Cold Comfort: 1958-60 Lincoln Continental – Craziest Factory Air Conditioning Ever?

(first posted 8/20/2017)        Pity poor Lincoln: As I mentioned in my 1957 Lincoln Premiere CC, they were still selling trunk-mounted air conditioning systems into 1957, well after most other manufacturers had switched over to fully integrated cowl-mounted systems. The only other manufacturers still using trunk mounted systems in 1957 were Studebaker and Packard (whose 1957 cars were just tarted up Studebakers).

Lincoln had somewhat of an inferiority complex in the late 50s. As I mentioned in my 1957 Lincoln Premiere CC, they were trying to dump the perception that their cars were smaller (and otherwise subordinate to) their competitors. So the motto for their 1958 replatform must have been “Go Big or Go Home.”

As a result, Lincoln released in 1958 what remains one of the largest volume production cars ever built. CC has already extensively covered the 1958-60 Lincolns, but I can summarize in just a few numbers:

  • 229: The number of inches in length. If you don’t count 5-mph bumpers on later models, this is the longest production Lincoln ever made. That go-to paragon of length and excess, the 1959 Cadillac? A mere 225 inches long in comparison.
  • 131: The number of inches of wheelbase. I struggle to find a modern vehicle with a comparable wheelbase. How about that champion of wheelbase, the Maybach 57? It sports a wheelbase just 2.5 inches longer, at 133.5 inches.

Lincoln was clearly compensating for something here. Certainly, a car this large and crazy requires (nay, demands) an equally large and crazy air conditioning system? Well, you’d better be sitting down because take a look:


So how crazy was the A/C system on the 1958-60 Lincoln? With two evaporators, two expansion valves, two blowers, and two heater cores, we’re talking bat shit crazy. When was the last time you saw A/C refrigerant lines with tees in them?


Under the hood (pictured above), you can see refrigerant lines going to the separate evaporator units inside each fender liner.


As well as more plumbing than your local Home Depot (again, notice all the tee fittings).


Inside, you can see that Lincoln cleverly hid the vents in the dashboard, beating the VW Phaeton to the punch a half-century early. Only two small knobs give their location away.


Even though the air conditioning system was not cowl mounted, rear seat passengers still had their own vents by way of air directed through hollow armrests.


With all this effort put into engineering what are essentially two separate left and right heating and air conditioning systems, it seems odd that Lincoln did not think to include separate temperature and blower controls for the driver and passenger side. Instead, all this massive hardware has but a single control in the driver’s instrument panel (not a set of controls, but literally a single control). Maybe controlling her own A/C was deemed too much for the fair lady passengers of the day to handle? Whatever the reason, it seems odd that they came so close to the first dual-zone A/C system (decades before anyone else), and blinked.


Speaking of large, check out that 8 lb. charge! That is the largest capacity I’ve ever seen of any automotive A/C system, and getting into the realm of residential systems.

Lincoln would eventually come to their senses with the 1961 Continental. In addition to reigning in the excessive styling and Brobdingnagian girth, the 1961 Continental sported a more conventional A/C setup, with a single evaporator and heater core.

The wild and crazy ride of 1958-1960 may have been short-lived, but what a ride it was!