Today’s MT vintage review checks out a trio of top American luxury models from 1969, one each from the Big 3. There are two 2-doors, the Cadillac Coupe de Ville, and the Imperial, then a 4-door Lincoln Continental. All were loaded with options and ready to fulfill their luxury mission, each being the best their parent company had to offer. Of the trio, which one would MT pick as their ‘Status Enhancer’?
Of the three, only the Imperial was new for ’69. The Coupe de Ville was nearing the end of its ’65-’70 cycle, and the Continental was in the last year of its long-running ’61-’69 body. Thanks to hindsight, we know Cadillac would remain the public’s favorite for some time. Yet, Lincoln was gaining steam thanks to their ’68 Mark III, which had injected a neo-classical approach that would redefine the brand. Meanwhile, the Imperial was reaching its last few years, with Chrysler nearly done with its efforts to establish the upscale marque.
Rather than the usual performance-oriented review, the comparison focused on the needs of the luxury class and how well each model fulfilled its intended mission. In many respects, the contenders were found to be pretty equal, at least when it came to options and accommodations. All interiors were comfortable, luxurious, and loaded with neat geegaws. The Imperial’s interior deviated some by having bucket seats and a more driver-oriented dashboard. All three got some criticism for rear quarters not being as spacious as their exteriors suggested, with the Imperial faring the worst.
Out of the three, the Imperial was the ‘driver’s car,’ and got praise for handling like a vehicle ‘half its weight.’ However, reviewers acknowledged few buyers in the segment would care about such matters. In that department, both the DeVille and the Continental handled as ponderously as their dimensions suggested, the latter being the most unruly with lots of roll and pitch. Acceleration and braking numbers were good and rather competitive among the trio, though the Lincoln suffered a good amount of wheel hop.
As explained, cold performance numbers were not the comparison’s point. Rather, the subjective values that defined the luxury class. In that area, fit, finish, and snob appeal played bigger roles. The Imperial fared the poorest in these respects, with a general lack of quality that was ‘annoying.’ Quality was also slipping at GM by that point, as MT found the ‘vaunted Cadillac has lost some of its quality aspects from 1968.’ However, when it came to snob appeal, the Cadillac brand still had it in spades. By their stated goals, the reviewers acknowledged the de Ville was the best ‘Status Symbol’ of the group.
In a bit of a twist, the Continental was ultimately the reviewer’s preferred ride, thanks to ‘its silent ride, solid construction, and overall quality.’ And while Lincoln was to remain number 2 in America’s luxury wars, its overall numbers were about to grow. Partly from the qualities found on the ’69 Continental, but mostly thanks to the flashier luxury approach found in their Mark III.