1978 Lincoln Continental Town Car: Proudly Nimitz Class!
For some, the 1970s are less than happy times. Oil crisis, big bumpers, highly questionable fashion. But I love that decade, because some of the Broughamiest, most majestic domestic luxury cars were built during that 10-year period.
Right now I know some of you are saying, “Hey! Wait a minute! There were some even more fantastic luxury cars during the classic period! Duesenberg! Packard! Cadillac V16!” And yes, I wholeheartedly agree. But I just love those ’70s land yachts. There was just something about them. As you know, our love for cars can be very subjective. And subject to our individual history.
For instance, when I was a little kid, our neighbor across the alley, Bill Yokas, had a majestic, white 1979 Lincoln Continental Collectors Series. White vinyl coach roof, turbine alloy wheels, and many square feet of Kasmin II cloth in midnight blue inside. I loved that car. At that time Bill was in probably his mid 50s, but was very tolerant of me and my brother coming over and visiting when he was puttering around in the yard and the garage.
I loved that Continental. It was so huge, especially since I was about four-feet tall at the time. Although I never rode in it, I got to sit behind the wheel once and it was wonderful. It had been his brother’s car, and when he passed away, Bill got it. It was the “garage queen,” only driven on weekends, usually to services at the local Greek Orthodox church.
So, I have a history with these. And my grandfather had a midnight blue 1977 Continental Mark V, so I had already been predisposed to American luxury yachts. Unbeknownst to me at that time, though, these Lincolns were the last gasp of truly uncompromising size, space, and silence.
As I’ve previously discussed, Cadillac, Lincoln’s arch rival, had downsized its cars in 1977. It was partly a reaction to the first gas crisis of 1973–74 and partly due to deciding its cars were just too big anyway. While I love those ’77–79 Caddys too, they were not quite as impressive, at first blush, when compared to, say, a ’76 Fleetwood Talisman. But they still had room and space and still looked like a Cadillac, despite a decidedly smaller footprint.
Meanwhile at Lincoln, there were some changes starting in 1978, but they were not immediately apparent to the casual observer. While the Cadillacs were clearly a clean-sheet design, the Continentals were approximately the same when seen from a distance. The most obvious differences were the smaller rear fender skirts (some say the 1978–79s don’t have skirts at all, but they do, they’re just very narrow) and the all-new dash.
That new instrument panel was essentially a gilded Marquis/LTD dash. Apparently it was a slightly lighter assembly, and collectively, certain components on the ’78s were replaced with lighter elements here and there, without compromising that true American space and size Lincoln owners were accustomed to.
Not that it was played up in showroom literature. As the ’78 Continental brochure assured, “Lincoln Continental is truly a standard by which other luxury cars are judged. Whether it’s for roominess, comfort, styling, overall quality, or value, Lincoln Continental owners have their own reasons for owning Lincoln Continental; they’ve got their standards.” A not-too-subtle dig at shrunken Cadillac owners, perhaps?
And so did the Continental and the flossier Town Car/Town Coupé and the personal luxury Mark V carry on—until 1980. Then, despite all the large-car bluster, Lincoln downsized its cars as well. But for those last two years of the ’70s, you could still get a really big, imposing Lincoln, if you felt the need! This particular car was like new, finished in Champagne with matching crushed velour and coach roof. I photographed it and gawked at it at the cruise night in downtown Mt. Carroll, Illinois, back in the summer of 2015. It’s always been a great event and has resulted in a couple other columns of mine, notably the ’79 Cordoba and ’76 Marquis Brougham.
Look at these cars and marvel, for we’ll never see their like again. So keep calm, Brougham on, and always tip your bartender!