Lincoln Continental is a model name that has been used several times by the Lincoln division of Ford Motor Company for a line of luxury cars. For most of its lifetime, the Continental nameplate referred to the four-door Lincoln flagship. In 1981 the Continental's reign as the Lincoln flagship ended when the Town Car, a trim-level up to then, took over as the new flagship. The Continental continued as a midsize model, competing mainly with the Cadillac Seville and Deville until production ceased.
Lincoln Continental 1939
The first Lincoln Continental was developed initially as Edsel Ford's one-off personal vehicle, though it is believed he planned all along to put the model into production if it was successful. In 1938, he commissioned a custom design from the chief stylist, 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 in 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 Edsel 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 making production examples, both convertible and sedan. 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 recognised.
Lincoln Continental 1956
The Continental name was revived in 1955 as a separate Ford brand, with its sole model being the Continental Mark II, a high-class luxury vehicle that if anything was even more exclusive than the original Continental, being one of the most expensive cars available at the time. The Continental Mark II was sold for two model years, and about 3,000 were built. They sold to a selection of the world's richest men, but the Ford Motor Company lost money on each one sold. some of the original owners were Elvis, Shaha of Iran, Nelson Rockfeler and Kinsinger among others.
The Continental Mark II was design of its own with the highest quality control ever seen in automobile industry.
Lincoln Continental 1958-1960 Mark III, Mark IV and Mark V
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.
Lincoln Continental 1961
In 1961, the Continental was completely redesigned. The design was originally intended to be the new 1961 Ford Thunderbird, but it was enlarged for Lincoln by the command of Robert McNamara to give Lincoln a distinctive, signature style. The new Continental's most recognized trademark, though, was a purely practical decision. To simplify production, all cars were to be four-door models, even the convertible. The new Continental was a unibody design, and there simply was not the structural strength to front-hang the heavy rear doors in the convertible model. 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. Harold W. Johnson was head of Lincoln Continental division at the time. Efforts to find a new longer-life tire were conducted by Jacques Bajer at his asking.
This slab-sided distinctive design ran from 1961 through 1969 with few changes. It was the first car offered in the United States with a 2-year, 24,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. 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 convex 1961–64 grille was replaced by a flatter, squared-off one for 1965–69, which made the car look decidedly different but in actuality little else changed. 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 in³ (7.0 to 7.6 L). The convertible was discontinued after 1967, and Ford's new 385 engine in a 460 in³ (7.5 L) model was phased in later that year.
Suicide-door Lincolns were used as the US Presidential limousines during the 1960s and into the 1970s. John F. Kennedy was assassinated while riding in a 1961 convertible, which was later armored and converted into a sedan for greater security. This famous automobile is currently housed at the Henry Ford Museum. Another famous event involving this model of Continental was when a brand new 1964 model (although without engine) was mercilessly crushed into a cube in a junkyard compactor in the James Bond film Goldfinger, to the horror of many moviegoers.
Lincoln Continental Mark III
Lincoln resuscitated the Mark The Mark was essentially a two-door version of the Continental from which it derived part of its name, the Continental Mark III]]. This model was made famous in the 1971 movie The French Connection, when this model was used as a means for smuggling vast quantities of heroin concealed in its rocker panels. built from 1968 to 1971 only few changes were made to the original model(1968) The Mark III had a 460 ci engine with 365 bhp and a comp/ ratio of 10.5 to 1, first car ever with an ABS (Shure track brakes) system to the rear tires, equipped originally with Michelin Radials, some of the original equipment was auto head light dimmer (sentinel) ABS brakes, Cruise Control, Rear Window Defroster (electric and forced air) electric everything and remote control trunk release.
Lincoln Continental 1970
The 1970 Continental continued the slab-sided design with blade-like fenders of the previous model, but the suicide doors were gone. Changes included headlamps which were hidden behind retractable flaps (a characteristic the Thunderbird would adopt in 1977), federally-mandated bumpers in 1973, grille changes in 1971 and 1977, and progressive introduction of pollution controls. Nevertheless, from 1972 to 1975 the Continental Mark IV successfully fought over the title "King of the Hill" with the Cadillac Eldorado in the personal luxury car category.
Standard luxury features gradually became optional over the decade, and the 460 in³ (7.5 L) engine became an option in 1977, the 400 in³ (6.6 L) small-block replacing it as the standard engine. From 1975 to 1980 a Continental Town Car coupe was also sold alongside the four-door Continental and the Continental Mark V.
Lincoln Continental 1980
By 1980, it was obvious that the old models could not continue; they could not meet the fuel economy and emissions regulations any longer. Much smaller and more economical vehicles were required, so Ford chose to downsize the Continental onto the Ford Panther platform designed for the 1979 Ford LTD and Mercury Marquis. The 1980 Continental, as compared to its 1979 predecessor, was 800 lb lighter and 20 inches (508 mm) shorter in overall length, and was fitted with a 302 in³ (5.0 L) V8. A 351 in³ (5.8 L) engine was briefly optional. Fuel efficiency was about a third better than the 1979 model.
The new Continental carried over as many styling cues as possible from the previous, larger cars, modified somewhat to match the new, more sensible package. Lincoln management knew that keeping the family resemblance going was critical; sales depended on the car being instantly recognizable as a Lincoln.
In 1981, the Continental name was replaced by the Town Car (a former option package name) on this and subsequent models.
Lincoln Continental 1982
1982 saw the Continental name applied to a new, smaller Lincoln. Intended to compete with the Cadillac Seville, the new Continental was given a Daimler-esque, bustle-backed body, but remained a rear wheel drive vehicle, built on a modified Ford Fox platform. Engine choices were the 5.0 L V8 and for the first time, a 3.8 L V6. This model was produced through the 1987 model year.
A coupe version, called the Lincoln Mark VII, was introduced in 1983 as a competitor to the Cadillac Eldorado. The Mark VII remained in production a little longer, ending its run in 1992.
A rare footnote to the "Fox" Continental was the availability in 1984 to 1985 of a BMW-Steyr 2.4 L turbodiesel six-cylinder engine. Considered sluggish and smoky, it was never popular. Few are believed to still exist.
Lincoln Continental 1988
The 1988 Continental was all-new, front wheel drive, and based on the same platform as the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable. This basic configuration would continue until the Continental was discontinued after the 2002 model year. This incarnation was intended to compete against the similar Cadillac DeVille, which had been downsized in 1985. The Continental was on Car and Driver magazine's Ten Best list for 1989. In the 1990s, however, the Continental's downsized body and strong resemblance to non-luxury Mercury and Ford models was heavily criticized. Sales also dipped as the relatively small car proved unpopular with Lincoln buyers who were seeking larger American-made luxury cars featuring rear wheel drive.
For the first time ever, no V8 was available on the Continental. The sole engine choice was a 3.8 L V6, the same engine that powered the top-of-the-line Taurus LX and Sable LS.
Lincoln Continental 1995
Like the Taurus, the Continental was substantially updated in the mid-1990s, but with more rounded lines, creating a more aerodynamic exterior. The 1995 Continental was ridded of the many design features that had previously reminded onlookers of the lesser Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable. The 1995 Continental was once again perceived as a unique Lincoln and was by many critics to be easier recognizable as luxury car. A very substantial change from the previous V6 car, though, was the addition of the same DOHC Modular V8 that powered the rear wheel drive Lincoln Mark VIII.
Lincoln Continental 1998
The Continental was again updated in 1998 with a new exterior. 1999 saw side airbags and more power. After the 2002 model year, the Continental was killed off, because of decreasing sales and lack of unique attributes within the lineup. It was largely replaced in the Lincoln lineup by the Lincoln LS (introduced in 2000), even though the Continental was front wheel drive as opposed to the rear wheel drive layout on the Lincoln LS. Buyers looking for a full-sized luxury sedan tended to purchase the larger rear wheel drive Town Car, while those looking for a sport-sedan purchased the new LS.
All post-1958 Continentals were assembled in Lincoln's plant in Wixom, Michigan. The last Lincoln Continental rolled off the assembly line on July 26, 2002. The Wixom plant was then retooled to build the Ford GT.
Lincoln would never market a middle-class luxury vehicle until the Lincoln LS (and its successor, the Lincoln MKS for 2007) was moved as a middle-class vehicle for 2006, since the Lincoln Zephyr became Lincoln's entry-level model, although front-wheel drive would return to the Lincoln lineup with the Zephyr.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Lincoln Continental ".