The 21st century did not start auspiciously for Lincoln. In the first two years of the 2000s, sales for the formerly formidable American marque fell by nearly 25 percent. The company needed something big and splashy to provide fresh energy, to stanch the bleeding. Having consistently sold about 35,000 full-size Navigator SUVs each year since it introduced the model in the late 1990s, Lincoln decided to test new waters in adjacent truckish categories. In case you’re unfamiliar with Lincoln’s core corporate strategy, it has consisted mainly of swaddling existing Ford product in chrome and leather, retuning the suspension, slapping on some four-pointed stars, and charging premium prices. Thus, in 2002, the Ford Explorer midsize SUV begat the Lincoln Aviator, and the Ford F-150 SuperCrew begat a luxury pickup called the Lincoln Blackwood.
“The Lincoln Blackwood was an ambitious experiment,” says Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst at automotive research firm Edmunds. “The company was testing the waters to see if truck buyers were ready to buy a vehicle that attempted to deliver not only functionality but also luxury amenities.”
The root idea was relatively sound. Big body-on-frame vehicles had long since begun their march away from strict utilitarianism and were lapping at the shores of lavishness. By the time the new century began, vehicles like the Land Rover Range Rover and Cadillac Escalade proved America was hungry for upscale sport utes, and the GMC Sierra Denali and Ford F-150 King Ranch demonstrated a similar appetite existed for mid-five-figure pickups.
The Blackwood was an extrapolation of this practice. Its all-black interior was richly appointed with four Connolly leather bucket seats, broad center consoles front and rear, oak trim, a sunroof, and an optional GPS-based navigation system. Continuing with the elegant stygian scheme, black was the only available exterior color, though on the bed, distinctive ersatz black wenge wood patterns were imprinted on composite panels and then overlaid with aluminum pinstripes.
The bed was where the Blackwood wore its greatest distinctions; unlike its more workaday brethren, the Lincoln’s cargo area was not open to the elements. Instead it was sheltered permanently by a hydraulic power-operated hard tonneau cover. And it didn’t have a regular fold-down tailgate, but a pair of narrow Dutch-style barn doors that opened from the middle. Even more radical, the bed’s interior was not simple painted metal, but carpeted, LED-lit, and lined on the sides with polished aluminum panels, as if to prove that nothing dirty, scratchy, or practical should ever be carried in there.
“I used to call it my popcorn hauler because the back of the bed wasn’t really meant like a big pickup,” says 69-year-old Southern California automotive auction house owner Ray Claridge. He bought his Blackwood new in 2002 and has since put 365,000 miles on it with no major mechanical work save a new transmission. As if taking the mail-slot trunk as a challenge, Claridge has pushed the truck to its functional limits. “I’ve hauled about everything you can think of in it—and still do.”
Powered by a 300-hp version of Ford’s 5.4-liter V-8 mated to a four-speed automatic, the Blackwood’s base price of $52,000 (around $71,000 in today’s dollars) did not include four-wheel drive. It wasn’t even an option, further limiting the truck to on-road use. Fortunately, thanks to an air suspension and a Crown Victoria cop-car steering rack, its manners on the tarmac were notably positive. “I’ve always enjoyed the ride, and everybody that travels in it says it rides more like a car than a truck,” Claridge says. “I also own a 2017 Lincoln Continental, which I usually only take out for occasions, trips to Vegas or something. But even when I drive it for a week or two, I tell my girlfriend, I can’t wait to get the Blackwood back.”
To make the truck even more special, Lincoln planned to limit production to 10,000 units annually. This turned out to be unnecessary, as the Blackwood was such a sales disaster that Lincoln discontinued it after one model year, making it the division’s shortest-ever production run. Less than 3,500 moved off of dealer lots, often at extreme discounts, although a run of 50 Neiman Marcus Edition trucks did sell out quickly.
Blame could be placed in the high price, but that same year Cadillac had little trouble selling almost 13,500 Escalade EXTs, another $50,000 four-door pickup. Of course, the Cadillac had a few things the Lincoln Blackwood lacked, including the aforementioned four-wheel-drive capability, enhanced ride height, and an open and expandable bed that allowed consumers to carry cargo such as a snowmobile or a pile of gravel—such activities normally being the main point of truck ownership.
Pickups have since far surpassed the Blackwood in terms of luxury and price; it is now possible to transcend the six-figure barrier when purchasing one. But the most expensive contemporary trucks tend to feature the most luxury and the most utility—the stoutest payload rating, the most potent powertrain, the most stump-pullingest dualie rear end, and the greatest quantity of baseball-stitched leather and seat massagers. Still, the Blackwood could be seen as a trendsetter.
“It did foreshadow the changes that were to come in the pickup-truck market,” Caldwell says. “Trucks with luxury amenities have become much more popular, and many high-line trucks now resemble luxury cars in the cabin. The Blackwood was a truck ahead of its time.”
What the Lincoln Blackwood does have going for it now is oddness and rarity. That doesn’t make it particularly valuable, however. Well-maintained examples with far less than 100,000 miles on the odometer trade in the $12,000 to $13,000 range. But that can make it compelling, even potentially contagious.
“It’s funny,” Claridge says. “I loaned mine to my banker once, and he went out and found one and bought one. And a friend of mine that’s a Ford dealer up in the Sacramento area, he liked mine so much he also went out and found one and bought it. And then my brother bought one because he like it, too. I guess I’ve sold more Blackwoods than the Lincoln dealers did.”