MILEPOSTS Garage - The Online Classic Car Magazine 1967 Lincoln Continentals: does paint color matter?
1967 Lincoln Continentals: does paint color matter?
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Does Paint Color Matter?

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C O L O R makes a difference!

You've probably heard the story about Henry Ford saying customers could have any color on a Ford that they wanted as long as it was black. Color on automobiles has evolved over the years, just as the automobile itself has evolved. Originally, cars were only available in a few colors, mostly black, dark green, maroon, and dark blue. As technology allowed more colors in automotive paint, more were offered. My father once told me the story of my grandfather's brand new all-white 1954 Ford causing people in the small town where they lived to stare at the car as it drove by, so unusual was it for them to see an all-white car in the small Missouri town where they lived!

When Lincoln introduced the Continental Mark III in April of 1968, it was on a mission: to produce and market a car that would challenge Cadillac's Eldorado for honors as the top personal luxury car in the land. The original Mark III of 1958 fell short of expectations and didn't sell well, nor did the Mark IV of 1959 or the Mark V of 1960. So, Lincoln just decided to reuse the Mark III moniker again since it wanted to forget about the mistake it made in 1958 anyway. Lincoln did indeed learn from its late fifties missteps, and in 1961 fielded its first true contender for top spot in the American luxury car market, the 1961 Lincoln Continental.

Throughout the sixties, in many ways Lincoln was the one setting the standards. Cadillac's designers and stylists rushed back to their drawing boards when they saw the clean lines of the 1961 Lincolns. The new Lincoln look was protected very carefully, and annual styling changes were conservative. By the late sixties, when the second round of Mark IIIs were being designed, Lincoln knew it needed to offer customers a lot of options—not necessarily extra cost things, either—although that too was important. Customers in the luxury segment wanted to be able to personalize their cars. Ford's Thunderbird, for instance, is generally credited with starting the personal luxury car concept in 1955. By the late sixties, the T-Bird offered not only a choice of body styles, but it also offered different roof lines and seating arrangements for its customers to choose from. The luxury of choice ranked high on the list of luxury car buyers requirements.

One of the most personal choices made when buying or ordering a car is the color. For the 1968 Continental Mark III, Lincoln offered a choice of 22 exterior colors; 9 interior colors; 8 accent stripe colors; and 3 vinyl roof colors. In all, 4,752 unique color combinations were available if you mixed all the variables. And what happened? With all the different possibilities available, what did customers order and what magnificent color combinations came down the assembly line?

Well, the combinations were not as dramatic as you might think, as Lincoln had learned a lesson from the Mark II program back in 1956-57 when it was building pink cars with gray leather interiors, along with a few other unique color combinations, in an attempt to satisfy its customers. Lincoln never made any money on the Mark IIs, and part of the reason why it didn't make money was the lines had to slow down when these special cars came along. So, for the sixties Marks, there would be "recommended" color combinations and "also available" color combinations.

The purpose of having predetermined color combinations was to ensure that no unusual or distasteful color combinations were built, and that the look Lincoln wanted to convey with the Mark III wasn't marred by unsightly combinations of color. The pink with gray interior Mark II was certainly attractive to its new owner, and no doubt others who saw it thought it looked good. But the typical Lincoln owner at this time would not want this combination of colors. And that brings us to how the unusual color combinations that were available might affect these vintage cars in today's collector car market.

Predictably, Lincoln made a lot of black and white Mark IIIs, and one of the most common color combinations during this time was white paint, black vinyl roof, and black interior. Popular when new, so they are more plentiful today. But do rare color combinations make them more valuable? It's fairly well known and accepted that a red convertible will attract more attention and garner higher prices at an auction, and red is a common color on vintage cars. But one has to wonder if that makes the rarer colors even more desirable. Consider the 1962 Thunderbird Sports Roadsters. Offered initially in only 7 colors out of the 18 offered for the 1962 Thunderbird. Another color, Castilian Gold Metallic, was offered later in the year for the Sports Roadsters as well as the other body styles, but Rangoon Red was by far the most popular color for the 1962 Sports Roadsters. In fact, only a handful of the Roadsters built for 1962 were painted Chestnut, a new-for-1962 color. The popularity of Rangoon Red today may stem from Ford's initial production run of Sports Roadsters, as the first 465 units built were all Rangoon Red. This was done so that Ford Dealers across the country could all display a red Roadster in their showrooms for the debut of the new model. But since rarity is a major factor in determining the value of old cars, wouldn't the other colors justify a higher value?

In this case, probably not. The Rangoon Red Sports Roadster is embedded in everyone's mind as THE Thunderbird to have from this period. But rare items, such as the "M" engine option, do affect the price, and due to its rarity a premium is added if the car was originally equipped with this option. Now, I don't want irate letters from Rangoon Red Sports Roadster owners telling me I'm wrong here. There's not really a right or a wrong in this instance. It's just that a lot of people are going to find the Silver Mink or Sandshell Beige Sports Roadsters more interesting because you don't see them as often as the Rangoon Red ones.

Color does make a difference in some cases. For instance, a 1969 Cadillac deVille Convertible painted in Chateau Mauve Firemist would probably be more valuable to a collector than a Cotillion White one, simply because the Chateau Mauve color is so rare. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and some may find the metallic lilac Chateau Mauve a bit much for their taste, but most enthusiasts will tell you it is recognized as a highly desirable color on a 1969 Cadillac.

Take for instance two 1960 Thunderbird Hardtops. Both in the same condition, and equipped exactly the same. The only difference that sets them apart is the color combination. One of them is Corinthian White with a red and white vinyl interior, a fairly common color combination for this car. The other one is Springdale Rose with a black and white vinyl interior. The Springdale Rose one is more interesting by default, as there aren't as many with this color combination. Or, it could be Palm Springs Rose with black and white vinyl, or Sultana Turquoise, with light and medium turquoise vinyl, both fairly rare color combinations for a 1960 Thunderbird.

I find the unusual color combinations to be high on my list of considerations when looking at vintage cars. You see a lot of 1966 Thunderbird Town Landaus painted Wimbledon White with black top and interior, or change the paint to Honeydew Yellow, if you prefer. Both are very common color combinations for a '66 T-Bird, and that's because they look good in these colors. But again, consider all things being equal except for the colors and put a red interior in the white one with the black vinyl roof. There's something different. The one with the red interior becomes more interesting because you don't see that combination very often. How about pairing up a Sage Gold vinyl roof and Ivy Gold interior with the yellow one—now that's an unusual color combo, and it was available when new, although rarely seen.

I once saw a 1966 Thunderbird Town Landau that was painted Silver Rose Metallic. It had a Parchment vinyl roof and a Parchment Leather interior with Burgundy appointments. This color combination was not shown on the color chart as being available, and it looked great! I doubt there are very many like it. I've also seen a 1965 Lincoln Continental Sedan painted Spanish Moss (dark green) with a black vinyl roof and a Burgundy leather interior. It was stunning. Granted, once you get involved in strong colors you'll find people that don't care for green, or they'll think the metallic lilac shades are too feminine or too dated, but just as many will be fascinated by them because they're so rare.

There's little doubt that some of these color combinations were built to special order, but consider some of the combinations that were recommended by the factory that you never see: going back to the Continental Mark III, one of the recommended color combinations in 1971 was Light Gray Metallic paint with a Light Aqua interior. Your choice of a black or white vinyl roof, paired with an aqua accent stripe down the side. What a great color scheme! And you never see it! If you prefer a darker color, the Light Aqua interior was also available with Dark Gray Metallic paint. Or, how about a Presidential Blue (dark blue) Metallic 1969 Thunderbird Fordor Landau with dark blue vinyl roof and dark red interior? One like this did exist, and it had a factory power sunroof as well! In 1966, Thunderbird offered the previously mentioned Sage Gold colored vinyl roof. Sage Gold was a green-gold color that matched the Sauterne Gold paint. You could only get this vinyl roof color with three different shades of paint, each limited to a choice of no more than three different interior colors. The Sage Gold vinyl roof was only offered in 1966, which makes it a very rare sight today.

Consider the one-year-only offerings for interior or exterior colors. In addition to the 1966-only Sage Gold vinyl roof on the Thunderbird, you might search for one with an Emberglo interior. It was only offered in 1966. Or, how about a 1969 Thunderbird with the Copper Flame paint color, only available in 1969. Dark Orchid (deep purple) Metallic was another great 1969-only color for the T-Bird. Special editions normally have a specific color combination that sets them apart, such as the 1963 Thunderbird Limited Edition Landau with its Corinthian White paint, Rose Beige vinyl roof, and White Leather upholstery with Rose Beige appointments. 1965's Thunderbird Special Landau was another with Emberglo or Wimbledon White paint, and a Parchment vinyl roof and interior with Emberglo accents. The special editions are special due to their limited production, but the color combinations were the main factor that set them apart from the rest.

When was the last time you saw a 1974 Thunderbird with the White and Gold Luxury Group? It featured two tone white and gold exterior paint and a matching two tone leather interior. How about a 1974 Cadillac in Cranberry Firemist or Persian Lime Firemist? They just don't make cars with these great colors anymore, and they didn't make very many back then.

In today's world of cars offering a selection of 5 or 6 varying hues of grayed out colors, the old cars painted in unusual period colors really stand out and are even more unique. There have been black, white, and red cars for many years, and they are all great colors for vintage cars. But before you restore your old car and change the color to something more common—more mainstream—consider why you have an old car in the first place. Is it because it isn't common? Are you making a statement to society by driving something that isn't the norm? Are you demonstrating your dislike of new cars that all seem to look alike? Whatever reason you may have for owning an old car, chances are you like it all the more because you have found something special about that particular car that makes it unique in your eyes.

Yes, color does make a difference. Try to keep an open mind next time you're at a car show or an auction. That strange color or unusual color combination may be one of just a few originally made, and it could be one of the last ones (or THE last one) that's still around. I find I notice the unusual colors more because so many old cars are painted red, or black, or white, and the majority of them at shows and auctions seem to be painted in those shades. And if that's the way it came from the factory, so be it. It's original, and you probably shouldn't change the color just to have a rarer color scheme. But if you happen to own or come across something a bit more unusual, consider that the color alone does make the car more unique, rarer. Just as old cars are representative of the time they were made, so are the colors they came in. The vintage car world would be boring if all we ever had to look at were red, black, or white cars. So, keep that in mind next time you come across a vintage car wearing paint in Rosewood Firemist, Mandarin Orange, Terra Cotta Firemist, Emberglo Metallic, Chestnut Metallic, Antique Bronze, Beachwood Brown, Sultana Turquoise, Silver Sand, Persian Sand, Dark Orchid Metallic, Black Plum Metallic, Lime Gold Metallic, Anti-Establishmint, or Moby Grape.