Retrospect: 1969 Eldorado vs 1969 MK III

Fleetwood Eldorado vs Continental MK III

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“AS the Standard of the World Turns” vs “The Bold & the Beautiful Lincolns” …. for the 21st century re-match

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Even in retrospect…the ambivalence continues…the 1969 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado and the 1969 Lincoln Continental MK III were both the pinnacle of motoring and the absolute epitome of luxury. Which one was superior? This is a deliberate ambiguity of superlatives…so which was better? Each automobile had panache all their own, and a manner in which they discharged their luxury.

They challenged each other in a very rare arena. There was no other car at the time to challenge either. The Fleetwood Eldorado was considered a “grand tourer” and the Continental MK III was “a unique American personal luxury coupé.”

They were both classified as personal luxury automobiles. So which was the winner? They both were masterful motorcars…”As the Standard of the World Turns” challenges “The Bold & the beautiful Lincolns” in the 21st century…NotoriousLuxury style-

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The 1969 Fleetwood Eldorado was a formidable opponent in any arena. It was the only automobile in the world to combine the precision of front wheel drive, the maneuverability of Variable Ratio Power Steering, the perfect balance of Automatic Level Control, and the efficiency of front disc brakes…all standard.

It was the most dramatic and highly desired new luxury car in automotive history. A Cadillac Eldorado was always the glamour car…the highly refined 1969 edition was no exception. The first generation front wheel drive Eldorados (1967-1970) are highly sought collectibles today. Style code #69347H Fleetwood Eldorado coupé had a base price of $6,693 with 23,333 built for the 1969 model year.

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The 1969 Continental MK III was one hot item selling 7,770 units when it was introduced in April of 1968 as a 1969 model. An additional 23,088 were built for the 1969 calendar year bringing the grand total to 30,858. Body style code #65A VIN/Body serial code: 89 Continental MK III coupé had a base price of $6,585 and it was out-selling Cadillac as Lee Iacocca set out to achieve. It out-sold Cadillac by a short 7,000+ vehicles so we’re not talkin’ a landslide victory…

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The Continental MK III was a unique American personal luxury coupé. Lee Iacocca instructed Design VP Gene Bordinat to “Put a Rolls Royce grille on a Thunderbird.” The result was the Continental MK III, a contemporary personal luxury automobile designed to compete with the Cadillac Eldorado. The MK III was also a lesson in economics. It was built on the four-door Ford Thunderbird platform.

The T-Bird was dying in the marketplace. The Continental MK III was an immediate success combining the high unit revenue of a luxury car with the low development costs and fixed cost amortizing utility of platform sharing. In plain English; Ford took the basics from a suffering model, applied luxury architecture and gave it a premium price…thus, a new luxury car with little or no start-up costs. Using a pre-existing platform to build a high-end model was genius. This smart move earned Ford almost $1 Billion in profit from Lincoln alone.

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The Fleetwood Eldorado eliminated the concealed headlamps for a more refined appearance. The styling was almost verbatim since the 1967 re-design. The Eldorado had sleek chiseled architecture with definite Cadillac style…there was nothing else quite like it. From the sculpted nose to the shark-fin tail, the Fleetwood Eldorado was the world’s finest personal luxury car.

Its silhouette had a long hood and short rear deck. This styling made such a sensation that it was carried over into the Calais, DeVille, and Fleetwood models for the 1969 & 1970 model years. Those Eldorado-inspired lines made both model years a success.

Just as the success of the 1967 Fleetwood Eldorado…it had to be seen to be believed, driven to be fully appreciated, and owned for total satisfaction…it took the automotive world by storm. For 1969, Cadillac introduced its all-time masterpiece…beautifully new and distinctively Cadillac.

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1969 Hardtop Sedan deVille

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1970 DeVille convertible

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The Continental MK III for 1969 was the definitive luxury coupé. It was the most authoritatively styled, decisively individual motorcar of the 1960s. First…there was the original Lincoln Continental that was a huge success from 1939 through 1948. Then the Continental MK II seductively stole the show in 1956 & 1957.

The Continental MK III was the latest in the series of impeccably crafted motorcars that was built from 1969 through 1971. The bold front end design was highlighted with concealed dual headlamps and a Rolls Royce style radiator grille. Its long low-slung silhouette was augmented by knife-blade fenders running the length of the architecture.

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The ersatz spare tire design was a signature feature for the Continental Mark Series. The MK III combined classic Lincoln DNA with a contemporary look for a one-of-a-kind stand-out in the crowd look. The hide-away headlamps and bold radiator grille treatment made the MK III a timeless classic.

The Continental MK III was designed to be one of the world’s most beautiful automobiles. It was long, road-huggingly low and luxuriously wide…which made the MK III true to its illustrious heritage. The 1969 Lincoln Continental MK III looks as good today as it did when it left the assembly line.

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New to the auto industry for the 1969 model year was the ignition mounted to the steering column with a lock which was activated once the key was removed from the ignition. This new GM theft-deterrent lock system affected the steering wheel, ignition, and transmission.

Cadillac introduced a new interior ventilation system that eliminated the vent windows. The optional Automatic Climate Control was refined increasing airflow, heating & cooling capacity, while being whisper quiet even at peak settings. A new dash was designed placing all controls within the driver’s convenience.

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The 1969 Fleetwood Eldorado offered sumptuous deep-seated comfort for six passengers. These were the most luxurious interiors in Cadillac’s history. Eldorado’s front wheel drive provided a flat floor attributing to its spaciousness. Newly designed high-back lounge seats came standard with folding center armrest and head restraints.

Also standard were power windows, power 2-way seat, Power steering, power brakes with front discs, courtesy lighting, remote control driver’s outside rear view mirror, and seat belts. These were just a few of the many features and accessories standard on the 1969 Fleetwood Eldorado. Available upholstery choices included cloth with leather or all leather. A number of options were available to make the Fleetwood Eldorado even more elegant.

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The Continental MK III had and interior equally as luxurious as its exterior. Standard folding center armrests and individually adjustable front seating were part of the long list of standard luxury features and accessories. Ample head, leg, shoulder, and hip room in both front and rear compartments rivaled that of a four-door sedan. And there was the legendary Lincoln luxury that could not be expressed with words…

The Continental MK III cossets its passengers with power windows, power seats, Flow-Thru ventilation system, power steering, power brakes with front discs, luxurious nylon cut pile carpeting, with a choice of two cloth selections, or optional leather upholstery. The Continental MK III was the first American automobile to be equipped with a fine-jeweled, transistorized timepiece. It was styled and signed by the famous jeweler Cartier. The Continental MK III was all about class…

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The 1969 Continental MK III was powered by the computer designed Ford 385-Series 16-valve pushrod V8 engine. The lightweight deep-breathing design was one of the most advanced V8 engines in the automotive industry.

This precision-engineered powerplant was equipped with an Autolite 4300 4-bbl carburetor and a dual exhaust system complete with dual mufflers and resonators. The engine was mated to the Ford C6 3-speed automatic Select-Shift transmission.

This potent V8 produced 365 hp @ 4,600 rpm, with 678 Nm of peak torque @ 2,800 rpm. Performance was rated as 0-60 mph in 7.7 seconds, 0-100 mph in 23.1 seconds and had a top speed of 131 mph.

The MK III did the ¼ mile @ 88 mph in 16.2 seconds. This type of robust performance was so typical of the “Spirited Seventies.” Even the luxury cars had high-performance, high-output engines.

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The “Gilded One” was powered by Cadillac’s 7.7 litre 472 CID 16-valve OHV V8 engine. It was constructed with a cast iron block and heads, five main bearings, and hydraulic valve lifters.

It was equipped with a Rochester 4-bbl downdraft Quadrajet carburetor with equalized manifold, mechanical fuel pump, dry-type air filter, improved automatic choke, and AIR (Air-Injection Reactor) system to reduce hydrocarbons in exhaust.

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The Cadillac 7.7 litre V8 produced 375 hp @ 4,400 rpm with 712 Nm of peak torque @ 3,000 rpm. Performance was rated as 0-60 mph in 8 seconds, 0-100 mph in 21.8 seconds, and had a top speed of 126 mph. It did the ¼ mile @ 88 mph in 15.8 seconds. The engine was mated to GM’s Turbo Hydra-Matic THM-425 3-speed automatic front wheel drive transmission.

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The Continental MK III was built as body on frame construction. This type of build was more cost efficient than the traditional unibody construction used by Lincoln since the 1958 model year. Unibody construction was strong but required special steps to reduce noise and vibration, not to mention it being extremely expensive in case of collision or corrosion repair. The MK III used the four-door Thunderbird platform, remember? The MK III also used the windshield, cowl, and front door glass as the T-Bird.

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The Continental MK III rode on a long 117.2” wheelbase. It had the luxury length of 216” with a wide 79.4” stance. The longer wheelbase and tuned suspension gave the Lincoln a silicone-smooth ride that was noticeably smoother than the Cadillac magic carpet ride.

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The 1969 Fleetwood Eldorado was built as body on frame construction. It had a new longer boxed perimeter frame with hidden bulkheads for torsional rigidity. The Eldorado used an exclusive frame to accommodate its front wheel drive, and its front & rear suspension.

The front suspension used forked upper and lower A-frame control arms with double-row ball bearings and torsion bar. The rear used single-leaf springs with two horizontal and two vertical shock absorbers. The suspension utilized rubber bushings throughout to isolate road noise while absorbing road vibration and impact, cancelling negative energy before it reached the passenger compartment.

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The Fleetwood Eldorado rode upon a long 120” wheelbase. It had the luxury length of 221” and was 79.9” wide. Standard was Cadillac’s triple-braking system. The system used a power dual hydraulic master cylinder with a large two-piston power booster to facilitate independent front and rear operation.

The parking brake was a true auxiliary brake. It had a vacuum release that wouldn’t lock in place with the engine running and transmission in gear. This Cadillac power braking system was fitted with discs to the front axle and finned-composite rear drums. The brakes had a self-adjusting feature each time the car was driven in reverse and the brakes applied.

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Both automobiles are exceptional. Each had their own style. Ford & GM have always been as different as night from day. For styling, the Continental MK III wins hands down, but the Eldorado gets honorable mention. The designers should have left the concealed headlamps on the Eldorado, it added to the car’s distinction. The svelte MK III was a bit more formal than the Eldorado.

The front end design of the MK III is what made the deciding factor along with the ersatz spare tire design and the unique rear styling. The Continental MK III was one of the world’s most beautiful automobiles. But then…so was the Eldorado. It was one of the most significant automotive designs of the entire 20th century. This genre Eldorado was one of the world’s most highly desired automobiles. Besides…those “shark fins” of the Eldorado really gave the MK III a run for its money! The MK III was definitely the victor in the styling arena.

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For the engine, power and performance, the Fleetwood Eldorado was the obvious choice. Cadillac’s 472 CID 16-valve OHV V8 engine kicked out 375 hp with 712 Nm of peak torque compared to the Lincoln’s 460 CID 16-valve V8 engine’s 365 hp with 678 Nm of peak torque. The Cadillac was a few seconds slower than the Lincoln’s 0-60 mph in 7.7 vs Cadillac’s 8.0 seconds.

However, The Cadillac went from 0-100 in 21.8 seconds compared to the Lincoln’s 23.1 seconds. Both cars did the ¼ mile @ 88 mph but Cadillac did it in 15.8 seconds compared to the Lincoln’s 16.2 seconds. Both cars were equipped with 3-speed automatic transmissions and 4-bbl carburetors. Regarding fuel economy…t’was non-existent for the day, they both got NO miles to the gallon but who cared back then when the cost of a tank of gas was cheap…

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In ride quality, the Continental MK III won without conjecture. There was nothing that could compare to that “greased-silicone” glide that a Lincoln featured. It was awesome, it put Cadillac’s magic carpet ride to shame. They both were built as body on frame construction using rubber bushings to isolate road noise and cushioning road impact thus cancelling negative energy.

They each rode long wheelbases, Cadillac at 120” vs Lincoln’s 117.2” wheelbase. The longer the wheelbase…the smoother the ride. They each were solidly built automobiles which added to their charismatic performances. These were luxury car behemoths. You really got more bang for your buck back then…unlike today’s surprise death-traps.

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In comfort & convenience…Cadillac was the victor in this arena. From its newly designed high-back, deep-seated lounge seats, to the added spaciousness of its flat floors compliments of front wheel drive, the Fleetwood Eldorado was standard equipped “Standard of the World-style.”

Cadillac offered more features and accessories both standard and optional than any other luxury make. The MK III offered the electric timepiece styled by Cartier and a padded vinyl roof as standard equipment. The MK III was rich in options as well as standard equipment but it was the Caddy that ruled in this category. But then…Cadillac was always the luxury-leader.

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Those were the days. Luxury automobiles were really luxury automobiles. Incredible styling, spirited performance, all wrapped up in a luxurious package. The 1969 Lincoln Continental MK III was the overall choice…with the 1969 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado not even a stone’s throw away… extremely close. This was a tough call because they both are outstanding examples of American motorcars.

Exclusivity and supremacy once ruled our luxury cars…they were the American lifestyle. But the positives are the fact that there are examples as these cars pictured, out there for sale in pristine condition. “As the Standard of the World Turns” will always battle “The Bold & the Beautiful Lincolns” as you will begin to see shortly…you never know what to expect from NotoriousLuxury!

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These were the last of the breed…

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