Rare Rides Icons: The Lincoln Mark Series Cars, Feeling Continental (Part XVI)

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides icons the lincoln mark series cars feeling continental part xvi

The new Continental Mark III coupe was a smash hit at its debut in 1969. The Thunderbird-based design proved a cost-saving device for the Lincoln-Mercury Division and put the company’s revenue in the black for the first time in a while. After an exceptionally long model year in 1969, regulatory forces, trim edits, and cost-saving measures took place for the model’s second year in 1970. We covered the exterior changes last time, and today slide into bucket seats in our polyester suits.

In context the Mark III looked all the more upscale in 1970, as it occupied Lincoln lots with a line of Continental two- and four-door models that closely resembled the Mercury Marquis upon which they were based. The other Continental models had reverted to body-on-frame designs in 1970, as Lincoln sought to save money and abandoned unibody platforms it had toyed with since the late Fifties. 

Buyers would easily note the 1970 Mark III had a nicer interior than the 1969. A more upscale look was achieved via the replacement of fake wood for real walnut trim. Said real wood trim was more plentiful than before, courtesy of a redesigned door panel.

The 1969 Mark III used a thin strip of wood trim on the door that was interrupted by the door pull. In 1970 the door pull moved southward and got larger and sturdier-looking. The thin wood trim strip stayed put but was supplemented by a new wood panel in the middle of the door. 

The panel had a Continental logo in the middle of it and was trimmed with chrome. This new assembly was set within a padded door panel that looked simpler and had an indented design sans diamonds and button detailing like 1969.

Seat cushions had a new design in 1970: Seat bottoms and backs used four triangles that merged to form a large square, and were decorated with a single button. The design was more modern than the 1969’s diamond design and looked a bit more cohesive via its fewer buttons. Assembly of the seats was different in 1970, as the button controls that were located on the seat bottom moved to the door panel for easier access. 

Sales of the Mark III continued at a brisk pace as the more conservative Continental coupe faded into the shadows at Lincoln dealerships. And though it was immensely popular, the Mark III had just one more model year outing for a total of three. 1971 was a year of celebration for Lincoln, as the company reached its Golden Anniversary. 

Worth noting, it wasn’t actually a (50th) Golden Anniversary, as the company was founded in 1917, produced its first car in September of 1920, and became a division of Ford in 1922. Pick your favorite Golden Anniversary date, but it wasn’t 1971. Ford celebrated with a Golden Anniversary Town Car package on the Continental, which was only available in gold metallic paint and offered only to current Lincoln customers. It also had gold keys.

As far as the Mark III was concerned, only minor changes were made in its final year. Ford had already spent some money making required federal updates (which changed the looks) to the Mark III in its second outing, so there were almost no exterior changes for its final year. Even the wheel covers remained the same as they were in 1970. 1971 examples of the Mark III could be identified occasionally by their standard green tinted glass, formerly a commonly fitted optional extra.

Other options made standard in 1971 were the SureTrak anti-lock brakes, their presence indicated by branding emblazoned on the brake pedal. Elsewhere in the interior, a previously optional seat design with a higher back became standard, with a caveat. 

Said seat design was made standard at some point during the model year, as many 1971 examples do not have the seat as pictured here. Seating patterns and other interior trim were not altered for 1971. Seldomly selected was a new optional floor console, which was a special order item. 

The Mark III’s 460 V8 remained in place, though the smog pump “Thermactor” system got more complex. It had additional ductwork associated with it in 1971, as engine bays and power figures headed toward their mid-Seventies hot mess status.

Beginning in 1970 Motor Trend ran a King of the Hill contest, where head-to-head entrants were the Continental Mark III and the Eldorado. And both times the Mark III narrowly defeated the Eldorado. The gap grew larger in its second winning, as the magazine’s editors noted how the Mark’s leather interior was nicer than the cloth on the Eldorado. The wood on the dash also impressed, because the Cadillac had faux paneling.

Motor Trend’s findings aside, consumers were voicing their opinion with their wallets. After 30,858 Mark IIIs sold in 1969 (half Lincoln’s total sales), 21,432 more were sold in 1970. Keep in mind that the 1969 year was 22 months long given the Mark’s springtime debut. In its second year, the Mark III represented 36.2 percent of Lincoln’s 59,127 sales.  

In 1971, Lincoln's production increased a bit to 62,642, where 27,091 were the Mark III (43.2 percent). The increase in sales was notable in context because Cadillac had just released a new E-body Eldorado in 1971 complete with big and bold Seventies styling. The Mark III looked restrained and elegant in comparison, and it still wasn’t front-wheel drive. 

Cadillac moved 23,333 Eldorados in 1969, and sales increased to 23,842 in 1970 as the coupe entered the final year of its eighth generation. In 1971 sales hit a record for the nameplate, at 27,638. The Continental Mark III had proved in short order that it was on par with the long-established Cadillac Eldorado, a great success for Lincoln. 

Pricing increased on the Mark III as it aged, with a 1969 ask of $6,740 ($56,072 adj.) bumped to $7,281 ($57,048 adj.) in 1970. There was a notable increase in base price in Mark III’s last model year, as it had the most standard equipment ever offered: $8,420 ($62,657 adj.). Pricing initially compared almost exactly to the Eldorado, which in 1969 asked $6,710 ($55,823 adj.). But by 1971 GM cut the cost of its flagship coupe, which ranged from $7,480 to $7,750 ($55,662 to $57,671 adj.).

For 1972, Lincoln was ready with a new and more Seventies body style to compete with the new, more Seventies Eldorado. The Continental Mark IV would have a longer model cycle than its predecessor and was longer physically, too. Lincoln knew customers wanted more from a personal luxury coupe as the disco era dawned. There was one aspect of “more” they probably didn’t want, but Lincoln gave them anyway: more parts sharing with Thunderbird. Mark IV is next time.

[Images: Ford]

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  • AMcA AMcA on Oct 02, 2022

    The '70 Continentals and Town Cars may have been cousins to the standard body Fords and Mercurys, they didn't have to be disguised, because they had unique, unbelievably huge bodies of their own.

    Looking at the new 1970 interior, I'd say it was also a cost savings in sewing the seat. Button tufted panels like the 1969 interior had require a lot of sewing and tufting work. The 1970 interior is mostly surface sewing on a single sheet of upholstery instead of laboriously assembled smaller pieces.

    FINALLY: do I remember correctly that the shag carpet shown under these cars was a Photoshop? They didn't really go so peak '70s as to photograph cars on shag carpets, did they?

  • Arthur Dailey Arthur Dailey on Oct 04, 2022

    The absolute best series on TTAC and so few responses? I am going to assume that the readership (B&B) is either too young or did not have enough 'coin' to have enjoyed these vehicles during their heyday.

  • IH_Fever EV charger on a GM lot, probably with a Cummins generator to keep them running. A regular melting pot haha
  • Tassos Wake me up when VW (or any other loser "Legacy" automaker comes up with a "BETTER TESLA" BEV AT THE SAME PRICE. SO far, VW has FAILED MISERABLY AND LOST BILLIONS DOING IT. Its models are way underwhelming and inferior, and cost not much less than the model 3. ANd DESPITE the SCANDALOUS $7,500 tax credit, which is an INVERSE ROBIN HOOD, takes from the average household and gives it to the average BEV buying family, which has an income of $170k+, VW STILL FAILED.ALso notice the so-called "Mobility Officers" at FORD AND Renault QUIT. another HUGE SCAM, Autonomous Vehicles, they wasted 100s of billions (all idiot legacy makers together) and predicted billions of profits, but so far they DROWN IN A SEA OF RED INK with NOTHING to show for it. Morons will be morons, and the ones in this forum will cheer for their failures "AWESOME, WV, Indeed"! LOL!!!
  • Jwee More range and faster charging cannot be good news for the heavily indebted and distracted Musk.Tesla China is discounting their cars. Apart from the Model 3, no one is much buying Tesla's here in Europe. Other groups have already passed Tesla in Europe, where it was once dominant.Among manufacturers, 2021 EV sales:VW Group 25%, Stellantis at 14.5%,Tesla at 13.9%Hyundai-Kia at 11.2% Renault Group at 10.3%. Just 2 years ago, Tesla had a commanding 31.1% share of the European EV marketOuch. https://carsalesbase.com/european-sales-2021-ev/@lou_BC, carsalebase.com changed their data, so this is slightly different than last time I posted this, but same idea.
  • Varezhka Given how long the Mitsubishi USA has been in red, that's a hard one. I mean, this company has been losing money in all regions *except* SE Asia and Oceania ever since they lost the commercial division to Daimler.I think the only reason we still have the brand is A) Mitsubishi conglomerate's pride won't allow it B) US still a source of large volume for the company, even if they lose money on each one and C) it cost too much money to pull out and no one wants to take responsibility. If I was the head of Mitsubishi's North American operation and retreat was not an option, I think my best bet would be to reduce overhead by replacing all the cars with rebadged Nissans built in Tennessee and Mexico.As much as I'd like to see the return of Triton, Pajero Sport (Montero Sport to you and me), and Delica I'm sure that's more nostalgia and grass is greener thing than anything else.
  • Varezhka If there's one (small) downside to the dealer not being allowed to sell above MSRP, it's that now we get a lot of people signing up for the car with zero intention of keeping the car they bought. We end up with a lot of "lightly used" examples on sale for a huge mark-up, including those self-purchased by the dealerships themselves. I'm sure this is what we'll end up seeing with GR Corolla in Japan as well.This is also why the Land Cruiser has a 4 year waitlist in Japan (36K USD starting MSRP -> buy and immediately flip for 10, 20K more -> profit) I'm not sure if there's a good solution for this apart from setting the MSRP higher to match what the market allows, though this lottery system is probably as close as we can get.