Tom Thornton shows off his 1959 Lincoln Continental Mark IV. Brandy Baker, The Detroit News
For Tom Thornton, it was a field of dreams in Novi.
That’s where he found his almost-blemish-free dream car, a beige 1959 Lincoln Continental.
“In 1999, my wife said, ‘Let’s find ourselves a classic car. Something from the ’50s,” said Thornton, a resident of Farmington Hills.
“We drove past this field that had a car in it and she said ‘hey, did you see that?,’ so we doubled back and walked out in the field and there was the car with a for sale sign on it. The owner wanted $3,100 and we snapped it up.”
Compared with today’s cars, the 1959 Continental is gigantic.
It’s 21 feet long, 80 inches wide and 56 inches tall and weighs in at about 5,200 pounds, which is a lot to push to a service station if you run out of gas. It has a 430 cubic-inch engine with 300 horsepower.
Spacewise, its trunk and interior is larger than most Tokyo apartments.
“It barely fits in my garage,” said Thornton, 51. “It takes a full two hours just to wash and dry it. It has all-leather bench seats, which most people today have never even heard of. The only change I’ve made was to have seat belts installed.”
According to Thornton, its designer had to make a radical change to the car before it was put into production.
“The car is so long that when the first models were tested, they had a tendency to buckle in the middle when they hit a few bumps,” said Thornton, who works for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
“So they had to use a lot more metal on the frame to keep it from folding up.”
In 1959, the Lincoln Continental retailed for about $9,200 at a time when — according to the 1959 U.S. Department of Commerce — the average income in the U.S. was $5,400.
Today, you can buy 1959 Lincoln Continentals for $22,000 and up.
“We’ll be riding in the Woodward Dream Cruise, plus we’ll be in the Berkley parade again this year,” Thornton said.
“I love my Continental ... this is from the time when we sold cars by the foot!”