The Continental Life: 1971 MK III

The Continental legend continues…

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The Continental MK III precluded its series in 1971. Its classic design is timeless and will challenge the years. The third edition in this eminent series is one of the finest personal luxury cars of its day. The Continental MK III was built from 1969 until 1971. It is the successor to the fabulous Continental MK II.

The MK III’s long hood and short rear deck followed protocol for the period. It is a trend-setting personal luxury car and one of Ford Motor Company’s most impressive Flagship models. The Continental MK III is also a lesson in economics.

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Is that an ugly skeptical note in your voice? Economics? How so? Ford took a dying model, fitted it with up-scale architecture and sold it at a premium price – still intrigued? The chairman at the time was Lee Iacocca. His problem was trying to fill a gap at the top lines where a vehicle in tune with Cadillac’s Eldorado was needed.

His famous rhetoric yielded Ford Motor Company nearly $1 Billion USD in profit. He instructed his design team to “Put a Rolls Royce grille on a Thunderbird.”  And that is exactly what they did. The approach is simple. The Thunderbird was literally in hospice…Ford used its long wheelbase platform and underpinnings to build the Continental MK III.

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This concept combines the high unit revenue of a luxury automobile with the low start-up cost and fixed cost-amortizing utility of platform sharing. According to Iacocca, Ford Motor Company did the project for $30 Million USD which he affectionately refers to as “A bargain basement price.”

Costs were minimal because they were using pre-existing tooling and the dies needed little modification. The Continental MK III is an important lesson in economics. This transformed the Lincoln-Mercury Division from losing money on every luxury car (low unit sales on a high-end product) to very high profit on a high-end product.

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The Continental MK III was the definitive personal luxury coupe. In performance, ride, appointments, and charisma it was everything a luxury automobile should be. It is a graceful blending of contemporary and classic attributes. The Continental MK III was built from the ground-up to be the finest of its type. They possess an integrity, eloquence, and luxury surpassed by no other automobile in the world.

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The ease of entry and exit to the Continental MK III is among its most desirable attributes. The wide easy-open, easy-close doors are important to a coupe buyer. The Continental MK III has more interior room than many sedans. Legendary comfort & convenience are hallmarks of the formidable Continental Mark Series. Nothing was ever taken for granted…the designers didn’t forget why people buy luxury automobiles –

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The styling is the main selling feature of the Continental MK III. The elegant front end ensemble is augmented by quad hidden headlamps and its unique “Rolls Royce” radiator grille. Sharp, knife-blade fenders swept from front to rear back to the ersatz spare tire design. The Continental MK III has a unique style. Its dashing, debonair image makes it the quintessential personal luxury car.

There was nothing on the road quite like it at the time. The Continental heritage is legendary. The Continental MK III is one of the most distinguished models and is immediately identified in any gathering of fine automobiles. There is a certain savior-faire that sets the Continental apart from the Lincoln.Green 2

Style code #65A Continental MK III coupe had a base price of $8,421 and a total of 27,091 were built. It was one of the best equipped luxury cars in the world in its standard form. It was the first vehicle to offer a chronograph in an automobile with the Cartier timepiece.

Just a few of the notable standard features are: Genuine walnut veneer trim, Luxurious deep-pile carpet, Sure-Track electronic braking, tinted glass, power steering & brakes, power windows, power front disc brakes, Automatic Temperature Control, locking theft-deterrent steering column, Triple Note Horns, folding center front & rear armrests, front seat 3-point seat & shoulder belt restraint system, carpeted luggage compartment, 3-Spoke Rim-Blow steering wheel, custom pinstripes, courtesy lighting which includes rear seat reading lamps, and automatic seatback release.

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Popular options for the 1971 model year includes: rear window defogger, Automatic Headlamp Dimmer, Moondust Metallic paint finishes, 6-way power front seats with passenger recliner, rear window defroster, Automatic Speed Control, Power sunroof (1,102 were built), Michelin whitewall radial ply tires, AM/FM Stereo radio with tape deck, and front bucket seats with console. This bucket seat option is rumored to come directly from the T-Bird.

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The 1971 Continental MK III is powered by the Ford 385-Series 7.5 litre 16-valve 460 CID V8 engine. It is equipped with the Autolite 4300 4-bbl carburetor. The engine is mated to Ford’s C-6 Select-Shift automatic transmission with torque converter and 6-position gear selector. The mighty 460 CID V8 produces 365 hp @ 4,600 rpm with 678 Nm of peak torque @ 2,800 rpm.

Longitudinal acceleration is rated as 0-60 mph in 8.2 seconds, 0-100 mph in 23.7 seconds, and 0-110 mph in 33 seconds. Its top speed is 129 mph (ungoverned). It can do the ¼ mile @ 86 mph in 16.6 seconds. The 460 CID V8 was still limited to premium leaded fuel only for 1971 but the Cadillacs could use low to no leaded fuels. The MK III could crank 365 horses; it had to have the best gasoline for optimum performance. Sadly, people tried to burn unleaded regular grade gasoline in these high-performance cars only to ruin them.

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The 1971 Continental MK III is a large front-engine rear-drive personal luxury coupe. It “glides” upon a 117.2” wheelbase, has the luxury length of 216.1” and is 79.4” in width. The fabulous Continental ride is due in no small part to the Cushion-link front suspension with spring-loaded ball joints, deep coil springs and link-type stabilizer bar. The rear uses a Coil-link type suspension and double-acting hydraulic shock absorbers are fitted all the way around.

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The most popular option for the 1971 model year is for the seating. Twin-Comfort front lounge seats have a high-profile to support the upper body. Each front seat came with 2-way power and a passenger recliner. Individually folding center armrests added the final touch. The rest of the industry followed suit with the high-back deep-seated versions. Glove-soft leather upholstered the interior tastefully in the classic Continental tradition. I had never seen a MK III without the Twin-Comfort front lounge seats, it was just one of those “had-to-have” options that every car had. This is what personal luxury is all about…charisma of which we do not see today – 

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This “deep-seated” luxury isn’t available for today’s cars

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The 1971 Continental MK III is one of the most desirable American luxury cars of all time. A car whose timeless beauty will endure the years to come to remind us of the eloquence the American luxury car used to have. Its riding comfort and ease of operation are a source of continual pleasure. After all of these years, these automobiles are still a fine investment and will surely appreciate in value because they are among the last of the breed. The most amazing fact regarding a Lincoln Continental is that the coupes are spacious and graceful yet share the same fabulously smooth and quiet ride as the sedans.

The Continental MK III is one of the single most distinctive cars in America in performance, ride, appointments, and flair. It is everything a personal luxury car intended to be…and so much more. Since its introduction in 1969, the luxury car class was never the same. It’s a luxury car in a class by itself. The 1971 Continental MK III precluded an illustrious production run. From the dramatic front end styling back to the ersatz spare tire design its pre-eminence in the luxury car field makes it stand alone…first in luxury, prestige, and presence. The legendary Continental Mark Series will always be popular with connoisseurs world-wide.

MJC Classics 3

Special thanks to MJC Classic Cars

MJC Classics 2

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More fine classics from Daniel Schmitt & Co

MK III 6

MK III 1

MK III 2

MK III 5

MK III 1 MK III 3

Continental MK III…what a personal luxury car should be

MK III 2 13

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Good taste never goes out of style…

One Response to “The Continental Life: 1971 MK III”

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