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1969 Continental Mark III
VIN and Date Codes Explained

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:

9Y82A846001 Here's what that sequence of numbers and letters stands for:

9 = 1969 model year
Y = Wixom, Michigan assembly plant is where the car was built
82 = Lincoln Continental 4-Door Sedan body series code number
A = 460 cubic inch V-8 engine
846001 = the first Lincoln scheduled for production for the year (this would have normally been 800001, we explain why below)

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.

Typical date codes look like this:

01A Here's how that breaks down:

01 = day of the month scheduled to be built (in this case, the 1st)
A = code representing month scheduled to be built (in this case, January)

So 01A tells us the scheduled build date was January 1st. We should point out that just because a vehicle was scheduled to be built on a particular day, doesn't mean it was actually built on that day. The date it was actually built could be well ahead of or later than that date. This is due to delays on the assembly line, rush special orders that got inserted on the line ahead of schedule, or any number of other reasons.

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:

DATE CODE = MONTH (SECOND YEAR DATE CODE)


A = January (N)
B = February (P)
C = March (Q)
D = April (R)
E = May (S)
F = June (T)
G = July (U)
H = August (V)
I = Not used
J = September (W)
K = October (X)
L = November (Y)
M = December (Z)

The first date code letters, A, B, C, and so on were used first, and the second set of letters (N, P, Q, etc., shown above in parenthesis) were used if that same year and model were being built a year later. So, a car built in January 1968 would have the A date code, while the same car still being built in January 1969 would be given the N date code. And that's what happened when the first year Continental Mark III's hit the assembly line.

Image: 1969 Continental Mark III at Wixom AssemblyLet'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.