Project Valentino: You’ll always be a part of me

Sajeev Mehta

Welcome to the latest installment of Project Valentino, a series dedicated to the decades-long story of senior editor Sajeev Mehta and the car that got him interested in cars: 1983 Lincoln Continental Valentino designer series. Join him as he works to restore the most complex of ’80s Ford products to its original glory—and then some. 

It’s been over a year since our last Project Valentino update, and during this time my bank account was allowed to heal. But idle hands do not a Valentino make, so I’ve been acquiring more choice parts online and lining up materials and services to recondition the interior. I even sold a few bits in an attempt to re-fill the coffers, but that’s really not the point: I had to move everything out of our warehouse, including my parts car.

Project Valentino
Sajeev Mehta

The Valentino rolled to the restoration shop for the last batch of tasks that I cannot complete: installing windows, bumpers, sealing up the fuel system, refinishing bodyside trim, finding a home for the Baumann transmission controller, and integrating the later EEC-IV engine wiring into the Valentino’s EEC-III compliant harness. All fun stuff, but I turned back inside the warehouse, as my vent-window donor car wasn’t making the journey to the new storage solution. Because after ten years of collecting dust and losing components, the time had come for it to meet the crusher’s cold, unyielding jaws.

Burning vacation time for acts of thankless manual labor isn’t terribly thrilling for most folks, but I did my best to enjoy the process. Luckily the heat of a Houston summer isn’t upon us yet, and working in a nearly empty warehouse never hurt anyone.

But I didn’t take everything the parts car offered, as this 1984 Continental sports a shocking number of interior, exterior and suspension revisions from my 1983 Continental Valentino. I still took anything I might need in the future, either to replace a broken part, or to sell/give to someone in the Fox Body Continental community. More on that later, but first a brief backstory on why this car was never supposed to be stripped for parts and sold for scrap.

Back in 2012, this 1984 Continental was a purchased from a forum member of Which is an ironic twist of fate, as he purchased one of my 5.0 “High Output” powertrains to ditch the central fuel injection only a year earlier. His vision is much like that of Project Valentino, and it should have experienced a similarly charmed life upon its successful transition to a port-fuel injected, 200 horsepower 5.0 HO. It’s a rare beast, as I can count the number of HO-swapped Continentals in existence on a single hand.

Looking upon the high(er) performance, header-equipped engine bay, stripped of precious wiring and accessories needed for Project Valentino, I can’t help but lament at the wasted potential of this whip. Why did he sell it to me, and seal its fate?

Youth, ambition, and sentimentality do not necessarily work well together. Before I got it, a garage wall mishap damaged the hood and the cowl. The “fix” included attaching the hood to the core support with a wood screw (yes, really) and giving up on the dented cowl. It went further downhill upon closer inspection: botched components (glued and duct taped lights), questionable engineering (hacked harnesses with tap splices that go no where, un-wound RCA cables used for wiring, etc.), and poor rust repair (riveted repair panels, an abundance of body filler) at every corner. But still, this was a running, driving, fully-functional Continental with the same powertrain you’d find under the hood of a 1986 Mustang GT. The air suspension didn’t leak, and the A/C even blew ice cold.

I admired this car, but I rejected the forum member’s numerous requests to buy it. That is, until he lowered the price to $800 and gave his blessings to use it as a parts car. I was certain I’d get my money’s worth out of an HO-swapped Continental donor, as it completed a task that I’ve yet to start. He was even willing to deliver it. Pretty much impossible to turn down that deal, and it saved me thousands in parts and labor to boot.

Every time I drove it around the block, I secretly wished it could have a better future. That was a foolish notion on par with the previous owner’s request to pull the fancy dash speakers on his behalf. Ten years passed on that, and now I could use said speakers for another Fox Body Ford. But time is fleeting: the lease is running out, and my vacation time is finite. Smashing the windshield to quickly yank the speakers got the job done, even if the cruelty left a hole in my heart.

But good comes from evil (as it were). This friendly citizen of Israel found me on the Fox Continental Facebook group, buying my parts car’s passenger cornering light to complete his restoration. I even found another Valentino owner who lives just a few miles from me, and his need for a functional overhead compass and power-trunk pulldown motor shall be resolved thanks to this month’s efforts to strip my parts car.

After almost a day of stripping parts and hurling metal junk into the Continental’s slanted trunk, the time came for my friend with a truck and trailer to take it off my hands. Parts cars that don’t run are no big deal, but the long-flattened air suspension meant pulling the chassis atop the trailer with a come-along, dragging the exhaust and fuel tank along the way.

Thank goodness the 20+ year old Michelin tires still held air long enough to get the Continental up the trailer, but this was still no small feat. With the vehicle loaded up, ratchet straps secured the trunk/hood, the parts car was finally done serving me and Project Valentino. While I’m usually a nostalgic fool, I was frankly relieved to see it go.

But parts cars pop up everywhere on the Internet, especially Facebook. This example showed up on my aforementioned Facebook group, as the owner lost interest in fixing/driving/reselling it. While I needed nothing from it, the Valentino “V” logo floor mats were a mid-cycle update for 1985 (for a trim level that ironically wouldn’t live to see the next model year), that I wanted for my collection. I bought the emblems too, and everything cleaned up well with a little soaking and scrubbing.

And thanks to the Internet, my need for parts for Project Valentino is known far and wide. Being a journalist never hurts, as my friend Murilee Martin was kind enough to grab stuff from a 1982 Continental Givenchy in the dead of winter. (He even wrote about it on his corner of the Internet.)  I wish it was a 1983 model (correct faux-woodgrain trim), but beggars can’t be choosers at this point. With only 16,381 Continentals made in 1983, Project Valentino now lives in the world of unobtainum parts, so you make do with whatever’s available.

More to the point, whatever you may possess can only expedite your best-laid plans. Let’s hope this fresh cache of parts makes the next Project Valentino update far more fruitful.

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