- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 7, 2006

An unsuspecting Cleve Westmoreland was happy with his Lincoln when he drove into the service department of Bill Swab Lincoln-Mercury dealership on West Broad Street in Columbus, Ohio. He was there for regularly scheduled maintenance.

Because all the magazines in the waiting room were at least a year old, he wandered out into the showroom to see the new Lincolns on display.

That’s when he first saw the drop-dead gorgeous light green 1969 Lincoln Continental Mark III with an engine hood that seemingly stretched into early next week.

That was the end of the old Lincoln’s visit to the service department. It soon became trade-in material on the new Lincoln Mark III.

It was the stance of the car that captivated him — and 23,088 other buyers of the long (18 feet 8 inches), low (4 feet 6 inches), wide (6 feet 7.5 inches) Lincoln.

The standard weight of each Lincoln Mark III model manufactured was 4,763 pounds, each one with a 365-horsepower, 460-cubic-inch V-8 engine beneath an almost 6-foot-long engine hood and each one carrying a base price of $6,758.

The entire family turned out to see the new car when Mr. Westmoreland drove it home and they all issued the appropriate oohs and aahs except for his stepson, Harry Goins, who was taken away by the sheer beauty of the Lincoln. “I loved that car from the day he bought it,” Mr. Goins says.

For the next eight years the lengthy Lincoln was driven about 5,500 miles a year. In 1977 Mr. Goins moved to Virginia. Mr. Westmoreland moved to a new house in Columbus and when he moved in, his Lincoln moved into the garage, never to move for the next 25 years.

Mr. Westmoreland’s excuse for leaving his Lincoln to lie dormant was, “the battery was dead.” In reality he knew that his stepson dearly wanted the car but would not take possession of it until he had a suitable place for it to be garaged.

As the years went by Mr. Goins noted that the layer of dust on the car grew thicker. “It was a catchall in the garage,” he says with dismay. Stacks of old newspapers were piled on the car as it sat on four flat tires.

With a climate-controlled garage built at his Alexandria home, Mr. Goins traveled to Ohio in August 2002 and proclaimed that he was ready to take possession of the Lincoln. He had a local shop in Columbus drag the car out of the garage and haul it away in order to make it roadworthy. Mr. Goins told the garage owners that he wanted to drive it to Virginia in two months.

The cost of the rehabilitation came within $1,000 of the price of the car when it was new 33 years earlier.

When Mr. Goins returned in October, the car was like-new mechanically. He, and his wife Barbara, drove home with confidence.

As nicely as the car handled, it had suffered a few cosmetic dings and dents over the years in addition to a couple of spots of rust where all the Mark III Lincolns seemed to have problems, just forward of the rear wheel wells. The solution was simple, Mr. Goins in October 2003 drove his Lincoln back to Columbus where another shop stripped off all the trim pieces, addressed all of the minor body damage, cut out the rusty areas and replaced them with healthy new steel and then repainted the car in the original light-green color highlighted with a dark-green pinstripe.

All of the chrome and stainless-steel trim pieces on the car — with the exception of the chrome surrounding the rear license plate — were in such good condition that simply polishing them was all that was needed.

A dozen yard-long vents between the rear window and the trunk lid enable the flow-through ventilation to function. The power antenna sits on the left rear fender while the self-dimming headlight electric eye is mounted on the left front portion of the cowl.

He picked up his totally refurbished Lincoln in March 2004 and, once settled in place behind the two-spoke tilt steering wheel, drove it home. Although the speedometer can record speeds up to 120 mph and Mr. Goins has no doubt that his car can achieve that speed he, personally, has never approached it. “I’m a cruiser,” he explains, “not a speeder.” He does say that the faster the car goes, the smoother the ride. The car virtually floats on a 117.2-inch wheelbase.

Typical of most luxury cars of the day, Mr. Goins’ Lincoln is equipped with power door locks, power windows, power steering, power brakes and a power antenna. A fan under the rear package shelf provides a rear-window defogger.

Mr. Goins remains as infatuated now with the Lincoln Mark III as he was 38 years ago when he first saw it and has his stepfather to thank for his good fortune. “It’s been a gratifying experience,” he says.

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