Lincoln Continentals of the 1950s

Greg Zyla
Q: Greg, can you tell us a little bit about the Lincoln Continental back in the Fifties? I always loved the first Continental and I remember the car when it was first introduced back in 1956. It was the most beautiful car on the road. Rolland retired in New Hampshire.

A: Rolland, Lincoln produced a Continental from 1939 to 1948 and then let the name sit for several years until bringing it back as a stand-alone model in 1956.

I also agree that back in 1956, and 1957 too, the Lincoln Continental attracted a lot of attention and was one of the best looking cars on the road. However, due to the car's very expensive price tag back then, $9,695, Lincoln only produced 2,996 units.

Continental's still classic to this day 1956-57 model was dubbed the Mark II, and the Continental name offered the consumer high prestige. Built only in 2-door hardtop coupe design, pristine Continentals from ’56-‘57 command top dollar at today's auctions. Several  non-pristine to show ready Mark II's are listed in a recent magazine issue from $18,500 to $52,000, the latter with new paint and a rebuild 25,000 miles ago. Pristine editions will do $60K or more at the auctions.

The original Mark II's were powered by the Ford 368 inch engine producing 285 horses on a 126-inch wheelbase. The car's weight, which was a hefty 4,800 lbs., kept a lid on any real performance,  as 0-60 mph took nearly 15 seconds. 

For 1958, 1959 and 1960 Lincoln designers did a complete about face, and introduced the Mark III, Mark IV and Mark V walrus type monstrosity that bared no resemblance to the beautiful Mark II. Still, even with some 5,500 pounds of mass weight and a wheelbase of 131 inches, its updated 375-horse 430 cubic inch engine, which also powered the fast 1958 Thunderbirds on the NASCAR circuit, could pull the Mark III to 60-mph in nine seconds.

Things settled down later, as Ford brought back the Continental Mark III in 2-door style in 1969, even though the behemoth 1958 model was also dubbed a Mark III. The reasoning was that Henry Ford II felt the Mark III of 1958, and subsequent models built on shared Lincoln body style, were not official "Mark" designs.

I agree.
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