These days, John Kiszla cruises down a postcard-worthy stretch of beach highway in a light yellow 1961 Lincoln Continental. It’s a scene that’s been a long time in the making.
As a youngster, Kiszla would watch starry-eyed as his grandfather—a Ford employee from Mahwah, New Jersey—touched up the bodywork of his father’s Oldsmobile. That’s when he first saw that a car wasn’t just something to drive; it was a piece of art to take care of and to keep. From then on, he couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel of his own, and, when he turned “fifteen and a half,” he bought his first: A ’62 Thunderbird, from a neighbor, for $250.
Fast forward to 1995 when Kiszla, out and about one day while living in Colorado, saw a ’61 Lincoln Continental convertible speed by.
“I said, ‘okay, where is that going’,” he remembers. “And it was going to a car meet of Lincoln Continental convertibles—there was a club, the Colorado Continental Convertibles Club.”
Only after showing up at the meeting did Kiszla learn it was the club’s president who had passed him on the road. They became friends and Kiszla was soon convinced that the ’61 was the best model and represented the purest form of design in a Lincoln Continental.
“So I was hooked. He went through it saying, ‘Look how perfect it is. Look at how the fenders are. Look at the peak molding—how perfect it is. Look at how sporty this vehicle is and the luxury inside this car.’”
Three years later, Kiszla found a ’61 Continental convertible of his own in South Dakota, but rust to its body and underbody had rendered the car un-drivable. However, an Internet search and a few states to the west was the body that outfits his current car, sitting in a Freemont, California storage yard.
“The guy wanted 500 dollars for it. There was no rust and the data plate was still on it, so I was like, ‘Sure!’”
So Kiszla set about restoring the motorcar—taking years to personally re-craft everything from the paintwork to the convertible top installation.
“It’s all luxury and stately, but for me, the biggest joy is finding a car that needs a little help and bringing it back to life.”
Imagining the restored light yellow Continental against the lush backdrop of sunset and coastline—a journey that spanned New Jersey to California and a few states in between—one gets the feeling that Kiszla is making his grandfather proud.
“It’s sharp, it’s different, it doesn’t scream,” Kiszla says. “This car, it goes with me, you know? It’s everywhere I go.”