1961 Lincoln Continental - A New Frontier For Lincoln (posted 3/30/2012)

When the 1961 Lincoln Continental was introduced the automotive trade press was stunned. The car's look was a dramatic departure from the styling of the 1960 Lincoln - in fact, it was a complete break from the fins, fat chrome trim and dog-legged windshields which were so characteristic of all cars of the prior five years. It did show some hints of fine cars of the past - the Continental Mark II influence could be seen in the mesh grille, the wraparound taillight design and the rise in beltline just ahead of the rear wheel cutout.

The new Lincoln Continental was a clean, elegant design which influenced the look of many of the cars of the 60's including the '63 Pontiac Grand Prix, '63 Buick Riviera and '64 Imperial. But the Lincoln Continental was more than just a pretty face. It was a highly engineered product as well. It offered a host of features and engineering improvements to make it a luxurious, quiet and dependable automobile.

Car Life magazine awarded the Lincoln Continental its 1961 Engineering Excellence Award; the Industrial Design Institute gave it an award for its overall appearance and execution. 1961 was the first year that the names Lincoln and Continental were used together for a non-Mark series pillared sedan - the Lincoln Continentals of the 1940s had been convertibles or coupes. The '61 was offered only with four doors - as a non-hardtop sedan or a convertible.

The Lincoln Continental sedan shown in the sketch was manufactured at the Wixom, Michigan assembly plant. It originally sold for $6,067 and weighed almost 5,000 pounds. The car was powered by a big 430 cubic inch V-8 and traveled down the highways of 1961 in a stately fashion transporting its occupants in hushed sumptuousness.

Despite this groundbreaking redesign, Lincoln sales did not jump-start; volumes grew slowly. Cadillac still outsold Lincoln by more than fivefold in 1963. Cadillac was a brand which had maintained a more consistent identity over the years and offered a variety of body-styles and trim lines not available from Lincoln. Two-door Caddies sometimes represented 20% of total sales and the availability of factory 75 Series limousines with corresponding commercial chassis models for hearses, flower cars and other special bodies gave Cadillac additional luxury caché. Lincoln's line was limited to only two models.

Another factor which inhibited sales was that the '61 Lincoln Continental sedan and was priced at the level of the premium 60 Series Cadillac rather than the entry-level Series 62 model. That meant that the base 1961 Lincoln sedan cost almost 19% more than the four-door Cadillac 62 ($6,027 versus $5,080).

In the miniature arena, the 1961 Lincoln has modeled in many sizes, including a 1:25 scale AMT plastic promotional model four-door sedan and 1:43 scale diecast sedans by Tekno, a Danish firm, and Cherryka from Japan. More recent offerings have included 1:18 scale diecast convertible by Yat Ming and Road Signature. Franklin Mint offered 1:24 scale convertible versions in white, red or black, as well as a light aqua example in FM's 1:43 scale 'Classic Cars of the '60s' offered in the 1990s.

In any scale, the 1961 Lincoln Continental is a milestone classic design - and still looks handsome today.

Remember When: 1961
auto blogIn January 1961, John F. Kennedy became the 35th President of the United States and, at 43, the youngest. In his inaugural address, the president promised a New Frontier and soon rode in a new, modern Presidential limousine, based on the 1961 Lincoln Continental. In December 1960, 'Camelot' opened on Broadway.

JFK was named as Time magazine's Man of the Year. The Peace Corps was created in 1961. The Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba failed. Russian Yuri Gagarin made the first manned orbital flight.

The IBM Selectric typewriter with a moving type ball was introduced, priced at $450. Kids tried out Legos (new to the U.S.) and Wham-O's Slip 'n Slide.

New words included 'A-OK', 'knee-jerk', 'high rise', 'neutron bomb' and 'soul music'. Barbie's friend, the suspiciously-androgynous Ken doll, debuted in 1961.

Top songs included 'Run Around Sue' (Dion & the Belmonts), 'Theme From Exodus' (Ferrante & Teicher), 'Shop Around' (The Miracles) 'Big Bad John' (Jimmy Dean), 'Blue Moon' (The Marcels) and 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight' (The Tokens).

New movies included 'The Absent-Minded Professor,' 'Breakfast at Tiffanys,' 'West Side Story,' 'Blue Hawaii', 'The Hustler' and 'The Guns of Navaronne'.

Several new television programs debuted in '61: 'Ben Casey', 'Mister Ed', 'The Bullwinkle Show', 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' and 'Car 54 - Where Are You?'.

U.N. Secretary General Dag Hammarskold died in a plane crash in the Congo. Other deaths included writers Ernest Hemingway and James Thurber, Swiss psychiatrist and the founder of analytical psychology Carl Jung, actors Leo Carillo, Gary Cooper and Charles Coburn, authors Ernest Hemmingway and James Thurber, painter Grandma Moses and baseball legend Ty Cobb.

In 1961, Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth's home-run record. The Yankees won the World Series 4-1 over the Cincinnati Reds. Golfer Arnold Palmer won the British Open.


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Disclaimer

The facts presented in this blog are based on my best guesses and my substantially faulty geezer memory. The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and are protected by the U.S. Constitution. Probably.

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If I have slandered any brands of automobiles, either expressly or inadvertently, they're most likely crap cars and deserve it. Automobile manufacturers should be aware that they always have the option of trying to change my mind by providing me with vehicles to test drive.

If I have slandered any people or corporations in this blog, either expressly or inadvertently, they should buy me strong drinks (and an expensive meal) and try to prove to me that they're not the jerks I've portrayed them to be. If you're buying, I'm willing to listen.

Don't be shy - try a bribe. It might help.


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