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1972 Continental Mark IV without Opera Windows (rare)
1972 Continental Mark IV without Opera Windows (rare)
1972 Continental Mark IV


1972 Mark IV Auctions


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Mark IV With or Without Opera Windows?

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The 1972 Continental Mark IV. In all the 1970's, it was the unique American car.

In what can only be called a stunning display of styling talent, the Lincoln designers hit a home run with the new 1972 Continental Mark IV: it was flat out gorgeous. From its bold front grille to its elegant rear deck lid kick up, the car expressed elegance at its finest. More rounded and graceful in its appearance, the Mark IV was completely new, inside and out. Only the drive train and the few styling touches that identify the automobile as a Mark were carried over.

The classic Lincoln grille, introduced on the Mark III in 1969, reappeared for 1972 again flanked by concealed headlamps with covers painted to match the body color. On either side of the headlamp area were the combination parking and turn indicator lights, mounted on the forward edge of the front fenders. The front bumper dipped down at its center to cradle the bottom of the grille, a styling touch that is the one thing many identify as their favorite of the 1972 Mark IV. An optional bumper guard could be ordered to protect the grille, but many feel it ruins the original designer's intent as it bridges the gap made where the bumper dips to highlight the beautiful grille.

In profile, the Mark IV is more fluid in appearance than its predecessor. While the Mark III had more severe, aggressive lines that were more in keeping with a sporting vein, (no doubt inherited somewhat from the Ford Thunderbird from whence it came), the Mark IV was sheer elegance and highly refined in appearance. Wide wheel wells were trimmed with thin polished stainless moldings, and the full wheel covers were of a new design with a brushed finish. A dual color-keyed pinstripe accented the upper edge of fenders, doors, and quarter panel.

The Calvary Twill vinyl roof material returned for 1972, and a new optional feature was introduced: the opera window. Oval in shape, these windows were mounted in the roof sail panels, and featured the Continental star embedded in the glass. Not only did this give the new car a distinctive styling touch all its own, it also reduced the blind spots found in so many cars in this area. The opera windows were a smash hit, and very few 1972 Mark IVs were built without them. In fact, they started a styling craze that had after market companies installing opera windows in everything from Ford Galaxie 500s to Pontiac Bonnevilles, as well as many other makes and models.

From the rear, the elegant Continental spare tire hump appeared in the deck lid again, and new linear taillamps were recessed into the ends of the bumper, which was highly contoured. At the center of the bumper, below the deck lid kick up, was the license plate with dual back up lights mounted on either side.

Mark IV interiors were all new, yet retained the individually-adjustable front bench seat layout of previous Marks. Dual center fold down arm rests allowed either driver or passenger to extend their seating space, or provided a handy place to rest an arm. A center fold down arm rest was also provided for rear seat passengers.

The rear seat reading lights were relocated to the upper edge of the opera window trim, on cars equipped with the windows. A completely new instrument panel grouped instruments and controls more compactly in front of the driver, although the layout was similar with the headlight switch and automatic temperature controls to the left of the steering column, and the wiper/washer control and radio located to the right. Two different woodgrain patterns adorned the panel, which was dominated by three square gauge recesses, the smallest of which was the fuel gauge in the center.

Exterior paint finishes were available in 23 colors, with eight of them optional Moondust Metallic paints. 7 paint stripe colors were offered, as were 5 shades of vinyl for the roof. Interior upholsteries included Twin Comfort Lounge Seats covered in Lamont Cloth with expanded vinyl side panels on the seats and door and quarter trim. Genuine Leather seating surfaces were optionally available in a choice of 11 colors, 4 of them consisting of white leather with components in dark blue, black, dark green, or dark tobacco.

The Continental Mark IV's main competitor was the Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado, which had been completely restyled for 1971. The Mark racked up 48,591 sales for 1972, the Eldo 40,074 which makes the Mark the clear winner in popularity. And considering that the Eldorado was offered in two body styles, one would think that alone should have had some impact on sales, but it's difficult to say just exactly why things worked out the way they did.

In Motor Trend Magazine's July 1972 issue, it published its third King of the Hill article. In an attempt to determine the best luxury car in the land, the top two contenders were pitted against one another in a series of yearly articles. Areas of focus included handling, braking ability, and performance, resale value, repair frequency, noise levels, interior space—and last but not least—appearance were taken into consideration. The author pointed out that these cars were not being judged by the testers as stylists or final arbiters of good taste for the American people, but as American automotive journalists, and how they saw the two American luxury car kings.

To sum it up, the Eldorado won overall, but the Mark IV won perhaps the most important category: styling and general "luxury" appeal, which were likely the main reasons most bought one of these cars. In the previous two years, the 1970 and 1971 Continental Mark III won the King of the Hill title, which seems strange since the Eldorado underwent a major restyle between 1970 and 1971, and the Mark III didn't. Motor Trend noted that a luxury automobile had to first of all be a competent automobile. It should also be refined, made properly opulent and elegant with fine leather, real wood on the dash, and a level of mechanical sophistication in line with its cost. Certainly both the Mark IV and Eldorado met these standards (with the exception of real wood on the dash), but in an image conscious market such as the one the Mark and Eldo competed in, styling and the ability to exhibit affluence by its mere presence is as important a consideration as any.

Few in this class were as interested in front wheel drive technology or anti-lock braking as they were in which color would look best in front of the house, or whether a Lincoln might be the best choice since the Rich's down the street just bought a new Cadillac.

Ultimately, the true test of a luxury car, as Motor Trend determined, was that the whole package should exude a feeling of wealth, appeal to the senses, and surround itself with an air of exclusivity that quietly, but firmly, says to everyone else on the road that this is the car that belongs to "the man*."

(*The term "the man" at the time did not refer to a specific individual, but rather an authority figure, such as an important person, like the head of a corporation, or someone who has a great deal of power or control.)

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