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Image: 1974 Lincoln Continental Sedan

1974 Lincoln Continental

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Image: The 1974 Lincoln Continentals.The 1974 Lincoln Continentals retained the same basic styling introduced for 1970, but more substantial changes were made to the front and rear of the cars than in the past. The Continental Mark IV continued to attract new customers, and the styling changes to the front end for 1974 were a step toward eventually including the classic Mark IV grille on all Lincoln models. The front parking and turn signal assemblies were placed vertically in the leading edges of the front fenders, and the headlamp cover doors were unadorned for the first time in this styling cycle. The grille was a series of thin vertical bars surrounded by a thicker chrome bezel. The Mark IV's styling influence was quite evident.

The front bumper no longer wrapped around the lower edge of the front fender, and in its place was a new front side marker and cornering lamp assembly.

A new taillamps design in the rear gave the Lincoln a more streamlined appearance. They were moved up from the bumper and placed in the body of the car, just above the bumper. The lights were more rectangular, separated into four sections on each side, with the outboard section wrapping around the ends of the rear quarter panels to also serve as side markers. Back-up lights framed each side of the license plate, which was all that separated the left and right taillamp assemblies from each other. The overall effect was very clean.

The rear bumper was new, now Federally mandated to meet the same 5 mph impact standards that the front bumpers had to comply with in 1973, and some cars incorporated the new bumpers into the overall design better than others. (Lincoln did a good job of incorporating the required changes, but there's only so much you can do when the bumper has to stick out from the ends of the car!) Rear bumper guards and rub strips were added to offer additional protection.

All Lincolns got the Cartier timepiece as standard equipment this year. The Cartier name on the clock incorrectly leads many to believe their Lincoln is a special Cartier edition, which didn't exist until 1976, and then only on the Mark IV until much, much later when a Lincoln sedan model would offer a Cartier trim package.

Solid State Ignition was another important item added to the Lincoln's impressive roster of standard equipment. Designed to be maintenance-free for the life of the car, this new advance gave a stronger spark for easier starting in cold weather, and eliminated scheduled maintenance on the distributor. Other new standard items included a 6-Way Power Bench Seat, replacing the 2-Way Power Seat previously provided, and a Seat Belt Interlock System that was also Federally mandated for 1974. It required you to buckle up first in order to start the car's engine. Both the driver and the right side front passenger had to first seat themselves and then buckle the 3-point lap-and-shoulder belt combination which were permanently connected to each other. As long as these requirements were met, the starter would not be disabled and the car could be started.

The interlock system was not popular, as you can imagine, even among those who regularly wore their seat belts anyway, without any need to be reminded and as a result was short lived, thankfully.

Lincoln continued its series of tests that began a couple of years earlier, where the Continentals were remarkably successful in comparison to models of the "other leading make of luxury car." One test had 50 husbands and their wives who owned (Cadillacs) the other make of luxury car evaluate a 1974 Lincoln Continental for riding comfort and driving ease.

Each husband was asked to drive a Lincoln round-trip between La Jolla and Del Mar, California, while his wife rode as a passenger. He then made the same drive in a new sedan of the other luxury make. Afterwards, his wife drove each car over the same route while her husband rode as a passenger. The test route was a total of 56 miles in all.

After this test, 72 out of the 100 owners said the Lincoln Continental had a more comfortable ride, and 66 out of 100 said it was easier to drive. It would appear that others felt the same way, as another nationwide survey conducted at the time projected that over 25,000 drivers of that other luxury car had switched to Lincoln in the last two years.

Another revelation was that contemporary Guide Books showed the Continental Mark IV had the highest resale value of any American luxury car. Additionally, yet another nationwide survey taken in 1973 showed that Continental owners were more satisfied with their cars than were owners of the other leading luxury make. While in some areas the two cars rated evenly, Lincoln owners were more completely satisfied with quality of workmanship, riding comfort and ease of driving.

The 1974 Lincoln Continental offered 13 standard exterior colors, 5 optional Moondust Metallic colors, and 5 optional Diamond Fire Metallic colors. Interiors were upholstered in standard Westminster knit cloth, or optional genuine leather for the seating surfaces. Bench front seats with a center fold-down arm rest were provided with these trims, but optional Twin Comfort Lounge Seats were available with either material. Leather was standard on the Town models, but Media Velour cloth was optionally available with Twin Comfort Lounge Seats a required additional cost option. A total of ten interior shades were provided, depending on the upholstery material selected.

New options for 1974 included Illuminated Visor Vanity Mirrors in both left and right visors with two light intensities. The Anti-Theft Alarm System included a new interior locking hood latch release that prevented opening the hood even if access to the car interior could be had. A new Autolamp Headlight On/Off Delay System became part of the Headlamp Convenience Group, which also included an Automatic Headlight Dimmer.

As evidenced by testing performed at the time, 1974 was a great year to buy a new Lincoln Continental. A major restyle for 1975 would give the car a new look, and while the 1975-1979 cars are considered to be a classic design today, many prefer the leaner look of the 1970-1974 cars. Engine performance suffered after 1971, due to lower compression and emission controls, so if you're looking for all-out performance, the earlier the better in these cars. As with so many cars of this era, the styling isn't always among everyone's favorites, but when it comes to sumptuous luxury, a smooth ride, and a quiet interior, it would be difficult to surpass a 1974 Lincoln Continental.


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