We all have cars in our lives that are fondly recalled. Sometimes it’s one of our parent’s cars, or an uncle’s, or maybe just the neighbor’s next door when you were twelve. For me, it was mostly Volvos, as I grew up with them. I have never driven or owned anything but a Volvo. But at the same time, there are certain American cars that left a deep impression on me. Like my Grandpa Bob’s 1987 Continental sedan, in Rose Quartz Metallic.
Grandpa Bob was a Lincoln man. Starting with a deep green 1966 suicide-door Connie sedan, he never owned any other marque. My Dad has fond memories of sneaking said Continental out of the garage in the middle of the night as a teen. This was somewhat difficult as the attached two-car garage was immediately below my grandparents’ bedroom. But he managed…
Grandpa Bob was born in 1914 and served in WWII. An oft-told family tale is when he was stationed in Japan, he was being driven in a Jeep somewhere when a sniper hit his driver. Only by grabbing the wheel and flooring it was he able to get out of there. As a result, he never bought a Japanese car, and gave my uncle a hard time when he bought a Subaru GL wagon in 1986. Nope, nothing but big, comfortable Lincolns for him.
After the ’66, he had a dark green 1968 Continental Mark III, then a similarly-hued 1972 Continental Mark IV. As a vet, he wasn’t particularly thrilled when Dad bought a ’53 VW as a winter beater, and later on got into Porsche 356s. But to his credit, he accepted it.
Especially one cold Midwestern morning in late 1972 when his brand-new Mark IV wouldn’t start in the subzero weather, despite being garaged. Dad had to give him a ride to the law firm in the Vee Dub, which fired up without a hitch. I can just see him grudgingly sitting in the passenger seat in his suit, with his briefcase, arms crossed…
The IV was replaced with a triple midnight-blue Mark V, with the chrome alloy wheels. That was his car when I finally came around, and fondly remember riding in the plush leather back seat and staring out that cool porthole with the gold Lincoln star inset. What a car–and so, SO different from Mom and Dad’s Volvo 240s!
Grandpa Bob always got the first year’s new Mark–until 1980. He took one look at the Mark VI, found it lacking, and kept the V. Late 1983, same deal. The Mark VII was a cool car, and ultra-modern for Lincoln, but he just didn’t care for it. Thus, he kept the blue Mark V ten years.
But finally, he decided he should get a new company car. And starting in about 1985, he and Grandma Ruby started talking about a new Lincoln. I remember going with Grammy to South Park L-M and getting brochures on the Continental. The Fox-bodied, bustle-back Continental, that is. I still have the plush ’85 brochure from that visit.
The Mark VII was not my grandparents’ cup of tea, but they liked the Continental, and they felt it was the closest new Lincoln to the much-loved Mark V, visually at least. So in late 1986 my Dad drove the Mark V to the dealer for them, and picked up the brand-new Continental. Six-year-old me accompanied him.
It was a beauty. The Rose Quartz paint was very distinctive, as were the wire-spoked aluminum wheels. There was a mixup at the factory though, as they had ordered the light tan leather seats, and the Connie as delivered had dark taupe thrones. But as it was too late to order another 1987 model, they decided to keep it. I especially liked the “Continental” script on the right side of the dash, which lit up blue-green at night.
It looked about the same as the ’87 Valentino Deisgner Edition (seen above), but without the two-tone paint. It was a looker. A maroon pinstripe set off the paint nicely, and it was absolutely loaded, with keypad keyless entry, leather, premium sound (I remember those parcel shelf speakers very well), ACC, the onboard computer, and a power glass moonroof.
Let’s face it, even a no-options Continental of this era was well-equipped. I spent a LOT of time in this car, as my grandmother and I would often go out to lunch in the summertime, then to the car dealerships (Ford and L-M, natch), then pick up my grandfather from work. I loved that car.
Being a Fox body, the 1982-87 Continental has been called a fancy Fairmont, a Broughamy Mustang sedan, a Seville knockoff, and many other uncomplimentary things. But the Fox chassis was well thought out, the RWD was a plus, and of course, the fuel-injected 5.0L V8 was great.
Though it looked markedly different from the Mark VII–especially the Euro-look LSC, the Connie was essentially a four-door VII. I always wondered why they didn’t offer a Continental LSC–a flossier version of the short-lived but much-loved V8 Fox LTD LX. It wouldn’t have taken much…
It was also the last four-door Fox produced, outliving the Fairmont by four model years and the derivative LTD (non-Crown Vic version, mind) by one year. They were never super sellers, though I do recall seeing others about town. Town Cars far, FAR outnumbered them, however.
Sadly, not too long after the Continental was delivered, my grandfather’s eyesight got to the point where he couldn’t drive any more. To his credit, he accepted it, and never tried to sneak off in the Connie for a drive around the block. From then on, my grandmother drove him to the office, and her own ’77 Thunderbird (black, with buckets, white interior and red dash and carpet; it replaced a 1965 T-Bird ‘vert) was used much less frequently.
They were discussing replacing the Continental with a Town Car in late 1988, but sadly, Grandpa Bob passed away in early 1989, so the ’87 was his last car. My grandmother alternated between the Continental and the T-Bird for a few years, but finally sold the ‘Bird in about 1991.
He never retired, and indeed, was an active businessman to the end. He went to the University of Illinois in Champaign on the GI Bill (and regularly drove a Henderson motorcycle between Champaign and the Quad Cities), became a lawyer, started a successful law firm, and also started Illinois Casualty Company, a company I worked at for years–and from which Dad retired from last summer.
I was only nine when he died, but I’ll never forget him. He is singularly responsible for my love of Lincoln Continentals, and indeed, most traditional American luxury cars. So you can probably understand how I felt when I saw this lovely 1986 model at the local L-M dealer a few weeks ago. It brought up many, many fond memories. All of my grandparents are now gone, but my grandfather’s love of cars–and my Dad’s!–have led me on this car-loving path since my earliest days. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.