The Continental Mark II History

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The Continental Mark II History

Post by 59lincolnrag » Fri 2. Jul 2010, 05:07

The Continental Mark II
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The Continental Mark II was a personal luxury car produced by the Continental Division of the Ford Motor Company in 1956 and 1957. 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 drive train. 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.
Many automobile collectors consider the Continental Mark II one of the classics of the postwar period.


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 coupled to a Lincoln three-speed automatic transmission. The engines selected for the Mark II were factory-blueprinted. Turning out 285 HP in 1956, the engine was modified to produce 300 HP in 1957. Each vehicle was subject to extensive testing. The Continental was 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 is why there were only a few Mark II convertibles produced
About 1300 were sold in the last quarter of 1955 after the car's October debut at the Paris Motor Show; another 1300 or so in 1956; and 444 in 1957, some with factory-installed air conditioning.
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 car was featured in the 1956 movie High Society, with Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, and Grace Kelly


Today, approximately half of the original 3000 cars still exist in varying states of repair. Thanks to the use of standard Lincoln mechanical components most parts required to keep them going are available. Prices range between $8000 for a running example in poor repair to $70,000 in concourse condition.
The Continental Mark II was successful at being what it was intended to be: an American Rolls-Royce or Bentley, and a re-creation of the grand cars of the thirties. Unfortunately, it was not profitable to manufacture it even at its five-figure 1950s sales price.

CNN Money:
Continental Mark II (1956-57)

Value: $40,000 to $90,000

Edsel wasn't the only new car brand Ford introduced in the 1950s. Wanting to stretch into the upper realm of the luxury class, Ford announced the creation of the Continental car line.

This car sold for about $10,000 in its day. Sounds dirt cheap but that was about the price of a Rolls-Royce in 1956.

"The Continental divsion was meant to compete independently in that super-expensive range," McKeel Hagerty said.

The Continental was an impressive car -- and it still is -- but people weren't ready to spend that kind of cash for Detroit metal. About half of the 3,000 Continental Mark II's produced still survive.
56_continental_mkii.jpg (26.72 KiB) Viewed 5052 times
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