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Lincoln Continental: Buying guide and review (1961-1969)

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The ultra-cool looking Lincoln Continental launched in 1961 represented an entirely new design direction for Lincoln, spearheading a much-needed change for the company. In the late 1950s, Lincoln was stuck in a rut of early post-war spin-offs. A radical rethink was needed, so the fourth-generation Continental, with its elegant styling and smaller dimensions ushered in a new era for Lincoln. 
 
Modern design methods, high levels of standard equipment and a renewed focus on quality meant that the cars were not cheap. Sales started off slowly in 1961, improving dramatically in subsequent years as the buying public took a liking to these well-built and handsome machines.
 
All new Continentals were put through a rigorous quality testing procedure and a number of changes were made to components to ensure that they would last longer. To underline its belief in its own products, Lincoln offered a 24,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, a first for any manufacturer in the US. The suicide rear doors with frameless door glass and angular, minimal tailfin design really made the new Continental stand out from the competition; its striking looks saw it make a number of appearances on TV as well. The elegant styling by Elwood Engel even appealed to the US president, who added some to his fleet. 
 
Which one to buy?
 
The fourth generation Continental was subject to numerous changes each model year, as is customary with US manufacturers. Changes ranged from minor grille modifications to uprated engines and additional safety equipment. What they all had was a comprehensive list of standard equipment to further solidify Lincoln’s place at top of the automotive pecking order. 1966 was the best year for the fourth generation Continental, as a two door coupe was launched – helping sales reach 54,755 units. This was also the year that the exterior received its biggest redesign as well as a larger 7.6-litre V8.
 
Restored cars and convertibles command the highest prices and it is almost always better to buy a properly restored car than doing the work yourself. Some collectors hanker for the 1961 models, as these are the rarest, however the later models incorporated some useful changes as well as more comprehensive standard equipment. Above all, body style, condition and service history should be the most important factors when choosing a car. 
 
Finding original examples can be difficult, and looking for the right one in the UK may take some time. There are a lot more cars available in the US as well as specialists who supply parts.

Performance and specs
 
1961 Lincoln Continental 
Engine 7046cc, 16 valve OHV V8 
Power 300bhp @ 4100rpm 
Torque 465lb ft @ 2000rpm
Top speed 120mph 
0-60mph 12.4 seconds 
Fuel consumption 14-19mpg 
Gearbox Three-speed automatic
 
Dimensions and weight
 
Wheelbase 3124mm
Length 5395mm
Width 1996mm
Height 1361mm
Weight 2360kg
 
Common problems
 
Parts for these cars are readily available, with clubs and specialists being the best way to source the more elusive components. 
 
• Engines are un-stressed, and will soldier on for years if well maintained. Signs of neglect, sadly quite common, can mean large bills in the future. Check that belts, fluids and filters have been regularly changed.
 
• Exhaust manifolds can crack and warp so check these out for any signs of damage or blowing
 
• Air conditioning and heating problems were evident on the earlier cars, and changes throughout the Continental’s production run solved most of the issues. Check that all dashboard vents and controls are working.
 
• Relays are found in abundance, and can cause various electrical issues when they fail. Also check that all the powered windows, door mirrors, seats and anything else with a button is operating correctly, as repairs are usually expensive. 
 
• Convertibles are desirable, however the automated top mechanism is complicated and will require professional repair if it is not functioning correctly. New parts can be sourced but are not a cheap option.
 
• The unibody construction means that rust can be an issue, especially if it has not been looked after. Take a close look at all the body panels, paying close attention to the rear quarters, front arches, lower door frames and the passenger floors for signs of bubbling or corrosion. Repairs are costly and a car with extensive rust should be walked away from, unless it’s of some special significance.
 
Model history
 
1961: Fourth Generation Lincoln Continental goes on sale in four-door, convertible and saloon body styles. First American car to offer 24,000-mile warranty
1962: Simper front grille design implemented
1963: Rear legroom was increased, alternators replaced generators as an electrical and battery upgrade
1964: Extended wheelbase further improved interior space, slight modifications externally to front grille and roofline
1965: Changes to grille and lights. Standard front disk brakes and retracting seatbelts improved safety
1966: Two door hardtop version introduced. Existing models received extensive redesign and grew in size, while the engine size increased to 7.6-litres
1967: Minor changes, including standard lap belts and energy absorbing steering column
1968: External lights changes to meet federal regulations, shoulder seat belts added for front occupants. New 7.5-litre engines were phased in
1969: Head restraints added as well as standardisation of the 7.5-litre engine across the range
 
Clubs and websites
 
• www.thelincolnforum.net - Lincoln Forum, useful for connecting with enthusiasts and finding spares
• www.lcoc.org - The Lincoln and Continental Owners Club
 
Summary and prices
 
Brave and adventurous types can find rusty projects for around £3000, but as restoration can be a daunting task, this will be the cheapest stage of your ownership proposition. Despite the complexity, these cars tend to be reliable if well looked after, so a less stressful way to enjoy a Continental is to look for a well maintained mid-‘60s model for around £30,000.
 
Concourse condition cars are closer to £80,000 however this value can change significantly based on history and body styles, with the convertibles being highly sought after. The ultra rare presidential versions can be worth up to £230,000 when they do crop up for sale. 
 
Not many other cars can offer the combination of style, comfort and elegance that the Lincoln Continental does, with seating for up to six, and a convertible option for those fleeting summer days. It really is a unique car, that if well maintained can offer years of enjoyment.
 
Words: John Tallodi
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Last updated: 29th Oct 2015
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Lincoln Continental cars for sale

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Lincoln Continental
23500 76500 GBP
  • 1941 Lincoln Continental Coupe

    $23,500(£19,206.55) $23,500(£19,206.55)

    This 1941 Lincoln Continental Coupe is a beautiful driver quality example that has a desirable V8 conversion. Burgundy with tan interior. This Continental is a very strong driver and shows very nicely. The upgrade to the V8 engine was done a long time ago and is quite common for these cars as the original V12 engines proved complicated and often required much attention. An excellent buy for just $23,500

    • Year: 1941
    For sale
    Gullwing Motor Cars
    718-545-0500  VIEW CONTACT NUMBER
  • 1942 Lincoln Continental Convertible

    $76,500(£62,523.45) $76,500(£62,523.45)

    Edsel Ford was the only son of Henry Ford, but the two men could not have been more different.  Edsel Ford was worldly, gifted with fine taste and a patron of the arts – including his many personally funded commissions that helped American coachbuilders survive the early years of the Great Depression.  It is an irony then that the automobile created to be a tribute to Edsel Ford instead became an embarrassment when it was introduced 14 years after Edsel’s early death in 1943, at the age of 49.  In his highly productive lifetime, Edsel Ford become president of Ford Motor Company and encouraged Ford’s purchase of the Lincoln Motor Company from the founding Lelands.  He persuaded his father to discontinue production of the Model T – the most successful car in the world at the time – and he led the development of the stylish Model A that was sometimes referred to as ‘a little Lincoln’.  He also created the first styling department at Ford in 1935, hiring E.T. ‘Bob’ Gregorie as styling director. The idea of for the Lincoln Continental came directly from Edsel Ford’s worldly view.  The story has been told many times that the younger Ford returned from a European trip struck with the coachwork he observed travelling on the Continent.  Ford tasked Bob Gregorie to create a custom coachbuilt automobile on a Lincoln Zephyr chassis with the clean, unadorned lines and minimal chrome trim of the European cars he admired.  The first Lincoln Continental prototype was shipped to Florida in March 1939, where Edsel Ford and his family wintered at Hobe Sound near Palm Beach.  Edsel Ford’s Continental-style Lincoln was greeted with rave reviews and questions about production from just the crowd he hoped to attract.  A second prototype was constructed for refinement and the Lincoln Continental went into production just six months later in October 1939 as a 1940 model. Like the first prototype, the Continental was constructed with the same 125- inch chassis as the Lincoln Zephyr.  The engine in the first production Continental was a 292 c.i. flathead V-12 producing 120 horsepower, with a three-speed column shifter.  The body was all new.  In comparison with the Zephyr, the driver’s seat was moved back, the hood was longer and both the roof and the side profile of the car were dramatically lowered.  The Cabriolet, like the prototypes, had closed rear roof quarters that visually stretched the length of the car together with the spare tire mounted at the rear of the car.   Interior trim featured a gold colored finish.  The extensively revised 1942 Lincoln Continental shared the Zephyr’s new styling format that was distinguished by a lower ride height and squared off fenders as well as the Zephyr’s wider, two-piece grille.  Engine size increased to 306 c.i. with 130 horsepower.  Like all of the industry, 1942 Lincoln production was cut short for the war effort and a total of only 1,236 1942 Lincolns were produced including just 136 Cabriolets. The automobile offered here is one of only a few 1942 Lincoln Continental Cabriolets that are thought to survive.  The subject of an older ground up restoration, the car presents beautifully today. Finished in Victoria Coach Maroon paint, with a tan leather interior and tan top, the condition of the leather is very good showing only very slight signs of use on the driver’s side.  The paint quality is very good, with nice panel fit and finish.  The fully restored dashboard is pure 1940s glamour, trimmed in proper gold accents that gleam in elegant compliment to both the exterior and the interior. Being a very prestigious car in its day, it is well-equipped with a radio, heater, power windows, power operated convertible top, clock, and full instrumentation.  The wheels are finished with correct chrome hubcaps and trim rings that are in very good condition and the polished chrome trim on the exterior is also in very good condition. The flathead V12 engine looks impressive and is very well detailed in the engine bay. This engine was never intended to make big power, but rather, it was highly regarded for its smoothness in operation. Quiet, silky and with a broad, flat torque curve, it provides effortless operation whether tooling around town or touring long distances on main roads. A three speed manual transmission feeds power to a standard Columbia 2-speed overdrive rear axle.  The car drives smoothly and almost silently, seeming to practically float over the road in comparison with its pre-war contemporaries. This is more than a beautiful car. The restoration has been done to show-driver standards, and it has seen regular use since the restoration was completed. This pre-war Lincoln Continental Cabriolet would be welcomed by the Classic Car Club of America, the Antique Automobile Club of America and the Lincoln & Continental Owners Club – as well as many other events – and would be a standout at any of these gatherings.

    For sale
  • 1948 Lincoln Continental

    $39,900(£32,610.27) $39,900(£32,610.27)

    The Classic Car Gallery is proud offer this Rare 1948 Lincoln Continental Convertible. The car is in excellent driver condition, and was clearly restored at some time in her past. This post war Lincoln is one of only 452 produced in 1948 and marks the last model of V12 American car ever produced. The body was repainted in her original Pace Car Yellow and all exterior chrome and trim was either replaced or refurbished. The 292ci V12 runs very well and produces great power and torque. The 130 3-Speed manual transmission shifts smoothly and transitions through gears with ease. The Pace Car Yellow paint is in overall good shape but has some signs of age. The paint has flaked in a few areas, but is in overall healthy condition. The tan canvas top is new, the rear plastic window is clear and the hydraulic top mechanism operates as it should. The Burgundy Leather interior is in excellent shape and has very little wear. The dash and all supporting instrumentation shows well and the clock, radio (radio doesn’t play), gauges all light up and work. The hydraulic windows work well, and all mechanical systems work as they should. The car just received a full tune-up, including fluid change and

    • Year: 1948
    For sale
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