By on February 12, 2010

Our cavalcade of vintage Lincolns draws to a close (whew!) and the Lincoln file is exhausted, save for the finale. We’ve obviously plumbed the depths of Lincoln’s long decline, probably best typified by the Versailles. But hope was in the air, thanks to the remarkable Fox-body platform. The best example was the rather remarkable Mark VII coupe, which I didn’t do justice here yesterday, thanks to a sudden onset of late-afternoon chronic Lincoln-fatigue syndrome. My apologies. But even before the Mark VII arrived in 1984, there was a glimmer of hope already, in the Fox-bodied Continental sedan of 1982. One just had to squint (quite) a bit to see it.

It would be easy to jump on this Conti for its blatantly ripped-off bustle back trunk. The 1980 Seville shocked/horrified the world when it trotted out that long-forgotten affectation of old English Hooper-bodied Rollers. And it became the styling affectation de jeur. But, there was a big difference this time around. Whereas the Versailles was a pathetic cheap imitation of the fairly credible first Seville, the second Seville was a royal stinker pimp-mobile. It was a classic jumping-the-shark moment for Cadillac. And an opportunity for Lincoln.

So although this Continental can be faulted for its bustle tail, in just about every other way it was a much better car than the gen2 Seville. Relatively speaking, anyway. It wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, but it was a big step in the right direction. Of course, it would have been hard to screw up a Fox-platform car. It intrinsically meant a fairly compact, reasonably light, tight, and intrinsically decent handling vehicle. Ford’s air suspension technology was put to good use here, like in the Mark VII.

Frankly, this is a four door Mark VII, four all intents and purposes. Too bad they didn’t make an LSC-type version: all blacked out and nice fat alloys and wheels, and a couple of big fat pipes out the back end. Now that would have been interesting.

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47 Comments on “Curbside Classic Outtake: 1986 Continental...”


  • avatar
    educatordan

    You could always build your own LSC out of one of these. A older waitress at the local Cracker Barrel has one of these in cream yellow with a matching interior. It looks very elegant still. Some how better proportioned than the Cadillac Seville of the same vintage, maybe cause the trunk looks like a real trunk.

    • 0 avatar
      continentalKid

      I own a 85 Mark VII LSC and a 86 Continental. The LSC has more get up and go.. The Continental is more for comfort. My choice in that era of Cadillac would be the Eldorado. I just sold a 1980 Pink Eldorado Paris convertible! The Lincolns are fun but deep down I am a “Cadillac” kind of guy.
      Also about your comment on the Limos.. You are totally right!

  • avatar

    I can’t believe both of your Fox Lincolns are still sitting upright. Maybe they were both converted to coils. Even more reason why I like my ’83 Foxy Conti, never had to worry about the suspension! (Just everything else!)

    Rumor has it that the Conti was used as a FoMoCo test mule for the Mustang’s 5.0HO EFI motor, not to mention the 82-83 Contis’ suspension/brakes is basically the same as the Mustang SVOs…Konis aside.

    I know way too much about these cars.

  • avatar
    tim850csi

    Please god let the finale be the 1978 Lincoln Mark V Diamond Jubilee Edition… oh lordy

  • avatar
    John Holt

    Anybody remember Nick Cage’s dream sequence in “Raising Arizona” where the bounty hunter basically jumps the back of a slope-tailed Seville? I will forever associate that with those Sevilles.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    These cars did sell well and were a welcome replacement to the DOA Versailles. Cadillac’s problem wasn’t the Seville’s styling which was well accepted at the time, it was first the 8-6-4 engine then the HT 4100.

    Ford btw had licensed the cylinder deactivation technology from Eaton prior to GM but couldn’t get it to work reliably so passed on it. Apparently reliability was of no concern to GM.

    I was told the tablets GM specified for HT 4100 radiator were originally developed to stop pipe leaks in WW II submarines.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      Yes but at least the V8-6-4 was a BIG BLOCK and you could turn off the cylinder deactivation tech by installing a switch on the dash wired into the solenoids that controlled the valves.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      The Seville’s 1980 restyle was fairly controversial, and sales dropped considerably (even accounting for that year’s severe recession).

      I remember thinking that it looked like…a four-door Gremlin with a formal grille. The increasingly problematic gasoline engines installed after the 1980 model year hardly helped matters. (For that matter, GM’s notorious diesel engine was STANDARD in the 1980 Seville.)

    • 0 avatar
      mtymsi

      No doubt the Seville was more popular in metro Detroit than the rest of the country as they were very popular around here.

      New luxury car buyers have zero interest in installing a switch under the dash to deactivate the cylinder deactivation. Remember, we’re talking about these cars when they were new.

    • 0 avatar
      BeachBum

      The slantback styling did seem to have a love it or hate it following. I preferred the Seville but liked both.

      Sales for the Seville did drop in 1980 but sales were down notably across the entire Cadillac line. I think the redesigned DeVille/Fleetwood models saw even bigger declines.

      It will be interesting to see how the collector market treats the slantback Sevilles and Continentals down the road.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    This, and the Mark VIII LSC, were the only Lincolns post-1967 to which I ever aspired. There is a fairly cherry one of these running around Kalamazoo, in the summer. When I see it, I almost drool.

  • avatar
    detlump

    One thing about the Seville, it is FWD. May not matter out there, but where is snows, it is a big deal. My mother always said that the Seville of this generation and the Continental were “German Staff Cars”. I can imagine them in gray with German markings. Every time I see one (increasingly rare) I think of that. Would be a good LeMons paint scheme.

  • avatar
    FromBrazil

    WTF? The interior on this one looks fairly decent! What’s gotten into you Mr. Paul Niedermeyer??

    All kidding aside, never got to see most of these Lincolns in person *sigh*. Now maybe if they’d lost that false step thing in the back and the faux RR grill in the front, they’d been up to something!

  • avatar
    geeber

    I remember seeing the 1982 model at the Harrisburg Auto Show and thinking that it had the best paint job I had ever seen on a domestic. Lincoln led the way in the use of clearcoat paint finishes.

    For its first few years, the front of this car was strictly vertical. The sloped nose was added to stay in line with the move to the “aero look” at Ford.

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    Put handles on the outside and use it as a casket.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Hi Paul!

    Any chance this is, or the Mk VII was, one of the BMW-Steyr-Daimler-Puch turbo-diesel-equipped models?

    Bet you’ll never find one of those !

  • avatar
    Lemmy-powered

    Just curious, did any Fox-platform Lincolns have the “horn on the cob?”

    A nice little Euro touch that always seemed odd on a Mustang…

    • 0 avatar

      The 1982-1983 Continentals had it. Funny you mentioned it: Discount Tire bought me a new steering wheel hub cover after trying to honk the horn while entering the service bay. It’s hard to crack plexiglass, but they bashed it pretty good.

      At least they admitted the mistake and got a new one for me, without much drama.

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    My parents had 3 of these in a row starting in the late 80′s/early 90′s, all bought used for reasonable money. All three cars were fairly reliable, although the first car, a gunmetal gray 1986 model with a burgundy interior (bought at auction by a friend with over 100K on the odometer) eventually needed the catalytic converters replaced and one of the airbags…other than that, bulletproof. The first car was done in by hail damage (my parents cleaned up on that one – they pocketed the check since the car was worthless by then anyway) and the quest was on for another one with the insurance proceeds.

    Continental #2 was a 2 tone blue 1987 model with a dark blue velour interior. This one was in excellent shape and never gave us one bit of trouble from the normally problematic air suspension, but alas it was not to be. My Mother never really warmed up to the velour interior having grown to like leather from her previous Conti, so off it went.

    Conti #3 was a monotone Rose Quartz metallic car with a taupe interior and it was easily the nicest of the 3 cosmetically inside and out. As a late 1987 model, it had the revised/improved woodgrain interior panels like the feature car above (earlier cars, including our gray 1986 had a woodgrain “strip” on the panels that tended to peel/flake off over time) the premium sound system and the “wire wheel” look alloys. This car served my mother well until my Dad bought her a loaded new 1998 Crown Victoria to replace it. The FWD Continental was not my parents cup of tea, and they felt the Town Car (in spite of being the same basic platform as the Crown Vic) was far too large to be an adequate replacement for the Conti. I tried to talk my Dad into the Marquis instead, if for no other reason than the slightly nicer dashboard and door trim panels, but he wasn’t willing to pay the minimal premium over the Ford for a similarly equipped Merc.

    This car did have some nice details to it if one went looking…the flush (for the time) fitted rear window glass was a particularly nice touch, as was the inset hood (vs. other fox bodied cars where the hood extended all the way to the grille). It also had longer front doors that extended past the a-pillar, and I always thought that was an interesting solution to improving ingress/egress. On the inside, I especially liked the “hidden” storage in each front door armrest and I recall being fascinated with the trip computer as a kid. I always wished Ford would have updated the car in ’86/’87 with completely flush headlamps and added an LSC model with the 5.0L HO engine and better seats, but I guess they knew their customers probably weren’t interested in all that…too bad, it would have made an interesting car for a future CC.

    • 0 avatar

      Wheeljack: and the “wire wheel” look alloys.

      They are real wires. Take off the wheel (like I did), remove the 5 bolts holding the hub and you’ll hear all the spokes fall out. There’s a lot of aluminum on that wheel, and putting it back together is a nightmare.

      Ford spent a lot of money on this car, this is how you’re supposed to gussy up a cheap platform to make it look expensive.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      Sajeev – interesting info! Needless to say, I never had occasion to take apart my parents wheels, I don’t think they would have appreciated it. Since you have had one apart, did the wires bear the weight of the car like the wire wheels on a classic Jaguar or were they just cosmetic (as I suspect) ?

    • 0 avatar

      They are not weight bearing. Probably a smart move for a modern car that has to meet OEM standards. You noticed a lot of the Conti’s hidden details, ones that you just don’t see anymore.

      Too bad you didn’t ever own a 82-83 model. There was a cold air intak under the passenger headlights. And the chrome fender appendages on the fenders were spring loaded, and the bumper slid under them when in an accident. Our 83 Conti was rear ended by several cars, never sustained any damage. It didn’t make any sense to me, until I read in a Ford manual about the springy fenders.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      Yeah, I miss a lot of these “coachbuilt” or “bespoke” details that aren’t present in most modern cars…they really have just become a commodity anymore. That’s what made this era Continental kind of interesting, it some details to it that were rare even by the 1980′s and are completely gone now.

      As an example, I miss cars that had a tinned or leaded-in joint between the bodside panel and the roof panel…the unsightly joint filler strip used on the cars of today is just plain ugly to me…sure it’s cheaper, but that doesn’t make it right.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      See I miss the “Body by Fisher” or “Imperial by Chrysler” with “Body by LeBarron.” I miss factory limos that were classy instead of reeking of desperate teenage proms and cheesy strip clubs.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Personally, I was happy as hell when Lincoln replaced this butt-ugly thang with the Taurus-based Continental.

    But I’ll give kudos to the owner of this car – it may be ugly, but it was obviously loved.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      Except that the Taurus based Conti was an unmitigated pile of garbage…head gasket failures, A/C hose failures, air suspension issues, and the list goes on…the “butt ugly” Fox-based predecessors were much better cars.

    • 0 avatar

      I loved the Taurus based Conti, until I saw the 1990+ redesigns. Then, a few years later, I actually rode in one. Then I learned that luxury cars shouldn’t be motivated by a 3.8L pushrod V6.

      (FYI: the 1982 Conti had this motor as a no-cost option, it was a miserable failure, just like the last 4 years of the V6 Conti)

    • 0 avatar
      jwltch

      I also liked the 88-94 body style. I considered buying a 1991 fully loaded Continental Signature Series back in 1996. It even had a CD player that was mounted at the bottom of the dash. But, between the head gasket issues and the craptastic level ride/air shock problems that plagued these cars I looked at something else. I ended up with a 1990 New Yorker with the 3.3L. That was one of the best cars I’ve owned to date.

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    Nothing really seems to match with this car. From the rear, it looks good and fairly modern. From the side awkward and ungainly. From the front it appears to be a conglomeration of parts from different cars that accidently happen to fit together-sort of.
    The interior is pretty nice and is indeed well cared for.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    Well Paul, a commendable job. Other than the missing Mark III and the 97 V8 fwd Continental, you have hit upon every single Lincoln from my childhood/youth.

    My dad bought one of these (an 84) used in 1985. As I recall, their resale wasn’t all that great, and he was pretty proud of the deal he got. Two tone silver and gunmetal, it was a very nice car. Like every other Fox car of my experience, it had a very tight structure, and a very solid feel. I wasn’t a huge fan of the styling, but I considered it a HUGE leap ahead of that horrible, miserable 80 Town Coupe that preceded it.

    I recall not likeing the air suspension at all. However, my problem may have been that I had by then spent several years in a series of torsion bar Mopars. When I drove dad’s Conti, I was used to a 77 New Yorker with heavy duty suspension and 70 series tires, and it was a very good handling car. I expected the Conti to be softer, but I experienced wallow, pitching and rolling every bit as any 70s FoMoCo big car I had ever driven. But to my dad, it had a Continental ride, so he was fine with it.

    It was a good car for the 3 years my dad had it. Like Geeber, I recall it having one of the nicest paint finishes I had seen on a domestic. Also, like most everyone else out there, I have not seen one of these in years.

  • avatar
    Hank

    Check out this rust free Dallas Continental on eBay. That’s how I remember them.

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/1986-Lincoln-Continental-survivor-w-33K-original-miles_W0QQitemZ320482500656QQcmdZViewItemQQptZUS_Cars_Trucks?hash=item4a9e3ee030#v4-36

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      I’m already watching it. “eBay Motors, window shopping for car guys.” (Good thing I don’t have any money.)

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      This one has the earlier style wood trim inside that likes to peel off the plastic substrate. It will get quite a bit worse with UV exposure – the trim in our ’86 was in much worse shape in spite of only being about 4 years old at the time, but Colorado/Denver was always particularly hard on interior stuff – higher UV exposure there, what with being a mile closer to the sun and all :)

  • avatar
    john.fritz

    …four all tense and purposes.

    …for all intents and purposes – in every practical sense; “to all intents and purposes the case is closed”; “the rest are for all practical purposes useless”

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    I said I was burned out that day!

  • avatar
    eastcoastcar

    Once again, I realize now why I was so depressed back then and restored a BMW 2002 as therapy.

  • avatar
    jwltch

    One thing that I’ve never been able to figure out at Ford involved this particular car. This generation of Lincoln Continental had digital climate control starting in about 84 or 85 (or maybe even 86). Ford didn’t put it in the Town Car, Lincoln’s flagship, until 1993. Huh? Maybe I’m nuts, but I love climate control with a digital readout.

    I also think this generation had a very modern interior. Certainly more so than the Town Car. Until 1990, that is.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      This seems like fairly typical behavior for Ford…I fully expected the power/memory steering column (or some variation of it) from the Mk. VIII to show up in the Town Car and Continental shortly after it made it’s debut in the Mark, but it never did…what a waste.

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    Haven’t seen one in person for a while, but my recollection is that these were surprisingly cramped in the back seat and the trunk — surprisingly, because the Fairmont was a reasonably roomy car.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    One more thought occurs to me about this car. I believe that this car became the Continental about the same time two other Fox body cars became the LTD and Marquis. After the high gas prices and recession of 1980-82, I understood that the plan at Ford was to kill the Panther (sales were not very good from 79-82) and use the Fox body as the new big car. Therefore, the successful big car names were all transferred to their new Fox platforms in anticipation of the death of the panther.

    Then a funny thing happened. Panther sales started to build around 83, and were selling like crazy by 85. At Chrysler, they killed the big rear drivers after the 83 model run, which was just as the segment was beginning to revive. A shame, because Chrysler had a pretty competitive big car by 83 (meaning that most of the design issues had been worked out by then.)

    I have always thought it a shame that Continental got demoted from Lincoln’s flagship. Town Car is a great name for a trim level, but I wish the big Lincoln were still the Continental.

  • avatar
    npbheights

    My dad bought one of these brand new for my mom’s 38th birthday. It was a 1985 Lincoln Continental Givenchy Designer’s Series. It was Rosewood Metallic w/Rosewood velour interior. It replaced her two tone grey 1977 Lincoln Versailles that she loved. She drove me to my first day of 1st grade in it and I drove myself to my 1st day of 12th grade in it. I really liked that car. The air-suspension had the typical problems toward the end of the time we had it and it needed a new evaporator core that my dad cheaped out on and had my brother replace – the a/c never worked right again… too bad.
    I still remember the first time I sat in that car. It had a huge yellow bow on the roof. I was six years old.

  • avatar
    manhighperformance

    hello all! i just bought a 87 continental givenchy! i had to pull the dash to change the heater core and when i put it all back together my info center, a couple dashlights, and the speedometer/gas gauge/odometer aren’t workng! i bought a haynes manual for wiring diagrams but it doesn’t have one! i have one plug that i didn’t unplug so i’m guessing it pulled out as i pulled the dash back and know i can’t find a place for it to go, so does anyone know where i can find wiring diagrams for the dash and the fuse block! thank you for any help

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    Go to some of the used book resellers like ABEBOOKS or the Ford dealer and buy the factory repair manual. I have one for both my Hondas and VWs. MUCH better than the too generic Haynes manual which too often for me addresses a topic with a statement that says “this procedure is beyond the scope of this manual”.

    THAT’S why I bought the manual!!! LOL!

    My factory manuals have cost me $60-$70 and one repair that I could do without the dealer or a professional mechanic pays for the book.

    My Helms publisher (Honda) manual and Bentley publisher (VWs) manuals both have extensive wiring diagrams. I gave Chilton a whirl about 60K ago for the VW Cabrio and the manual was a disgrace to their brand. The Bentley publishers manual for the same car showed how to install a new top, wiring diagrams, a/c tech, and even transmission teardowns.


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