- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 20, 2006

“I had marvelled at them since they came out in 1961,” Arthur Bragg says about the four-door Lincoln Continental convertibles. Although he had long admired 1960s Lincoln Continental convertibles that featured clamshell doors, he never looked for one to purchase.

That changed in late 1979 when a friend stopped by his Brucetown, Va., home to tell him about a very nice 1967 Lincoln for sale in Haymarket. Mr. Bragg thanked him for the information and said he would look at the car whenever he found himself in Haymarket.

Evidently his do-good friend couldn’t leave well enough alone because a few days later the owner of the Lincoln drove the car up to Mr. Bragg’s house. “I looked it over,” Mr. Bragg recalls, and after some negotiating, “We were $500 apart.”

Mr. Bragg thought more about it and couldn’t shake the last view he had of the 6-foot, 7-inch-wide royal maroon Continental driving away. After three days, he conceded, telephoned the owner, and agreed to pay his price. When new the base price of each of the 2,276 four-door 1967 Lincoln Continental convertibles was $6,449; 1967 was the final year of production.

The transfer of the title took place in January 1980 and once Mr. Bragg was the official owner he went over the car very carefully. While the convertible top was in great condition, there were two rips or tears, one on either side. They were caused by the windows in the rear doors not working properly. They were supposed to drop down a bit while the top was being raised or lowered. Because the windows didn’t drop, the top was ripped.

It seemed a shame to replace a complete top for a couple of small flaws, but that’s what Mr. Bragg did after he put the rear windows back into working order.

Attempts at polishing the royal maroon paint proved futile. “The paint had faded and I couldn’t let it sit around looking pale,” he says. While the car was being repainted, the seats were reupholstered with new maroon leather. The maroon door panels remain original, as does the maroon carpeting.

When Mr. Bragg took delivery of the Lincoln, the odometer registered about 27,350 miles and though all the traditional indicators hinted that was the actual mileage, he checked the compression of each cylinder and the results were the same as if it were a new 462-cubic-inch engine developing 340 horsepower.

The odometer today has yet to roll over 30,000 miles.

Originally a set of huge 9.15x15-inch tires supported the car on a 126-inch wheelbase. Mr. Bragg has replaced them with radial tires for better handling, comfort and safety.

The furthest afield that Mr. Bragg has ventured in his 18-foot, 5-inch-long Lincoln was to a national car show in Portland, Maine, in 1994. It was about a 1,500-mile round trip, burning high-test gasoline all the way he recalls, every mile pure ecstasy. If you’re going to travel in style, there’s a price to be paid. He describes the car’s performance as “lovely.”

Both bumpers had lost some of their luster and Mr. Bragg has had them both replated with chrome.

Both front and rear seats have pull-down arm rests in the middle. A driver seated behind the two-spoke steering wheel has the 120-mph speedometer in clear sight.

Mr. Bragg’s Continental is equipped with six-way power seats, air conditioning, wing vent windows, power brakes, power steering, AM/FM radio with a rear speaker, cruise control and temperature control with a dial gauge much like the thermostat in a house.

The air-conditioning option boosted the price by $523.55 and records show that 96.5 percent of Lincolns in 1967 were so equipped.

Mr. Bragg notes there is one accessory his car is lacking, an automatic headlight dimmer. Perhaps he’ll find one to install on his car.

He says he misses having no outside mirror on the right side. The left-side mirror, he is happy to report, has a remote control on the inside.

Lowering or raising the convertible top is an exercise to make Rube Goldberg proud.

The trunk lid is hinged at the rear and as panels fold, unfold, twist and gyrate the top, with a glass rear window, raises or lowers and the final product is amazingly beautiful.

The top mechanism car be operated from the driver’s seat or from the left rear fender. Beside the gas filler door is a place to insert the ignition key and once it is inserted and turned, the top is set in motion.

Not only pretty clever for 1967, it’s pretty clever for 2006.

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