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Continental 4. Generation 430ci Convertible
For the 1961 model year, the Lincoln Division was extensively redesigned. Following the $60 million in losses to develop the 1958-1960 Lincolns and Continentals, the Lincoln Division was consolidated into a single product line; the Capri, Premiere, and Continental Mark Series were replaced by a single Lincoln Continental four-door sedan and convertible. For the first time since 1948, the Continental was part of the Lincoln model lineup.
Originally slated to be a version of the 1961 Ford Thunderbird model line, the design of the 1961 Continental was modified slightly as it was added to the Lincoln line. Styled by Ford design vice president Elwood Engel, the design of the Continental was distinguished by two features, one of them being its smaller size. The smallest Lincoln since before World War II, the 1961 Continental was 14.8 in (380 mm) shorter than its 1960 predecessor, dropping 8 in (200 mm) in wheelbase. So much smaller was this car, that advertising executives at Ford photographed a woman parallel parking a sedan for a magazine spread. While smaller on the outside, at 4,927 lb (2,235 kg), the new sedan was only 85 lb (39 kg) lighter than the lightest 1960 Lincoln 4-door sedan (2 lb less than a two-door); at 5,215 lb (2,365 kg), the convertible outweighed its 1960 predecessor by 39 lb (18 kg). As a result, (save for their respective nine-passenger models) the new Lincoln was still heavier than anything from Cadillac or Imperial. This solid construction led to a rather enviable reputation as "Corporate management was determined to make it the finest mass-produced domestic automobile of its time and did so."
The most recognized feature of the design of the Continental was the return of rear-hinged "suicide doors", last seen in the 1951 Lincolns. The decision to reintroduce rear-hinged doors was a decision based in the interest of preserving rear-seat access. In styling mock-ups, Ford engineers had trouble exiting the rear seat without hitting the rear doors with their feet; the decision was made to hinge the doors from the rear to solve the issue. The "suicide doors", was a purely practical decision, reusing a feature offered on the 1950 Lincoln Lido, the Lincoln-Zephyr sedan of the 1940s, and all Mercury Eight sedans starting in 1939. The doors were to become the best-known feature of 1960s Lincolns. In the interest of safety, these Continentals featured a "Door Ajar" warning light on the dash. To streamline production, all Lincoln Continentals would be 4-doors, either sedans or convertibles; while sedans featured a thin "B" pillar, the design allowed for the use of frameless door glass. Named a "pillared hardtop", the design would be added into a number of Ford Motor Company vehicles during the 1960s and 1970s.
The 1961 model was the first car manufactured in the United States to be sold with a 24,000 mi (39,000 km) or 2-year bumper-to-bumper warranty. It was also the first postwar four-door convertible from a major U.S. manufacturer. California Walnut veneer was used on the doors and instrument panel. Pneumatics were used to power the door locks.
Some call the 1961 Continental the Magnum Opus of Elwood Engel and attribute the complete design of the car to him, but designer Howard Payne has documented the role that a full size clay model that he and John Orfe designed in 1958 had in the development of the '61 Continental. It was a sales success, with 25,160 sold during the first year of production. Ford produced several concept cars which recalled this design. In 2007, Lincoln's Navigator and MKX SUV lines adopted chrome grilles in the style of these Continentals. This so-called "slab-side" design ran from 1961 to 1969 with few changes from year to year. Lincoln dealers began to find that many people who bought 1961 and post-1961 models were keeping their cars longer.
In 1962, a simpler front grille design with floating rectangles and a thin center bar was adopted. Sales climbed over 20% in 1962, to 31,061.
For 1963, in response to customer requests, Lincoln made several changes to the Continental. To improve rear-seat legroom, the design of the front seat was updated. In addition, the design of the rear deck lid was modified to increase luggage space. To improve the electrical charging system of the car, Lincoln replaced the generator with an alternator, as would many manufacturers during this time. 31,233 Continentals were sold.
For 1964, Lincoln gave the Continental a minor redesign, featuring several updates to further improve interior room. The wheelbase was extended three inches, both to improve rear-seat room and to improve the ride. The roofline of sedan versions saw several changes, becoming squared off and adding flat window glass. The rear-mounted gas tank filler door was moved to the driver's side of the car. The front grille was modified slightly from the 1963 model, it now featured a series of five vertical chrome accents that interrupted the square "egg crate" pattern and were distributed evenly between the dual headlights. The exterior "Continental" script was changed and the rear grille replaced by a simple horizontally elongated Continental star on the rear deck lid. 36,297 were sold that year. A concept show car was built, called the Continental Town Brougham, which had a 131 in. wheelbase, overall length at 221.3, and had a retractable glass partition between the front and rear compartments, with an exposed area over the front compartment, in typical 1930s style town car/brougham appearance.
For 1965, the Continental was given several more updates. The pointed, convex grilles seen since the introduction were replaced by a flat, blunt grille. To match the brake lights/turn signals, the front parking lamps/turn signals were moved out of the front bumper, wrapping into the fender; both lenses had ribbed chrome trim. Front disc brakes became standard in order to improve the braking of the 5,000 lb Continental; in addition, front seat belts with retractors became standard. To improve reliability, Lincoln added an oil pressure gauge.
With the facelift, sales improved about 10%, to 40,180 units.
For 1966, a number of changes came to the Continental model line. As Lincoln had left the 2-door luxury sedan segment to Cadillac and Imperial in 1961 by making the Continental exclusively a 4-door, Lincoln chose to develop its answer to the Cadillac Coupe de Ville by introducing a 2-door version of the Continental, the first since 1960. Without any rear doors, the coupe was designed as a pillarless hardtop, although no convertible version was introduced.
Although bearing a strong resemblance to its predecessor, the 1966 Continental was given exterior sheet metal and the interior was again redesigned, featuring the new options of a tape player and a tilt steering wheel. The Continental grew in size, becoming nearly 5 inches longer, an inch wider and nearly an inch taller. While curved side glass replaced flat glass, its tumblehome was less severe than in earlier models. To preserve the performance of the larger Continental, the V8 engine was expanded from 430 cu in (7.0 L) to 462 cu in (7.6 L).
To improve the sales of the convertible, Lincoln added a glass rear window to the convertible top and improved the hydraulic system for opening the top and trunk lid by adding a second pump, separating the two systems; the hydraulic solenoids were also removed from the car as well. To lure potential Cadillac buyers, 1966 Continental prices were reduced almost US$600 without reducing equipment levels. It succeeded, helping boost sales to 54,755 that year, an increase of 36%, all of it due to the new two-door; sales of both four-door models slipped slightly. Product breakdown for the year consisted of 65% sedans, 29% coupes, and just under 6% for the four-door convertible.
For 1967, few changes were made to the Continental, except for minor trim updates. The Lincoln emblem on the front fender was deleted on 1967 models. The dashboard gained several indicator lights, cruise control on, trunk open, and an oil pressure light. In the interest of safety, lap safety belts became standard alongside an energy-absorbing steering column.
After only 2,276 were sold, 1967 was the final year for the convertible. The only factory four-door convertible produced after World War II, the 1967 Lincoln Continental Convertible is one of the heaviest automobiles ever produced by Ford Motor Company. At a curb weight of 5,712 (before options), it is the heaviest Lincoln since the Model K, and is 55 pounds heavier than the corresponding Cadillac Fleetwood Series 75 Limousine and 300 pounds heavier than the Chrysler Imperial LeBaron of that year. The 5,712lbs curb weight is specified in the Lincoln catalog.
For 1968, Lincoln made several styling changes to the Continental. To meet federal safety standards, the parking lights, taillights, and front turn signals were returned to a wraparound design on the fenders to satisfy Federal standards for side marker lights. For the outboard front seats, shoulder seatbelts were added. The new 460 cu in (7.5 l) Ford 385 engine was to be available at the beginning of the model year, but there were so many 462 cu in (7.57 l) Ford MEL engine engines still available, the 460 was phased in later that year. In April, the new Mark III made its debut, as a 1969 model. Total sales would be down to just 39,134. For the 1968 through 1971 Model Years, no stand-up hood ornament was used, some say based on a presumed forthcoming regulatory ban that never eventuated.
For 1969, the fourth-generation Continental entered its last year of production. Lincoln added relatively few changes aside from the addition of federally mandated head restraints. At the beginning of the model year, the 460 V8 entered full production, becoming the sole engine in the Lincoln model line until 1977.
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