1965 would be the final year for the body style introduced in 1961. External styling changes were highly visible this year, and included front fender-mounted parking lights and ribbed chrome trim on the taillights.
The 1965 models are considered by many to be the best of the series.
1965 was the first year for:
Ventilated front disc brakes
Factory vinyl roof option
Fender-mounted parking lights
Ribbed chrome trim on taillights
Transistorized Ignition option
Emergency Flasher option
Spare Tire Relocation Kit option
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:
Digit #1: 5 = Year (1965)
Digit #2: Y = Assembly Plant (Y - Wixom, Michigan)
Digits #3 and 4: 82 = Body Style (82 - 4-Door Sedan; 86 - 4-Door Convertible)
#5: N = Engine Code (N - 430 CID V-8, 4V; 7 - 430 CID V-8 low compression for export)
Digits #6-11: 400001 = Consecutive Unit Number (starts at 400001)
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)
COLOR: E = Madison Gray
TRIM: 86 = Black Leather Pleated Design Bench Seat
DATE: 02A = January 2, 1964 (day of month, letter represents month)
DSO: 84 = Home Office Reserve
AXLE: 1 = Conventional rear axle, 2.89:1 ratio
TRANS: 4 = Twin-Range Turbo-Drive 3-Speed Automatic
1965 LINCOLN CONTINENTAL:
HOW TO STAND APART FROM PREVIOUS MODELS
Shown above: the 1965 Lincoln Continental Sedan in Black Satin. The only four door luxury motorcar in production at the time with center-opening rear doors.
The 1965 Lincoln Continentals would be the final appearance for the classic body style introduced in 1961. This was the design that finally established a "Lincoln look" that could immediately be identified as a Lincoln Continental. Careful and modest updates each year gave the cars a fresh look for the new model year, without sacrificing the overall integrity of the original design. The need for more interior room for 1964 necessitated exterior and interior styling changes, but these changes were made to create that additional space, not just for the sake of change.
Even with careful updates each year, any five year old automotive design begins to look stale, as trends and attitudes among the buying public change during that period of time. So what was a landmark design that sent other automotive designers running back to their design studios in 1961, was now requiring more extensive modifications to keep the design competitive in the market.
The front fender mounted parking lights and new taillights with ribbed trim were relatively minor changes that had a huge impact on the Lincoln Continental. These changes alone make the '65 models stand apart from the rest. Yet Continental's classic, elegant lines were still intact, with virtually no unnecessary chrome trim to detract from the design. For an auto maker to maintain this type of design integrity for five years during the sixties was unheard of, yet Lincoln did so, and quite successfully as each new model outsold the one before it.
No place was Lincoln's design influence seen more than with top competitor Cadillac. Everyone knows about the design excesses of the late fifties, and Cadillac is generally considered to have achieved top honors for design excess with its 1959 models. Those huge rocket ship tail fins may have been only a bit shocking when the cars were new, but it was a styling touch that didn't hold up well over the years, and made the 1959 models look very dated before their time. The huge tail fins shrunk for 1960, and were much more modest by 1961, but Cadillac's all-new 1963 styling is where one can see the result of the Continental's influence the most.
The lower body side design of 1961-62 that resembled a skeg on a sailboat was sheared off, leaving smooth, clean side styling. The overall appearance of the new Cadillacs was more square, and this change in styling concept was seen in the new 1965 Cadillac styling, as well. The lines were even cleaner, and the designers very cleverly did away with the tail fins, while still giving the upper rear fenders a pointed appearance that resembled a tail fin, but was integrated into the overall design much better.
Cadillac was still far outselling Lincoln, but there was no doubt that Lincoln was gaining on Cadillac, and feedback from Continental owners indicated that overall they were happier with their cars than Cadillac owners were with theirs, and were keeping them longer as well. This was another reason for Lincoln's stylists to give the cars a more robust styling update for 1965, as more noticeable appearance changes would encourage owners of the older models to purchase a new one. Lincoln's sales exceeded 40,000 for the first time in many years, which was a strong showing for an expensive car with a five year old body design.
Change was on the way for Lincoln for 1966, and the task was to continue the look established back in '61, while giving it a contemporary feel that immediately said "new!" The stylists were successful in their attempts, and there was some shuffling around of standard equipment to keep base prices in line with Cadillac, as well as a new Continental Coupé to give the Coupe deVille a challenger.
It was time for an update, as the automotive journalists of the time had begun to comment on the sheer size and weight of the Continental, a change that had to be made to address concerns from customers who bought luxury cars. While Lincoln's ride, interior comfort and accommodations were still superb, handling was not what it had been. Lengthening the wheelbase in 1964 introduced a bit of cowl shake in the Convertible, and it appeared some of the body rigidity had been lost. These were still incredibly strong cars, of course, but a few compromises had to be made in order to meet the requirements of luxury car buyers at the time.
Comments about lack of luggage space in the Convertible were becoming more frequent, as were the difficulties of loading and unloading over the side of the rear fenders. And heaven help anyone who needed to change a flat tire, as the spare was in a difficult position to say the least. What the journalists may have forgotten was that image had as much to do with the purchase of a luxury car as anything. And such things as luggage space on a Convertible weren't all that important to those purchasing a Convertible. Plus, tire design had improved to the point where flat tires and blow outs weren't as common as they'd been just a decade earlier, so most Continental owners thankfully never had the need to change a tire on their own. Besides, who starts out on a long trip with the top down, anyway? 90.6 percent of 1965 Lincoln Continentals were equipped with factory air conditioning, so most opted for comfort and likely had the top and windows up and the air conditioning on during the trip. And while luggage space wasn't exactly generous even with the top up (due to the lift cylinders and other components), there was enough room to meet the needs of most people.
Lincoln's other competitor, the Imperial, was in its second year of styling inspired by the Continental. A bold new grille was separated into four sections, and the dual headlamps were placed behind tempered glass lenses that were outlined with chrome bezels. Sales dropped off from 1964, however, demonstrating Imperial's continued weakness in the market. Auto testers and drive reports of the time almost universally awarded the Imperial best in class status, noting its superior handling, better use of space, and engine performance and smoothness when compared to Cadillac and Lincoln.
If you're considering a 1965 Continental, keep in mind that these unibody cars can be expensive to repair if they have extensive rust or past collision damage. Avoid cars with lots of bondo or poor body work from the past. The electrical systems on these cars can be a nightmare to repair, so check the operation of windows and the convertible top mechanism to make sure they work properly before you buy. You can expect less rigidity in the Convertible, so expect a bit of shaking and rattling on roads that aren't smooth, but there are no worries in this area with a Sedan model.
Rare options include the vertically adjustable steering column, automatic speed control, and automatic headlamp dimmer. The contour front seat option with center console is also seldom seen, and is worth seeking out because of its rarity.