- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2002

Almost a decade has passed since Chad Coombs retired from his position at Atlantic Research Technologies.

It was and is no secret that he is a longtime aficionado of Lincoln automobiles. However, he had no idea that this interest would follow him into retirement.

He and his wife, Evelyn, were enjoying traveling and leisure time when his past caught up with him early in 2000.

Warner Banes, a friend in Houston, who knew of Mr. Coombs' attraction to Lincolns, telephoned to excitedly inform him of a Lincoln too good to pass up.

The Texas friend explained that, 23 years before, a Lake Charles, La., man had purchased a new 1977 Lincoln Continental four-door collanade sedan, which carried a base price back then of $9,636. The white car with blue interior was one of 68,160 such models manufactured.

Hearing Mr. Banes' report that the well-preserved Lincoln had been driven fewer than 50,000 miles, Mr. Coombs took the bait hook, line and sinker.

Mr. Coombs agreed to buy the Lincoln sight unseen if Mr. Banes would first acquire the car and make sure it was roadable before April 2000.

In April, Mr. and Mrs. Coombs flew to Texas to take possession of the Lincoln they had only seen in the mind's eye.

The title changed hands April 7, and Mr. Coombs was pleased with his acquisition. The car stretches 19 feet, 5 inches between the massive chrome-plated bumpers and stands a civilized 4 feet, 7 inches high with no need to duck your head or bend your back to enter the sumptuous interior.

Standard equipment on the well-appointed automobile includes:

•Power brakes

•Tinted glass

•Power windows

•Trip odometer

•Fender skirts

•Power steering

•Dual note horns

•Cornering lamps

•Bumper rub strips

•Deluxe wheel covers

•Cut pile carpeting

•Concealed headlamps

•Solid state ignition

•Coolant recovery system

•Cartier digital timepiece

•Select-Shift transmission

•Temperature, ampere gauges

•Front, rear center arm rests

•Thermostatic air conditioning

Extra-cost optional equipment on the Lincoln Continental includes:

•Dual remote control mirrors

•Interval windshield wipers

•Premium body side moldings

•6-way power front seats

•AM/FM/MPX with 8-track

•Power door/trunk locks

•Custom paint stripes

•Interior light group

•Tilt steering wheel

•Carpeted floor mats

•White vinyl roof

•Door edge guards

•Speed control

•Opera windows

Mr. Banes put new hoses on the engine and installed spark plug wires, belts, gas filter and a new radiator. Also on the 21/2-ton Lincoln were a new brake master cylinder, tires and 12-volt battery.

"It was silly big," Mr. Coombs says. "Parking it is like docking the Queen Mary."

The Coombs couple happily set off for home on a three-day odyssey with the enormous 460-cubic-inch V-8 engine smoothly generating an emissions-choked 208 horsepower.

Believe it or not, the speedometer tops out at just 80 mph, although 1977 tests showed that the Lincoln was clocked at 112 mph.

Because highway fuel economy with the down-draft carburetor is about 15 mpg, the Lincoln engineers installed a 24-plus-gallon gasoline tank to ensure at least a 300-mile range.

"We were dumb lucky," Mr. Coombs says regarding the trip home. The only problem encountered on the crosscountry excursion was when the right front power window went down but refused to go back up.

Eventually, after much prodding, prying and praying the window was raised. It remained in that position until they arrived at their home, where appropriate repairs were later made.

The heavy Lincoln gave a cushy ride on a 127-inch wheelbase riding on big BJR78x15-inch tires. The lengthy Lincoln has a 511/2-foot turning circle and a hair over four turns on the steering wheel, lock-to-lock.

White vinyl covers the top of the white Lincoln, neatly tucking around the two oval opera windows at either end of the rear seat.

At the rear of the car, the two taillights are visually connected by a wall-to-wall reflector, which seems fitting on such an extralarge car.

Blue leather, fabric, paint and carpet covers the interior turning it into a dark-hued grotto.

The exterior mirrors gracefully blend into the trim along the side of the car and are remotely controlled. The odometer on the Lincoln is now teetering on the brink of 52,000 miles, as the car becomes eligible for antique status this year.

Mr. Coombs, the second owner, has no plans to register his Lincoln as an antique.

He believes that his car still runs too strongly and has too many trips to make to be restricted by antique registration.

"I guess time caught up with it," Mr. Coombs says of his 25-year-old Lincoln.

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