Lincoln Continental Mark III
|Body style(s)||2-door coupe|
|Engine(s)||460 cid V8|
|Transmission(s)||3 speed automatic|
See Lincoln Mark for a complete overview of the Lincoln Mark Series.
Confusingly, there have actually been two cars named the Continental Mark III - the first, and largely forgotten, was launched in 1958 by the short-lived Continental division of Ford, and was somewhat of a sales disaster (not helped by the recession of that year).
The second car to bear that name (as a Lincoln, however) was launched in April 1968 as an early 1969 model, a mid-year introduction rather than the traditional fall introduction that new models are normally unveiled. Though the Mark III was officially considered a 1969 model by Ford Motor Company, it was really a 1968 1/2 model due to its early production falling within the last few months of the 1968 model year. When the assembly lines changed over to 1969 model production for all Ford, Mercury and Lincoln car lines in September with formal introductions later that month, the Mark III entered its first full model year virtually seamless with no changes. Mid-year introduction is commonplace in the auto industry when the model is a new vehicle that doesn't replace an existing one, to gain it extra attention and sales figures as Ford did four years earlier with the highly successful Mustang in April 1964, which was officially considered an early 1965 model by Ford, but was really a 1964 1/2 because of some features unique that first half-year's models that were changed when the '65 model year arrived.
Intended to compete with Cadillac's new front wheel drive Eldorado, which was launched as a 1967 model, the Mark III slotted in at the top end of the personal luxury car market alongside its Cadillac competitor, priced higher and better-appointed than such cars as the Ford Thunderbird, Buick Riviera and Oldsmobile Toronado. The Mark III shared another feature with the Eldorado; both were based on the underpinnings of another car in the same parent company's range. In the Eldorado's case it was the Toronado; Lincoln, similarly, took the underpinnings of the 1968 Ford Thunderbird, built alongside Lincolns at Ford's Wixom, Michigan plant. The side-rail frame was identical to the Thunderbird's, but the Mark III bore more massive, taller and heavier by almost 300 pounds (136 kg) bodywork. The engine was Lincoln's all-new 460 cid V8, generating 365 brake horsepower (272 kW). The Lincoln 460 along with the Thunderbird's 429, were part of Ford's new-for-'68 385 engine family.
Styling-wise, the car definitely looked like a Lincoln; squarer and more upright-looking than the sleek Thunderbird, with a typical Lincoln grille, very Rolls-Royce-esque, smooth doors to cover the headlights, and a fake spare-tire bulge on the rear deck reminiscent of that on the earlier Continental Mark II. The rear quarters had the typical late 1960s-early 1970s coke-bottle upward bulge, but otherwise, the looks were rectangular.
A George Barris customized Mark III participated in the 1977 film "The Car" which scored high admirations and influenced the later production of the film "CHRISTINE". A spectacular example was used in a memorable scene in the movie "Casino.". In the 1971 film "The French Connection", drugs were transported to New York City, hidden inside of the rocker panels of a Mark III.
As befitted a luxury car, and in order to justify the $1,500 price jump from the equivalent Thunderbird (a substantial amount of money then, given that the Thunderbird cost only $5,000), the Mark III was sumptuously equipped. Everything was power, of course; steering, brakes, windows, headlamps, and both front seats. The instrument panel and trim panels on the doors featured simulated wood appliques in either English Oak or East-Indian Rosewood, depending on the interior color chosen. After a few months, a Cartier-branded clock took pride of place among the instruments. The upholstery was expertly done, either the standard vinyl with cloth inserts, or the optional leather.
A vinyl roof in cavalry twill pattern was technically an option, but they were so popular that a plain-roofed car is the rarity. One reason for the rarity of the plain-roofed version is the fact that the roof was made in two pieces and required extra preparation at the factory to conceal the seam; consequently, its availability was not widely advertised. Other options included the aforementioned leather interior, air conditioning, further power adjustments for the front seats, a variety of radios and 8-track tape players, tinted glass, power locks and all the rest. A limited slip differential could be ordered, as could anti-lock brakes, called "Sure Trak". Cruise control was also an option. Finally, an automatic headlamp dimmer that dimmed the headlights for oncoming cars without driver intervention was available.
1968 1/2 and 1969
Despite some bad reviews by the automotive press, the public took to the car with some 7,000 built during the remainder of the 1968 model year, and another 23,858 cars for the entire 1969 model year, a respectable showing; Lincoln had always trailed Cadillac in production numbers, but the Mark III was almost up to the Eldorado. This was the start of a long, successful run for the Lincoln Continental Mark Series.
Because of its early introduction and extended production year, the 1969 model had several running changes made. Cars produced prior to July 1968 had a steering wheel pad with a much larger wood applique and Continental star logo than later cars. Cars produced prior to July 1968 featured a decorative stitching pattern on the face of the rear seat above the center arm rest. After July 1968 the seatbelt retractors were relocated and eight additional exterior color choices were added. Cars produced before the second week of December 1968 had white indicator needles for all instruments and controls, and an electric clock with Arabic Numerals was used. Cars Produced after the second week of December 1968 utilized orange indicator needles for all instruments and controls, and a Cartier Chronometer with Roman Numerals was installed. All cars produced after December 31, 1968 were equipped with driver and front passenger head rests per Federal mandate.
There were a flourish of small changes for 1970 as Lincoln saw no need to break a clearly winning formula following tremendous sales in 1968 and 1969. 21,432 were sold; somewhat down from the previous year. The vinyl roof was made standard, since at the time, nobody seemed to want to order a luxury car without it, the windshield wipers were now hidden from view, and the wheel covers were redesigned. Michelin radial tires were standard equipment (a first for an American car), and a locking steering column/ignition switch replaced the dash-mounted switch per federal mandate. The metal horn ring used in '69 was deleted from the steering wheel, replaced by a Rim Blow unit. Increasingly stringent Federal safety requirements mandated the addition of red reflectors to the rear bumper, and yellow reflectors to the sides of the front parking lamp assemblies. Although horsepower remained unchanged at 365, Federal emissions requirements were met by the installation of Thermactor air injection pumps on the 460 cid engine. The interior wood appliques were upgraded to genuine Walnut. The door panels were redesigned and the power seat controls were moved from the seat edge to the door arm rests. The pattern of the stitching on the seats was modified. A power sliding sun roof joined the options list.
Motor Trend’s 1970 head-to-head review of the Eldorado vs. the Mark III gave the nod, barely, to the Mark III, which must have pleased Ford executives hugely. They'd produced a winner. That would be the first of Motor Trend's "King of the Hill" series published each summer (usually in the July issue) in which the Mark was compared to the Eldorado.
1971 saw the Golden Anniversary for the Lincoln marque, and the third and final year of Mark III production. Sales were better than ever, at 27,091, very good for a car that was not a new face in town. Production was almost equal to the Eldorado's this year, a harbinger of the way things would be going for Lincoln and Cadillac in this new decade.
Little changed from the 1970 model; tinted glass became standard, as did automatic climate-controlled air conditioning and SureTrak anti-lock brakes. High-back seats became standard, and a rare special-order floor console was made available. Horsepower remained unchanged at 365, but the 460 cid engine gained a more sophisticated thermostatic air cleaner assembly with its associated ductwork.
In its second annual King of the Hill contest in which the Mark III was squared off against the Eldorado, Motor Trend (July, 1971) again gave the Continental Mark III the nod as the winner over its Cadillac counterpart by a wider margin than in 1970 despite the fact the Lincoln was basically a warmed over 1968 model while the Cadillac was all-new from the ground up. M/T noted that the Mark III's leather interior was far more luxurious and better detailed than the test Eldorado's nylon cloth and the Continental's real wood dash trim was far more attractive than the Cadillac's simulated trim.
1972 would see a new, even larger car, the Mark IV, replace the Mark III, and Lincoln's star in the ascendant.
As of 2005[update], a Mark III usually sells for practically the same money as they cost new, about $7,000 USD for an example in quite good condition, a little more if perfect, a little less if it needs work; sometimes bargains can be found. Luxury cars from this period are not highly valued, and a Mark III in good condition is quite cheap. Mark IIIs are not that common, but the good news is that unlike more performance-oriented automobiles, a surviving Lincoln is likely to have been treated well. Little trouble is likely with the mechanicals; the Ford 460 was used until the mid 1990s, and parts availability is not a problem. The plethora of electrical and vacuum accessories may prove a little trickier to repair.
Lincoln Mark Series
Lincoln, a luxury division of Ford Motor Company – road car timeline, 1970s–present
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