Do You Want a 1984 Lincoln Continental Diesel? No? Well Here’s a Really Nice One Anyway

Complete with a Ford-installed BMW diesel motor under the hood.

byJames Gilboy| UPDATED Aug 5, 2020 2:00 PM
Do You Want a 1984 Lincoln Continental Diesel? No? Well Here’s a Really Nice One Anyway

After the 1973 OPEC oil embargo showed America how little control it had over its energy supply, our auto industry slumped into a decade-long, efficiency-chasing doldrums known today as the Malaise Era. Seeking any possible way to cut gas consumption, Detroit followed in the footsteps of European marques like Mercedes-Benz by experimenting with diesel—with disastrous results. 

Oldsmobile's compression-ignition V6s and V8s gained a reputation for shearing head bolts and rapidly turned Americans off of diesel cars. But General Motors wasn't the only company to fiddle with diesel power. Ford did too, with Lincoln, who for just a single year offered a diesel variant of its flagship sedan, the Continental, powered by none other than an early BMW turbodiesel.

Aimed at the Olds diesel-powered Cadillac Seville, the 1984 Continental and its coupe relative the Mark VII were offered with an available BMW M21 turbodiesel; a 2.4-liter inline-six more commonly seen in the E28 5 Series and E30 3 Series. It was already no powerhouse, with 114 horsepower and 155 pound-feet, and when those horses were asked to run the gauntlet of a four-speed ZF automatic, not all of them made it through to the rear wheels. It should come as no surprise that the diesel Conti was no hit with buyers, as Lincoln supposedly sold about 1,500 before dropping the variant for 1985.

So unloved was the rare-as-a-Ford GT diesel Continental that not many folks remembered it until the thing recently popped up for sale on Craigslist just outside Columbus, Ohio. While its interior is slightly worn and a tad grubby, it's an otherwise miraculously well-kept example, with still-glistening paint. Its seller, who tells us they've had the car since 1992, reports the odometer reads a mere 89,000 miles, and that the engine has been recently serviced with a new radiator and timing belt. They also claim to have all documentation from their 28 years of ownership, the specialty BMW tools required for service, and even a spare engine—wonder if it too has a Ford badge on its valve cover. It would seem the Blue Oval didn't want people to know it was cheating off BMW's homework.

If this obscure curio of automotive history is of interest to you, you're in luck, because this well-preserved Continental carries a modest asking price of $4,000. Finding something both this unusual and cared-for at this price point is extremely tricky, so even if its engine pops like an Olds diesel a few hundred miles into your ownership, it may still be worth buying for sheer novelty. 

And if you're willing to throw the time, effort, and money at it, this Lincoln could even make for a pioneering resto-mod using one of BMW's bizarre, quad-turbo sixes. Shame we couldn't get one of them in the latest Lincoln Continental, rest its soul.

1984 Lincoln Continental Turbodiesel, via Craigslist

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