- Posted by Sanderson Lincoln
- On August 25, 2016
Being Edsel Ford – the son of Henry Ford – definitely had its ups and downs. We are all familiar with the downside of carrying the name, as the “Edsel” automobile was one of the biggest car flops in Detroit history.
Yet, did you know that Edsel Ford also had the first Lincoln Continental developed exclusively for him? In 1939 Edsel Ford asked chief Ford Motor Company stylist Bob Gregorie to whip up a car design for Ford’s upcoming vacation. Legend has it that it was drawn up in an hour’s time and Gregorie’s design called for an elegant, long-hooded convertible with a V12 engine. The Lincoln Continental was born!
Edsel Ford had the finished Lincoln Continental freighted down to Florida for use during his vacation and he knew exactly what he was doing. Rich friends and acquaintances loved the car, so Ford ordered it into production as both a convertible and a sedan.
The sleek, new luxury car rolled off the Ford assembly lines on October 2, 1939. Since then, the Continental name has come in and out of existence, but always as a luxury vehicle for discriminating buyers. In fact, the 1939 and 1940 models were extensively handmade, with hand-hammered body panels. What Edsel ordered, Ford delivered.
With the December 1941 Pearl Harbor attack and America’s entry into World War II, the Lincoln Continental disappeared until 1946.
All 1939 through 1948 Lincoln Continentals are recognized as Full Classic cars by the Classic Car Club of America. Edsel Ford’s 1939 car is often considered one of the most beautiful automobiles in the world, and Ford worked to maintain the car’s sleek lines and beautiful styling after World War II.
Ford suspended production of the Lincoln Continental from 1948 to 1955, reintroducing the model as a separate Ford brand in the Continental Mark II.
One of the most expensive cars on the market in both its model years (1956 and 1957), it saw sales to the world’s richest buyers, but at a loss of around $1,000 per car. Selling prestige was more important for the brand than turning a profit. With personalities like Elvis Presley and Elizabeth Taylor cruising in rolling advertisements, Ford Motor Company did not mind the per-car loss.
Unlike most of the chrome-heavy cars of the late 1950s, the Continental Mark II was understated with very little chrome, housed a massive 368 cubic-inch V8 beneath a hood that accounted for most of the car’s length, and sported a subtle, two-tone paint scheme.
Fabulous 1950s Finale
From 1958 through 1960, Ford (which ended the Continental division in 1957) brought the Lincoln Continental back under the Lincoln brand, starting with 1958’s Continental Mark III.
This was one of the largest cars ever made, larger even than a 1958 Cadillac. With a wheelbase of 131 inches and on overall body length of 229 inches (over 19 feet!), this car was wider, longer and heavier than any other car ever built. From its 375-horsepower V8 to its retractable rear window, this car truly made a statement.
A year after restarting the brand, Lincoln rolled out the Lincoln Continental Mark IV, and in 1960, a more restrained Continental Mark V.
With the dawning of John F. Kennedy’s presidency, the Lincoln Continental came into its own from 1960 through 1969. Given the turbulence of the decade, the car’s designers opted for insulating vehicle owners from unpleasant realities beyond the car’s glass windows.
Robert McNamara, later infamous as the architect of the U.S. position in the Vietnam War, was a Ford executive at the time. He guided a shrinking of the car’s size, increased advertising to women, and simplified construction with suicide doors and production of only four-door models.
The slab-sided 1961 Lincoln Continental was America’s first car to carry a 24,000, two-year bumper-to-bumper warranty. That year’s car was also picked as Kennedy’s presidential limousine, SS-100-X, customized for the Secret Service.
Changes to the grille and interior design carried the car through 1966. In that year, a two-door model emerged, the first since 1960. The prestigious Lincoln Continental expanded once again to nearly 221 inches in length. By this time more than 50,000 units were rolling off Detroit assembly lines annually, mostly as sedans.
As an interesting side note, a spiffy new 1964 Lincoln Continental appears to be crushed in a junkyard compactor in the James Bond movie, Goldfinger. The 1964 car was replaced by stunt double, a 1963 engineless Continental, for the actual crushing!
During the 1970s, Lincoln Continentals struggled as some consumers began to consider them outdated. Uni-body construction and suicide doors disappeared and bumpers, decreed by federal law, appeared in 1973.
The Mark IV slowly evolved from standard features giving way to options, like the 460-cubic-inch V8 engine. Lincoln’s newer Town Cars started to vie for dealer space with Continentals.
Federal fuel economy and emissions controls forced Lincoln to trim back the luxurious Lincoln Continental, moving it to a Ford Panther frame for the 1980 model. Some 800 pounds lighter and 20 inches shorter than the 1979 Mark V model, 1980’s Mark VI also went down to a 302-cubic-inch V8 engine.
By 1988, no longer available with V8 engines, and similar in styling to the Ford Taurus while still holding a $30,000 sticker price, Continentals were often seen to represent the struggles Detroit had with emerging standards and changing values.
With renewed vigor and inspiration, Lincoln’s designers reinvented the mid-1990 Lincoln Continentals. They once again separated the brand from Mercury venicles and Fords, projecting a distinct luxury look.
In 1998, with another update, the Lincoln Continental held strong until 2002, when the brand was phased out once again after nine generations.
The Lincoln Continental emerges from its storied past as the all-new 2017 luxury car for the future. You can find this new beauty at Sanderson Lincoln on Bell Road in Phoenix, but to properly appreciate it, come down for a test drive.
You’ll be looking at a 10th generation Lincoln Continental with a 305-horsepower, V6 engine (with optional all-wheel drive) and modern features even Edsel and Elvis would envy. These include front and rear seats with heating, cooling and massage; reclining rear seats; a 360-degree camera system, and Bridge of Weir leather for all seating.