1963 Lincoln Continental
1963 Lincoln production was up just 172 units over '62
The VIN is die-stamped under the hood on the right front inner fender apron above the upper suspension arm opening, as shown in the illustration at left. This is the official number for title and registration purposes, and is almost always the same as the vehicle warranty number.
VIN WARRANTY PLATE
On most 1963 Lincolns, the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) plate is riveted to the front body pillar between the left front door hinges. Late production cars have the plate attached to the driver's door near the latch mechanism. Despite noting that the serial number is not for title or registration purposes, this number was indeed normally used, and as mentioned above usually matches the number stamped elsewhere on the vehicle.
The top row is the serial number of the car. It consists of 11 digits that decode as follows:
The second row includes codes for body style (two numbers and a letter), exterior color code (one letter or number), interior trim code (two numbers), scheduled build date (two numbers and one latter), transmission code (one number), and rear axle code (one number for a regular axle, one letter for a locking rear axle). (See example below for details.)
The VIN Door Plate shown below represents the car pictured below:
The VIN Plate above decodes as:
BODY: 74A = Lincoln Continental 4-Door Convertible (54A = 4-Door Sedan)
Note: The VIN Plate has been documented in two different locations on the 1963 Lincoln Continental. For most of the production run, it was near the left front door hinges, and could be seen with the driver's door open. Late in production, the plate was moved to the left front door, and could be seen on the rear latch facing of the door, mounted vertically.
1963 LINCOLN CONTINENTAL:
REDISTRIBUTED SPACE AND MORE POWER
Sales of the 1963 Lincoln Continental improved incrementally over 1962, with a mere 172 more cars being sold. 31,233 Lincolns were built for the year, and it was apparent that while many loved the more compact dimensions of the Continental over other luxury cars, that market was limited and in order to truly compete Lincoln would have to grow. At least now Lincoln had a design it could stick with, a "Lincoln look" that was every bit as recognizable as the one Cadillac had worked so hard to develop over the years. And Lincoln was able to do it in just three years. A larger Lincoln was on the way for 1964, and a myriad of changes were made for the 1963 model year to provide increased interior room, so concerns were being addressed.
Ads for 1963 included tag lines such as, "Sixteen Intolerant Men", "This is the Complete Line", and "Drive A Blue Chip", all addressing the unique qualities of the Continental. The sixteen men were, of course, the inspectors at the factory charged with determining whether or not every Lincoln Continental was ready for shipment. The only acceptable score after their thorough testing was 100 percent. Anything less, and the car went back for repairs or adjustments. Day in and day out, these men spent an average of one hour in each new Lincoln, driving it over a 12-mile course, operating every accessory. When the new owner received their car, it was ready for them.
The print ads for 1963 were in color, with a Lincoln Sedan or Convertible (or both, in one instance) positioned on the upper part of the page. The cars were obviously photographed in a studio, as there was nothing in the background to detract from the focal point. Text was near the bottom and reminded the reader about Lincoln's quality, limited availability of models, the 2-year/24,000-mile warranty, etc. They were very refined, of course, and certainly left a positive impression about the benefits of Lincoln ownership. The ads for 1962 and 1963 were similar in their design and layout, but changes would be made for 1964, with location photography and in some cases, even less text.
1963 represents Cadillac's first opportunity to fully respond to the Lincoln Continental, and there's little doubt the Lincoln had a major influence on Cadillac's new 1963 design. Gone was the sculptured lower "skeg" design from the body side. The sides were now straight, crisp, and free from protrusions. The tail fins were shrinking back into the rear fender tops, and the new look was a hit with Cadillac customers. Cadillac introduced a new Tilt Steering Wheel option that would soon become a popular luxury car feature.
Imperial had a spectacular new design being readied for a 1964 introduction, and it was in good hands, literally the very same man who was largely responsible for the award winning 1961 Lincoln Continental: Elwood Engel. But Imperial would have to get through 1963 first with the same body introduced earlier. Despite this, an attractive update gave the Imperial an impressive new appearance. Tail lights were removed from the top of the rear fenders and were incorporated into their blade-like ends. Even though this was the last year for this body style, Chrysler spent the money to design a new roof which eliminated much of the wrap-around rear window styling from earlier cars. This gave the Imperial a wider sail panel, which was very much the style at the time, and the overall look was more contemporary.
Cadillac remained the best selling luxury car in the land by a wide margin, and while Lincoln had closed the gap a bit, Cadillac was still way out in front. The Imperial remained a distant third, with the gap between it and Lincoln growing. This trend would largely continue through the remainder of the decade, but it would take a new personal luxury car from Lincoln, the Continental Mark III, to finally challenge Cadillac on a model-to-model basis. The Mark series would be very popular in the seventies, usually outselling Cadillac's Eldorado, even though the Eldorado marketed two models, a Coupe and a Convertible, from 1971-1976.
The automotive writers of the day complimented Lincoln on its minimal design changes, with Jim Wright of Motor Trend (July 1963) stating: "At first glance, it's not easy to tell a 1963 Continental from a 1962—or even a 1961 for that matter. Planned obsolescence just isn't cricket in a car that costs upwards of $6,200, so styling changes from year to year are very subtle." This continuation of design also rewarded Lincoln owners with improved value retention at trade in time, which was something earlier Lincolns hadn't seen. In fact, the 1958-1960 cars were pretty cold on the used car market during this time, with a 1958 Lincoln Premiere four door having an average retail value of just $960 in the fall of 1963, according to the Kelley Kar Blue Book. A comparable Cadillac Sedan deVille would bring in $1,635. A year later, the Premiere had dropped to $525, the point at which many of them were junked instead of repaired. The comparable Cadillac still had a value exceeding $1,000.
In a short three years, Lincoln had completely turned things around. The car was now accepted as a quality vehicle, its styling was seen as a timeless classic, and sales were on the rise even if not as quickly as some would like. Lincoln went from being on Ford's chopping block to the proud flagship division of the Ford Motor Company. The 1963 Lincoln Continental still is a blue chip investment.
Above: The 1963 Lincoln Continental came with a Two-Year, 24,000-Mile Warranty that covered almost every aspect of the motorcar, except for normal replacement items such as wiper blades, and it didn't cover normal wear and tear from use. Tires and battery were warranted separately, and covered by their manufacturers. High standards for production parts, a thorough testing and inspection process before shipping, and exceptional design allowed this longer warranty.