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A Continental MKII isn’t a Lincoln, and Here’s why
When Ford decided to take on the luxury world, it culminated in a masterpiece that eclipsed everything in their lineup

A Continental MKII isn’t a Lincoln, and Here’s why

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Henry Ford was thrifty, in that his brands weren’t quick to adopt the latest technology. When he passed away in 1947, engineers had a host of new technologies waiting in the wings. In need of a flagship to herald their arrival, a second generation of the Lincoln Continental seemed logical. The project was given to William Clay Ford, the son of Edsel and Grandson of Henry.

With such big shoes to fill he wasn’t going after Cadillac; their target was Rolls-Royce. After forming the “Special Products Division” in 1952 he recruited industry legends to help. After realizing the scope of this undertaking, the Continental name was divorced from Lincoln to become an ultra-luxury brand with the Mark II being their only product. You won’t find Lincoln anywhere on these cars, inside or out.

In order to offer an unprecedented ride, a fully boxed chassis makes use of 6 tubular crossmembers. The floors were channeled down between the frame rails for an inviting entry, and a 3-piece driveshaft offered a flat floor pan. With gussets and reinforcements everywhere, the curb weight approached 5,000 pounds (2,268 kg). The world’s first speed-sensitive shocks made it feel like a smaller car.

Understated luxury meant very little chrome while avoiding tailfins. This was done to make quality the most obvious aspect. Buyers began by choosing from 19 exterior finishes then 43 interior combinations. Scottish leather was imported from the Bridge of Weir, to avoid the scars caused by barbed wire on American hides.

To give the interior a clean appearance, the A/C vents are in the headliner. It was the only option, as everything (including the vent windows) was powered and included in the base price. This made room for full instrumentation including a low fuel alarm. The dash and door panels are much lower than anything before, allowing the tall greenhouse to offer great visibility.

While it was designed to handle a new version of Lincoln’s V12, the recently introduced Y-Block 368 V8 (6L) and an automatic were the only parts shared with lesser models. With 285 horsepower and 402 lb-ft of torque  it reached 60 mph (97 kph) in 12 leisurely seconds. The powertrains were broken in on test mules then checked for balance and wear, only then would they reach the production floor. Even the smallest details like brackets and screws faced rigorous quality control inspections before being accepted into the program.

Instead of an assembly line, Ford’s best coachbuilders assembled each car by hand. Each panel was color-sanded and buffed with several coats of lacquer. Everyone from the janitor to the executives was trained to spot defects, and only 600 Lincoln dealers met the strict requirements of the program. Before the first car was sold the project surpassed $25 Million dollars (in 1956 money).

Initially their target price was $7,500, but this ballooned to $10,000 by the time the car was introduced at the Paris Auto Show in the fall of ‘55. In order to break even, they needed to sell 3,825 cars annually, and this was to include a sedan and convertible that were in the works. When Ford decided to go public the following year, investors took notice of the huge project and killed it for the 1958 model year.

This 1956 example has been completely restored, and it's being offered by Hyman Ltd. of St. Louis. Just over 3,000 cars were sold between 1956-57, and they are still among the best American cars ever built. Although Ford lost $1,000 on each one, the bold move showed the world what the Blue Oval is capable of.

 
 
 
 
 

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