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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