With the exception of the original 1939-48 Lincoln Continental, the 1960s Lincolns are quite likely the most recognized products of Ford Motor Company’s premium division. Naturally, the four-door convertibles are the most famous models of that decade, and the most valuable, but the four-door sedans and two-door coupes were attractive luxury transportation as well. Today, we’re talking about the coupe, or Coupé, as Lincoln called it.
Thanks to the failure of the 1958-60 Lincolns in the marketplace, Lincoln itself was close to getting chopped in 1960. It’s a story oft-told, but the short version is Robert McNamara, who thought everyone should drive a Falcon, had set his cap to kill off Edsel, even before the cars first appeared in showrooms.
Lincoln was going to be next, and only an 11th-hour viewing of a proposed future Thunderbird saved the marque. It was stretched just enough to add a second pair of doors, and the result was the 1961 Continental.
Due to those circumstances, the lineup for 1961 was limited to a four-door sedan and four-door convertible. I have always wondered how a 1961 Continental two-door would have looked. Quite well, I imagine. But Lincoln was on thin ice between 1960 and 1961, so I can see why caution in adding new models was taken. Fortunately many were taken with the new car, and Lincoln lived to fight another day.
As lovely as the Continental Convertible was, however, they never were a volume model. I am sure that their mere presence led to lots and lots of Sedan sales, but as much as the drop-top was admired and lusted after, sales between 1961 and 1965 ran between 2800 and 3300 units. The best year prior to the introduction of the Coupé? 3,356 in 1965. Compare that with 36,824 Sedans and you can see why an additional body style was beneficial, though the Coupé would not appear for several model years.
1966 was a big year for Continental connoisseurs. The Coupé finally joined the sedan and convertible, and received the same restyling. Attention to detail was the watchword when it came to these Continentals.
And the new Coupé was a beauty. So sleek, yet still carrying that Continental flair. And when ordered in just the right color combination–like dark red with a black vinyl roof and white leather interior, for instance–absolutely stunning. This car was at the 2014 LCOC (Lincoln and Continental Owners Club) meet in Rockford, Illinois. Although I was drawn like a moth to the flame upon seeing this car, the color combination was the real draw. Fantastic!
The Coupé handily outdistanced the Convertible in 1966 sales, to the tune of 15,766 Coupés against 3,180 Convertibles. Naturally, it did not hurt that the Continental Coupé was the least-expensive Continental of the year, at $5,485. The HVAC outlets were hidden in the chrome instrument panel trim.
Not cheap, of course. It wasn’t supposed to be. Want cheap? Get a Falcon. This was still an American luxury car, back when that really meant something. But $5,485 was still slightly less than the Sedan’s $5,750 and the Convertible’s princely $6,383 FOB pricing. The fact that it was just as attractive as the other models certainly didn’t hurt, and a two-door was much more appealing for a bit more sportiness than a four-door–drop-top or no.
As the cover of the ’66 sales brochure stated: “Lincoln Continental for 1966: unmistakably new, yet unmistakably Continental.” And as a Continental–the pride of Ford Motor Company, built in its own factory (along with the Thunderbird) in Wixom, Michigan, power, prestige and convenience were all important. Motivation was provided by a four-barrel, 340-hp 462 CID V8 engine, backed up by a Twin-Range Turbo-Drive Automatic Transmission.
The interior was equally new. That was quite the instrument panel, too. It actually jutted out towards the driver, with a very ’60s architectural style. Sleek, smooth yet luxurious at the same time. The radio was on the right side of the steering column, and similar controls that aped the radio’s appearance on the left controlled the heating, ventilation and air conditioning. Everything of course was finished to a very high standard.
And with white leather? Wow! And no worries about scorching the backs of your legs in the summertime like you would with a black interior. White interiors are so bright and cheery. I love them. And when traveling in the rear compartment of a Continental, you rode in equally pleasant surroundings as the front seat passengers. You also got a fold-down armrest, power window switch and an illuminated ashtray with a built-in lighter.
The 1966 Continental was attractive enough to get my grandfather out of a Buick Electra 225 and begin his Lincoln journey, with a special-ordered triple-green ’66 sedan. No vinyl roof, but my dad well remembers the optional 8-track stereo, which was very good for its time, sound-wise. He also well remembers sneaking the Continental out of the garage for late-night joyrides. This wasn’t the easiest thing to do, as my grandparents’ bedroom was directly above the attached two-car garage. The trick was to put it in neutral, roll it out of the garage, down the inclined driveway, and only start the engine once the car was on the street itself.
These were just so sleek and elegant. That lovely roofline and the Coke-bottle fenders, while perhaps not quite as severely elegant as the unquestionably attractive 1961-65 Continentals, moved the earlier Connie’s proven aesthetics into the late Sixties a bit better. And really, although we are discussing the Coupé today, I would take any one of them, any year!
This most excellent roofline only was available in 1966 and 1967. For 1968, a bulkier, more Mark III-like roofline was added. It was still a very good-looking car, but I personally prefer the 1966-67 Coupé roofline.
Just look at those lines. Clean, elegant. Just enough chrome trim to catch your attention, but never, never overdone. Refined. Refinement is key. There is a reason stylists back then did things so well. No regulations, and no multimedia claptrap to focus on–like cell phones and laptops adversely influence automotive design today, sadly. Any bozo can slap on fake fender vents or plastichrome-by-the-yard, or stamp zig-zags (the ‘tortured sheetmetal’ school of design) into modern family sedans and crossovers, but it will never, ever look good.
1966 was a long time ago, but at least wonderful cars like this Continental can remind us of perhaps not a better time, but certainly a more aesthetically pleasing one!
*Very pretty .
I still miss my 1965 Lincoln sedan .
Never saw a two-door. It’s a beaut, no question.
Lincoln was a rarity, until the Go-Go late 1960s birthed the Iacocca Marks. Then, they were a bit more common…prosperity in my neighborhood, or just generally, or democratization, price discounts, and high production runs.
We’ve heard the story of how McNamara killed off the Edsel; but IMHO it would have died naturally. I did not realize he had his misaimed sights on the Lincoln line, too. I knew he loved the Falcon, the Intellectual’s Anticar…a domestic Volvo for his fellow college professors…but from what I’ve read, he loved the Thunderbird and the big, heavy, wide Galaxie for the profits they brought. Which allowed him to indulge in his fantasies, of having a zero-frills auto-appliance mass-marketed.
The man was poison. Everywhere he went, he left ruin and lies and lost opportunities.
McNamara did OK in installing rational accounting systems to Ford after Henry I died, but I’m hard pressed to find another case where he wasn’t an abject and arrogant failure (Vietnam war misrepresentation, anyone?)
Well, given how ugly that 1960 is, I am not surprised it was almost killed.
People are starting to re-define the cars of the latest 50s but truthfully, pretty much from when they were released till just a few years ago they were regarded as the ugliest collection of automobiles ever released. President Eisenhower cought a real ration of you know what when he was asked about poor US auto maker financial performance in ’58 and ’59 and answered “well, if you look at the cars it’s no surprise” or something like that.
Fortunately for those who like their 58 Chevies and so on, the current crop of cars styled by 12 year olds with Transformers and Manga obsessions is making them look better each year.
Yeah…they wrapped the front of the 1960, around the ugly tree…no question.
The 1959 Fords were no better – the blocklike body, with contrived hip flares and sorta-fins, sorta-rocket-exhausts, didn’t make it any palatable.
I’d give Chevrolet a pass on the 1959-60s, though. The 1958 was an uninspired bloatmobile, that would have cost Harley Earl his job, but that he was retiring; but the batwing 1959s, while over the top, were almost likeable. And the 1960 cleaned the basic design up well.
Unnecessarily complex, but not bad. I always wanted an El Camino of that generation…now, they’re going for mucho dinero; but back when I was a kid, they were kinda the redheaded stepchild of that generation.
The mid 60’s Lincolns were quite nice, really. Actually, by then all of these cars had shed their 1950’s jet age fins and such; everything was a stately three box design. Engel had done such an excellent job on the original of this series, that only mild updates were enough to keep the car fresh, for over a whole decade. Plus it inspired others to adopt the “sheer” look; GM used it to great effect on the 1977+ B bodies.
When I think of Lincoln and Continental especially, these are the cars I think of. If you want my honest opinion, these cars were the class of the 1960’s, the Cadillacs and Chryslers of the same times were staid, also rans. By the early 1970’s, the Chryslers were the class and after 1977, GM had it on lockdown. After the mid-1980’s the Euros and Lexus take over and really haven’t relinquished leadership since.
I have to agree; this is stunning design. Plain, simple and pure essence. It doesn’t get any better.
I want to thank you so much for this article featuring many pictures of our beloved Lincoln coupe at the Rockford meet. It was our last show with that car. We owned it 1976-2015, driving it to many LCOC shows. My husband, Tom, helped write the authenticity manual.
During our years of owning and showing it, we only saw 5 other ’66s, mostly in rough shape. It was all original and we were the 2nd owners. We’ve lost track of it since the buyer passed it on after only 6 months of ownership (I think he became ill). We hope it shows up at an LCOC meet in the future.
Christine, you’re very welcome. It was a beautiful car. I wasn’t an LCOC member at the time, but joined in early 2015 and have been active in the Lake Shore Region since then. The Racine club meet last summer was really cool.
Great article (again). Hello to Tom and Christine, also. I will take umbrage at the “ugly” ’60 comment above…maybe “different”/
We really enjoyed this article. It made us miss the ’66 that was such a big part of our life for almost 39 years. We met great people over the years at LCOC meets nationwide. A big shout-out to Glenn, too. Hope all is well with you and yours. Maybe we’ll get to a meet or two soon. I almost made the Lincoln Homecoming in August with my ’93 Mark VIII (talk about a well-styled car), but something came up at the last minute.
Thanks again to Tom Klockau for the wonderful article.