Dax Shepard’s ’67 Continental: Classic Luxury Meets Stunt Mobile
Dax Shepard’s ’67 Continental is equal parts classic luxury, Pro Touring muscle, and Hollywood stunt mobile.
From the December 2012 issue of Popular Hot Rodding magazine: It's called "stealing a shot," a Hollywood term that means shooting commercial footage without a permit. Technically, anytime you whip out a camera in the L.A. Basin with the intent to publish the results (movie, print, interwebs, whatever) for personal gain, you need a permit.
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We're about to "steal a shot" on a forlorn stretch of pavement wedged between scrap yards. A few cracks in the pavement are large enough to swallow small children. Broken bits of glass and metal litter the ground. If this were a movie, a car would be spewed from these fissures, a car such as Dax Shepard's '67 Lincoln Continental. Like some dark angel's limo, this pitch-black Conti reeks of malevolence. The way it sits, the way it looks, the way it sounds. As the engine fires up, a dog vomits two blocks away.
At first glance, it's improbable that a Hollywood A-list actor such as Dax would drive such a beast, except for the fact that he's one of the most approachable, down-to-earth guys you'll ever meet. And this Conti has been something of a family member—in both hard times and now the good times. But this car, this demonic thing on four wheels, doesn't seem to suit a Hollywood roller. Maybe a Ferrari, or Lambo, or (God forbid) a Prius would be the expected conveyance.
Truth is, Dax was born and bred in the Motor City, and it's as much a part of his DNA as his intense blue eyes.
"I'm from Detroit," Dax explains. "My dad sold Fords for a living and my mom worked at the GM proving grounds in Milford. She started as a night shift janitor and worked her way up to fleet manager. Eventually, she started her own company called Shows and Shoots. We'd do new car launches for GM. By the time I was 16, I was sliding Corvettes and Impalas around corners for all the big magazines and driving for press people on Road America. I did that for 14 years. What a great gig. "
Of course, we don't know any of this as we set up for the action shot. All we're thinking about is 700-plus brake horsepower wrapped in 5,300 pounds of steel flying sideways into a wall. No good can come of this. We give Dax about six seconds of instruction: come around this corner and try to pitch out the rear end. We figure it'll all be over in a few minutes, and we'll be home in time to catch the end of Pawn Stars while the Conti is being hooked to a meat wagon.
We hear the injected big-block Ford spool up, a sound akin to the ripping of heavy gauge canvas. The Lincoln's rear tires are boiling, tearing chunks from the road. Dax rounds the corner in a perfect drift, adding just enough throttle to maintain its arc. As he flies past, a white tornado follows the sedan. A quick review of the images and (as they say in the biz) we have nailed it—on the first pass, no less. There's no real need to replay the scene, save our urge to learn if the guy was just lucky. He does the exact same maneuver another four times. OK, the guy has some talent.
For a time, the Lincoln Continental was the preferred conveyance for all manner of VIPs. Its long wheelbase and wide stance left plenty of room for important people to do important things while seated within. Power windows and doors, cruise control, power seats, and an adjustable steering wheel left the Lincoln the epitome of posh. And those suicide doors were perfect for making grand entrances.
If the car looks familiar, it's because you're one of the lucky car nuts who [in August 2012] traded the torrid heat for an air-conditioned movie theater. This '67 Lincoln Continental—and the man behind its wheel—starred in Hit & Run, a stunt-filled action comedy written, produced, directed, edited, and acted by Dax Shepard.
If you saw this flick, you probably didn't realize that not only is this Dax's prized hot rod, but Dax performed all his own stunt driving. That degree of multitasking can often lead to disaster—you've heard the old saying "jack of all trades, master of none"—but that clearly isn't the case here. Hit & Run is arguably the best car-based comedy since Smokey & The Bandit. If you haven't seen it, you owe yourself to watch it immediately.
This '67 Lincoln Continental entered Dax's life around 1999 while he was an anthropology student at UCLA. "A friend of mine had bought the car from some old lady in Iowa," Dax says. "It had like 37,000 on the odometer and was in good shape. I totally fell in love with it. He moved to New York, ran out of money, and like an idiot, I sold my super-dependable Honda and bought it from him. This was a real low point for me financially. I'm driving around in this great big undependable boat while looking for acting work. I'd been doing some stuff with The Groundlings, a comedy troupe, while going to school, but nothing serious. I was freakin' penniless. Then I get a gig on this show called Punk'd. It goes big-time, and I get in front of a larger audience. For the next several years, I did back-to-back movies. I now had the money to do this stuff—play with cars. "
After a short stint in a Lonestar factory-built Cobra replica (with an actual FE 428-ci big-block), Dax grew tired of the citations for noise and getting caught in rainstorms without a roof. Though the Conti's performance was a far cry from the Cobra, he couldn't part with it. In a move all you hot rodders will applaud, he dumped the Cobra and put the proceeds into the Lincoln.
"The Lincoln was terrible to drive," Dax recalls. "It didn't stop, couldn't accelerate, and wouldn't turn, but I loved the damn thing. That's when I called Tony Loguzzo with an idea: Let's turn this clunker into a CTS-V. "
For the next year or so in a nondescript shop in Sunland, California, Tony Loguzzo and his son, Tyler, did just that. An automotive specialist for the Hollywood film industry, Loguzzo has built more than his share of unique vehicles for a variety of movies. This job would be no different. The end product, however, would need to last much longer than the average movie production, and its final resting place would not be a Hollywood backlot, but Dax's own garage.
Loguzzo's first task was removing the original 462 MEL (Mercury Edsel Lincoln) engine and replacing it with a lovely Lima lump from the Blue Oval people. A now-discontinued Ford Racing 521-ci big-block crate motor (M-6007-521FT) found its way beneath the Lincoln's long hood. Filled with the best internal bits from Ford Racing, several potent mods were added to augment the 385's performance up to the 700-hp level. A Mass-Flo fuel management system and Mallory ignition work in conjunction with an Aeromotive A-1000 fuel pump to ensure the engine is well-fed through the Mass-Flo's 1,000-cfm throttle body and Edelbrock Victor intake. The engine is flanked by a pair of custom-fabricated 2.0-inch primary headers that exit into our favorite Flowmaster 44 mufflers. The engine subsequently spun the dyno drum to 650 rear-wheel horses after passing through a Ford C6 transmission with a Gear Vendors overdrive and a 9.0-inch rear with 3.77 gears.
The chassis received considerable attention, you know, in case Dax decides to launch the Lincoln across a canyon. Loguzzo crafted his own custom frame stiffeners (all Lincolns during the period were unibody construction), providing a marked improvement over the rather flexible stock frame. The front suspension has been significantly modified by Loguzzo and uses KYB adjustable shocks with a Speedway Engineering 1.3-inch sway bar. The rear suspension relies on a single custom leaf spring modified to work with QA1 adjustable coilovers and a custom-fabricated sway bar. Delrin bushings were used wherever possible, as this car would likely see daily use on top of extreme stunt driving.
Elsewhere on the chassis, the front spindles were modified to accept Wilwood brakes comprised of 14-inch rotors and six-piston calipers. The rear brake system relies on dual sets of Wilwood four-piston calipers: one linked to the main service brake and the other to a rally-style stunt pedal mounted to the left of the main brake pedal. It allows Dax far more chassis control than the average Lincoln for precision stunt driving, and the extra pedal can even be seen briefly in some of the movie scenes. Rolling stock consists of 20-inch American Eagle wheels shod with Hankook Ventus AS rubber (255/45R20 in front and 275/40R20 out back).
"I started working at Sports Fab at age 15," Dax says, referring to the Detroit-area specialty shop famous for building some of GM's most high-profile performance concepts. In the era that immediately predated the internet and GM's Performance Division, outfits such as Sports Fab built the cars that many of us in the industry longingly reported on, but could only lust after. Dax worked on and drove many of them on a regular basis. "I'd ride my moped there … all winter long … this is in Michigan mind you. We got to work on the Snake Skinner ZR1 and the big-block Impala SS. And because all the magazines would send just one photographer, that meant I got to drive this stuff. You know, when you're 15, an experience like this stays with you forever. "
Dax's Motor City roots also have a very important Hollywood connection: car movies. And while all young gearheads develop an indelible bond to their favorite hot rod flicks, very few of us get to make our own—let alone one of the best ever produced. "My two favorite car movies are Smokey & The Bandit and Bullitt," Dax says. "I like Bullitt because McQueen did most of his driving, and I love Smokey because it combines comedy and car chases. So I made a movie where I got to do all those things. So I did 100 percent of the driving in Hit & Run, which is cool because we didn't make the movie with the studio. We found money and I got to do all that driving. If Universal or Paramount did the movie, they never would've let me do it. "
Only time will tell if decades from now today's teens will build Hit & Run clones, or if fans will line up to have a 60-year-old Dax Shepard sign the dashboard of their '67 Lincoln Continental. Right now, we're just glad car and crew have survived the photoshoot without the cops showing up!
A Couple Nice Details
A rally-style brake pedal from Wilwood allows the big Conti a great deal of chassis control. It controls a pair of Wilwood calipers on the rear axle for stunt moves.
The Lincoln's "suicide" doors were more a product of function than style. Engineers apparently grew tired of hitting their legs on the first-generation model's "mid-mounted" doors.
Dax Shepard's 1967 Lincoln Continental Specifications
- Engine type: Lima 385-series Ford big-block
- Displacement: 521 ci
- Block: Factory, '08 vintage
- Bore and stroke: 4.390 x 3.62 inches
- Compression ratio: 10:1
- Rotating assembly: Scat nodular iron crankshaft, Eagle H-beam rods, Probe forged pistons
- Cylinder heads: Super Cobra Jet, 72cc chambers
- Camshaft: Ford Racing (M-6250-A514) solid-roller, 0.640-inch lift, 254/258 degrees duration at 0.050 lift
- Valvetrain: Solid roller lifters, overhead valves, 2.20-/1.76-inch valves
- Intake manifold: Edelbrock Victor, single-plane
- Induction: Mass-Flo fuel injection with 1,000-cfm throttle body
- Exhaust: Custom 2.0-inch primary long-tube headers with Flowmaster mufflers
- Oiling: Melling high-volume oil pump
- Ignition: Mallory, MSD wires
- Cooling: Stock SVO
- Built by: Ford Racing/Loguzzo Motorsports Driveline
- Transmission: C6 with Gear Vendors overdrive, B&M torque converter
- Rearend: Ford 9.0-inch with 3.77 gears
- Frame: Stock unibody with custom-fabricated subframe connectors
- Front suspension: Factory A-arms, KYB shocks, Speedway Engineering 1.3-inch sway bar
- Rear suspension: Custom leaf spring, QA1 adjustable coilovers, custom sway bar
- Steering: Stock Lincoln Continental
- Front brakes: Wilwood six-piston calipers with 14-inch Wilwood rotors
- Rear brakes: Dual Wilwood four-piston calipers with 12-inch Wilwood rotors
- Wheels: American Eagle 20x10, front; 20x10, rear
- Tires: Hankook Ventus AS; 255/45R20, front; 275/40R20, rear
This story was originally published in the December 2012 issue of Popular Hot Rodding. Photos by Les Bidrawn.