In 1961, the Continental was completely redesigned by Elwood Engel. For the first time, the names Lincoln and Continental would be paired together outside the Mark Series; along with replacing the Continental Mark V, the 1961 Continental replaced the Lincoln Capri and Premiere, consolidating Lincoln into a single product line. Originally intended to be the 1961 Ford Thunderbird, the design was enlarged and slightly altered before being switched to the Lincoln line by Robert McNamara. One of the most striking features of the new Continental was its size. It was 14.8 in shorter than its predecessor. So much smaller was this car, that advertising executives at Ford photographed a woman parallel parking a sedan for a magazine spread. The new Continental’s most recognized trademark, front-opening rear “suicide doors”, was a purely practical decision. The new Continental rode on a wheelbase of 123 inches, and the doors were hinged from the rear to ease ingress and egress. When the Lincoln engineers were examining the back seats that styling had made up, the engineers kept hitting the rear doors with their feet. Hinging the doors from the rear solved the problem. The doors were to become the best-known feature of 1960s Lincolns. To simplify production (in the beginning, anyway), all cars were to be four-door models, and only two body styles were offered, sedan and convertible. The 1961 model was the first car manufactured in the U.S. to be sold with a 24,000 mi or 2-year bumper-to-bumper warranty. It was also the first postwar four-door convertible from a major U.S. manufacturer.
Despite the smaller exterior dimensions, at 4,927 lb, the new sedan was only 85 lb lighter than the lightest 1960 Lincoln four-door sedan (2 lb less than a two-door); at 5,215 lb, the convertible outweighed its 1960 predecessor by 39 lb. As a result (save for their respective nine-passenger models) the new Lincoln was still heavier than anything from Cadillac or Imperial. This solid construction led to a rather enviable reputation as “Corporate management was determined to make it the finest mass-produced domestic automobile of its time and did so.”
This generation of Continental is favored by collectors and has appeared in many motion pictures, such as The Matrix, The Last Action Hero, Kalifornia and the Inspector Gadget films. It has also appeared in the television series Pushing Daisies, and in the opening sequence of the television series Entourage.
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