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"It's what a luxury car should be". So describes the 1966 to 1969 Lincoln Continentals. Big, luxurious, power-everything, gas guzzling (of course), and distinctive
in design. Take a look at a luxury car today. Sure, they are bigger than your average econo-sedan, but you often have to look twice to find a logo or emblem to get a clue as to which one you are looking at. Not so with the slab-sided Lincolns of the late 1960s. Big, with crisp and elegant lines, it was immediately recognizable from everything else.
GRASPING FOR IDENTITY
After World War II, the Lincoln Division of Ford Motor Company went through some wild up and down years. From the leftover pre-war designs in the late 1940s to the early 1950s Cosmopolitans (which some collectors today refer to as the "water-buffalo") years, Lincoln appeared to be losing its way. From 1952 to 1955 Lincoln was a racing champion, especially in the Carrera Pan America races, and depended more on technical innovations than luxury looks. The 1956 and 1957 models were outfitted with ever-growing fins to keep up with their chief market rival, Cadillac. In 1958, all new styling brought canted headlights and garish body-side treatments. They may not have won legions of new car buyers but have become quite collectible today. One contemporary writer declared the styling was from the orient, leaving many collectors to refer to these huge vehicles as "Chinese outhouses". Despite its less that refined looks, Lincolns from 1958 to 1960 did introduce a new method of large luxury car assembly: unibody, or monocoque, construction.
1961 saw a new era for Ford's premiere motorcar, one of understated elegance and class. Featuring clean lines and slab-side design, the 1961 Lincolns won acclaim from critics and customers alike. Designed under the leadership of Elwood P. Engle, Lincoln found everyone from the President of the United States down to the owner of the local bank enjoying the downsized luxury of these cars. (So popular was Engle's design that shortly after their release he left Ford Motor Company, went to work for rival Chrysler Corporation, and headed up the 1964 Imperial redesign which reflected the same design theme.)
In 1964, the Lincoln was redesigned, becoming a few inches longer, featuring improved interior space and larger windows all around. However, that year's redesign went virtually unnoticed, as the styling remained simple and functional. For 1965, Lincoln shared a front-end theme with Mercury, giving them a family resemblance which tied the two brands together in a marketing partnership that remained for over 20 years. In 1966, an entirely new design on the original theme made its debut, and with it came new innovations and more sales. Since 1961, Lincoln's most noticeable feature were doors that latched at the center pillar, often referred to as "suicide" doors. With the exception of the very limited production 1957-1958 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham, this design feature had pretty much faded from the American car scene with the 1951 Lincoln and Mercury four-door sedans.
In addition to the new looks of the Lincoln in 1966, a third model was introduced. Joining the luxury line-up was a two-door hardtop coupe, the first such model under the Lincoln badge for over six years. But the real star in the Lincoln family was the convertible sedan. It was the only factory four-door open car built for mass consumption after World War II. (Fraser launched a half-hearted attempt to market a convertible sedan in 1951, but production was very limited, as was the Mercedes 300.)
Watching the top go up and down on one of these cars is a true modern engineering marvel. When lowered, all of its mechanisms are 100% concealed. With the deck-lid raising on its back hinges, the entire top mechanism lifts high into the air, and then collapses neatly into the trunk. The penalty? Besides the imposing electrics, these huge cars have no trunk space with the top down.
During this time period there were only a few basic options available on a Lincoln. Factory installed air conditioning was one, as was the selection of an AM/FM or AM/8-track sound system. Also on the short list was an interior upgrade package featuring full-leather seating with optional individual power-operated front seats, tilt steering wheel, power trunk lock, headlight dimmer and a vinyl top.
Under the hood of every Lincoln built for 1966 (and `67) was a new 462 cid V8 sporting 340 horses. Specially prepared three-speed automatic transmissions were used in all Lincolns, leaving just one power-train selection. They could select between the standard rear axle with a ratio of 3.00:1, or the "Power Directed" locking unit, which shared the same gearing factor. Minor updates were featured in 1967, which was to be the last year of the convertible sedan. Lincoln added a few new toys to the option list that year, such as power locks that operated as you accelerated, a special "Embassy" vinyl half-top for the coupe, and a new six-way passenger front seat with a power operated headrest plus reclining passenger seat back.
With the end of the 1967 model year, the last factory production Lincoln convertible came off the assembly line, which was also the last convertible sedan for America. A minor face lift featuring larger wrap-around parking lights and elimination of the famed "Continental Star" hood ornament were featured on the 1968 Lincolns. Starting in February of that year Lincoln began to install an all-new engine in all models. Featuring improved cooling, and more power from fewer cubic inches this new 460 cid V8, delivered 365 horses.
In May 1968, a new member to the Lincoln family debuted, the Mark III coupe. These cars are not related to the big Lincolns and are worthy of their own market report. Thanks to the addition of the Mark III, Lincoln scored it's best production calendar year figures ever recorded. For 1969, Lincoln's eight year old slab design was about to be phased out. However, a bold new front end design was implemented, along with a rear-end restyle that featured fin mounted tail lamps that seemed to draw back to the 1961-1965 style.
Also during this time, Lincoln buyers could order through their dealerships, a custom-built limousine. Produced by the Lehmann-Peterson Corporation in Chicago, Illinois, these were in effect early versions of the popular "stretch" limos of the today. Unlike today's mile-long editions, the L-P limos were lengthened only to the extent of the and extra front door panel, and were actively marketed as a "factory approved" edition. Interestingly, Lincoln has brought a similar version on it's current Town Car.
COLLECTOR INTEREST TODAY
These big Lincolns have been enjoying
modest attention, especially on the auction circuit. Of particular
For the collector of luxury cars, these Lincoln are bargains. In Lincoln circles there is a rather interesting phenomena, 4-dr sedans are more popular than the coupes! Obviously, the novelty of a rear-hinged back door is a big draw.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Lincoln's convertible tops are fascinating to watch and generally operate on a reliable basis. One of the features of this model is that when opening a rear door, the window drops a couple of inches to clear the top fabric. This is a common problem area for many of these, so make sure its working. Body rust-out is a major concern. Due to the unibody construction of the Lincolns, body panel replacement isn't a matter of unbolting and replacing a fender or quarter panel. Despite looking almost identical there are some major differences between the sedan and convertible in the areas of floor pans, rear sheet metal and deck lid.
Solid, complete, running sedans from this era can still be found offered under the $2,000 range, with the coupes not far behind. Convertible sedans range in price between $4,000 to $8,000 for solid restorable cars, up to the high-teens for restored examples.
For the person who has to own a Lehmann-Peterson limousine, they can be bargains or big headaches. Adding to the value of these cars is the addition of original factory equipment such as the rear compartment bar and Sony 9" black and white television, plus the mandatory chauffeur's umbrella to protect his charge upon entering or exiting the car. Prices for these cars can range from a few thousand to the $15,000-$20,000 range when properly outfitted and restored, or if they can be directly related to a celebrity. Recently we've seen strong interest in the best examples, which probably means we'll see values rise. For latest values, click here
Restoring Lincolns from this era isn't as simple as whipping out a checkbook and ordering parts. These cars require research and dedication, which makes them a good choice for the experienced hobbyist looking to enjoy a hobby vehicle rather than a quick dollar. It may be for this reason that prices for these beautiful cars are still within reach of most collectors.
Servicing isn't as difficult as you might expect. Once the peculiarities and nuances of the cars has been learned, most things follow a logical sequence that allows amateur restorers to master the restoration and service of these giants.
In the marketplace, the next five years will probably see values remain rather flat, with the possible exception of the convertibles and L-P limos. Even there, though, look for modest appreciation. Many collectors are just now discovering how roomy, comfortable and easy to drive these cars are, but the expense of restoring and maintaining one remains a drawback.
If you move up to a Lincoln from 1966 to 1969, you will be traveling in good company. On a recent visit with none other than Carroll Shelby, we walked through his garage to see a light blue 1967 convertible. "It was a gift to me from Lee Iacocca," Shelby said with his Texas drawl, "I'm not keeping this car for sentimental reasons, I'm keeping it because I like it." There's nothing we can add to that. -- end --
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