The original Edsel Ford-envisioned Lincoln Continental proved a tough act to follow; after all, it set the tone for American luxury automobiles upon its introduction in 1939 and fired the imagination of designers from Walter Dorwin Teague Jr. to Frank Lloyd Wright. Lincoln itself even declined to replace it after 1948, letting its distinctive grace – not to mention its V-12 engine – lapse from dealership showrooms. Ford designers made a handful of drawings for a 1949 or 1950 Continental and the X-100 concept car seemed to promise a gadget-laden Continental of the future, but those all came to naught.
As manager of the Special Product Operations, Bill Ford then handpicked a team to guide the new Continental into existence: John Reinhart, who worked under Bill Mitchell at GM and later served as chief stylist at Packard; Harley Copp, who would later go on to engineer the Ford Falcon, as chief engineer; and Gordon Buehrig, Cord 810 designer; as chief body engineer. He secured the recently vacated building that housed the Henry Ford Trade School, separate from any other Lincoln or Ford design studios and engineering departments, for the development work as well as a dedicated manufacturing facility in Dearborn where the cars would be hand-built.
(The XC 1500 R actually sat upon a prototype Mark II chassis, one of two that the Continental division commissioned Hess and Eisenhardt to build. The second chassis went on to serve as the basis for the Futura concept car and later as the basis for the Batmobile from the 1966 television series.)
First-year production came in at 2,550; for 1957, production tailed off to 444. As The Henry Ford noted, even at $10,000 Continental lost money on every Mark II sold – such is the nature of halo cars, after all – but that didn’t sit well with stockholders once Ford Motor Company went public in 1956. The far less expensive unibody Mark III, built alongside the Thunderbird on the Wixom assembly line, replaced the Mark II for 1958; the Continental division lasted a few years more before the Lincoln division reabsorbed the Continental series. The Continental as a model lasted until the 2002 model year.
Article courtesy of Hemmings Daily, written by Daniel Strohl.