Folks, let me tell you a story–a nightcap, if you will. Perhaps you may enjoy a gin and tonic while you read. Go ahead, I’ll wait. OK, ready? Once upon a time, there was a classy luxury car called the Lincoln. About ninety years ago, she came into the world. Well made, aspirational, comfortable and imposing. The Lincoln was worthy of any man of taste’s attention, and if you treated her right, she would be a friend for life.
Things actually got off to a bumpy start. Her benefactor, Mr. Leland, did not skimp on her finery, but in so doing, ran into the rocks financially. So the Lincoln was sold off to a rich industrialist. He wasn’t actually all that interested in the Lincoln, but his son, Edsel, took a shine to her, and the resulting Lincolns of the ’30s were remarkably beautiful, luxurious and worthy of your attention. While the Depression era was not particularly kind to them, Lincoln hung in there and the 1936-up Zephyrs and Lincoln-Continentals of 1940-48 were, again, remarkable cars.
Fast-forward to 1960. In 1958 a bigger (gigantic, actually) line of Lincolns and Continental Mark IIIs debuted, intending to out-Cadillac Cadillac. Bigger, better, bolder, newer! But it didn’t work, and a squinty-eyed bean-counter who probably loved Velveeta sandwiches and frowning, used the 1958-60 Lincolns’ failure as a great excuse to kill off the marque. Fortunately, he was not entirely stupid, and upon viewing a proposed design for a new Thunderbird, decided that it would be the next Lincoln Continental. What a save!
Feeling the pressure, FoMoCo designers adapted the prototypical T-Bird into a four-door sedan, stretching the wheelbase to add an extra pair of doors and more room. The resulting pillared 1961 Lincoln Continental sedan was a design triumph, and as a bonus, an even more classically beautiful Continental four-door convertible was offered as well. Lincoln was back, baby! Who’d have thunk it?
And to their credit, the Continental changed very little as the 1960s unfolded. Lincoln simply carried on the look, that simple, attractive, timeless appeal. Those Continental looks were hurriedly adapted by competing luxury makes, too (I’m looking at you, 1964 Imperial). Witness the rapid decline of Cadillac fins, and their subsequent removal for model year 1965. The flamboyant excess was rapidly diminishing as the Sixties played out.
This was the “in, with-it” look. Real with-it, baby! And while Cadillac still handily outsold the Lincoln during that time, the Continentals did do very well for themselves.
The biggest change was in 1966, when most of the sheet metal was changed for a smoother, slightly less rectilinear look. But the classic Continental appeal was still very much in evidence. The other big news that year was a new, very attractive coupe–the first two-door Lincoln since 1960.
Though Edsel Ford was long gone by the 1960s, Ford Motor Company certanly was doing right by their acquired luxury make. My grandfather, Robert A. Klockau, was impressed enough with them that he did something rather unusual for the time: He traded in his circa-1962 Buick Electra 225 sedan for a brand-new 1966 Continental sedan, special-ordered in dark green with no vinyl roof and dark green leather interior. And factory 8-track stereo.
Purchased at Bob Neal Lincoln-Mercury in Rock Island, IL. Perhaps it was due to my grandmother’s purchase of a 1965 Thunderbird convertible that decided him on a Lincoln. That one was navy blue, with white interior, blue dash and carpet, and a white top. Grammy kept that T-Bird all the way to 1977, she liked it so much!
Sure, today people change marques like they change clothes, but back then it was a bit unusual. Back then, you were a Buick Guy, or a Chrysler Guy, or a Pontiac Guy. That’s what you drove, that’s what you were. But the Lincoln Continentals inspired my Grandpa Bob to say goodbye to Buicks. The green Continental went on many family vacations that my then-teenaged Dad remembers fondly: Biloxi, MS, South Padre Island, TX, and other points of interest. Flying?! Bah! Travel by Continental-it’s better out there.
My grandmother could get away with a convertible, but Grandpa Bob was a Midwestern attorney (Klockau, McCarthy, Ellison, Rinden and Hartsock–does anyone in the Quad Cities area remember?) and insurance company executive (Illinois Casualty is still kicking, Dad retired as President in 2012), so a convertible just wouldn’t do!
Still, I wonder if he walked around a Continental convertible in the showroom when his own car was in for service, thinking about it. There’s no denying their appeal–and classic beauty!
ut despite the appeal, by the mid-Sixties the Connie convertible just wasn’t selling all that great. I’m sure the new Coupe ushered in for 1966 also hurt convertible sales–here was a sporty Continental, for less than the drop-top, and no worries about drafts in colder months! And so, in 1967, that beautiful Lincoln Convertible, belle of the ball, the one that got ALL the attention made its last stand in Lincoln-Mercury showrooms.
And they were still beautiful. Lush, pleated leather, power you-name-it, a crazily amazing power top that retracted into the reverse-opening trunk–and no need for a top boot!–and room for you and five of your best friends. What a way to travel. But ’67 was your last chance for a new one; only 2,276 of the $6449 convertibles ($654 more than the sedan, $896 more than a coupe) were built, all with a 4BBL, 340-hp 462 CID V8. It was last call for living the Continental life–topless style! And what a way to travel!
And if you will indulge me a moment, time for my favorite pet peeve. Namely, color! Yes, you could get great, glorious color in your 1967 Continental. A virtual cornucopia of greens, golds, reds, blues and aquas. Classic black with red leather? Sure. Aqua with white leather and black vinyl roof? You bet! Triple navy blue? Why sure! But thanks to idiot lessors (BMW: The Ultimate Leasing Machine!), and cheapskate production managers, such a wealth of color is sadly lacking in today’s 2018 models. Though I am heartened by the reappearance of reds and off-whites in luxury makes. Heck, even a couple of ’17-’18 models have a blue interior-including the Black Label Lincoln Continental. Now where was I?
Although the early-evening sunshine makes it look white, this lovely Connie convertible, seen at the LCOC National meet in Rockford, IL on 9/20/14, is actually Powder Blue, according to the brochure, with Black top and black leather. It was a beauty. This example, however, is a 1966 model. 1967s added vertical bars to the grille texture, a “flower pot” energy-absorbing steering wheel hub, and revised taillights, among other minor changes.
The ’60s were a really good time to live. And if you had the money, why, a Continental was just the thing. As my 1967 brochure states, clearly, and I can’t think of a better way to close this article.
“The Continental is a way of living. It may include a plane of your own. Vacations in Europe. Being the first to discover a new restaurant. It can mean knowing where to go when the trout season opens. A boat for your family. And a home that is distinctly yours. The Continental life is enjoyed by the kind of person who thinks for himself. The kind of person who is admired for what he is over what he has. It is because Lincoln Continental is so naturally a part of his way of living that we call this the Continental life. Continental reflects his individuality, his own good taste. It’s a good car. The very best we have to offer. We invite you to turn the page and examine the 1967 Lincoln Continental. And to add the ’67 Continental to the good things in your life this year.”
Great story Tom. I remember it used to be common to see classified ads for Caddies and Lincolns with somewhat high mileage, but with the claim they were “highway” miles since they were favorites of well-heeled road warriors back in the 1950s to 1970s. With flying so cheap, I wonder how many premium cars still get taken on long business trips or family vacation trips these days?
My only childhood connection with Lincolns are my memories that Oliver Wendell Douglas was the envy of his Hooterville compatriots with a new Lincoln Continental every season of Green Acres. I also remember Goldfinger where a new Continental got crushed along with a mobster passenger and a trunkload of gold, and then the 5,000 lb bale being dropped in the back of a Falcon based Ranchero and driven away by Oddjob (I suspect it was a bit over the gross vehicle weight rating for a Ranchero).
Interesting personalized vignette of an interesting manifestation of an interesting car line. Truly. I have little memories of those cars; since Lincoln buyers were not present in our young, upwardly-mobile suburban neighborhood. There were few elderly members of my family; those that were, were blue-collar or entrepreneurial. A great-uncle was a Cadillac man; another great-uncle, they were brothers-in-law, was a retired postman and a fanatical Nash man. It was he who persuaded my father to buy his one-and-only Rambler.
By rights, my father should have been an Olds man – an engineer with mechanical aptitude. But he had an adventurous streak. He ran a Ford Model B in college; and after graduation, before it was socially accepted, he bought, new, a Chevrolet pickup truck. The New Look postwar.
From that, he moved all over. He was drawn to Fords, but the way they rusted, in the 1950s-70s, led him to leave them again and again. Rambler; then Kaiser-Jeep; then with Chrysler – an OmniRizon and a minivan.
Never did the subdued stateliness of the Lincoln ever draw him.
For eight years he drove as part of his job, as an industrial-sales rep; so driving vacations were out of the question. We didn’t fly, either. We had our little track, our circle…three hours drive-time, max. Cedar Point. Niagara Falls. Finger Lakes. Beyond that, it was out of the question. I envied those neighbor kids who’d gone to the new Disney World, or to Las Vegas…
Flying cheap today? It is that. It’s also degrading and insulting. I’d rather have my space.
And I’d rather make the trip part of the vacation. In good weather, I’ll tour by motorcycle. Poor weather, I’ll load up the dufflebags and hip flask and take Amtrak. Although the way things are going, it’s starting to be statistically safer on my motorcycle.
Reading that brochure on the Continental life, it is interesting the contrast. A Mercedes would be telling you how great they are with pictures of white coated technicians and clipboards. Lincoln tells you how great you are.
A nice article about very fine cars .
I had a ’65, ’63 and ’64 in that order, all were sweet if thir$ty .
I vacationed in Canindaigua Lake (GreenCove IIRC) in the 1960’s it was great .
” With flying so cheap, I wonder how many premium cars still get taken on long business trips or family vacation trips these days? “.
Cattle Car Airline : bringing typhoid & diphtheria to an airport near _you ! .
Flying sucks, but the equivalent to Lincoln buyers in the 1960s will almost certainly be flying business class or higher, and get access to the airline lounges and speedy security lines that take away a lot of the “cattle car” aspects of modern flying. And even Business Class today is a lot cheaper than coach in the 1960s.
Another great article, I recognize the pictures!!! The ’60 convertible in the third picture is Jerry Seibert’s, an original car he found at a dealership collection. All he did was change the fluids and drive.
I’ve loved Lincolns ever since my father was loaned a new ’61 Continental sedan by the local dealer. It was black with tan leather upholstery, and the wonder of air conditioning to keep the Virginia humidity at bay. Later, in the early to mid Seventies, I had a customer with a black ’64. He would bring it in for service, and I’d happily deliver it back to him. It felt big but not bargy, and there was no float that I remember from driving it on the twisting back roads of his neighborhood. As for flying from, say, Virginia to Florida…why bother? Just load up your gear, pack in your honey or a couple of buddies and roll, baby, roll. Cruising a big V8 down a long highway to the sun is the American way. Let’s keep it going while we can.
We had that identical dark green Cougar with the half white roof. It was a sweet ride.
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