Lincoln Continental

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Lincoln Continental
98-02 Lincoln Continental.jpg
Manufacturer Ford Motor Company
Production 1939–1948
Body and chassis
Class Luxury car
Successor Lincoln Town Car (full-size)
Lincoln LS (mid-size)
Lincoln MKS (full-size)

Lincoln Continental is a model name for a series of automobiles produced by the Lincoln division of Ford Motor Company from 1939 to 1948 and again from 1956 to 1980 and from 1981 to 2002. Despite often sharing underpinnings with less-expensive Fords, the Lincoln Continental had usually been a distinctively platformed and styled, highly equipped luxury car in the course of its long history.

The flagship Lincoln model during most of its run, the Continental name conveyed special cachet in the product line. The Lincoln Mark series grew out of it, with varying degrees of brand differentiation over the years. During the 1980s, the Continental was downsized from a full-size to a mid-size Ford Taurus platform; this introduced the Continental to a wider range of competition from Europe and Japan. After the Continental was discontinued in 2002, it was largely replaced by the Lincoln LS and eventually the Lincoln MKZ. However, in March 2015, an all new version of the Continental was unveiled at the New York Auto Show, and is expected to go on sale sometime in 2016 as a 2017 model.[1]

First generation (1939–1948)[edit]

First generation
Bonhams - The Paris Sale 2012 - Lincoln Continental Coupe - 1941 - 003.jpg
Model years 1940–1948
Assembly Lincoln Assembly, Detroit, Michigan
Long Beach Assembly, Long Beach, California
Designer Eugene T. "Bob" Gregorie
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door coupe
2-door convertible
Layout FR layout
Related Lincoln-Zephyr (1940)
Lincoln Zephyr (1941–42)
Lincoln H-series (post-war)
Engine 292 cu in (4.8 L) Lincoln-Zephyr V12
Wheelbase 125.0 in (3,175 mm)
Length 1940–41: 209.8 in (5,329 mm)
1942–48: 218.1 in (5,540 mm)
Width 1940–41: 75.0 in (1,905 mm)
1942–48: 77.8 in (1,976 mm)[2]
Height 1940–41: 62.0 in (1,575 mm)
1942–48: 63.1 in (1,603 mm)
Curb weight 4,000–4,300 lb (1,800–2,000 kg)
1942 Lincoln Continental convertible front exterior view
1942 Lincoln Continental convertible interior

The first Lincoln Continental was developed as Edsel Ford's one-off personal vehicle,[3] though it is believed he planned all along to put the model into production if successful. In 1938, he commissioned a custom design from the chief stylist, Eugene T. "Bob" Gregorie, ready for Edsel's March 1939 vacation. The design, allegedly sketched out in an hour by Gregorie working from the Lincoln-Zephyr blueprints and making changes, was an elegant convertible with a long hood covering the Lincoln V12 and long front fenders, and a short trunk with what became the Continental series' trademark, the externally mounted, covered spare tire. They had front and rear transverse leaf springs and hydraulic drum brakes.[4]

1948 Lincoln Continental coupe
1948 convertible with view of "Continental" spare tire mount

The result could be considered a channeled and sectioned Zephyr, with all traces of the running-boards removed. The decrease in height meant that the hood was much closer to fender-level, and the trim was minimal. When compared to other American cars of the period, it seemed long and low, with sleek "clean" lines. The first model Continental is often rated as one of the most beautiful automobile designs from the pre-world war II era.

The customized one-off prototype was duly produced, on time, and Edsel had the vehicle delivered to Florida for his spring vacation. Interest from well-off friends was high, and Edsel sent a telegram back that he could sell a thousand of them. Lincoln craftsmen immediately began production on the Continental "Cabriolet" convertible, and even a rare few hardtop models. They were extensively hand-built; the two dozen 1939 models and 400 1940-built examples even had hand-hammered body panels, since dies for machine-pressing were not constructed until 1941. The limited number of 1939 models produced are commonly referred to as '1940 Continentals'.[5]

The 1939, 1940, and 1941 models were essentially the same design, with only slight modifications from year to year. For the 1942 model year, which was cut short by the beginning of direct American involvement in World War II, all Lincoln models were given squared up fenders, and a revised grill. The result was a boxier, somewhat heavier look in keeping with then-current design trends, but perhaps less graceful in retrospect.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor US civilian-use automobile production was suspended, to be restarted in 1945–1946. Ford's Lincoln division would continue to produce the Continental for model years 1946 to 1948. Like all other post-war Lincolns it received updated trim, including a new grill, to refresh the design. Walnut interior trim was added in 1947.[6] The 1939–1948 Continental is recognized as a "Full Classic" by the Classic Car Club of America, one of the last-built cars to be so recognized. To date, the 1948 lincolns were the last V-12 engined cars to be produced and sold by a major U.S. automaker.[2]

Media related to Lincoln Continental (first generation) at Wikimedia Commons

Second generation (1956–1957)[edit]

Main article: Continental Mark II
Second generation
Continental Mark II.jpg
Model years 1956–1957
Assembly Wixom Assembly, Dearborn, Michigan, USA
Designer Bill Schmidt
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door hardtop
Layout FR layout
Engine 368 cu in (6.0 L) Y-block V8
Wheelbase 126.0 in (3,200 mm)
Length 218.4 in (5,547 mm)
Width 77.5 in (1,968 mm)
Height 56.3 in (1,430 mm)
Curb weight 5,000 lb (2,300 kg)
Continental Mark II rear view, showing the "continental tire hump"

The Continental name was revived in late 1955 as a separate marque, produced by a separate division of Ford Motor Company, with its sole model being the Continental Mark II. Ford made it very clear that this Continental was not a Lincoln. This version was a unique design with the highest quality control ever seen in the automobile industry. High-class luxury abounded in the new Continental, and with very limited availability, it appeared even more exclusive than the original.[7]

Continentals for 1956 were among the most expensive cars in the world — with a cost of $10,000 at a time when a regular Ford could be had for less than $2000,[citation needed] it rivaled Rolls-Royce. Ford believed that its price point would elevate the car's status among those who could afford the very best. Despite its astronomical price tag, Ford Motors lost money on each one sold.[8] On a side note, Cadillac suffered a similar financial loss with its own Continental rival, the four-door Eldorado Brougham.

The newly renamed Imperial from Chrysler offered the Imperial Newport coupe and the Imperial Southampton hardtop sedan which sold better. [9] Vehicles such as these were image builders for the three companies, as well as test beds for new ideas and concepts.

The Continental Mark II was sold for just two model years. Between the tales of dealers turning potential buyers away because they were not deemed to be the right kind of people to own a Continental,[citation needed] and its sticker price found affordable by only the world's wealthiest, the Continental became almost mythical. Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, the Shah of Iran, Nelson Rockefeller and Henry Kissinger were part of the Continental owners circle. Warner Brothers Studios gave Elizabeth Taylor a custom-built 1956 Mark II, which was painted to match her eye color.[10] The 1956 film High Society includes several scenes with a Mark II.[11] The 1957 film drama Sweet Smell of Success includes a brief glimpse of the Mark II; the car belongs to Burt Lancaster's Broadway-columnist character J.J. Hunsecker.

Total production equaled 2,996 including two prototype convertibles.[12] While on later models it was purely for decoration the Mark II did in fact carry the spare under the trunk lid's stamped-in tire cover.[13]

Media related to Lincoln Continental (second generation) at Wikimedia Commons

Third generation (1958–1960)[edit]

Third generation
Lincoln Continental Wasen.jpg
Model years 1958–1960
Assembly United States: Wixom, Michigan (Wixom Assembly)
Pico Rivera, California (Los Angeles Assembly)
Designer John Najjar
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door hardtop
2-door convertible
4-door sedan
4-door Landau hardtop
4-door Town Car sedan
4-door Limousine
Layout FR layout
Related Lincoln Mark series
Lincoln Premiere
Lincoln Capri
Engine 430 cu in (7.0 L) MEL V8
Transmission 3-speed Turbo-Drive automatic
Wheelbase 131.0 in (3,327 mm)[14]
Length 1958: 229.0 in (5,817 mm)
1959: 227.1 in (5,768 mm)
1960: 227.2 in (5,771 mm)
Width 1958–59: 80.1 in (2,035 mm)
1960: 80.3 in (2,040 mm)
Height 1958: 56.5 in (1,435 mm)
1959–60: 56.7 in (1,440 mm)
Curb weight 5,000–5,700 lb (2,300–2,600 kg)
1958 Lincoln Continental Mark III Landau hardtop sedan with "breezeway" window - this particular car was owned by the Lao Royal Family
1959 Lincoln Continental Mark IV Town Car
1960 Lincoln Continental Mark V

After the Continental Mark II was discontinued, a new generation of the brand appeared for 1958. These were the first Continentals produced at the new Wixom plant, and the first made on an unibody platform. Though this edition is known as the "Mark III," the first models bore the nameplate "Continental III" on the front fender. The separation of the Continental name from the Lincoln brand reflected a similar approach by Chrysler with the Imperial, in an attempt to match Cadillac at the time.

Advertising brochures made the case that Continental was still a separate make, the car shared its body with that year's Lincoln. They differed from the lower-model full-size Lincolns in trim quality, and in their roof treatment, featuring a reverse-angle power rear "breezeway" window that retracted down behind the back seat. Hand assembly was gone, allowing for lower prices. Even so, Lincoln lost over sixty million dollars over 1958–1960, partly reflecting the enormous expense of developing what is perhaps the largest unibody car ever made.[15][not specific enough to verify]

Additionally, full-size Lincoln sold poorly in all models; 1958 was a recession year in the U.S. But in spite of that, the Continental Mark III recorded much better sales than the Mark II. AM radio was standard.[2] A rare option was an FM radio.[16] For the 1956 and 57 Lincolns and Continentals, the A/C vents were located on the ceiling.Beginning with the 1958 model year, the A/C vents were mounted in the dash board.[17]

Like the Lincoln, the Continental III was larger than that year's Cadillac - save for the Cadillac Series 75 limousine. Consumers and critics found the Continental's canted headlights and scalloped fenders over the top, even in that decade of styling excess. They are the longest production Lincolns ever produced without federally mandated 5 mph (8.0 km/h) bumpers. The 63.1 inches (1,603 mm) front and 63.0 inches (1,600 mm) rear shoulder room they possessed set a record for Lincoln that still stands to this day; while the 44.0 inches (1,118 mm) front and 44.9 inches (1,140 mm) rear leg room make it one of the roomiest vehicles ever produced. Furthermore, the 1959–60 Continental Limousine and Town Car (which had the same wheelbase as other Continentals but the same rear seat legroom as Lincoln due to the absence of the "breezeway" window) are the heaviest American sedans without an extended wheelbase built since WW II, and the 1958 Continental convertible is the longest American convertible produced with the exception of the (extremely rare) 1934–37 Cadillac V-16 convertibles.

The 1959's range contained the original Continental Mark IV, and the 1960, the original Continental Mark V, with more restrained styling than the 1958. Two new body styles were added for 1959 and 1960, both on the same wheelbase as other Continentals, but without the reverse-angle "breezeway" window: a formal Town Car and an even more formal Limousine. Both cars had dual air conditioning units, a distinctive padded roof and were available only in black. The Limousine added a driver's partition for additional rear seat privacy. The Town Car, costing $9,200, sold only 214 over both years, and the Limousine, costing $10,200, sold only 83 over both years. One feature of these cars was the "Auto Lube", that, as long as the owner kept the lube reservoir full, the car automatically lubed itself.[14] However, the 1958–1960 Marks were technically Lincolns as the Continental division was dropped after the Mark II. And this marked the last time that a Continental would share no major chassis components with a model made by Ford or Mercury as the 1961 Continental would share major components with the contemporaneous Ford Thunderbird.

Design Epilogue[edit]

1960 Lincoln Continental Mark V convertible
1959 Lincoln Continental Mark IV convertible

The reputation for "excessive styling" is perhaps ironic given the enormous amount of styling talent that was connected with the development and modification of Continentals of this vintage (as well as given the elaborate marketing efforts at eliminating all memory of these Marks). George W. Walker, known for his contribution to the development of the original Ford Thunderbird, was Vice-President in charge of Styling at Ford during this time. Elwood Engel, famous for being lead designer of generation four of the Lincoln Continental and for his work as chief designer at Chrysler in the 1960s, was Staff Stylist (and consequently roamed all the design studios) at Ford during this period and worked very closely with John Najjar in developing not only the 1958, but also the 1959 update. After John Najjar was relieved of his responsibilities as Chief Stylist of Lincoln in 1957 he became Engel's executive assistant, and the two worked closely together in the "stilleto studio" in developing the fourth generation Lincoln Continental, which of course won an award for its superlative styling. After Engel left Ford in 1961, Najjar became the lead designer of the Ford Mustang I concept car, which later gave birth to the Ford Mustang. Don Delarossa, who succeeded Najjar as Chief Stylist of Lincoln, was responsible for the 1960 update, and went on to become chief designer at Chrysler in the 1980s. Alex Tremulis, who was Chief Stylist at Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg in the mid to late 1930s and famous for his work on the 1948 Tucker Sedan, was head of Ford's Advanced Styling Studio during this period, and it was his Ford La Tosca concept car, with its oval overlaid with an "X" theme, that gave birth to the "slant eyed monster" nickname to the 1958 Continental front end. And, perhaps most ironic of all, L. David Ash was Lincoln's Executive Exterior Stylist when Najjar was in charge of Lincoln styling, the same L. David Ash who would later play such a prominent role as Chief Stylist of Ford in designing the 1969–1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III, which helped cause Continentals of this vintage (together with a marketing decision by then Ford Executive Vice-President Lee Iacocca) to be called the "forgotten Marks".

Media related to Lincoln Continental (third generation) at Wikimedia Commons

Fourth generation (1961–1969)[edit]

Fourth generation
Lincoln Continental Convertible (Les chauds vendredis '10).jpg
Model years 1961–1969
Assembly United States: Wixom, Michigan (Wixom Assembly)
Pico Rivera, California (Los Angeles Assembly)
Designer Elwood Engel
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door hardtop
4-door sedan
4-door convertible
Layout FR layout
Engine 430 cu in (7.0 L) MEL V8
460 cu in (7.5 L) 385-series V8
462 cu in (7.6 L) MEL V8
Transmission 3-speed Turbo-Drive automatic
3-speed C6 automatic
Wheelbase 1961–63: 123.0 in (3,124 mm)
1964–1969: 126.0 in (3,200 mm)
Length 1961: 212.4 in (5,395 mm)
1962–63: 213.3 in (5,418 mm)
1964–65: 216.3 in (5,494 mm)
1966–68: 220.9 in (5,611 mm)
1969: 224.2 in (5,695 mm)
Width 1961–65: 78.6 in (1,996 mm)
1966–69: 79.7 in (2,024 mm)
Height 1961–1963: 53.6 in (1,361 mm)
1964–1965: 54.2 in (1,377 mm)
1966–1968: 55.0 in (1,397 mm)
1969: 54.2 in (1,377 mm)
Curb weight 5,000–5,700 lb (2,300–2,600 kg)

In 1961, the Continental was completely redesigned by Elwood Engel. For the first time, the names Lincoln and Continental would be paired together outside the Mark Series; along with replacing the Continental Mark V, the 1961 Continental replaced the Lincoln Capri and Premiere, consolidating Lincoln into a single product line. Originally intended to be the 1961 Ford Thunderbird, the design was enlarged and slightly altered before being switched to the Lincoln line by Robert McNamara. One of the most striking features of the new Continental was its size. It was 14.8 in (380 mm) shorter than its predecessor. So much smaller was this car, that advertising executives at Ford photographed a woman parallel parking a sedan for a magazine spread.

The new Continental's most recognized trademark, front-opening rear "suicide doors", was a purely practical decision, reusing a feature offered on the 1950 Lincoln Lido, the Lincoln-Zephyr sedan, and all Mercury sedans starting in 1939. The new Continental rode on a wheelbase of 123 inches (3,100 mm), and the doors were hinged from the rear to ease ingress and egress. When the Lincoln engineers were examining the back seats that styling had made up, the engineers kept hitting the rear doors with their feet. Hinging the doors from the rear solved the problem. The doors were to become the best-known feature of 1960s Lincolns. In the interest of safety, these Continentals featured a "Door Ajar" warning light on the dash. To simplify production, all cars were to be four-door models, and only two body styles were offered, thin-pillar sedan and convertible. Both models featured frameless door glass, but the sedan had a thin chrome "B" pillar. The 1961 model was the first car manufactured in the U.S. to be sold with a 24,000 mi (39,000 km) or 2-year bumper-to-bumper warranty.[18][19] It was also the first postwar four-door convertible from a major U.S. manufacturer.[20] Walnut paneling was on the doors and instrument panel.[21]

Despite the smaller exterior dimensions, at 4,927 lb (2,235 kg), the new sedan was only 85 lb (39 kg) lighter than the lightest 1960 Lincoln four-door sedan (2 lb less than a two-door); at 5,215 lb (2,365 kg), the convertible outweighed its 1960 predecessor by 39 lb (18 kg).[22] As a result (save for their respective nine-passenger models) the new Lincoln was still heavier than anything from Cadillac.[23] or Imperial.[24] This solid construction led to a rather enviable reputation as "Corporate management was determined to make it the finest mass-produced domestic automobile of its time and did so."[25]

The 1961 Continental was Elwood Engel's Magnum Opus, as he was responsible for the complete design of the car. It was a sales success, with 25,160 sold during the first year of production.[26]

This generation of Continental is favored by collectors and has appeared in many motion pictures, such as Goldfinger, The Matrix, Last Action Hero, Kalifornia, Spider-Man 2, Hit and run, Animal House, and the Inspector Gadget films. It has also appeared in the television series Pushing Daisies, in the opening sequence of the television series Entourage, and as the vehicle of choice for Michael Chiklis's character Vincent Savino in the series Vegas. In the CBS television situation comedy Green Acres (1965–1971), in which the cars were furnished by Ford Motor Company, lead character Oliver Wendell Douglas (Eddie Albert) is shown driving a 1965 Continental convertible and then in later episodes owns a 1967 model.

Ford produced several concept cars which recalled this design. In 2007, Lincoln's Navigator and MKX SUV lines adopted chrome grilles in the style of these Continentals.

1963 Lincoln Continental
1960–1961 Comparison[27][28] 1960 Continental 1961 Continental
Wheelbase 131.0 in (3,327 mm) 123.0 in (3,124 mm)
Overall Length 227.2 in (5,771 mm) 212.4 in (5,395 mm)
Width 80.3 in (2,040 mm) 78.6 in (1,996 mm)
Height 56.7 in (1,440 mm) 53.6 in (1,361 mm)
Front Headroom 34.9 in (886 mm) 33.5 in (851 mm)
Front Legroom 44.0 in (1,118 mm) 44.2 in (1,123 mm)
Front Hip Room 60.4 in (1,534 mm) 59.7 in (1,516 mm)
Front Shoulder Room 63.1 in (1,603 mm) 59.4 in (1,509 mm)
Rear Headroom 33.9 in (861 mm) 33.4 in (848 mm)
Rear Legroom–ins. 44.9 in (1,140 mm) 40.3 in (1,024 mm)
Rear Hip Room 65.2 in (1,656 mm) 60.7 in (1,542 mm)
Rear Shoulder Room 63.0 in (1,600 mm) 59.1 in (1,501 mm)
Luggage Capacity 29.2 cu ft (827 L) 15.5 cu ft (439 L)

This so-called "slab-side" design ran from 1961 to 1969 with few changes from year to year. Lincoln dealers began to find that many people who bought 1961 and post-1961 models were keeping their cars longer. In 1962, a simpler front grille design with floating rectangles and a thin center bar was adopted. Sales climbed over 20% in 1962, to 31,061.[29]

Due to customer requests, for 1963 the front seat was redesigned to improve rear-seat legroom; the rear deck lid was also raised to provide more trunk space. The floating rectangles in the previous year's grille became a simple matrix of squares. The car's electrical system was updated this model year when Ford replaced the generator with an alternator. For 1963, another 31,233 were sold.[30]

1965 Lincoln Continental

The wheelbase was stretched 3 in (76 mm) in 1964 to improve the ride[31] and add rear-seat legroom, while the roofline was squared off at the same time. The dash was also redesigned, doing away with the pod concept. Flat window glass was for additional interior space. The front grille was modified slightly from the 1963 model, it now featured a series of five vertical chrome accents that interrupted the square "eggcrate" pattern and were distributed evenly between the dual headlights. The gas tank access door, which had been concealed at the rear of the car in the rear grille, was now placed on the driver's side rear quarter panel. The exterior "Continental" script was changed and the rear grille replaced by a simple horizontally elongated Continental star on the rear deck lid. 36,297 were sold that year.[32]

The convex 1962–1964 grille was replaced by a flatter, squared-off one for 1965. The car was given front disc brakes to improve stopping distances. For the first time, parking lamps and front turn signals were integrated into the front quarter panels instead of the bumper. Taillights were fitted with a ribbed chrome grille on each side. With the facelift, sales improved about 10%, to 40,180 units.[33] An oil pressure gauge was added.[18] Front seat belts with retractors were now standard.[34]

1966 Lincoln Continental four-door convertible

A two-door pillarless hardtop version was launched in 1966, the first two-door Lincoln since 1960, and the MEL engine was expanded from 430 cu in (7.0 L) to 462 cu in (7.6 L) cubic inches. The car was given all-new exterior sheet metal and a new interior. Parking lights and front turn signals went back into the front bumper, and taillights set in the rear bumper for the first time.[35] The length was increased by 4.6 in (117 mm) to 220.9 in (5,611 mm), the width by 1.1 in (28 mm) to 79.7 in (2,024 mm), and the height (on the sedan) by 0.8 in (20 mm) to 55.0 in (1,397 mm) high. Curved side glass returned, however tumblehome was less severe than in earlier models. The convertible saw a few technical changes related to lowering and raising the top. Lincoln engineers separated the hydraulics for the top and rear deck lid (trunk) by adding a second pump and eliminating the hydraulic solenoids. A glass rear window replaced the plastic window used previously. To lure potential Cadillac buyers, 1966 Continental prices were reduced almost US$600 without reducing equipment levels.[36] It succeeded, helping boost sales to 54,755 that year,[37] an increase of 36%,[37] all of it due to the new two-door;[37] sales of both four-door models slipped slightly.[37] Product breakdown for the year consisted of 65% sedans, 29% coupes, and just under 6% for the four-door convertible. 1966 was the first year a tape player was available and a new tilt steering wheel.[38]

The 1967 Continental was almost identical to the 1966. The most obvious external difference is that the 1966 model has the Lincoln logo on each front fender, ahead of the front wheel; this does not appear on the 1967 model. It was also the end for the four-door convertible,[39] down to just 2,276 units, a drop of 28% over 1966.[40] In addition to being the last production four-door convertible; at 5,505 pounds (2,497 kg)[41] the 1967 convertible holds the distinction of being the heaviest Lincoln since the Model K, and was even 55 pounds heavier[42] than the Cadillac Fleetwood Series 75 Limousine and 300 pounds heavier than the Chrysler Imperial LeBaron of that year. Total production was 45,667.[40] Warning lights on the dash included a cruise control on, trunk open, and an oil pressure light.[43]

Safety came to the forefront in 1967–68 and resulted in energy-absorbing steering columns, "safety" padded interiors, and lap safety belts for all passengers. 1968 saw shoulder belts for outboard front passengers as well.

1968 brought some exterior changes. The parking lights, taillights, and front turn signals were once again in a wraparound design on the fenders to satisfy Federal standards for side marker lights, but looked very different from those of the 1965 model. The new 460 cu in (7.5 l) Ford 385 engine was to be available initially, but there were so many 462 cu in (7.57 l) Ford MEL engine engines still available, the 460 was phased in later that year.[44] In April, the new Mark III made its debut, as a 1969 model.[45] Total sales would be down to just 39,134.[46]

1969 was the last production year with rear-opening "suicide doors", with few changes from 1968 (including the addition of federally mandated head restraints).[47][full citation needed] Sales held steady at 38,383 for the Continental, plus another 30,858 for the new Continental Mark III.[48]


Model Year Total Sales
1961 25,160
1962 31,061
1963 31,233
1964 36,297
1965 40,180
1966 54,755
1967 45,667
1968 39,134
1969 30,858

Media related to Lincoln Continental (fourth generation) at Wikimedia Commons

Kennedy Limousine SS-100-X[edit]

Main article: SS-100-X

For the Kennedy White House, the Secret Service purchased a convertible parade limousine custom built by Hess & Eisenhardt of Cincinnati, Ohio, from a 1961 Lincoln four-door convertible. Code named the SS-100-X, it was in this car that JFK was assassinated in 1963. By that time, the front of the car had been updated with the grille/headlight/bumper assembly from the 1962 model. After the assassination, the limousine was returned to Hess & Eisenhardt, where it was repaired and retrofitted with full armor and a fixed roof. It subsequently continued in service for the White House for many years. This world-famous car is now on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

Media related to SS-100-X (presidential limousine) at Wikimedia Commons

Fifth generation (1970–1979)[edit]

1972 Lincoln Continental
Fifth Generation
Lincoln Continental Town Coupe.jpg
Model years 1970–1979
Assembly United States: Wixom, Michigan (Wixom Assembly)
Pico Rivera, California (Los Angeles Assembly)
Designer Buzz Grisinger[citation needed]
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door hardtop
2-door coupe
4-door pillared hardtop
Layout FR layout
Platform Full-size Ford
Related Ford Galaxie/LTD
Mercury Marquis/Grand Marquis
Engine 400 cu in (6.6 L) Cleveland V8
460 cu in (7.5 L) 385-series V8
Transmission 3-speed C6 automatic
Wheelbase 1970–73: 127.0 in (3,226 mm)[49]
1974–79: 127.2 in (3,231 mm)
Length 1970–72: 225.0 in (5,715 mm)
1973: 229.9 in (5,839 mm)
1974: 232.6 in (5,908 mm)
1975–76: 232.9 in (5,916 mm)[50]
1977–79: 233.0 in (5,918 mm)
Width 1970–73: 79.6 in (2,022 mm)
1974–75: 80.0 in (2,032 mm)<
1976: 80.3 in (2,040 mm)
1977: 80.0 in (2,032 mm)
1978–79: 79.9 in (2,029 mm)[51]
Height 1970: 55.7 in (1,415 mm)
1971–72: 55.6 in (1,412 mm)
1973: 55.5 in (1,410 mm)
1974: 55.4 in (1,407 mm)
1975: 55.6 in (1,412 mm)
1976: 55.5 in (1,410 mm)
1977: 55.2 in (1,402 mm)
1978–79: 55.4 in (1,407 mm)
Curb weight 4,900–5,400 lb (2,200–2,400 kg)
1973 Lincoln Continental hardtop coupe
1974 Lincoln Continental Town Car
1975 Lincoln Continental Town Car
1977 Lincoln Continental Town Car
1978 Lincoln Continental Town Car
Rear view of 1979 Continental Town Car

For 1970, the Continental received a ground-up redesign for the first time since 1961. Available again as a two-door hardtop and a four-door pillared hardtop, the Continental borrowed a number of styling cues from both its predecessor and the Continental Mark III. As before, the sides were relatively unadorned with blade-like fenders, but the door handles on 4-doors gave away the biggest change: the distinctive "suicide doors" were replaced by conventional front-hinged doors. Like the Mark III, the Continental now wore hidden headlamps, which were deployed using a vacuum canister system that kept the doors down when a vacuum condition existed in the lines, provided by the engine when it was running. If a loss of vacuum occurred, the doors would retract up so that the headlights were visible if the system should fail.

Unibody construction was replaced by cheaper body-on-frame construction; on the upside, the old rear leaf springs were replaced by coil springs. An automatic parking brake release, two-way power seats, power front disc brakes (rear drum), headlamp doors closed light, and adjustable head restraints were standard.[52]

Another major change to the Continental lay under the skin; for the first time, it shared a common platform with the full-size Ford LTD and Mercury Marquis. The 1970 model was the first time a standard Lincoln shared a chassis with the full-sized Fords. The Mercury had increasingly marketed itself as a "poor man's Lincoln" in the late 60s. "In essence, the new Lincoln was to the Ford and Mercury what the General Motors C-Body offerings (especially the Cadillac) were to the medium priced car lines that employed the B-shell."[53] In mid-model year 1972, Lincoln's long history of distinct engines from its corporate counterparts came to an end as the 460 V8 became available in the Mercury Marquis and Colony Park.[54] To move upmarket from Ford and Mercury, the full-size Lincoln product line gained two nameplates with two popular option packages. In 1970, the Town Car name (dormant since 1959) was revived; in 1973, a corresponding two-door Town Coupe was introduced. In addition to the base Lincoln Continental, the higher trim level Lincoln Continental Town Car and Town Coupe offered a limousine-style vinyl top and more standard equipment. Front disc brakes were standard.[55]

During its lifecycle, this generation of Continental saw a number of changes. From 1970 to 1974, each model year wore a different grille style. In 1973 and 1974, the Continental (to comply with federal mandate) was fitted with 5 mph (8 km/h) bumpers in the front and rear, respectively. In comparison to the 1970 model, the 5 mph bumpers seen on 1975-1979 models left the Continental 7.5 inches (190 mm) longer. It is notable that at 5,366 pounds (2,434 kg) in weight, the 1974 Lincoln Continental Town Coupe was the heaviest standard production car in the US auto industry (excluding limousines).

Engine performance began to decrease starting in 1972 with EPA restrictions on tailpipe emissions and grams per mile emissions requirements, forcing gear ratios to taller and taller ratios. The 460, rated at 365 hp (272 kW) and 500[convert: unknown unit] of torque in 1970, dropped to as low as 210 hp (160 kW) and 357[convert: unknown unit] of torque by 1978. For 1979, only the 400, rated at a meager 159 hp (119 kW) and 315[convert: unknown unit] of torque was available. Part of the explanation can also be attributed to the switch from gross horsepower ratings to SAE net power ratings in 1972 as well, as automakers now had to rate the engine's power including all of the auxiliary components, which produced more realistic ratings. The progressive introduction of air pollution control devices (catalytic converters, EGR valves, etc.) further ate into engine power.

1975 facelift[edit]

For 1975, the 2-door hardtop model was replaced with a pillared coupe; the 4-door received a new roofline to further differentiate it from Ford and Mercury models. The Continental Town Coupe received a square opera window in its C-pillar while the Town Car received an oval one (similar to the Mark IV). Braking performance, a sore point on full-size American cars of the time, was improved as the Continental became one of the first American cars (besides the Corvette) with 4-wheel disc brake system designed by Bendix.[56] Front and rear leg room was 42 in (1,067 mm). In 1977, the grille changed from a rectangular unit to the Rolls-Royce style radiator grille seen on the Mark Series; variations of this style would be used on the Continental and Town Car until 1997. The new grille was both higher and narrower than in previous years, but the position of the headlamps remained unchanged. To hold the line on price and to increase fuel economy, previously standard luxury features gradually became optional over the decade, with the 460 cu in (7.5 L) engine becoming an option during the 1977 model year (the dealer Product Facts Books received revised insert pages in March 1977 showing the 400 then being standard and the 460 optional). Model Year 1978 Continentals had the 400 standard and the 460 optional but for Model Year 1979 the 460 was dropped and only the 400-cubic-inch (6.6 L) engine was available. After Model Year 1976, the 460-4V was no longer available in California and all Californian Continentals from 1977 to 1979 came only with the 400-2V. Rear fender skirts were reduced in height for the 1978 model year, revealing more of the wheel opening. Four-wheel disc brakes were optional.[51] The 1970–1977 models share the same basic dash design then for 1978 Lincoln replaced it with a plusher version of the contemporary Mercury Marquis dash. For 1978 and 1979 a fixed glass moonroof with interior sliding sunshade was offered as alternative to the optional power sliding glass moonroof.[57] 1979's dash design was carried over but the main dash applique was changed to an all faux wood style.

By 1979, the Continental measured 233.0 in (5,920 mm) and weighed between 4,900–5,500 lb (2,200–2,500 kg) depending on the year. After General Motors downsized its full-size product lineup for 1977, and Chrysler discontinued the New Yorker Brougham in 1978, the Continental became the largest mass-market automobile produced worldwide at the time, surpassed only by purpose-built limousines such as the Cadillac Series 75, Mercedes-Benz 600 and Rolls-Royce Phantom VI. The 460 cid V8 was also the largest-displacement engine in any production car worldwide from 1977 to 1978.

Golden Anniversary Town Car (1971)[edit]

A Golden Anniversary Town Car was offered in 1971 to commemorate Lincoln's 50th anniversary. This limited edition model featured full vinyl roof, unique leather interior, glove box vanity mirror, 22 carat gold keys, and a commemorative plaque on the dashboard. In addition to the Continental's other exterior color choices, a Golden Anniversary-exclusive gold moondust metallic paint was also available. Approximately 1,600 were produced.

Williamsburg Town Car[edit]

In 1977, 1978, and 1979 Williamsburg Town Car packages were offered featuring unique dual shade paint with custom accent stripes, full vinyl roof, power vent windows, 6-way power twin comfort lounge seats, and lighted vanity mirrors.

1977 Williamsburgs were the most subtle, with no opera windows or coach lights, and may have been marketed to buyers seeking less 'bling' and more restraint. After 1977 these restrictions were lifted and the model became only a higher-specified Town Car with two-tone paint.

Collector's Series (1979)[edit]

In 1979, a "Collector's Series" option package was available to commemorate the last year of the large Lincolns, which added virtually every Lincoln feature and raised the price of the Continental sedan to approximately $16,500. Among the select few extra-cost options were power moonroof, 40-channel CB radio, "Sure-Track" brake system, and the special plush Kashmir Velour interior. The price of a fully equipped Continental Collector's Series could exceed $18,000. There were only four colors available: dark blue, white and limited-issue medium blue (197 built) and light silver (125 built) with a dark-blue vinyl top.

A similar but much pricier Collector's Series package was also available on the Continental Mark V.

4th/5th Generation Comparison[58][59]
1967 Continental 1970 Continental
Wheelbase 126.0 in (3,200 mm) 127.0 in (3,226 mm)
Overall Length 220.9 in (5,611 mm) 225.0 in (5,715 mm)
Width 79.7 in (2,024 mm) 79.6 in (2,022 mm)
Height 55.0 in (1,397 mm) 55.7 in (1,415 mm)
Front Headroom 38.1 in (968 mm) 39.0 in (991 mm)
Front Legroom 41.0 in (1,041 mm) 41.9 in (1,064 mm)
Front Hip Room 61.8 in (1,570 mm) 62.3 in (1,582 mm)
Front Shoulder Room 59.8 in (1,519 mm) 61.8 in (1,570 mm)
Rear Headroom 38.6 in (980 mm) 38.3 in (973 mm)
Rear Legroom–ins. 40.5 in (1,029 mm) 41.9 in (1,064 mm)
Rear Hip Room 62.0 in (1,575 mm) 62.3 in (1,582 mm)
Rear Shoulder Room 59.8 in (1,519 mm) 61.6 in (1,565 mm)
Luggage Capacity 18.0 cu ft (510 L) 18.1 cu ft (513 L)

Media related to Lincoln Continental (fifth generation) at Wikimedia Commons

Sixth generation (1980)[edit]

Lincoln Continental Mark VI coupe

In order to meet federal fuel economy standards,[citation needed] the Continental underwent downsizing in 1979 for the 1980 model year (three years after Cadillac). For the first time, Lincoln shared a common platform (the Ford Panther platform) with full-size Ford and Mercury sedans. In the redesign, the Continental shed 14 inches (360 mm) in length, 2 inches (51 mm) in width, 10 inches (250 mm) in wheelbase, and nearly half a ton (500 kg) in weight; downsizing had brought some models of the Continental to within 200 pounds (91 kg) of the curb weight of the Versailles (marketed as a compact car). The Panther platform also served as the basis for the all-new Mark VI, a coupe sharing the wheelbase of the Ford LTD as well as the first 4-door Mark-series sedan. Gone forever was the 400 Ford 335 engine, replaced with the 302 cid 5.0 Windsor, the smallest engine in a Lincoln since the 292 cubic inches (4,790 cm3) Lincoln-Zephyr V12, last seen in 1948. The 351 cubic inches (5,750 cm3) Windsor was a relatively rare one year only option available in 1980. More important by far in the total Continental powertrain picture was the new 4-speed Automatic Overdrive Transmission (AOD). Developed under the name Ford Integral Overdrive (FIOD), this industry-first featured both a mechanically engaged overdrive (0.67/1 ratio) fourth gear and third and fourth gear torque converter lock-up. When combined with weight reduction this more-efficient powertrain provided the 1980 Lincoln and Mark with the best year-to-year fuel economy improvement (38%) in Ford history.[60] The introduction of a standard overdive transmission enabled Lincoln to leap its competitors, going from the company with the worst CAFE rating to the most fuel-efficient full-size car sold.

1979–1980 Comparison[61][62] 1979 Continental 1980 Continental
Wheelbase 127.2 in (3,231 mm) 117.4 in (2,982 mm)
Overall Length 233.0 in (5,918 mm) 219.2 in (5,568 mm)
Width 79.9 in (2,029 mm) 78.1 in (1,984 mm)
Height 55.4 in (1,407 mm) 56.1 in (1,425 mm)
Front Headroom 38.1 in (968 mm) 39.0 in (991 mm)
Front Legroom 42.0 in (1,067 mm) 42.1 in (1,069 mm)
Front Hip Room 56.0 in (1,422 mm) 56.6 in (1,438 mm)
Front Shoulder Room 61.2 in (1,554 mm) 60.7 in (1,542 mm)
Rear Headroom 38.6 in (980 mm) 38.1 in (968 mm)
Rear Legroom–ins. 42.0 in (1,067 mm) 43.3 in (1,100 mm)
Rear Hip Room 60.6 in (1,539 mm) 57.8 in (1,468 mm)
Rear Shoulder Room 61.1 in (1,552 mm) 60.7 in (1,542 mm)
Luggage Capacity 21.2 cu ft (600 L) 22.4 cu ft (634 L)

1981 nameplate hiatus[edit]

During the 1970s, the Town Car trim level on the Continental had become increasingly popular, and in 1981, the Town Car took its place as Lincoln's standard full-size car. For 1981, the Continental name went on a brief hiatus, as it was to appear on an entirely different car the next year as Lincoln sought to expand its lineup beyond full-size cars. The only appearance of the Continental for 1981 was as the Mark VI coupe and sedan. Below is a comparison of the Continental models from 1979 to 1982.

1979 Continental (Continental Platform) 1980 Continental (Panther Platform) 1981 Town Car (Panther Platform) 1982 Continental (Fox Platform)
Continental 2-Door Coupe Continental 2-Door Coupe Town Car 2-Door Coupe Continental 4-door sedan
Continental 4-Door Sedan Continental 4-Door Sedan Town Car 4-Door Sedan Continental Signature Series Sedan
Continental Town Coupe Continental Town Coupe Town Car Signature Series Coupe Continental Givenchy Edition sedan
Continental Town Car Continental Town Car Town Car Signature Series Sedan
Continental Williamsburg Edition Town Car
Continental Collector's Series 4-door sedan

Seventh generation (1982–1987)[edit]

Seventh generation
Model years 1982–1987
Assembly United States: Wixom, Michigan (Wixom Assembly)
Body and chassis
Body style 4-door sedan
Layout FR layout
Platform Ford Fox platform
Related Ford Granada
Ford Thunderbird
Mercury Cougar
Transmission 4-speed AOD automatic
4-speed ZF 4HP22 automatic (turbodiesel)
Wheelbase 108.5 in (2,756 mm)
Length 200.7 in (5,098 mm) (1985)
Width 73.6 in (1,869 mm) (1985)
Predecessor Lincoln Versailles

After a one-year hiatus, the Continental nameplate reappeared for the 1982 model year. In the place of its full-size predecessor, the 1982 Continental debuted as a mid-size car sharing the Ford Fox platform with the Ford Thunderbird and the Mercury Cougar. While not officially a replacement for the Versailles, the new Continental would have nearly identical length and wheelbase dimensions. Most importantly, the Continental was now marketed as a competitor to the Cadillac Seville. While the Seville had switched to front-wheel drive during its 1980 restyling, the 1982 Continental retained the use of rear-wheel drive.

For the first time since 1965, all Continentals were again 4-doors; for the first time ever, the doors were fully framed. In a major departure from Lincoln styling tradition, the Continental wore its namesake imitation spare tire bulge on the decklid, a feature normally exclusive to the Mark-series Continentals. Along with the "Continental tire" on the trunk, the Continental would be one of several American cars in the early 1980s that revived a the bustle-back styling seen on 1930s-1940s British sedans. While less extreme than that of the Cadillac Seville and the (Chrysler) Imperial, Continental's focus groups discovered — too far along the development process — that the bustle-back trunk was a design perhaps past its prime; the look only had modest sales success due in part to difficult economic conditions at the time. For Lincoln, an 11th-hour change was the addition of a horizontal brushed-chrome strip that ran along each side of Continental. This added trim (along with plentiful two-tone color combinations) gave it a more conventional appearance in comparison to the Seville. Sales of the Seville — one of Cadillac's success stories of the late 1970s — dropped by 26% a year after its redesign, selling at half the rate of the Eldorado, despite their sharing a common platform. The Imperial would prove to be a sales failure for Chrysler; only 10,981 were sold in the U.S. over three model years.

The standard powertrain for 1982 was shared with the Town Car; a carbureted version of the Ford 302 cu in (4,950 cm3) V8 backed by the new 4-speed AOD automatic transmission. Fuel injection replaced the carburetor in 1983, upgraded to sequential injection in 1986; the 1982 Continental was the last Lincoln equipped with a carbureted engine. The 1982 configuration put out 131 hp (98 kW) and 229 pound force-feet (310 N·m) torque. As a no-cost option (for 1982 only) was the first six-cylinder engine in a Lincoln: a 3.8 L V6 shared with the Ford Thunderbird and Mercury Cougar.[63] To counter the optional diesel engines available from Cadillac and European automakers, Lincoln introduced a BMW-sourced 2.4 L turbodiesel six-cylinder engine for 1984. The diesel-powered Continental was rarely ordered (approximately 1,500 were produced) and was discontinued in 1985. This car introduced two industry firsts: gas-charged shock absorbers and self-sealing tires.[citation needed]

Special Editions[edit]

For 1982, the Continental was offered in base, Signature Series, and Givenchy Designer Series trim. Starting in 1983, the Signature Series trim was dropped but base and Designer (Givenchy and Valentino) trims continued (Givenchy through 1987, Valentino through 1985). The 1982 Signature Series and Givenchy Designer Series Continentals included many additional standard features and added $3,100 to $3,500 to the price of the base model. Fully optioned Signature and Givenchy models would top out at over $26,500 (approximately $64,761 in today's dollars).

1984 facelift[edit]

1984–1987 Lincoln Continental
Rear-end view, 1986-1987 model

For the 1984 model year, the USD$21,769 Continental got freshened styling with flush-fitting front and rear bumpers, revised tail lamps, a new header panel featuring an angled grille flanked by recessed quad headlamps and larger wrap-around marker lights incorporating cornering lamps, and satin-black trim on the doors and dashboard. Wood veneer appeared on the door panels and dashboard, although by 1986, the simulated wood was back. Continental continued through the 1987 model year with few changes, save for paint schemes and upholstery patterns. In what became Lincoln fashion since the early 70's, brand-name designer labels appeared on the upper-rung models. Cartier was the top Town Car model, American designer Bill Blass and Italian sportswear mogul Versace both chose schemes for Mark VII, while French designer Hubert de Givenchy and Italian-born Valentino gave their personal touches to the Continental.

Comparison with Versailles[edit]

In terms of size, the 1982 Continental was very similar to the Lincoln Versailles compact of the 1970s. As before, Lincoln sought to field a competitor against the Cadillac Seville using badge engineering. In place of the Granada/Monarch becoming the Versailles, the Continental was heavily based on the 1980 Ford Thunderbird, itself based on the Ford Fairmont. However, Ford designers sought not to repeat the mistakes of the Versailles, seeking that the Continental was ensured of its own brand identity as much as possible. Although the underpinnings were common to several midsize Ford and Mercury cars, the Continental was given its own body styling and interior to justify its premium pricing.

In contrast to the 1982 Continental, Cadillac would debut its Cimarron the same year. Based on the Chevrolet Cavalier, the Cimarron is considered one of the worst examples of badge engineering in automotive history.

Media related to Lincoln Continental (seventh generation) at Wikimedia Commons

Eighth generation (1988–1994)[edit]

Eighth Generation
A 1991 Lincoln Continental.jpg
Model years 1988–1994
Assembly United States: Wixom, Michigan (Wixom Assembly)
Body and chassis
Body style 4-door sedan
Layout FF layout
Platform Ford D186 platform
Related Ford Taurus
Mercury Sable
Ford Windstar
Engine 3.8 L Essex V6
Transmission 4-speed AXOD-E automatic
Wheelbase 109.0 in (2,769 mm)
Length 1988–1993: 205.1 in (5,210 mm)
1994: 205.6 in (5,222 mm)
Width 1988–1993: 72.7 in (1,847 mm)
1992–94: 72.3 in (1,836 mm)
Height 1988–1991: 55.6 in (1,412 mm)
1992–94: 55.4 in (1,407 mm)

By the late 1980s, the luxury segment in which the Continental competed had changed drastically from a decade before. In addition to traditional competitors Cadillac and Chrysler, the downsized Continental now competed in the same price and size segments as Acura, Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Saab, and Volvo. In 1987 for the 1988 model year, the Continental was given a clean-sheet, aerodynamic redesign.

1989 Continental Signature Series

In a shift to front-wheel drive, the new Continental was based on a long-wheelbase variant of the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable; no exterior sheetmetal was shared between them. While gaining four inches in length, it shed 170 pounds in weight over its 1987 predecessor. No longer intended as a successor to the Versailles, the new generation sought a new role of making Lincoln competitive against import brands. Although much of its non-domestic competition still retained rear-wheel drive, the switch to front-wheel drive brought Lincoln in line with the downsized Cadillac lineup and allowed platform sharing with the newly introduced Taurus; by interior volume, the Continental was the largest front-wheel drive car sold in 1988.

The 1988 Continental featured many technological advancements including the first Lincoln equipped with an adaptive air-ride suspension. This type of self-levelling air suspension leveled the vehicle depending on factors such as load and speed. The Continental was also equipped with speed-sensitive power steering which varied the amount of power assist depending on speed in order to facilitate easier low-speed maneuvers, such as parking, while providing for a tighter steering feel at highway speeds. For the first time since the discontinuation of the V12 engine, no V8 was available on the Continental. The sole engine choice from 1988 to 1994 was a 3.8 L Essex V6. Horsepower grew from 140 in 1988, to 155 in 1991, and then to 160 in 1993.

The switch to front-wheel drive allowed for the return of 6-passenger seating back to the Continental, last available in 1980. The redesign of the sloping trunk associated with its predecessor significantly boosted trunk space from 15 cubic feet to 19 cubic feet. A leather interior was standard equipment (velour available as a no-cost option). Throughout its production run, the option list remained small. Major options included a compact disc player, InstaClear heated windshield (1988–1992), JBL sound system, power glass moonroof, keyless entry, anti-theft alarm system, cellular phone (starting 1990), three-position memory seat, and choice of wheels.

As part of the redesign, Lincoln simplified the trim lineup; only standard (later named "Executive") and Signature Series remained. The Continental was part of Car and Driver magazine's 1989 Ten Best list.

Lincoln made several minor updates to the eighth-generation Continental during its production. In autumn 1988, the dashboard was redesigned to accommodate dual air bags. This unprecedented move made the Ford Motor Company the first US automaker to offer airbags as standard equipment for both the driver and front passenger, as well as the second automaker worldwide after Porsche's 1987 944 Turbo.[64] Mercedes-Benz did similar on 1989 S-Class in the autumn of 1988. In 1989 for the 1990 model year, the design of the grille, hood ornament, and taillights were modified. In 1992(1993 model year), an "individual seats" group was available which ditched the usual chrome column shifter and 50/50 "comfort lounge" split bench seating (and 6-passenger capacity) for a center console with floor shifter (a Continental first), storage armrest, and cup holder.

1994 facelift[edit]

1994 Lincoln Continental

In 1993, the 1994 Continental received a cosmetic facelift including new taillights, revised decklid lock cover and trim, a rounded argent grille, restyled smaller bumpers and bodyside moldings, and sculptured rocker moldings. A revised "Lincoln" nameplate appeared on the front grille and rear taillights (moved off the decklid from last year). Inside, a new steering wheel was included with the bucket seat option.

1994 was the last year that the Continental was offered in Executive and Signature Series trims. An Executive Touring package was also available.

50th Anniversary Edition (1990)[edit]

A 50th Anniversary Edition Continental Signature Series was offered in 1990 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the model. It featured "50th Anniversary" badging, geometric spoked aluminum wheels with unique center hub ornaments, titanium exterior paint with unique red/blue accent striping, and two-toned interior.

Media related to Lincoln Continental (eighth generation) at Wikimedia Commons

Ninth generation (1995–2002)[edit]

Ninth generation
1995-1997 Lincoln Continental -- 11-26-2011.jpg
1995–1997 Lincoln Continental
Model years 1995–2002
Assembly United States: Wixom, Michigan (Wixom Assembly)
Body and chassis
Body style 4-door sedan
Layout FF layout
Platform Ford D186 platform
Related Ford Taurus
Mercury Sable
Ford Windstar
Engine 4.6 L InTech V8
Transmission 4-speed AX4N automatic
Wheelbase 109.0 in (2,769 mm)
Length 1995–1997: 206.3 in (5,240 mm)
1998–2002: 208.5 in (5,296 mm)
Width 73.6 in (1,869 mm)
Height 56.0 in (1,422 mm)
Curb weight 3,868 lb (1,754 kg)

For the 1995 model year, the Continental was substantially updated with more rounded lines similar to the Mark VIII; the interior also saw a major overhaul. After design work for this generation was completed in 1991, production commenced at Wixom Assembly in November 1994. While the body was all-new, the new Continental shared its underpinnings with the previous generation (based upon the Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable as well as the Ford Windstar). In a departure from the previous generation and its Ford/Mercury counterparts, the Continental was given back its V8 engine (for the first time since 1987).

The sole engine for the Continental was the Modular/InTech 32v DOHC 4.6L V8 shared with the Lincoln Mark VIII, but slightly de-tuned for front wheel drive use. It produced 260 hp (190 kW) and 260 lb·ft (350 N·m) torque; 0–60 mph (0–97 km/h) was reached in 8 seconds. Inside, the Continental featured a plush leather interior with many amenities and advanced electronics for the time. Lincoln offered most features as standard equipment with the only options consisting of a 6-CD changer, power moonroof, heated seats, and onboard cellular phone. As before, buyers could choose between five and six-passenger seating. A March 1992 customer clinic video features a final design prototype of the 1995 Continental.[65]

1995–1996 Continentals had air ride suspension on all four wheels while the 1997 model had rear air suspension and traditional steel coil springs up front. An increasingly competitive luxury market and de-contenting of the 1997 Continental saw its base price decreased by 10% that year.

1998 facelift[edit]

2000 Lincoln Continental

The Continental was updated again in late 1997 for 1998 with redesigned front and rear end styling. The front-end also held a strong family resemblance to the newly redesigned '98 Town Car. Also new for 1998 was a dashboard redesign, though still keeping the reflective dash cluster. A good deal of money was spent on these changes, and sales were up from the 1997 model.

For 1999, the Continental held an MSRP of $38,325 — the same price as the Town Car. Continental gained seat-mounted side airbags and even more power (now up to 275 hp (205 kW). Six-passenger capability was still available via the no-charge option of a split-bench front seat and column shifter. Also available on the '99 Continental was the $2,345 "RESCU package" (Remote Emergency Satellite Cellular Unit) which included Global satellite positioning (similar to GM's "OnStar"), 3-channel HomeLink compatible garage door opener mounted in the driver's sun visor ($120 if ordered separately), voice-activated cellular telephone ($790 if ordered separately), and the Alpine Audio System (which included a digital sound processor, subwoofer amplifier, and additional speakers — $565 if ordered separately). One could also opt for the $595 6-disc CD changer, heated front seats for $290, and $1,515 for a tinted glass power sunroof with sliding shade. New for 1999 was an extra-cost "Luxury Appearance Package" for $1,095 that included a wood-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob with unique two-tone seat trim and floor mats inside, and chrome alloy wheels (the chrome wheels were available separately for $845) and a special grille up front. The "Driver Select System" added $595 to the sticker price, and included a semi-active suspension, selectable ride control, steering wheel-mounted controls for the audio and climate systems, automatic day/night outside mirrors, and the Memory Profile System that recalled power steering assist and ride control settings for two drivers. The $1,100 "Personal Security Package" included special run-flat tires mounted on polished alloy wheels (the alloy wheels were available separately for $350) and the universal garage door opener (also available separately for $120).

Between 1999 (2000 model year) and 2002, changes to the Continental remained relatively minor as production of the model eventually came to an end. In 2000, various safety features became standard including child seat-anchor brackets, emergency trunk release, and "Belt Minder" system. In 2001, the universal garage door opener was now standard. A new Vehicle Communication System (VCS) featuring hands-free voice activated phone, Safety and Security Services (SOS), information services, and route guidance assistance was optional for 2002.

Diamond Anniversary Edition (1996)[edit]

A Diamond Anniversary Edition Continental was offered in 1996 to commemorate Lincoln’s 75th anniversary. The package included "Diamond Anniversary" badging, leather seats, voice-activated cellular phone, JBL audio system, auto electrochromatic dimming mirror with compass, and traction control.

Spinnaker Edition (1996)[edit]

A Spinnaker Edition Continental was also offered in 1996 featuring "Spinnaker Edition" badging, tri-coat paint, two-toned leather seats, and 16" spoked aluminum wheels.

Limited Edition (2001)[edit]

A Limited Edition Continental was offered in 2001 featuring unique leather interior with "Limited" embroidery, two-toned interior trim, wood steering wheel, 6-disc CD changer, and 16" spoked aluminum wheels. It was sold as a Greenbrier Limited Edition Continental in select markets.

Collector's Edition (2002)[edit]

To commemorate the end of the model run, a Collector's Edition Continental was offered featuring genuine walnut burl steering wheel, instrument panel, and side door trim, "CE" logos, platinum painted grille, 10-spoke chrome wheels, and more. In addition to the Continental's other exterior color choices, a CE-exclusive charcoal gray was also available. Approximately 2,000 were produced.


Calendar Year American sales
1998[66] 35,210
1999[67] 26,246
2000 22,648
2001[68] 20,392
2002[69] 15,435
2003 280

Media related to Lincoln Continental (ninth generation) at Wikimedia Commons

2002 Discontinuation[edit]

After a few slow-selling years, Lincoln announced the end of Continental production after 2002. The cancellation was due largely to the continued shift in the consumer marketplace away from large front-wheel drive luxury cars. With advancements over recent years in traction control, anti-lock braking systems, and skid control devices, front-wheel drive was no longer deemed a necessity in inclement weather areas.

The Continental, and to an extent the Lincoln Mark VIII coupe, were essentially replaced in the Lincoln lineup by the mid-size Lincoln LS V8 & V6 sedans, which were introduced in the 2000 model year. Even though the Continental was a large front wheel drive sedan, and the Mark VIII was a rear wheel drive coupe, the rear wheel drive LS acted as a replacement for each, by acting both as a personal luxury vehicle, and as a contemporary sedan. Nevertheless, buyers looking for a full-sized luxury sedan in the Continental class tended to "move up" and purchase the larger rear wheel drive Town Car, while those looking for a personal luxury-sporty sedan in the Mark VIII class purchased the LS.

All Continentals built after 1958 were assembled at Ford's Wixom Assembly Plant. The last Lincoln Continental rolled off the assembly line there on July 26, 2002. The plant continued to manufacture the Town Car and the LS, as well as the limited production Ford Thunderbird 2-seat convertible and Ford's niche sports car, the Ford GT. Lincoln's Town Car was the last model still produced there when the Wixom facility was shut down in 2007.


Lincoln upgraded the LS in 2005–2006 to attract more of the mid-size luxury market left unserved after the discontinuation of the Continental. Due to slowing sales, the LS was cancelled in April 2006, following the release of the mid-size 2006 Lincoln Zephyr. A year later, the Zephyr was upgraded and re-released as the Lincoln MKZ. In mid-2008 as a 2009 model, Lincoln launched the new flagship Lincoln MKS. Based upon the same platform as the 2010 Ford Taurus, it would be a proper replacement for the Continental discontinued in 2002.

The 2002 concept car[edit]

Lincoln Continental concept car, produced in 2002

A concept vehicle was created in 2002, complete with coach doors and a 362 cu in (5.9 L) V12 engine producing 414 bhp (309 kW) at 6000 rpm and 413 lb·ft (560 N·m) at 5270 rpm.[70] The car's design and suicide doors are a nod to the earlier 4th generation cars. There is a fan page for this concept vehicle on urging the Ford Motor Company to produce the vehicle with modern high tech features and drive trains including the 5L Coyote V8, 6.2L Boss V8 or Ecoboost 3.5L V6 and the 6R80 6 speed automatic transmission with rear wheel drive.

2016 revival[edit]

Reports from December 2014[71] and March 2015[72][73] indicated that a Continental concept car was to be unveiled at the 2015 New York International Auto Show, as a replacement for the Lincoln MKS.[74]

At the New York International Auto Show, it was announced that the Lincoln Continental is scheduled to return to North America and China in 2016. Lincoln has indicated that the vehicle will have a unique 3.0-liter V-6 EcoBoost and different grill. It was developed under design chief David Woodhouse.[75]

Use on TV[edit]

A 1966 Lincoln Continental was used in the final of the four 1997-1998 specials of TV series Breaking the Magician's Code: Magic's Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed. It was used in the opening illusion, entitled the "Car Crush" or "Car Crusher Escape". It was modified to have a trigger built into the back doors. When the doors close, the trigger causes the back seat to fall off, allowing the Masked Magician (tied up and zipped in a coroner's body bag) to roll into the backless boot of the car, and then allowing the back of the seat to close after him (with a foam rubber dummy equipped with a motor to make its head rock back and forth inside an identical body bag on it).

The car, along with the dummy, was then destroyed by a 12,000 lb (5.4 t) weight dropped on it by a crane. Patrons of YouTube have expressed their dislike for the destruction of the Continental.


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  3. ^ Dammann, George The Cars of Lincoln Mercury (Sarasota, FLA: Crestline, 1987), p. 192.
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  6. ^ "Directory Index: Lincoln/1947_Lincoln/1947_Lincoln_Folder". Retrieved 2011-12-30. 
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  8. ^ McCall, Walter (1982). 80 Years of Cadillac La Salle. Sarasota FL: Crestline Publishing. p. 26. 
  9. ^ Weber, Lewis (1998). Automobiles of the 50s. Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International Ltd. p. 324. 
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ Gunnel, p. 499.
  13. ^ Wilson, Quentin (1997). Classic American Cars. New York, NY: DK Publishing, Inc. p. 64. 
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  15. ^ Popular Mechanics (Hearst Magazines). January 1959 Retrieved 2011-12-30.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
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  17. ^ "1957 Lincoln Brochure". Retrieved 2011-12-30. 
  18. ^ a b "1964 Lincoln Continental Brochure". Retrieved 2011-12-30. 
  19. ^ Dammann, p. 340.
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  21. ^ "1962 Lincoln Continental Brochure". Retrieved 2011-12-30. 
  22. ^ Gunnell, p. 501.
  23. ^ Gunnell, p. 127.
  24. ^ Gunnell, p. 300.
  25. ^ Dammann, p. 340.
  26. ^ Flory, p. 113.
  27. ^ Popular Mechanics (Hearst Magazines). January 1960 Retrieved 2011-01-21.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  28. ^ "1961 Lincoln Continental Production Numbers/Specifications". Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  29. ^ Flory, p. 174.
  30. ^ Flory, p. 240.
  31. ^ Flory, p. 305.
  32. ^ Flory, p. 307.
  33. ^ Flory, p. 378.
  34. ^ "1965 Lincoln Continental Brochure". Retrieved 2011-12-30. 
  35. ^ Cars of the Sizzling '60s, by the auto editors of Consumer Guide (Publications International, Ltd., Lincolnwood, IL, 1997), p.269.
  36. ^ Flory, p. 454.
  37. ^ a b c d Flory, p. 456.
  38. ^ "1966 Lincoln Continental Brochure". Retrieved 2011-12-30. 
  39. ^ Flory, p. 529.
  40. ^ a b Flory, p. 530.
  41. ^ Gunnell, p. 503.
  42. ^ Gunnell, p. 132.
  43. ^
  44. ^ Cars of the Sizzling '60s, p. 348.
  45. ^ Flory, pp. 603 & 679.
  46. ^ Flory, p. 605.
  47. ^ Ibid., p.393.
  48. ^ Flory, p. 681.
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  50. ^ "1976 Lincoln Continental Brochure". Retrieved 2011-12-30. 
  51. ^ a b World Cars 1978. Herald Books. ISBN 0-910714-10-X. 
  52. ^
  53. ^ Dammann, p. 436.
  54. ^ Dammann, p. 464.
  55. ^ "1970 Lincoln Continental Brochure". Retrieved 2011-12-30. 
  56. ^ Dammann, p. 492.
  57. ^
  58. ^ 1967 Lincoln Continental promotional brochure, issued by manufacturer
  59. ^ 1970 Lincoln Continental promotional brochure, issued by manufacturer
  60. ^ Dammann, p. 528.
  61. ^ 1979 Lincoln Continental promotional brochure, issued by manufacturer
  62. ^ 1980 Lincoln Continental promotional brochure, issued by manufacturer
  63. ^ Flammang, p. 603.
  64. ^
  65. ^
  66. ^ "Ford F-Series Remains America's Best-Selling Vehicle". January 5, 2000. Retrieved 2000-01-05. 
  67. ^ "Ford Motor Company Sets New Full Year U.S. Sales Record". Retrieved 2009-04-28. 
  68. ^ "Ford Motor Company's December U.S. Sales Climb 8.2 Percent" (PDF). Ford Motor Company. December 2002. 
  69. ^ "Ford's F-Series Truck Caps 22nd Year in a Row as America's Best-Selling Vehicle With a December Sales Record". November 17, 2004. Retrieved 2009-04-28. 
  70. ^ "Lincoln Continental Concept". Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  71. ^
  72. ^
  73. ^
  74. ^
  75. ^ Bunkley, Nick (March 30, 2015). "Lincoln to bring back Continental name". Automotive News. Retrieved 2015-03-29. 

External links[edit]