1969 Continental Mark III
No, there's no such thing as a 1968 Continental Mark III!
When the Lincoln Division of Ford Motor Company decided it needed to respond to Cadillac's dominance in the American luxury car market on a model-by-model basis, the first result of that decision was the 1966 Lincoln Continental Coupe, an elegant car that sold better in its first year than anyone expected. Lincoln's second response was to the Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado, which had been introduced as a personal luxury hardtop coupe in 1967. Lincoln's challenger would be the Continental Mark III, a distinctive car based on the Fordor Thunderbird platform. Sharing parts with the Thunderbird reduced manufacturing costs for both vehicles, and allowed Lincoln to get the new Mark III into production quicker.
When it was introduced on April 5, 1968, the new Continental Mark III was referred to as a 1969 model. This meant it was being built on the assembly line in Wixom, Michigan next to the 1968 Lincoln Continentals and Thunderbirds. This action was not unprecedented. Ford announced the new 1965 Mustang in April of 1964, and it too was sold and titled as a 1965 model. The Mustang was, of course, overwhelmingly successful, so perhaps getting a head start on the competition with next year's new model wasn't such a bad thing.
However, in order to do this there were some internal procedures that had
to be put into place first. Two important issues had to do with Vehicle
Identification Numbers (VINs) and date codes. A typical 1969 Lincoln VIN
looks like this:
Simple enough, right? This is the number that appears on the VIN tag that's
usually mounted to the driver's door lock face. Ford called it the "Warranty
Number" on the plate, and indicated it wasn't for title or registration
purposes, but most states used the number anyway, as it was a unique identifier.
Other code numbers on that plate included a body style number, which was
different than the body series number in the example above. Paint color
codes, trim code numbers, a date code, a DSO (District Sales Office) code,
axle, and transmission codes also appear. The date code is the one that
we're going to discuss now.
In reality, Ford had already planned for the possibility that a vehicle might be in production longer than a 12-month period, which means two sets of date codes were prepared. Production normally begins in July or August, and those two months have date codes of G and H, respectively. But on the chance that the same year car's production might run over into the July or August of the following year, a second set of date codes, U and V, were available. And that's exactly what happened in the case of the 1969 Continental Mark III.
FORD DATE CODES:
Let's say the first Mark III built was scheduled for February 1, 1968 (it wasn't). It would be given an 01B date code. Production of the early 1969 Mark III's would continue along with the 1968 Lincolns and Thunderbirds until the last day of production for the 1968 models. At this point, 7,770 1969 Continental Mark III's had been built during the 1968 production run! Each was identified as a 1969 model due to its VIN starting with the number "9" which indicates the 1969 model year. And as each Mark III came down the line, it was given a consecutive unit number in line with the 1968 Lincolns that preceded or followed it down the line.
To elaborate, let's say there are 5 cars scheduled to be built. The first, a 1968 Lincoln Continental Sedan, is given VIN 8Y82A800123. The second, another 1968 Continental Sedan, is VIN 8Y82A800124. Car number three, a 1969 Mark III, is given VIN 9Y89A800125. The car behind the Mark III is a 1968 Lincoln Continental Coupe, and its VIN is 8Y82A800126, and behind it another 1968 Lincoln Continental Coupe is assigned VIN 8Y82A800127. See how that worked? Lincoln just mixed the 1969 Marks in with the 1968 Continentals, keeping the consecutive numbers but changing the first number in the VIN to indicate it was a 1969 model, and the body series code number to indicate it was a Mark III.
This worked just fine until production of the 1969 models began. This meant the 1969 Mark III would now be built along with 1969 Lincoln Continentals and 1969 Ford Thunderbirds. In order to keep VIN numbers from being duplicated, Ford assigned a higher series of numbers to the 1969 Lincolns. So, instead of the first 1969 Lincoln being 800001, the first was 848001. Here's the reason why.
With 39,134 1968 Lincoln Continentals built plus 7,770 1969 Continental Mark IIIs built alongside them at the same time, a total of 46,904 cars had been built during 1969 production. This included both 1968 and 1969 models, so it was necessary to begin VIN numbers for the 1969 production run at a higher number to prevent duplication of the 7,770 VIN numbers already issued for the 1969 Mark IIIs built during 1968 production. Make sense?
Therefore, VIN numbers for 1969 Lincoln production began at the previously mentioned 848001. Problem solved. Almost. Since 1969 Mark IIIs were built during both March, April, May, June, and July 1968 as well as March, April, May, June, and July 1969, the second date codes mentioned above had to kick in for the 1969 production run, as the first set of letters had already been used during 1968 production, for the 1969 Mark III.
This event was pretty much unprecedented in Ford's history. Confusion over 1969 Continental Mark III production, VIN numbers, and date codes has mystified collectors for years, so we thought we'd try to clear it up. Oh, and we'll mention this one more time: there is no such thing as a 1968 Continental Mark III. Nor is there a 1968½ Mark III. They don't exist, and they never did.
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