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First Coast Gears: '68 Lincoln Continental still cruises with style

3:07 PM, Oct 5, 2012   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The fourth generation Lincoln Continental is perhaps the best known of the line, due in part to its unfortunate role as the vehicle President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in.

The lead character, Oliver Douglas (Eddie Albert) in the old CBS comedy "Green Acres" also drove fourth generation Continentals, helping its pop culture notoriety

While the four-door convertible, with its signature reverse opening rear suicide doors, is the most sought after by collectors; other variations included a four-door and two-door hardtop.  That brings us to one of Jacksonville's finest examples.

Brian Ditore brought along his 1968 Continental two-door hardtop to last Saturday's Jacksonville Businessmen's Club Car & Bike show at the Tinseltown Hooters.  The two-door pillarless hardtop version that Ditore favors was introduced for the 1966 model year.

Ditore, who owns Energy Armor, has had the Continental for about three years, buying it from an owner in Pompano Beach.  Although the Continental has undergone a restoration, the interior remains original.  Ditore said one of the biggest challenges has been hunting down parts.

It took him two years to find power window switches, which he finally tracked down in Tampa.

Ditore says he bought the car in part because he was born in 1968.  Sales totaled 39,134 that year, according to Wikipedia, down from the fourth generation's peak of 54,755 in 1966.

The Continental series is one of the longest running marques in Ford's history.  The first one rolled off the assembly line as a 1939 model, with the final 280 Continentals sold in 2003.

One final piece of trivia, you may wonder where the term "suicide" doors came from in regards to the rear-hinged back doors of the four-door Continentals and many other automobiles throughout history.

No automobile manufacturer has officially used the term for obvious reasons, but a search of various websites indicates the unofficial phrase took hold for a variety of reasons.

You won't find the term in traditional dictionaries but does list an explanation for the term suicide doors.  The definition reads in part:

They acquired the "suicide" nickname due to the fact that if the door was not fully closed and the occupant tried to open and reclose the door while the car was moving (which for some reason was once common practice), the rushing air would catch the door and pull it open violently, often pulling the person still holding the door handle out of the car.

Automotive safety advocate Ralph Nader, who authored "Unsafe at Any Speed," is credited by some sites, including, with helping the term gain traction in pop vocabulary because of his criticism of doors and latches not being safe enough in accidents.
Another popular tall tale out there is that suicide door were thought to popular with mobsters, with the theory being it was because it made it easier to push dead bodies out of the car.


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