This car, another of Lee Iacocca’s many product planning brainstorms, was one of Ford’s greatest successes in the late sixties and early seventies. A gaudy, overstuffed personal luxury car that critics aptly described as an overgrown Thunderbird, it was nonetheless a hugely profitable exercise and one of the most stylistically influential cars of its era. This week, we look at the origins and history of the 1969-1979 Lincoln Continental Mark III, Mark IV, and Mark V.
The first Lincoln Continental was a customized version of the Lincoln Zephyr convertible, designed by Ford design chief Eugene T. (Bob) Gregorie and built in 1939 for the personal use of Ford president Edsel Ford, becoming a limited-production model in 1940. Although the Continental was mechanically undistinguished, its styling was widely acclaimed and is now considered a classic. (We remain unmoved by the Continental and consider the facelifted post-1942 models rather grotesque, but we recognize that we’re in the minority on both points.)
There were plans for an all-new postwar Lincoln Continental, but they fell victim to the Ford Motor Company’s financial predicament, so the Continental disappeared after 1948. However, in the early 1950s, Ford decided to try again, launching a new Continental division to produce a single high-end, ultra-luxury model. It was called simply Continental Mark II, suggesting a spiritual continuity with Edsel Ford’s original “Mark I” Continental.
The Mark II was extremely well made and quite tasteful for its era, but it was a commercial failure: In two model years, only about 3,000 cars were produced and the division lost money on each of them. The Continental division was shuttered in July 1956 and the Continental again fell under the auspices of Lincoln-Mercury.
The Mark II vanished at the end of the 1957 model year, but Lincoln applied the Continental name to the top series of the gargantuan 1958-1960 Lincolns. Unlike the Mark II, the new Continentals were much the same as lesser Lincoln models, distinguished mostly by trim and a unique reverse-slant roofline with a retractable rear window (later recycled by Mercury for its 1960s Breezeway sedans ). To create a sense of continuity with the entirely unrelated Mark II, Lincoln called the 1958 Continentals “Mark III,” the 1959s “Mark IV,” and the 1960s “Mark V.” Designer L. David Ash, expressing the view of many even within Ford, later dubbed them “phony Marks.”
These big Continentals sold better than the Mark II (mostly because they were almost 40% cheaper), but they still didn’t sell very well and were not particularly special. In 1961, Lincoln applied the Continental name — but not the “Mark” designation — to all its cars. The new Continentals‘ crisp styling earned them great critical acclaim, if not runaway sales success, and helped save the venerable Lincoln marque from cancellation.
A LITTLE TOO CONTINENTAL
While the 1961 and later Lincoln Continentals were not the money-losers their predecessors were, they were still not as profitable as Lincoln-Mercury would have liked. Despite sharing some structural commonality with the Ford Thunderbird, which helped to reduce engineering costs, the Continental did not sell in large enough numbers to be a big money-maker; even in Lincoln’s best years, Cadillac outsold it by at least six to one.
Why? The Continental was a match for a contemporary Cadillac in most objective categories except trunk space and acceleration (neither a major priority for contemporary luxury car buyers) and the Lincoln’s styling was cleaner and arguably more tasteful. Cadillac had backed off from the excesses of 1959, but still had a space-age jukebox flair, where the Continental was understated and largely free of gimmicks.
If the goal of the Continental was to appeal to wealthy aesthetes, it succeeded, but its lack of ostentation did not necessarily appeal to the masses. As we noted in our article on the 1967-1970 Cadillac Eldorado, the success of Cadillac hinged on its popularity with working-class and middle-class customers, quite a few of whom would eagerly beg, borrow, or steal to get their hands on one. A buyer prepared to scrimp and scrounge for three or more years to put a symbol of prosperity and achievement in the driveway was not interested in understatement. The whole point of purchasing such a car was to win the approval and the envy of friends, neighbors, and coworkers. What good was it if nobody noticed? Chrysler had gone too far in the other direction with its early-sixties Imperials, which moved well past ostentatious into the realm of the grotesque, but we suspect that many Cadillac buyers simply found the Continental too bland.
Lincoln-Mercury did not help their case by offering only a limited selection of models and body styles. The four-door Continental convertible was a novelty in which few buyers were interested. While Cadillac offered an assortment of pillared or pillarless coupes and sedans, sometimes with a choice of different roof styles, Lincoln had only the four-door pillared sedan. It took Lincoln until 1966 to even add a two-door hardtop, consistently the era’s most popular body style. Lincoln seemed out of touch with the tastes of the actual luxury car market.
THE STRAWBERRY STUDIO
In the mid-sixties, Ford, like GM, maintained styling studios for each division, including both production studios and “preproduction” studios developing concepts for future models and a separate Advanced studio. For certain projects, Ford would stage competitions between multiple studios, commissioning several alternative designs from which senior management could select — the Ford Mustang was designed in this way in the summer of 1962. Lee Iacocca described this strategy as the chocolate and vanilla approach; it gave management more options and encouraged a healthy sense of competition among the stylists.
It was for this reason that in 1965, styling vice president Eugene Bordinat put stylist Dave Ash in charge of a new Special Development Studio, with Ken Spencer and Don Kopka as his executive stylists. Ash’s group was what Lee Iacocca dubbed the “strawberry studio,” offering a third alternative to compete with the existing groups.
By that time, Iacocca, riding high on the success of the Ford Mustang, had been promoted from vice president and general manager of Ford Division to group vice president in charge of the Car and Truck Group, responsible for all of Ford’s automotive divisions, including Lincoln-Mercury. Iacocca had an excellent sense of his buyers’ tastes and priorities and his commercial insights in this era were usually astute. He also had a strong grasp of the bottom line.
One of Iacocca’s early ideas was to give Lincoln-Mercury its own Thunderbird-style personal luxury model. There were several compelling rationales for doing so: For one, the four-seat Ford Thunderbird was already positioned firmly in Lincoln-Mercury territory in price and image, about halfway between the most expensive Mercury and the cheapest Continental. For another, Ford wanted to utilize more of the capacity of the Wixom, Michigan, factory where the Thunderbird was built, so as to spread out more of the plant’s overhead costs.
The task of designing such a model was assigned to Ash’s team in the summer of 1965, although Iacocca took a keen personal interest in the car’s development. Initially, the new car, which reached the full-size clay model stage by late 1965, was a cautious amalgamation of Lincoln and Mercury design cues applied to the Thunderbird ‘package.’ That was appropriate given its intended market position, but the general consensus was that the design lacked the sort of pizazz that had made the four-seat Thunderbird such a success.
Later that year, Ash got a late-night phone call from Lee Iacocca, then out of the country on business. Iacocca had had a late-night brainstorm: to jazz up the Lincoln-Mercury personal luxury concept by giving it an upright, formal grille reminiscent of Rolls-Royce and reviving the Continental Mark II’s distinctive rear deck treatment, with its spare tire hump.
Although Chrysler design chief Elwood Engel (a former Lincoln designer) had recently cribbed the faux Continental hump for the 1964 Imperial, both of these ideas ran contrary to the conventional wisdom of most contemporary stylists. Although there had been a revival of Continental spare tires in the fifties, that fad had largely faded by sixties. At least in the U.S., stand-up radiator shells were also considered archaic, an antiquated throwback to the days of hand cranks and wooden artillery wheels. Ash said later that if he had suggested any such thing without Iacocca’s imprimatur, Gene Bordinat would have flatly refused. Nonetheless, Ash liked the concept and said he and his team would get to work on it. In fact, Bordinat was not fond of the additions, but went along with them out of a reluctance to contradict his boss.
MERLIN AND LAUNCELOT
The first clay models of the new car, completed in mid-October 1965, were provisionally dubbed “Launcelot,” apparently at Dave Ash’s suggestion. The Arthurian name was his second choice; Ash’s original suggestion, which Lincoln-Mercury had rejected, was “Merlin,” derived from MERcury-LINcoln and alluding not only to King Arthur’s legendary wizard advisor, but also to the highly successful Rolls-Royce Merlin engine that had powered some of the greatest military aircraft of World War II.
The initial clays did not include the upright grille or Continental decklid hump, but those features were incorporated into a subsequent full-size clay model, completed by mid-January 1966. Neither Gene Bordinat and Lincoln-Mercury general manager Paul Lorenz liked the results — nor did the participants in a Lincoln-Mercury consumer marketing clinic, who preferred the original clay — but Iacocca loved the look and overruled the division’s objections.
Fortunately for Iacocca, company chairman Henry Ford II liked the revised design even more than Iacocca did. When Henry viewed the mockup on March 24, his reaction was not only positive, but positively covetous. He gave an immediate green light for production.
THE THUNDER WITHOUT THE ‘BIRD
To keep the engineering budget to a minimum — $30 million, less than half what Ford had spent on the Mustang — the Launcelot would be mechanically based on the next-generation Ford Thunderbird, which was all-new for 1967. The new car would also be assembled in the same plant in Wixom, which remained an important financial consideration. The Launcelot would share the Thunderbird’s cowl, windshield, roof panel, inner door structure, door glass, and the inner trunk and rear fender structures, although Dave Ash and Gene Bordinat had eventually convinced Iacocca to authorize new outer panels for the doors.
Launcelot also shared the new Thunderbird’s perimeter frame. Up until that point, all the cars built at Wixom were unitized (including previous four-seat Thunderbirds and the 1961–69 Continental), but the 1967 Thunderbird had a separate frame, functioning as essentially a full-length subframe for the semi-unitized body shell. While the next-generation Thunderbird would be offered in both two- and four-door forms, the Launcelot would be available only as a two-door hardtop, albeit sharing the longer wheelbase of the Thunderbird four-door Landau (a suggestion from Lincoln-Mercury product planner Hal Siegel) to allow a bit more interior space and, more importantly, a hood of appropriately heroic length. (Regular readers might recall that Pontiac later used the same strategy to create the long-nosed 1969 Grand Prix.)
Even with the longer wheelbase, the Launcelot’s interior space was unimpressive for the huge exterior dimensions, but its appointments — supervised by Damon Wood and Hermann Brunn, son of the famous coachbuilder — were suitably lavish. Occupants were insulated from the outside world by over 150 lb (68 kg) of sound deadener. The standard upholstery was a very slick tricot knit that Ford designers called “panty cloth” (also used by the Ford LTD) with real leather optional. To create a posh English men’s club feel, the cabin made heavy use of wood trim, although in typical American fashion, it was plastic, offered in either “English oak” or “East India rosewood” grains. A while after launch, the car also gained a rather ostentatious Cartier dashboard clock, marked with Roman numerals.
Beneath the prodigious hood and upright faux radiator shell — a daunting piece of automotive architecture that cost Lincoln-Mercury about 10 times as much as an ordinary grille — was Ford’s largest engine. Part of the “385-series” V8 introduced on the Thunderbird in 1968, the new car’s engine was expanded from the T-Bird’s 429 cubic inches (7,027 cc) to 460 (7,536 cc). Although this was actually fractionally smaller than the 462 cu. in. (7,565 cc) M-E-L engine used by the big Lincoln Continental, the 460 was a much more modern design better suited to the new U.S. federal emissions standards. In initial form, the big engine was rated at 365 gross horsepower (272 kW) and an even 500 lb-ft (675 N-m) of torque).
The sheer size of the car caused considerable strife with Lincoln-Mercury engineers, leading to an unsuccessful attempt by Lincoln-Mercury chief engineer Bert Andren to trim 4 inches (102 mm) from the car’s prodigious front overhang in the interests of better weight distribution. Ash steadfastly refused to alter the design and Bordinat went over Andren’s head to ensure the design would go forward unmolested.
THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM
As the new car’s development proceeded, its name became a pressing issue. Everyone accepted that “Launcelot” was a placeholder, but no one had yet offered an acceptable alternative. Since the car showed a clear design kinship with the Mark II, someone — most probably Iacocca, although some sources say Henry Ford II — suggested reviving the Continental Mark designation.
Logically, this would have made the new car the Mark VI, but as mentioned, no one at Ford had been especially fond of the 1958-60 Marks. In fact, they were sufficiently unpopular internally (and had been enough of a commercial failure) that barely a decade after their demise, it had apparently become acceptable for Ford executives to publicly criticize them. On the other hand, the commercial failure of the contemporary Cadillac Eldorado Brougham had not moved Cadillac to abandon the Eldorado name or dissuaded them from applying it to their new personal luxury coupe, launched in late 1966 as a 1967 model.
News of the new Cadillac Eldorado had a definite impact on Lincoln-Mercury’s plans for the Continental Mark III. Late in its development, the division (possibly prompted by Iacocca) decided that instead of being a Thunderbird rival positioned between Mercury and Lincoln, the new Mark would be a top-of-the-line model, Lincoln’s most expensive and prestigious offering and a direct rival to the front-wheel-drive Eldorado. The battle between the Eldorado Brougham and Mark II 10 years earlier had been inconclusive, so the imminent clash between the Mark III and the new FWD Eldo represented something of a rematch — a new front in the ongoing war of corporate egos.
LINCOLN CONTINENTAL MARK III VS. CADILLAC ELDORADO
Iacocca was fond of mid-year introductions, which, as the Mustang’s launch demonstrated, were an effective way for new models to stand out from the herd. Therefore, the Lincoln Continental Mark III bowed on April 5, 1968 as an early 1969 model. It arrived about 18 months after the Eldorado, which had already found an eager market.
The Continental Mark III’s starting price was $6,585, a mere $20 less than the Eldorado. That price tag included many standard amenities, including power steering, power brakes, and automatic transmission, but not air conditioning or a radio. With a full load of options — as most Marks were equipped — the price rose to around $9,500, enough to buy two well-equipped Mercury Cougars. The Mark III was still somewhat cheaper than the old Mark II and on an inflation-adjusted basis was about 30% less expensive.
With its extravagant styling and unexceptional engineering, the Continental Mark III was not the sort of car to appeal to enthusiasts. No one at Ford was concerned. Even before the Mark III’s introduction, the designers and engineers had noticed that the design provoked the same lust in working-class factory workers as it had in Henry Ford II. The Mark was in no way subtle, but it looked like money and buyers with money responded enthusiastically. The late introduction limited first-season sales to 7,770 (compared to 24,528 1968 Eldorados), but for the Mark’s first full-year, the tally rose to 23,088.
While the Eldorado had done little to increase Cadillac’s total sales, the Continental Mark III boosted Lincoln’s business significantly. Lincoln sold only 39,134 Continentals in 1968 and 38,290 in 1969, so the Mark III accounted for more than half of Lincoln’s total volume. More importantly, it was an exceedingly profitable model. The Mark III’s 1968-69 sales grossed around $275 million, which enabled Lincoln to recoup the modest tooling and development costs very quickly. The Mark III also appears to have been far less costly to build than was the FWD Eldorado; Lincoln’s profit margin on each car was reportedly around $2,000.
In early 1968, Henry Ford II promoted Ford Motor Company president Arjay Miller to vice chairman, which left Ford in need of a new president. This was a particularly challenging decision for Henry Ford, who was reputedly angling for President Lyndon Johnson to give him an ambassadorship if Johnson was reelected that fall. Although Lee Iacocca clearly wanted the Ford presidency, Henry thought Iacocca too young and was already becoming somewhat wary of Iacocca’s ambition (a conflict that would eventually lead to Iacocca’s firing in 1978). Instead, Henry decided to look outside the company, setting his sights on GM executive Semon E. “Bunkie” Knudsen.
Bunkie Knudsen was a second-generation GM man. His father, William “Big Bill” Knudsen had worked for Henry Ford’s grandfather in the teens and early twenties and went on to become the president of General Motors. Bunkie, who joined GM in 1939, became a rising star in the fifties with a very successful career at Pontiac, followed by a stint as general manager of Chevrolet. Knudsen had looked like a strong candidate for the presidency of the corporation, but in the fall of 1967, the board selected Ed Cole instead. By February 1968, Henry Ford had lured Knudsen to Ford.
Like Lee Iacocca, Knudsen was an ambitious, energetic executive with considerable chutzpah and very strong ideas about product development. He and Iacocca clashed almost immediately and their battle of wills raged throughout Knudsen’s tenure, forcing other executives, designers, and engineers to choose sides. Many sensed that Bunkie’s Ford career would be short-lived and chose Iacocca.
When Knudsen arrived, Styling was considering proposals for a successor to the Lincoln Continental Mark III, to be called Continental Mark IV. During an unannounced visit to the styling studios in mid-1968, Knudsen took a fancy to a design proposal developed by Wes Dahlberg’s Advanced Styling studio (actually the work of Jim Arnold and Dean Beck) and immediately approved it as the production Mark IV. Gene Bordinat, who hadn’t liked Dahlberg’s design, tried to talk Knudsen out of it, but to no avail; Knudsen also resisted Bordinat’s subsequent attempts to alter the design. That may have been Knudsen’s prerogative, but it did not endear him to either Bordinat or Iacocca, who took a paternal interest in the Mark series. It was also a bold move considering Henry Ford’s well-known fondness for the Mark III; few executives would have had the brass to revamp the chairman’s favorite car without consulting him.
Bordinat continued lobbying for changes, so Knudsen grudgingly allowed him to create an alternative design. At Bordinat’s direction, stylist Ron Perry and Steve Sherer of Don DeLaRossa’s Corporate Projects Studio subsequently developed a new Mark IV clay that both DeLaRossa and Bordinat liked much better than the Dahlberg car. Bordinat, apparently hoping Knudsen would quit or be fired in the near future, took the daring step of ordering DeLaRossa to continue developing the Perry/Sherer design as a potential stopgap.
As Bordinat had predicted, Knudsen’s presidency was short, ending a little over 18 months after it began. It may not have helped that any dreams Henry Ford II might have had of an ambassadorial or cabinet post died after Lyndon Johnson announced that he would not run for reelection in 1968, but in any case, Knudsen’s tenure was both contentious and brief. Henry fired him in early September of 1969. After a brief interregnum, Lee Iacocca assumed the presidency in late 1970.
Knudsen’s departure did not happen soon enough to substitute Perry and Sherer’s design for the one by Arnold and Beck, which went into production in the fall of 1971 as a 1972 model. It maintained many of the styling cues of the Mark III, although the Mark IV was noticeably bigger. It continued the Continental Mark III’s fake spare-tire hump and upright grille while adding a new neo-classical element: round “opera windows” in the sail panels. (The windows, conceived by stylist Bill Boyer, were initially an $81.84 option, although few Marks went without them; they became standard in 1973.)
One now-ubiquitous item introduced on the Continental Mark IV was the moonroof, a sunroof with a glass panel that allowed it to do double duty as a skylight. Conceived by Heinz Prechter of the American Sunroof Corporation (ASC), the moonroof became a very expensive option on the Mark IV in 1973. The Mark and Thunderbird had also offered a steel sunroof since 1969, which remained available as an alternative.
The Mark IV was even more popular than the Mark III, selling nearly 50,000 units in 1972 and nearly 70,000 in 1973. Even in 1975, its worst year, the Mark IV sold 47,145 units, better than the Mark III in its best year. The Mark usually accounted for nearly half of Lincoln’s total sales and most of its profits.
After Knudsen’s departure, Gene Bordinat ordered Don DeLaRossa to supervise the design of the Mark IV’s replacement, the Lincoln Continental Mark V, which would be closely based on the 1969 Perry/Sherer proposal. Introduced in 1977, the Mark V’s dimensions were much the same as its predecessor’s, but it was about 300 lb (136 kg) lighter, thanks in part to a smaller standard engine. The Continental Mark V proved to be the most successful Mark of all, selling around 75,000 units a year during its three-year run — remarkable considering its eye-opening prices.
Popular as they were, the two-and-a-half-ton Marks were not compatible with the demands of Corporate Average Fuel Economy requirements, nor were their massive engines suitable for ever-increasing emissions standards. In 1980, Lincoln replaced the Continental Mark V with the downsized, Panther-platform Mark VI. Sales immediately dropped by half and never really recovered. The 1984 Mark VII was a decided improvement over the Mark VI (and its LSC version was the first Continental that could be called sporty with a straight face), but sold no better. By the time the sleek Continental Mark VIII arrived in 1993, the market for all personal luxury cars was evaporating; the Mark finally died in 1998. While Ford showed Mk 9 and Mark X concept cars in the early 2000s, there has been no move to revive the series.
The styling and concept of the Lincoln Continental Mark III were hugely influential both at Ford and elsewhere. By the early seventies, the Thunderbird, whose sales had slumped badly, became increasingly Mark-like. So did the Mercury Cougar and later the Ford Torino. Soon, Ford had a host of pseudo-Marks at various price points, as did most of its rivals. It’s fair to say that we have the Continental Mark III and Mark IV to thank for the upright grilles, opera windows, and other neoclassical gimmicks that blighted American automotive styling well into the 1980s. Don DeLaRossa, who followed Lee Iacocca to Chrysler in 1981, made no apologies for recycling Mark styling cues as late as the 1990-93 Y-body Chrysler Imperial.
We may even hold the Mark III responsible for the later obsession with retro styling. As Dave Ash remarked to Dave Crippen in 1985, prior to the Mark, few stylists were terribly interested in such old-fashioned-looking themes. The Mark demonstrated that there was a lucrative market for looking backward; it was eerily prescient of the overweening nostalgia that gripped American culture a few years later.
At the risk of sounding snobbish, we consider the Continental Mark III and its successors to be supremely vulgar. We mean that both in the sense of being tasteless — we know these cars have many fans, but frankly, the Mark series’ heavy-handed and self-conscious ostentation makes us want to avert our eyes — and also in the most literal sense of the word. “Vulgar,” after all, is derived from the Latin vulgus, which simply means “common people” or “the masses.” The Mark was too expensive to be a truly mass-market car, but there’s no question that it had a strong appeal to the man on the street.
The Continental Mark was perhaps the perfect car for the seventies. The giddy futurism of the fifties and the naive idealism of the sixties had collapsed by then, giving way to a queasy hangover of economic malaise, environmental anxiety, and political scandal. It’s little wonder that overstuffed personal luxury cars were so popular in that era. Americans often value symbols of success more than success itself and tend to see expressions of wealth as the highest of virtues — a tendency that becomes more pronounced when actual prosperity is hard to come by. The self-indulgent affectation of the Mark and its imitators was a palliative for the disillusionment and disaffection of Watergate, the energy crisis, Vietnam, and inflation.
It’s not difficult to see the connection between the Continental Mark and the SUV craze of 25 years later. The specific signifiers are different — brush bars and skid plates rather than opera windows, big rims instead of Continental decklid bulges — but the gaudy grilles, the needless bulk, the fuel-sucking engines, and the sheer look-at-me grandiosity are much the same. As they say, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
NOTES ON SOURCES
Our sources on the development of the Continental Marks III, IV, and V included L. David Ash’s 1985 interview with Dave Crippen (David R. Crippen, “The Reminiscences of L. David Ash,” 25 January 1985, Automotive Design Oral History Project, The Benson Ford Research Center, Accession 1673, www.autolife.umd.umich. edu/ Design/Ash_interview.htm (transcript), accessed 30 July 2009); the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, “1972-1976 Lincoln Continental Mark IV,” HowStuffWorks.com, 9 October 2007, auto.howstuffworks. com/ 1972-1976-lincoln-continental-mark-iv.htm, accessed 1 August 2009, and Encyclopedia of American Cars: Over 65 Years of Automotive History (Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International, 1996); Automotive Mileposts, “1969-1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III,” “1972-1976 Lincoln Mark IV,” and “1977-1979 Lincoln Mark V,” automotivemileposts. com, accessed 31 July to 2 August 2009; “AUTOS: The Biggest Switch,” TIME 16 February 1968, www.time. com, accessed 13 May 2010; “AUTOS: Why Knudsen Was Fired,” TIME 19 September 1969, www.time. com, accessed 13 May 2010; Thomas E. Bonsall, The Lincoln Story: The Postwar Years (Stanford, CA: Stanford General Books/Stanford University Press, 2004); Jim Farrell, “Don DeLaRossa: Seeing It All,” Collectible Automobile Vol. 19, No. 6 (April 2003), pp. 68-77; Jim and Cheryl Farrell, “Continental Style: A Contest of Wills: Lincoln’s Mark IV,” Special Interest Autos #199 (February 2004), pp. 44-47, and “Mark III Magic: A behind-the-scenes look at designing the 1969 Continental Mark III,” Special Interest Autos #196 (August 2003), pp. 36-39; Jim and Cheryl Farrell, “Saving Grace: The Design Story of the 1961 Lincoln Continental,” Collectible Automobile Vol. 20, No. 2 (August 2003), pp. 28–41; David Halberstam, The Reckoning (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1986); Tim Howley, “A Mark of Distinction: 1969 Lincoln Continental Mark III,” Special Interest Autos #58 (July-August 1980), reprinted in The Hemmings Book of Lincolns: driveReports from Special Interest Autos magazine, ed. Terry Ehrich (Bennington, VT: Hemmings Motor News, 2002); Lee Iacocca, Iacocca: An Autobiography (New York: Bantam Books, 1984); Michael Lamm and Dave Holls, Century of Automotive Style: 100 Years of American Car Design (Stockton, CA: Lamm-Morada Publishing Co. Inc., 1997); Michael Lamm, “1961 Lincoln Continental,” Special Interest Autos #34 (May-June 1976), reprinted in Lincoln Continental 1961-1969 Performance Portfolio, ed. R.M. Clarke (Cobham, England: Brooklands Books Ltd., ca. 2000), pp. 130-136; Karl Ludvigsen, “Skid-free Stopping a Reality in ’69,” Motor Trend Vol. 20, No. 7 (July 1968), pp. 38–41, 76, 105; and “Thunderbird 4-Door: Ford’s Shapely Prestige-Maker Is also an Industry Pace-Setter,” Car Life February 1967, reprinted in Thunderbird Performance Portfolio 1964-1976, ed. R.M. Clarke (Cobham, England: Brooklands Books Ltd., ca. 2000), pp. 54-59.
We also consulted the following period road tests: “Rampant Nostalgia: The new Continental Mark III,” Road Test March 1968; “Continental Mark III: It’s Thunderbird size and owes little to the classic Lincolns and Continentals,” Car Life March 1968; Edward Eves, “Lincoln’s New Continental Mk. III,” Autocar 15 February 1968; Robert Irvin, “Continental Mark III” and Bill Sanders, “First Driving Report: Continental Mark III,” Motor Trend March 1968; Graham Robson, “Driving the Lincoln Continental Mark III: The latest American status symbol,” Autocar, 18 July 1968; Charles Fox, “Viewpoint: Lincon Continental Mark III,” Car and Driver August 1968; “Continental Mark III: Prestige & Luxury? Dream car of many less than perfect,” Road Test April 1970; “King of the Hill: Road testing the Lincoln Continental Mark III and Cadillac Eldorado,” Motor Trend July 1970; John Lamm, “King of the Hill: Eldo-Mark III Revisited,” Motor Trend July 1971; “Distinctive Styling and Boundless Luxury: The Continental Mark IV, A Brand New Ballgame,” Car Life December 1971; and John Lamm, “King of the Hill: Cadillac Eldorado vs. Lincoln Continental Mark IV,” Motor Trend July 1972, all of which are reprinted in Lincoln Cars: Lincoln Continental 1969-1976 (Brooklands Road Test Books), ed. R.M. Clarke (Cobham, England: Brooklands Books Ltd., ca. 1992).
Our inflation estimates were based on the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics Inflation Calculator, data.bls. gov/ cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl. Please note that the inflation figures cited in the text are approximate and are provided solely for general reference — this is an automotive history, not a treatise on the historical value of money, and nothing in this article should be taken as financial advice of any kind!