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A Brief History of the Lincoln Continental

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1942 Lincoln Continental history
1942 Lincoln Continental
Photo: Sicnag

Lincoln is famous for building quality and luxurious vehicles, and no Lincoln vehicle embodies these principles quite as much as the Continental. First introduced in 1939, the Lincoln Continental has been through many design changes and updates over the years, but it remains an embodiment of the Lincoln brand to this day.

The Continental got its start as a personal car for then-Ford president, Edsel Ford. It was based loosely on the recently discontinued Lincoln-Zephyr, but with a convertible top, a lower profile, and deleted running boards. When Lincoln delivered the prototype to Ford, he was so enamored that he declared the company could sell a thousand of these cars. And so was born the Lincoln Continental.

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The Continental was not produced in many numbers its first couple of years. Soon after its introduction, war erupted in Europe and Asia, and production was shortened as the U.S. joined the allied war effort. Production restarted in 1946, and luxurious details like walnut wood trim made buyers flock to the Continental nameplate.

In the late 1940s, the Continental’s head designer left Lincoln and the vehicle’s initial production came to an end in 1948.

1956 Lincoln Continental history
1956 Lincoln Continental
Photo: More Cars

But the Continental wasn’t forgotten for long. Eight years later, Lincoln introduced the 1956 Continental as the most expensive domestic vehicle in the U.S. Its high cost was due largely in part to the fact that each Continental was hand-built from start to finish. Despite its high price tag, the Continental actually lost Lincoln money. This led to a rebrand and remodel, and a price from (from $10,000 to $6,000 as mandated by Ford). This put the Continental in direct competition with nameplates like the Cadillac Eldorado.


Over the next decades, the Continental was a prominent player in American culture. Icons like Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra were Continental owners. JFK was riding in a modified 1961 Continental when he was assassinated. But changes in style over the years eventually removed some of the Continental’s distinguishing features, making it similar in design to other luxury sedans of the 1980s. Lincoln kept the Continental going, but eventually brought production to an end in 2002 after a multi-year run of declining sales. 

The Lincoln Continental offers plenty of tech for only around $45,000
2017 Lincoln Continental
Photo: The News Wheel

But this was not the end of the Continental. Lincoln reintroduced the model in 2017 as a replacement to the MKS. The production model is based on a 2015 concept that debuted at that year’s New York Auto Show. Today, the Lincoln Continental is a major player in the luxury car segment, featuring the latest technology and premium features like Venetian leather, rich wood trim, and a hands-free power trunk lid.

Sources: Wikipedia, Forbes