Reblog of an article from the excellent Driven to Write
We embark on a tour through the illustrious history of the Lincoln Mark line, illustrated by the brochures that promoted each generation. Image: Lincoln A glamorous start, a mid-life rewriting of history, and styling triumphs as well as miscues: during a lifespan of almost six decades, the Lincoln Mark line experienced it all. Continental, 1940-1948 […]On Your Marks (Part One) — Driven To Write
LEARN THE HISTORY OF THE DESIGN CLASSIC, THE LINCOLN CONTINENTAL.
“Father made the most popular car in the world. I want to make the best car in the world.” With those words, Edsel Ford, President of the Lincoln Motor Company, stated its operating mission. In October of 1939, the Lincoln Zephyr Continental was introduced and in many ways fulfilled Edsel’s statement. The Continental was an immediate design icon and was even selected and displayed by the Museum of Modern Art in 1946 as one of the eight cars epitomizing design excellence. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright considered it “the most beautiful car in the world” and bought two. So what were the origins of the vehicle?
While the Ford Motor Company was known more for dependable transportation and the power of the V-8 engine than stylistic automobile design, Edsel wanted Lincoln to be different. In 1932, Edsel met Bob Gregorie, whose background had actually been designing yachts until the depression drove him to find work in the Detroit auto industry. Edsel, Gregorie and John Crawford, Edsel’s executive assistant and shopmaster formed a three-person design team for the Ford Motor Company and Lincoln. The inspiration of the Continental began with a trip by Edsel and Eleanor Ford to Europe in 1938. Edsel was impressed by the design and elegance of the European automobiles he saw. When he returned from the trip, he challenged Gregorie to work with him to create a new and stylish Lincoln.
The team began with the existing Lincoln Zephyr chassis as its basis. Gregorie designed a special convertible coupe (or cabriolet, keeping with our European theme). The drawings were ready by October 1938 with a 10th scale clay model shortly thereafter. The car became a passion point for Edsel Ford as he stopped by the design studio daily to monitor the progress and offer suggestions. Gregorie later said of Edsel Ford “He had the vision. I did the work of translating his vision into workable designs.” In one instance, Gregorie wanted to hide the spare tire in the trunk, but Edsel insisted in keeping it mounted to the rear of the car to reinforce the image of a low speedy automobile. The car had that look because special panels were added to lengthen the hood by 12 inches while four inches were removed from the body to lower the car. The low, sleek Continental design was born.
By the beginning of 1939, as work on the first prototype car, then called the Lincoln-Zephyr Continental, neared completion, Edsel liked it enough to order two more for his sons, Henry II and Benson, but these were only reduced to eight inches longer and three inches lower which became closer to the future Continental standard. With that order placed, Edsel headed off to his winter home in Hobe Sound, Florida with instructions that the prototype be delivered to him there. According to legend, the car turned heads among his friends in Florida and Edsel returned to Dearborn with orders for 200 more! Sensing the demand, Edsel, Crawford and Gregorie worked on a plan to produce the cars at a greater rate.
On October 2, an assembly line was set up to begin the manufacture of the Lincoln-Zephyr Continental. By the end of 1939, 25 had been produced and were designated 1940 models. In all, 404 Continentals were produced the first model year, 350 Cabriolets and 54 Coupes. Each car was essentially hand built using Lincoln Zephyr branded trim pieces with the upholstery a combination of leather and whipcord. The cars featured a Model H V-12 Engine and prices began at $ 2,640 for either the Cabriolet or the Coupe.
With the 1941 Model year, Zephyr was dropped from the name plate and the car was known simply as the Lincoln Continental. Upgrades and modifications on the car remained constant as the goal was always to produce the finest automobile possible. Demand for the car remained high and there were always standing orders for all of the cars produced. With the beginning of WWII and the conversion of the plants from automobiles to wartime production, the manufacture of the Continental was discontinued in 1942.
Car Corral find: 1973 Continental Mark IV
Lincoln called its 1973 Continental Mark IV, “…the most beautiful automobile in America. Perhaps because it is the only one that successfully blends both classic and contemporary styling.” Was it an accurate statement?
Although beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, it was hard to argue against the luxury division’s bold claim, as demonstrated by this Mark IV we spotted for sale at the Ford Nationals at Carlisle in June. Lincoln found a sweet spot in design with these cars, accentuating the long hood/short deck profile with a minimal-yet-tasteful application of side trim, vinyl roof treatment, and wide C-pillars that sported elegant, oval “opera windows.” Despite its outwardly boxy shape, the body had rounded lines and crisp contours that spoke of smooth comfort at speed: wraparound front running lamps, convex quad-head-lamp covers, and a squared-off formal grille that boasted refined taste rather than obnoxious excess. Its carefully sculpted hood carried the grille profile to the trailing edge, gracefully disrupting the otherwise flat metal.
Although it cost a staggering $8,984 without options, the Mark IV attracted 69,473 buyers. Its competition was Cadillac’s Fleetwood Eldorado and the Imperial LeBaron. Both featured a similar boxy body so prevalent at the time, but wide, rectangular grilles—or in the case of LeBaron, a full width-grille due to matching hidden headlamp motif— coupled with flat expanses of horizontal and vertical sheetmetal heightened the squared coachwork. Despite being cheaper, the $7,360 two-door Eldorado found 42,136 buyers; Imperial’s $7,313 two-door hardtop attained a scant 2,536 customers
Lincoln enthusiasts came from as far away as Norway and Finland to celebrate the centennial of Ford Motor Company’s purchase of the Lincoln Motor Company. Although most auto historians know that the Lincoln Motor Company was founded in 1920 to build automobiles, Ford Motor Company chose 2022 to celebrate the brand’s centennial because Ford acquired Lincoln in February 1922.
The primary celebration took place at the Lincoln Motor Car Heritage Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan, but was preceded with optional pre-Homecoming events in Dearborn, Michigan. In Dearborn, the celebration began with a tour and light supper at Fair Lane, the home of Clara and Henry Ford. Attendees were greeted by Edsel B. Ford II, great grandson of Henry and Clara. Attendees also visited the home of Edsel and Eleanor Ford, toured The Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village and enjoyed a private dinner at The Henry Ford Museum, where they heard from Joy Falotico, President of the Lincoln Motor Company.
Ford Motor Co. purchased Lincoln Motor Co. out of debt a century ago and established a luxury brand that would forever impact automotive design and pop culture.
Henry Ford, with a nudge from his wife, Clara, and son, Edsel, acquired the company from engineer Henry Leland for $8 million on Feb. 4, 1922.
“Lincoln is really a chance for us to stop and think about Edsel Ford, who, too often, is overshadowed by his father,” said Matt Anderson, curator of transportation at The Henry Ford museum in Dearborn.
“Edsel Ford had free rein at Lincoln, where he could spread his wings and leave a legacy apart from his father,” Anderson said. “Edsel gave the cars a sense of design and style, and built the company into one of America’s leading luxury automakers.”
Ford introduced the Lincoln Zephyr in 1936, pairing style and aerodynamics
“Its flowing teardrop shape suggests motion. Its V-shaped grille slices the air,” says thehenryford.org museum site. “Headlights blend smoothly into the front fenders. Rear fenders hug the body and fender skirts hide the rear wheels. Even the tail lights are streamlined.”
Then came the Continental in 1939, a car so gorgeous that the Museum of Modern Art in New York City selected it to display as one of eight cars that epitomized design excellence, according to the 1951 MOMA catalogue.
“Henry Ford’s only son played a key role in the creation of what many feel was the most beautiful automobile ever designed,” Ad Age said in 2003.
Lincoln’s first attempt at a luxury pickup didn’t go so well. The Blackwood was basically a cross between the Lincoln Navigator and Ford F-150, sporting fancy trim in the cargo bed with a power tonneau cover. The 2002 production version was a follow up to a warm reception for the 1999 concept, but things cooled off considerably on dealer lots. Parent company Ford planned to build 10,000 of them, but only a few more than 3,330 actually sold. There was no 2003 model in the U.S. market.
It’s hard to say exactly why the Blackwood flopped. In 2002, at least in terms of marketing, trucks and SUVs still had to pretend they could do truck and SUV stuff (regardless of whether or not the owners used them that way). Maybe nobody really wanted a giant trunk instead of a cargo bed. Maybe the rear-wheel-drive-only configuration wasn’t in keeping with the give-me-everything idea of a luxury truck. Or maybe Lincoln buyers who wanted lots of interior space and a giant trunk were already happy with the Town Car.
Whatever the case, the Blackwood was unintentionally rare and now, nearly 20 years later when luxury trucks are part of the standard lineup, could be considered an idea before its time. And yeah, we’ll go out on a limb and say the Blackwood is now cool. This one, up for bids on Hemmings Auctions, has been both enjoyed and preserved well. From the auction listing:
The selling dealer says it was taken on trade, but he became so enamored with it that he drove it for the next three years, racking up 13,000 “trouble-free” miles on the distinctive and rare Lincoln truck. It’s one of only 3,356 produced and the seller notes it “runs and drives like new.”
The gleaming classic looks to be in exceptionally fine condition
With evocative aerodynamic styling and powered by an L-head V12 engine, the Lincoln Zephyr was conceived by Edsel Ford as a midsize luxury craft for the very well-to-do, with hand-crafted production beginning in 1936.
The Pick of the Day is a 1940 Lincoln Zephyr convertible, widely considered to be among the most elegant model years, and which represented something of an end and a beginning for the Ford division before the war years intervened.
The Zephyr was the final pre-war design for Lincoln, with the Zephyr name dropped once production resumed after the war. But 1940 saw the beginning of the Continental nameplate, another Edsel Ford concept, which became Lincoln’s longest-running brand. Along with that came the rear-mounted spare tire on the Zephyr that became an enduring feature of Lincoln design.
“Edsel Ford rebelled against his father’s mass-market sensibilities by building a car for people in his substantial wealth class,” notes the Lutz, Florida, dealer advertising the Lincoln on ClassicCars.com. “He emphasized design, which means these first-generations show their boldness with sleek lines rather than adding chrome. This was the car he could have proudly driven in Europe with its waterfall grille, lowered stance, and deleted running boards.
“These were both beautiful and expensive, and so only about 700 examples were hand-built in 1940.”
No wonder America’s luxury car companies did so well (and offered so much choice) in the ’60s. Far from the Sturm und Drang of the muscle car scene playing out on America’s streets, the complexity of a war being fought half a world away, and inevitable strife at home, America’s luxury cars provided a beautiful, silent, torquey buffer between you and all else that society was throwing at you. What better way to isolate yourself from the outside world – in all of its hideous, insidious forms – than in a two-plus ton luxury car stuffed with leather and sound deadening?We picked three American luxury barges here for you to consider.
All of them are from the second half of the ’60s, all are coupes, all are plucked from the Hemmings classifieds, and all are between $20,000 and $30,000. Which of these would you restore? Which would you preserve? And which would you modify? Tell us in the comments.
Two historically important Lincoln limousines that carried President John F. Kennedy – one of which he rode in on day that he was assassinated – will be offered during Bonhams’ live/online American Presidential Experience Auction in New York on October 14, just three weeks ahead of the presidential election.
Auction also includes a display replica of the first Air Force One jet and a full-scale mockup of the White House Oval Office
The white 1963 Lincoln Continental convertible that was designated “Limo One,” and which carried the President and first lady on the morning of November 22, 1963, in Fort Worth with Texas Governor John Connally, has a pre-auction estimated value of $300,000 to $500,000.
The other Lincoln is a 1960 Lincoln Continental Mark V Executive Limousine used by President Kennedy for personal trips in Washington, DC. The Mark V was specially outfitted by Hess and Eisenhardt for presidential use with bulletproof doors, divider window, passenger air controls and a two-way telephone in the back seat, which was an uncommon luxury for the period.
This film promotes the aerodynamic Lincoln Zephyr, first launched in 1936. The car was conceived by Edsel Ford and designed by Eugene Turenne Gregorie ,said to be inspired by the Pioneer Zephyr Streamliner train. At the beginning of the film we see other streamline designs in action, including the record-breaking SS Normandie.
Introduced on November 2, 1935, as a 1936 model, the Lincoln-Zephyr was extremely modern with a low raked windscreen, integrated fenders, and streamlined aerodynamic design, which influenced the name “zephyr”, derived from the Greek word zephyrus, or the god of the west wind. It was one of the first successful streamlined cars after the Chrysler Airflow‘s market resistance, and the concept car Pierce Silver Arrow, which never went into production. In fact, the Lincoln-Zephyr actually had a lower coefficient of drag than the Airflow, due in part to the prow-like front grille on the Zephyr, reflecting the popularity of leisure speedboats like Chris-Craft. The Lincoln-Zephyr succeeded in reigniting sales at Lincoln dealerships in the late 1930s, and from 1941 model year, all Lincolns were Zephyr-based and the Lincoln-Zephyr marque was phased out. Annual production for any year model was not large, but accounted for a large portion of the Lincoln brand’s sales. In its first year, 15,000 were sold, accounting for 80% of Lincoln’s total sales.
Production of all American cars was halted by the Government in 1942 as the country entered World War II, with Lincoln producing the last Lincoln Zephyr on February 10. After the war, most makers restarted production of their prewar lines, and Lincoln was no exception. The Zephyr name, however, was no longer used after 1942, with the cars simply called Lincolns.
The idea of a smaller and more modern luxury car to fill the gap in Lincoln’s traditional lineup was revisited in the 1950 Lincoln Lido (The Lido was the same size as other two-door Lincolns, though), 1977 Lincoln Versailles, 1982 Continental, and 2000 Lincoln LS. The Zephyr name was resurrected in 2006 for the car’s spiritual successor, the Zephyr, which was quickly renamed the MKZ for 2007.