It is little known that the Mark VIII was almost a
contender at NASCAR. Chevrolets had won 31 of 46 Winston
Cup races since the redesigned Monte Carlo was
introduced in the 1995 model year and racing season. In
1996, Ford had no plans to update its 9 year old
Thunderbird in the near future.
The next year, Ford announced that it would discontinue
the Thunderbird, one of the most successful brands in
NASCAR history, at year’s end. In 1996, Michael
Kranefuss, owner of Team 37, saw the Mark VIII, which
shared the MN-12 platform with the Thunderbird, as the
logical replacement. The team built a NASCAR car based
on the contour of 1996 Mark VIII. Wind tunnel tests were
done on the completed car at the Lookheed plant in
Marietta Georgia on May 7, 1996. The car attracted a lot
of attention during the two day test at the Charlotte
Motor Speedway on May 8-9, 1996.
John Andretti drove the Mark VIII for those test laps,
recording one of the highest speeds for those days. They
were the focus of attention not because of the lap times
but because it was a Lincoln Mark VIII. NASCAR officials
said they would allow the Lincoln Mark VIII to be used
in Winston competition, but Ford asked the team to stop
the development program. "Ford's foremost objective is
to sell cars," stated Michael Kranefuss, who has a 30
year association with Ford. Ford wanted a sales leader
represent Ford in NASCAR.
Also, at the time, Ford did not want Lincoln to have a
race image. In 1997, when Ford announced that the
Thunderbird was to be discontinued, Ford got special
permission from NASCAR to campaign a two door Taurus for
NASCAR for the 1998 season. Special dies were made up
for the skins of this racing Taurus that was optimized
for aerodynamics. No Two door Taurus was ever offered in
the showroom! So much for "stock car" racing.
Mark VIII, it could have been a contender!
Models of the 1996 Mark VIII Winston Cup car were
produced. A 1/10th body was made by BoLINK for radio
controlled cars and a 1/25 scale resin model was made by
SMH Resins. The BoLINK car has been discontinued, but
you may still be able to get the resin kit fro SMH
Resins at 1111 Floral Drive, Lenoir, NC 28645 (704)
Models for pictures of these models.
Special thanks to Rex Holder for finding
a picture of this little known car.