During the Sixties, Lincoln retained the clean, classic look introduced in 1961. But the times demanded change, so the 1966-1969 Lincoln Continentals wore new -- if familiar -- styling.
By the mid-Sixties, the annual variations on the elegant 1961 Lincoln Continental design had produced a loyal clientele for the Lincoln Division. But there was a problem -- owners were so pleased with their prized vehicles that they were hanging on to them for a longer time. This phenomenon was a two-edged sword: It demonstrated the success of the design and impeccable quality control of these cars, but it also meant that the actual numbers of repeat customers were declining!
Lincoln overhauled the Continental's design
in the early 1960s. The 1968 Lincoln Continental
is shown here. See more pictures of classic cars.
Lincoln's major competition was, of course, Cadillac. General Motors had pushed its luxury marque through several major design changes between 1961 and 1965, while Lincoln did only mild annual variations on its one basic design. Some people applauded this restraint, accepting Ford's loud hints that the money saved on annual retooling was being spent on quality control.
But another segment of the public wanted a new look, something that would really make them think twice about buying a Cadillac. Ford executives, given the decreased repeat sales of Lincolns, finally decided to align themselves with the group clamoring for more substantial model changes.
Making significant facelifts while retaining the essential character of the original 1961 Lincoln Continental posed quite a dilemma. In the end, Ford designers were able to pull it off by producing a magnificent restatement of the 1961 design for 1966, and modifying this only slightly, year-by-year, through 1969.
These four years witnessed some of Lincoln's best and most luxurious automobiles. A major overhaul of the design was sorely needed, if only for aesthetic reasons. Comparing the 1961 Lincoln to the 1965, one can immediately see the end result of four annual design changes, for the 1965 had a bulkier look and lacked the true understated elegance of the 1961.
Amott B. "Buzz" Grisinger, Chief Stylist of the Lincoln-Mercury Studios, and his design group had changed the front end of the Lincoln Continental substantially for 1965. Borrowing the front rounded-bulge "coffin-nose" theme from the 1936 Cord 810 the group abandoned the straight-across grille (as seen from above) of the 1961-1964 era.
This Cord-flavored theme was not only carried over into 1966, but was made more distinctive and gradually enlarged via various facelifts through 1969. In fact, Grisinger made that theme ever more evident with the introduction of the all-new 1970 body-on-frame models.
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1966 Lincoln Continental
For the 1966 Lincoln Continental model year, Amott B. "Buzz" Grisinger, Chief Stylist of the Lincoln-Mercury Studios, and his crew pushed through major changes. Thus far, the car had sported clean smooth slab-sided styling. The fashion in cars, as well as other areas of industrial design, by this time leaned toward a visual "crispness."
The crease line along the sides of the 1966 Lincoln
Continental sharpened the car's styling.
The 1963 Buick Riviera introduced razor-edge styling to American cars, which had been seen much earlier on the Rolls-Royce and other British makes. Cadillac incorporated some of this into its 1965 redesign. Following these trends, Grisinger cut a slight ridge along the sides of the Continental just a few inches below the stainless steel accent that ran the length of the car atop the fenders and along the belt line. The effect was to "stiffen-up" the design, making the car's lines sharper, even a bit sporty.
Grisinger pointed out that such a ridge had been cut into the length of the body sides of the 1956 Continental Mark II, but lower on the bodyside rather than near the top of the fenderline. The effect on the Mark II had been to make it appear heavy. But with the 1966 the height was broken up by its higher mounted crease line, making the car appear clean-cut and relatively light.
Overall, the 1966 received the most extensive facelift for this series since 1961 In a yearly modified form, this basic crisp theme would be carried through to 1966's curved side glass, which had been eliminated for 1964-1965, returned for 1966, and stayed with Lincoln through 1969; it served to accentuate the car's otherwise straight-line design.
Ahead of the front wheel and above the front bumper, the car carried the four-pointed Continental "star." The 1966 Lincoln deserved this star -- a distinctive benchmark of Lincoln Continental styling. It was as if the creators had placed it there as a tribute to this triumph of design.
Of the 1961 through 1969 Lincolns, the 1961, the 1964, and the 1966 are the ones that set the standard for each sub-series. The 1966 reminds the automotive enthusiast of the clarity of concept found in the original 1961. Everything is in its place, and even though the 1966 is bigger than the 1961, there appears to be not one inch of fat.
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Advancements for the 1966 Lincoln Continental
The 1966 Lincoln Continental was chock-full of true advancements over its predecessors. The convertible now had a glass rear window instead of plastic, as in previous years. Like earlier unit-body Continentals, when the top was down, it was down -- there was no unsightly bulge to break the clean flow of the ragtop's lines. The owner could now operate the top mechanism, or the rear decklid, with an exterior key mechanism set next to the gas cap compartment.
Despite the car being nearly five inches longer than the 1965 model -- 220.9 inches versus 216.3 -- the impression was one of easy grace and lightness.
The expansive taillight lenses mounted in the rear bumper stretched almost two feet on both sides for increased visibility. They were covered by a "grille" that mimicked the front-end design. Three vertically mounted red reflectors rode within the chrome strips that capped the rear fenders, and the back-up lights were also in the bumper, beneath the taillights.
A simple horizontal-bar front grille emphasized the vitality under the hood and gave, as Lincoln put it, "a bold forward thrust to the look of the 1966 Lincoln Continental." It was the understated power of the fresh design that spoke of elegance and luxury to anyone who saw it. Lincoln simply claimed that the 1966 was "America's most distinguished motorcar."
This was the first year of the reversible key (cut on both sides): It worked either way -- there was no upside down. Rear seat belts, front disc brakes, and an emergency flasher were standard equipment.
The 1966 model year saw major changes at Lincoln. The sharp new design was approved and brought into production with a new 340-horsepower, 462-cubic-inch V-8 engine lurking under a longer hood. In 1965, the 430-cid engine, which dated back to 1958, cranked out 320 horses.
Also in the driveline, a new rubber-cushioned 3.75-inch diameter driveshaft, with a constant-velocity universal joint at each end, transmitted power from the "completely new" Twin-Range Turbo-Drive transmission to the rear wheels. It had two "Drive" ranges, one that started in first gear, another that started out in second (useful in slippery conditions). The standard rear axle received a quieter and more economical 2.80:1 final drive ratio, with 3.00:1 optional for a quicker getaway.
Previous models of the Continental had used rubber bushings for the upper control arm anchor points of the front suspension. This year nylon sleeves were added to the bushing, for durability and improved ride.
Using its own matched carburetor, each engine was operated by robot controls on hot-test stands to optimize break in. Every 10 to 20 minutes of this period the robot changed the throttle settings until it was time to gradually increase the throttle to the maximum programmed standard. Then the throttle was backed off in increments before being returned to maximum once again.
After this run, the oil pan was removed for internal inspection. Dental mirrors were used to inspect cylinder bores and bearings. Adjustments and alterations were then made as needed before the engine was run yet again.
A similar test was made for transmissions. After the engine was mounted in the assembled automobile, a one-and-a-half hour final inspection was made of the entire car, including "the unique 12-mih road test that every Continental must pass on 189 counts before it is approved for delivery." Any necessary final fixes were made before shipment to the dealer. The various factory tests and adjustments made the usual 1,000-mile inspection unnecessary.
All Lincoln Continentals were manufactured at the Wixom, Michigan, plant where Ford proudly pointed out that it took at least four days to build each of these luxury cars. A car started on Monday morning would usually be completed by Thursday afternoon. The first two days were spent building the magnificent unit-body, a painstaking process beginning with welding the sheetmetal body panels in bucks, progressing through a phosphating process to painting.
In the area of the plant where such items as hardware, electrical circuits trim, and some optional equipment were installed, there were no continuous conveyers. A car was moved through this portion of the plant only after work was satisfactorily completed and approved for the next step of production.
For the first time since 1960, a two-door hardtop version of the Lincoln was produced, but because this wasn't just any coupe, Lincoln dubbed it "Coupe." Cadillac had offered a two-door hardtop ever since the debut of the Coupe de Ville in 1949. Lincoln wanted to recapture some of that market, claiming for itself drivers who might otherwise end up buying a Caddy.
Nearly 16,000 Coupes were sold in 1966, about five times the number of drop-tops, of which only 3,180 were built. Unfortunately, 1967 would be the last year for Lincoln's unique convertible sedan.
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1967 Lincoln Continental
In 1967, Lincoln beckoned prospective buyers to "Come live the Continental life." The largely unchanged 1967 Lincoln Continental was touted as "Clean. Uncluttered. Functional. ... You'll also notice that because we don't make sweeping changes in our car the classic Continental look continues."
A spring-loaded star hood ornament was unique
to the 1967 Lincoln Continental.
The trademark four-pointed star moved from the fenders to the C-pillars of the hardtop and sedan, but remained on the hood and decklid. Up front, spelled out on the hood, was the CONTINENTAL name, as in 1966. Ford elected to make 1967 the only year that a unit-body Lincoln hood sported a spring-loaded star hood ornament, a move that would confound collectors for years.
Lincoln's new flow-through ventilation system, which the company called "Fresh-Flow," was standard. Fresh air was continuously allowed to enter the car, even with the windows up, displacing stale air through a system of vents and valves. Air exited from the interior via a grille mounted about midway at the base of the front doors. There, air pressure activated a one-way valve, through which stale air and smoke escaped to the outside through a door-facing on the outside of the door gasket.
The brake system was split, one half operating the front brakes, the other the rears. This provided a fail-safe system in case of hydraulic failure. Front-wheel ventilated disc brakes enhanced the dual hydraulic self-adjusting power brake system.
The automatic transmission was renamed Select-Shift Turbo-Drive. It shifted automatically in "D," but the "1" and "2" positions on the "P-R-N-D-2-1" shift quadrant allowed drivers to manually hold the car in low or second gear if desired. This feature was extended to other automatic-equipped Ford vehicles for 1967.
The front grille gained seven vertical bars and, overall, was slightly recessed. At the rear, the taillight overlays were modified to complement the new grille-work. Inside, the dashboard continued with most everything except the clock directly in front of the driver. Minor modifications were made to the warning light cluster, which included one for the parking brake and a seat-belt reminder light.
The deep-dish steering wheel was also new, boasting a padded hub. Other safety features included padded A-pillar (previously finished in chrome) and a lane-changer feature that operated the directional signals with a light touch. The door panels now carried a vertical-roll motif, and the seats were redesigned. The standard upholstery fabric was Chalfonte, a knit nylon broadcloth; a Continental emblem was embroidered into the seatbacks.
One of the most aristocratic options ever listed for an American luxury car was made available for the buyer of a 1967 Continental: a full set of hand-stitched, custom-made luggage specially designed to fit precisely into the beautifully lined 18-cubic-foot trunk. The set was offered in burgundy, palomino (a neutral beige), or black.
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1968 Lincoln Continental
The 1968 Lincoln Continental model year marked the production of the one-millionth Lincoln at Wixom on March 25, a metallic blue sedan with a Heritage vinyl roof. In the PR photo marking the occasion, it was pictured with a 1925 Lincoln Brougham by Brunn. Again, Ford restated its Sixties philosophy for Lincoln, saying that "No change has been made for the sake of change. The classic Continental look continues."
A new front parking light arrangement was just
one feature of the 1968 Lincoln Continental.
The tone for the 1968 was set by the elegant front parking lights, which appeared to be a continuation of the upward thrust of the front bumper, itself a beautiful and massive sweep of chrome. For the first time since 1965, the taillights were notched into the rear fenders above the bumper. Combined with the new front parking light arrangement, this enhanced night visibility from the side of the car -- and at the same time met the government's demand for side-marker lights.
The grille was now made up of six panels of six flat, wide rectangles, and the Coupe featured a more "formal" roofline. All this helped make the Continental "A classic among American cars."
For this model year, the star hood ornament was deleted (unsafe, you know). To replace it, an applique of the logo was placed on the front of the hood. To many loyal Continental buyers, this was a puzzlement. All through the Sixties, Ford had supplied Continental owners with a hood ornament mounted on a walnut wood base, which they could proudly display in their home or office. Now the freestanding star was nowhere to be seen. Many owners of 1968 Continentals -- as well as some dealers -- decided this just wouldn't do, so they purchased the old hood ornament and had it mounted on the hood of their new car.
Collectors today are aware of at least one confusing feature of the 1968 Lincoln. Although the 462-cubic-inch, 340-horse-power V-8 introduced in 1966 was listed as standard in the brochures for this model year, many of the later 1968s were factory-equipped with the new "computer-designed" 460-cid engine, also found in the mid-year Mark Ills and all 1969 Lincolns. With a bore and stroke of 4.36 by 3.75 inches and a 10.5:1 compression ratio, the new V-8 produced 365 horsepower at 4,600 rpm and an impressive 500 lbs/ft of torque at 2,800 rpm.
More to the point, this was, according to Lincoln, "The first engine to be designed from the drawing board up with exhaust emission control as an element of the original design." Thomas E. Bonsall pointed out in The Lincoln Motorcar: Sixty Years of Excellence, that "The new engine was significantly more efficient than before, not only in terms of power and economy, but also in its burning of hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide. Since emissions control would be an increasingly important engineering problem in coming years, the new powerplant was well suited to help engineers meet the challenges immediately ahead. An improved induction system permitted a much greater flow of air to the carburetor.
"The intake manifold was designed to minimize air/fuel ratio variations among cylinders and permit the leanest mixtures possible. In common with other Ford engines, fuel flow was limited to optimum settings by carburetor adjustment restricters. Also included in the design was the special air pump, or Thermactor, to meet current government emissions standards. The compact cylinder block was manufactured with thin-wall casting, and an improved foundry technique permitted the block to be cast from eight cores, rather than the 12 used before."
In addition to the cleaner engine, engineers devised a "controlled-crush" front end to better absorb energy in the event of a head-on impact, and front-seat shoulder belts were fitted beginning January 1, 1968. Coupes had self-locking front seatbacks, and manually adjustable headrests were available.
Lincoln was in the news a great deal this year because of the new flagship Mark III, which debuted on April 5. A "personal-luxury" coupe, it carried many of the design themes -- such as the distinctive side sculpturing -- seen on the Lincoln Continental sedan and Coupe.
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1969 Lincoln Continental
For the 1969 Lincoln Continental, CONTINENTAL block lettering replaced the star just above the grille, which was raised in the center to more closely resemble the front end of the Rolls-Royce-inspired Mark III. Overall length increased again, by 3.2 inches, making the 1969 sedan a foot longer than the original 1961 model on which it was based. The taillights migrated back into the bumper, while the back-up lights moved up into the rear fenders.
The 1969 Lincoln Continental was even longer
than its predecessors.
A "new Town Car ultra-luxury interior option" became available, highlighted by leather-and-vinyl upholstery with hidden stitching, unique door panel trim, special napped-nylon headliner, color-keyed instrument panel trim, simulated wood on the seatbacks, and plusher pile carpeting.
Other changes were minor, although the 9.15 x 15 Goodyear Polyglas white-wall tires flaunted three stripes, the one in the center much wider than the other two. A remote-control decklid release eased loading the fully carpeted trunk with the optional "twelve-piece Marvel-on luggage set created by Guild Masters exclusively for Continental."
Since 1963, Lincoln Continental Executive Limousines had been available through a unique agreement between Ford and Lehmann-Peterson, Inc., a custom coachbuilder located in Chicago. Arguably the most exquisite limos that have ever been or ever will be produced, the 1966-1969 versions of these handsome 21-foot-long behemoths were quite successful.
Specially built, they were stretched (normally three feet) factory cars that met -- and exceeded -- Ford Motor Company's specifications for body strength, reliability, and performance. For that reason, Ford awarded them the same 24,000-mile/24-month "Total-Car Warranty" carried by factory Lincolns, and even extended it to the limousine conversion equipment. This was almost unheard of in the American automobile industry.
One notable feature of the L-P limo was the lack of jump seats. Instead, an "intimate conversation area" was created via rear-facing "companion seats" that flanked a hand-rubbed walnut cabinet housing whatever sound system the buyer had chosen. In 1968, the limo was base-priced at $15,104, and options -- from Lincoln and/or Lehmann-Peterson -- could drive that to $20,000. But even at those prices, approximately 500 limos were produced through 1970.
Buzz Grisinger and his design group went to work on the 1970 model -- the first non-Mark Lincoln built with conventional body-on-frame construction since 1957. The model run that had begun in 1961 had finally ended, making it one of the longest ever at either Ford or in the American automobile industry as a whole. A total of 341,781 of these unit-body cars -- convertibles, four-door sedans, and hardtop coupes -- had been built over the nine years of production.
The 1961 Lincoln took the automotive marketplace by surprise. Cadillac had by that time diminished the size of its fins, which had peaked in 1959. Chrysler's Imperial was still of monstrous proportions. In the years following World War II, some Lincoln models had sold well, others had not. But the other luxury-car manufacturers rushed back to their styling studios when they saw the clean and elegant 1961 Lincoln Continental. One quick look was enough to convince anybody that Lincoln was now setting the pace in style.
Interestingly, the 1961 through 1969 Lincoln Continental also set an enduring styling legacy and identity for Lincoln, something design chief Eugene Bordinat had been searching for when he proposed a 1958-styled model for the 1961 design. Although he lost to Elwood P. Engel and John Najjar for that particular design generation, the 1961 Lincoln Continental set the character for that fine family of automobiles.
Park a 1987 Lincoln Town Car next to a 1961 -- or a 1969 Lincoln Continental -- and the family resemblance is instantly recognizable. Ironically, except for its eggcrate front end, Cadillac has pretty much lost out in continuing its distinctive design heritage.
Annual facelifts for American cars during the Sixties were inevitable. Ford's efforts for the 1966-1969 Lincolns were masterful. The last 1969 Continental that rolled off the assembly line still carried the elegant spirit of the award-winning 1961 masterpiece.
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Lincoln Continental Specifications
Here are the models, prices, and production numbers for the 1966, 1967, 1968, and 1969 Lincoln Continental, as well as detailed specifications for the 1966 Lincoln Continental.
1966-69 Lincoln Continental: Models, Prices, and Production
| 1966|| Weight|| Price||Prod|
|82 4d sedan|| 5,085|| $5,750|| 35,809|
86 convertible sedan
| 5,480||$6,383|| 3,180|
89 hardtop coupe
| 4,985||$5,485|| 15,766|
| Total|| 54,755|
| 82 4d sedan|| 5,049||$5,795|| 33,331|
| 86 convertible sedan|| 5,505||$6,449|| 2,276|
| 89 hardtop coupe|| 4,940||$5,553|| 11,060|
| Total|| 46,667|
| 81 hardtop coupe|| 4,883||$5,736|| 9,415|
| 82 4d sedan|| 4,978||$5,970|| 29,719|
| Total|| 39,134|
| 81 hardtop coupe|| 4,910||$5,830|| 9,032|
| 82 4d sedan|| 5,005||$6,063|| 29,258|
| Total|| || || 38,290|
| Source: Encyclopedia of American Cars From 1930, by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide®, Publications International, Ltd., 1993|
1966 Lincoln Continental: Specifications
| Wheelbase (in.)||126.0|
|Overall length (in.)||220.9|
|Overall width (in.)||79.7|
|Overall height (in.)||54.3-55.0|
|Tread, front/rear (in.)||62.1/61.0|
|Ground clearance (in.)||5.5|
| Curb weight (lbs)||5,185-5,680|
| Fuel tank (gal)||25.5|
| Trunk (cu ft)||18.0|
| Interior (sedan)|
|Headroom, front (in.)||39.0|
|Legroom, front (in.)||41.1|
|Hiproom, front (in.)||61.8|
|Shoulder room, front (in.)||59.8|
|Headroom, rear (in.)||38.6|
|Legroom, rear (in.)||41.0|
|Hiproom, rear (in.)||62.0|
|Shoulder room, rear (in.)||59.8|
|Body|| all-steel, unit-construction|
|Type|| 90-degree ohv V-8|
|Block/manifolds|| cast iron|
| Bore x stroke || 4.38 x 3.83|
| Displacement (cid)||462.0|
| Horsepower @ rpm|| 340 @ 4,600|
| Torque (lbs/ft) @ rpm|| 485 @ 2,800|
| Compression ratio||10.25:1|
| Main bearings||5|
| Valve lifters||hydraulic|
| Fuel pump||mechanical|
|Carburetor|| Carter 4-bbi|
| Electrical system||12-volt|
|Transmission||3-speed torque-converter Twin-Range Turbo-Drive, with 6-position selector dial|
| Suspension, front||independent Silent-Strut with sealed, pre-lubricated ball-joints, helical-coil springs, hydraulic shock absorbers with rebound control|
| Suspension, rear||solid semi-floating axle, Hotchkiss drive, 64-inch-long parallel leaf springs, rubber-cushioned rear axle mounting, hydraulic shock absorbers|
| Turns lock-to-lock||3.8|
| Turning circle (ft)||47.4|
|Brakes||dual-hydraulic with front ventilated discs/rear drums, self-adjusting, power assisted|
|Rear drum diameter (in.)||11.09|
| Differential Ratio||hypoid 2.80:1, 3.00:1 opt|
| Exhaust system||dual aluminized and stainless steel with twin mufflers and resonators|
|Wheels||stamped-steel 15-inch disc|
|Tires||9.15 x 15 4-ply rayon|
|Warranty||24,000 miles/24 months|
| Performance* |
| 0-30 mph (sec)||4.0|
|0-45 mph (sec)||6.8|
|0-60 mph (sec)||10.8|
|0-1/4-mile (sec @ mph)|| 18.1 @ 80.0|
|Top speed (mph)||125.0|
| *Motor Trend, February 1966, testing a 1966 Lincoln Continental Coupe|
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