Rare Riding Icons: Lincoln Mark Series, Continental Sense (15th Part)

Rare Riding Icons: Lincoln Mark Series, Continental Sense (15th Part)

September 20, 2022 5:35 PM


The 1969 Thunderbird-based Lincoln Continental Mark III, which delighted the accountants at Ford’s Dearborn headquarters, was an instant sales success. It was the case for the right product (a personal luxury coupe) at the right time. The Mark III came head-to-head with its closest competitor, the Cadillac El Dorado.

And while the El Dorado nameplate has a long history and was better than the Mark, the Lincoln Show topped Cadillac sales in its first year. Part of that is thanks to the exceptionally long model year that stuffed the numbers, but thanks also to the excitement that the Mark has generated. The Mark III was all new in 1968 (for 69 model year), while the E-body Eldorado engine had been on sale since 1967. Although some updates occurred during the first model year (which ran from March 1968 to December 1969), the flag Vice President of Product Lee Iacocca said the Pet Project needs additional updates to maintain consumer interest.

At this juncture, it is pertinent to get some context on the general continental line. Elwood Engel-designed Continental two- and four-door models have been on sale since 1961 without major updates. In its final year, the old Continental Coupe was sold along with the Continental Mark 3. It was older, more conservative, and less popular (and nobody remembers it).

Lincoln introduced a new generation of the 1970 Continental that was larger, more paneled, less dignified and a return to the chassis build. The new Continental was very similar in appearance to the Mercury Marquis and Grand Marquis. In 1970 Continental moved on to share a platform with the Marques that debuted in 1969, essentially previewing the 1970 Continental design. Looking back, was that a good idea? of course not.

Along with the revised 1970 Mark III at Lincoln dealerships, was the Continental coupe and hardtop sedan, and the Continental Town Car was reintroduced. The Town featured its mandatory vinyl roof treatment and additional standard equipment and was once again considered the flagship Continental sedan.

Although changes were required in the new model year, the designers at Lincoln chose not to enhance the look of the successful Mark III too much. The Mark III front section remained largely unchanged, except for the adjustment of the angle mark lenses. On the 69 models, the lens was clear and lacked any amber tint. In 1970 an amber section appeared and was placed perpendicular to the outer corner of the lens.

Nearby was a new optional wheel cover design. The 1969 Mark III wheel covers were 1960s looking and grooved, with grooves (like on the old Mark II). In 1970, the new wheel cover was updated to a flat disc design. It had a central chrome area that was flat like a dinner plate. The plaque was surrounded by smaller, less well-known veins.

Other visual identifiers for the 1970 Mark III included the redesigned space arrangement. Wipers on all 1969 models are revealed and fitted to a panel between the bonnet and windshield. In the 1970’s this panel was lifted and redesigned to hide the spaces and make the hood look like one continuous piece of metal. Comparing the two, the concealed mop’s look was much cleaner.

And while hiding the spaces was more complicated, another change made things easier in 1970: the ceiling. In 1969, a painted roof was the standard, which resulted in less profit on sale time and required more factory work for smoother, more paint-ready roof coats. Vinyl roofing became a standard feature in 1970. No more worrying about roof quality control at Wixom Assembly!

There was only one other visual change for 1970, the side profile and rear design remaining exactly the same as in 1969. The aforementioned amber lens modification was part of a new 1970 federal safety regulation, which also mandated red reflectors on the rear. In compliance with government intervention at minimal cost, cutouts were made on the bumper in either corner, and a small red lens was installed. As a result, the subsequent years of the Mark III have never been as clean as they were in 1969.

Elsewhere, Ford has made safety improvements. A locked steering column became standard equipment, as did a redesigned steering wheel. The wheel lost its horn ring and was replaced with a rim stroke design.

Applied across many brands for a very short time between 1969 and 1974, the rim blowwheel had a rubber pad and wire in place of the traditional horn ring, the less common (at the time) horn studs or the center horn pad. The rubber pad had wires underneath and was secured around the inside of the entire wheel.

This was considered a safer design because the inside of the wheel rim could be pressed into any area of ​​the horn, meaning the hands could remain on the wheel. However, time turned out to be not kind to the design as aging affected the rubber lining.

Oftentimes, rubber shrinkage may cause the horn to unintentionally release randomly. Alternatively, if deflation was not an issue, the rubber would harden and continually make the horn more difficult to honk. In general, consumers did not like the poorly thought-out wheel design, and it was not used in any cars after 1974. Ford and Dodge were the last to abandon the puff wheel.

Other safety changes included the introduction of more modern three-point seat belts. A nod to the future, radial tires became a standard feature on the Mark III in 1970. It made the Mark III the first American car with radial tires as standard. At that time, 1968 Consumer Reports Recently, the study proved that cross tires are inferior to radial tires in every way. The Mark III was the first in a rapid market transformation that saw 100 percent of North American cars adopt radial tires by 1976.

There was additional federal intervention in 1970, as the government set its sights on emissions standards. Ford’s new emissions regulation required adding air injection to the Mark III’s 460 V8 engine, a system they called Thermactor. The Thermactor was a secondary air-injection system to reduce emissions, an idea created in 1966. Fresh air was injected (pumped) into the exhaust, which aided in complete combustion and cleaner emissions. The pumped air syringe was often called a “smog pump”. had no effect on 365 hp 365, Until now.

In our next entry, we’ll review the internal changes to the 1970 Mark III, and cover the changes made for 1971. We’ll also discuss sales and pricing figures for the last two years of the somewhat short-lived Mark III.

[Images: Ford]

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