Lincoln Continental is a true American luxury car, symbolizing success, power, and wealth, which served American Presidents Roosevelt and Kennedy.
In the late 1950s, Lincoln, Ford’s luxury division, was not doing very well. Due to low demand, the luxurious and ultra-expensive Mark II had to be discontinued ahead of schedule. The Mark III, which replaced it, was not particularly liked by the public, although it cost almost half as much. By 1960, Lincoln had a $60 million loss and was on the verge of closing. The company had the last and only chance to create a commercially successful machine, and the company gave all its efforts so as not to miss it. Thus was born one of the best American vehicles of all time – the fourth-generation Continental.
American automotive fashion in the 50s was quite changeable. The machines’ exteriors were updated annually, and sometimes very significantly. Millions were thrown into this crazy race to hold a professional design staff and regular production changeovers. Things got more complicated in the late 1950s when automakers began to switch to monocoque bodies, which were especially difficult to restyle. So, McNamara made the only right decision, as time showed: the Lincoln lineup was reduced strictly to one model – Continental.
In 1958, Lincoln started a single Continental model development. Technically the task was easy: the creators were allowed to use any of Ford’s developments. In the case of the design, things became complicated. Because of the highly limited budget and the impossibility of annual restyling, it was necessary to create a design that would be relevant for at least the next five, and preferably ten years.
In 1958, Robert McNamara visited the Ford Design Center, where advanced models were being developed. In the same place, the talented designer Elwood Angel was poring over the future Ford Thunderbird. McNamara was interested in the layout of the future personal car with its concise and spectacular design in its simplicity. Moreover, it did not look like a Thunderbird, which was supposed to have a sports style, but like an almost finished Continental, perhaps a two-door one. The vice-president immediately ordered to redesign the layout for a four-door, without losing proportions and overall style. A new prototype was created in two weeks. To not bother with the installation of a full-fledged rack for hanging doors, the rear doors were installed against the travel direction. The future Continental was designed in two bodies at once: a convertible and a sedan. The technical part of the luxurious vehicle of 1961 was taken from Thunderbird’s basis, except that its wheelbase was increased to 123 inches (3124 mm). The 300-horsepower 7-liter V8 engine was borrowed from the previous model, which also got hydraulic drum brakes on all wheels. The engine was paired with a three-speed Turbo-Drive MX reinforced automatic transmission.
In comparison with other premium American vehicles, the 1961 model stood out for its simple and elegant design, with minimal external decor. The pointed upper edge of the sidewalls, the hood rounded to the front facade and the fine-mesh false grille with headlights inscribed in it caught the eye. The stern was framed in a similar style. Vertical lanterns were located at the tip of the wings, and a decorative grille was in the middle. In addition, the company announced that the machine would be provided with a guarantee for two years or 24,000 miles. Such generosity did not come out of anywhere. Before sending to the dealer, all machines were thoroughly tested. The engine and gearbox were run in at the stand, and the assembled machine passed the 12-mile test track. Although the model was not cheap, there were a lot of people ready to pay for it. 1961 model cost $6,067 for a sedan and $6,713 for a convertible. In 1961, the company sold 25,160 units, which could be considered an excellent indicator for a model of this class. The car with minimal cosmetic changes was produced until 1969, however, the wide popularity of the brand was shaken in 1963, when US President John F. Kennedy was killed in a 1961convertible model.
John F. Kennedy was served with a dark blue four-door 1961 Continental with a convertible upper body. It was developed by Hess & Eisenhardt by order of the US Secret Service, under the special index SS-100-X (shortly – X-100), and had gone through four modifications. It was in a 1961 release convertible that he was fatally shot in Dallas on November 22, 1963.
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