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.

1969 Lincoln Continental
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.

For more information on cars, see: