(first posted 11/24/2014) Remember the Sixties Continental? Sure you do, even if you, like me, were born long after the Sixties ended. But who could forget such an elegant car? Lincoln almost bought the farm after their disastrous attempt at “out-Cadillacing” Cadillac, but a chance encounter with a Thunderbird design sketch saved the day. And the classic car world is so much better as a result of these cars!
But perhaps you may not recall that Lincoln went half of that storied decade without a two-door model. Yes! Of course, with the ’61 Connie having so much in common with the 1961-63 Bullet Bird, they were lucky enough to have any car at all. And no one will argue about the appeal of the suicide-door 1961-65 Continental Sedan and Continental Convertible. They’re so beautiful! The anti-1959 Cadillac. Sleek, severe perhaps, but gaudy? Never!
I have always wondered how a 1961 Continental two-door would have looked. Quite well, I imagine. But Lincoln was on thin ice between 1960 and 1961, so I can see why caution in adding new models was taken.
But as lovely as the Continental Convertible was, they never sold all that great. I am sure that their mere presence led to lots and lots of Sedan sales, but as much as the drop-top was admired, sales between 1961 and 1965 ran between 2800 and 3300 units. The best year prior to the introduction of the Coupe? 3,356 in 1965. Compare that with 36,824 Sedans and you can see why the Coupe was green-lighted.
1966 was a big year for Continental fans. Not only was there a substantial restyle inside and out, there was now the Coupe! As well as a remarkably clean instrument panel. Wow! So sleek. And by the way, yes, I do miss analog clocks in cars. I love the one in my Cartier! The HVAC outlets were hidden in the chrome instrument panel trim. Attention to detail was the watchword when it came to these Continentals.
And the new Coupe was a beauty. So sleek, yet still carrying that Continental flair. And when ordered in just the right color combination–like dark red with a black vinyl roof and white leather interior, for instance–absolutely stunning. Coupe de What? Oh, yeah, they’re nice too–very nice, and I wouldn’t kick one out of my garage, but… But. Look at this car!
The Coupe handily outdistanced the Convertible in 1966 sales, to the tune of 15,766 Coupes against 3,180 Convertibles. Naturally, it did not hurt that the Continental Coupe was the least-expensive Continental of the year, at $5,485.
Not cheap, of course. This was still an American luxury car, back when that really meant something, but $5,485 was still a fair bit better than the Sedan’s $5,750 and the Convertible’s princely $6,383 FOB pricing. The fact that it was just as attractive as the other models certainly didn’t hurt, and a two-door was much more appealing for a bit more sportiness than a four-door–drop-top or no.
And let us not forget that these Continentals had a reverse-opening hood, so as to prevent an ajar hood latch from causing a crash. This went back a ways with Ford Motor Company, as the 1955-57 Thunderbirds and subsequent Squarebirds had them too, as did the 1957-58 Ford.
As the cover of the ’66 sales brochure stated: “Lincoln Continental for 1966: unmistakably new, yet unmistakably Continental.” And as a Continental–the pride of Ford Motor Company, built in its own factory (along with the Thunderbird) in Wixom, Michigan, power, prestige and convenience were all important. Motivation was provided by a four-barrel, 340-hp 462 CID V8 engine, backed up by a Twin-Range Turbo-Drive Automatic Transmission. Three on the tree? On a Continental?! Surely you jest!
The interior was equally new. That was quite the instrument panel, too. It actually jutted out towards the driver, with a very ’60s architectural style. Very sleek, and luxurious at the same time. The radio was on the right side of the steering column, and similar controls on the left controlled the heating, ventilation and air conditioning. Everything of course was finished to a very high standard.
And with white leather? Wow, so nice! And no worries about scorching the backs of your legs in the summertime like you would with a black interior. White interiors are so bright and cheery! I love them.
And when traveling in the rear compartment of a Continental, you rode in equally pleasant surroundings as the front seat passengers. You also got a fold-down armrest, power window switch and ashtray–with built-in lighter, no doubt.
The 1966 Continental was attractive enough to get my grandfather out of a Buick Electra 225 and begin his Lincoln journey, with a special-ordered triple-green sedan. No vinyl roof, but my dad well remembers the optional 8-track stereo, which was very good for its time, sound-wise. He also well remembers sneaking the Continental out of the garage for late-night joyrides. This was rather difficult, as my grandparents’ bedroom was directly above the attached two-car garage. But somehow, Dad managed it on several occasions.
These were just so sleek and elegant. That lovely roofline and Coke-bottle fenders, while perhaps not quite as severely elegant as the unquestionably attractive 1961-65 Continentals, moved the earlier Connie’s proven aesthetics into the late Sixties a bit better. And really, although we are discussing the Coupe today, I would take any one of them, any year!
Sadly, this most excellent roofline only was available in 1966 and 1967. For 1968, a more Mark III-like roofline was added. It was still a very good-looking car, but it seemed just a little bulkier and not quite as smooth. As I remarked to fellow CCer and LCOC member Glenn Kramer as we were looking over today’s feature car, it kind of looked like a Continental Mark III that had a few too many Big Macs. Aw, I can’t stay mad! But regardless, I still feel the 1966-67 is just a bit more comely than the 1968-69 Coupe.
Just look at those lines. Clean, elegant. Just enough chrome trim to catch your attention, but never, never overdone. Refined. Refinement is key. There is a reason stylists back then did things so well. No regulations, and no multimedia claptrap to focus on–like cell phones and laptops adversely influence automotive design today, sadly. Any bozo can slap on fake portholes or plastichrome-by-the-yard, or stamp zig-zags into modern family sedans, but it will never, ever look good.
Was 1965 and 1966 the peak for styling? I think it was. That was a long time ago, but at least wonderful cars like this Continental can remind us of perhaps not a better time, but certainly a more aesthetically pleasing one!
Related reading: 1965 Lincoln Continental – The Last Great American Luxury Car