Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Restored 1963 Lincoln Continental set adrift, wrecked after restoration

Big hit in a 1963 Lincoln Continental. This poor guy. The police knocked on his door at 4:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning. That’s usually not good. The startled owner of this ’63 Lincoln Continental thought it had to be a mistake, and all was okay, when an officer asked him if he owned a 1976 Cadillac.
  “No,” he replied, while thinking “whew.”
  Then a voice on an officer’s radio crushed his momentary relief. “No, it’s a 1963 Lincoln Continental.” 
  Uh-oh! The owner of the big, white Lincoln knew then, there must a be a problem. He did indeed own a 1963 Lincoln Continental and had just recently brought it home after purchasing it from a collector in South Florida. It had been a pleasure to drive the luxury cruiser home to Alabama. What wasn’t refinished and restored was fully functional and original. The Continental was a hit everywhere it went. The ‘suicide’ doors were a great source of conversation for "those in the know," and a bewilderment for younger folks and newbies taken back by the concept of backwards opening rear doors. A cool 50-year-old Lincoln that didn’t show its age.

Damage to the ’63 Lincoln was heartbreaking but could have been worse than a fractured fender and egg crate grille.

“Sir, do you know where your car is?”
On a cold winter morning, law enforcement questioned the disheveled owner on his front porch. It was not fun... well, it wasn’t so much the questions as it was the answers.
  “Sir, we know where your car is," one of the officers replied. "It crashed into a tree and was abandoned.”
  Happy Sunday to you, sir. You didn’t know your car was gone. Now your going to get it back AND its wrecked. The damage wasn’t as bad as it could have been, and only a minor set back in this luxury cruiser’s history. The ’63 Continental was returned and then the damage control began.

"Suicide" rear doors make the Continental the topic of many cruise night and gas pump conversations.

The Break Down Before It Broke Up (what is this exactly?)
   What we have here is a beautiful car that remains mostly true to itself according to the numbers. The cowl tag (though not on the cowl, actually located on the door on early Ford Motor Company cars) breaks down like so:

  • Body Style: Code 53A - Lincoln Continental 4-door sedan
  • Paint: Code M - Ermine White
  • Trim: Code 64 - Honey Beige
  • Engine: Code N (located in the V.I.N) 430 C.I.D, 10:11:1 compression, 320 HP, 465 Lbs @ 2,000 RPM
  • Axle: Code 1 - A non-locking 2:89 ratio

Designers carried the chiseled look over into the cockpit of the ’63 Lincoln Continental.

Lincoln Continental styling, sales, fame
  A couple of years into the 3rd generation of the Lincoln, and the 1963 Continental had become a big hit. Lincoln engineered a classy, luxury car with a lot of innovative styling cues. These cars were packed with body distinctions indigenous to the Lincoln. Features such as the famed “suicide” doors, which were hinged at the rear, and a hood that opened from the front was weird for the day. How would we respond to a 4-door convertible today? Lincoln had that as an option. The 4-door convertibles are a little on the rare side, with only 3,138 built. Where are they now? That would be a blast! (note: see “Ron’s Fun Facts” below for some cool Lincoln trivia)
   Sales were up in 1963, Lincoln produced 28,095 4-door sedans, although the Cadillac remained the go-to luxury car for most buyers. Lincoln came in second, but that was saying a lot considering the direction Joe CarBuyer was headed. There were more choices on the market than ever. What would you have done?
  These cars were expensive, elite and very cool. You associate these cars with 1960’s money and fame with people like the Kennedy’s and several TV shows. Would they run? Are you kidding? Don’t try to pace this hot rod Lincoln. With 430 cubes making 320 HP it would be hard to keep up on the highway with its top end friendly 2:89 rear gear. If you think that’s not enough gear to get this 4,950 lb ship moving in a hurry, think again. Lincoln was well aware of the hefty poundage and decided 465 ft-Lbs @ 2,000 RPM would do it. It did.

Is this the original 430-V8 in this 1963 Lincoln Continental?

Future plans
  So, what is to become of our feature car? Its going to be fixed. The owner was making a shopping list of parts and part sources when I found him. There doesn’t appear to be frame damage and the parts needed are mostly available. We here at Junkyard Life salute his positive attitude and outlook. I am going to follow up with some numbers and research to help determine his engine. He was told it was a 460 cubic inch engine. It could be, but he was also told it was original, which would make it a 430-cube V8. So, I could use some advice. If you know of any give away cues on a 430, or any parts resources I can pass along to this gentleman, e-mail me (Ron) and I will see that he gets the info.

Happy Hunting!

Ron Kidd
– junkyardlife

Know of a junkyard I need to visit or want to send me photos and info about a car or junkyard?  Send emails to Ron at or Jody at

1963 Continental sports a Honey Beige two-tone interior.

Lincoln’s luxury liner had a power front bench seat.

A reverse-opening hood complements the rear-hinged back doors on this dinged-up ’63 Continental.

The 1963 Lincoln was loaded with luxury - wood grain door panels and power window switches.

A dash-mounted automatic headlight dimmer was optional on Lincoln Continentals. It detected the lights of on-coming cars and saved them from you high brights.

Ron’s Lincoln Continental Fun Facts:
  • The first Lincoln Continental was to be a special production of only 1, built for Edsel Ford. They started building it in 1938 to have it ready for March of 1939 because Edsel Ford took his vacations in March.
  • In the luxury car battle as far as sales numbers were concerned, the Lincoln Division wasn’t doing so well. The corporate bean counters had them slated for the chopping block. The 1961 Lincoln Continental was introduced and by 1963 became a proud flagship for Ford.
  • The “suicide doors” were named such because if a passenger were to fall out of the moving vehicle, the door would run right over you, thus turning your daring escape or accident into a suicide.
  • “Suicide doors” were said to be popular with gangsters in the 1930’s because it was said to be easier to push some unlucky person out of a moving vehicle. Ouch!
President John F. Kennedy took his final ride in a dark blue 1961 Lincoln Continental convertible in Dallas on No. 22, 1963.

  • In 1963 President Kennedy was assassinated in a 1961 Lincoln Continental four-door convertible. It has been said that post-1963 Presidents of the United States were not to ride in open air cars. They did not for many years.
Jacqueline Kennedy and a Secret Service agent react moments after President Kennedy was shot.
  • The auto industry tried to avoid the term “suicide doors” when referring to their way-cool, rear-hinged doors. They didn’t want to frighten the public and hurt sales.

Know of a junkyard I need to visit or want to send me photos and info about a car or junkyard?  Send emails to Ron at or Jody at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The real reason the Lincoln was a hit at the time, really was because it was conservatively styled (as well as beautiful). There was a backlash brewing over the over-styled winged and finned 50's styling that had gone too far (especially the strange '58-'60). Lincoln was the first ('61) to go this far with slab sided, no fin, squared off styling. -There was absolutely nothing else on the market like it, and it was beautiful.--Another note, it was based on the Thunderbird of the time. If you look hard at the cowl, and cabin relation to the body and the way the bumpers work with the body and compare to the Thunderbird, you'll see it. Of course the tie in to the presidential limo helped a lot, too.