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1968 vs. 1969 Continental Mark III:
Production Differences
The first few months of 1969 Continental Mark III production occurred during the 1968 model year.

How can you tell if it was built during 1968 production, or during 1969 production?

There were many differences.

Here are the details!
1969 Continental Mark III

The 1969 Continental Mark III was introduced in April 1968 as a 1969 model. Even though the 7,770 cars built from March 1968 to July 1968 were listed as 1969 models, there are unique differences other than just the production number and date code [article opens in new window] that identify the early production cars. At a glance, the changes don't really stand out; but when you know what to look for, the changes become very obvious and make these cars even more interesting. Here are details about the changes that were made along with a few other facts—known only to a few until now...

List of facts and differences between Mark IIIs built during 1968 and 1969 production, as well as changes for 1970 and 1971:

1. Names considered for the car included Versailles, Turino, Lancelot, Apollo, Zephyr, and Allegro, among others.

2. Production was originally scheduled to begin in February 1968, but a strike slowed production, with just 626 cars being built by the end of March.

3. Color-keyed vinyl boots were added to the front seat belt anchors at the floor to conceal their attachment after July 1968. The position of the anchors was moved from the seat frame itself in early production to the floor of the rear compartment for the remainder of 1969 production. (This change occurred around November 15, 1968.)

4. Mark III's built through July 1968 were equipped with 1968-style headrests as an option. These featured two chrome support rods that attached the headrest to the seat. Two chrome bezels were mounted at the top of the front seat backs to accommodate the headrests. The headrests themselves were removable, and featured padded molded vinyl with raised piping on their front face. They could be locked into several vertical positions by forcing the headrest support rods past built-in detents. Later models equipped with headrests sported a slightly different configuration, with piping on both ends forming a triangular shape, and the mounting support became a single brushed steel plate. The later style headrests were not removable, and adjustment was made by depressing a lever on the bezel at the top of the front seat back. Headrests became a mandatory safety feature on January 1, 1969.

5. The windlace piping around the cowl trim panel was modified on units built after July 1968.

6. Eight new exterior colors were offered on units built after July 1968. The colors were: Dark Ivy Green Metallic (C); Medium Orchid Metallic (G); Light Green (H); Dark Orchid Metallic (K); Light Gold (R); Medium Gold Metallic (S); Light Copper Metallic (V); and Burnt Orange Metallic (Y).

7. White Leather with Vinyl interior trim (2W) was offered with Black components as a new option only on cars built after July 1968.

8. The padded steering wheel spokes and hub were of the 1968-style on cars built prior to July 1968; the design featured a wood grain appliqué that extended between the rim, separated in the center with a round emblem featuring the Continental star in gold. Later models had a more pronounced "V" to the spokes, and the appliqué and emblem were smaller, no longer running from rim to rim. The color-keyed padded vinyl hub now had a prominent section that separated the applique and steering wheel rim at each end of the spokes. (See example #1)

9. The Cartier Chronometer with Roman numerals was not installed in production until December 15, 1968. It was not mentioned or illustrated in early full line 1969 Lincoln sales literature. A similar clock with standard numbers was used prior to installation of the Cartier clock. (See example #2)

10. Instrument panel knobs on early models were solid black with a camera case texture and chrome bezel around the edge; later models featured a chrome ring inset on the face of the knob. (See example #3)

11. A change was made to the fresh air vent system on units built after July 1968, but we aren't sure what this means. Both early and late production 1969 models featured the Power Vent setting when Manual Air Conditioning was ordered, and both also included the floor duct air control, although only the left side vent was provided on cars with factory air conditioning.

1969 vs. 1970-71 changes:

1. 1969 Mark III's featured grille emblems with a red enamel background, while 1970-71 models were made of red plastic.

2. The Continental lettering on the deck lid of 1969 models was glued on, with the letters being changed in 1970-71 to a bolt-on configuration.

3. 1969 models used East India Rosewood or English Oak appliqués color-keyed to the interior trim color; 1970-71 models used genuine Walnut wood trim.

4. 1969 Mark III's featured a diamond-pattern button-tufted interior trim design; the 1970-71 models featured a similar, but much simpler design.

5. 1969 models located the control for the Rear Vent on the instrument panel, in the same pod as the wiper-washer control. In 1970-71, this control was relocated to the lower portion of the instrument panel, to the left of the steering column below the headlamp switch.

6. Sure-Track brakes were optional on 1969 models; standard thereafter.
Example #1
Padded Steering Wheel Spokes and Hub

March-July 1968 Early Style

Early production-style steering wheel
After July 1968 Late Style
Later production-style steering wheel

Example #2
Non-Cartier Clock
March-July 1968 Early Style

Early production-style clock
Cartier Clock
Starting December 15, 1968 Late Style

Later production-style Cartier Chronometer

Example #3
Instrument Panel Knobs
March-July 1968
Early Style vs. Late Style

Early production-style knobsLate style production knobs

1969 Mark III Trivia:

Number of 1968 production Mark III's built without air conditioning: 88

Number of 1969 production Mark III's built without air conditioning: 838 (total of 926 for 1969 models)

Total possible color combinations available on 1969 Mark III: 4,752 (paint/trim/vinyl roof/paint stripe)

Car on which Mark III was based: 1967 Thunderbird Fordor Landau

Major parts shared with the Thunderbird: frame, cowl section, windshield, A-pillar, roof panel, side door glass (from Tudor model), plus a myriad of switches, relays, electric motors, valves, and controls

Person responsible for authorizing development of the Mark III: Lee Iacocca

Initial design work began: September 1965

Code name assigned to the Mark III during the design stage: Lancelot

The Mark III is said to have begun with a late night telephone call between Lee Iacocca and Gene Bordinat*. Iacocca told Bordinat to "...take the Thunderbird and put a Rolls Royce grille on it!"

Interior designers intentionally designed wrinkles into the fabrics used in the Mark III. The quality control people disagreed, and the designers had to convince them that this was the desired effect.

The unique look of the Mark III was accomplished in part by raising the upper back panel (the sheet metal between the deck lid and the rear window), two inches above the upper back panel design of the Thunderbird. The effect was to limit the height of the roof and increase the height of the rear quarter panel.

*Eugene Bordinat was the head of the Lincoln Styling Studio.

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