The bustleback Continental was a big part of my childhood
We all have cars in our lives that we fondly remember. Sometimes it’s one of our parents’ cars, or an uncle’s, or maybe just the next door neighbor’s car, the one that just struck you as extremely cool when you were eight. For me, it was mostly Volvos, as I grew up with them. Until seven years ago, Volvo was the only make of car I owned. At the same time, however, there were certain American cars that left a deep impression on me. Like my grandfather’s 1987 Lincoln Continental sedan.
Bob Klockau was a Lincoln man. It started with a dark green 1966 Continental sedan, factory 8-track stereo in the dash. After that car, he never owned any other marque. My Dad has fond memories of sneaking said Continental out of the garage in the middle of the night as a teen. This was somewhat difficult as the attached two-car garage was immediately below my grandparents’ bedroom… but he managed.
Grandpa Bob was born in 1914 and served in WWII. An oft-told family tale goes something like this: He was stationed in Japan, riding right side in a Jeep somewhere out in the middle of nowhere — when a sniper shot his driver. Only by grabbing the wheel and flooring it was he able to get out of there in one piece. No wonder, then, that he never bought any imported cars, or that he had little patience with my uncle’s purchase of a Subaru GL wagon in 1986.
After the ’66 Continental, Grandpa he had a dark green 1968 Continental Mark III, then a similarly-hued 1972 Continental Mark IV. As you’d expect, he wasn’t particularly thrilled when Dad bought a ’53 VW as a winter beater, or when Dad got into Porsche 356es later on in life. To his credit, though, he accepted it. Especially one sub-zero Midwestern morning in late 1972 when his brand-new Mark IV wouldn’t start despite being garaged. My dad had to give him a ride to the law firm in the VW, which fired up without a hitch, ha ha.
The Mark IV was replaced by a triple midnight-blue Mark V, with the chrome alloy wheels. That was his car when I arrived on the scene. I fondly remember riding in the plush leather back seat and staring out that cool porthole with the gold Lincoln star inset. What a car–and so, SO different from Mom and Dad’s Volvo 240s!
Grandpa Bob always got the first year’s new Mark–until 1980. He took one look at the Mark VI, found it lacking, and kept the V. Six years later, he made the same decision again. The Mark VII was a cool car, and ultra-modern for Lincoln, but he just didn’t care for it. Thus, he kept the blue Mark V ten years.
At some point, however, he decided he should get a new company car. So starting in about 1985, he and Grandma Ruby started talking about a new Lincoln. I remember going with Grammy to South Park L-M and getting brochures on the Continental. The Fox-bodied, bustle-back Continental, that is. I still have the rather impressive ’85 brochure from that visit.
The Mark VII was not my grandparents’ cup of tea, but they liked the Continental, and they felt it was the closest new Lincoln to the much-loved Mark V, visually at least. So in late 1986 my Dad drove the Mark V to the dealer for them, and picked up their brand-new Continental. Six-year-old me accompanied him.
It was a beauty. The Rose Quartz paint, a kind of coppery cinnamon color, was very distinctive, as were the wire-spoked aluminum wheels. There was a mix-up at the factory, though; they’d ordered the light tan leather seats, and the Connie as delivered had the dark taupe interior. As it was too late to order another 1987 model (and they weren’t really thrilled with the all-new, FWD ’88 Continental), they decided to live with the car that arrived at South Park Lincoln-Mercury. I especially liked the electroluminescent “Continental” script on the right side of the dash, which lit up blue-green at night.
It was a looker, to my seven-year-old eyes. A worthy successor to the Mark V. A dark red pinstripe set off the paint nicely, and it was absolutely loaded, with keypad keyless entry, leather interior, premium sound, Automatic Climate Control, the onboard computer, and a power glass moonroof.
Even a zero-option Continental of this era was well-equipped. I spent a LOT of time in this car between the ages of seven and fourteen, as my grandmother and I would often go out to lunch in the summertime, then to the car dealerships (Ford and L-M, naturally), before picking up my grandfather from work. I loved that car.
Because it’s built on the same prosaic Fox platform as many other Fords, the 1982-87 Continental has been called a fancy Fairmont, a Broughamed-out Mustang sedan, a Seville knockoff, and many other uncomplimentary things. Still, the Fox chassis was well thought out, the rear-wheel-drive was a plus — and, of course, the fuel-injected 5.0L V8 was great.
Though it looked markedly different from the Mark VII, especially the Euro-look LSC coupe, the Connie was essentially a four-door VII. I always wondered why they didn’t offer a Continental LSC–a flossier version of the short-lived but much-loved V8 Fox LTD LX. It wouldn’t have taken much. On the other hand, most of Lincoln’s clientele could best be described as “traditional”. They preferred whitewall tires, chrome, and wire wheel covers to blacked-out trim and blackwall Goodyear tires. And the LSC more than fulfilled those desiring a sporty Lincoln.
The Continental was also the last four-door Fox-body FoMoCo produced, outliving the Fairmont by four model years and the restyled LTD (the non-Crown Victoria version, that is) by one year. They were never really big sellers, though I do recall seeing others about town. During the mid- to late-’80s, the Town Car was the sales king. You got more car for less money, or at least it looked that way at first glance.
Unfortunately, not too long after the Continental was delivered, my grandfather’s eyesight got to the point where he couldn’t drive any more. To his credit, he accepted his problem, and never tried to sneak off for a drive around the block. From then on, my grandmother drove him to the office and picked him up, and her own ’77 Thunderbird (black, with buckets, white interior and red dash and carpet, and factory CB) was used much less frequently.
They were discussing replacing the Continental with a Town Car in late 1988, but sadly, Grandpa Bob passed away in early 1989, so the ’87 was his last car. My grandmother alternated between the Continental and the T-Bird for a few years, finally selling the ‘Bird almost thirty years ago.
Grandpa never retired, and indeed was an active businessman to the end. He went to the University of Illinois in Champaign on the GI Bill (and regularly drove a Henderson motorcycle between Champaign and the Quad Cities), became a lawyer, started a successful law firm, and also founded Illinois Casualty Company, a firm at which I worked for years, and from which my father retired in 2012.
I was only nine when he died, but I’ll never forget my grandfather. He is singularly responsible for my love of Lincoln Continentals, and indeed, most traditional American luxury cars. He’s a big reason why I now own two Lincolns. So you can probably understand how I felt when I saw this lovely 1986 model at the local Lincoln dealership one summer several years ago. It brought up many fond memories. All of my grandparents are now gone, but my grandfather’s love of cars–and my Dad’s!–have led me on this car-loving path since my earliest days. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.