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Image: 1969 Lincoln Continental Sedan

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1969 Lincoln Continental

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1969 Continental Mark III



Image: The 1969 Lincoln ContinentalsIn a continued effort to improve sales, there were more styling refinements for the 1969 Lincoln Continentals. Though the changes were few, they were substantial. Corporate Vice President Eugene Bordinat headed the Lincoln in-house styling department and oversaw the revisions. It's important to note that for 1969, Lincoln was in the 12th year of the unit body construction introduced for 1958, and in the ninth year of the basic body design introduced for 1961. Major styling revisions for 1964 and 1966 had enabled Lincoln to continue with this design much longer than it normally would have been able to. This body construction was very strong, but special steps had to be taken to reduce noise and vibration, and it was costly to repair in the event of a collision or if the need for corrosion repair was necessary.

1969 would be the final year for this body construction, as it was more expensive than the more traditional body on frame construction that was being utilized successfully on the new Continental Mark III. For 1970, Lincoln would be all-new, longer and wider than 1969, with increased interior dimensions in virtually every area. One of the main reasons for this expansion was that the full sized Mercury cars had grown over the years, and for 1969 were fractionally longer than the Lincolns. In fact, the top of the line Mercury Marquis Brougham was very distinctive, with styling that was originally considered for the 1966 Lincoln Continentals. Mercury didn't hesitate to call attention to the luxurious appearance of its new 1969 styling, even mentioning Lincoln in some of its advertising. One advertisement for the Mercury Marquis Colony Park station wagon that appeared in the 1969-1970 time frame even went as far as to state that if Lincoln Continental built a station wagon, this would be it! While this was done with Lincoln's knowledge, one has to wonder if the comparisons somehow diluted the Continental's prestige, since the two cars often appeared in the same showrooms.

Image: 1969 Lincoln Continental SedanUnder Bordinat's direction, a fresh new interpretation of the Lincoln grille greeted 1969 auto buyers. Somewhat reminiscent of the classic Mercedes Benz design, the center section of the grille raised up into the header panel, which lost the Continental Star emblem in favor of block lettering spelling out CONTINENTAL. The grille was a series of fine horizontal and vertical lines, crossing each other to form small square openings. Bolder horizontal and vertical bars were spaced across the grille to form 18 larger rectangles. This design was carried over to the headlamp surrounds as well, and gave the frontal appearance a very distinctive look. Turn signal and side marker lights wrapped around the forward edge of the front fender. The top section acted as a combination parking light and turn signal, the smaller bottom section housed the bulb for the side marker lights.

The tail lamps moved back into the rear bumper for 1969, and featured fine vertical chrome trim bars that separated the individual tail lamp units into 9 segments. In each light fixture, three bulbs provided illumination for running lights, stop lights, and turn signals. The back-up and rear side marker lights were moved up into the ends of the rear fenders, occupying the spot the tail lamps used in 1968. The upper two thirds of these assemblies had a clear lens for the back-up lights, while the lower third was red to act as side markers. A horizontal chrome strip separated the two sections from each other. This was a particularly good location for the back-up lights, as they really illuminated the rear and sides of the car when illuminated. The small red marker lights made identification of 1969 Lincolns very easy at night.

Other changes were minor in nature, mostly detail changes that addressed specific areas but were likely not noticed by most owners. Dual stream windshield washer outlets were added, as was a molded rubber tap affixed to the underside of the brake pedal to prevent the driver's foot from slipping under the pedal when moving it off the accelerator and on to the brake.

A new simulated walnut-grain steering wheel padded hub was introduced, which included padded vinyl spokes of a slimmer design than 1968. This allowed for better visibility of the instrument panel, and a slimmer, sleeker appearance for the steering wheel itself.

New options were few for 1969, but one of the most notable extra cost options introduced on the Continental in years made its debut in 1969. The sumptuous new Town Car ultra-luxury interior included unique leather and vinyl seats with a special sew style that included hidden threads, matching door trim panels, color-keyed padded vinyl applique on the instrument control panel, extra plush deeper cut pile carpeting, and a special napped-nylon headlining. Offered in black, dark blue, dark ivy gold, light ivy gold and white, the Town Car option would be expanded to become a full production model for 1972, and would be Lincoln's flagship throughout the seventies.

Both of Lincoln's major competitors introduced all-new designs for 1969. Both Cadillac and Lincoln showed sales decreases for the year, with Imperial listing a considerable increase, although it remained a distant third among the top three. The contrast between Lincoln's quality control and that of Cadillac and Imperial was never more evident than in 1969. Both Cadillac and Imperial suffered with declines in assembly quality as well as with the materials used in the construction of the cars. Increased use of plastics was very evident in both, and Imperial's relationship with lesser Chrysler products was also apparent, as it was now sharing bodies with the likes of the New Yorker and Newport.

The big news at Lincoln for '69 was the Continental Mark III, introduced early in April 1968. The Mark III's body-frame construction was based on the four door Ford Thunderbird platform, a preview of things to come for Lincoln very soon. A new Lincoln would be introduced for 1970, with new styling that retained the Lincoln look established by the cars of the sixties, yet gave the brand a fresh contemporary appearance. The classic center-opening rear doors would be eliminated, in favor of more traditional front-hinged rear doors. This change was made due to comments made by former Cadillac owners who had purchased Lincolns. They complained when two people were attempting to enter or exit the car on the same side at the same time, the rear door design was an issue. Center opening rear doors would continue for a couple more years on the Four Door Ford Thunderbird, which was discontinued after the 1971 model year.

Many Lincoln devotees feel the '69 models are the best of the decade. Quality control had never been better, and Lincoln had firmly established itself as a luxury brand with a consistent look and engineering comparable to or superior to any car built in the world. Road tests at the time rated the Continental as having the quietest ride, best brakes, and superior fit and finish when compared to the Cadillac and Imperial. Lincoln also offered the best overall performance, but provided the worst fuel economy.

Lincoln Continental entered the decade with a design that was largely rejected by luxury car buyers of the time, but recovered quickly in 1961 with an elegant and award winning design that not only established a new look for Lincoln, but also influenced many of the automotive designs that followed. Revisions to the design were cautious, and done only to improve the car. More room was provided for 1963 and 1964, and beautiful new styling debuted for 1966, but it remained respectful of the original 1961 styling. More changes came for 1968 to meet Federal safety standards, and the final 1969 models were updated again to ensure a fresh look. But if you were to park a 1969 Lincoln next to a 1961 Lincoln, the resemblance would be quite strong. Despite a decade of refinement and revision, the original design remained intact, and as distinctive as ever.

Lincoln built upon this heritage through the seventies, eighties, and nineties, in which it would truly challenge Cadillac for the top luxury car of the land. Lincoln had finally established a look that was all its own, one that was respected and recognized around the world as one of the finest luxury motorcars anywhere, and one that Lincoln Division and the people who drove Lincolns could be proud to call their own.


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