CC Custom: Lehmann-Peterson Four-Door 1970 Lincoln Continental Mark III

Lehmann-Peterson was a well-known converter of Lincoln Limousines in the 1960’s and 1970’s, a full history of which I am working on for a future article. A discussion on the recent 1980 Duesenburg article about coach built customs reminded me of one of their more interesting creations, this four-door 1970 Lincoln Continental Mark III created as a one-off for a well-heeled customer.

But before we get into the featured car, let’s cover the (all too brief) history of four-door Marks. While the original Continental and Continental Mark II were two-door models only, the 1958-60 Continental Mark III-V were available as both two- and four-door models, as well as a convertible (with the four-door model handily outselling the two-door variants, I might add).

The retconned 1969 Lincoln Continental Mark III (based on the 5th generation Thunderbird) was available only in coupe form, supposedly at the insistence of Henry Ford II, who wanted to stay true to the coupe concept of the Mark I and II Continentals. The Deuce’s protestations aside, the Mark II coupe it was actually intended to be the start of a full line of Marks, including a convertible and four-door hardtop (rendered below).

 

I’m a big fan of the 4th generation 1961-69 suicide door Continentals and the Mark III, but the fifth-generation Continental always left me a little cold. It lack the presence of the 1961-69 Continental, especially with its conventional forward-hinged rear doors. Apparently Mr. Grover Martin Hermann, retired chairman of Martin-Marietta, felt the same way and commissioned Lehmann-Peterson to create this one-off four-door 1970 Lincoln Contintenal Mark III.

The story goes that Mr. Hermann phoned Ford, inquiring about a four-door Mark III. Ford informed Hermann that the Mark III is available only as a two-door car. When Mr. Hermann reminded Ford of how many vehicles Martin-Marietta purchased from the company, they referred him to Lehmann-Peterson, the same company that made the factory custom limousine conversions for Ford.

While it is hard to say how much of that story is legendary, this is one of the better documented “factory” customs I’ve seen. Unlike some customs with sketchy provenance or murky history, some documentation does exist for this car, and is presented here.

A 1970 Mark III started out at around $7,300 ($49,000 in 2018 dollars), but by the time you added in such necessary “options” as air conditioning, leather seats, AM-FM radio and six-way power seats, you were looking at an out the door price of closer to $9,000 ($60,000 adjusted). Thanks to the surviving invoice, we know that Grover Hermann paid $13,325 ($87,000 adjusted) to Lehmann-Peterson for the conversion (on top of the cost of the donor Mark III), which means that all in he probably spent about $23,000 for this car ($150,000 today).

Grover Hermann’s cash outlays didn’t stop there. When he brought the car home, Mrs. Hermann supposedly didn’t like the original gray color of the car, so he sunk an additional $3,200 in late 1970 stripping and repainting the car in the metallic blue color you see here.

While I love my Lincolns as much as anyone, in my opinion there were better was to spend $23,000 on a luxury car in 1970. This amount of money would have gotten you into a short wheelbase Mercedes Benz 600 “Grosser,” whose short wheelbase was still an incredible 126 inches, and was by all measures a far superior car to the Lincoln. In any case, I’m glad Mr. Hermann went the route he did, or else we wouldn’t have this one-of-a-kind Mark III.

So let’s take a closer look at this car and see what Grover Hermann got for his money (aside from bragging rights). For starters, the Mark’s wheelbase was stretched 7.3 inches, from the adequate 117.2 inches of the standard Mark III to a generous 124.5 inches, all of which went into the back seat. While the scale of this car conceals the added wheelbase fairly well, you can see the massive amounts of back seat leg room this stretch afforded in the interior shot above.

This frame extension would have necessitated a longer driveshaft and a custom vinyl roof, but the stretch was probably the easy part of this job. The four-door conversion had to be where most of the money and effort went. While the invoice offers no specifics on how this was accomplished, from the photos I can reasonably guess how this was done.

For starters, even though the Mark III was only available as a two door, its platform-mate Thunderbird was available in both a two-door and four-door configuration. Better yet, the four-door was a suicide door, with rear-hinged back doors. So by borrowing liberally from the four-door T-Bird, much of your rear door hardware (hinges, window lifts, latches, wiring, etc.) would have been taken care of. The center pillar came from a Thunderbird, as you can clearly see in the “zig-zag” shape the center latches in the pictures above. Even the shut lines of the rear doors are the same as that of the 4-door Bird.

Indeed, the front doors and door glass appears to be straight from a T-Bird, just with a shortened Mark III door skin on the outside. The rear doors are stretched versions of the T-Bird rear doors, with a cut down Mark III rear fender as the door skin. The rear door glass is definitely not from the T-Bird – it is probably custom cut from a donor front door pane.Overall, the car appears to be far better balanced than the four-door Thunderbird, with the front and rear doors being about the same length (the rear doors of the 4-door Thunderbird always seem to be too stubby). If Lincoln had actually produced this, they likely would have sold like crazy, as the Mark III was already very popular, and by 1970 the Continental has lost its signature suicide doors.

Of course, we don’t have to speculate: The last chapter of this story has already been written, and we know how it turns out. From 1980 to 1983, Lincoln did produce one last four-door Mark, in this case the Mark VI. While it was literally just a four-door Continental with opera windows, fender vents and concealed headlights, it did still manage to slightly outsell the coupe Mark VI.

Postscript

Grover Hermann’s 4-door Mark III was featured at least twice in Collectible Automobile magazine: In the April 1992 issue (where some of the photos in this post came from), and again in December 2007. The car was acquired in 1977 by Colorado car collector Frank Masi after Hermann traded it in on (what else?) a new Lincoln. Frank Masi is now deceased, and the current whereabouts and condition of the 4-door Mark III are unknown.

Related Reading

Curbside Classic: 1956 Continental Mark II – Caught In The Pincers

Curbside Classic: 1958 Continental Mark III – The Party’s Over

Curbside Classic: 1968-1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III – Right On! The Mark

Curbside Classic: 1967 Ford Thunderbird Landau Sedan – Are Four Doors Really Better Than Two?

Curbside Classic: 1983 Lincoln Continental Mark VI – Missing the Mark