Car Show Classic: 1966-67 Lincoln Continental Convertible – End Of An Era

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Ladies and Gentlemen of the CC Commentariat, let me tell you a story–a nightcap, if you will. Once upon a time, there was a beautiful 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.

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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 resulting Lincolns of the ’30s were remarkably beautiful, luxurious and worthy of your attention. While the Depression era was not particularly kind, Lincoln hung in there and the 1936-up Zephyrs and Lincoln-Continentals of 1940-48 were, again, remarkable cars.

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Fast-forward to 1960. In 1958 a bigger (humungous, actually) line of Lincolns and Continental Mark IIIs debuted, intending to out-Cadillac Cadillac. But it didn’t work, and a squinty-eyed accountant who 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, decreed that it would be the next Lincoln Continental. What a save!

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In a crash course, FoMoCo designers adapted the prototypical T-Bird into a four-door sedan, stretching the wheelbase to add an extra pair of doors and better room. The resultant 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!

09-20-2014 541That little window in the fender peak trim is the photocell for the automatic headlamp dimmer!

And to their credit, the Continental changed very little as the 1960s unfolded. The classic looks were hurriedly adapted by competing luxury makes, too. Witness the rapid decline of Cadillac fins, and their subsequent removal for model year 1965, and the 1964 Imperials.

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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.

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The biggest change was in 1966, when all the sheetmetal was changed. But the classic Continental look was still very much in evidence. The other big news that year was a very attractive coupe–the first two-door Lincoln since 1960.

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Though Edsel Ford was long gone by the 1960s, Ford Motor Company did right by their acquired luxury make. My grandfather, Bob Klockau, was impressed enough with them that he did something rather unusual for the time: He traded in his circa-1962 Buick Electra 225 four-door for a brand-new 1966 Continental sedan, special-ordered in dark green with no vinyl roof and dark green leather interior.

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Purchased at Bob Neal L-M 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!

1966-1969-lincoln-continental-1image: howstuffworks.com

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!

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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 remember?) and insurance company executive (Illinois Casualty is still kicking, Dad retired as President in 2012), so a convertible just wouldn’t do!

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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!

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But 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.

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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!

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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 2014-15 models. Though I am heartened by the reappearance of reds and off-whites in luxury makes. Now where was I?

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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.

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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.”

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