Body style(s) 2-door sedan
Layout FR layout
The first Lincoln Continental was developed as Edsel Ford's one-off personal vehicle, though it is believed he planned all along to put the model into production if successful. In 1938, he commissioned a custom design from the chief stylist, Eugene T. "Bob" Gregorie, ready for Edsel's March 1939 vacation. The design, allegedly sketched out in an hour by Gregorie working from the Lincoln Zephyr blueprints and making changes, was an elegant convertible with a long hood covering the Lincoln V12 and long front fenders, and a short trunk with what became the Continental series' trademark, the externally-mounted covered spare tire.
The car could be considered a channeled and sectioned Zephyr that did not even have the bulge that in the Zephyr (and some other cars) replaced the running-board at the bottom of the doors. This decrease in height meant that the height of the hood was much closer to that of the fenders. There was hardly any trim on it at all, making its lines superb. This car is often rated as one of the most beautiful in the world.
The custom car for the boss was duly produced on time, and he had it delivered to Florida for his spring vacation. Interest from well-off friends was high, and Edsel sent a telegram back that he could sell a thousand of them. Lincoln craftsmen immediately began production on the Continental convertible, and even a rare few hardtop models. They were extensively hand-built; the two dozen 1939 models and 400 1940-built examples even had hand-hammered body panels, since dies for machine-pressing were not constructed until 1941.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Continental production was suspended, to be re-started in 1946 to 1948. Like the other post-war Lincolns, however, the Continental had similar bits of trim added to make it look improved. The 1939–1948 Continental is recognized as a "Full Classic" by the Classic Car Club of America, one of the last-built cars to be so recognized.The 1939 Continental is commonly called a '1940 Continental.'
Continental Mark II
Body style(s) 2-door sedan
Layout FR layout
Engine(s) 368 cu in (6 L) Y-block V8
The Continental name was revived in 1955 as a separate Ford brand, with its sole model being the Continental Mark II. This version was a unique design with the highest quality control ever seen in the automobile industry. High-class luxury abound in the new Continental - and with very limited availability, it appeared even more exclusive than the original.
Continental for '56 was one of the most expensive cars in the world -- with a cost of $10,000, it rivaled Rolls-Royce. But despite its astronomical price tag, Ford Motor Company actually lost money on each one sold. On a side note, Cadillac suffered a similar financial loss with its own Continental rival, the four-door Eldorado Brougham. Vehicles such as these were image builders for the two companies, as well as test beds for new ideas and concepts. The Continental Mark II was sold for just two model years, with about 3,000 total units built. Between the tales of dealers turning potential buyers away because they were not deemed to be the right kind of people to own Continental, and its sticker price found affordable by only the world's wealthiest, the Continental became almost mythical. The celebrity-riddled owner's list for the original Continental read like a who's-who - including Elvis Presley, the Shah of Iran, Nelson Rockefeller and Henry Kissinger among others.
1958–60 Mark III, IV, and V
1959 Lincoln Continental formal sedan
The Continental division was dissolved after 1957, but in an attempt to retain some of the cachet of the Mark II, Lincoln named its top-of-the-line 1958 model the Continental Mark III. This differed from the lower-model full-size Lincolns only in trim level and in its roof treatment, featuring a reverse-angle power rear "breezeway" window that retracted down behind the back seat. That year's full-size Lincoln sold poorly in all models; 1958 was a recession year in the United States. The new Lincoln was one of the largest cars ever made, larger than that year's Cadillac, and had styling considered by many to be excessive even in that decade of styling excess. 1959's range contained a Continental Mark IV model, and the 1960 range had a Continental Mark V, with more restrained styling than the 1958.
1961 - 1969
Assembly Wixom, Michigan, USA
Body style(s) 4-door convertible
4-door pillared hardtop sedan
2-door hardtop coupe
Layout FR layout
Engine(s) 430 cu in (7 L) MEL V8
460 cu in (7.5 L) 385-series V8
462 cu in (7.6 L) MEL V8
Wheelbase 123.0 in (3124 mm)
Length 1961-65: 215.9 in (5484 mm)
1966-69: 220.9 in (5611 mm)
Width 1961-65: 78.7 in (1999 mm)
1966-69: 79.7 in (2024 mm)
Height 55.0 in (1397 mm)
In 1961, the Continental was completely redesigned by Elwood Engel. For the first time, the names Lincoln and Continental would be paired on a car other than one in the Mark series. The design was originally intended to be the new 1961 Ford Thunderbird, but the concept was enlarged and slightly altered before being switched to the Lincoln line by Robert McNamara. One of the most striking features of the new Continental was its size. It was two feet shorter than its predecessor. So much smaller was this car, that advertising executives at Ford photographed a woman parallel parking a sedan for a magazine spread. The new Continental's most recognized trademark, front opening rear doors, was a purely practical decision. The new Continental rode a wheelbase of 123", and the rear hinged doors were hinged from the rear to ease ingress and egress. When the Lincoln engineers were examining the seating buck that styling had made up, the engineers kept hitting the front hinged door of the buck with their feet. The rear hinged doors solved the problem. To simplify production (in the beginning, anyway), all cars were to be four-door models, and only two body styles were offered, sedan or convertible. Therefore, the rear doors were hung from the rear and opened from the front. This "suicide door" style was to become the best-known feature of 1960s Lincolns. The 1961 model was the first car manufactured in America to be sold with a 24,000 miles (39,000 km) or 2-year bumper-to-bumper warranty.
The 1961 Lincoln Continental was really Engel's design masterpiece, considered by many to be pinnacle of Lincoln style. Even the dashboard was his design. This may have been the last time a single individual was responsible for the complete design of a production car. The 1961 Lincoln's striking, understated elegance immediately won a major design award and was widely copied by other manufacturers -- note the similarity of the 1963 Cadillac and the 1963 Buick Electra.
Continentals of this generation are favored by collectors, and have appeared in movies such as The Matrix, The Last Action Hero, and Inspector Gadget movies, the TV series Pushing Daisies, and recently it shows in the opening sequence of the TV series Entourage. Ford produced several concept cars which recalled this design. In 2007, Lincoln's 2007 SUV line adopted massive chrome grilles in the style of these classic Continentals.
This slab-sided design ran from 1961 through 1969 with few changes from year to year. Lincoln dealers began to find that many people who bought 1961 and post-1961 models were keeping their cars longer. In 1962, a simpler front grille design with floating rectangles and a thin center bar was adopted.
Due to customer requests, for 1963 the front seat was redesigned to provide a little more leg room to back seat passengers. The rear deck lid was also raised to provide more trunk space. The floating rectangles in the previous year's grille became a simple matrix of squares. The car's electrical system was updated this model year when Ford replaced the generator with an alternator.
The car was stretched 3 inches (76 mm) in 1964 to give more rear-seat legroom, and the roofline was squared off at the same time. The dash was also redesigned, doing away with the pod concept. Side glass was now flat to provide more interior room. The gas tank access door, which had been concealed at the rear of the car in the rear grille, was now placed on the driver's side rear quarter panel. The exterior "Continental" script was changed and the rear grille replaced by a simple horizontally elongated Continental star on the rear deck lid.
The convex 1961–64 grille was replaced by a flatter, squared-off one for 1965. The car was given front disc brakes to improve stopping time. For the first time, parking lamps and front turn signals were integrated into the front quarter panels instead of the bumper. Taillights were fitted with a ribbed chrome grille on each side.
1966 Lincoln Continental convertible
A two-door version was launched in 1966, the first two-door Lincoln since 1960, and the MEL engine was expanded from 430 to 462 cubic inches (7.0 to 7.6 L). The car was given all-new exterior sheet metal and a new interior. Parking lights and front turn signals went back into the front bumper, and taillights set in the rear bumper for the first time. The length was increased by 5 inches (130 mm) to 220.9 in (5,610 mm), the width by an 1-inch (25 mm) to 79.7 in (2,020 mm), and the height by almost 1-inch (25 mm) to 55.0 in (1,400 mm) (on the sedan). Curved side glass returned.
The convertible saw a few technical changes related to lowering and raising the top. Lincoln engineers separated the hydraulics for the top and rear deck lid (trunk) by adding a second pump and eliminating the hydraulic solenoids. A glass rear window replaced the previous years' plastic windows.
Sales increased to 54,755 units for the model year, considered a success by Ford. This was a 36% increase over 1965. Product breakdown for the year consisted of 65% sedans, 29% coupes, and just under 6% for the four-door convertible.
The 1967 Continental was almost identical to the 1966. The most obvious external difference is that the 1966 model has the Lincoln logo on each front fender, ahead of the front wheel. This does not appear on the 1967 model. 1967 was the last year customers could choose a four-door convertible Continental. 1967 production saw 45,667 cars built.
1968 brought some exterior changes. The parking lights, taillights, and front turn signals were once again in a wraparound design on the fenders, but looked very different from those of the 1965 model. The new Ford 385 engine in a 460-cubic-inch (7.5 L) model was to be available initially, but there were so many 462 engines in process during production that the 462 was used and the 460 phased in later that year.
1969 was the last production year with rear-opening "Continental doors", with few changes from 1968 but Federally mandated head restraints.
Kennedy Limousine SS-100-X
For the Kennedy White House, the Secret Service purchased a convertible parade limousine custom built by Hess & Eisenhart of Cincinnati, Ohio from a 1961 Lincoln 4-door convertible. Code named the SS-100-X, it was in this car that JFK was assassinated in 1963. By that time, the front of the car had been updated with the grille/headlight/bumper assembly from the 1962 model. After the assassination, the limousine was returned to Hess & Eisenhart, where it was repaired and retrofitted with full armor and a fixed roof. It subsequently continued in service for the White House for many years. This world-famous car is now on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.