During the 1930s, Edsel Ford and E.T. "Bob" Gregory showed the world that car design as an art form was entirely possible. Among their many historic accomplishments was the introduction of the Lincoln Continental, a car that started as a one-off for the younger Mr. Ford to enjoy during his 1938 Florida summer vacation.
The Lincoln Continental was a dramatically lowered (both in clearance and actual height) and stretched – especially its hood – Lincoln Zephyr convertible. It didn’t have any running boards but showed a prominent covered spare tire sitting behind its trunk lid. The car was a resounding success with the Palm Beach crowd, and soon after was put into production as a 1939 model. Then World War II ruined the party. All civilian automobile production was halted between 1942 and 1947. To make matters worse, the Continental lost its champion when Edsel died prematurely in 1943 at 49 years old.
In late 1946, under the command of Henry Ford II, Ford resumed civilian production with lightly updated versions of their 1942 line while feverishly developing a whole new line of modern Fords, Lincolns, and Mercurys for 1949. The 1949 proposal for the Lincoln Continental didn’t make the cut.
In 1956, the Continental returned; not as a Lincoln, but as its own brand. The Continental Mark II, as the sole model of the newly formed Continental Division, was a technologically complicated car with an extraordinarily beautiful design. The car was fastidiously put together, which made it as expensive as a Rolls-Royce of its day. Among its exclusive list of owners were: Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis Presley, Nelson D. Rockefeller, and the Shah of Iran. But not even that was enough to save the car, which ended up, together with the division that made it, axed by Henry Ford II for the 1958 model year. The Continental was kept in production by Lincoln until 1960, using the cheaper and much less attractive Lincoln designs of the late 1950s, but still without Lincoln badges.
In 1961, the Lincoln Continental returned as Lincoln’s sole model. It featured an iconic design with suicide rear doors and an available convertible top. During the following four decades, the Continental-name lived on in a wide variety of Lincoln models. The name Continental was shelved one more time in 2002 when the Ford Taurus-based luxury sedan that wore it at the time was discontinued without a replacement. It was brought back again in 2017, though. Recently, the brand took the wraps off of a long wheelbase variant that includes suicide doors like the Continental of the 1960s. – Simon Gomez