1972 Lincoln Continental
Above: 1972 Lincoln Continental instrument panel is elegant and functional. All instruments and controls are lit at night, and laid out so that instruments most frequently used are in driver's direct line of sight. Controls to left of steering column are driver-only, while those to the right of steering column are within easy reach of all front passengers.
The standard 3-Spoke Rim Blow Steering Wheel (shown) sounds the triple-note horns by squeezing anywhere along the inner rim. It did take some getting used to at first to avoid unintentional sounding of the horns, but was much appreciated when really needed!
Linear speedometer is easy to see, and speed can be checked at a glance. Blank band below numerals changes color to indicate speed.
The five square gauges on either side of the steering column (2 on left, 3 on right) indicate charging system performance, fuel level, engine temperature, engine oil pressure, and the one on the far right houses a clock with sweep second hand. Below the gauges to the left of the steering column are controls for headlamps and wiper/washer. Below the gauges to the right of the column are the Automatic Temperature Control settings.
In a day when warning lights were the expected manner of communicating an issue to the driver, having instrumentation as provided by Lincoln was a pleasant surprise for those who understood the advantages of being able to spot a potential problem before it happens, or waiting for it to happen before you're notified. Some of the gauges would disappear in the next few years as Lincoln updated the instrument panel, which is another reason why the early seventies cars might be the the ones to seek out if you're looking to buy.
|The 1972 Lincoln Continental.
The finest cars built in America.
Above: 1972 Lincoln Continental undergoing a final inspection as it comes off the Wixom, Michigan assembly line. Color shown is Blue Moondust Metallic (paint code 3C).
There was more good than bad for the 1972 Lincoln Continental. Lincoln dropped the base price for both the Coupé and Sedan, and they included more items as standard equipment as well. That's good. An attractive restyle, along with the lower prices, attracted more sales...all good so far. But what's the deal with the horsepower? It dropped from 365 in 1971 to 212 for 1972! Lincoln used the same engine both years, and other than a reduction in the compression ratio and a change in the fuel requirement from premium to regular, nothing else changed, right?
Well, sort of. It's true the same engine was used, but the manner in which horsepower was determined changed. Prior to 1972, car manufacturers rated their engines in brake horsepower (bhp), which is also referred to as SAE gross horsepower, as it was defined according to standards included in SAE standards J245 and J1995. Basically, SAE gross horsepower is determined by using a stock engine with just normal belt-driven accessories (such as water pump), fitted with test headers instead of exhaust manifolds, and some allowances were made for temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure.
For 1972, manufacturers began rating their engines using SAE standard J1349, which was SAE net horsepower. This measurement is taken at the crankshaft and does not include any horsepower required for operating a transmission. However, it does have all of the engine-driven accessories installed. So, components that use or reduce horsepower such as air cleaners, emission controls, exhaust manifolds, etc., are all accounted for in the final measurement.
Most believe the SAE net horsepower rating is a more realistic rating, since few engines are installed in vehicles without air cleaners, emission controls, and the like. So, while the horsepower ratings dropped considerably from 1971 to 1972, the performance of the engines themselves didn't suffer as much as one might think. What affected horsepower more than anything in 1972 was the reduction in compression.
Now that we've fulfilled our educational requirements somewhat, we can talk about more interesting things such as production and sales figures. 1972 was a good year for Lincoln, in fact it was the best year for Lincoln sales since 1966, which was the first major restyle for the line since 1961, and the debut year for the first two door Lincoln since 1960. Sales for 1972 were up 10,418 cars, or 29% over 1971.
Lincoln very quietly hired the Nationwide Consumer Testing Institute to test its 1972 models against new model Cadillacs. The test group was 100 Cadillac owners. The testing included consideration of vehicle smoothness, steadiness, and quietness. Of the 100 Cadillac owners, over half of them (60) said the Continentals had a more comfortable ride. Confirming this, perhaps, was the fact that sales were up considerably. In fact, there were times during the year that demand exceeded supply, causing overtime at the Wixom, Michigan assembly plant to get more Lincolns out the door. And, it didn't help that the other car line built at Wixom, the Ford Thunderbird, (which was all-new for 1972), was also selling briskly.
Lincoln would mention the 1972 tests in advertising for the 1973 model year, referring to Cadillac only as "the other American luxury car." I guess they didn't consider that to some people, that might be the Imperial, however most knew exactly which car Lincoln was talking about. As the testing continued, Lincoln would begin to mention Cadillac by name, and even include images of Cadillacs in some advertising. Cadillac was still number one for luxury car sales, but we are about to enter an era where Lincoln would become a much stronger challenger than anyone expected.
During this era, luxury car buyers expected a smooth ride, quiet interiors, elegant fabrics, and appointments that were functional and did all the work for them. Interior spaciousness was also given consideration, and it was nice to know that rear seat passengers enjoyed the same leg and hip room as the driver. Interiors were to be heated or cooled within a degree or two of the temperature setting. Dust, pollen, and humidity were to be kept to a minimum, and when others looked at you through the tinted glass, they knew without question that the occupants inside the Lincoln were more comfortable than they were!
When considering the purchase of a 1972 Lincoln Continental, look for signs of rust in the rear quarters, under the vinyl roof (especially around and below the rear window), and along the bottoms of the doors and front fenders. Mechanically, these Lincolns are rock solid with one of the best engine and transmission combinations Ford ever designed and built. Mechanical parts are easy to find, due to being shared with many other Ford cars. Some electrical components can be difficult to locate, but they are out there.
The 1972 Lincoln Continental. The finest cars built in America.
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