1971 Lincoln Continental
8-cyl. 460cid/365hp 4bbl
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
The Lincoln Continental sedan was redesigned for 1970, dispelling the last traces of the 1961 design. Fenders were now chamfered and no longer had moldings running the length of the car, all four doors were now hinged at the front, and headlights were concealed behind shutters. The grille was formed of five horizontal bars which extended full-width. Taillights were integrated in the bumpers and the roofline was lower.
Both the Lincoln Continental sedan and coupe were powered by the 365 bhp, 460 cid V-8 with automatic transmission and all power accessories, including air conditioning in 96 percent of the cars. The wheelbase grew one inch to 127 inches, but the car remained 224 inches overall. The sedan outsold the coupe 28,622 to 3,073.
The Continental Mark III luxury coupe continued virtually unchanged but gained automatic climate control and rosewood dash trim was changed to walnut. The Mk III was the first American car to be fitted with steel-belted radial tires, but sales dropped 30 percent to 21,432.
For 1971 the Continental sedan and coupe changed little, though the grille was narrower and taller, while headlight doors were body colored. Steel belted tires and climate control were fitted to all Lincolns, while door beams increased the weight. Coupe sales rose to 8,205, and sedans dropped slightly to 27,346. The Continental Mk III coupe gained high-back buckets seats and a console and sales jumped to 27,091.
Big news for 1972 was the replacement of the Mk III coupe with the even bigger Lincoln Continental Mk IV. A classic vertically barred grille extended down into the front bumper, while the C-pillar featured an oval opera window. Four taillights were fitted in the massive rear bumper. Sales doubled from the Mk III, to 48,591. The Continental sedan and coupe continued the same basic shape, with a cross-hatched grille and moldings along the tops of the fenders. Sedan sales rose to 35,561, while the coupe found 10,408 buyers. Horsepower was now calculated in net terms and the 460 cid engine generated just 224 bhp.
Emissions regulations stiffened in 1973 and stronger bumper standards meant the Mk IV grille was shortened. Mk IV horsepower dropped to 208 bhp, as it only had a single exhaust. Even so, Mk IV sales jumped to 69,437. The sedan and coupe gained Continental script on the hood, and bigger bumpers. Horsepower dropped to 219 bhp, but sedan sales rose to 45,288 and coupe sales to 13,348.
Lincoln sales dropped across the board in 1974 as bumper regulations added still more weight and stricter emissions reduced mileage. The sedan and coupe gained wraparound turn signals. Mk IV sales slipped to 57,316, sedan sales dipped to 29,351 and coupe sales to 7,316.
The year 1975 saw significant changes to the Continental sedan and coupe with a new greenhouse with bigger windows and distinct B pillars. The fender line was now straight through to vertical taillights. The Town Car sedan option included soft cushions, deep pile (shag) carpet and multiple interior lights. The Mark IV gained four-wheel disc brakes, a halo roof option and luxury group packages. Mk IV sales dipped to 47,145, while coupe sales doubled to 21,185 and sedans rose slightly to 33,513.
Lincoln changed direction in 1976, deleting a lot of standard equipment, now only available on the Town Car packages. Even the automatic climate control was now manual. The Mk IV was available in designer packages including Cartier, Givenchy, Bill Blass, and Pucci, all with significantly different color schemes and interior touches. “Mix and match” colors were available in unusual shades. Mk IV sales rebounded to 56,110, while 24,663 coupes and 43,983 sedans found buyers.
The Continental sedan and coupe gained a Mk IV-style grille in 1977, while the MK IV itself was reskinned to become the Mk V. Slightly lighter, it featured blade-thin fenders on a straight-through line, ending in vertical taillights and a straight lower beltline. The vinyl roof was no longer standard. The 460 cid V-8 was joined by an optional 400-cubic inch engine. Sales of the Mk V soared to 80,321 units, while the sedan jumped to 68,160 and the coupe notched up 27,440 sales. A CB radio was optional.
For 1978, the 400 cid engine became the norm, though the 460 could be ordered, except in California and mountain states. Fender skirts were deleted, and half vinyl roofs commonly fitted to sedans. The Designer Series continued with different colors on the Mk V, but a Diamond Jubilee model was added for Ford’s anniversary. Mk V sales totaled 72,602, while sedan sales were 67,110 and coupes 20,977.
The year 1979 would see the last full-sized Continentals, and the 460 engine had yielded to a 159 bhp 400 V-8. In addition to the Town Car package (one of which as a package-on-a-package – the Williamsburg Town car) there was also a Collector’s Edition and the Mk V Designer Series. Mk V sales stayed steady at 75,939 units, as did the coupe at 16,142, but sedans sales soared to 76,458, presumably as limousine services and funeral homes stocked up for the future.