1963 was likely the best year for GM’s large cars, with a clean and crisp new look across the board. Bill Mitchell’s studios had no deficit in creativity, but there’s no denying that the change in the ’63s were influenced by the 1961 Lincoln Continental to one degree or another, and none more so than the 1963 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight. And just as GM threw off the slab-sided hard-edged look for the soft big hips of 1965, Chrysler was ready to take it up one more time. In full size:
The Continental Look Gets Passed Around
– Posted on August 12, 2011
You could add to these the 1964-66 Imperial, and to a lesser extent the 1966-67 Oldsmobile Toronado.
The Toronado shares the heavy chromed bumpers that are shaped to look like part of the body, with knife-edge corners that extend up and along the fender edges. The Toronado has this in the front at least.
A much newer car that also shares this styling is the (Fiero-based) Zimmer Quicksilver.
EDIT: As a topic of great interest to me, I am very pleased that I got to comment on this article first. 🙂 I like to think that, since Elwood Engel jumped ship from Lincoln to Chrysler in 1961 and the fullsize Chrysler was his first clean-sheet production car design at Chrysler, the 65-66 Chryslers are the true descendants of the 1961 Continental styling. Things started to go downhill for MY1967 Chryslers though. The concave body sides were a bad idea, and you could see that some decontenting had been done.
Wasn’t Elwood Engel the designer of both #1 and #3?
Compared to car 2 and 3, the Continental is remarkably upright, and softer. In your imagination you craft visions of cars in different ways. In my imagination the Continental is a very crisp car. Then side by side with cars that it influenced and it looks a bit doughy.
The first few years were a bit strange (and “doughy”) to some extent. They became crisper with time.
I think maybe the deletion of curved glass in ’64 had something to do with that. It’s subtle, but it did have an impact.
I believe the ’64 Continental’s switch to straight-paned glass conincided with the bump in wheelbase in response to ’61-’63 Continental owners’ complaints about interior room being ‘tight’ – vis-a-vis w/Imperial and Cadillac. (Yes, in 2011 eyes we gear heads KNOW the Continental’s design execution and T-bird lineage was SUPPOSED to be a close-coupled – on purpose – a feature FoMoCo did take a gamble on, but still stung after the ’58-’60 Lincoln/Continetal failures – cars that were way too big. But try to imagine a prospect looking at a Continental circa 1962 and telling a salesman, “but the Cadillac is a bigger car, yes? This seems kind of small . . .”).
I think Elwood Engel’s influence was best shown in the next new line of cars he designed – less so over at GM’s Warren Tech Center – but with his new masters at Mopar (’64 Imperial and ’65 full size Mopars).
I’d take any one of these featured cars in a heartbeat – especially a clean “C” body 98!
I have to wonder if this shows why the Lincoln Continental, while a beautiful and influential design, may have undermined the sales growth of the Lincoln brand to some extent. It was almost too successful in changing the direction of car styling.
By 1965, a 1961 Cadillac and a 1961 Imperial looked out-of-date – even if they were in mint condition. The 1961 Imperial, in particular, looked especially dated. Interestingly, in the Popular Mechanics Owners Reports, even around 1961 or so, several people who responded for other cars (the magazine didn’t cover the Imperial that year) noted that styling centered on large tailfins tended to age quickly.
Meanwhile, a mint 1961 Lincoln Continental would fit right in with other cars, given that Lincoln hadn’t changed the basic body lines, and other cars were adopting its styling cues. Thus, someone who really liked his or her 1961 Continental really felt no pressure to trade for a newer car, given that it looked up-to-date even four years later. Great for Lincoln owners, but not necessarily so good for Lincoln or Lincoln-Mercury dealers!
Possibly. At that point I think Ford was shellshocked from the utter failure of its late-50s invasion of the premium and luxury markets. Lincoln’s reputation going into 1961 was awful. So in a very real sense the Continental was a do-or-die model. Perhaps Ford was less concerned about sales growth than brand stabilization.
If growth was more important wouldn’t the Continental have been restyled more frequently and more body styles added before 1966?
The ’61-’69’s unibody design, at that time, at least for FoMoCo, made restyles difficult. Overhangs, quarters and fenders changed somewhat for ’66, but the car basically remained the same through ’69. That, and the limited volume were factors in why this car didn’t see the re-styles Dr. Lemming talks about . . .
I like them all but to make a decision I’d need to see them from the back please.
Sorry, I’m a “trunk” man.
Of the three, only the Continental has the rare “vertical straight down” trailing edge of the rear door. (Not even all “suicide doors” have that, as the current Rolls Royce Phantom doesn’t)
Never did like those Continentals they became the square barge look as a kid it was hard to equate something so plain looking being the equal of a Caddy but people with money bought them and presidents rode in them but they didnt look like much
To my eye, that’s exactly why I prefer them. The Lincoln is a classically clean and severe design. The others are excessively busy, with too much pointless surface detailing and sculpting interfering with the basic shape.
I like the “mirrored” script on the fender of that particular Continental. 😉
The Continental has benefited greatly from its use in “Entourage”, even if much of the show’s target demographic may not realize exactly what it is.
I’d take any of these, though I’d have the most faith in the drivetrain of the Chrysler.
When I look at the Connie, I don’t see “soft” so much as “low.” The greenhouse looks tiny, which makes the car seem more like a 4-door GT than a sedan. Was headroom actually low?
I know that big Mopars remained tall into the 70s, while GMs got lower, and in a way that didn’t look sporty, just saggy, to my eye.
Looking at the three photos, it at first appears that the tires are a lot bigger on the Continental. Actually though it’s the car that is shorter. My 1962 4-door convertible was no longer than my 1958 Plymouth, and its convertible top was actually shorter than the Plymouth’s. This attribute definitely was lost in transition to the other two cars.
Although the C-body 1965 Chryslers were longer, my 300L’s power and handling made it feel smaller on the road than the 1962 Lincoln did.
You’re right; the cars are not to scale. The Conti was a quite modest sized car, having started life as a T-Bird coupe concept.
I don’t know about the other two cars, but the Chrysler is wearing 14″ tires. They put smaller wheels on these Chryslers to make them lower to the ground, so that they would look longer. (They only came with 15″ rims if the optional disc brakes were ordered.) They also have integral rear fender skirts to make them look longer.
I think that New Yorker has had it’s rear leaf springs re-arched or helper-springs or air shocks added. They don’t usually sit so high at the back, especially after the rear springs have had over 40 years to sag.
All you gear heads out there should know that the very first car to be directly influenced by the Continental’s design was the “crash course” penned Brooks Stevens ’62 Studebaker Gran Turismo. Studebaker president Sherwood Egbert asked Stevens in April of ’61 to have a reskinned, redesigned carmodel ready for August. Steven’s thought, “September next year, no problem.” “No – August as in THIS August (1961) – the car goes on sale in the fall”
A miracle of what Stevens did with the time constraints and the usual Studebaker twelve-dollar styling budget. Vince Gardner and Duncan McRae did a similar trick with the ’56 Studebaker line. For the ’58 Stude re-styling, I think that figure dropped to about $2.98 as seen by the quad-headlight pods, bolt on tailfins and bathroom-scale instrument cluster the ’58 Studebakers sported. (Packard got a fin on fin!).
Interesting observation. I can certainly see the resemblance in the back and roofline, but not the front of the Stude.
Looks like the latest car, albeit a concept, to crib the 1961 Contintental styling is the 2011 Cadillac Ciel: A large 4-door convertible with suicide doors, knife-edge fender corners and a sharp upper body line, a simple convex curve to the body sides, and just a touch of chrome. Also like the Lincoln, it has vertical taillights integrated into the rear fender corners. The Ciel even has the same shape in the trunk as the grille has in the front. The 61 Lincoln had a fake grille in the rear.
Lincoln and Cadillac have both done concepts in the past that are reminiscent of this look. Two that come to mind are the 1996 Lincoln Sentinel and the 1999 Cadillac Evoq.