Created by special order for Edsel Ford, the Continental turned out so beautiful that it was decided to put the model into mass production. It was the last American vehicle with a V12 engine, ending an era when the status was determined by the number of cylinders of its power unit.
Source: Mecum Auctions
The first car appeared before the war, in 1938, as a luxury touring convertible with a V12 engine based on the current Lincoln-Zephyr. It was distinguished by an exclusive body design, made in the popular European style, and its name implied continental Europe. Created by Ford’s chief stylist Eugene Gregory, the exclusive Continental became so popular that many wanted to have the same automobile in their garage. So it was decided to put the vehicle into mass production as a 1940 model. Despite the relatively high price ($2600), it still found buyers. During the war years, the demand for it, of course, fell. However, Continental was produced until 1948, precisely until the moment when all 12-cylinder Lincoln models were discontinued.
The serial car appeared in 1940 with minor changes compared to the Edsel Ford’s exclusive. In 1940 it was available as a convertible for the price of two regular Lincoln-Zephyrs. The coupe’s design was impressive: the assembly was carried out almost entirely by hand. The glasses were decorated with thin frames, which was rare before the war and was done only on the Continental and Cadillac Sixty Special. In the first year, 404 vehicles were assembled, thus cementing Ford’s place in the premium class. The new automobile replaced the expensive Lincoln Model K, which had just been discontinued. In 1941, 1250 cars were already produced. The following year was marked by an extensive restyling for the vehicle, after which it became longer, wider and heavier. Despite the increased mass, the company’s engineers tried to improve the volume of the V12 engine, increasing it from 4.8 liters to 5.0 liters.
After Pearl Harbor, the production of civilian automobiles was interrupted, and all automakers switched to manufacturing military orders. The resumption of the production of civilian vehicles marked post-war 1946. In terms of modernization, Lincoln was limited to minimal alterations like radiator grilles or bumper designs. 1946-1948 3334 coupes and convertibles of this model were produced with minimal upgrades. 1946-48 releases went down in history as the last American V12 automobiles, also recognized as “classic cars” by the strict standards of the Classic Car Club of America (CCCA).
Source: Fine Art America
In 1943, the model’s ideological inspirer and leading enthusiast, Edsel Ford, died suddenly, and in 1946 Gregory left the company. It was a massive blow to the brand, which led to its reorganization. In post-war 1945-1946, the Ford Lincoln division resumed production of the Continental. Like all post-war vehicles, in the early years, it was produced without any notable changes: only the radiator grill was restyled, and more massive bumpers also appeared. The wings and the entire silhouette of the automobile were angular, and the rich chrome grille gave the vehicle a predatory look. The engine displacement was 5 liters with a power of 130 hp with a maximum speed of 145 km/h. The new emblem was on the hood, and the grille emblem emphasized the large V12 engine under the hood. Sales of the model in 1946 amounted to only 201 cars. For the next eight years, the name “Continental” was not used till 1956, when it became an independent luxury brand.
In 1946, a new Lincoln-Mercury Division was formed as part of the Ford empire, which began to manage the company’s most expensive and luxurious cars, including the Continental. Later, in 1955, Special Product Operations founded Continental Division, operating independently from Lincoln-Mercury.
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