I am well known for my love of Ford Motor Company’s flagship, the Lincoln Continental. Very few people, at least those who appreciate classic cars, would argue that the 1961-69 Continental was anything but a classic design and a true American luxury car, but I also am rather fond of the 1970-73 version. Remember those? They’ve kind of faded from memory over the decades, with the ’60s Continentals on one side and the square-rigged, luxury railroad coaches that were the 1975-79 Continentals.
I certainly remember them. A big part of that is due to an old, forgotten triple black 1971 Lincoln Continental that was sitting in a 1920s-era one-car garage not far from my neighborhood. From the age of approximately five through the end of junior high, my beloved bicycles took me where I wanted to go. Heck, I still have my first bike sitting in my garage!
One of the places I liked to go was to pass this black-over-black 1971 Continental sedan. All the years I checked it out, it never moved.
About two feet of the trunk protruded out of the garage opening, with the garage door itself snugged down to the top of the trunk lid. Peering below the aforementioned door, one could see layer upon layer of dust and four very flat tires. But the car, at least to my memory, was clean and complete other than one broken rear window, and most attractive to the then-nine-year-old version of yours truly. The standard wheel discs were sitting on the rear seat. I knew it was a ’71 due to the three triple taillight clusters per side.
Back then it never occurred to me why this car was sitting in this garage for so many years. In retrospect, it was rather odd, as the house that belonged to the garage was in excellent shape, with a well-tended yard. Even the garage was in nice shape too, dusty old car within notwithstanding.
I have no idea what that black Continental’s story was. The garage was never in use, and the homeowner had a cream-over-gold 1982-85 Chrysler LeBaron that sat in the driveway. The driveway was perpendicular to the garage. The garage itself was placed oddly on the lot. Best I can figure is that maybe there had been another house on the corner, and it had been torn down, with the house next door (and accompanying driveway) inheriting the garage. Today, I’m way too late to find out what that car’s story was. Back then all my adolescent brain was thinking was “Cool old Continental! Must investigate!”
I actually (quite stupidly, in retrospect) snuck in the garage one time and actually got into the car! What can I say, kids do dumb things, especially when said dumb kid is totally infatuated with a then-twenty-year-old, neglected Lincoln.
I remember sitting in the back seat on plush black leather, then climbing into the front seat and being totally smitten with that amazing dashboard and Y-spoke steering wheel. Is that not a great steering wheel or what?
Another time (yes, I was dumb enough to do it more than once!) I got into the car, only, to my horror, see the man of the house mowing the lawn at the head end of the garage. He was less than five feet from the doorless doorway at the opposite end of the garage.
Oh crap! It never occurred to my nine-year-old brain that I was nigh-on invisible to him, sitting in a dark car in a dark garage on that sunny summer day. So I sat in the rear compartment of that car for what seemed a very long time. But in actuality was probably ten minutes or so. I never did get caught. Such escapades were rare in my childhood. But this car was a special case!
So I had a thing for these cars. Indeed, at a car show my dad and I attended in 1991, a vendor had a bunch of old car brochures. Dad said he would buy me a couple. Naturally, I zeroed right in on the silvery covers of the 1971 Lincoln Continental and Mark III brochure, with “my” car in it! My second choice? The equally-plush 1971 Cadillac deluxe catalog. I still have both. I definitely have a fondness for 1971 American luxury yachts.
And thus to we come to the present, or rather the near-present, with this most excellent tan over brown 1971 Continental sedan. I spotted it at the 2014 LCOC meet in Rockford, Illinois. It is owned by Bill Fletcher, who I didn’t know at the time. Heck, I wasn’t even a member of the club yet, but this show, held in September 2014, was what led to my joining the club in January 2015. Small world, huh?
The 1970-up Continentals have been said by some (mostly people who’ve never driven one) to be a bit of a letdown compared to its 1961-69 forebear. But keep in mind, that generation, despite a refresh for 1966, was rather long in the tooth. What should Lincoln otherwise have done?
Luxury car buyers want the newest one they can get. This was the right Continental for the ’70s. Essentially all-new save the engine and transmission. As nice and as elegant as the Sixties Lincoln Continental was, they were just used cars by the Seventies. And new Lincoln buyers wanted the latest, the greatest, the most-gadget-laden new one!
But lucky you! On a recent evening after having a couple of cocktails, I remembered the ’71 Continental owned by members of the Great Lakes Region of the LCOC, and my ill-gotten seat time in an old forgotten 1971 Continental. So you see now how nicely I tied the two together! These cars are great!
As a kid, to me, an abandoned car to me had more allure than whole playground…..
I have to admit that while I like the suicide-door Continentals, my first choice would be a ’70-’74 sedan, with a Mark III and Mark VII LSC parked on either side of it. The later versions are OK, but for some reason these just hit me in the right spot.
I still call it “dad’s car”
It’s a beauty. Has it been in your family since new. How many miles on it?
No we bought it quite a while ago when it had 11,000 miles. It has been driven to countless LCOC national meets all over the US. It has won the Lincoln/Ford motor trophy and gone senior three times. The first time in 1998 and probably for its last time in 2016 in Denver. As a senior the car has won the Ruth Trophy three times and was the first car to be a ten time Emeritus Cass winner. She has about 71000 miles now and has never been trailed to a meet.
Nice car, although If I came to own one, that no doubt single-digit-mpg-getting driveline would be ostracized to the garage corner in lieu of some modern components. Not a Coyote, but maybe a Triton out of a rolled Expedition.
We never experienced “single digit” fuel economy 11-12 before we installed a Mallory electronic distributor With the cap painted black to appear stock. The car gets about 16 on the highway. An engine swap to get better would take decades to pay for itself.
Well said Tom ;
You are right on in your description of these fine cars .
Too big for me but very smooth and quiet to be sure .
The group photos are nice and bring back memories of the local Lincoln Dealers lot in the early 1970’s .
Looking at the last picture, I think of the challenge for the plant assembly worker to make that fender, wheel skirt, and rear door align.
As usual nice pictures and story Tom, which well illustrate how so many early 70s cars got their nice lines destroyed by poor integration of the 5 mph bumpers. Obviously the bumpers of the 71 wouldn’t provide any protection at all, but they sure look nice compared to the clunky ones from the mid-70s on. As for what they should have done after the 61-69, they should have stayed with unit body but used those new fangled computers to take about 800 lbs out of the structure. It would also be interesting to speculate what might have happened it they had kept or slightly shrunken the tighter exterior dimensions of the 61-69, and invested in independent rear suspension, which would have created space to expand trunk and rear seat roominess and shrunken the drive-shaft tunnel. Would efficiency and real technology (and not just gadgets) have helped sell more 1971 Lincoln’s in an American market where gas was still less than 30 cents per gallon?
Not sure an irs would have done much good. It didn’t attract import buyers to the 65 Corvette or the 79 Eldorado. It is a standard trope of import buyers when what they really object to is sending their money to the big three in Detroit. There too big…. the cars shrink… the quality sucks… Quality is job one.. your platforms are out of date… we brought over the Euro platforms… we just don’t like you… ah the truth.
The problem for Detroit was they went backwards when everyone else went forwards in the 1970s. Take a 1955 Cadillac or Lincoln and compare the technology and build quality with a 1955 Rolls Royce or Mercedes, and you would have been objectively crazy to buy the Europeans. By the mid-60s things were starting to get more competitive, and the Mercedes 600 or Rolls Shadow were technologically ahead of the Americans (mostly because the Americans hadn’t advanced much from 1955), but the American cars were still very competitive and offered much better value for money. But then Lincoln abandons unit bodies and starts sharing complete drivetrains with Ford, doesn’t adopt fuel injection or IRS, and build quality slips dramatically. Cadillac never moves beyond its 1967 technology until the late 1970s, and also slips badly with regard to build and material quality. Not surprising that it is during the 1970s when Mercedes, BMW, Jaguar, and Audi started to make big inroads into the upper-crust US market, while Cadillac and Lincoln fought back with rebadged Novas and Falcons. From the perspective of the 1950s and 60s, it is utterly amazing that MB, BMW, Lexus, and Audi now all vastly outsell Cadillac and Lincoln in the US market (while they sell virtually nothing in Europe or Japan), but they gave it all away with lazy engineering and lack of attention to build quality.
Compare an 80 Citation to a 70 Nova and a 70 Corona and an 80 Corona and tell me who was innovating and moving forward. The change in buying habits was generational and to do with politics.
On the Grosser and the Silver Shadow, did their ridiculously complex suspensions really do anything other than complicate the ownership experience. On the Grosser you still had swing axles with their sudden tuck under and the Rolls you just had their two engineers try to overcome the fact that the Citroen hydraulics were all hype.
Thank you, I’ve always thought the 600 was a seriously overrated car, interesting, yes, significant, yes, but 3x times the price of a comparable Cadillac and the a/c still hangs under the dash like a Mustang? Pass. Sure its nice if your Paul VI or Idi Amin……
How would you like to be the service advisor at the Mercedes dealer in Kampala when you have to tell his royal rotundness that the air springs are back ordered. You will need Otto Skorzeny to get you away from there.
The fact that you used the term “re-badged Nova” totally discredits anything else you wrote…….
Someone is channeling their inner Paul Needledick…err meyer………
Weight loss and IRS?
Beautiful cars, all of them. Lincolns of the Seventies had Cadillac and Imperial beat on assembly quality, and it was really apparent when you climbed inside. They may have been a bit too big for my driving tastes, but I’d enjoy being chauffeured in one.
Well done Tom. I liked the look of the Continental town cars of that era better than the Marks. But the 73 Mark is still my favorite.
Growing up in the 60’s, the developerthree does down had a ’66 suicide door Continental. LOVED IT ! Across the street was a ’69 Continental Mark III.
But what really caught my eye were the ’56 and ’57 Continental Mark II’s around the corner. Even in elementary school I was in love with them and knew they were special.
I have owned 2 1971 Coupe and love these cars. One of those 71’s was triple black and I had it for 16 yrs, my 21st birthday present to myself. Been looking for another, any one know if one is for sale?
As a matter of fact, a friend is selling his 1970 Coupe. I’ve seen this car in person. https://www.facebook.com/groups/278990295587990/permalink/1007396006080745/
I know of a 70 that is for sale
The Yellow 71’ continental with the brown vinyl roof is identical to my first car. I grew up in Fairfax Va but went to school in NC. I left the car at my folks place while I was in school (freshman weren’t allowed to have cars on campus. My dad talked me into putting the car in his name as insurance was expensive for a sixteen year old kid, so… when I went back to school after Christmas break, my dad sold my car to two guys needing a great cruising ride to get them to Calf. I never saw the car again. Since then I’ve been looking for a 71’ 4 dr. Continental with out any luck. Any chance that brown on yellow continental pictured is for sale?
A 71 Continental was my dad’s favorite.