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!