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Lincoln Continental Convertibles of the 1960's

parmparm Posts: 724
edited July 2014 in Bentley
In talking to a classic Cadillac owner who's also a Lincoln owner, he asked if I'd ever considered a 1960's Lincoln Continental convertible.

I told him I had, but not seriously like I have Cadillacs. However, he got me thinking and the "wheels in my head" (they're small) started to turn ever so slowly.

So, rather than jump into the deep end, I thought it best to start in the "baby pool" with regard to building my personal knowledge base on this marque.

Therefore, I'm turning to you folks, my cavalcade of classic car experts, as my initial foray into this marque. In terms of this forum discussion, I'd like to learn about '66-'67 Continental convertibles, but I'm certainly open to hearing about other years as well.

So, at the risk of being "shunned" by the Edmunds flock for excessive waffling, I'd appreciate any comments about Continentals of the 60's, but would prefer specific advice/input on 66-67's.

I'll probably also pick brochures on Ebay for 66-67 Continentals. I'm pretty sure '67 was the last year for the Continental convertible.

According to some price guides, it looks like the value of a 66-67 Continental convertible is generally less (by $2K to $5K) than a 62-64 Cadillac convertible (my favorite years) even when compared to an Eldorado. So, one could make the argument that by going Continental, I'd get more car for the money.

But, is this a car I want more of?


  • ghuletghulet Posts: 2,628
    Is there a reason (other than styling) that you prefer the '66-67 over the '61-65? I like the styling on both, the '66-67s are generally a bit cheaper. Do know that they are GIGANTIC cars (221 inches long, 5500 pounds, which is about 800 pounds heavier than a '62 Eldo) and that the top mechanism is beyond complicated. I'm guessing a suuuper nice convertible should be around $15k. I probably wouldn't touch a needy example, they're not cheap to restore.
  • parmparm Posts: 724
    I don't car for the styling of the 61-65's. But, I do like the 66-67 models. Yeah, these things are huge. At 221 inches, they're almost identical in length to a '62 Eldorado (222 inches).

    Anybody know how much trunk space is available when the convertible top is down? Do you have to use the mechanism to open the trunk or is there a separate conventional pop-up trunk deck?
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,040
    ...are the '62-64. I didn't care too much for the '61's grille...has that T-bird-era "peakiness" to it. And the '65 just has kind of a cheap, pretentious look to it. More like a Mercury or Chrysler than a Lincoln.

    Not sure about the convertible's trunk room, but here's a pic of a '65 sedan's trunk...

    It's kinda hard to tell from a pic, but it doesn't really look like there's a whole lot of room in there. The car looks like it should have a lot of room, but because it's so low-slung, stuff like the suspension, sub-frame rails, gas tank, etc are going to intrude into trunk space. I'm guessing the spare tire would have to go down in that well for the 'vert, taking up even more room.

  • parmparm Posts: 724
    The convertible "Flair Bird" (64-66 T-Birds) had nearly zero useable trunk space when the top was folded down. I would think buyers of a Lincoln convertible would demand some useable trunk space with the top down.

    Does anyone know if the only access to the trunk was via the power rear lid apparatus or was there also a pop-up trunk thus allowing more conventional trunk access. I suspect the former is true.
  • ghuletghulet Posts: 2,628
    ...the trunk was 'normally' accessible (via rear opening with regular hinges).
  • grbeckgrbeck Posts: 2,361
    In his book, Lincoln and Continental 1946-1980: the Classic Postwar Years, Paul Woundenburg has this to say about the convertible's trunk: "The convertible's trunk was nearly useless with the top down and extremely awkward for loading with the top up. Side loading over the fenders was difficult with luggage and it was nearly impossible to reach the spare tire."

    A bigger concern is the mechanical complexity of these cars. The top mechanism requires eleven relays, motors and switches. (Ford probably used a lot of the technology and engineering from the 1957-59 Skyliners.) The rear door glass automatically lowers six inches when the door is opened to clear the convertible top. The power window motors were sealed in rubber at the factory.

    These cars are beautiful - I especially like the 1961 with its Thunderbird-like grille - but undoubtedly a nightmare to restore. They are probably considerably more complicated than Cadillac or Imperial convertibles.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,604
    One of the best looking post WW II American cars ever made, hands down (my other favorite for beauty is the '65 Corvair hardtop coupe). From 1964 on, however, the Lincoln convert got messier and messier, and became a grotesque car eventually after the convertible was dropped.

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  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,711
    No wonder the Lincoln ragtop was dropped in 1967, right?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,604
    Yes, '67, I think that's right. Sometimes the convertible of a car looks better than the hardtop, and vice-versa. In this case, the 60s convertible Lincolns were in my opinion by far the more handsome, as they cut the cars height and bulky slab-sided look.

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  • ghuletghulet Posts: 2,628
    The Continental convertible wasn't made after 1967 (which was the lowest production year for the 'vert, at 2276 units). I also saw (at Volo Auto Museum) a '66 Cadillac 4-door convertible, which GM was supposedly considering for production until Ford's decision to discontinue the Continental convertible.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,604
    Good move to cancel it. 4-door convertibles are an old fashioned style, going back to the idea of the "phaeton". 4 doors and convertible are almost a contradiction in terms to a modern buyer.

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  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 19,603
    I would proceed with great caution...these cars can be real pigs. I agree with Shifty...they are one of the best looking cars of all times both sedans and convertables.

    They can be mechanical nightmares however and handle horribly. The front suspensions are troublesome and the electricals are worse.

    Kinda like the T-Birds of that era only worse.

    GM offerings were MUCH better in those years.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,604
    Yeah, you need to do a lot of sorting out of factory sloppiness and poor engineering.

    But there are websites that tell you most of the nightmares and how to go about correcting them. When you get them squared away, they are a real crowd pleaser. Handsome car, the early ones I mean.

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  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    These were some of my favorite cars when they were new, especially the convertibles. Not only were they some of the best looking, most elegant cars on the road but the four-door convertible was a real novelty.

    I like the first year the best, with the Thunderbird front end. It's a surprisingly sporty look although it probably doesn't blend with the rest of the car as well as the later more formal front end.

    Perry Mason drove one, the ultimate product endorsement in those days.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,604
    No wonder the front suspension suffered!

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  • carnut4carnut4 Posts: 574
    in those springy 55 Buicks! I bet they sagged to the left as he drove off.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 19,603
    The 1961's were the first and the worst of the bunch. It didn't take a Raymond Burr to quickly wear out the front suspension bushings, shafts and ball joints. The power steering gearboxes were a miserable problam area too.

    I remember the exhaust manifolds would crack and were a real PITA to replace.

    The more I think about it the more nightmares I remember with the 61-67 Lincolns.

    Still...they were classy looking, no doubt about that.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    Speaking of exhaust manifolds, the Lincoln 430 was kind of an odd engine. Like the 348-409 the combustion chamber was contained in the piston crown, not machined into the cylinder head. A good engine by late '50s standards--lots of cubes, big ports and valves--but really heavy. There was a factory three deuce set-up available on the '58 Mercury 410. There was also a 383 version that was standard on the top line Mercs.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 19,603
    I remember as a kid working in a gas station, we had a customer with a '58 Mercury Wagon that had the three two barrel carbs. I was impressed at the time but the car was a piece of junk that we hated to work on.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    I wonder why both GM and Ford went the same route--chamber in the piston, not the head--at the same time. Both the 348 and the 383/410/430 came out for the '58 model year.

    Apparently it makes for a really heavy piston. That's probably less of a problem if the engine is intended for low-speed applications, and the 348 was designed for truck use. Maybe Ford thought big-inch engines were just for luxury cars, not racing, although they did have some factory racing parts for the 410.

    What's the upside? It's probably makes it easier and cheaper to machine the cylinder head.
  • carnut4carnut4 Posts: 574
    have the same thing-combustion chamber in the block? Can't remember for sure. Now THERE was a truck engine, for sure.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    Could be. I don't know a thing about the Jimmy, although when someone posted a photo of one in another thread I did think it resembled the 348. It's a real mystery engine, one that hardly anyone seems to know anything about.

    Here's a great link...
  • roydonahueroydonahue Posts: 1
    I have a '97 Continental with 115,000 miles. Recently the "service engine soon" light came on and the local dealer claimed I needed a new catalytic converter at a total cost of some $2,400! Another mechanic, not affiliated with Ford/Lincoln, ran the same diagnostic program and switched off the warning light and told me to just drive it. So far the problem has not recurred in over 1,000 miles. Anyone out there had a similar experience? Am I just marking time and asking for more trouble down the road? thanks
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,604
    Hi, and welcome to the Edmunds forums.

    Your post is about modern Lincolns and this topic is specifically about "classics" from the 60s.

    I'd like to link you over to our Maintenance & Repair Board, and specifically this topic, which I think you will find helpful:

    Check Engine Light Topic
    thank you


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  • scootertrashscootertrash Posts: 698
    Maybe he can cut the top off and weld up some suicide rear door hinges.
  • douglasrdouglasr Posts: 191
    Having driven them for 32 years, and more than 1Mn miles, I know that most of the comments posted herein are incorrect.

    The 61-3 drive very well when properly sorted, and the brakes are redone, with correct 9.50x14 tyres. I drove one 100K and had a great time with it. The convertible top system was the most reliable of the entire decade...being that it DID NOT have the Upper Back Panel Limit Switch used in later cars to cut down the number of relays and switches. All of the convertibles used heavier steel and components to support the added weight and the car drove quite well considering what it was. The 66-67's drive the best and easiest to maintain. The 64-5's are the hardest to maintain, with the 65's being by far the better car.

    There is, without doubt, nothing like it on the road. Public acceptance of the car then and now is astounding. Most of them were "driven hard and put away wet" , neglected, abused, and forgotten for many years---thus there problematic reputation, dealers didn't want to fool with them. Ergo many were allowed to rot into dust, and often crushed. Why only 25-33% of these cars have survived of the 15,571 that were made.

    Ford Motor's $1.5Mn investment in the system was justified in that it gave Lincoln something that no one else had---a design concept now copied by almost every auto maker today: the automatic retracting convertible top system. I spoke with one of the design engineers for the system, a 22 year old man at the time, at it was all excitement at Lincoln then: "We had a great time doing it...a alot of midnight oil on that."

    You forget that without the '61 Lincoln, a car that McNamara threatened to cancel, that Walker & Bordinat saved from the ash-heep of history with the revised E-Studio T-Bird clay in July of 1958, Lincoln would have been history---especially if you have ever seen what they WOULD HAVE built. All you have to do is drive a
    60's Lincoln around town to see what people really think.

    As for the driving, Lincoln offered disc brakes in '65 before Cadillac and Imperial. A well sorted drum system on the early cars still works OK. A ten year development program yeilded the best results: 65-9 Lincoln brakes being the best of any other car in the world save the 300SEL, and Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow. The system was not "improved" upon until the advent of hydro-boost a decade a later, but then Lincoln used non-Kelsey-Hayes calipers and the car suffered. A good '66-'69 can outdrive many cars, especially the 460 '68-69 Lincoln with almost perfect weight balance owing to the lighter but more powerful engine. No Imperial or Cadillac can keep up.

    Quality issues were excellent. Lincoln/Wixom outdid themselves in this department, with each car being driven 15 miles on public roads before being delivered, and the engine plant inspecting every 100th engine. Each car recieved a 189 point inspection program plus an additional 26 point dealer inpsection. Reason being that the 58-60 Lincolns had been a nightmare and nearly killed Lincolnin the market-place.

    The four-door convertible, the ultimate "guys" car, with room for a duffle bag and clubs with the top down, personified the era: JFK drove a '63 in Palm Beach. Earle Stanley Gardner, author of the Perry Mason series, having owned many Lincolns including his first Model K in 1933, has his hero driving Lincolns, and thus it came to be that 'Perry Mason' drove a Lincoln. Raymond Burr became a devotee as well, after having the pleasure of Lincoln's company.

    For those who think the cars unweildy, wallowing, or what-have-you, you have not driven a good example, and not had the pleasure of the public acclaim driving one. If you can't catch a date driving a Lincoln Continental Four-Door Convertible, then, to paraphrase Winston Churchil, when Lady Astor told him: "Winston you're drunk", and he responded: "I may be drunk, but in the morning, I will be sober, but YOU will still be ugly"; thus it must be so: if you can't catch a date in a Lincoln Continental Convertible, you're still ugly.

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,604
    I really like those cars. Very handsome. I have driven them. I guess my major complaint on the car is that the top is pretty badly designed in terms of weather protection and rattles and squeeks. It's got enough canvas to sail a 40 foot yacht but it simply doesn't keep weather or noise out very well. I wouldn't mind owning a nice clean hardtop version, or the ragtop where the top never ever goes up.

    I think most of these cars got ratty because they never had the value or prestige of their competitor Cadillacs--being so undervalued, few people were willing to undergo a complex and expensive restoration. They just drove 'em til they dropped.

    As for quality, for Ford it was very good at the time but I don't think it approaches its nemesis, the Cadillac.

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  • of those. I'm not up to a project car, but I think a great mid-life crises car would be an early '60's Lincoln Continental. There's just something about the look. I guess I'll just satisfy myself with my 1/18 scale model!
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,040
    who was into both Cadillacs and Lincolns and he said that back in the 60's the Lincolns made the Caddies look like crap, when it came to build quality and such. I wonder if it's because the Lincolns were unitized, and that might have helped give them more of a tank-like feeling? IMO, the Cadillacs definitely have more of a mass-produced quality about them, whereas a Lincoln just seems a bit more custom-built. Or, at least as custom-built as a mass-produced car could be.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,604 could be true that as a limited production they had more care taken in fit and finish, but that's not the same as quality. Rolls Royce had excellent fit and finish but were pretty awful cars. So the whole "hand-built" argument is ver-y tricky to translate into quality.

    You'd be hard pressed to find more bullet-proof drivelines, for instance than Cadillacs of the era, and their tops did fit pretty well and kept weather out.

    And the survival rate of old Caddies isn't bad, either.

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