The Lincoln Continental Convertible is the most extraordinary creation of the Detroit Baroque era. The model was the epitome of the aerospace styling popular in those years, the exact opposite of the graceful design of the previous Mark II model.
In 1938, returning from another European business trip, Edsel Ford, Henry Ford’s son and president of the Ford Motor Company, brought the idea of a “special little sports car” for his personal use as a winter vehicle in Florida. From this idea, Ford chief designer E.T. Gregorie created an elegant convertible based on the corporation’s most unusual model at the time, the Lincoln-Zephyr. Later, returning from his Florida vacation, Edsel Ford brought back about 200 check-backed pre-orders for similar cars. The decision to launch in a limited series was made immediately!
Edsel Ford’s Continental (1939)
Source: Ford’s official website
Further history of this model reminds us of a real American action movie. It survived World War II, the untimely death of its chief enthusiast, Edsel Ford, and was reborn as Mark II (1956-57). The car of this generation was distinguished by laconic lines, minimal use of chrome, and the shape of the roof was reminiscent of the original Continental, at the same time, giving the same “continental chic” to this un-European huge coupe.
In 1957, the management of the Ford Motor Company decided to unify the Continental with other Lincoln models to reduce production and car costs. The following year, the new plant in Wixom saw the production of three common-platform, monocoque models: the Continental Mark III, the Lincoln Capri, and the Lincoln Premiere. They were all equipped with the largest engine in the Ford lineup, a 7-liter MEL V8 430 with a 4-barrel carburetor, producing 375 hp, a 3-speed Turbo-Drive automatic transmission, independent unequal-length wishbone front suspension and springs, a leading rear axle on semi-elliptical leaf springs, drum brakes and 14-inch wheels. The differences between these models were in the exterior design, equipment, and body styles. The Mark III was offered in hardtop coupe, sedan, hardtop sedan (Landau), and convertible versions, with prices ranging from $5,825 to $6,283.
The body of Mark III, designed by John Najjar and Elwood Engel, was made in full accordance with the fashion of the late 50s, but in an overly daring, hypertrophied style. The recessed horizontal fine-check grille and slanted twin headlights in oval blocks looked spectacular. The sidewalls, overloaded with embossed stampings, were not convex, but rather concave, and in cross-section, they had the shape of a boomerang. Accordingly, the low but sharp keels were complemented by a pair of downward-turned fins on the edges of the rear bumper, and the same forked ends of the front bumper fit into the recess around the front wheel. A decorative grille with a pair of triple round lamps was integrated into the rear bumper. A single panoramic windshield or a formal roof with vertical pillars was not enough, and the car received such a controversial detail as a rear window with a tilt in the opposite direction, which was lowered by an electric drive. For convertibles, it was also present and could be removed along with the soft top under the metal panel in front of the trunk lid. The 1958 Mark III was a typical American competitor in design to the no less monumental Cadillac and Imperial. Its’ length increased to 5.81 meters and the power to 375 hp. thanks to the new 7-liter V8. It surpassed Cadillacs in length, width, and height. The 4-door car is still the longest convertible in American automotive history and the largest monocoque vehicle.
The six-seat interior of the Mark III was the same as that of other Lincoln models, but with more expensive trim. The large, thin steering wheel had two boomerang-shaped spokes and a semicircular horn button, behind which was a large rectangular instrument panel with a semicircular speedometer. In addition to the standard power windows and front seats, air conditioning, seat belts, AM/FM radio, automatic lubrication, and air front suspension could be ordered. Despite its enormous weight and fuel consumption of over 20 l/100 km, the car was powerful enough to travel at speeds of 190 km/h. In addition, it cost 40% less than the previous Mark II model, and therefore, the circle of potential buyers was wider. In 1958, the company sold 12550 cars.
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