Flashback Fridays – 1961 Lincoln Continental

The 1961 Lincoln Continental was the benchmark of the brand and formed the template for the manufacturer’s future style. It extended a needed life preserver to a brand that underwent numerous financial problems and faced annihilation. Here is a closer look at the 1961 Continental’s design and how it saved Lincoln from extinction.


Design of the 1961 Lincoln Continental

1961_Lincoln_ContinentalThe design process for the 1961 Continental saw many changes before its release. It even came close to being terminated when the production date loomed. The design had a close relation to the 1961 Ford Thunderbird. Elwood Engel, designer in the Lincoln studio, crafted almost every aspect of the vehicle. Originally, he produced possible mock-ups for the Thunderbird. However, his conservative version was chosen as the style of the newly designed 1961 Continental.

Energy went into creating a version with four doors that was not significantly larger than past years. To accomplish this task, it was necessary to incorporate suicide doors. To save money, it was decided that only four-door models would be manufactured. The end result was a car with a 123-inch wheelbase that seated six. It was possible to choose between a hardtop and a convertible.

During Lincoln’s weak period, customers did not have great confidence in the brand. To increase assurance that Lincolns were made of quality materials, the car was offered with a 24,000-mile warranty and two-year bumper-to-bumper protection. The 1961 Continental sold 25,164 units. This accounted for a 60 percent increase in market share. The striking design of the vehicle won a variety of awards and propelled Lincoln back into the auto industry’s spotlight. Over a four year period, the profitable design brought in over $20 million. This set the brand on the path to success through the next decade. Also, it assured Lincoln would survive another day.