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Image: 1966 Lincoln Continental

Unmistakably new, yet unmistakably Continental

1966 Lincoln Continental

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Image: 1966 Lincoln ContinentalFor 1966, Lincoln had a new look, and a new attitude toward marketing Lincolns and competing with Cadillac. After establishing a design in 1961 that it could grow with, Lincoln made modest updates to it so each new year resulted in a fresh look, but no changes were made that were a drastic departure from the original design. In fact, most of the styling changes were a result of making the car more comfortable for passengers. One complaint on the 1961-1962 cars was the interiors were too small, so Lincoln made changes in 1963 to provide more interior space. In 1964, the greenhouse was redesigned and made wider, to allow for more head room. Curved side glass was eliminated, and the upper rear corner of the rear door glass was squared off to allow for more glass area and a wider door opening for entry and exiting. This change to the roof structure and rear door glass was one of the most significant changes made in the 1961-1964 period.

Advertisements of the era emphasized rear seat leg room, but showing attractive models in high heels sitting in the back seat with their legs the focus of the picture. It was obvious there was a lot of rear seat leg room, so no one could complain about interiors that were too small again. By the early seventies, Lincoln emphasized that rear seat room was as accommodating as front seat room.

The 1965 models relocated the front turn signal and parking light assemblies to the forward ends of the front fenders just above the bumper, and added fine chrome trim to the tail lamp lenses. Despite the success and popularity of this design, Lincoln was competing in a market driven by appearance, and top competitor Cadillac had come out with two completely new body styles during this time. Cadillac was all-new for 1961, 1963, and 1965, and another major restyling was due for 1967. It was time for a more significant change. That came in 1966.

What people saw was more of an evolution of the 1961 design rather than outright change. The look was completely new, yet familiar. Lincoln's designers really did their homework on this, and it shows. The center-opening rear doors on the Sedan and Convertible were still there, as were the squared off body, and restrained use of chrome trim. A new body side feature line mimicked the shape of the top edge of the front fenders, doors, and rear quarter panels, running from the front all the way to the rear of the car. This beveled line was high up on the body sides, and maintained the clean, flat side design introduced in 1961. The overall effect was very elegant, and the addition of this body line actually gave the cars a sleeker appearance.

The grille was of a horizontal bar design, and ran from fender to fender. A wide center section of the hood, grille, and bumper jutted forward to prevent a flat appearance, and this design emphasized that the 1966 models were new. The traditional Continental script remained on the upper rear edge of the rear fenders, and a Continental star emblem was placed on the front fenders, just somewhat forward of center between the front edge and wheel opening. This is probably the easiest way to identify a '66 model, as this styling touch was incorporated only for 1966.

The front turn signal lights moved back to the bumper, below the headlights, where they had been prior to 1965. The side edge of the front bumper extended all the way back to the front wheel openings. New linear rear tail lamps were each almost two feet wide and were mounted at the top of the rear bumper, flanking the license plate in the center. Back-up lights were mounted below the tail lamps, aligned evenly with the outer edges of the tail lamp assemblies. The front and rear appearances were very reminiscent of previous designs, but were entirely new and contemporary. There was no mistaking this was a new Lincoln.

Image: 1966 Lincoln Continental instrument panelInteriors were also updated, and an attractive and functional new driver-oriented instrument panel (shown at left) clustered gauges and controls in front of the driver. The top surface of the control panel was sharply angled, and housed controls for the heating/ventilation to the left and optional radio to the right. Above that, a linear speedometer was mounted. The lower edge of the control panel housed warning lights to alert driver to issues with oil pressure, engine temperature, charging system failure, and the like. The lenses normally appeared black, but when lit were a bright red to call attention to the problem.

On either side of and just below the steering column, were controls for the optional speed control on the left and a courtesy/map light on the right. Outboard of those two items were the headlight switch on the left and the ignition key on the right. The placement of the wiper/washer control on top of the control panel next to the heater controls was confusing to Lincoln customers, who complained the light switch was difficult to find in the dark, so the wiper and headlight controls were reversed for 1967, which made the headlight switch easier for most to find. The instrument panel top pad was also modified to better shield the control panel from sunlight, as some customers complained about glare on the 1966 cars.

A new model joined the Lincoln line for 1966. The Continental Coupé was Lincoln's first two door motorcar since 1960. The sleek hardtop featured an attractive roof line with slender roof quarters. The new '66 styling looked especially good on the Coupé, and sales were better than expected. The introduction of the Coupé moved Lincoln closer to competing with Cadillac model for model. While Cadillac offered several different series of cars to Lincoln's one, this at least allowed Lincoln to offer at least one body style for each of those offered by Cadillac. And with Lehmann-Peterson building factory-authorized Executive Limousines, Lincoln was able to successfully compete executive transportation department as well.

Another important step taken by Lincoln in 1966 was to better align its base prices and standard equipment with Cadillac. While Cadillac's lowest priced series, the Calais, was not really what Lincoln was after, Lincoln's base prices had been higher than those of Cadillac in the past due to a longer list of standard equipment on the Lincoln. Options such as radio, rear speaker, power antenna, power vent windows, 6-way power seat, and whitewall tires on the Cadillac were provided at no charge on Lincoln, and even though most luxury car buyers wanted these items and ordered them anyway, Lincoln decided to make them optional on the '66 models to make the base price more in line with the competition.

The all-new 1966 Lincoln Continentals offered exactly what Lincoln's designers intended: they gave Lincoln a fresh new contemporary look that would draw customers into dealer showrooms, while maintaining Lincoln's styling marks that were so carefully developed for 1961. As they said at the time, unmistakably new, yet unmistakably Continental.


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