The title may be a little provocative – after all, “peak anything” is almost always more opinion than fact. Sometimes, however, a case can be made that is hard to beat. So let us proceed with the evidence that this car was Lincoln’s insufficiently appreciated peak of the 1970s.
Popular opinion (measured in sales) would say that Lincoln went ever-upward for the rest of the decade, with the final 1977- 79 models becoming the most popular, and not by a little. The big Continental’s production numbers tell a tale of an almost unbroken surge in popularity through the decade of I’m OK, You’re OK.
But we connoisseurs seldom agree with the popular consensus. Alright, I was a broke teenager who went from a series of bicycles to a ten year old Ford during that decade so I was not the kind of connoisseur who actually bought cars like this. But my father was, so let’s say I was a backseat connoisseur who paid close attention to the brand before I was seduced by the vivacious but unstable Miss Mopar.
Starting in the 1960’s Lincoln seemed to settle down into a rhythm that lasted for quite awhile: one new car every decade, albeit with regular upgrades refreshes and improvements. When we last covered the big Lincolns, it was in the context of a 1969 model – the last of the storied models of the 1960’s, when Lincoln finally offered a legitimate American luxury car. The 1970’s would see a Lincoln that was even bigger. It is not at all controversial to state that Lincoln’s peak in terms of size came in the ’70s. OK, excluding Navigators and Blackwoods.
I was ten years old in the fall of 1969 when the first really new Lincoln I could remember hit the showrooms. Frankly, it was a letdown. First, the suicide doors were gone. Which was no small thing in that those unique rear doors made the statement that a Lincoln was not like other cars. Gone too was the sense of finesse and good taste that had been a hallmark of the brand for the prior decade. The styling seemed both a little crude yet a bit generic – some Lincoln themes were there but they were not executed with Lincoln’s typical restraint. The ’70 model seemed less of a car, somehow – and this to a ten year old kid who knew nothing of the way it was designed and built.
The 1971 model was not really an improvement. Can it be possible that the ’71 Continental failed aesthetically because it was trying to be a Cadillac? That bold grille and the beltline that attempted (and failed) to turn a very rectangular car into a sleek and fluid one – all of these things seemed to me then (and still do) that Lincoln was losing the understanding about what had made the car grow in popularity from the disaster of 1958-60. Lincoln was, at its best, the anti-Cadillac. It was a car that was elegant, conservative and a testament to quiet good taste. But it would seem that the 1970-71 lacked the kind of styling magic that had been part of Lincoln’s recent history. Or perhaps the car had been a ham-handed tribute to the 1966 version. All this would change for 1972.
It is amazing how a handful of little things can take an undistinguished design and make it work. Let’s start at the front. Where the ’71 grille was blunt and lacked any kind of finesse, the ’72 version was busier yet more refined. The decorative bars over the headlight doors that seemed like afterthoughts on the ’71 now looked like they belonged there. At least they did to me. Even now I find them an intriguing way to avoid the lonely looking grille that would come to prominence through the Mark IV, in a way that suggested but avoided a full-width grille.
The 1972 front end appeared to be Lincoln’s stylists returning to the theme they had begun in 1969 but had abandoned so suddenly. Why this look was not chosen for 1970 is a mystery to me. The car looked like a Lincoln again.
And let us not forget that stand-up Lincoln star that proudly stood atop the leading edge of the bow for the first time since 1966. True, the shortened and dulled points and the spring-loaded mounting were concessions to the safety gods, but this little detail showed that Lincoln was once again looking to its guiding star.
There was also a return to the chrome trim that began on the leading edge of the front fender blades and ran uninterrupted the entire length of the car, all the way down the rear fender blade to the back bumper. Just like the classic Continentals of the 1960’s.
The biggest change was in those rear doors. When it comes to automobile styling, I have always had a bit of a beltline fixation. General Motors’ 1965 line of B and C body cars brought back the Harley Earl Hips that had characterized GM styling in the 1950’s but in a way that flowed organically as only Bill Mitchell’s 1960’s designs could manage. The entire rest of the industry followed that big hip trend in ways that were rarely as successful – and the 1970-71 Continental was among the worst offenders. It may not have been as actively ungainly as the 1970 AMC Ambassador sedan, but those hips certainly did no favors for this slab-sided sled.
That one little change to the rear door which took a massive, shapeless blob of a transition from the lower greenhouse to the higher rear fender tops transformed it into a neat, tidy kickup that echoed the classic 1961-65 Continental’s treatment of that area. The rear door handle’s unusual forward placement may have been a touch awkward, but it was no less so than the 70-71’s rear handle that was higher than the front one.
Mrs. JPC used to enjoy a television show called What Not To Wear. In it, some folks with an eye for design threw out much of an average woman’s unflattering wardrobe and replaced it with pieces that accentuated her best features. This is what Lincoln’s stylists did with the ’72 Continental. Out went the ill-fitting outfit that made this big-boned car look overweight and clumsy and in its place was something that gave this plus-sized girl a look of stylish elegance.
On the inside these Lincolns maintained reasonably high standards through the 1977 model year. These interiors were not made with the quality of materials from the decade previous, but nobody else did that either. This Continental’s interior was the place that undoubtedly sealed many a deal for those doing some comparison shopping among the US luxury brands.
Everyone in the industry was paying for new safety and emission features with money taken from their interiors but Lincoln seemed to at least hide it better, even retaining the full instrumentation that had all but disappeared from elsewhere in the industry. I wonder how many luxury car buyers actually looked at an oil pressure gauge in 1972. Not that the excellent 460 V8 gave a person much reason to.
For those of us more into the mechanical traits of a car, there is a case to be made that the 1970 model was the peak of this era in that it was the last to receive the old 4 bbl premium gas 460 (7.5 L). But as the horsepower curve began to drop the styling curve began to ascend. The really significant emissions trade-offs would not hit until 1973 so the ’72 may be the sweet spot between good looks and good performance. This would also be the first full year in which Michelin steel belted radial tires became standard equipment. These cars may not have been canyon carvers but the perimeter frame Lincolns with full coil suspensions were the smoothest and quietest cars being built in America at the time, at least according to a well publicized test in which 60 out of 100 Cadillac owners found the Lincoln superior in these criteria.
I saw this car when attending a local Cars & Coffee event with Jim Grey (and which he wrote about here). Jim will testify that I went into something between a trance and a swoon the moment I saw this big blue beauty. For those who wonder if luxury cars were really painted in colors like this, I am here to testify. This shade called Blue Moondust Metallic was a 1971-72 color exclusive to Lincoln and Thunderbird. Yes children, you could get some really great colors on luxury sedans in the early 1970’s.
I have written before of the 1972 Continental Mark IV that my father picked up in the late fall of 1971. It was an impressive car at the time. But a Continental like this was what I really wished that he had chosen. The Mark IV was probably more a reflection of how Dad saw himself where this big sedan was the way I saw my father. I distinctly remember the disappointment being so much more palpable than when he chose his 1970 Mark III. There the disappointment was not that he (or I, actually) had missed out on the ’70 Connie, but that he was too late for the discontinued ’69. Here the car I would have preferred was right there in the showroom. To make matters worse it even cost less.
I would have chosen a white vinyl roof and white leather to accent that Blue Moondust paint (like this one featured here a few years ago) and would also have gone with the extra-cost luxury wheelcovers (as shown in the brochure shot below) to replace those final gaudy reminders of the disappointing 1970-71 cars. But it was my father writing the check and not his thirteen year old son. I hesitate to think what my own thirteen year old children would have chosen for me to drive. Today I am in love with the look of this car’s solid color and the AWOL vinyl roof.
Buyers found the car attractive as well with 45,969 Continentals built that year (35,561 of which were sedans), the best showing since 1967. However, even more buyers agreed with my father and shelled out for a Mark IV (48,591). But what did they know – they were the same people who bought the later and much less attractive 1975-79 versions in ever-greater numbers.
For my final argument, I submit that the 1972-74 Continental has the best shape and trimming of any big Lincoln from the 1970’s. And further, by considering the every-tightening emission controls of 1973-74, I now rest my case that the 1972 Continental is the peak of 1970’s Lincolndom. And, for that matter, the peak of Lincolndom for ever after. At least to this former thirteen year old.
1969 Lincoln Continental – Missed It By That Much (J P Cavanaugh)
1970 Lincoln Continental Coupe – Hot Rod Lincoln (Paul Niedermeyer)
1972 Lincoln Lincoln Continental Coupe (Tom Klockau)
Great pictures. Your sales chart is a good myth-breaker. Lincoln broke the 100k mark AFTER the gas shortage and inflation that supposedly forced everyone to buy Vegas and Pintos.
You could fit a Pinto or Vega in the trunk in case you got a flat tire.
Or to use as an escape boat if your landyacht was attacked by pirates.
While I love me some fuselage Mopars, JPC makes a strong and convincing (lawyerly?) case for the ’72 Lincoln being one of the best, stately luxury sedans to come out of Dearborn. If I were in the market back then (or now), I’d probably still take a Chrysler (most likely a 300), but for the right price, I don’t think I’d turn down a ’72 Continental, either.
Counsel has spoken.
As one born at the very, very end of this model year, I simply don’t remember seeing any of these. In fact, the first such Lincoln of this era that comes to mind was the one Reagan was entering when John Hinckley thrust himself into the news. It took some mental wrangling (I was 8 in March ’81) to process this was a Lincoln.
All that said, this is a mighty fine Lincoln. For Lincoln sedans from the ’70s, you have me on board with you regarding it being peak. For peak Lincoln, the Mark V is giving some stiff competition but your case is compelling.
Lincoln probably got tired of their cars being associated with attacked Presidents so they let Cadillac have the biz. The 60s Continental was the epitome of grace and class. With the styles of today I’m surprised Presidential 1 isn’t a stretched pickup with that damn light bar on all the time. And camo seat covers. And diesel truck exhausts with that mod to blow heavy diesel smoke. And of course a giant wing, brah. Word.
For the very curious, Henry Ford Museum website has dozens of construction photos for the ’72 presidential limo: beefed-up underpinning, bulletproofing, electronics/security, and so on:
The beast or whatever goofy name it’s called isn’t far off from that, it’s based on a heavy duty truck chassis and despite efforts to make it vaguely resemble a Cadillac it clearly is a gigantic truck.
Bush 41 had a Lincoln. It wasn’t totally abandoned by Ford.
Well it “wouldn’t be prudent” to have anything else…
He needed 1,000 points of, err . . . gallons of gasoline to fill it up!
I agree with the article – Lincoln styling got worse with each passing year after 1972. However, according to information in the Online Imperial Club website, Imperial did have an oil pressure gauge until the overly-Chrysleresqe 1974-1975 models (1972 instruments illustrated).
Once again my memory has failed me where a little more research would have done the trick. I have amended the text. I will have to admit that by the 1970s very few in a car like this ever looked at that little needle that gave you a realtime look at oil pressure.
Good point. While the enthusiast in me wants full gauges, and thinks that a luxury car ought to have them (should be fully equipped, right?), the reality was that by this time most engines (with a few notable exceptions) were so reliable that you didn’t need to keep an eye on oil pressure. Same with ammeters too, I guess – in 28 years of driving with one mine never showed anything amiss, and how many drivers nowadays know what to do with one anyway?
The Imperial may have matched the Lincoln’s oil pressure gauge, but that stupid upside down speedo needle didn’t come close to matching the big Lincoln’s ribbon speedo – which had the added feature of the white ribbon dropping away at 70mpg to reveal a red ribbon. It was a neat effect – especially when you watched it while under the influence of something from the passenger seat.
It’s always fun to analyze sales figures to try and figure out what was going on in a specific year. The dip in 1974 is easy: gas crisis. But what was so great about the 1977-79 cars to warrant the huge jump, flirting with ‘doubling’ sales? Was slapping on a Mark IV grille really that big of a deal? Or could it have been that consumers didn’t really warm to the new, downsized Oldsmobiles and Buicks and, instead, switched to a traditional-size, big Lincoln sedan?
Maybe some customers were turned off by the smaller ’77 Fleetwoods and DeVilles, but I think an improving economy had a lot to do with Lincoln’s new-found popularity. The 1977 downsizing didn’t seem to hurt Cadillac numbers – in fact, overall sales improved by nearly 50,000 cars compared to 1976. GM’s big car shrink for 1977 was a major success – every division had a big jump in sales.
It seemed to me that it was a combination of factors.
The economy was quite good in those years (the 79 model year would have been nearly over by the time the next big fuel crisis hit). I think that the downsizing of Cadillac turned some people off. It didn’t send every Cadillac buyer to the competition (far from it), but with the relatively small numbers Lincoln had been building, it was enough. The big Calais/DeVille/Fleetwood chalked up about 270K cars in 1976, so it would not be surprising that the slow rate of defections that had been building in the 70s might have jumped some. But then Cadillac sales jumped in 1977 too, so it was a bigger pie for everyone.
I think that 1979 was puffed up a bit by traditional Lincoln customers taking one last chance to get the big comfy car they had grown to love. Also there may have been a few Mercury Grand Marquis owners who recoiled at the downsized ’79 and made the leap to the more expensive side of the showroom.
One last idea is that owners of the final Imperials would have had 2-3 year old cars by 1977. Those who did not stick with the 77 New Yorker (which also had a banner year) would probably have chosen a Lincoln over a Cadillac.
What’s interesting is how Lincoln sales were already on rebound by 1975 – even though 1975 was a worse year for car sales than 1974.
Fall of ’78 was still a good economy, and new 79’s still sold OK. Wasn’t until spring/summer that Oil Crisis II hit. 1980 model year sales plummeted.
By 1983-84, the Panthers were accepted and “gotten used to” and sales took off, finally.
I recall reports of dealers still trying to unload brand-new 1979 Lincolns in early 1980.
Excellent example! I actually never realized Lincoln changed the beltline on the rear doors for this car’s third model year.
Super happy you wrote this up. But what I enjoyed more was the gush of info you gave me about this car during your tranced swoon. (Swance? Troon?)
Yup, this one just rubbed my happy spot until my tail wagged. 🙂
He was overcome with that “swoon” several times at the Midwest Meetup. At first I thought he was carrying a flashlight in his pocket for better inspection then I realized what was really going on… 🙂 Stand back.
“The car looked like a Lincoln again.”
Yes it did!
I bow to your obsession. Thank you for an enjoyable read.
Beats Cadillac’s offerings back then, IMO. This article helped me nail the car in A Fish Called Wanda as a 1972. Nice to see one that has escaped the demo derby.
I find it notable that the tractor and flail chopper in the oats field are not Ford and New Holland models, respectively, but John Deeres, and the tractor was just tinted blue to pass it off as a Ford. (I also find it notable that the guy is cutting green oats with a flail chopper in the first place, but that’s neither here nor there.)
Hahaha, I had not noticed either of those things. There must have been something in the rules of the 1970s which prohibited photographing any new car on pavement (with the exception of cobblestones.)
The gentleman in the ad definately has a body language and expression that says: ” The body? Fuggedaboutit – that’s what the chopper is FOR!”
Speaking of the Lincoln -with the white vinyl top- parked on the cobblestones-pavement, the picture right above the Deere…that seems to be the place where commenter Olivier got his classic Cadillac from, in Bruges (Brugge), Belgium. The whole background/scenery looks familiar, I used to visit the man’s website very frequently.
Anyway, great find! Roughly, there are three types of beloved US cars here. The favorite imports, so to speak:
-tailfins from the fifties.
-pony and muscle cars from the sixties.
-land yachts from the seventies, this article’s Lincoln would be a prime example.
Do I prefer Lincolns or Cadillacs? I have no sentimental attachment to either brand, yet I’ve asked myself that question numerous times… and there’s no easy answer. My preference see-saws back and forth depending on the model year.
For the early ’70s, my pendulum swings towards Lincolns, though I’ve never been able to articulate just why. Part of it has to do with Cadillac’s own early-70s styling, which looks rather corpulent. But after reading this, I think another part of my preference has to do with those little details highlighted here.
The 1970 Lincoln just appears somewhat unfinished — like a styling exercise that’s almost-but-not-quite ready for production. I never looked at it quite that way before, but just never had a whole lot of affection for them. But yes, by 1972 they look much better, and it’s those small details that make a difference on this giant car.
OTOH Cadillac still had a true four-door hardtop and had much plusher seat fabrics, the cloth seats in ’70s Lincolns wouldn’t look out of place in a mid-spec Torino.
It just now occurs to me (he said with a reddish face) that the 70 model would have been done during Bunkie Knudsen’s short reign as FoMoCo chief. So many of Ford’s 1970-71 vehicles had a bit of a GM-lite look to them, so it should be no surprise that this one would too.
Which of course explains why the ’70 Lincoln looks like such a Cadillac wanna’ be. I was profoundly disappointed in that, as Lincoln gave up its distinctive and design language, which had become iconic, even if watered down a bit in the last few years of the suicide-door era.
Especially from the rear, these look way too much like a ’65-’66 Cadillac that has put on a few pounds in the intervening years. Which is of course ironic, as the ’65-’66 Caddy’s slab sides were of course influenced by the Lincoln.
And of course Lincoln quickly saw the error of its ways and started moving back to its rectilinear roots, but it took a few years for it to come into full glory(!). This ’72 shows the first step down that road.
I totally get why you’re infatuated with it, but this whole era just doesn’t work for me. All I see is an LTD/Marquis hiding in there. I know that’s not fair, given that the same applies to Cadillac, but after the unique Lincolns, these were a let-down for me. Of course i’m not exactly a fan of the Caddys of this era either.
The final version with the stand up grille is obviously not my giant mug of tea either, but at least it was distinctive and had stopped trying to look like a Cadillac.
Bunkie was not kind to Ford’s design history.
Thanks for this very interesting dissection of the improvements to the 1970-71 models that made the 1972 version of the Continental the best of its generation, in my opinion. Another similarity that Bunkie brought from GM is evident in the last picture above: the smallish rear window seems a direct copy of the 1968-70 Sedan de Ville in shape and profile. I’d never noticed that before, but perhaps the absence of the vinyl roof on this blue beauty really calls one’s attention to that feature.
Arnot “Buzz’ Grissinger who was the lead stylist on the 1970 and beyond series admitted in his Continental Comments interview for the LCOC publication that the design benchmark was the 1967-’68 Buick Electra, not Cadillac. One can see the Electra influence most in the ‘hips’ and general thickness of the upper rear surfacing. Of course, he retained a degree of the slabside themes for Continental identity. Rationalization with full-sized BoF Ford-Mercury substructures precluded the continuation of the rear-hinged doors. The reason given for the change for public consumption was Cadillac buyers didn’t like them. I too recall being disappointed when I first noticed the rear-hinged door were gone.
The 1972 styling did improve to a degree, the cited emphasis on the rectilinear with stainless ridge moldings did return a greater element of the 1960’s model aura. Personally, the 1970-’71 has appeals for me just of the reasons the writer disdains them, especially the slight coke-bottle hips. Probably just my poor taste showing. Having owned and enjoyed a 1970 hardtop sedan years ago, I have fond memories of it, would still like another one to relive my miss-spent younger years.
I really enjoyed this article. I appreciate your love for this Lincoln and you make several compelling observations. You and I are close in age and Lincolns in the 70’s struck us in different ways. However, I’ve always viewed this as looking like a deluxe Marquis. Yes, the rear door changes improved the styling, it just went from awkward deluxe Marquis to less awkward deluxe Marquis.
It was the Mark V that set my car soul on fire. It is my first true automotive love. Nothing even comes close for me. It makes no sense, it’s a bloated boulevard cruiser but when I see one I get that chill up and down my spine that says “Wow – I’m in love!” I also love the Continental with the large Rolls Royce grill. If ever one particular element of design put a car line on the map in the 70’s, the Lincoln grill from ’77 onward is it for me.
Locally theres a yellow 72? roaming the streets though with petrol @$2.50 per litre now it mightnt get out as much, big car or it looks big untill you get up close and can see through the styling, not for me I doubt I earn enough to feed one.
I couldn’t agree more! You have beautifully articulated so many of the details about the early 1970s Lincolns that I have felt but never put into words. The 1972 really did get the design just right, especially with the rear-door kick-up, chrome fender-top trim and finely detailed grille. While I appreciate the front-end look Lincoln was trying to deliver with the 1970 model, the 1971 “facelift” was always sort of a head-scratcher, as it looked unfinished. The ’72 definitely fixed all that.
I also have a particular soft spot for the 1972 as I got good exposure to one as a kid. In 1977, some new neighbors moved in across the street from us. They had two Continental sedans: a ’75 (yellow paint and vinyl roof, yellow leather inside) and a ’72 in maroon with a black top and dark red cloth interior.
At the time, I had a (little kid) car washing “business” with a few neighbors, and I was able to add the new arrivals to my customer base. So I had the chance to wash both Lincolns every once in a while. The ’75 was more “Seventies Baroque” with the pillowed interior trim, massive bumpers and patterned bodyside moldings. However, even to me as a kid, the ’72 really did feel “just right.” Perhaps it was the color and trim, but it just felt more elegant and stylish. The ’72 Lincoln conveyed a sense of quiet substance that would have offered a nice contrast to the flashy Cadillacs and bloated Imperials that it competed against when new.
So yes, the ’72 Continental was central to developing my “Lincoln love.”
Thanks, George. I have to admit that the 75-79 editions were one of the more successful restyles of a car that came out in 1970. The new roof really updated and modernized the car for the second half of the 70s and it was not an objectively bad shape. However, It lacked some of the quiet elegance of the earlier shape. That maroon/black one that you washed would have been a fave of mine as well.
The real outlier of the series was the 74. It was the most conservative and subdued of all of them – and maybe the only cars FoMoCo built that year that wore the big bumpers even moderately well. I have a special affection for that one as well. My father looked at them briefly (a 2 door Town Coupe had his salivary glands working a little) but the economy had gone to shit and my stepmom’s ’68 Cutlass was screaming to be replaced. He bought her a new 74 Cutlass Supreme but elected to keep his Mark IV beyond the 2 years that was his customary trade in cycle. His business partner, however, bought a triple dark green 74 Town Car that we borrowed for a Thanksgiving trip to Philly. I had my learners permit at the time and got some wheel time in that one on the Penn Turnpike.
Very true about the ’74. I agree that it served-up the mandated 5-mph bumpers in an attractive way, keeping elements of the ’72-’73 cars like an updated version of the triple-segmented taillights and introducing the new front-end look that would continue through the ’75 facelift with the fender-mounted parking/turn-signal lamps. I really like the grille treatment on the ’74–it was so simple and clean. The ’75 and ’76 grill design looked way too much like the Mercury Marquis from the same years. And I agree with other commentators that the switch to the Mark-style (Rolls-Royce style?) grill on the Continentals in 1977 was also very nice and came to define the Lincoln “face.”
That triple green ’74 sounds like a real beauty and would have been a fantastic ride for an extended Thanksgiving trip. I could picture it immediately in my mind, and then I remembered why: the ’74 Lincoln brochure featured a great shot of a Continental Town Car in that exact color combination.
Haha, that’s it exactly! Although nobody in my family dressed like those people in the background.
A funny story about that car, my 4 year old brother had been hanging on one of the twin front seat center armrests from the back and something down inside broke. Rather than confess to his partner and have to pay the surely outrageous repair cost at a dealer, Dad took the car to a local country garage staffed with grizzly old guys who could fix anything. I will never forget one of them welding the base of that armrest with an acetylene torch while Dad and I sat in back using pry bars to hold the upholstery out of the way. The guy fixed the armrest and did not start a fire – something that I now realize was pretty friggin’ amazing. 🙂
The ’74 Lincoln had big, wide taillights above the bumper that wrapped around the ends of the rear fenders – a not very Lincolnesque styling touch that only lasted one year. It looked better than the baroque and filigreed ’75+ rear, though.
The one thing that bothered me about the ’77-’79 front was the odd placement of the headlight doors. They should have been centered in the blank painted spaces on either side of the grille, but apparently Ford didn’t want to spend the money to re-engineer the headlights.
Ford wouldn’t even spend the money on some headlight trim bezels. These cars look like crap with the headlight doors open as a result.
I agree about the headlight doors, they look so randomly placed in that dead area of body color due to that much narrower grille. It’s one of those cars you have to get in dark colors simply to hide cutlines.
Similarly the 74 rear, like many 1974 rears(Torino for example) carried over the original rear sheetmetal designed for a bumper with integral taillights, and with the battering rams they simply put wraparound taillights where the top edge of the bumper used to be. It worked effectively but it makes it look like a Marquis
On those taillights, 1) it always mystified me how Lincoln ditched the lights in the blades after 1965 – those had been a “Lincoln Thing” just as much as those vertical Cadillac lights. Moving the lights back there in ’75 was one of the few really positive changes I saw in those cars. 2) At least the 74 Lincoln had those wide taillights that wrapped around *before* Mercury started using that look. The 73-74 Marquis taillights were flat over the bumpers and did not wrap. That started in 75, the same year Lincoln changed theirs to vertical. I am one who generally does not like taillights up in the bumpers, so I actually preferred the 74 Lincoln to the 70-73 in that way.
I don’t like taillights in bumpers either (I have only a few exceptions) but the 74s are neither fish nor foul. Funny thing is the Marquis they remind me of are the wraparounds on the 71-72s despite being in the bumper
This series of Lincolns were IMO quite an impressive statement , HOWEVER , it seems everything Ford built during the 70’s had early rust and lots of it. How the Blue car featured avoided this ( if it indeed is original?) is amazing.
In my experience these rusted *a lot* less than lesser FoMoCo cars (some of which were truly awful. Some day I need to take a deeper dive into the body engineering of these cars. They had a substantially tighter feel than the big Ford and Mercury from 1971-78, more on par with the much stiffer 1969-70 LTD/Marquis. These Lincolns seemed to avoid the jiggle and squeak that plagued the slightly smaller 71+ big Dearborn products as they aged.
It is tempting to say that these were just bigger Ford LTDs, but I think the engineers built these bodies differently and in a way designed to cater to more discerning buyers. Plus they were all built at Wixom (with Marks and Thunderbirds) so they never shared assembly lines with the less expensive sedans.
I don’t remember these cars as having a rust problem.
If anything, contemporary Cadillacs were worse, as I remember them rusting under the chrome trim that separated the vinyl roof from the bare sheet metal. It also wasn’t uncommon to see Cadillacs with serious surface rust that began under the chrome protection strips on the side of the car.
Plus, the rubber bumper “fillers” on all Ford products wore far better than the ones used on GM cars, which tended to crack and fade badly within four years.
The strange part is that, until about 1975, when the rest of the line improved, the most rust-resistant vehicles made by Ford were at the top (Lincolns and Thunderbird) and bottom (Pinto and Mustang II) of the corporate line-up.
My parents lived on the Florida coast right on a saltwater lagoon near Cape Canaveral. They bought a new Grand Marquis in 1977 – hardly a speck of rust in nine years of ownership. They had also owned a ’68 Marquis coupe and ’72 Marquis Brougham which also remained rust-free. It always seemed that the pre-’79 big Mercurys were better built than their big Ford cousins.
No. I much prefer the ’78 & ’79 versions with the short fender skirts, rolls-type grille and pillow-tufted seats. That was peak Lincoln for me at the age of 15.
The one problem with the ’78-’79 Lincoln was that it used a dashboard very much like the Ford and Mercury. The distinctive ’70’-77 Lincoln dash was gone in favor of decontenting.
Agreed. It could be argued that Lincoln waited too long to upgrade the dash (something Cadillac would take to an art form after the 1977 DeVille/Fleetwood) but that 1978 revision was a definite downgrade.
Thanks for this, I in general do like the larger 4-door Lincolns more than the 2-doors but am not so good with the nuances between them, this was enlightening and very interesting. The featured example is of a wonderful color, the chrome really accentuates it without being overwhelming or on the other hand just blending into it. A good balance.
It’s a good thing we didn’t see one of these there . . . . 🙂
Thank for this story on these Lincolns. My first real exposure to these was while watching the television series McMillan & Wife. Rock Hudson drove one of these, while Susan Saint James drove an early 1950s MG!
Ford dropped the unique door arrangement because it wanted to conquest customers from Cadillac. A survey showed that while Lincoln owners liked the doors arrangement, Cadillac owners did not, so the “clamshell” doors went.
Even today, these Lincolns seem to be better-built and trimmed than contemporary Cadillacs. Cadillac was really starting to cheapen the interiors of its cars during this era. Even as a boy attending the auto show in the 1970s, I thought that the way Cadillac wrapped the fake wood around the top of the interior door panels looked cheap and tacky.
These cars also felt more structurally solid than the big GM C body cars starting in 1971. Up through 1970 the Cadillac retained that traditional solid feel that GM bodies had been famous for. But the 71 model lost that. The cars had a structural quiver over bad pavement and the door did not feel as solid when it closed.
The Lincoln was a stiffer structure, used better interior materials, and felt like a bank vault when you closed the door. It was certainly not as tight as a Mercedes, but it was the best combination of tight structure and quiet, isolated ride of anything of its era.
“Mrs. McMillan” [“Sally”] also had a ’73 Chevy Impala wagon. Usually just shown in garage, next to the MG. But, one episode had his mother, the “other Mrs. McMillan”*, driving it in a chase scene. The MG used in another chase.
*Played by Mildred Natwick, who also did “Snoop Sisters” which was another NBC Sunday Mystery show.
A 1972 Continental is also featured in Breezy, starring Kay Lenz, William Holden, and Roger C. Carmel, an early directorial effort of Clint Eastwood. I saw it years ago but it’s pretty obscure today.
I’ve always felt that the 1979 Bill Blass Mark V** (I’ll spare you all a pic this time as you all know what it looks like) was peak Lincoln…
…but you argument, especially your closing arguments to nail down the specific year to ’72 are quite good! – Missing from your closing arguments however were the front bumper change for ’73, followed by the subsequent rear bumper change for ’74, but your engine power argument is probably a better one, as we all know about the bumpers, so the jury does not need to be swayed in that regard.
Well Done, JPC… I’m now convinced (and love the color of the featured car).
** Full disclosure – Everyone here knows how I feel about personal luxury coupes, so my opinion in this case is a little biased, so I probably wouldn’t make it past the voir dire process to get on the jury anyway. ;o)
My parents acquired a dealer demonstrator 1972 in Copper Moondust Metallic with black vinyl roof and black leather interior when it was about 6 months old. I got to drive it several times as a teenager. Never have I seen one that didn’t have slightly misaligned appliques on the headlamp doors, but I agree with all praise given to the ’72 nonetheless.
1972 is IMO the best year of the 1970’s Lincoln’s, the styling has improved greatly over the 1970-71 models and they still offer good performance/drivability since they weren’t fully smogged and they still used the smaller bumpers, I always felt the early 1970’s Lincoln’s should’ve sold better than they did.
You sold me. I never really noticed these detail differences, but now that they’re right in front of me I can’t unsee them, the 70-71s look too much like the big Mercury’s of the same years, and the 72 despite being mostly carried over manages to look just right. Maybe not as attractive as the peak suicide door Contis but not awkwardly disconnected from their later iterations anymore. I think the 72 looks better than the 66-67
For the record, I never hated this generation. I love the 61s of course but its very heavy overengineered unibody was really overkill for the kind of ride they had where traditional BOF is adequate or arguably even better suited. The styling became a real mixed bag between 65-69 to me, there are attractive details I can pick out on them individually but the overall presentation was a solid meh year by year, the consistent saving grace was the suicide doors, but take those away for the coupes and they are as indistinct and clumsy looking as the 70-71s IMO
To echo Matt’s point above, it wasn’t until I read this piece that I took notice of the differences between the ’72 and the 1970 – ’71. Great piece, JPC.
I will say that I actually prefer the 1970 – ’71 grille, with its horizontal ribs. It somehow just looks more integrated with the overall frontal styling, if slightly “Mercurial”.
BTW, “What Not To Wear” used to be one of my guilty pleasures. Fits the context of this piece / car, perfectly. Nicely done.
As usual, I am the odd man out, but I never really enjoyed the gigantic cars of the early 1970s. They were just too hard to drive, for me, anyway. I suppose they would be fine in a place like Indiana, but on Vancouver Island, huge sleds were a huge liability.
I have an intense fondness for late 60’s through late 70’s land barges, and big Lincolns are one of my favorites. To my mind, other than the atrocious fuel mileage, cars of this area reflect more what the majority of people really care about in a vehicle: comfort and ride. There is a supreme beauty in a car that takes speed bumps with aplomb, and turns long trips into smooth sailing.
As far as a 1972 Cadillac Sedan de Ville versus a 1972 Lincoln Continental 4-door sedan: I’ll take the Linc by a mile. I concur with J P’s conclusion about the 1972 Continental being just right. Seeing one of these sans vinyl roof is nice, too. And rare.
I’ve never cared for the ‘Mark’ series of Lincolns no matter what year. I never would’ve bought one.
Seeing this thread makes me wish I’d have found a way to keep my ’67 Lincoln. Sigh. I reckon it’s new owner is enjoying it, however, so that’s good.
I never knew about the beltline changes until I read this thread. Fancy that. Learn something new every day.
My grandpa traded in his 1968 Buick LaSabre for a 1972 Continental. It was the bronzy-rust metallic, white vinyl top, white leather inside. Classy! I was taken home from elementary school many times in that enormous back seat. I LOVED it…first car I had ever ridden in that had power windows…and A/C!.
As the years marched on, my Papa had less interest in driving longer than 15 minutes at a time. Since I was 16, with a newly minted license, and we always drove 90 minutes to see family on Thanksgiving and Christmas, I became Papa’s holiday driver.
I spent many hours navigating that glorious hunk of Americana. The 460 engine, though detuned for ’72, was much more alive than you might imagine–it made the car feel alert, responsive, never sounding taxed or tired. I give Ford powertrain engineers credit where credit is due—their competence was magic…they were able to make that enormous car feel athletic!
In 1984 or so, Papa later traded the glorious Lincoln for 1979 Malibu sedan with a pathetic wheezy 3.8L V6….what a letdown! I am not sure what prompted him to do that, but I was certainly not one to argue with my beloved Papa.
I will never forget those rides home from school…or the privilege of driving my Papa to Christmas dinner in the Lincoln.
I wouldn’t mind owning a ’72 Continental, but, I don’t have a large enough garage…..
The earlier 70s town cars are totally gangster while the later are totally BeeGees. I actually like them all, my mom had a 78 which missed the cool speedo by one year. The lower profile windows in the back make all the difference.
You make a cogent argument, but I remain unconvinced.
Personally, I think the ’69 was easily the worst of the lot from that generation. That stupid-looking waffle grille, the interior’s regression from that beautiful brushed aluminum to that wood look with the same space-age shapes… It was looking rough and tired, which is painful to say given the beauty of the body’s shape.
So the ’70, to my eyes that have only seen them in retrospect, looks like a clean break with the ’69, going back toward the ’65 with the grille, modernizing the interior, and overall sharpening the thing.
By ’72, they’d gone back to the waffle grille, which did not look good on any Lincoln from this era (but somehow they made it work on the ’80s Town Cars). The revision of the kickup on the rear made it look like the car suddenly gained a horizontal muffin-top from certain angles. But, I’ll concede the chrome-definite improvement! I’ll also concede the interior-the ’72’s is head-and-shoulders nicer than the ’70s in design.
So yeah, I guess I’m not convinced. Maybe had I been around then I’d see it differently, but here we are.
My grandparents ordered a new ’73 as soon as they were available in late ’72. I remember they had to wait quite a while for it to arrive, but when it did, wow! Silver Blue Metallic, dark blue vinyl top, white leather, turbine wheel covers — very sharp looking. Loaded but not a Town Car: they needed the Twin Comfort Lounge Seats since my grandfather was 6’2″ and my grandmother 5’2″.
I did a lot of my early driving on that car and really loved it, especially the Sure Track Brakes and just the way it looked, rode, and the overall quality of it. It replaced a ’68 Continental Sedan that was my grandfather’s favorite car — he kept it for 10 years/300K miles!. (My grandmother got the ’73 while my grandfather kept the ’68.)
As an 18-year old, I actually tried to buy the ’73 after they traded it in ’78 but someone beat me to it.
What gets me is not just the grotesque size of these, or their barge-like handling, but their impracticality — all that bulk and yet not much interior room. The engine compartment and the trunk get vast amounts of space, they seem to be higher priorities than the passengers.
There was plenty of interior room in my ’67 Connie for any passengers to move around in — front seat and back. I can’t imagine Lincolns had shrunk the Continental’s interior space that much by the ’72 model year . . . ? The cars certainly didn’t shrink in size!
Is the front door the only piece of sheetmetal that never changed during the 1970-79 generation? Maybe the trunk lid too?
This generation of standard Lincoln sedan turned me off after the 61-69 generation. My Dad had a ’63 powder blue sedan for several years. It was so classy looking and it had a much more compact feel than contemporary Cadillacs. I was much luckier than that tyke sitting in the front door opening of the ’62 sedan. I got my license a few yeas later and my Dad, cool guy that he was, let me drive it often. Even to high school! Such a dream come true.
I’ll admit that I only appreciated the Marks as the ’70’s progressed. A Bill Blass designer Mark V, that would be my choice. Even with the extreme overhangs, the car just looks likes something that “an elegant rogue” would drive.