Lincoln-Mercury kept their word with the 1964-1965 Lincoln Continental after promising that the timeless 1961 styling wouldn't change for the sake of change. Lincoln went from strength to strength in the 1960s, model-year production bounding from around 25,000 to a new all-time high of near 56,000.
The foundation for this success was the 1961 Lincoln Continental. Easily one of the decade's styling landmarks, it was instantly acclaimed so by no less than the prestigious Industrial Design Institute. So good was its basic design that only careful annual refinements would be needed to carry it well past decade's end.
The 1961s and the little-changed 1962-1963 Continentals had taken a fair chunk of business from Cadillac (even more from Imperial). Additional conquest sales were behind the significant changes made for 1964 -- enough to qualify the cars as second-generation versions of the original design.
With the 1964 Lincoln Continental, the thin-pillar four-door sedan and America's only convertible sedan returned, both with center-opening doors as before, plus a mildly revised grille with five vertical bars, a deeper and newly lipped trunklid, slightly sharpened sedan rear side windows -- and flat instead of curved door glass.
The last was suggested by Ford styling chief Gene Bordinat as a cost-cutting measure, but Bob Thomas, a member of the 1961 design team, was horrified. "The car was just not designed for flat glass," he said later. "It didn't look right."
Less obvious, perhaps, was a wheelbase stretched three inches, to 126, and overall length that now measured 216 inches. Thankfully, these gains had little effect on weight, and even this longer Continental was still shorter than a 1964 Cadillac or Imperial.
Even better, the extra rear overhang added some trunk space and made room for a lower-profile convertible top, while the flat side glass, debated though it was, added 5.4 inches to overall shoulder room.
The longer wheelbase showed up in extra rear leg room, which was much needed, and also brought three-inch-longer rear doors that improved entry/exit. A front seat moved two inches forward added more space in back. To compensate for the resulting loss of room up front, the previous "twin-cowl" dash gave way to a trimmer full-width design, matched by a shorter steering column.
On the next page, see what features were included with the 1964 Lincoln Continental and learn about the changes made to the 1965 Lincoln Continental.
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The 1964-1965 Lincoln Continental benefited from several new standard features. For 1964, those features included a low-fuel warning light, vertically adjustable steering column, auxiliary map light, automatic parking-brake release, and inch-larger (15-inch) wheels providing better brake cooling.
Chassis specs were otherwise unchanged save the expected recalibrating of springs and shocks. The driveline was also untouched, Lincoln's big 430 V-8 returning with 320 horsepower and again mating with Twin-Range Turbo-Drive automatic transmission.
That the Continental would evolve in so measured a way was by now an article of faith among buyers, particularly those who had crossed over to Lincoln after being turned off by Cadillac's constant revisions. Keeping the faith convinced some 4,000 more to join the ranks for 1964, though Cadillac sales were also up -- but not nearly as much. The sales gulf between these rivals was still huge, thanks to Cadillac's broader lineup and bigger dealer network, but it was smaller than it had been for quite awhile.
Continental's considered evolution continued for 1965, when Lincoln bucked tradition by not raising prices so much as a dollar despite adding front-disc brakes to an already lengthy list of standard equipment.
Styling updates were as mild as ever: just a new horizontal-bar grille with prominent center bulge, wraparound parking/turn signal lamps visible from most every angle, and back panels without the customary metal appliques echoing grille texture. A vinyl roof covering was a new sedan option ($105) and proved quite popular. Air conditioning, which now reached a 90-percent installation rate, was the only other major extra ($505) save individual power front seats ($281).
As it had every year since 1961, Lincoln volume increased for 1965, ending just above 40,000, over 3,000 more than in model-year 1964. The sedan accounted for most of the gain; the convertible was still selling at a 3,000-3,400 annual clip.
Lincoln had every reason to be satisfied with this performance -- but, of course, it wasn't. Seeking still-higher sales, Lincoln was readying even bigger and better Continentals for 1966.
See the specifications for the 1964 and 1965 Lincoln Continental on the next page.
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1964-1965 Lincoln Continental Specifications
The 1964-1965 Lincoln Continental continued to attract faithful buyers, especially those put off by Cadillac's constant revisions.
Engine: ohv V-8, 430 cid (4.30 x 3.70), 320 bhp
Transmission: 3-speed automatic
Suspension front: upper and lower A-arms, coil springs
Suspension rear: live axle, coil springs
Brakes: 1964: front/rear drums; 1965: front disc/rear drums
Wheelbase (in.): 126.0
Weight (lbs.): 5,055-5,475
Top speed (mph): 110
0-60 mph (sec): 10.0