It is a tough decision, but I have to say this is one of my favorite Lincolns. My other top picks of in the Lincoln brand? The Lincoln Continental Mark VI of 1980-1983 and the Lincoln Continental of 1988-1994. While you may agree with me on the Mark III or Mark VI, you probably think I’m crazy on the front wheel drive Continental of 1988. But it is my post, so I can say what I want. Plus, bear in mind during my formative years, my parents had Cadillac Devilles and Town Cars as the vehicle of choice. I may have been scared for life.
The Lincoln Continental Mark III was introduced in April 1968 as an early 1969 model. It is said to be the spiritual successor to the ultra-luxurious 1956-1957 Continental Mark II produced by a Continental division of Ford Motor Company. However, this Continental was created to compete with the redesigned Cadillac Eldorado of 1967-1970. Like the Cadillac Eldorado, the Mark III was targeted at the growing personal luxury market of the early 1970s. Both cars were marketed as a notch above less expensive, less well-appointed personal luxury cars such as the Ford Thunderbird, Buick Riviera and Oldsmobile Toronado. As Cadillac used the Oldsmobile Toronado frame for the basis of the Eldorado, Lincoln used the Thunderbird’s frame as the basis for the Mark III. While the Eldorado shared a lot of the mechanicals with the Toronado, the Mark III was about 300 lbs and heavier than the Thunderbird and came equipped with Lincoln’s all-new 460 cubic inch, 7.5 liter, 365 bhp engine.
Continental Mark III Design
To differentiate the Mark III from its Thunderbird beginnings, the Mark III was squarer and more upright than the sleek Thunderbird. The Mark III also featured a Rolls-Royce like grill, hidden headlights, and a classic Mark II spare tire bulge on its trunk, which would become trademark stylings of the Mark series. All three styling cues would continue on through the 1987 Lincoln Continental sedan and the the 1983 Lincoln Continental Mark VI coupe. The grille and the tire bulge would continue on through the 1992 Lincoln Mark VII. And the tire bulge would survive through 1998 Lincoln Mark VIII.
Luxury cars of this era were about over comfort and pampering. And Lincoln would leave nothing off the Mark III. The Mark III was equipped with power everything: steering, brakes, windows, headlamps, and both front seats. The instrument panel and door trim panels featured simulated wood appliques in either English Oak or East-Indian Rosewood. Beginning midway through the 1969 model run, the Mark III would on feature a Cartier-branded clock on the instrument panel. The seats were either standard vinyl with cloth inserts or the optional leather. A vinyl roof in cavalry twill pattern was also optional. But almost all Mark IIIs were so equipped that a plain-roofed Mark III is rare. Other options included air conditioning, further power adjustments for the front seats, a variety of radios and 8-track tape players, tinted glass, power locks, cruise control and an automatic headlamp dimmer that dimmed the headlights for oncoming cars without driver intervention. Additionally, a limited slip differential and anti-lock brakes, called “Sure Trak”, could be ordered.
1969 Lincoln Continental Mark III
The Mark III was an instant success. For the extended 1969 model year a total of 30,858 Mark III were made, compared to only 23,333 for the 1969 Cadillac Eldorado. Considering Lincoln usually trailed Cadillac in sales, the 1969 numbers were a source of pride for Lincoln.
During the extended 1969 model run, several tweaks were made to the Mark III during the production run. Initially the Mark III was equipped with a steering wheel pad with a large wood applique and Continental star logo. These would be reduced in size on Mark IIIs produced after July 1968. Other July 1968 changes included the removal of a decorative stitching pattern on the face of the rear seat above the center arm rest, the relocation of seatbelt retractors, and the addition of eight additional exterior color choices. December 1968 brought additional changes to the Mark III: indicator needles were changed from white to orange, the Cartier clock replaced the standard clock and front seat head rest were installed as required by Federal safety mandates.
1970 Lincoln Continental Mark III
Lincoln realized how good the Mark III was and decided not to change to much on the 1970 models. The vinyl roof was made standard as most Mark III were ordered with it anyways. The metal horn ring used on the 1969 Mark III was removed from the steering wheel and replaced by a Rim Blow unit. The interior wood appliques were now genuine Walnut. The door panels were redesigned and the power seat controls were moved to the armrests from the seat edge. The pattern of the stitching on the seats was modified. A power sliding sun roof became available as an extra cost option. Other changes included hidden windshield wipers and redesigned wheel coverings. Federal safety mandates required that a locking steering column/ignition switch replace the dash-mounted switch and that red reflectors be added to the rear bumper and yellow reflectors to the sides of the front parking lamp assemblies. Radial tires were also made standard equipment, the first for an American car. New emissions requirements were met by the installation of Thermactor air injection pumps on the engine. The popularity of the Mark III continued with 21,432 being sold.
1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III
Still not wanting to mess with success, Lincoln made little changes to the 1971 Mark III. Tinted glass became standard, automatic climate-controlled air conditioning and SureTrak anti-lock brakes all became standard equipment. Also standard for 1971 were high-back seats and a rare special-order floor console was available. The engine gained a more sophisticated thermostatic air cleaner assembly. Total year sales came in at 27,091. This would mark the last year for the Mark III as 1972 would see the introduction of a larger more luxurious Lincoln Continental Mark IV.
For information on other Lincoln models see our post on the 1961-1969 Lincoln Continental or the 2000-2006 Lincoln LS. For information on the Mark III cousin see our post on the 1967-1971 Ford Thunderbird.
For information on other luxury cars see our post on the 1975-1979 Cadillac Seville.
To find yourself a Classic, visit our Classics For Sale listings.