NZO, no other 2 doors to choose from at GM! – camaro is dead.
        Vettes sold mosly to older rich guys.
        If they put the beautiful mid engined ’73 4 rotor corvette body on the new one’s chassis, & offered both bodies at the same price, no 1 in their right mind would buy the current ugly body.

        Like 1
      • Avatar photo Al

        I agree wholeheartedly Joe. I could easily buy a new Vette, but the styling strayed far from what a ‘Vette’ is & should be. Give it another name instead & should have kept the Vette a front engine car, with curves, not angular wedges. And paddle shifters lol?! Attracts gamers, not my cash.
        ‘If’ I was going Vette again, it’d be a ’19 w/ stick, an ultra low mile one to DRIVE! THAT ‘IS’ a VETTE!

        Like 2
      • Avatar photo PRA4SNW Member

        Al, I have never looked, but there must be a bunch of really nice, low mileage previous model Vettes for sale, now that everyone wants the new Vette.

        Like 2
  5. Avatar photo Big C

    I remember seeing this Lincoln on the new car auto show circuit. What a gorgeous car, then, and now. Hopefully, a Ford/Lincoln/ Mercury collector will buy this beauty.

    Like 11
  6. Avatar photo Howie

    Get those strong drinks ready!!

    Like 3
  7. Avatar photo Roland

    Buy it and put a dealer, repair, or farm plate on it when you want to drive it, no registration or title needed. I like this car better than the T-bird.

    Like 11
  8. Avatar photo Terry

    What a shame it never made it to production. Just possibly the best automotive design since the 60s until today on a domestic nameplate.

    Like 15
  9. Avatar photo Steve

    How does a car like this escape the crusher?

    Like 1
  10. Avatar photo SA

    A beautiful car but what good is it if you can’t drive it on the road?

    Like 5
  11. Avatar photo Fran

    Ford ford ford! What is wrong with you???? Should have been made along with the tbird and put ford running gear in both! Along with the ‘49!!! They would still be around today.

    Like 4
  12. Avatar photo Russell Ashley

    Here I go again, daydreaming about what I would do if I could get that car. I would take it to a shop like Kendig or some other capable shop to have it made fully functional and driveable. Then I would get an assigned vin so I could register it, and then drive it. That car looks so beautiful it would be a shame to not let it be seen. It won’t be cheap, but good luck to the lucky person who gets it.

    Like 7
  13. Avatar photo Gary

    I have a 2002 Retro-Bird since 2013 and it gets noticed anywhere I take it. The “fun-to-drive” factor is high on these.
    This Lincoln needs to be preserved.

    Like 6
  14. Avatar photo Keith K

    How lovely. No matter what, it deserves to be preserved. IMHO, I could see it going to maybe the Gilmore Museum, where it could be enjoyed by all. And maybe inspire future young designers!

    Like 4
  15. Avatar photo Mister Green


    Like 2
  16. Avatar photo John Jasper

    It’s amazing automobile companies don’t put some of these cars into production. This one, I think, would of been a good seller.

    Like 4
  17. Avatar photo Greg

    Always wondered how you could make a photo type serviceable.a lot of good information here. Not to change the subject but the 2019 Vette is the last American Vette before it went European. Styling wise. Just my opinion.

    Like 0
  18. Avatar photo Frank Sumatra

    I would like to see this parked next to an XLR Cadillac before making up my mind.

    Like 3
    • Avatar photo NZO

      Frank, go with the XLR much more advanced car and a better vehicle.

      Like 3
      • Avatar photo Frank Sumatra

        Agree. As usual, GM pulled the plug too early on that car and only offered it with an automatic. I always pictured those cars only being owned by retired Top Rank military folks living in either San Diego, Virginia Beach, or Tampa

        Like 0
  19. Avatar photo Dave Peterson

    What ever happened to Joe Bortz? These types used to always end up with him.

    Like 0
    • Avatar photo Frank Sumatra

      He might still be around. I have seen ads for “TYCTA” (Take Your Car To Auction) featuring Joe Bortz in some car magazines over the past year. Of course, I can’t remember which magazines right now. Hemmings?

      Like 0
  20. Avatar photo JoeNYWF64

    I thought car companies would never allow concepts to be sold to the general public because they have not been tested/certified – & for fears if a driver/passenger were to get injured or killed in an accident – the lawsuit(s).
    I don’t see how you could register a 1 off 2004 car with no wipers or side marker lights in any state. Those headlights look questionable too – are there high beams? & driver & passenger air bags req’d in 04?
    Those tiny door mirrors may not meet size regulations either.

    Like 1
  21. Avatar photo Mountainwoodie

    Production Design today to the twenty and thirty somethings who populate studios and management seems to look more to cost and feasibility of mass production z well as imitation, than to design itself. The Kia SUV’s look like ripoffs of the Ford Edge etc. Add to that cars being not much more than rolling living rooms with “entertainment centers” and slush boxes and foot activated tailgates, and you end up with toasters on wheels. So this (can it really be twenry years ago?!!) 2004 Lincoln looks very different, new … and its OLD….car wise.
    The fifties and early Sixties De Sotos etc will someday look like spaceships to future generations :)

    Like 0
  22. Avatar photo Elmo

    Shut up and take my money!

    I love Lincolns and owned a Mark VIII and as far as I’m concerned it was the best car to roll out of Dearborn in the last 50 years. Damn shame Lincoln got out of the coupe game.

    Like 2

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