Continental was designed to be a stand alone luxury and elegance brand from Lincoln to compete with GM’s Cadillac and Chrysler’s Imperial Brands that would build on the success of the 1940’s Lincoln Continental.
Having considered and rejected the idea of employing an outside team to design such an important vehicle Ford designated a team from it’s own special products division comprising chief stylist John Reinhart, chief body engineer Gordon Buehrig assisted by Robert McGuffery Thomas and chief engineer Harley Copp to design the Continental Mark II in late 1952.
Ford had hoped to build the car using unibody / monocoque construction but Copp is credited with rejecting the idea on grounds of tooling costs for what was always intended to be a low volume hand built vehicle, and so the car was built with separate chassis and body.
For a car that was launched in 1956 there is a remarkable absence of chrome work giving it, size not withstanding, a refined European look. Power came from a factory blueprinted (hand made from closest to specification hand picked parts), 6 litre / 368 cui Lincoln V8 that was tuned to give 300 hp.
The likes of Continental owners Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and the Shah of Iran had only one option choice to make, wether or not to have the US$595 factory fitted air conditioning or not. Elizabeth Taylor was given a Continental Mark II by Warner Brothers that was specially painted to match the colour of her eyes.
Priced at US$ 10,000 in 1956 the Continental cost the same as a contemporary Rolls Royce or two Cadillacs, until the arrival of the US$ 13,074 Cadillac Eldordo Brougham in 1957. Surprisingly Ford reckoned they were loosing US$ 1,000 on each Continental Mark II built.
Between late 1955 and 1957 around 3000 Continental Mark IIs were built at the end of the production run the Continental brand was reabsorbed into the Lincoln brand and the name hence forth continued as a Lincoln model name.
My thanks to Geoffrey Horton for the photographs of today’s featured 1956 model seen earlier this years at the Desert Classic Concours d’Elegance at Palm Springs.
Thanks for joining me on this “Luxury Elegant Loss Leader” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !