The ’61 Lincoln was a game-changer, a term I don’t like to use lightly. It instantly made all of the late-’50s excess-mobiles look utterly dated and silly. Its impact on the rest of the industry was as instantaneous as it was possible to retool: think 1962 Cadillac with its large flat C-pillar, a 180 degree change from the previous “bubble top” look.
Given the ’61 Continental’s huge and lasting impact, it’s interesting to note that this review does not spend much time on its styling, leaving it to the very end. But that’s the benefit of hindsight; it’s not always possible to know how impactful a new car will be on its arrival. That was even the case with the Mustang.
Given that ” the Car Life staff leans towards compacts”, the smaller ’61 Lincoln at least had that going for it, although it was still a heavyweight (4954 lbs, 5220 lbs with optional a/c as tested). The big 430 cubic inch MEL V8’s thirst was throttled back a bit, thanks to a two barrel carb and a 2.89:1 rear axle ratio, which resulted in overdrive-like low revs at speed (4100 rpm @115 mph). The result was 12-14 mpg, depending on how it was driven. Still beats the single digit mpgs lots of big American cars got back then.
Given the massive weight “The acceleration times are startling; a zero to 60 mph time of close to 11 seconds, and zero to an honest 100 mph in just over 40 seconds was hot-rod performance only a few years ago”.
The ride over all types of surfaces was deemed “absolutely superb”. Even at 100, the Lincoln had excellent stability. The quick steering and relatively small steering wheel made for excellent maneuverability. Cornering roll was “moderate”, and when driven like a sports car on wet roads “the front end slides first but there is enough power to produce rear end slide” with the throttle.
The brakes were “very smooth”; and two stops from 100 “showed no signs of fade”, thanks to the huge finned drums.
The Conti was praised for its ability to cruise at 80 effortlessly, smoothly and quietly. The seats were very comfortable. The controls were mostly praised. The optional air conditioning was never turned on, presumably because of the time of year.
The curved side windows were noted “a surprising factor”. CL acknowledges that “appearance is far and above the most important factor in a car purchasing decision (excluding price, of course), and here the new Lincoln-Continental scores mightily”. Some on the staff weren’t so hot on its front and rear end styling, but “the general feeling was that this is the best-looking American car built today”.
Related CC reading:
Vintage Car Life Road Test: 1961 Cadillac Coupe DeVille – Still “The Standard Of The World”?
Vintage Car Life Road Test: 1961 Imperial Crown – “The Imperial Is Running Third In A Three Car Race…”
Curbside Classic: 1965 Lincoln Continental – The Last Great American Luxury Car
Engine History: Lincoln’s Two-Barrel Carb MEL 430 Engine – Taming The Thirsty Beast
The test points out a nice, underapprciated feature of these cars: The power brakes were not the type where a slight touch would send you flying through the windshield. They were progressive and unobtrusive.
The comments about roll have to be seen in the context of the times. By modern standards, the roll is rather alarming to passengers used to modern cars. They would invariably reach for something to hold onto. (Or maybe it was my driving.)
This Lincoln is really wide and really low which makes it seem flatter in corners, not that I regularly pushed mine to its cornering limits. When I switched from driving one for years to a used 1990 Trans Sport it I noticed the constant metronome-like side to side movement I wasn’t used to at first.
Perhaps the most brilliant detail styling-wise is that little upkick in the beltline just before the back of the rear door. Without it, the side view would be less interesting and could come across as dull and ordinary rather than subtly elegant. And like Cadillac’s 1948 tail fin, it would become a styling cliché exaggerated beyond belief by the end of the decade on American sedans (and Japanese ones well into the ’70s.) with just about everyone sporting the swollen-hips look by 1969.
The swollen hips weren’t Ford’s fault. The vertical kick was a Ford thing from the Continental Mark II to the 61–69 Lincoln to the 64 Mustang to the Continental Mark III. All of those were straight sides in plan view from front to back, not flared hips. Ain’t Ford’s fault that someone used a different design theme to compete with Ford.
Very true. I have a small model without the kickup, and the car does not look as good by a long short – small detail, big effect.
I’ve wondered who came up with that. It’s a modernist distillation of a rear fender shape. The bigger rebodied 1967 Mustang lost it when it became more rounded and Lincoln went to an angular rise. The previous Lincoln also had it, along with the sharp if untrimmed upper body edge. I know everyone loves to hate them, but for 1958 they are pretty awesome in their own way.
I own two 1961 Lincoln Continentals, a sedan and a convertible, both white with blue interior. If there was ever a car that looked like a million dollars, this is it. A while back, a neighbor of mine asked me if he could take a video of my convertible that I had in my driveway. I said sure. I had no idea that he would take a fantastic professional video! Otherwise, I would have stayed out of the video and had the garage door closed and the parking lights on throughout the video. But anyway, my car looked stunning in the evening hours. The convertible is stunning, but so is the sedan.
Warning: Lincoln trivia below:
I see you went with 1956 wheel covers for the upgrade to 15″ wheels. Same choice as Lincoln made for the Presidential parade car. When I did it on my (now long departed, same awesome interior) ’62 I got some early 70’s wheel covers and removed the black plastic centers which were under the bolted-on Lincoln symbols. They looked more similar to the originals to me. The ’64-65 ones never looked right (nor the rest of the changes of course).
I got the biggest tallest 15″ radials I could find at normal prices (narrow white walls are OK on a ’62, but not too narrow) and the speedometer/odometer readings were exactly right.
Actually no, the wheels on my car are still 14″!
What I did, was to modify the 1956 15″ wheel covers to fit on the 14″ wheels.
As it turns out, this can be done, because the O.D. of the 15″ wheel covers is smaller than the O.D. of the 14″ wheel covers! At first this makes no sense – right?
The reason is that the 15″ 1956 wheel covers do not extend to the edge of the steel wheels. They fit on the wheels so that the outer 3/4″ of an inch or so remain showing with the wheel cover installed. You see the outer ring of the wheel in either black or the color of the car.
However, the 14″ 1961-63 wheel covers extend to the edge of the steel wheels. You don’t see any of the wheel. The two wheel covers have prongs that attach to the wheel at different areas on the steel wheel.
So, after recognizing this fact, and since I like the 1956 wheel covers, I decided to see if I could modify the 1956 wheel covers to fit the 14″ wheels.
How did I do i? I bought another set of 1961-63 wheel covers and liberated the outside ring, by cutting the center section out. Then I “popped” in the 1956 wheel cover. I did a lot of planning, thinking, and measuring so that it would work.
So, the wheel covers on the car have two sets of concentric prongs. The original 1956 inner prongs pop into the outer 1961 outer wheel cover ring, and the outer prongs of the 1961 wheel cover snap onto the 14″ wheel.
If you were to look close, you can see the extra ring of the 1961 wheel cover slightly behind the 1956 wheel cover.
I did this because I wanted to be able to use the original wheel covers, or the 1956 wheel covers with ease of changing them. And I did not want to go to the expense of buying new 15″ wheels and tires and having to change the wheels just to change the wheel covers. My concern was not about using a 15″ tire because it is easier to find. I drive very very little and will never wear out the tires I have on the car as long as I live.
Kind of a long story, but if I was able to show you in person – it would be fast and easy to understand. I have pictures, but lost where I saved them.
I’m not sure when I first saw one on the street, but it sure did seem to say the 1950s flamboyance was over!
Getting 14 mpg if driven conservatively sounds right, and really wasn’t too bad. Interesting that top speed was 117 mph, as I remember getting a later 429 Mercury up to precisely that speed in my youth.
FWIW, Henry Ford Museum has this “circa-1959” design clay—interesting to see what did/didn’t change, or came along only later:
I haven’t seen this clay before. it’s clearly from before the time when Engel’s rejected Thunderbird proposal was “discovered” and turned into the final ’61. But clearly the front end was already largely there.
I would say it’s a very good thing that things turned out as they did, because this is not exactly an inspired/inspiring look, although the front end is good.
There’s quite a bit of similarity of this greenhouse and its flanks to the German Ford Taunus P3/P5, which is credited to Uwe Bahnsen. He was obviously inspired by this.
That clay has more resemblance to the ‘64-66 Imperial than the ‘61 Continental.
it has a fuselage-y feel. Chrysler valiant VH ish
Not being a Lincoln expert, I never realized the 1961 models were slightly smaller than the 62-63 models in terms of overall length. It seems hilarious to describe this massive vehicle as “more compact” and “conservative” in dimensions than its predecessor, even though it was. Gorgeous cars with such timeless styling.
1961: 212.4 in (5,395 mm) 1962–1963: 213.3 in (5,418 mm) 1964–1965: 216.3 in (5,494 mm) 1966–1968: 220.9 in (5,611 mm) 1969: 224.2 in (5,695 mm)
Some marketing (I guess) powers that be made them redo the front end with a more normal bumper for 1962, although the Thunderbird kept its similar arrangement. This must be where the extra inch came from. The ’64-65 added three inches to the wheelbase to increase rear seat room.
Most auto designers would settle for one home run design in a career. Elwood Engel’s team had two in one year. The 1961 Continental and bullet Thunderbird are genuine automotive icons. The styling is timeless and would look good as new cars today. Also give an unexpected kudo to Robert McNamara, who will was ready to ax the Lincoln brand after 1960, but told Engel to add two doors to the initial T-bird design, with the result being the ‘61 Continental. McNamara liked the result and the brand was saved.
This is certainly my favorite American car. I get this impression reading this review of a sigh of relief after a period of malaise… which the excesses of the late 50’s certainly was). The praise regarding styling, quality and vehicle dynamics makes the Continental sound like a sports sedan, which it must have felt like compared to its predecessor / contemporaries. Indeed this actually reminds me of the Malaise era reviews of the early Japanese cars – the tone is very much of pleasant surprise.
I still am bemused about the revelation of ‘curved glass’ though – I understand that it was a novel feature (I seem to remember learning here the Valiant/Lancer was the first?) and from the comments about distortion I guess it was quite a feat to achieve in manufacturing? To me it’s just always been something taken for granted, like the ability to bend sheetmetal. Sad then that the Lincoln reverted to flat glass when they facelifted and enlargened the Continental a few years later!
Imperial introduced curved side windows to production cars in 1957, but with less tumblehome, which was also emphasized on the Lincoln by the plain vertical body sides and the inset of the greenhouse. When I had one several people came up to me and told about washing their father’s or grandfather’s and how the water would puddle in the trough.
This Continental to me was the herald of the 1960s. Whenever I see one, I think of the Kennedys, NASA and the space race, the beginning of color film and TV as a common thing, and straight(er) lines on cars compared to the black & white ’50s. “The torch has been passed to a new generation….” This car heralded the groundswell of change that was a coming. Its shape though is iconic and still appears in movies like the Matrix and shows like Mad Men. Now to me it is more a time capsule, of when my parents were young, freshly married, and a whole world before them, a sense of fresh excitement. Then the 1970s happened, with disillusionment and malaise. Seeing a Continental like this still gives me a pang of what was and what could be, maybe, again.
So True !
So right you are. The Continental just reeks of elegance and evokes fond memories of a brief period in our nations history when everything seemed so exciting. The middle class was booming and blue collar union workers could afford a nice house, two cars and comfortable lifestyle, while the wife stayed at home to raise the kids. Inflation was low and purchasing power high. Anything seemed possible and the future looked limitless.
Then, on November 22, 1963, everything changed. All of a sudden we felt vulnerable and apprehensive. How could such a terrible thing happen in a place that seemed so blessed. As the years went on Vietnam, Watergate, riots, drugs, societal changes, sapped our energy and enthusiasm. Two family incomes were needed to meet the needs of families where one had been more than enough. The future seemed more ominous than bright. Nothing was really the same again. So when I see an early sixties Continental, I see more than just a car. I see an America at maybe it’s finest.
You have that right and how Nov. 23, 1963 seemed to change everything. I remember that day and night living not too far from Washington DC. I just couldn’t understand what had happened and my mother couldn’t explain it to me. Yet, with so many adults crying I knew things must be bad. That day always sits in the back of my memory, since watching the procession, and now 60 years is coming up.
Big changes. Immediately they recalled all the US Treasury notes he had authorized in the summer and announced a silver shortage that was unbeknownst to JFK bc he had authorized the first silver dollar be made since the 30s. That all changed and in 1965 or money became plugs or Fiat Money. He had warned that the NWO banking cabal was trying to enslave us all with there fractional banking scheme….and we’ll.
Lincoln sales actually fell for ’61, but that was due to a market repositioning and the division’s finances were much better than they had been the past few years, and would continue to improve as this generation’s tooling costs were amortized with fewer year-to-year changes than had been the norm.
The Continental sedan’s pricetag was halfway between a Sedan de Ville and Fleetwood 60 Special while the convertible was firmly in Fleetwood territory, along with the fact all 2-doors were dropped. This at a time when Cadillac was selling a fair number of Series 62s and the single bestselling Caddy was the Coupe de Ville.
In that light it’s interesting to read Car Life’s having guesstimated the market position as being that of the old Mark II. They were half right in that Lincoln was seeking exclusivity, just not to the extreme extent they had thought – with this Continental being THE Lincoln, a spot toward the high end of the volume-luxury segment rather either the stratosphere or trying to match Cadillac model-for-model was the sweet spot.
One hell of a styling improvement over previous Lincolns or at least the prior couple of years, the high speed cruising ability would have been useless here in that era there simply wasnt enough straight road to wind it up and maintain any real speed as lot of the main highways were still gravel,
offers to improve our roads by the US military engineers were turned down during WW2, army troop convoys becoming bogged in mud on hwy 1 north of Auckland were common and there hadnt been much improvement by 1960 and some of those offered improvements are almost completed now.
I sometimes disagree with this author, but not on this one. 🙂
In fact, I’d even go a step further than “game-changer”. I believe this car is absolutely revolutionary. It is among a small handful of cars that made the entire industry stop and rethink. Not only that, it made a large chunk of the car-buying populace take notice of the concept of “elegant simplicity”. I could even argue that this design helped (further) open the floodgates for imported cars in the US… hear me out.
European designers could not design a vehicle that appealed to both their local population as well as Americans addicted to their “bulgemobiles”. With the design of this Lincoln, Americans began to change their tastes towards simpler designs, so that cars that sold well in Europe could also sell in the US.
What Corvair did for the low end of the price spectrum, this Continental did for the luxury class – and the luxury class becomes more important because that’s where the money is.
I agree on the change heralded by the 61 Continental. Maternal Grandparents bought one, in Diamond Blue, with Dark Blue interior. Sitting in their driveway just 20 feet or so from the neighbors new 61 Imperial, showed the difference, boldly. I was but9 when they got the car in Autumn of 1960, but I knew. The carriage doors, the fold out main vents and controls for the AC, the grille split by the high cental bumper that draped below the headlights. the simple understated Cathedral taillights and the rear “grille” which mimicked the front. What was not to like. The design simply evolved, growing a few inches in 63, all in the rear seat area, then a more serious freshing of The front and rear in 65. before a 2.0 complete refresh in 66. with the return of 2 dr model. It was the 66 my Grandfather traded the 61 0n. but in a color called “Russet” with offwhite and dark brown interior. Love the 60s Lincolns, Have owned a few.
A bit of Continental trivia:
If you listen to the commentary to the Goldfinger film, the narrative mentions that the projectionist came out of the booth protesting the crushing of the Continental to the director (Guy Hamilton). Also, the scene had to be filled in the US for there was no such equipment in Europe to provide the compressed square cube as delivered to Oddjob.
The crushed Lincoln cube was handled very well by the Falcon-based Ranchero. A current F-150 would be doing a wheelie. Perhaps there was an awful lot of styrofoam used in Lincolns back then!
Another famous goof or discontinuity in the Goldfinger film:
The car that is supposed to be crushed changes from a 1964 model, to a 1963.
Another famous miscasting of a ’64 Continental is in Animal House in what’s supposed to be 1962.
Maybe Ford should design a new Thunderbird using the 2024 mustang but in long wheelbase format (in the tradition of Lincoln Continental) then actually turn it into a Lincoln Continental. It worked in the early 1960’s, why not try again??
The last retro-Bird didn’t do terribly well commercially and didn’t strike most people as a great achievement, and the market for such things not carrying premium German badges is weaker now than it was in 2005 — not least at Ford, which has given up on building cars other than than the Mustang.
I can’t say I particularly want to see the T-Bird or Continental badges resurrected for some five-door crossover or SUV, which is the most likely scenario today.
The retro birds were horribly under powered and lacked much out of the hole. I think the engine was the smallest v8 ever at 240cubes. It was also borrowed from the Brits/Jaguar.. You know why the Brits don’t make computers? Have not figured out how to make them leak oil yet.
Not by a long stretch. Even just within Ford, the original flathead was 221 cubic inches and the V8-60 was 136 cubic inches. The more modern V8 that became the 289/302 also started at 221 cubic inches in 1962.
I don’t disagree that the early ’00s Retro Bird was mishandled, but the fact that it was a flop would not help the case for trying it again. The problem was and is that it sits in what’s now a rough market segment: upwards of $40K with a Ford badge and retro styling that would likely strike some as too cutesy and others as not going far enough. (One of my big complaints with the Retro Bird was that the interior was uninspired, expecting that tossing in some bright colors would make up for warming over the quite ordinary Lincoln LS dash.)
The dilemma when trying to argue past a similar previous flop is that a lot of the arguments for how the latter was mishandled come down to money: both initial investment and list price. The Retro Bird sold about 68,000 units, which honestly isn’t bad for such a thing. If it had been a better car that cost a bunch more, it might not have sold even that well.
I think today’s market those would be massive flops(or worse yet, as you mentioned, reimagined into crossovers SUVs), but I think it was the poor execution that did them in 20 years ago. Ford did retro successfully on the 2005 Mustang and Ford GT, but there was just way too much Lincoln LS(Jaguar S type) sedan hardpoints baked in the Thunderbird, the proportions were wrong, the styling was too smoothed over, the interior was literally shared with the Lincoln so it wasn’t very special to sit inside or drive. Plus the kind of buyer who would have been clamoring for a new Tbird probably didn’t want an anglo american hybrid, at that time dyed in the wool Ford guys barely started to accept the modular 4.6 engine replacing the 5.0 OHV in the Mustang, bringing out Ford’s original sports car, an all American 50s icon with a small displacement complex Jaguar engine was a bridge too far.
I don’t think the latter point would matter as much with the Lincoln brand since worldly engineering was desirable with luxury cars, in fact it’s always been strange to me how Ford decided to let their version of the DEW98 platform wither and die unceremoniously, barely updated since launch, while Jaguar continued on with it with solid improvements all the way through the first gen XF model. Going with the rebadged Fusion MKz route instead didn’t exactly pay off for Lincoln either, putting a attractive well received Continentalesque bodyshell at the height of retro doesn’t seem like such a bad gamble, especially considering Chrysler found good success with the earlier years of the conceptually similar 300c at the time
They had a prototype of something like this in 2002 and did nothing with it which was, in my view, a mistake but in 2023 such a car would need to be electric and REALLY good at that. A big risk.
I do remember reading these prototypes were sold as surplus by Ford in the mid 2010’s. Who ever has them has gold!
The only positive thing I can say about that is “I guess I’ve seen worse,” which is true, but not a compelling argument.
One of my engineering professors drove one, and I actually rode in it a few times (his son was a friend of a friend). He taught a strength of materials and failure analysis class. For some reason he mentioned the car in class, and even though this was in 1976 and the car was 15 years old, he told us it was the best American car ever (or perhaps BECAUSE it was 1976 and most current domestic cars were crap).
My Dad bought a five year old, ice blue ’63 sedan with a silvery blue leather interior with a/c. I got to drive it a lot once I was in high school. Just a dream to drive, the ’63 had the four barrel carb for a bit more power. It was a very understated car, but obviously something very special.
A couple of days ago I was driving down US101 and I encountered the latest (and unfortunately, the last) version of the Continental. This was the first time that I had seen one in the wild, and I would drop back and study it from different angles, and moving with traffic I would find myself ahead of it, and alongside of it also. It was white and for the first time I could notice the contoured lines of the profile. The slight kick up of the fender line at the rear door, the defined wheel arches, as well as the scallops that run above the rocker panel line. There is also a hint of a bustle back rear deck that I found appealing. Lincoln has a very recognizable family resemblance in the face, the grille shape and texture, as well as the headlamps. I know that Lincoln puts a very nice interior into their higher priced models.
For the first time, I thought that I could actually consider one of these if I was to replace my Mustang. The Continental would be plusher than a Jaguar, as opposed to the more hard riding Cadillacs or Europeans.
The current darling of the Lincoln line, in my eyes, is the Aviator. If I had the money to buy one new, I don’t think that I would have chosen the Continental over the Aviator. There is just so much more versatility in the SUV over the sedan, and I really like the styling of the Aviator. At least sedan buyers have a choice over at Cadillac.
It is a good looking car for sure but… To me it is as if someone (successfully) mixed the styling of an Audi A8, a Jaguar XF and a Volvo S90. Honestly if I came upon the Lincoln on a local Autobahn I don’t think I’d have realized what it was until I got real close to it. I would have much rather seen them develop the 2002 prototype which was true to the original and could not have been mistaken for anything else.
One of the classic American cars of all time. And enduring as it continued to influence large Lincoln design until the mid-1990s, whether it be called the Continental or the Town Car.
Thanks to all the men and women who made this car possible. It is a masterpiece.
I’ve never been a great fan of these. I appreciate how clean a design it is, especially compared to its predecessors, although I don’t think the front end treatment works very well (it’s still obviously a Thunderbird from that angle), and the net effect is “bland.” I might like it better if it were a two-door hardtop rather than a four-door sedan, but then I guess it would just be a Thunderbird, which was not the point of the exercise.
I’d have a hard time choosing a Continental over a ’61 Cadillac. Choosing the Lincoln over a Bullet Bird would also be a tough one.
My mom had kind of a wild friend in the mid-60s who bought a ’61 convertible. I only remember riding in it once but opening and closing the power window with the top down was very entertaining for a seven year old. My mom was afraid it would break from too much use but her friend threw caution to the wind and encouraged me to power it up and down as much as I wished. I don’t remember much at that young age but riding in that suicide door ragtop and working that power window was special.
I think the 1959-62 period was one of several where the industry was trying to decide what the next big thing was in automobile styling. This Lincoln hit the mark and you are right that within a couple of years almost everything started resembling this Lincoln.
But at the time, sales did not improve from 1960 at all, so maybe the Continental was more influential among car designers than among the buying public – which sometimes needs designers to serve up the new style we didn’t know we needed. But need it we did.
On the car’s driving dynamics, I remember reading another test (maybe 1965?) when the Lincoln was panned for mushy, undistinguished ride and handling compared with the competing Cadillac. I remember my 63 as being a really good driving and handling car for its size, so I wonder if maybe the Lincoln’s looks and size influenced the testers’ opinions.
My single digit aged self thought those cars were gorgeous. My SS income self still thinks they’re pretty good looking, make that great looking for the era. I would describe them as clean and smooth, not busy at all. Compared to the ’61 Cadillac, there’s no comparison. Giant fins, busy and garish sides, as opposed to the Lincoln which might be described as understated elegance.
For a ‘clean’ design, when get up close, the front and rear ends are surprisingly fussy.
I’d rather the Cadillac.
Another trend setting feature of the 1961 Lincoln Continental that is never noticed or talked about is the steering wheel size!
The steering wheel is the first to be of a small diameter (about the same as current cars). It is about 14 1/2″ diameter. Very small for the time. Other cars had steering wheel diameters of around 17″. This could be done because all Lincolns had power steering. New Lincolns are about 14 1/2″, same as the 1961 although a thicker wheel rim.
Ford, as I read someplace, had noticed that a car was move maneuverable when equipped with a smaller diameter steering wheel, from their experience with race cars. Well, of course – we would say today. Anyway, when you sit behind the wheel of a 1961 Lincoln Continental, you will notice this feature.
They did, however, place the steering wheel a little too low (no tilt adjustment) and had complaints from owners, so sometime after after January 1961, the steering wheel was raised 1/2″ – 1″ or so. This is noticeable when looking at the chrome ring on the instrument panel where the steering column protrudes. On early cars it is centered in the ring. On later cars it is off set to the top of the ring.
After leaving Ford, Elwood Engle went to Chrysler as is well known. His 1964 Imperial shows the design influence of his 1961 Lincoln Continental. However, his design of the 1965 Chrysler New Yorker, perhaps equals if not excels his design of the 1961 Lincoln.
I have two white 1961 Lincoln Continentals, and a white 1965 Chrysler New Yorker 4 door hardtop. And I have to say, after walking around the Chrysler many times and looking at the overall design as well as design details including the instrument panel – the 1965 Chrysler is really a stunning looking car. Every line seems spot on. Overall design is harmonious as when only one person designs the whole car.
There are many 4 door cars from the 1960s that are very nice looking, but the style and elegance of the 1961 Lincoln Continental, and to almost the same extent, the 1965 Chrysler New yorker are unmatched. And the 1965 Chrysler, in particular with the clear tail lights, in the similar squashed tube as the 1961 Lincoln Continental.
Anyone else ever wonder how Oddjob’s Falcon Ranchero carried a Continental crushed with a grown man and a bunch of gold bars in its trunk? Even if the Lincoln didn’t have the optional A/C, anything over 5,000 pounds seems like plenty to put in the bed of a pickup that weighed less than 3,000 pounds.
No. But then I figured out pretty early on that not everything in movies is to be believed.
I’ve nitpicked that scene since I was a kid watching James Bond marathons. First, the Lincoln being crushed has no engine, transmission, etc. Second, when they drop it into the Ranchero in the yard, that Ranchero hit the bump stops; they only show it driving off from the rear. Later, when it drives by the American agents in the T-Bird, it’s sitting level, so that’s clearly not an actual Continental in the back. It’s all in the magic of movies!
I read quite a few comments and thought it odd nobody mentioned why the 61-69 Continental was sitting low like that from the factory. They called it a step down interior and the body actually sits on the Frame with channel that drops inside the frame and contains the Floorpans. This is one of the best ideas for giving the passengers a feeling of stepping into the car. Was the 462cu in engine Fords largest ever displacement for a passenger car? I know nothing on it fits a 460. I had a Wimbledon White with silverish blue leather. 1967 and it could do every bit of 120mph.
It’s nice to see a review of a review I had read years ago, though not when said review was new; I’m not that old. True the article spends more time on the revolutionary styling, but the review is mistaken about one little detail. The ’62 Caddy was little more than a facelifted ’61, which in turn was still in its loopy post-’50s funk (in fact, much of that styling came from the last Eldo-Brougham which vanished ignominiously in 1960). It actually was not until ’65 that Cadillac finally caught up with the trend and followed the cues started by Lincoln (or, to be more specific, by Elwood Engel, one of Ford’s prestige designers before he went to bail Chrysler out of its loss of Virgil Exner Sr.).
I’ve noticed that many modern critics do not even grant these cars a nod to quality, though it very much deserves such nods, especially considering the way cars were normally built back then, and even today. Name just one brand name today that hot-tests each and every engine for 3 hours and each and every transmission for 30 minutes, randomly pulls bodies off the production lines to test welds, and gives every car off the line a 12-mile road test to check off 200 different details for satisfactory construction. Then, provides a total-car warranty that was double the best competing warranty and a good six times as long as the norm. Sure, after 50 to 60 years these cars will not be trouble-free unless they sat in museums all that time…but these cars are about as durable as anything anyone may dare to name. I have one, a ’66 sedan, which has been through terrible abuse even before I got it, and more since I’ve owned it. It still can make a round trip between Kansas and Florida under its own power, turning heads wherever it goes. I will attest to its durability, surviving ills and injuries that would have put a good two dozen newer cars in junkyards. Considering the sheer mass (not the same as size) of these cars, which increased from the ’61 scale figure, it still shows the power of a Corvette…coupled with the maneuverability of a Kenworth. With that much torque and intimidation on your side, why would you drive anything else (besides the threat of $4 gasoline being revived, that is)?
If you look at the last line in the original article, “…if you can scrape up the down payment…well, put us down for one when our rich aunt dies.” One of the greatest lines in a car review! Judging from how many people who know zilch about cars in general and these cars in particular, yet snatching up all the surviving ‘verts, especially considering prices today, I submit these newbies must be negotiating advances on their rich aunts’ wills to snatch these cars up…which is frustrating for experts who don’t have rich aunts to help us realize our generation-long dream.
Motor Trend found some shortcomings:
For the first time that I can think of, the 61 Continental matched the times unfolding in the US perfectly. The proof is how the Continental set the pace for all luxury American car designs way into the 70s, although sometimes it’s hard to see as we are living through it. I find it interesting that one man had influenced the design at two major US auto industry manufacturers during the same time. As though it was meant to be. I know it’s not usually thought of that way, but that’s exactly what happened. The 61. Continental and the 64 through 66 Imperial were the best-looking cars ever to come out of Detroit. Without a doubt. Out of all the design possibilities that existed at the time at the The Big Three, just one man single handedly shaped the the US auto industry for over two decades. Like it was part of a larger overall plan. Just amazing to me. I love both the Continental and the Imperials. They represent two different companies and do so keeping each company’s look intact. In other words, the Lincoln has that Ford Motor Company look about it, and the Imperials are unmistakably a Chrysler Corporation product.