Car Show Classic: 1960 Continental Mark V – Taking The Fifth, The First Time

(first posted 6/18/2013)      Let’s continue the Continental theme, shall we? None of the Continentals were exactly small cars–even the late-gen Taurus-based version, but the biggest of them all were undoubtedly the 1958-60 Continental Mark III, IV and V. Wait, you say, weren’t the Marks 1960s and ’70s personal luxury cars? Yes, but they weren’t the first…

As Paul related in the 1965 Continental CC, Lincoln’s ambitious Mark II and, indeed, the entire short-lived Continental Division did not pan out. It was too expensive, and FoMoCo lost money on every single one of the lavish 1956-57 Mark IIs. Thus, when the gigantic new Lincoln debuted in 1958, a badge-engineered version of the Continental replaced the graceful II coupe.

What a change, eh? The 1958 Lincolns were over-the-top; big, brash and gaudy, though remarkably restrained compared to the rolling jukeboxes at Imperial and Cadillac. The Continental was little different from the Lincoln Capri and Premiere, save the reverse-slant, retractable backlight (even on the convertibles!), additional standard gadgets, and Bridge of Weir leather seating. About the only thing that looked the same were the turbine-blade wheel covers.

It was ambitious. Not only did the Lincoln/Continental bigger in every dimension than Cadillac, it was the world’s largest unibody as well. These things were tanks. But they came out at the beginning of a nasty 1958 recession, and sales never took off.

For the 1959 and 1960 model years, the original 1958 styling cues were toned down bit by bit, but these things never really faded into the background. The ’60 Lincoln was very nearly the last, as the 1958 generation had been such a sales disaster that Robert McNamara was about ready to take Lincoln out to the woodshed. Only a last-minute re-do of a Thunderbird design saved the marque, and brought Lincoln back from the brink in the form of the lovely ’61 Continental.

1960 was the last year for this style, and the ’60 Continental Mark V was, in my opinion, the best-looking of the whole series. The bizarre front fenders and Salvador Dali-esque front bumper were no longer in evidence, but that cool Breezeway rear window was retained.

I saw this nice black Mark V at the June Quad Cities Cruisers cruise night, and though I had seen it in the past, it was in my pre-CC days. I actually thought it was my friend KV Dahl’s 1960 Lincoln Sedan (which he sold last year), but the reverse-slant window and red-and-black interior proved otherwise. These cars may not have the following of the classic 1961-69 Continental, but their scarcity and over-the-top looks endear them to me.