Lincoln Continental

From Academic Kids

1948 Lincoln Continental
1948 Lincoln Continental


Lincoln Continental is a name that has been used several times by the Lincoln company for its prestige cars.


1939-1948 Lincoln Continental

The first Lincoln Continental was developed initially as Edsel Ford's one-off personal vehicle, though it's believed he planned all along to put the model into production if it was successful. He commissioned a custom design from the chief stylist, Bob Gregorie, in 1938, ready for his 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 channelled and sectioned Zephyr that didn't 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 the most beautiful in the world.

The custom car for the boss was duly produced on time, and Edsel Ford had it delivered to Florida for his spring vacation. Interest from well-off friends was high, and Edsel Ford 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 until 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 recognised as a Full Classic by the Classic Car Club of America, one of the last-built cars to be so recognised.

Continental Mark II

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Lincoln Contintal Mark II

The Continental name was revived in 1956 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 3000 were built. They sold to a selection of the world's richest men, but the Ford Motor Company lost money on each one sold.

1958-1960 Continental Mark III, IV and V

The Continental division was dissolved after 1957, but in an attempt to retain some of the cachet of the Mark II, Lincoln named the 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 Lincoln Continental

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1963 Lincoln Continental
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1966 Lincoln Continental Convertible

In 1961, the Lincoln full-size car was completely redesigned from scratch. 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 Lincoln Continental's most recognised 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 the 1960s Lincoln.

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 cubic inches (7 to 7.6 L). The convertible was killed off after 1967, and Ford's new 385 engine in a 460 cubic inch (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 was mercilessly crushed into a cube in a junkyard compactor in the James Bond film Goldfinger, to the horror of many American movie goers!

Lincoln Continental Mark III

Lincoln resuscitated the Mark designation in 1968 for the 1969 model year, bizarrely restarting at Lincoln Continental Mark III rather than at Mark VI -- as if the 1958-60 cars had never existed. The first of a new Lincoln Continental Mark series, the Mark III was based on the four-door Ford Thunderbird chassis and was a two-door hardtop coupe competing at the top end of the personal luxury car segment, directly against the Cadillac Eldorado. Styling-wise, it carried over many cues from the 1961-69 Continental, and it was a huge sales success. A Lincoln Continental Mark IV model followed in 1972, and the Mark Series was built until the 1990s.

1970-1979 Lincoln Continental

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1979 Lincoln Continental Town Car
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Lincoln Continental Town Coupe

Lincoln's new Continental for 1970 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, federally-mandated bumpers in 1973, grille changes in 1971 and 1977, and progressive introduction of pollution controls. 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. This model was initially made famous in the 1971 movie The French Connection, when a two-door model is used as a means for smuggling vast quantities of heroin concealed in its rocker panels.

1980 Lincoln Continental

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. The 1980 Continental was 800 lb lighter and 20 inches (508 mm) shorter in overall length, and was fitted with a 302 cubic inch (5.0 litre) V8 fitted with throttle body fuel injection. Fuel efficiency was about a third better than the 1979 model.

Styling wise, the new Continental carried over as many cues as possible from the previous, larger cars. Lincoln knew that keeping the family resemblance going was critical; sales depended on the car being instantly recognisable as a Lincoln.

In 1981 the Continental name was replaced by Town Car on this and subsequent models.

1982-1987 Lincoln Continental

1982 saw the Continental name applied to a new, smaller Lincoln. Intended to compete with Cadillac's Seville, the new Continental was given a Daimler-esque, bustle-backed body, but remained a rear wheel drive vehicle. Engine choices were the 5.0 litre V8 and for the first time a V6 of 3.8 litres. This model was produced through the 1987 model year.


The 1988 Continental was all-new, front-drive, and based on the same platform as the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable; this basic configuration would continue until the Continental model was discontinued after the 2002 model year. The Continental was on Car and Driver magazine's Ten Best list for 1989.

Engine options:

  • 3.8 L V6, 140 hp (1988-1990)
  • 3.8 L V6, 151 hp (1991)
  • 3.8 L V6, 160 hp (1992-1994)


Like the Taurus, the Continental was substantially updated in the mid-1990s, but with a somewhat less radical shape. A very substantial change from the previous V6 car, though, was the addition of the same twin-cam Modular V8 that powered the rear-drive Lincoln Mark VIII.

Engine options:


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2000 Lincoln Continental

The Continental was again updated in 1998 with a new exterior. 1999 saw side airbags and more power. Faced with falling sales, the Continental was killed off after the 2002 model year. It was largely replaced in the Lincoln lineup by the new Lincoln LS.

All Continentals were assembled in Lincoln's plant in Wixom, Michigan. The last Lincoln Continental rolled off the assembly line on July 26, 2002.

Engine options:


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