Curbside Classic: 1970 Lincoln Continental Coupe – Hot Rod Lincoln

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(first posted 2/7/2013)     Ever since I found this relatively rare 1970 Continental Coupe, I’ve been trying to find something good to say about it. Don’t get me wrong; I love it, in its intrinsic hugeness and badness. But then, I also had a crush on Blaze Starr in seventh grade. And I was just about as thrilled to find it in this neighborhood of old Toyotas and Volvos as if Blaze herself was suddenly sauntering down the sidewalk au naturel.

Yes, these are an uncommon sight, and this the only one of its generation I’ve encountered. Devoid of the ’61′s clear, angular brilliance, heavily influenced by GM’s big barges, and lacking the in-your-face over-the-top I’m-big-and-I’m-proud excess of their ’75-’79 successors, these are almost forgotten now. Shall we call them the lost Lincolns? Oh wait; I think I just came up with something positive…

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We could call them the hot rod Lincolns! I know that’s a bit of a stretch, but seriously, this ’70 Coupe was undoubtedly the fastest-ever Lincoln up to that time, and would easily hold that crown until the 1987 Mark VII SLC came along. The 460 cubic inch (7.4-liter), still in its high-compression youthful freshness, was rated at 365 (gross) hp. And although the 1970 Lincoln was a completely new car, with a bigger wheelbase than its predecessor and now riding on a gen-u-ine frame, it actually weighed several hundred pounds less than the heavyweight unibodies it replaced. My Encyclopedia of American cars says this coupe weighed a relatively svelte 4,669 lbs., about the same as today’s Audi S8. Of course, once that big gas tank was filled and ready to roll, it was probably closer to 4,900.

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The same was true for the Cadillac of the time; the ’68 Coupe DeVille’s weight was listed at about 4,600 lbs., and it had the new 375-hp 472 V8. It would be a blast to see a couple of these big barges drag race each other. I can’t find any old road test numbers for the Lincoln, but ’68-’69 Caddys could do 0-60 in about 9 seconds, and the quarter-mile in sixteen. Not so hot from today’s perspective, but considering the technology of the times and the utter effortlessness with which these boats hustled along, those numbers are none too shabby.

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Flooring one of these big girls at sixty still gave a noticeable shove in the back.  The big-block, de-smogged low-compression versions soon to come would get to sixty or so with a semblance of urgency, but quickly ran utterly out of wind from there on up–just in time for the double nickel–and never mind their utterly emasculated and wheezy successors of the early-mid eighties. Just as with  muscle cars, the turn of the decade was a high point; the difference was that one didn’t have to order a special engine. In that respect, they were the high point of the whole genre.

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See? I managed some positive spin for this bad girl. But that’s about as far as I can take it. Time for Jim Cavanaugh to take the mike. So if you’re negativity-averse, you’d better stop here. And I’m not even going to use the words “handling” or “build quality”.

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Let’s face it: These Lincolns are just Ford LTDs with a bit of collagen and silicone. The big, wide new ’69 Ford was designed around a one-frame-fits-all strategy. OK, the Lincoln’s side rails are a couple of inches longer, but when it comes down to it they’re all of one family and cut from the same cloth. Ford’s experiment with its a-cut-above unibody Continentals was over; pragmatism was the new order of the day. From here on, Lincolns would essentially be a trim level above the LTD, with the Marquis precariously squeezed between them.

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Ford’s pricing strategy certainly made that inevitable: This 1970 Continental was 20% cheaper than the 1961 model (price-adjusted for inflation). Ford was going for the volume, just as Caddy had been doing for some time. Cue the entrance of Mercedes as the up-and coming luxury car of choice. The seventies saw the democratization of many things, but nothing more so than “luxury” items. Shag carpeting was laid over the linoleum floor (which is in again), and opera-windowed, soft-padded tops sprouted on suburban driveways like crab grass in the lawns. The peak decade of the Great Brougham Epoch was underway, along with the decline of exclusivity of Detroit’s top brands.

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This ’70 represents the transition to the height of that era; opera windows were still a couple of years away. In a way, the understated quality of this car, along with its healthy motor, is also its redeeming feature. Might explain why this owner is going to some lengths to keep it running on the streets, despite the broken-out side window and largely disassembled instrument panel. It’s someone’s beloved hot rod Lincoln, so watch what you say. I tried to.

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