1956 Continental Mark II news, pictures, specifications, and information

The Continental Mark II Story

The Continental Mark II was the elite automobile of the 1950s' rich and famous: 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 Mark II wasn't made by Lincoln, but by the short-lived Continental Division of the Ford Motor Company. Its general manager was William Clay 'Bill' Ford, son of Edsel Ford and grandson of Henry Ford.

Fact: there never was a model designated as a Lincoln or Continental Mark I.

The Mark II's sticker price was $10,400, twice the price of the 1956 Lincoln. Much of the car was assembled by hand and Ford claimed it lost $1,000 on each Mark II it sold. The unprofitable Mark II and the Continental Division were discontinued after Ford went public in 1956, even though these cars brought people into showrooms to buy other Ford products.

Ford originally planned to build about 2,000 Mark IIs a year for five years. 2,550 Mark IIs were built during the 1956 model year (June 1955 through September 1956) and 446 (including 2 convertibles) during the 1957 model y ear (October 1956 through May 1957) for a total of 2,996 Mark IIs. About 1,500 Mark IIs are still in existence. (About half are roadworthy) Their current market value ranges from $15,000 to $100,000, depending on condition. (Although some have sold in the low-to-mid $100s)
Henry Leland started Cadillac Motor Cars from the remnants of a failed Henry Ford startup. And in 1917 he founded Lincoln but it soon went bankrupt. Ford, who no doubt remembered Leland's boardroom putsch two decades earlier, bought Lincoln. Ford longed for the prestige that accompanied the true luxury marque. So, in 1956 the uber up-market Continental Division was created. It aspired to personify American luxury; to recapture the spirit of the great prewar classics, to be in effect, an American Rolls-Royce. With great expectations, the dashing Mark II two-door coupe debuted at the 1955 Paris Motor Show. Chrome was popular at the time but the designers had opted instead for understated European-influenced simplicity. Virtually hand-built, it basked in multiple coats of hand-sanded paint, double-lacquered and polished to perfection.

Powered by Lincoln's new 368 CID Y-block V-8, the engine was meticulously assembled. It had a tachometer and power steering and brakes. The interior was of the very best imported Scottish leather and air conditioning was the only option. At $10,000, comparable to a Rolls-Royce, it was definitely up-market but Ford still lost $1,000 per car. While the car was elegant, the marketing was muddled. Continentals were sold by Lincoln dealers and had Lincoln powertrains. Customers had trouble differentiating the two. And just 3,000 sales later, the Continental marque was gone.

With only 29,000 miles, the original owner enjoyed this car for nearly five decades. When the current owner bought it, he began an exhaustive six year restoration. All but the near-perfect interior was redone.
With restrained, modern styling and built wîth the finest materials available, the long, low continental MK IIs had a commanding presence of authoritative elegance as the most exclusive car on the market. Everyone of significance owned one from Elvis Presley to Frank Sinatra to D.W. Eisenhower to Nelson Rockefeller. And, yes, you did need to be a Rockefeller to afford one wîth a price of $10,000 when new - five times the price of an average Ford and half the cost of the average home in 1956. Even at this stupefying price, Fomoco claimed to have lost $1000 on every MK II they sold, and only two years of production could be sustained for the Continental brank.

Source - Jared Lowell
Said to be one of the most expensive production car of its time, the Continental was introduced to displace Cadillac and Rolls-Royce as America's most sought after luxury car. Although a classically beautiful automobile, production ceased after only two years. The cars were equipped with power everything, including vent windows and air conditioning. This car has done 100,000 miles and is often driven to shows.
The Continental Division was created by Ford Motor Company to produce the Mark II and was folded into Lincoln after production ceased in 1957.

Generally regarded as the last car built in America without regard to cost, the Mark II was intended to be the 'American Rolls Royce.' Even with a factory list price of $10,000, it was said that Ford still lost $1,000 per car.

Much anticipated as the successor to the original Lincoln Continental of 1940-42 and 1946-48, the new version would remain a very exclusive car. Just over 3,000 were produced, as 1956 and 1957 models.

Originally delivered to Thompson Motors, Alliance, Ohio, this Continental's invoice is dated December 14, 1955. Little is known of its subsequent history until the car appeared at an auction in Florida in 1998. It was purchased by the current owner at auction in Auburn, Indiana that same year, showing just over 18,000 actual miles.

This Continental was systematically restored including paint, partial interior and mechanical restoration. The owners have used the car regularly but sparingly since 2005 and the odometer now reads just over 19,000 miles.
The Continental Mark II was Lincoln's attempt to revive a successful nameplate from the 1940's. Edsel Ford commissioned the original Continental as a styling exercise. Well-received by Ford's circle of friends, the Continental went into production as a Lincoln in 1941. The Mark II shared the original's long hood/short deck proportions and its high per unit building cost. Much of the car was literally hand crafted. Priced far above its Cadillac competition, Lincoln ceased production of the dramatically styled coupe after only 2500 had been built.

Source - AACA Museum
Chassis Num: C5602845
Sold for $44,000 at 2007 Gooding & Company.
The Mark II Continental carried a price tag of nearly $10,000 which made it one of the most expensive road-going production vehicles of the time, and very exclusive. Accompanying the Mark II was an assortment of options including Scottish leather and fine broadcloth. Mounted under the hood was a overhead-valve V8 engine that displaced 368 cubic-inches and produced 285 horsepower. A Lincoln turbo-drive automatic transmission sent the power to the rear wheels.

This car spent many years in storage while in the Klein Kars collection. It has traveled 39,744 miles since new, and is a well preserved and original example. It has power steering, power brakes, power seat, radio and heater - which were standard at the time.

In 2007 this Mark II Hardtop was brought to the Gooding & Company auction held in Pebble Beach, CA where it was estimated to sell for $40,000 - $70,000. It was offered without reserve. The estimates were proven accurate as the lot was sold for a high bid of $44,000 including buyer's premium.
By Daniel Vaughan | May 2008
Chassis Num: C56C2466
Sold for $49,500 at 2016 Bonhams.
After an 8 year hiatus, the much awaited replacement of the original classic Continental, was hailed as a design success at introduction in 1956. By this time Ford had created a separate Continental Division to better address their luxury car aspirations. Deviating from the chrome laden, design excesses of the time, the Mark II received rave reviews for its uncluttered, pure design. Considered European influenced by many, original equipment included a tachometer. There were several safety features like deep dish steering wheel, optional padded dash and sun visors and front and rear seatbelts, along with Jet-age style separate right and left heater controls. Despite the whopping $10,000 price (one could easily buy a house, a Rolls-Royce or two Cadillac's for less) Ford is said to have lost over $1000 on each car. Each of the 3000 or so produced in the course of the two year production run, came inside a fleece lined bag within it's own wooden crate. The car is largely hand assembled with a great deal of lead work in each body. Although the engine is the 358 cubic-inch 'Y' block as used in the production Lincoln cars, each was hand assembled from parts meeting rigid specifications and specially balanced. Each completed chassis was given a 30 mile test drive before final completion and sign-off. A convertible version was developed for the Mark II, but when it became evident that costs would never be recouped, this mechanism was adapted to the late 1950's Ford retractable, 50s and 60s T-Birds and 60's Lincoln Continental convertibles.

The price and exclusivity attracted celebrities, business leaders and politicians who chiefly bought these cars. Frank Sinatra, Spike Jones, Louie Prima, Dwight Eisenhower, Barry Goldwater, Elvis Presley and local favorite, Doris Day, were notable owners. Despite the loss of each car, Ford felt that some of the goals of the project had been successful. The image created a very positive influence for Ford's position in the competitive world of luxury autos. The best validation came as the mark II served as a stimulus for GM to develop the even pricier Eldorado Brougham. The hand assembly and array of custom choices in finish makes this the last bespoke car for any major US automaker.

This example was acquired from the original owner's widow in Riverside California by Richard and Carolyn Gray in 1989. Dr. and Mrs. Melvin Judkins purchased the car new from the Lincoln Mercury dealer in Lodi, California on January 3rd 1956, making it a fairly early car. Dr. Judkins was a well known Radiologist who invented the special catheters used to perform coronary angiograms and to place coronary stents. This fact was not lost on Dr. Gray, a Cardiologist living in Los Angeles at the time.

The car is largely original, but deterioration of a non original shade of green applied in 1962 necessitated a repaint in the original light green. Actually the data plate indicates black exterior, but disassembly reveals no track of black whatsoever, suggesting an error in the data plate. With the exception of the bumpers, all of the chrome and stainless is original, the interior and the running gear are all original although there has been an engine-out detailing under the hood and door weather striping was replaced only because of the repaint.

The Continental in 1956

Ford Motor Company's 1956 Continental MKII had two missions: to recapture the magic of the original Continental and to displace Cadillac as North America's most sought-after luxury car (even at a financial loss). In an era of excess, chrome trim was used sparingly, and no two-tone paint jobs were available. The fuel filler cap was concealed behind the left taillight, a la Cadillac. Extensive preparation and car went into body finishing, as panels were painted and hand-sanded several times, then two coats of lacquer were applied. Chrome plating was used extensively, not for appearance, but to protect such areas as the door end panels and doorjambs.

Even though it said to be the most expensive production car of its time, about 1,300 Continentals were sold during the last quarter of 1955, many to celebrities such as politician Barry Goldwater, actor Frank Sinatra and the Shah of Iran. But after strong initial sales, the popularity of this Continental began to dwindle. Only about another 1,300 were built during all of 1956, and only 450 in 1957, when production ceased.

In spite of its lack of market success, the Continental MK II is a beautiful example of classic elegance married to modern engineering. It was a valiant attempt to recapture the spirit of the great cars of the '30s, but unfortunately for Ford, that era had passed.

This Car
This stunning black MK II has the easily recognizable understated egg-crate grille, and the long-hood/short-deck motif of cars of the era. Horizontal fender lines sweep back to a point just ahead of the rear wheels, and then kick up slightly before continuing to the taillights. Lincoln's new-for-1956 6-liter V-8 is fitted to the standard equipment 3-speed automatic transmission. (posted on conceptcarz.com)

The Continental is quietly elegant inside. When the leather upholstery was ordered, it was from Bridge of Weir in Scotland; and the brushed-finished instrument panel holds four round gauges of equal size, including a tachometer.

Source - Gooding & Company
Chassis Num: C56G3181
Sold for $72,600 at 2009 RM Auctions.
Sold for $62,700 at 2010 RM Auctions.
Much of the Continental Mark II assembly was done by hand which meant it had a slow-moving production line. It was very expensive and as such, volume was low and it was not a major moneymaker for Ford. It was, however, their flagship vehicle and served as their re-entry into the luxury car field. Between 1956 and 1957, a mere 2,894 examples were produced.

Standard equipment included power steering, power brakes, Turbo-Drive automatic, power seat, white wall tires, radio, and heater. The only real option available was the factory air conditioning and this car is equipped with that feature. This car is finished in Dubonnet Burgundy with white leather interior with burgundy inserts, piping and carpeting. It has been given a professional restoration and remains in superb condition in modern time.

In 2008, the car was brought to the Hilton Head Sports & Classic Car Auction presented by the Worldwide Auctioneers. It was estimated to sell for $90,000 - $110,000. Bidding failed to reach those estimates and the lot was left unsold.
By Daniel Vaughan | Nov 2008
Chassis Num: C56A1771
Sold for $24,200 at 2005 RM Auctions.
Sold for $35,200 at 2009 RM Auctions.
Near the close of the 1990s, this car was given a cosmetic restoration and a re-paint in its original rich, dark metallic blue. The current owner acquired the car in 2005 and since than has been given new carpeting, a new steering box, new brakes, and all new suspension. It came from the factory with air conditioning and has accumulated less than 46,000 miles since new.

In 2009, this 1956 Lincoln Continental Mark II was offered for sale at the Automobiles of Amelia Island auction presented by RM Auctions. It was expected to sell for $40,000 - $50,000 and offered without reserve. The lot was sold for a high bid of $35,200, including buyer's premium.
By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2009
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. Power was supplied by a 368 cubic-inch V-8 engine that developed 300 horsepower. These luxurious rolling woks of art came with a hefty price tag: the Mark II factory price was nearly $10,000 - equivalent to that of a Rolls-Royce. Interestingly, this Mark II is one of only 16 originally painted two-tone brown and may be the only one left in that color.
Chassis Num: C56A1762
Built to the special order of Henry Ford II for his wife, C56A1762 was delivered at the factory on November 21, 1955. Unique to D.S.O. #56C-37 were the special combination of interior trim choices and the one-off black canvas top over metal. All power features were standard equipment on the Mark IIs with the only standard option being air conditioning with tinted glass. Notice the air intakes atop the quarter panels.

The restoration of this one-of-a-kind Continental has required several years of often challenging effort and appears today exactly as it was delivered.

The car remains powered by the regular production 368 cubic-inch 285 horsepower, Y-block it shared with Lincoln products.

The 1956-57 Continental was styled by a team, which included John reinhart, William Clay Ford, and Gordon Buehrig. The car was given a classic long hood/short deck profile along with a simulated spare tire bulge on the deck lid - a subtle reminder of its predecessor, the luxurious Lincoln Continental of 1940-48. To further differentiate the model, Ford established a separate Continental division to add exclusivity to the luxury marque.

Drivetrain items were machined to high tolerances and heavily tested. Each chassis was tuned and tested before mounting the body, which demanded 60 hours of metal finishing - five times that of the typical car. Once all the testing and inspections were completed, the cars were shipped in fleece-lined cover and wrapped in a plastic bag. Priced at $10,000 per copy, Ford spent millions in engineering reportedly losing money on each one sold. Just 2,550 Mark IIs were delivered in 1956 with another 444 in 1957 before being discontinued.
Chassis Num: C56I 3278
Built to the special order of Benson Ford, head of the Lincoln-Mercury Division, C56I 3278 is a late 1956 model invoiced August 29, 1956. He chose 'Green Lucite Metallic' finish and a special combination of interior colors and materials. While it has optional air conditioning, the air intakes atop the quarter panels had been eliminated for late-production vehicles.

Benson kept his special Mark II for years and during the winter of 1958/59, had Ford Motor Company engineering staff replace the original 368 cid engine with the then new Lincoln 430 cid engine having 10:1 compression along with chroming of accessory items.

This car into the possession of the current owner from the family of the late Edson Williams, retired Ford Motor Company Vice-President for Customer Service. It has received a comprehensive restoration completed in 2009, which retained all engineering staff modifcaitons.
The first Lincoln was built by the Leland brothers but by 1922 the Ford Motor Company had taken over, with Edsel Ford at the helm looking to produce stylish new vehicles. He sought out the finest coachbuilders of the era and by 1930 Lincoln had established itself as a luxury brand. European designs influenced Edsel's vision for his Lincolns, and the result was a sleek and modern luxury car. One of the pinnacles of his endeavors was the 1939 Continental, which exuded the elegance and sophistication he so desperately sought.

The 1956 Mark II effort was led by William Clay Ford. His charter was to improve Lincoln's luxury cachet. The Mark II made its long-anticipated debut at the 1955 Paris Auto Show. Enthusiastic reviews called it a timeless exercise in automobile styling and each of the Ford brothers (Benson, Henry Ford II, and William Clay Ford) were quick to order one. Benson's was retrofitted with a 430 cubic-inch 350 horsepower V8. It was resplendent with chromed accessories that gave it very noticeable and desirable appearance. Lincoln boss William Clay Ford had his custom built, and then updated again in 1968-69 with a 460 cubic-inch big block, C6 transmission, and disc brakes. Henry Ford II, unlike his brothers, did not feel the need for more power as the car was intended for his wife. Instead, his custom touches included a simulated landau top of black canvas and a high quality broadcloth interior.

The Mark II was expensive, more than a Rolls-Royce in fact. This contributed to an early demise for a car that some still view as the most elegant Lincoln of all time.
The Continental Mark II was only built for 2 years in 1956 and 1957. They were hand built and were to be Ford Motor Company's premier car of the time. Mark II's are not a 'Lincoln' since a separate 'Continental Division' was created to be above Lincoln in Ford hierarchy. They were very expensive cars costing almost $10,000 new. All equipment was standard except for those cars which had optional air conditioning. Famous Mark II owners included Dwight Eisenhower, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Barry Goldwater, CecilB. DeMille and Nelson Rockefeller. Jay Leno currently owns a Mark II in the same deep blue color which was ordered for Elizabeth Taylor 'to match her blue eyes.' The car was not a commercial success and was discontinued, as was the Continental Division, after building just 3003 cars. But the design is considered as one of the great iconic American car designs.

This example was built on January 23rd, 1956 and was sold alter that year by Harris Miller Lincoln Mercury in the Bronx, New York to its original owner, Michael Swartz. This car is very original and has won multiple awards with the Lincoln and Continental Club. Congressman Campbell is the car's 8th owner. it has 65,000 original miles. It's Deep Blue (paint code 02) with a sea biscuit-light blue interior. There were only 124 Mark IIs built in this color and only 31 built with this exterior/interior combination. It has had a complete frame-off restoration.
The Lincoln Continental Mark II was known as 'America's Most Expensive Car' and required twice as many man hours to produce as a standard Lincoln. It was the most expensive motorcar in America, since the Duesenberg, and cost $2,000 more than the most expensive Cadillac. In 1956, the Mark II sold for $9,695. This 4,825 pound vehicle was available with a single option: air conditioning.

The car is powered by a water-cooled, overhead-valve, V8, developing 300 horsepower and coupled to a 3-speed Turbo-Drive automatic transmission, was capable of 118 miles-per-hour. The secret of the Mark II lay in the way it was built, with no expense spared on materials or manufacture. Ford lost thousands of dollars on every Mark II produced. As a result of this costly indulgence: only 3,012 examples were produced.
Chassis Num: C56C2255
Sold for $44,000 at 2013 RM Auctions.
Sold for $60,500 at 2015 RM Auctions.
This Continental is presented in Starmist White with Deep Red and White upholstery. It wears an older, high quality restoration with the odometer showing 59,660 miles. It has all of its original brightwork, with the exception of NOS lettering and a hood ornament. It has the correct interior, which was installed in 2007. The car was given seat belts and the optional factory air conditioning system.
This vehicle was special ordered and built for Josephine Ford, Henry Ford's only granddaughter and largest shareholder in the Ford Motor Company.

Josephine Ford, known as 'Dody' to friends and family, was the third of Edsel Ford's four children and the only granddaughter of automotive pioneer Henry Ford. Her oldest brother, Henry Ford II was chairman and CEO of Ford Motor from 1945 until his retirement in 1979. She was a life-long philanthropist who provided millions of dollars in financial support to arts, education, cultural and health care organizations among other worthwhile causes. She became one of Ford Motor Company's largest shareholders and at the time of her death she owned more than 13 million shares of Class B stock.
The original Continental was a one-off designed by Bob Gregorie for Edsel Ford, based on the existing Lincoln Zephyr chassis. Gregorie moved the driver's seat back, elongated the hood and front fenders, lowered the roof, and sectioned and lowered the cowl to match the hood. The sleek, unembellished styling was due to the rush to get the car ready in time for Edsel's vacation to Palm Beach, Florida.

Production began in 1940. The Continental was driven by people such as Picasso and Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as industrial designer Raymond Loewy, who customized one for himself. The Museum of Modern Art selected it as one of eight automotive works of art for an exhibit in 1951, showing a 1941 model loaned by architect Bimel Kehm.

The Mk II was styled by a team including John Reinhart, William Clay Ford, and Gordon Buehrig. Production was limited to 1956 and '57, when just over 3,000 cars were built. The original price was $10,000 — which would have bought you a Rolls-Royce, or two Cadillacs. The Mark Ils were owned by people such as President Eisenhower, Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, and Elvis Presley.

This example was produced in May 1956 and is one of only 13 to sport medium-gray exterior paint paired with red-leather interior. Originally delivered to Quincy, MA, the car spent most of its life in Palm Springs, CA; it only has 46,000 miles on it.
Chassis Num: C56E2989
Sold for $112,500 at 2013 Russo & Steele.
Sold for $247,500 at 2015 RM Auctions.
The Continental Mark II of the 1950s was elegant, bold, and a departure from what the American market was accustomed to from a luxury car. It had Space Age-inspired styling elements, chrome, two-tone paint schemes, and elegant proportions. In the back was a trunk lid molded to the shape of the spare tire hidden underneath. In the front was a 368 cubic-inch V8 engine offering 300 horsepower and mated to a three-speed automatic transmission.

Before the Continental had been publicly released, 1,300 examples had been sold, with another 1,300 sold during its inaugural production year. In 1957, only 450 were produced, bringing the total to 3,000 examples.

This particular example has been treated to a complete, professional, award-winning restoration. It is finished in rare Dark Red exterior with a two-tone maroon and white leather upholstery. The dashboard has four-dial gold-trimmed instrumentation. The car is equipped with power brakes, power steering, a power seat, a radio, a heater, and whitewall tires.
By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2015
Chassis Num: C56C2516
Sold for $69,300 at 2008 Russo & Steele.
Sold for $192,500 at 2017 Gooding & Company.
In 1955, when Ford brought the Continental back into the Lincoln range after a seven-year absence, the car caused a sensation when it was premiered at the Paris Auto Salon. The Continental Mark II Hardtop Coupe was created by Gordon Buehrig, William Clay Ford and John Reinhart. It is powered by Lincoln's 6.0-liter, overhead valve V8 engine and incorporated a host of desirable features including power steering, power brakes and power seats. Priced at nearly $10,000, the Continental Mark II was a very exclusive automobile; only 2,550 were built in 1956 and 448 in 1957. Ford set out to build an American car to take on European manufacturers and the Continental Mark II demonstrated to the world that American stylists could create a model worthy of comparison with the world's best coachbuilt motorcars.
When Continental introduced the Mark II model in October of 1955, it was so well equipped that the only option offered was air conditioning, bringing the cost to $10,681.00. It was the most expensive American car. Weighing 5,190 lbs with A/C, its 285 horsepower 368 CID V8 engine allowed the car to reach 118 mph. Each Mark II required twice as many man hours to build as any Lincoln built at that time. Over its two model years, 1956-1957, only 3,003, not counting prototypes, Mark II cars were built. The premium coupe truly was, as expressed in the advertisement, 'A motor car which, more than anything else, exemplifies the very finest expression of American automotive craftsmanship.'

This particular car was ordered and purchased by F.C. / 'Jack' Reith. Jack was one of the Ford 'Whiz Kids', one of ten United States Army Air Force Veterans of World War II who became Ford Motor Company executives in 1946. Hired by Henry Ford II, he became head of Ford of France. After successfully completing a merger with French automaker Simca, he returned to the United States to become Vice-President and General Manager of the Mercury Division in 1955. This car just finished a 2 1/2 year complete frame-off restoration to exacting standards. The leather interior has been reproduced by its original supplier, Bridge of Weir in Scotland.
Chassis Num: C56 01637
Sold for $28,600 at 2016 Bonhams.
Sold for $49,500 at 2017 Bonhams.
This MK II Coupe was originally supplied to A.J. Weiland, a Vice President of the Ford Motor Company International Division, based in Englewood, New Jersey. It left the factory painted in black paint with a two-tone grey leather interior. It was purchased in 1998 by its former owner, Richard Hopeman from a third party who had purchased it from a Mary Hovsepian of Haddonfield, New Jersey, who had owned it as far back as 1965. Mr. Hopeman began a restoration which he was unable to complete by the time he passed away. It was sold by his estate to the present owner in 2016, who completed the restoration.
By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2017
Chassis Num: C56P3557
Sold for $68,750 at 2017 Gooding & Company.
This Continental Mark II was shipped to Wright Lincoln Mercury in San Diego, California, on January 8, 1957, finished in light blue with a blue and white leather interior. The car was optioned with tinted glass, air-conditioning, and a padded dash.

The current caretaker acquired the car in 2000. It is a three-owner vehicle that was given a professional body-off restoration, completed in Camden, New York, in January 2012. The car is powered by a 368 CID overhead valve V8 engine fitted with a single Holley 4-barrel carburetor offering 285 horsepower. There is a three-speed Turbo-Drive Automatic transmission and 4-wheel hydraulic drum brakes.
By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2017
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.

Mark IV

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.

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.

Slow sales resulted in the cancellation of this luxury car series. A Lincoln MK9 Concept was introduced in the early 2000's, but plans of production seem doubtful.
By Daniel Vaughan | Nov 2008
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