1956 Continental Mark II

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 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 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.

The Continental nameplate had first appeared in 1938 as a personal vehicle for Ford Motor Company President Edsel Ford. The one-off design was created by chief Stylist Eugene T. 'Bob' Gregorie using a streamlined Lincoln-Zephyr. Interest in the vehicle from Ford's well-off friends was immediate and so was the decision to put it into production. The name 'Continental' was chosen in reference to its European-inspired design. Production of the First Generation 'Continental' began in 1940 and continued to 1948.

The name was revived in 1956 after an eight-year hiatus and its production was brief, lasting until 1957. It used the 'Mark II' suffix to further highlight the European influence of the original Continental. Serving as the new flagship vehicle, it was positioned above Lincoln-Mercury and was marketed and serviced through the Lincoln dealership network.

The Mark II rested on a 126-inch wheelbase platform, the same size as the Lincoln Capri and Premiere. It wore unique body panels and interior, and each vehicle was hand-built, with hand-sanding and finishing of body panels. Steering clear of conventional American design trends of the time, the Mark II broke new ground by using limited chrome trim and was devoid of tailfins and pontoon fenders. Instead, it used understated elegance with clean, unbroken lines, a nearly flat hood and trunk lid, and a 'Continental spare tire' integrated into the deck lid stamping housing a vertically-mounted spare tie beneath.

Powered by Lincoln's new 368 cubic-inch Y-block V-8, the engine was meticulously assembled. It had a tachometer, power steering, and power brakes. The interior was of the very best imported Scottish leather and air conditioning was the only option (at $595). At $10,000, it was definitely up-market and was the most expensive automobile sold by a domestic manufacturer in the United States. Still, Ford 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 2,996 sales later (including two prototype convertibles), the Continental marque was gone.

The Continental Mark II was discontinued after 1957 and the Continental Division was re-branded as a competitor to Cadillac and Imperial (instead of Bentley and Rolls-Royce). Extensive changes were implemented including a drastic reduction in price to the $6,000 range to attract a wider audience and increase production. Despite the changes, the Continental marque's existence was brief, as Ford canceled the Division outright in 1959, with its model line discontinued after the 1960 model year. Ford lost $60 million to developing the 1958 through 1960 cars. For the 1961 model year, the Continental was consolidated into the Lincoln range. These fourth-generation Continentals were the first use of the Continental nameplate on the Lincoln marque since 1948. Bodystyles were limited to a four-door sedan and convertible until a refresh occurred in 1966. In this guise, Ford would succeed in making the finest mass-produced domestic automobile of its era.


by Daniel Vaughan | Mar 2019

Related Reading : Continental Mark II History

The name Continental was inspired by the 1940s 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.....
Continue Reading >>

1956 Vehicle Profiles

1956 Continental Mark II vehicle information

Coupe

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 man....[continue reading]

1956 Continental Mark II vehicle information

Coupe

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.....[continue reading]

1956 Continental Mark II vehicle information

Coupe

With restrained, modern styling and built with 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....[continue reading]

1956 Continental Mark II vehicle information

Coupe

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....[continue reading]

1956 Continental Mark II vehicle information

Coupe

The Continental Division was created by Ford Motor Company to produce the Mark II and was folded into Lincoln after production ceased in 1957.....[continue reading]

1956 Continental Mark II vehicle information

Coupe

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....[continue reading]

1956 Continental Mark II vehicle information

Coupe

Chassis Num: C5602845

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 an....[continue reading]

1956 Continental Mark II vehicle information

Coupe

Chassis Num: C56C2466

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 aspira....[continue reading]

Coupe

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....[continue reading]

1956 Continental Mark II vehicle information

Coupe

Chassis Num: C56G3181

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 se....[continue reading]

1956 Continental Mark II vehicle information

Coupe

Chassis Num: C56A1771

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, a....[continue reading]

1956 Continental Mark II vehicle information

Coupe

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 beautif....[continue reading]

1956 Continental Mark II vehicle information

Coupe

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 powe....[continue reading]

1956 Continental Mark II vehicle information

Coupe

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' (also called 'Medium Green Iridescent' was to be a 1957-only offering) finish a....[continue reading]

1956 Continental Mark II vehicle information

Coupe

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 estab....[continue reading]

1956 Continental Mark II vehicle information

Coupe

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 Linco....[continue reading]

1956 Continental Mark II vehicle information

Coupe

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....[continue reading]

1956 Continental Mark II vehicle information

Coupe

Chassis Num: C56C2255

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 h....[continue reading]

1956 Continental Mark II vehicle information

Coupe

Chassis Num: C56F3054

This vehicle was special ordered and built for Josephine Ford, Henry Ford's only granddaughter and largest shareholder in the Ford Motor Company.....[continue reading]

1956 Continental Mark II vehicle information

Coupe

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....[continue reading]

1956 Continental Mark II vehicle information

Coupe

Chassis Num: C56E2989

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 bac....[continue reading]

1956 Continental Mark II vehicle information

Chassis Num: C56C2516

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 ....[continue reading]

1956 Continental Mark II vehicle information

Coupe

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....[continue reading]

1956 Continental Mark II vehicle information

Coupe

Chassis Num: C56 01637

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 purc....[continue reading]

1956 Continental Mark II vehicle information

Coupe

Chassis Num: C56P3557

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. ....[continue reading]

1956 Continental Mark II vehicle information

Coupe

This limited production 1956 Continental Mark II was produced by the newly-created Continental Motor Division of the Ford Motor Company just for production of the Mark II. It sold for about $10,000 at a time when new air conditioned Fords sold for ab....[continue reading]

1956 Continental Mark II vehicle information

Coupe

In the early 1950s, Ford Motor Company created a new Continental Division to design, built and market ultra-luxury entries. These cars were priced well above Cadillac and Packard and they would rival anything on the planet. But its first product, the....[continue reading]

1956 Continental Mark II vehicle information

Coupe

Chassis Num: C56B2222

When the Continental Mark II made its debut in 1956, it had a $10,000 price tag and was one of the most expensive cars in the world. Despite its astronomical price tag, it is reported that Ford lost money on each car. A total of 2,550 examples were b....[continue reading]

1956 Continental Mark II vehicle information

Coupe

Debuting on October 5, 1955, the Continental Mark II carried a price tag of $10,000 - fifty percent more than the most costly Cadillac of the same year. With a long hood, short deck, and a trunk sculpted to hold the 'continental' spare in a semi-upri....[continue reading]

1956 Continental Mark II vehicle information

Coupe
Coachwork: Derham

The Lincoln Continental Mark II was an ultra-luxury coupé sold by Ford's Continental Division and served as the worldwide flagship vehicle of the Ford Motor Company. The Mark II made its world debut at the Paris Motor Show in October 1955. Like its c....[continue reading]

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Chassis #: C5602845 
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Chassis #: C56C2466 
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Chassis #: C56G3181 
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Chassis #: C56A1771 
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Chassis #: C56A1762 
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Chassis #: C56I 3278 
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Coupe
Chassis #: C56C2255 
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Chassis #: C56F3054 
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Coupe
Chassis #: C56E2989 
Chassis #: C56C2516 
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Chassis #: C56 01637 
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Chassis #: C56P3557 
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Chassis #: C56B2222 
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Coupe by Derham
 


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Performance and Specification Comparison

Price Comparison

$1,070-$9,966
1956 Mark II
$9,966-$16,795
1956 Continental Mark II Base Price : $9,966

Model Year Production

#1#2#3Continental
1961Ford (1,338,790)Chevrolet (1,318,014)Volkswagen (807,488)
1960Chevrolet (1,653,168)Ford (1,439,370)Toyota (1,068,321)
1959Chevrolet (1,462,140)Ford (1,450,953)Volkswagen (575,407)
1958Chevrolet (1,142,460)Ford (987,945)Volkswagen (451,526)
1957Ford (1,676,449)Chevrolet (1,505,910)Plymouth (726,009)
1956Chevrolet (1,567,117)Ford (1,408,478)Buick (572,024)
1955Chevrolet (1,704,667)Ford (1,451,157)Buick (738,814)
1954Ford (1,165,942)Chevrolet (1,143,561)Plymouth (463,148)
1953Chevrolet (1,346,475)Ford (1,247,542)Plymouth (650,451)
1952Chevrolet (818,142)Ford (671,733)Plymouth (396,000)
1951Chevrolet (1,229,986)Ford (1,013,381)Plymouth (611,000)

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