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The Lincoln Continental is Born (Twice)

In 1939, Ford Motor Company chief designer Bob Gregorie made plans to modify a Lincoln Zephyr into a convertible. Edsel Ford, who was enthralled with new and stylish vehicles, asked for a prototype to be built in time for an upcoming vacation to Florida. Gregorie modified the Zephyr to give the car a distinguished look, and when Ford took it down to Florida, reception was so positive he ordered for a second prototype to improve some mechanical faults. This lead to the very first models of the Continental, which were known as stylish, luxurious, and attractive vehicles. They even saved Lincoln from going under. WWII, however, halted production, and though it returned for a short, second life from '46 to '48, the Continental was once again placed on the shelf.

The Many Lives of the Continental

The Continental was once again revived in 1955 as the Mark II. It was the epitome of high-class, and was given a $10,000 price tag and a 368ci V8 with 285 horsepower to compete with the Rolls Royces of the era. For the Mark II, Continental served as its own separate division, but the line was far from lucrative.  In order to rebound, the Continental Mark III followed in 1958, expanded in length and size on a Lincoln unibody platform, and included a 430ci V8 with 375 horsepower. The '58 model did not live for long and was succeeded by the Continental Mark IV that was revealed in 1959 and the Mark V in 1960. Both bore the Lincoln name, and the desired '48 Lincoln Continental was back with a new look that would mark the beginning of a legacy that lasted until 2002.

In '61 a new generation appeared. The "Mark" name had been dropped, and the Continental was now known as an upscale Lincoln model. The new model was slightly smaller in size and came as a coupe, convertible, or four-door sedan with suicide doors, chrome fittings, interior wood trim, and room to seat six. It sported a 430ci V8 with 300 horsepower.  The convertible remained as a four-door version until 1966 when two-doors came with a 462ci V8. By the ‘70s, the suicide doors and coupes were discontinued (along with the unibody design), and the Continental continued to grow in size. It had a 460ci V8 that could run at 365 horsepower, making these behemoths abnormally fast for their size. They also included a new trim: the Town Car. By the end of the ‘70s, the last of the large Continentals were produced, and tight regulations diminished the engine to a 400ci V8 with 179 horsepower. They were laced with comfortable couch-like seats, opera windows, and a spacious interior.

In 1980, the Continental shrunk in size, in nearly every dimension. It was transferred to the Panther platform, with the Ford Crown Victoria, and shortened its width, length, and height, and improved in fuel efficiency with a smaller engine (4.9L V8). In the following year, the Town Car trim replaced the Continental with its own line as the Continental switched over to the Fox platform, shrinking in size even further. By '88, a new 3.8L V6 engine with 140 horsepower replaced the V8s in all Continentals. The model switched to front-wheel drive and the boxier style of the ‘70s had diminished into a rounded aerodynamic style that carried the car into the ‘90s. It would not last for long after, sadly ending in '02.  


The Constinental is poised to make another comeback.  At the 2015 New York Auto Show, Lincoln showed a Continental concept car and announced that the new model will be available in 2016.  Although the Lincoln has come and gone, during its many lives the Continental would be a dream car for those who love the distinction a Lincoln automobile brings, and is a highly collectible piece of American culture at its finest.

Lincoln is a registered trademark of Ford Motor Company. 1A Auto is not affiliated with or sponsored by Lincoln or Ford Motor Company. See all trademarks.

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