Mr. Lido A. Iacocca is a polarizing figure. For some, he took all the glory, imposed his will at his own peril, and took credit for the work of others. Alternately, he was a super salesman, made his career from nothing, created some new market segments no one else had ever thought of, and saved a car company at the brink of being toast. Few are neutral about the man. But I fall a bit more into the latter camp, and the subject of today’s daily dose of Lincoln is why: The magnificent Continental Mark III.
This is the car that brought personal luxury to the masses. The 1970-72 Monte Carlo. Sure, personal-lux coupes had been around for years, but generally they were flossier high-end cars. Cars like the first of its type, the Ford Thunderbird, which had more or less set the mold in 1958 with its low-slung lines, bucket seats and soon-to-be-ubiquitous center console.
Other makes immediately set their sights on the T-Bird, with cars like the Pontiac Grand Prix, Buick Riviera, and Oldsmobile Toronado. A case can be made for the 1967 Mercury Cougar as well, with its luxury touches, but really, it was still Mustang-derived and thus a ponycar, not a personal luxury car. Yes indeed, luxury coupe mania spread like wildfire throughout the Sixties, but there really were no offerings for the “Low Priced Three”, Chevrolet, Ford and Plymouth. Until 1970.
The Ford Thunderbird underwent multiple personality changes throughout its life. What started out as a two-seat convertible had, by the time the fifth-generation Thunderbird debuted in the autumn of 1966, become a much different automobile. Sure, it was still flashy and typically loaded with power gadgets, but one thing was missing for the first time since the first T-Birds appeared: A convertible top.
Well, the writing had been on the wall for some time, with topless T-Bird sales dropping across several previous years. Indeed, by the early ’70s nearly all the topless cars built in the Land of the Free were gone, or on borrowed time. But what to replace it with? The answer was — believe it or not — a four-door sedan.