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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Our 1965 Lincoln Continental

The family, motoring in Baja California, 1970
     At about 1966 or 1967, we sought a new car—a really nice one. Ma seems to have been behind this. Ma and Pa had always struggled to improve the family’s circumstances, and they had come a long way; but Ma was getting tired of the endless sacrifices, the routine of buying cheap. “For once,” she said, she wanted something “nice.”
     At first, the idea was to buy one of the standout cars of the era—the Ford Thunderbird. This was before Ford (like so many other companies) started exploiting luxury/quality badges (like Thunderbird and Lincoln), selling more and more inferior products (such as later-generation Lincolns, Thunderbirds, etc.).

Evidently, "4th Generation" Lincolns, including the '65, are featured in the Matrix films.
     I recall that we spent at least some (I remember many, but who knows) weekends driving around, looking at privately owned T-Birds for sale. They were expensive. I seem to recall that that was a problem and its gradual recognition caused some gnashing of teeth.
     But the biggest problem was that the Thunderbird was impractical for a family of five (and a dog). The front seats could only seat two, and the rear seats seemed geared for two passengers as well.
     Somehow, we settled on the big Lincoln Continental as a replacement “nice car.” I don’t recall how that came about, but I know enough about old cars to know that the Lincoln Continentals of that era were good (if excessive) cars that are highly prized today. Eventually—it must have been about 1967—we bought a used 1965 Lincoln. I was amazed that we owned the thing, for it was seriously upscale, nothing like our old Fords. There was some sort of trouble about the title (on the seller’s end). But that was eventually straightened out.

From one of the Matrix movies: a '63 Lincoln
     As it turns out, our Lincoln Continental was at the height of the most admired “generation” of Lincoln Continentals, namely, the Fourth (1961-9) generation.
     And here’s an irony for you: that car was originally slated to become the new Ford Thunderbird. But Robert McNamara [who, famously, was the President of Ford just before he became JFK’s Secretary of Defense] decided to make it the new Lincoln!
     In 1961, the Continental was completely redesigned by Elwood Engel. … The new Continental's most recognized trademark, front opening rear doors, was a purely practical decision. … The suicide doors were to become the best-known feature of 1960s Lincolns. [The limousine in which JFK was assassinated was a 4th Generation Lincoln.] … 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….
     [T]he new Lincoln was … heavier than anything from Cadillac or Imperial [those are GM and Chrysler’s “luxury” models]. 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.”
     The 1961 Continental was Elwood Engel's Magnum Opus, as he was responsible for the complete design of the car. It was a sales success….
     Not long after the successful launch of the Fourth Generation Lincoln, Engel became the chief stylist at Chrysler.

A '65 Lincoln Continental is featured on the TV show "Entourage"
Some family stories:

     • When Raymond was young, he was so active that we often compared him to a monkey. He exhibited his monkey-like ways during travel also. One time, when we were driving on the freeway, the guy was flying around in the back seat and managed to open the rear door. This is when we discovered why those peculiar doors were called “suicide doors.” I quickly grabbed him and shoved him toward safety (I don’t recall how dramatic this little event actually was). Naturally, this was a big deal; it seemed that Ray could have been killed.
     You’d think that the door would be damaged, flying open like that at high speed, but it really wasn’t. (It was slightly out of alignment, I think. Pa did his best to bend the dang thing back into shape.)
     I recall everyone staring at the car, saying that these Lincoln Continentals are built like tanks. They’re indestructible. Sheesh.

     • One time, we took the Lincoln on one of our trips to Baja California in Mexico. Pa (being Pa) was not discouraged from driving that big boat off road, on the sand roads that, here and there, were indistinguishable from, well, just sand. Somehow, Pa made it work, using, I think, the momentum of his 5000 lb. vehicle, an unstoppable tank. We may have been stuck here and there, but, if so, we got out nicely enough. The car was rugged.

     • 1965 was the first year that Ford put disk brakes on any of its cars, and that caused some problems, ‘cause they hadn’t gotten all the kinks out yet, evidently. I recall that on two occasions, when we were driving home, downhill, from trips in the mountains (San Gorgonio?), the brakes failed. That’s not good. Things got pretty tense. But somehow we survived. We had to be careful going down long hills, though, in that big black car. Those disk brakes were hinky.

A 1965 Lincoln was featured on "Green Acres"
     For many years, the car was stored in the area nowadays occupied by our shop at the Trabuco property. So we continued to see it well into the eighties. Eventually, Pa sold it for next to nothing. Today, the car would be work several thousand dollars at least. It's a classic.

SEE ALSO Our Trip to Baja (Dissent the Blog)

Down Mexico way in a '65 Lincoln (not shown)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Our 1955 and 1960 Fords

Manny with 1955 Ford
Somewhere in British Columbia
1955 Ford "Country Sedan" from TV Show "Highway Patrol"
     Annie and I fondly remember the car we were driving when we arrived in the U.S.—a 55 Ford station wagon. That car might have been a special Canadian model differing slightly from U.S. models.
     Here's what the American version looked like:

     I recall that our dog Prince was always in the back of this car. He was nuts about oranges; whenever we drove near orange groves, he'd go apesh*t.
     I remember our stopping once just so that the guy could get it out of his system. He'd grab an orange and chomp on it, releasing all of the juice. He'd do that over and over. What a knucklehead.

     We always called this thing the "pink car," but it is possible that this color is actually "buckskin brown." Not sure. Ford also had a more pink color, "coral mist."

     This last video shows 1956 model Ford station wagons, but they look much like our '55.

Next: our 1960 Ford sedan

Owens Valley, c. 1964

     Some time in the early 60s(?), we sold the old '55, which was by then pretty beat up, and purchased a used 1960 Ford. We always called it the "green Ford." Pa remembers buying it from Cal Worthington in Fullerton, who was famous (infamous) for his "Go see Cal" commercials.
     I do believe that our particular 1960 Ford had a six cylinder engine—the economy engine. I looked it up: it had 145 horsepower. Pa has always described the car as “gutless.” (Ford proudly claimed that this car was the cheapest full-sized car available.)
     We kept this car for quite a while, as I recall. It eventually became the "Boy Scouts" car, i.e., the car used taking the Boy Scouts (of Troop 850, then 536) to camp, etc.—something that could inspire the emergence and spillage of vomit and other bodily fluids. 
     I recall a time we took the car to dusty, bumpy Trabuco Canyon with a carload of Scouts. That trip produced vomit on the back seat floor. The right side, as I recall.

     The car above is actually a 1960 Ford stationwagon, but it looks identical to our Ford sedan from the front. I chose this picture because of the car's color—the color of our car. The color is called "Medowvale green," evidently. Ford claimed that their paint required no waxing.

     Leaving aside the color, this looks exactly like our '60 Ford.

     After we bought the '60 Ford, there was no desperate need for a 2nd car—we engaged in car pooling, says Pa—but we did buy a 2nd car for Ma to use during the day when necessary.
     As I recall, we bought an early 50s Buick, which we named "the Bomb" for obvious reasons. It was amazing to be in the backseat of this car. It was like being inside a tank. It smelled very old back there. My imagination ran wild. I pictured some dark, strange, distant past.

Annie swears this '53 is the one
     As I recall, Pa did not have a high regard of this car and we did not own it for long. Pa once explained that it had a very unusual transmission—no gears!
     I did some research, and it appears that he was referring to Buick's famous "Dynaflow" transmission, which Buick used from 1948 until the early 60s. According to Wikipedia,
Buicks equipped with the Dynaflow transmissions were unique among American automobiles of the time in that the driver or his/her passengers would not detect the tell-tale interruption in acceleration that resulted when other automatic transmissions of the time shifted through their gears. Acceleration through a Dynaflow was one smooth (if inefficient) experience. It was because of this slow shifting that the Dynaflow transmission was nicknamed "Dynaslush."
     For what it's worth, I do remember Pa spending many hours in the garage working on our cars. We rarely brought cars to shops to be repaired or maintained. Same goes for our TV. People really did repair things in the old days. And nothing, it seemed, was ever simply discarded. It was not yet routine to take one's car to "be serviced."
     Lots of oil was dumped straight onto the ground. I remember doing that myself, right next to the garage, when I changed the oil on the lawn mower. Gosh. Nowadays, if you doing something like that, somebody's liable to call the hazmat team.

      Ford colors, 1955. Bottom right, second from bottom: coral mist.

     Ford colors, 1960. "Meadowvale green" near the middle, third from bottom.

Favorite music of the early 60s


     Here's an example of some of the music I fell in love with in the early 60s.
     This first song is by the "Village Stompers," an instrumental group that played what used to be called "Dixieland" jazz. "Washington Square" was a hit in late '63.

     Another example:

     Kenny Ball and His Jazzmen had a hit with this great song early in 1962. It may have been inspired by some nasty remarks N. Kruschev made about jazz being "decadent." So Ball took an old Russian song and turned it into a great "jazz" hit.

     Believe it or not, I remember this next song—usually called "Volare"—which was a hit in 1958. It's definitely burned into my brain. It still sounds cool to me today. I especially like the cheesy organ. It has a bit of a cult following. Alex Chilton covered it.

     This last song is often absurdly called "Sukiyaki." It was released in Japan in 1961 as "Ue O Muite Aruko" (I look up When I Walk). The song was inspired by the composer's heart being broken by the Japanese Actress, Meiko Nakamura.
     I remember listening to this in the back seat of our car—likely that old "salmon" 55 Ford station wagon, or maybe our green '60 Ford sedan. Just loved this song. Still do.

What could be better?

Oh yeah, here's another favorite, this time from 1965—another instrumental:

Friday, June 24, 2011

Vancouver, c. 1958

 Roy and Annie

I was the good one. Can you tell?

July 1963

 I do believe that Edith and Mariane first became friends in about 1945

 Hermann loves dogs. He certainly loved to play "soccer" with Prince in the backyard (pictured).

Mariane c. 1950

Edith c. 1958

Knott's Berry Farm, c. 1962

Not sure if this was at Knott's, but Knott's early claim to fame (amusementwise) was its Ghost Town. (Yes, it is Knott's.) Who are the two girls (left and right)? (Answer: the daughters of the German "Tuch" family, who more or less followed the Bauers down to California from Canada. Annie says that she maintained a "pen pal" relationship with the girl at right for many years.)
Our first "permanent" address in California was on (West) Academy St. in Anaheim, very near Knott's (in Buena Park). During the Kennedy v. Nixon campaign, Nixon made a stop at Knott's and we could hear him speak from our place, or so I remember someone saying. (I just checked: KBF is about a mile from W. Academy St.)
Actually, the above photo was likely taken a few years later, when we lived in Orange (near Villa Park).

Knott's Berry Farm Covered Wagon Camp, c. 1964

April 1974: at Dave Kook's folks' place

Dave and Roy