The story of the Continental features plenty of fascinating plot twists during its off-and-on 1940-2020 history, and one of the most interesting is the car that resulted from the decisions of the Ford Motor Company’s mighty warlord during the 1960s: Lee Iacocca. That was the 1969-1971 Continental Mark III, a car that printed bales of money for Ford. Today’s Junkyard Gem is one of those cars, found in a Northern California car graveyard recently.
Iacocca wanted a Lincoln to compete with Cadillac’s snazzy new Eldorado coupe, and he wanted to do it on the cheap. Since the original Mustang had been so profitable in large part because it was based on the Falcon compact, the same philosophy would be used for the new Lincoln coupe. The Ford Thunderbird, which had become a well-over-two-ton behemoth by 1967, would provide the Mark III’s platform; this had the added benefit of using excess production capacity at the T-Bird’s assembly plant in Wixom, Michigan.
Focus groups disliked the Mark III, but Iacocca and Henry Ford II ignored them and pushed forward with production. This worked out well; Mark III sales beat the Eldorado’s immediately and the platform-sharing with the Thunderbird kept costs low and profits fat.
Along with the Mustang and the Chrysler minivan, the Mark III stands as one of Iacocca’s greatest business triumphs. These cars used to be reasonably easy to find in wrecking yards, but they’ve been junkyard rarities for at least the past decade.
This one lived a hard life. The 460-cubic-inch (7.5-liter) V8, rated at 365 horsepower and 500(!) pound-feet of torque, was gone when I arrived.
The chrome received a gold-plating treatment by a customizer at some point. It’s possible that this car was once a good-looking lowrider, but that would have been decades ago.
About the only remaining hint of its former opulence is the rear seat.
The MSRP for this car was $7,281, or about $59,286 in 2023 dollars. The 1970 Cadillac Eldorado cost $6,903 ($56,208 now). Of course, the out-the-door cost for both cars would have been quite a bit higher, after not-so-optional options had been added by the customer.
This individually decisive motorcar has no peer.