An ’87 Lincoln Continental bustleback was a completely unexpected find, street-parked just one block away from the Lake Shore Campus of Loyola University. This northern section of what’s commonly known as the Winthrop-Kenmore corridor that runs north-south between the Uptown and Edgewater districts of Chicago is plentiful with four-story, midcentury residential buildings, many of which have been purchased by the university and are used as student housing. In the two city blocks just south of the main campus, there are still some apartment and condo buildings that are not affiliated directly with the university. I’m sure that some non-student members of the Edgewater community live there, but when fall arrives, there are often banners on some of them that advertise “Off-Campus Housing!”
From what I understand from a friend who had attended years ago, Loyola is not an inexpensive school, but that doesn’t mean that the streets in and around that immediate area don’t have their share of beaters parked at the curb. The most common type of student car in this area would be, say, a twenty-year-old Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic that runs really well, but is now in the hands of someone as old as the car, who isn’t particularly devoted to keeping it in pristine condition. Examples of those two cars will run forever, and as such are exactly what I’d want my hypothetical college-aged kid to have… that is, if I would allow them to have a car at all during freshman year. Unlike in this part of Chicago, neither university I had attended had comprehensive, inexpensive, twenty-four hour public transportation at my disposal, nor a Target department store or Aldi supermarket within ten minutes walking distance. These Loyola students have it made.
Still, there are many times when access to a vehicle is essential for a young college attendee, particularly when it’s time to move at the beginning or end of the semester. There will also be occasions when one might want to get away for the weekend, or even drive home to see Mom and/or Dad. I get it. The reason this Continental caught me off guard was because given its location basically across the street from the southern edge of campus, I presumed it to belong to one of the students, and if so, it seems like a very atypical choice, if in fact any choice was involved. Even if the hypothetical owner was a twenty-year-old currently toward the end of his or her studies at Loyola, this Continental, a final-year example of this generation, was already something like fifteen years old when said student was born.
I remember there being some older cars on campus when I was a college student, but they were more of the “ironic” type, like a bright yellow Ford Maverick that was close to twenty-years old at the time. My friend Andy had a big, old, blue Oldsmobile from the early ’80s that we all called the “Blooptie”. In both of these examples, though, the cars were as old as we were, and sometimes a little younger, but certainly not older. This imperfect Lincoln is now thirty-five years old, which makes it positively geriatric as weekend transportation for a college student. There’s got to be backstory.
Parent: “You really want a car? You have to have a car? You ‘need’ a car? Fine. You can have Aunt Gert’s Lincoln. She just gave up her license and won’t be driving anymore.”
Kid: “But I hate that thing!”
P: “Take public transit. What do you need a car for in Chicago, anyway? It’s the Lincoln or nothing.”
K: “Fine, whatever. I’ll take it.”
P: “And you’re going to thank her for it, and you have to mean it, and with real gratitude. With love and kisses.”
K: “Hhhhhhh…” (The loud sigh may or may not be accompanied by an epic eyeroll.)
Eighty-seven capped the six-year run of this generation of Continental, which began for ’82 and was based on Ford’s rear-drive Fox platform. All ’87 Lincolns were powered by one of two versions of Ford’s 5.0-liter V8, with most of them having the fuel-injected, 150-horsepower version, with the Mark VII LSC being the exclusive recipient of the high-output, port-injected, 200-hp mill. Antilock brakes, optional for ’85, became standard equipment for ’86. This ’87 Continental base model was one of just under 17,600 built for the model year, with a starting price of $26,400, or about $68,900 in 2022. An upmarket Givenchy edition sold for $2,500 ($6,500) more.
A new, front-wheel-drive Continental with a proper-looking notchback profile and slick, aerodynamic styling in the vein of the Ford Taurus on which it was based would arrive for ’88, and would more than double the sales of its predecessor, at 41,300 units. Base prices for the ’88 actually decreased slightly, by 1% on the base model, and 3% on the renamed, upmarket “Signature” version. Perhaps this was the savings from Ford no longer needing to license the Givenchy name being passed down to the customer.
What struck me the most when looking at this car and its immediate surroundings was how both the styling and smaller size of these Fox-platform Continentals, as well as the slightly bizarre, space-age angles, curves, and architectural elements of the midcentury residential buildings in the background, had originally signified a new wave of the future. I love this style of architecture and anything Googie, and I photograph examples of it every chance I get, especially given how many things have changed in this neighborhood and city since I had originally moved here close to two decades ago.
This Lincoln is of a much more manageable size and with much less rusty perforation than a different Continental I had photographed only a couple of blocks away from this very intersection, almost a decade ago. Here’s hoping that the presumed student who owns this one appreciates riding in something cushy that isn’t a Corolla or Civic. At the very least, his or her parents should take comfort in the safety of this Continental’s ABS. Along with the absence of fear of this car’s theft, that’s also one less thing to worry about.
Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois.
Wednesday, August 17, 2022.