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Image: 1968 Lincoln Continental Coupe

America's most distinguished motorcar

1968 Lincoln Continental

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1968 Lincoln ContinentalLincoln advised for 1968 that only Continental owners knew the complete assurance that comes with owning a Lincoln Continental. How it felt to take the wheel, turn the key, and leave the ordinary world behind.

Of course, the pride of driving a car engineered and designed to be the best America has to offer was an obvious reward. The fact that the Continental look was tasteful, understated, and a classic among American cars. A look that was carefully modified year after year to keep it fresh, but not changed so much that it wasn't instantly recognizable as a Lincoln.

Safety played an important role in 1967, and it would in 1968 as well, which would not only add more safety features, but would also require exterior styling refinements to accommodate the new federal safety standards. In meeting these requirements, Lincoln's designers took a step back in time to the 1965 Lincoln for inspiration.

One of the new standards required amber reflectors or lights on the side of the front fender, and a red reflector or light on the rear quarter panel to serve as a warning to approaching cars at night. This was done by relocating the front parking lights to the leading edge of the front fenders, allowing them to wrap around so they could be seen from the side as well as from the front. An amber light was placed in the lower section that would be lit whenever the parking or headlamps were on. The upper section of the assembly would serve as the parking/turn signal, both of which could also be seen from the side.

A new taillight design in the rear also wrapped around the fender so it could be seen from the side. The running lights, brake, turn signal, and rear side marker requirements were all met beautifully. A fine horizontal chrome grille wrapped around the taillight lenses on all cars except those destined for Pennsylvania, which required special chrome bezels around the lens without the decorative chrome grille. Beneath the taillights in the upper bumper area was another grille in the area formerly occupied by the taillights on earlier models. Along the top was a red reflective strip to warn approaching cars, and on the outboard ends the backup lights were concealed. All very tidy, and very much inspired by the 1965 Lincoln Continental.

Image: 1968 Lincoln Continental Sedan

And there was another reason for these changes, other than to just meet current safety standards. Lincoln wanted to provide a clearer resemblance to past models because there was reason to believe the public wasn't accepting the new styling as readily as they had in the past. Lincoln had experienced a production increase every year since 1961 except for the 1967 model year. 1967 was down by over 9,000 cars, or almost 17 percent. All-new styling from Cadillac and Imperial were certainly a factor, as was a new four door body style for the Ford Thunderbird, but Lincoln had made such huge strides in earlier years by identifying a look it could call its own, improving quality control, customer retention, and resale value, that it didn't want one styling misstep to create a problem that might take years to correct.

One of the more prominent styling touches of the 1961-1965 Lincoln was the taillights mounted on the ends of the rear fenders. The 1968 models beautifully updated this design and gave it a fresh new interpretation, and met the new lighting standards as well. The front parking lights incorporated into the front fenders on the 1965 models were perhaps the biggest change to the original styling, except perhaps for squaring off the top rear door glass area where it met the roof line in 1964.

A new grille with open moldings gave a bolder thrust to the look of the '68 Continental. Many believe it to be the most attractive design of this era. The spring-loaded stand-up hood ornament was moved to the front of the header panel above the grille, replacing the Continental lettering that appeared there during 1966-1967.

Despite these precautions, sales once again slipped for 1968. Not as much as they had the year before, but enough to concern the top brass at Lincoln. Perhaps the design was getting a bit dated, in spite of annual styling refinements. Perhaps it was time to make a bigger change. And that change was coming, but wouldn't arrive until the new decade. Lincoln was going to have to stick with this look for 1968 and 1969, but it wouldn't be as cautious for 1969.

The Four Door Convertible was now gone, which left only a four door Sedan and a two door Coupé in the line. The two door did receive an attractive new roof line for 1968, giving the car a more formal look, and providing additional privacy for rear seat passengers. Unknown to many, a new Lincoln model would soon be released that would have a similar roof line, and would open up the personal luxury market to Lincoln.

New options for 1968 included an AM/FM radio and stereo multiplex adapter made by Bendix, which provided true high fidelity FM band stereo reception, played through four speakers, one in each of the side cowl foot well area kick panels, and one in each corner of the rear seat package tray. The sound quality was impressive. The tuner was mounted in the instrument panel, and the multiplex adapter was fitted to a transmission hump bracket, mounted on the tunnel below the instrument panel. Front-to-rear and left-to-right fader controls were part of the multiplex unit, as was an indicator light that signaled the reception of an FM stereo broadcast. A bit cumbersome, but this set up was only used for two years, and Lincoln really needed to provide FM stereo as an option to its customers, since Cadillac had been offering it since 1966.

Another new option was a Rear Window Defogger with Environmental Control. A control to the left of the ignition switch operated a three speed fan behind the rear seat. A lever could be set to Defog or Extractor. In Defog, the blower motor draws in air from an intake in the package tray and immediately discharges it to the rear window. In Extract, a valve controls a vacuum-actuated door that extracts smoke from the passenger compartment into the luggage compartment.

A slew of safety features hit the road in 1968, including energy-absorbing door arm rests with recessed controls for power windows, energy-absorbing steering column and wheel, self-locking folding seats, safety-designed instrument panel controls and knobs, deeper instrument panel padding, larger glass area for interior and exterior mirrors, the previously mentioned side marker lights, and more.

Of course, new interior upholsteries and colors were offered, including a new Limoges fabric with the look of brocade, offered in six colors. The woven nylon material was stitched in a diamond and wide pleat pattern design and was available in seven colors. A Chalfonte fabric was also available in four colors for front bench seats, and was offered in conjunction with the individually-adjustable contour front seats in Black only. Of course, genuine leather was still an extra cost option in ten colors, with the contour front seat option available only in black, dark blue, parchment, or dark ivy gold leather. The seats had 5½ inches of padding, for unsurpassed riding comfort.

A few other things were shuffled around. The optional Embassy Roof became the optional Heritage Roof, with the vinyl covering colors changing from black, ivory and ivy gold to black, ivory, and dark ivy gold. (Ivy gold in 1967 was a lighter sage-colored green, it became a dark green in 1968.) The volume and tuner knobs on the radio were now both on the right side of the radio, one above the other. The headlight and temperature controls also moved, both to the left of the temperature control, with the lights above the temperature knob.

The instrument panel now featured a walnut-tone appliqué throughout, and a new steering wheel design was introduced that echoed the walnut tone on its upper half. A new deep-padded spoke design was covered in padded vinyl and was more attractive than the hub used in '67, and an attractive centerpiece featuring the Continental Star was flanked by more walnut-toned appliqué. The map light was moved to the center right side of the instrument panel to make room for the optional rear defogger controls, making the map light more accessible to front passengers than it had been.

The 1968 Continentals began the year with the same 462 CID V-8 engine introduced for 1966. Waiting in the wings was a new power plant for the line, a 460 CID V-8 that was designed with emission control in mind. Rated at 365 brake horsepower, it was more powerful and more efficient than the 462. Lincoln had actually planned on introducing this engine on the 1968 models, but discovered a warehouse full of 462s that needed to be used first.

The big news at Lincoln for 1968 was the introduction of its new personal luxury car, the 1969 Continental Mark III. Introduced in April 1968 as a 1969 model, the Mark III breathed new life into Lincoln, and gave the division the car it needed to really compete with Cadillac going forward.

1968 Lincoln Continental owners know how it feels to own America's most distinguished motorcar.


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