As we discussed last week, in 1999 I had returned from Japan and was looking forward to re-engaging with the classic Lincoln community and acquire a ’66 or ’67 Continental – my two favorite model years. I had purchased the showroom new 1978 Lincoln, but before that I owned a 1967 Coupe.
My preference for the ’66-67 models makes me something of an outlier – most Lincoln enthusiasts prefer the Gen 1 versions of the ‘60’s slabsides – those made from 1961-65. I’m in the minority that prefer the re-style Lincoln did in 1966. The Gen 1’s were beautiful, but were fairly rectangular when viewed from the side. The ’66 re-style added a more pronounced break just forward of the C pillar, and a slight character line along the beltline, that then tapered downward to the back. In my view, it made for a much sleeker shape.
The other design feature that resonates with me is the symmetry; in several areas. First, notice the length of the front hood compared to the back trunk lid – almost the same length. The greenhouse sits squarely in the middle, almost balanced – no long hood, short deck here. Then look at the front and rear; the grille and headlights are set low – step around to the back and you can see that mirrored with the tail lamps enclosed in the low set bumper. The low headlights/grille and rear tail lamps are what struck me as a ten year old in 1966 – and have fascinated me ever since.
And you really need to have that fascination and passion to be an owner. There’s no getting around the fact that these were complex cars. From the perspective of the 1960’s, when most new models were owned for 3-4 years before trade-in, having unique vacuum and hydraulic controls must have been seen as a way to differentiate yourself from the other luxury makes in the crowd. Instead of a switch going “click”, it went “hiss”, and instead of an electric motor “humm”, you got a “whoosh.” That decision looks somewhat different fifty years later, as you dig through multiple vacuum and hydraulic hoses to find out why your HVAC system and wipers aren’t working. A shop manual or a Chilton’s is a must own.
So, back to the subject – how did I acquire this one? It was for sale in a local suburb of Dayton, and was advertised for $7K. As is typical with older Lincolns and I imagine with most American luxury cars, it had been owned by an older gentlemen who has passed, and was being sold by the family. It wasn’t a fair weather garage queen, he loved the car and used it as his daily driver. It was the definition of a “20 footer” – looked very nice from afar, but its flaws became readily apparent as you got closer. It had been repainted, and not in its original color – and the paint was likely applied at a local Earl Scheib shop. The bumpers had been re-chromed, but the rest of the chrome parts were old and pitted. The front seat had been re-upholstered, but not in the original pattern. The engine had 132K miles on it. The test drive went fine, other than the steering was loose (much looser than typical in the ‘60’s). Underneath it looked fairly rusty, but I pounded and poked a few places and it seemed solid. I offered $5K and we split the difference at $6K.
The first thing I wanted to do was fix the steering, and a new drag link tightened things back up. I can understand why the previous owner used it as his daily driver – it drove and rode beautifully. Everything about that car was “smooth” – the ride, the engine, the buttons and switches…just what you’d expect in a luxury car. The big 462 cubic inch V8 was the last version of the MEL (Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln) engine family introduced in 1958. It put out 340 gross horsepower and a giant 490 ft lbs of torque, exactly what was needed to push 4,940 pounds of Continental. That huge lump of iron weighed 735 lbs, though I would have bet it weighed more. It was the heaviest production car engine in ‘66-’67, beating the Chrysler 426 Hemi by 10 lbs. It would have made a perfect wrecking ball. Paul has an excellent post on the MEL here.
I was considering a restoration but when we had it up on the rack for the drag link replacement I was able to do a more thorough check of the underbody. Not good news – rust was much more pervasive than I had thought. With the restoration ruled out, I decided to use it as the previous owner had – as mostly a driver. While heavy, the 462 was extremely smooth – and went about its business with little fuss. I never had to replace anything mechanical – but was constantly running down vacuum leaks. As you can see from the engine picture, vacuum hoses went everywhere. The rubber hoses were just wearing out – most looked like they had never been replaced. And you had to be constantly on the lookout for hydraulic leaks. The wipers were controlled with vacuum switches, but the motor was hydraulic. The hydraulics were powered by a high capacity power steering pump, which was not belt driven but driven directly off the crankshaft. If you think this sounds complex, add two more hydraulic pumps, ten more relays, five more electric motors, and fifteen limit switches for the four-door convertible. You really have to love these cars, otherwise, they’d drive you nuts.
After a year, I decided it would be best to sell it and try to find another one in better shape. As I mentioned in the previous post, I was lucky to find the ’78 which was an original 5300 mile survivor and real time capsule. But comparing the two cars if both were in the same condition, the ’67 would win hands down. Why?
Styling. There’s no comparison between the two – the ’67 looks unique, sleek and balanced; the ’78 more formal, derivative, and somewhat kitschy, in that ’70’s way.
Driving. As I mentioned in the ’78 post, it had issues with starting and hesitation, like most late ‘70’s cars with early emission controls. The ’67 on the other hand, would fire right up and accelerated very smoothly. The 462 also had more “punch” than the lower compression 400.
One thing they both had in common though was “presence”; when you pulled up in either of these cars, people noticed. I consider myself privileged to have owned both of them.