Much to the delight of the accountants at Ford’s Dearborn headquarters, the new Thunderbird-based 1969 Lincoln Continental Mark III was an instant sales success. It was about the right product (a personal luxury coupe) at the right time. The Mark III took on its closest rival and competitor, the Cadillac Eldorado.
And while the Eldorado nameplate has a long history and is more established than the brand, Lincoln’s offering outsold the Cadillac in its first year. Part of that was due to an unusually long first model year that filled the numbers, but credit also went to the excitement the brand generated. The Mark III was all-new in 1968 (for the ’69 model year), while the electric front-wheel drive Eldorado had been on sale since 1967. Although there were a few updates in its first year model (which ran from March 1968 to December 1969), the VP Lee Iacocca that his pet project needed further updates to maintain consumer interest.
At this point it is worth having some context on the overall continental line. Continental two- and four-door models of Elwood Engel’s design had been on sale since 1961 without major updates. In its final year, the former Continental coupe was sold alongside the Continental Mark III. It was older, more conservative, and much less popular (and no one remembers).
Lincoln introduced a new generation Continental for the 1970 model year that was larger, looser, less dignified and a return to body-on-frame construction. The new Continental was also very similar in appearance to the Mercury Marquis and Grand Marquis. In 1970, the Continental moved to share a platform with the Marquis, which debuted in 1969 and essentially previewed the Continental styling of 1970. In retrospect, was that a good idea? Absolutely not.
Alongside the revised 1970 Mark III at the Lincoln dealerships were the Continental coupe and pillared hardtop sedan, as well as the reintroduced Continental Town Car. Distinguished by its mandatory vinyl roof treatment and extra standard equipment, the city car was once again considered Continental’s flagship sedan.
Although changes were needed for a new model year, Lincoln designers chose not to alter the Mark III’s successful look too much. The front clip of the Mark III remained largely intact except for a modification to the corner marker lenses. On the 1969 models the lens was clear and free of any amber tint. In 1970, an amber colored section appeared and was placed vertically on the outermost corner of the lens.
Nearby was a new hubcap design as an option. The 1969 Mark III wheel covers looked 60’s and were splined with veins (as on the old Mark II). In 1970, the new hub cap was updated with a flatter disc design. There was a central chrome area that was as flat as a dinner plate. The plaque was surrounded by smaller, less visible veins.
Other visual identifiers of the 1970 Mark III included the redesigned wiper arrangement. The wipers on all 1969 examples were exposed and mounted on a panel between the bonnet and windscreen. In 1970, this panel was raised and redesigned to hide the windshield wipers and make the hood look like one continuous piece of metal. Comparing the two, the appearance of the hidden wiper was much cleaner.
And if hiding the wipers was more complicated, another change made things easier in 1970: the roof. In 1969, a painted roof was standard, making less profit at the time of sale and requiring more work at the factory for its smoother, paint-ready roof seams. The vinyl roof became a standard feature in 1970. No more worries about roof quality control at Wixom Assembly!
There was only one other visual change for 1970, as the side profile and back design remained almost exactly as it was in 1969. The aforementioned amber lens change was part of a new Federal Safety Code for 1970, which also imposed red reflectors on the back. . To accommodate the interference of the authorities as cheaply as possible, cutouts were made in the bumper at each corner and a small red lens was installed. As a result, the subsequent Mark III years were never as clean as 1969.
Elsewhere, Ford has made improvements in the name of safety. A locking steering column became standard equipment, as did a redesigned steering wheel. The wheel lost its horn ring and was replaced with a rim blower design.
Implemented on several makes for a very short period between 1969 and 1974, the rim blower wheel had a rubber pad and wires instead of the traditional horn ring, or less common horn buttons (at the time) or the center horn pad. The rubber pad had threads underneath and was fitted around the inside of the entire wheel.
This was seen as a safer design as the inside of the rim could be pressed in any area to push, which meant that the hands could remain on the wheel. But time proved less favorable to the design as aging had an effect on the rubber padding.
Often the shrinking of the rubber caused the horn to be pushed involuntarily at random. Alternatively, if shrinkage was not a problem, the rubber would harden and make the horn increasingly difficult to push. Consumers generally disliked the ill-conceived wheel design, and it was not used in any cars after 1974. Ford and Dodge were the last to drop the fan wheel.
Other safety changes included the introduction of more modern three-point seat belts. And in a nod to the future, radial tires became a standard feature on the Mark III in 1970. This made the Mark III the first American car equipped with standard radial tires. At that time a 1968 consumer reports A study had recently proven that cross-ply tires were inferior to radial tires in every way. The Mark III was the first in a rapid market conversion, with 100% of North American cars adopting radial tires by 1976.
There was further federal intervention in 1970 when the government turned to emission standards. New emissions regulations required Ford to add air injection to the Mark III’s 460 V8, a system they called Thermactor. The Thermactor was a secondary air injection system to reduce emissions, an idea created in 1966. Cool air was injected (pumped) into the exhaust, contributing to more complete combustion and reduced emissions. cleaner. Pumped air injection was often referred to as a “smog pump”. It had no effect on the 460’s 365 horsepower, Still.
In our next post, we’ll go over the interior changes to the 1970 Mark III and cover the changes made for 1971. We’ll also discuss sales figures and prices for the last two years of the rather short-lived Mark III.
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