The introduction of the Continental Mark II marked the return of a timeless classic originally designed by E.T. 'Bob' Gregorie and Edsel Ford in 1940. With its elegant design and understated beauty, the Mark II reminded the world of just how beautiful an American production automobile could be.
Like its predecessors, the Mark II was an instant classic. Unlike the flashy American style of the time, there was no need for the Mark II to be flamboyant. It did not use chrome or sharp styling cues. Instead, it had a long hood, short deck, and near perfect proportions.
Continentals were loaded with convenience features. These luxurious rolling works of art came with a hefty price tag - nearly $10,000 - equivalent to that of a Rolls-Royce.
This Continental Mark II convertible is the first of three made for the Ford Motor Company. Only two convertibles are known to exist today. All Mark II convertibles started off as a Stock Sports Coupe, as they were called by the Continental Factory. They were then sent to a custom shop and converted to convertibles.
The Continental engines were blueprinted and run on a dyno before being installed in the cars. It's a 369 cubic-inch engine with 4-barrel carb, rated at 285 horsepower. The car weighs about 5,300 pounds.
The 56 Mark II is the first of Ford's products with ladder frame construction. This allowed for foot wells, which meant they could produce cars which were built much lower to the road.
A stock Mark II was $10,000 in 1956. Derham and Hess & Eisenhardt both estimated a convertible conversion to cost $18,000 to custom build. That's why there were so few Mark II convertibles.
In 1956 two brand new Mark II coupes were damaged in transit from Detroit to Chicago. Both cars had damaged roofs. Ford's Chicago district had these Mark II's made into convertibles by Hess & Eisenhardt, of Cincinnati, OH, a company that had a long standing relationship with Ford marketing.
The Continental Mark II was introduced in October, 1955 at the Paris Auto Show. It was offered in only one body style, a two door hardtop coupe and was a virtually hand assembled car with a price tag of $10,000. The Mark II was powered by a factory blueprinted (the parts being hand selected) Lincoln V8 engine with 368 cubic-inches. Every luxury feature known in 1956 was available on this car and all were standard except air conditioning which was a factory option and the electric eye dimmer.
In 1956, Lincoln-Mercury dealers wanted something that would draw an even higher caliber customer to their showrooms. With increased competition from various British and German auto makers vying for a piece of the luxury car market, the Continental MK II was introduced as a separate, higher level offering.
The Continental was technically not a Lincoln since it was manufactured by Ford's new Continental division. It was built between 1956 and 1957 and drew its inspiration from the original Continental. The cars were sold and serviced through Lincoln dealers and used a Lincoln drivetrain. These elegant cars were designed to be the most luxurious and elegant American car available. They were fitted with power steering, brakes, windows, seats and vent windows. Most of the production was hand-built. Power was from a 368 cubic-inch V8 engine offering 285 horsepower and the price tag was a staggering $10,000, the price of two Cadillacs. Production was understandably low, with only 2,550 were delivered in 1956 with another 444 in 1957 before being discontinued.
Originally penned as a convertible back in 1953, the MK II was introduced as a two-door luxury coupe. Though a convertible was never cataloged, Ford commissioned one by coachbuilder Derham of Rosemont, Pennsylvania. It appeared as the centerpiece of Ford's auto show exhibits for 1956, but the car never went into production. There were two Mark IIs damaged during shipping from Allen Park to Chicago, and the cars were refused by the dealers. Ford Marketing in Chicago sent the cars to Hess & Eisenhardt in Cincinnati, had them crafted into convertibles to gauge public interest in the concept, then later used them as dealer demonstrators.
The stock Continental frame was designed with a convertible body in mind. To further enhance the chassis, Hess & Eisenhardt used 1/4-inch plate steel, along with tubular cross-braces welded in an X to further support the A and B pillars. Then a sub-structure was fabricated to support the heavy convertible top. Hess & Eisenhardt then fitted a power top mechanism that was driven by a power pack located in the trunk.
This example was originally painted black and was re-painted green in the 1960's, and then refinished again in 1994.
The name 'Continental' was inspired by the 1940's Lincoln Continental powered by a large 12-cylinder engine. Bentley had used the name Continental on their model line, adding to the ambiance and prestige. In 1956 the Ford Motor Company formed the Continental Division for the production of the Mark II. Its general manager was William Clay 'Bill' Ford, son of Edsel Ford and grandson of Henry Ford. Many people associated the Continental as a Lincoln because it featured the trademark Lincoln spare-tire hump in the trunk lid and it was sold and serviced at Lincoln dealerships. Many of the mechanical components were courtesy of Lincoln such as the drivetrain. The Continental Division lasted until 1957 when it was merged with Lincoln and the Continental Mark II was added as Lincoln's flagship model. The name 'Continental' would stay with the Mark line until the introduction of the Mark VII in 1984.
There never was a model designated as a Lincoln or Continental Mark I.
The Continental Mark II had an understated beauty; it was elegant without the need to be flamboyant. Unlike the flashy American style of the time, it was very tasteful in its design. It did not use chrome, two-tone paint, or sharp styling cues to accentuate its beauty. At the front was an egg-crate style grille and straight fenders. The hood was long and curvy, perfect for concealing the 6-liter engine. Mounted on the hood and in the back was the four-pointed star that later became Lincoln's emblem. The Lincoln 368 cubic-inch V8 was matted to a Lincoln three-speed automatic transmission. The back had the signature Lincoln spare-tire hidden in the trunk lid. Though sharing many similarities with the Thunderbird, these were completely different machines. The Continentals were mostly hand made; the paint was applied multiple times and then sanded, double-lacquered, and polished.
These rolling works of art were very costly. The $10,000 sticker price was equivalent to a Rolls-Royce. Top-of-the-line American luxury brands, such as Cadillac, were selling for around $5000. Even at these high prices, Ford still lost an estimated $1,000 per car. At the time Ford was a private company and was willing to incur these losses but when Ford became a public company, losses were not permitted. A stock Mark II was $10,000 in 1956. Derham and Hess & Eisenhardt both estimated a convertible conversion to cost $18,000 to custom build. That's why there were so few Mark II convertibles.
The Continental was sold to the rich and famous. Anyone who could afford the cost was welcome. Famous buyers included Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Louie Prima, Dwight Eisenhower, Barry Goldwater, Spike Jones, Nelson Rockefeller, Henry J. Kaiser, Howard Johnson, the Shah of Iran, and many other celebrities owned them.
The Continental Mark II was debuted to the public at the Paris Motor Show in 1955. During the close of 1955, around 1300 Mark II's were sold. For the entire 1956 model year, another 1300 were sold. In 1957, around 450 were produced for a total of just over 3000. Around 1500 still exist in modern time. Only three convertibles were created.
Mark III The Lincoln Continental Mark III was produced from 1969 through 1971. Actually, in 1958 the Continental Division of Ford tried to produce the Continental Mark III but sales and production never really materialized. The onset of the 1958 recession accelerated the demise of the Continental Division.
The 1969 Mark III was introduced in 1968 as a 1969 Model year. It was positioned to compete with Cadillac's Eldorado. The Mark III was, in many ways, a luxury version of the Ford Thunderbird. The Mark III and Thunderbird shared many mechanical components; their styling was similar and both were built at Ford's Wixom, Michigan plant. The engine was a Ford 429 enlarged to 460 cubic-inches.
In the back was the signature spare-tire bulge, though no spare-tire was housed in this enclosure. The design was rectangular and smooth. It was taller, larger, 300 pounds heavier, more powerful and luxurious than the Thunderbird. Power brakes, steering, windows, headlamps and front seats were all standard. Vinyl with cloth inserts was standard with leather being optional. The door trim panels and instrument panels were either rosewood or oak, depending on the interior color chosen.
The vinyl roof was popular, even though it was optional. Other options included a variety of radios, 8-track tape players, and air conditioning. Both front seats were power adjustable, but for an additional cost additional power adjustments could be installed. An automatic headlamp dimmer could be ordered, meaning that it would dim automatically for oncoming cars. Anti-lock brakes, cruise control, and a limited slip differential were available for an additional cost.
In its introductory year, nearly 31,000 examples were produced. Though the Eldorado had better slightly stronger sales, this was still a very respectable start for a long and successful series.
In 1970, 21,432 examples were sold. The following year, 27,091 were sold. Even though the best year was in 1968, sales had begun in 1968. Meaning that the sales sold in 1968 and 1969 were counted together.
In 1970 the vinyl roof became standard and the windshield wipers were made recessed. The interior trim was now real wood. A locking steering column was introduced. Radial tires were standard equipment.
1971 was the final production year for the Mark III. Tinted glass, SureTrak anti-lock brakes, and automatic climate-controlled air-conditioning became standard.
In 1972, the Lincoln Continental Mark IV was introduced and would stay in production until 1976. It was similar to its predecessor but grew in both length and width. It still shared a platform with the Thunderbird and in many respects, were similar.
There were few differences of the Mark III and the Mark IV. The Mark IV was slightly rounder, the wheel openings were a little different, and optional opera windows were installed. The grille was longer and a new bumper adorned the front of the vehicle. The popular vinyl roof was now standard. In 1973, a new federally mandated 5 mph bumper was installed.
Under the hood was a 460 cubic-inch Ford 385 Series V8 capable of producing just over 210 SAE horsepower. Power was sent to the wheels courtesy of a C6 3-speed automatic transmission.
Sales were strong for the Mark IV with the lowest production year being in 1975 with 47,145 units sold. 1973 was the strongest year for sales with 69,437. With total sales amounting to 278,559 for the five years of production, the average total sales per year was 55719.
1976 had strong sales partly because of the newly introduced Designer Series. These were special edition Mark IV that were given color, trim and interior choices by famous designers. The designers' signature was placed on the opera windows and a 22 karat gold plated plaque could be found on the instrument panel. The gold plaque could be engraved with the original owners' name.
There were four designer editions offered: Bill Blass Edition, Cartier Edition, Givenchy Edition, and Pucci Edition. The Bill Blass Edition was dark blue with cream accents; the Cartier Edition was dove grey; The Givenchy Edition was aqua blue; and the Pucci Edition was in red and silver.
Mark V In 1977, In Lincoln Continental Mark V replaced the Mark IV, and would stay in production for only three years, ending in 1979.
In comparison to its predecessor, it was rounder, longer and wider and no longer built on a Ford Thunderbird platform. The engine was downgraded to a Ford 400 cubic-inch small-block engine. The Ford 385 460 cubic-inch was available, except in California, as optional equipment until 1978.
The Continental Mark V was a big and heavy car. It averaged 7 mpg under normal driving conditions and 3.5 mpg under full acceleration. Ford was close to violating the Corporate Average Fuel Economy law so in 1980, a smaller Continental was introduced.
Mark VI The Lincoln Mark VI was introduced in 1980 and stayed in production until 1983. It was smaller version of its predecessor with minor design revisions. The headlight covers and steering wheel were new. Under the hood was a 5-liter eight-cylinder engine. With the reduced weight and a smaller engine, fuel economy improved.
Mark VII The Lincoln Continental Mark VII, later just called the Mark VII, was introduced in 1984 and produced until 1991. The Mark VII sat atop the Ford Fox platform, had originally been used for the Ford Fairmont and Mercury Zephyr.
From 1984 through 1985, a special edition Versace Designer Edition could be ordered. A Bill Blass Designer Edition was produced from 1984 through 1992. The Luxury Sport Coupe was produced from 1984 through 1992 while the LSC SE was produced from 1990 through 1992.
The Mark VII continued the ambiance set-forth by its predecessors. Leather seating and all-power options were standard. This included a computer message center, digital instruments, keyless entry and more. The luxury sport coupe (LSC) version after 1986 was did not receive all these amenities.
The ride was smooth thanks in part to a full airbag suspension and electronic ride control system. Power was sent to the wheels courtesy of a four-speed automatic transmission. Under the hood was a 5-liter High Output SEFI or throttle body fuel injected V8 capable of producing nearly 230 horsepower. In 1998 the horsepower was further increased after the throttle body was enlarged and better flowing cylinder heads were adapted.
The Mark VII had electronic 4-channel antilock brakes and composite headlights; the first American vehicle to use these features.
Mark VIII The Mark VIII was the next iteration in the long line of the Mark Series. It was produced from 1993 through 1998. The base 2-door coupe was powered by a 4.6 liter DOHC V8 producing 280 horsepower while the LSC models produced 290 horsepower. The LSC model versions, produced from 1995 to 1996 was the first American vehicle to be equipped with HID headlights. The 1997 through 1998 LSC models continued the HID headlights but with larger housings.
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