Father bought a ’63 Lincoln in 1967 when I was in 7th. grade. He kept the car until I graduated from high school in ’73. It was powder blue with a silver-blue leather interior. The front seat was a bench with split, curved seat backs and a pull down armrest. Looking at them from outside the car they looked like bucket seats. The a/c vents were housed in bay window shaped structure in the center of the dash, with three sets of louvers that were controlled by a set of toggles at the bottom of each vent. That a/c could really cool down the car impressively. I got to drive this car quite a bit and it had a huge influence on me.
The first time was on a return trip from Southern California. My Dad decided to take my younger brother to Disneyland, since he had never been there. I got to go along for the trip. It was a typical unplanned, low expenditure trip. We got up very, very, early, drove to Anaheim, and spent the day at the park. Even today I love a really early, pre dawn start to a long road trip.
When the park closed at 10:00 pm. my Dad said,” Why bother with spending the night at a motel, we’ll just drive back.” So we did. I had my learner’s permit and he said that he would let me drive once it was daylight. I fell asleep after the first hour, but I woke up at the first gas stop. Dawn was breaking and that’s when he let me drive.
I had quite a bit of experience driving, I had owned a motorcycle and quickly accumulated miles as I explored the back roads and foothills of the east Bay Area.
It was a magnificent car, beautiful, and so smooth, powerful and silent! Just a dream to drive. Is it any wonder that this experience made me a luxury car enthusiast for the rest of my life?
I had made the mistake of selling my ’64 Cadillac for a quick buck. I sold it for twice what I paid for it. On the surface, it seemed like a good deal, but now I had to find another car.
This was a mistake that I continued to make over the years. I would sell a car that I really liked, that was still running and looking good, in anticipation of moving on to the next thing. I was never too concerned, there were lots of cars out there, they were fairly cheap and available. As my Dad used to tell me, “Por carros no faltan.” There is no shortage of cars! At this age I was curious and eager to own different cars, I was never one to make a lasting commitment to any particular car. It’s still a trait that I maintain.
Somehow I managed to locate a nearby ’66 Lincoln sedan in somewhat poor condition. It was a bit rough mechanically compared to my ’64 Caddy. Cosmetically it looked good; straight body, okay dark gray paint that should polish up nicely, black vinyl top, and an excellent black leather interior. It had a noticeable shake at idle, and the mufflers had more than a few leaks. These were the first red flags, which I of course ignored. I figured on a quick valve job and a new set of glass pack duals and I’d be in business. I’d just rebuilt my Honda 750’s engine and I was feeling very confident. I should have found a better car, but I was blinded by the low price.
I have learned long ago, that the best way to save money is by starting with a better car. This is before any money is exchanged. Before they buy, the buyer has all the power, he doesn’t have to buy anything. He can afford to be picky, he can afford to drive a hard bargain. He can always walk away, that’s his superpower. If he can’t afford a better car, then he’s better off waiting until he can. Easier said as a guy in his 60’s, than a young man in his 20’s, but my Dad’s advice still rings true.
This was a newer version of my Dad’s former Lincoln. Both had “suicide doors” or rather, make that “coach doors.” This lent an elegant touch. It was a cleanly styled car and it felt quite responsive, even with it’s somewhat ailing 460 engine. It was equipped with front disc brakes and an AM/FM radio. It was also equipped with a/c, but at this price point, I wasn’t surprised that it didn’t work.
The engine’s condition got steadily worse as the valves continued to wear themselves out. The shaking got worse and worse, I wouldn’t say that it resembled a paint mixer, but it was getting bad. I drove it until it got to be too embarrassing. Time to get to work.
I pulled the heads and found several burned valves. I’d never seen a burned valve and sure enough, it looked like a pizza with a notch cut out of the edge. Instead of a full valve job, which would refresh the valve guides and regrind the valve seats, I decided to take the cheap route. I’d just replace the burned valves and hand lap the valve seats. Good enough. The shaking had also broken the engine mounts, so I had to replace those.
This was the epitome of false economy. The hardest part of the job was removing and replacing the heads. I should have had the heads properly rebuilt, all I had to do was drop them off at a machine shop, but I tried to save a few bucks.
I would come to regret this decision.
I also discovered that the front lower ball joints were worn. I should have just replaced the ball joints with the lower control arms in place. Instead, I decided to see if I could find a good set of used arms at the wrecking yard. Why oh why?
Are you starting to discern a certain pattern? Penny wise and pound foolish.
The yard man went looking at his crop of Lincolns, checking for a decent pair. When he found some that seemed okay, he unbolted the bottom spindle nut. “Stand back here.” he motioned me behind him. Then he hit the spindle with a sledgehammer until the arm broke free. The spring shot out of its pocket bouncing off the ground with a vengeance! Obviously not the recommended method. He removed the arm’s pivot bolt and repeated the procedure on the other side.
The car needed a couple of tires, and I found two new Remington wide whitewalls that I put on the back. The other two tires were good, and would have to do for now, so they went on the front. The mismatched whitewall tires didn’t do the looks of the car any favors, but I was trying to save some money. Besides I needed to replace the exhaust system, it was much worse than I had thought.
The muffler guy insisted that I couldn’t get by with a dual muffler system, he said that it would be too loud. Something to do with the engine’s valve configuration. The stock system consisted of two big mufflers with another pair of resonators that ended at the bumper. The four glass pack system was going to be quite a bit more expensive than I had anticipated, but he did a beautiful job. He ran two new pipes back from the manifolds, then had the first pair of glass packs kick up over the rear axle at an angle. Then the pipes continued to the back where another pack of glass packs replaced the resonators. It had a good, throaty, smooth sound, with no ragged tones. It was the best thing about the car, but it cost me much more than I would have liked.
The condition of the car seemed to be on the upswing, and I actually drove it quite a bit. To school and work. Maybe this car would turn out okay. But disaster was just around the corner, literally.
One cold morning I was running late to school, and I didn’t want to wait long enough for the windshield defroster to do its job. I just drove off. Things were fine until I turned directly into the morning sun, which reflected on the hazy windshield, temporarily blinding me. I was on a very narrow residential street and veered too far across the center. I never saw the car that I ran into. It was a slow speed collision, but it damaged the bumper of the other car, and the left fender blade and bumper on my Lincoln. Act in haste and repent at leisure!
I think that there is a lesson there.
After paying for the damage to the other car, I tried to fix the Lincoln. It never looked right after that. I used a come along attached to a telephone pole to pull the bent metal roughly back into place. Combined with a lot of hammering, I got most of it straightened out. However, it’s the detail finishing that makes the difference between a skilled body man and a driveway hammer swinger!
I continued to drive the car after that, however without much enthusiasm. My quickie valve job started to go bad and the shaking resumed. I was getting pretty tired of the car by now and just decided to sell it. I don’t remember how much I got for it, or who I sold it to. The lesson here is that there’s a buyer for almost anything, if the price is low enough.
I was done with cars for a while. I still had my motorcycle to get around on, and my Dad would lend me one of his cars if I needed it.
I needed a break.