1971 Lincoln Continental: Magnet for a Mini-Me Klockau
My love of Ford Motor Company’s luxury marque is well established. Very few people, at least those who appreciate vintage cars, would argue that the 1961–69 Lincoln Continental was anything but a classic design and a true American luxury car, but I also am rather fond of the 1970–73 version. Remember those? They’ve kind of faded from memory over the decades, with the ’60s Continentals on one side and the square-rigged, luxury railroad coaches—the 1975–79 Continentals—on the other.
I certainly remember them. A big part of that is due to an old, forgotten ’71 Continental sedan sitting in a 1920s-era one-car garage not far from my neighborhood, circa 1989. From the age of approximately five through the end of junior high, my bike took me where I wanted to go. Traffic was more sedate then, and I lived in a nice quiet town, so I rode all over the place.
Said dusty, triple-black 1971 Continental sedan, sitting in an equally dusty garage, was investigated by your author all the time. It never moved. About two feet of the trunk protruded out of the garage opening, with the garage door itself snugged down to the top of the trunk lid; that garage was designed for Ford Model As and Model Ts, not an early ’70s Nimitz-class luxocruiser. Peering below the aforementioned door, one could see layer upon layer of dust on all horizontal surfaces and four flat tires. But the car, at least to my memory, was in decent shape and complete other than one broken rear window. The standard wheel discs (not the optional turbine-vaned Luxury wheel covers) were sitting on the rear seat. I knew it was a ’71 due to the three triple taillight clusters per side. Even then I knew the finer points of older Lincolns and Cadillacs, thanks to my grandparents’ Lincoln ownership and my Tomica (Pocket Cars) diecast Continental Mark IV.
Back then it never occurred to me why this car was sitting in this garage for so many years. In retrospect, it was rather odd, as the house that belonged to the garage was in excellent shape, with a well-tended yard. Even the garage was in nice shape too, dusty old car within notwithstanding. And the car was only 16 or 17 years old at the time, not terribly old, considering I drove a 2000 Town Car Cartier daily until August 2021.
I have no idea what that black Continental’s story was. The garage was never in use, and the homeowner had a cream-over-gold 1982–85 Chrysler LeBaron coupe that sat in the driveway and was in nice shape. The driveway was perpendicular to the garage. The garage itself was placed oddly on the lot. Best I can figure is that maybe there had been another house on the corner, and it had been torn down, with the house next door (and accompanying driveway) inheriting the garage. Now it’s much too late to find out what that car’s story was. Back then, all my adolescent brain was thinking was “Cool old Continental! Must investigate!”
I actually (quite stupidly, in retrospect) snuck in the garage one time and actually got into the car. What can I say, kids do dumb things, especially when said dumb kid is totally infatuated with a then-20-year-old, neglected Lincoln. I had no nefarious intent; I simply wanted to check it out.
I remember sitting in the back seat on plush black leather, then climbing into the front seat and being totally smitten with that amazing dashboard and Y-spoke steering wheel.
Is that not a great steering wheel or what?
Another time (yes, I was dumb enough to do it more than once!) I got into the car only (to my horror) see the man of the house mowing the lawn near the end of the garage. He was less than five feet from the doorless doorway at the opposite end of the garage.
Oh crap! It never occurred to my nine-year-old brain that I was nigh-on invisible to him, sitting in a dark car in a dark garage on that sunny summer day. So I sat in the rear compartment of that car for what seemed a very long time, but in actuality was probably five minutes or so. Never did that again! Such escapades were rare in my childhood. But this car was a special case. I was just smitten with it.
So I had a thing for these cars. Indeed, at a car show that my dad and I attended in 1991, a vendor had a bunch of old car brochures. Dad said he would buy me a couple. Naturally, I zeroed right in on the silvery covers of the 1971 Lincoln Continental and Mark III brochure, with “my” car in it! My second choice? The equally-plush 1971 Cadillac deluxe catalog. I still have both. I definitely have a fondness for 1971 American luxury yachts.
And thus we come to the present, or rather the near-present, with this most excellent tan-over-brown 1971 Continental sedan. I spotted it at the 2014 LCOC meet in Rockford, Illinois. It is owned by Bill Fletcher, who I didn’t know at the time but is now a friend. Heck, I wasn’t even a member of the club yet, but this show, held in September 2014, was what led to my joining the club the following January.
The 1970-up Continentals have been said by some to be something of a letdown compared to its 1961–69 forebear. Let’s face it, the ’60s Continentals are well known and well loved. But keep in mind, that generation—despite a refresh for 1966—was rather long in the tooth. What should Lincoln otherwise have done? You have to keep your products fresh and modern.
Luxury car buyers, then and now, want the newest one they can get, with all the latest gadgets. This was the right Continental for the ’70s. Essentially all-new, save the engine and transmission. As nice and as elegant as the ’60s Lincoln Continental was, they were just used luxury cars by the ’70s—comfort, presence, and appeal notwithstanding.
But for some reason you don’t see the 1970–73 Continentals as much as the 1961–69 and 1975–79 versions. The 1974, which kind of split the difference between the two generations, is even less frequently seen. So I was pleased as punch to spy Bill’s car. It brought back many memories!