By on February 9, 2010

Ever since I found this relatively rare 1970 Continental Coupe, I’ve been trying to find something good to say about it. Don’t get me wrong; I love it, in its intrinsic hugeness and badness. But then I had a crush on Blaze Starr in seventh grade too. And I was just about as thrilled to find it in this neighborhood of old Toyotas and Volvos as if Blaze herself was suddenly sauntering down the sidewalk au naturel. 1970 Lincolns, especially the coupe, are rare these days; that pretty much goes for the whole ’70-74 generation. Devoid of the ’61’s clear angular brilliance, heavily influenced by GM’s big barges, and lacking the in-your-face over-the-top I’m-big-and-I’m-proud excess of their ’75-’79 successors, these are almost forgotten now. Shall we call them the lost Lincolns? Oh wait; I think I just came up with something positive…

We could call them the hot rod Lincolns! I know that’s a bit of a stretch, but seriously, this ’70 Coupe was undoubtedly the fastest Lincoln ever up to that time, and would easily hold that crown until the 1987 Mark VII SLC. The 460 cubic inch (7.4 liter) was still in its high-compression youthful freshness, rated at 365 (gross) hp. And although the 1970 Lincoln was a completely new car, with a bigger wheelbase than its predecessor and now riding on a gen-u-ine frame, it actually weighed less than the heavyweight unibodies it replaced. My Encyclopedia of American cars says this coupe weighed a relatively svelte 4,669 lbs; about the same as today’s Audi S8.

The same was true for the Cadillac of the times; the ’68 Coupe DeVille weighed in at about 4,600 lbs, and had the new 375 hp 472 V8. It would be a blast to see a couple of these big barges drag race each other. I can’t find any old road test numbers for the Lincoln, but ’68-’69 Caddys could do 0-60 in about 9 seconds, and the quarter mile in sixteen. Not so hot from today’s perspective, but considering the technology of the times and the utter effortlessness with which these boats hustled along, those numbers are not too shabby.

Flooring one of these big girls at sixty still gave a noticeable shove in the back.  The emasculated de-smogged versions soon to come would get to sixty within a somewhat reasonable time, but from there on up, they were utterly out of wind. Just in time for the double nickel.

See; I managed some positive spin for this bad girl. But that’s about as far as I can take it. So if you’re negativity averse, better stop here. And I’m not even going to use the words “handling”, or “build quality”.

Let’s face it: these Lincolns are just Ford LTDs with a bit of collagen and silicone. The big and wide new ’69 Ford was designed with a one-frame-fits-all strategy. Ok, the Lincoln’s side rails are a couple of inches longer, but when it comes down to it, they’re all of a family; cut from the same cloth. Ford’s experiment with its a-cut-above unibody Continentals was over; pragmatism was the new order of the day. Lincolns from here on out would be a trim level above the LTD, with the Marquis precariously squeezed between.

Ford’s pricing strategy certainly made that inevitable. This 1970 Continental was 20% cheaper than the 1961, adjusted for inflation. Ford was going for the volume, as Caddy had for some time. Anyway, the doctors and lawyers were all driving Mercedes by now, so why bother with genuine exclusivity? The seventies were the democratization of many things, but nothing more so than “luxury” items. Shag carpeting was laid over the linoleum floor (which is in again), and soft-padded opera-windowed padded tops sprouted on suburban driveways like the crab grass in the lawns.

This ’70 is the transition to that era; the opera windows are still a couple of years away. In a way, the understated dull boringness of this car is also its redeeming feature, along with its healthy motor. Might explain why this owner is going to some lengths to keep it running on the street, despite the broken-out side window and the largely disassembled instrument panel. It’s someone’s beloved hot rod Lincoln, so watch what you say. I did.

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38 Comments on “Curbside Classic: 1970 Lincoln Continental Coupe...”

  • avatar

    While working in Manhattan I had the pleasure of driving my co workers to our ski house in Vermont every weekend, during the winter, in this very car. To this day I cannot think of a better road car. It was so comfortable and smooth that hours behind the wheel left you refreshed, as it effortlessly would float along at 80mph, and quiet as a library. I must say I do miss those old lumber wagons.

    • 0 avatar

      The ’70 coupe was an aesthetic disaster.

      But its predecessor, the ’66-’67 couples were some of the handsomest two-door luxury cars of the time. It belongs in a pantheon of great large, elegant, exclusive coupes including the ’63-’72 Mercedes SE coupes and the magnificent Jag XJ coupe.

  • avatar

    The ’61 and it’s progeny were cars even enthusiasts could admire – in a “if I ever grow up and buy a luxury car” sort of way.

    No one wanted to grow up to own a 70-74 Lincoln.

    • 0 avatar

      Au Contraire! Although I will admit that the 70-71 was a disappointment after the seuicide door Contis, when the 72 came out, I was in love. I know that I am in the minority, but the 72-74 are my favorite 70s Continentals.

      My Dad was a Lincoln guy in the 70s. I tried my dead level best to get him into a big Continental in 72, but he did a Mark IV instead. Tried again in 74, and I thought I had a shot at convincing him do do a Town Coupe, but the economy was slowing and though he was an every 2 year guy, he skipped the new car for himself in 74, and got the wife a 74 Cutlass Supreme coupe.

      He did, however, have a partner who bought a dark green 74 Town Car. Dad swapped cars with him over a long weekend so that our family of 6 could travel in comfort from Indiana to Philadelphia for thanksgiving weekend. I had either a license or a learners permit by then, and spent several hours trying to keep that WIIIIIDDDE car between the narrow lines of the Pensy Turnpike. But boy was it quiet, smooth and comfortable. And three kids in the back and one in the middle of the front was not a problem in that big, big car.

      I still think that the 74 Lincoln coupe may be the cleanest design of the 70s. Other than those awful bumpers, the 74 did a better job at capturing the simplicity of a decade earlier than the others of that series.

      Agreed there was some cost cutting, but these Lincolns were the cars that introduced America to Michelin radial tires. They had an early version of abs brakes (Sure Track) and still put a full set of guages in front of the driver (including oil pressure).

      I wanted one of those cars when I was 11, and I still do. Someday, I will have one.

  • avatar

    The earlier Continentals, like the previous 1958-1960 Lincolns and the 1958-1966 Thunderbirds, were an object lesson in the dangers of doing unibody design without computers. Ford had never done a unitary design that big, and they had a lot of trouble with welds popping and excessive stresses. Their solution was to add more metal anywhere anything seemed weak. The result was cars that were built like tanks, but weighed more than a body-on-frame design of the same size. In that sense, switching back to BOF was probably just as well.

    The AMA specifications are a little misleading, because they don’t include optional equipment. Keep in mind that in the late sixties, a lot of stuff like power windows and air conditioning was technically optional, even on a Cadillac or Lincoln. The ’70 Lincolns were about 300 pounds lighter than the ’69 Continental, but realistic curb weight would probably be in the vicinity of 4,900 lb; ditto the Coupe de Ville.

    The hardtop coupe is an interesting story. In the sixties, the two-door hardtop was usually the most popular body style of any line, by a significant margin. However, Lincoln didn’t have one until 1966; before that, it was available only as a four-door sedan or the four-door convertible. When the Continental was conceived in ’58, there was serious doubt about Lincoln’s future, and the division wanted to keep costs to an absolute minimum, meaning no extra body styles. The further irony is that the Continental was originally conceived as a two-door hardtop. Elwood Engel’s guys developed it as an alternative proposal for the ’61 Thunderbird, and scaled it up into a four-door sedan at the request of Robert McNamara. What tangled webs, etc.

  • avatar

    I am digging the dazzle camouflage on this specimen.

  • avatar

    I had a ’72 Continental four door hardtop. Paid $600 for it in the mid 80’s. It had a Boca Raton Yacht Club sticker on the windshield, which was particularly appropos. It was a huge blue whale, but it was also pillowy smooth, and mucho luxe for the squiring around of six people. Do not disrespect Connie-I (and the woman who is now my wife and father of my children) had a lot of fun in that car…

  • avatar

    “Anyway, the doctors and lawyers were all driving Mercedes by now, so why bother with genuine exclusivity?”

    Not buying it. I was a valet at one of the wealthiest country clubs outside NYC in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Even then, the split was 70/30, American tanks to European cars.

    Don’t forget that a lot of those rich professionals were also WWII veterans – they would sooner French kiss Hitler than drive a Mercedes.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Don’t know what’s good to say about such cars? But you already said it Paul!

    Any big car from the 70s that is not totally ugly, is badass. And exactly the kind of car a big cheese should drive.

    Could you imagine Frank Cannon driving an SUV? Or Orson Wells? Or Jackie Gleason? Or Kramer’s friend Newman? (OK, he’s not the best example, but you get my point).
    Those totally cool fat guys needed a totally badass car, and got it when thy bought an Eldorado, a Continental, an Imperial.
    But somehow, the cool fat guy has turned into a rarity nowadays (along with his sympatico brother, the jolly fat guy). Instead, we have the shamefaced obese person who hides his body in his truck.
    Something is wrong nowadays — we have more fat people than ever before, but American car makers don’t make the right cars for them. (I except the Germans, who remain the only car makers who have a really acute understanding of all things fatso).

    • 0 avatar

      ’08 – + Dodge Challenger
      ’05 – ’10 Chrysler 300C
      ’03 – ’04 Mercury Maurauder
      ’00 – ’03 Oldsmobile Aurora
      ’93 – ’98 Lincoln Mark / T-Bird
      ’93 – ’98 Buick Riviera
      ’92 – ’04 Cadillac El Dorado
      93 – ’96 Impala

      Admittedly there’s gaps and shifts from everyman brands to ‘luxury’ brands, but the cars are and were there.

      Or maybe as a fat guy that bhad a ’96 T-Bird, I just have a soft spot for big ‘merican metal, Diamante in my driveway notwithstanding.

    • 0 avatar

      Sinatra did a song about a ‘tough guy’, (probably a member of the Mob, knowing Frank) who had ‘a custom Continental and an Eldorado too’.

      I think the song’s title (or the subject) was ‘Leroy Brown’.

      Surely the large gentleman’s chariot of choice these days would be a Town Car or DTS?

  • avatar

    There was a cosmetically perfect one of these on eBay a few months ago, fire engine red, $5000 BUY IT NOW. Good think I didn’t have 5K laying around.

  • avatar

    I have to say the upholstery in that car looks pretty good for 40-year-old leather. I guess Lincoln didn’t cheap out on everything.

  • avatar

    Isn’t this one of the cars Reese ‘appropriated’ in the first Terminator movie ?

  • avatar

    The only lincoln I ever owned was a 77 town car, but my fatherinlaw owned a couple of town cars and a markV, and a friend owned a 73 town coupe.
    Paul is right about the big lincols sharing underpinnings and mechanical bits with the big fords. But he’s way off comparing the quality of the interiors and bodies of the 2 cars.
    The lincoln interiors were made of far better stuff, from the dashboards to seats and door panels. I know this for a fact because my dad owned a 75 LTD wagon.
    I happen to live in Ohio where we have rough winters and they salt the roads. Back when there were a lot of these cars around, you would see a lot of 2-3 year old LTD”S with rust on them. It was very common to see a 5-6 year old LTD or marquis with the back bumper missing, or tied on with something. The cars would also have large holes in them by then.
    The big lincolns would easily go 8-10 years before starting to rust, they had far superior rust protection to the fords and mercurys.

    • 0 avatar

      I believe Ford used an e-coat rustproofing system, but didn’t have it at all their plants until 1982. It may be that the 70’s Lincolns got it but the LTD’s didn’t.

    • 0 avatar

      The Wixom, MI plant had the rustproofing system installed from the early 1960s onward, so T-Birds and Lincolns did have much better rust resistance than other Fords well into the 1970s.

  • avatar

    My mom had a 1974 Lincoln Continental 4 door. Dark Green with white top. My aunt had the same except Dark Green with Dark Green top. I love Cadillacs and Lincolns, but I didn’t care for this car. I loved my dad’s 1975 Cadillac Coupe De Ville, though. It was, however, B I G! Also, I liked how the speedometer was white until the speed you were driving and black beyond.

  • avatar

    Cheap shot to call this a glorified LTD while not acknowledging the new fuselage ’71 Caddy DeVilles were little more than ‘glorified Caprices’…

    If the former is true, then so is the latter…

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      I’ve said that so many times…

    • 0 avatar

      At least Cadillac had a unique engine to distinguish themselves from Chevy.

      While Imperial had a unique chassis from 1957 through 1966, and Lincoln from 1958 through 1969, they shared the same engines as the lesser Chrysler and Ford products.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, I don’t know enough about the Ford engines in those years, but in the case of Chrysler Corp, the 361-383-426-440 series of engines was perfectly adequate to motivate any of their cars including the largest, heaviest Imperials…both in actual motive power and in reputation.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    “Anyway, the doctors and lawyers were all driving Mercedes by now, so why bother with genuine exclusivity?”

    “Not buying it. I was a valet at one of the wealthiest country clubs outside NYC in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Even then, the split was 70/30, American tanks to European cars.

    Don’t forget that a lot of those rich professionals were also WWII veterans – they would sooner French kiss Hitler than drive a Mercedes.”

    Agreed, that was the way my father felt. It was not until the excess of the early 70s Cadillac and the cold shower of the 74 oil crisis that he changed his mind.

    • 0 avatar

      I think the change in attitudes happened after the full-size GMs downsized in 1977 and the Fords in 1978, and the rapid decline in quality and reliability became apparent. My family replaced an Engel-era Dodge with a ’77 Buick Electra Limited, which improved on the Dodge only in silence. It was nowhere near as reliable, and incredibly poorly finished. It was replaced with an Accord and my parents never seriously shopped an American sedan ever again.

      What I remember about that era, as an approaching-driving-age teenager, was that everyone reluctantly understood that cars had to get smaller and more fuel efficient, but didn’t want to give up the luxury features they’d become accustomed to. But with their crappy build quality, GM and Ford literally drove the masses into Hondas, Volkswagens, and Toyotas. Since you had to downsize anyway, why not drive a car from a mfr that already knew how to make small cars? This was about the time I, and hundreds of thousands of others, learned that cars could actually have steering feel and handle decently.

  • avatar

    It certainly does have a lot of GM influence, and what a comedown from the ’60s. It reminds me of the ’73 Buick my brother and sister in law got as a hand=me-down from her parents.

  • avatar

    Seems like Lincoln and Elvis followed the same aesthetic trajectory from the early 60s to the mid 70s.

  • avatar

    Paul, don’t waste time trying to be charitable. The 70-74 Lincolns were the beginning of waving the white flag at Lincoln. The cynical message was, “We don’t think you (the customer) are smart enough to demand a genuinely distinctive luxury car. We think we can bamboozle enough of you into buying a tarted up Marquis that we can make a lot of money if we build it cheaply enough.” I don’t think Lincoln recovered until 1990 — the 1990-97 Town Cars are the best Lincoln sedans outside of the 1961-69.

    All of the ’70 luxury cars still had great performance because it was the last year of high compression engines. The best by far is the ’70 Eldorado, first year for the 500 cube engine, available in ’70 on the Eldo only I think.

    The ’71 Cadillac problem is different IMO; it was more a victim of moving Chevy upmarket than moving Cadillac down. Cadillac also had the extended wheelbase Fleetwood Brougham that Lincoln could not match (but note how the 1975-79 Lincoln copied the 1971-76 Fleetwood Brougham greenhouse).

  • avatar
    Cougar Red

    At first, they were kind of interesting. These Curbside Classic posts. Now, they’re everywhere. When I come to TTAC, I want to know about what’s happening in the car industry now. Business side and product side. A little history mixed in is fine, but three Curbside Classic posts on the first page? I’d be far more interested in reviews of 3-6 year old used cars than 40 year old rusted out Lincolns.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      We’re playing catch-up this week, after spending last week taking apart gas pedals. It’s not going to be be quite this CC dense usually.
      We’d love to have reviews of 3-6 year old cars; anyone out there interested in writing them?

  • avatar

    We’d love to have reviews of 3-6 year old cars; anyone out there interested in writing them?

    I can bet almost any money these cars of 4-6 yrs old have more problem than these 40 yrs old car.

  • avatar

    As beautiful as the early 60’s lincolns were, there is something that needs to be taken into consideration here. The car, as nice as it looked, was very 60’s looking, and as the 70’s dawned 60’s styling was fading with the buying public. In those days automotive fashion changed more frequently, and for did stretch this body style for 8 yrs with minimal changes, so it was time for a different body.
    Whether or not one likes the 70’s body style one thing that no one can deny is that it is very 70’s looking, which makes perfect sense, because it was brought out in the 70’s.
    Another important fact is that Lincoln must have done something right starting with the mark111 and with the car featured here, because all three of the mark series and the 70’s lincoln coupes and sedans catapulted the divisions sales to figures never seen before, these cars put lincoln on the map. They finally gave cadillac competition , and stole a lot of their sales, whereas before they were virtually invisible next to cadillac.

  • avatar

    I remember these huge cars. I was in college, and bought a new VW beetle. The dealer sent a salesman to my dorm, and he took me to the VW dealership where I bought the car. A few days later, he came back to pick me up, took me to the dealership to pick up the car. I never looked back. But I must say that Detroit sure put the steel into their cars in the 70’s. I think I’d have been a fan of the 50’s era Lincolns, but not the late 60’s and early 70’s versions.

  • avatar

    Regarding the comment from johnster…..the chrysler RB and ford 385 series were very well designed engines, perfectly suited to Imps and lincolns. The big block chevy was junk, from a reliability standpoint. Very notorious for broken valve springs and rocker arms. And they had excessive cam wear problems, even worse than the chevy small block. Many big block chevies had flat cams before even hitting 50k. And chevy blocks had the lowest amount of nickel of just about any V8 block made in those days, not good as far as bore wear goes. So it’s good that cadillac never used the big chevy. it would have been a disaster, pretty much like some of cadillac’s later engines to come.

  • avatar

    When I was 17, I bought a 1970 Lincoln Continental in 1977 from an uncle (used car dealer) for $1K. It had nearly 90K miles on the odometer when I bought it.  It had a tiny little scrape in the paint just above the grill (garage door?) but other than that, perfect bumpers and paintwork. My father had been driving huge Chrysler’s and Plymouth’s while I was growing up so I thought nothing of the great size of the vehicle; I liked the car because it was a two-door coupe and I liked the fender skirts.  I think the car had the highest level of equipment I’ve ever experienced in a car.  Automatic dimming headlights, fully carpeted trunk, leather seats, seek/scan radio–the works.  It wasn’t exciting to drive, but it was comfortable, predictable and would let me know well in advance if I was pushing it beyond its limits.  I drove the car for a couple of years until I was rear-ended by a drunk driver with no insurance (I only carried liability) and the car was damaged beyond my ability to have it repaired.   It wasn’t until after it was gone, and I went looking for a replacement (I settled on a 1979 Thunderbird) that I realized how special that car really was, in terms of the “long, low & lovely” looks I had admired in cars so much as I was growing up, the ride quality, level of equipment and the all-around “aura” of simply being what it was–a Lincoln.   I found a picture of the Lincoln today.  I’ll never forget that car.  I wish cars could look like that again.

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