1964 Lincoln Continental
First significant styling changes in three years
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
The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) plate is riveted to the rear lock face of the left front door near the latch assembly. 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 includes codes for body style (two numbers and a letter), exterior color code (one letter or number), interior trim code (two numbers), district sales office (DSO; two numbers), rear axle (one number for a regular axle, one letter for a locking rear axle), and a transmission code (one number).
The second row is the serial or VIN number, and consists of 11 digits that are decoded as follows:
The VIN Door Plate shown below represents the car pictured below:
The VIN Plate above decodes as:
BODY: 53A = Lincoln Continental 4-Door Sedan (74A = 4-Door Convertible)
1964 LINCOLN CONTINENTAL:
Longer and wider—increased interior spaciousness, enlarged luggage capacity...new seating arrangements and an expanded assortment of options
After spending much of the fifties searching for an identity, Lincoln learned that trying to compete with Cadillac model for model, and attempting to best Cadillac in sheer size wasn't the answer. The solution came in 1961, with the introduction of a design masterpiece that was simple, yet elegant. The 1961 Lincolns didn't have a lot of extra chrome tacked on, nor did they have soaring tail fins, busy side sculpturing, or any of the other remnants left over from the excesses of the fifties. What the '61 Lincolns did have was class. They were graceful, proportioned to be easier to drive, easier to maneuver, and easier to park. And the luxury car buyers loved them.
Lincoln knew it had a winner, and it knew it had to carefully maintain this new Lincoln look during a time when styling became outdated every couple of years. And styling was a big factor in the decision to purchase a luxury car, so the car had to be kept fresh without making its styling obsolete. Changes had to be made only to improve the car, not just for the sake of change.
With any new design, once in the hands of the public, information becomes available that can't be obtained until people have the opportunity to use the vehicle. In the case of the '61 Lincolns, the feedback was largely positive. Owners of the new Lincolns loved their cars. Quality was top notch, problems were few, and within a few years it became obvious that owners were retaining their cars longer than they had in the past. In fact, owner loyalty among Lincoln owners was now surpassing that of Cadillac owners! Among all the positive comments were a few complaints about lack of rear seat space. The new compact design didn't offer the same leg, knee, and head room that luxury car buyers were accustomed to at the time. This was a legitimate concern, and it was one that Lincoln felt it needed to address.
Very cautiously, Lincoln increased the wheelbase and lengthened the body to provide more room in the rear seat area. The roof of the car no longer sloped inward, and the curved side glass was replaced with flat glass, allowing the roof structure to be modified to provide more interior head room. Initial concerns that the flat glass and wider roof would tarnish the looks of the car were eliminated when a 1961 model was modified with flat glass and parked next to a stock '61 with curved glass. The benefits were immediately obvious, and the classic Lincoln look was intact. Plus, flat glass was less expensive so there was a cost savings as well.
Lincoln immediately promoted its new interior spaciousness, and print ads emphasized the substantial gain in rear seat leg and knee room. Photos were shot to show how easily one could stretch out their legs with room to spare. These changes resulted in a sales increase of 5,064 cars for the 1964 model year. Not a huge amount, but this was the fourth year for this body style, and that was stretching it at the time.
Lincoln's competitors, the Cadillac and Imperial, both exhibited 1964 styling that was heavily influenced by Lincoln. Cadillac updated its new for 1963 styling, which was very subdued compared to what it ended the previous decade with. Minor updates to the grille, front parking and signal lights, and the rear tail lamps and bumper were all that was necessary, as Cadillac was maintaining its clear lead over its competition.
The 1964 Imperial came out with all new styling, very much influenced by Lincoln due to the fact that Elwood Engel had left Lincoln to take a job at Chrysler, replacing Virgil Exner. One of Exner's favorite styling touches was soaring tail fins in the rear, a design that Engel didn't embrace. One of Engel's first duties at Chrysler was to see to it that the tail fins on the Imperial were chopped off. This happened for the 1962 model year, and sales improved considerably.
Engel's first complete new design for the Imperial was for the 1964 model year, and not only did the Imperial have clean lines and elegantly restrained styling, it also had a simulated spare tire shape to its deck lid. This Lincoln styling trait was not used on contemporary Lincolns, but the Imperial looked good with this design, and it was a good replacement for the discontinued "Flite Sweep Deck Lid" design which placed a round design on the top surface of the deck lid on Chrysler models, complete with simulated wheel covers.
While production of all top three luxury cars showed an increase in 1964, none of them built significantly more cars; although 1964 would become Imperial's second best sales year ever, placing it behind the record 1957 model year. Imperial's overall sales, however, were still far behind those of its rivals.
Cadillac introduced Comfort Control this year, the industry's first automatic temperature controlled heating and air conditioning system. While Lincoln wouldn't offer a comparable system until 1966, it did incorporate air conditioning registers into the instrument panel in 1964, with four registers spaced out across the panel. This provided improved air circulation on cars without air conditioning, and dispersed the cooled air throughout the passenger compartment more efficiently on cars equipped with the option.
Considering purchasing a 1964 Lincoln? These are well designed, well built automobiles. They have held up very well over the years, and the styling today is still classic. There are a couple of things to look for during your search. These are unibody cars, and repair of rust can be expensive. Previous accident repairs done improperly can also cost a lot to make right. The convertible top mechanism can also cost quite a bit to get working again, but newly-designed solid state components make it more dependable once you've spent the money, and the top operation on these cars is a show stopper, without question.
As always, buy the best one you can find. You will spend more in the long run restoring one than it will cost to buy one that's already been done, or buying one at top dollar that's been well cared for and maintained since day one.
Collectors of these cars love them from the moment they get them, and that affection only grows over the years. There is a strong club presence for these cars, and you'll find that universally, almost everyone knows what it is and has a story or two to tell about someone they knew who used to own one.