Please welcome Tom Klockau to Riverside Green. You’ve read him on various other automotive sites, including “Curbside Classics”. He’s graciously agreed to toss a couple of articles in for the old-car fanatics among us, self included! — jb
I like old cars. I like new cars too, but whenever I’m on the way to work or the store or wherever, I always keep an eye out for anything interesting. Modern cell phones mean most people are carrying a camera anyway, but I still keep an honest-to-God digital camera in the car. You can’t even make calls on it, honest! And sometimes, I see some pretty cool stuff.
I live in the Midwest. So most people may think the cool cars hide out for half of the year. But not always! For instance, just this month I saw 1956 Cadillac Coupe de Ville at a McDonald’s out by the airport. That one nearly caused me to drive off the road, I was so surprised. But today let’s check out this personal-lux cruiser from the ’70s: The Continental Mark IV.
The Mark IV debuted in Autumn ’71 as a replacement for the 1969-71 Continental Mark III. Like its predecessor it was strictly first cabin, based upon the Ford Thunderbird but with more elaborate trim and the trademark Rolls-Royce grille and hidden headlamps.
The Mark III had appeared more distinct than the ’72 Mark IV vis a vis the T-Bird, but it still sold rapidly. Only the ’72 had the classy thin bumpers front and rear. The 5-m.p.h. front bumper was added for 1973, as on all 1973 U.S. cars. By the time the final IVs appeared in showrooms, large battering-ram bumpers had appeared on either end. But then, so had they on everything else!
But oh, how Lincoln made hay while the sun shined. Cadillac usually ate Lincoln’s lunch in the sales charts, but from the debut of the new Mark, it rather consistently outsold the Cadillac Eldorado, though Caddy’s total volume was always much higher. From the initial Mark IVs, as the model years progressed more and more special editions, colors and trims were added, starting with the Silver Luxury Group in 1973 and Gold Luxury Group in 1974. Further Luxury Groups in 1975-76 included Blue Diamond, Gold/Cream, Lipstick/Red, Light Jade/Dark Jade, and several others-all for ‘just a bit more’ as most salesman probably put it.
But the top of the line–and a genius idea for an upper-crust coupe like the Mark–was the Designer Series of 1976. Name brand high-fashion designers chose special color combinations and interiors, resulting in Givenchy, Pucci, Bill Blass and Cartier editions.
And of course the Designer Series had a healthy premium over a ‘plain’ Continental Mark IV. I am sure Lincoln made a healthy profit on each one.
And so it was that I was on my way to the barber a couple of years ago when I saw what looked like a Cartier Mark IV sitting on a side street. Further investigation proved it was so, and fairly presentable albeit slightly worn.
Some rust, but it was all there, right down to the polished alloy wheels, whitewalls and landau top. The interior photos didn’t come out great due to heavily tinted windows, but the dove gray leather seats were in nice shape too.
These cars were all about style, and to be seen in was more important than parking ease or rear passenger legroom. After all, it was a PERSONAL luxury car. YOU and your spouse/significant other got the cushy seats, and if the Josephs were a little too uncomfortable sitting in the back, well, they could always drive separate and meet you at the supper club.
Yep, they were a nightmare to parallel park, they sucked gas, the trunk was relatively puny for such a long car. But! But it was so brash, so clearly American. No one was going to mistake this for a Monterey or LTD. You had arrived! It’s really only relatively recently that Lincoln has started to get just a little of that swagger back with the new Continental. But in ’76, this was ‘the one.’ You had arrived, so enjoy it!