Kris Trexler's 1958 Continental Mark III "Autumn Rose" coupe

With a 1958 Continental MK III convertible already in my collection, I have been an admirer of these luxious and stately luxury automobiles for some time. When I spotted an ad for a "1958 Mark III, loaded, pink" in a local newspaper ten years ago, I decided to investigate. I was the first caller to respond to the ad, but by the time I arrived at the owner's home some 60 miles away in San Bernardino, California, the calls had begun to come in. Obviously I needed to make a quick decision to purchase the car, one that I have never regretted.

The car was stashed in a gargage, not running, with an interior and trunk full of junk. This is one large car, and the family had turned it into an enclosed storage shed! The elderly lady owner related the story of why the car wasn't running. Twenty years earlier while returning on Route 66 from a vacation at the Grand Canyon to the family home in San Bernardino, the eleven year old Continental stopped running in Barstow. Rather than diagnosing the problem in Barstow, the car was towed home to nearby San Bernardino. The tow truck driver jockeyed the car into the garage where it never moved for twenty years. When the elderly owner lost her sight, she decided that it was time for the old Continental to find a new home. That's where I came in.

After agreeing on a price, I arranged for the car to be towed to my home. I drained the fuel tank and put in a gallon of fresh premium fuel, removed the spark plugs and squirted oil into each cylinder, installed a fresh battery, and tapped the ignition key lightly. The engine turned. Fortunately it wasn't locked up after twenty years of sitting. Several cranking attempts failed to start the engine. There was no fuel in the glass fuel filter. I poured some fresh gas directly into the carburetor and tried again. Success! The old girl roared (literally) to life for a brief moment. Turns out the reason the car had failed to start back in 1969 was a simple faulty fuel pump. I had the pump rebuilt, and the old girl had a new lease on life. Her exhaust system was completely gone, the lifters clattered, the brakes were non-functional, and the transmission leaked badly. Over the course of the next few months, I restored the car to excellent running condition. A car that has not been driven for twenty years will need some restoration, and I did everything necessary to make the car as reliable as possible. Here is a list of the work:

  • • removed and cleaned oil pan, rebuilt oil pump, installed new oil pan gasket, replaced hydraulic valve lifters, flushed fuel tank, rebuilt carburetor, replaced fuel filter, replaced fuel hoses, rebuilt transmission
  • • complete brake system overhaul: flushed brake lines, rebuilt Treadle-Vac power brake unit, replaced all rubber brake hoses, replaced all wheel cylinders, replaced brake linings and hardware, turned brake drums, installed new wheel bearings and seals, installed new stoplight switch, converted system to lifetime DOT 5 silicone brake fluid to prevent future corrosion of hydraulic system.
  • • cooling system overhaul: rebuilt water pump, re-cored heavy-duty radiator, new thermostat, new radiator and heater hoses, replaced dual heater cores, replaced heater water valve, replaced water diverters, new belts
  • • rebuilt power steering pump, rebuilt generator, new voltage regulator, rebuilt vacuum wiper motor
  • • complete tune-up, including replacement of mechanical ignition points with stock-appearing electronic ignition system, new reproduction group 32 battery, new battery cables, new spark plugs and wires, new ignition coil
  • • air conditioing system overhaul: original compressor rebuilt, new clutch brushes, new hose "o" rings, flushed system, rebuilt receiver-drier, replaced expansion valves, recharged with correct Freon R-12
  • • replaced shock absorbers, front and rear suspension bushings, wheel alignment, replaced exhaust system with lifetime stainless steel mufflers and resonators
  • • replaced trunk weatherstrip, rebuilt clock and converted to reliable quartz movement, repaired radio, replaced two sluggish power window motors and renewed all window switches
  • • repainted entire driver's side and hood to correct poor color match from previous body repair - all other paint is original, rechromed front bumper, driver's outside door handle, rear fin caps

The end result of this extensive "freshening" has been truly pleasurable driving experiences. This Continental has never let me down and has been on numerous outings from Los Angeles, including trips to Palm Springs, San Diego, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. Not to mention being pressed into service as a "dinner car." It's great to invite friends over for snacks then eight of us can cruise to a restaurant in luxurious comfort in the Continental. No carpooling necessary!