THE STORY - CONTINENTAL MARK II
To know the background of the Mark II, you really need to go back to Edsel Ford (son of Henry Ford) and the thirties. After coming back from a European vacation, he naturally had had an eye on the cars being developed there. He had Ford Motor Company (FoMoCo) make him a one-off (one-of-a-kind) car modeled after the European cars. (You can do this if your family owns the company and you are the president!) It had a long hood, small greenhouse and a short deck with the spare tire at the back. Lovely to look at!
After having it delivered to his Palm Beach winter home, so many people admired it and said they wanted one, FoMoCo decided on production of Edsel's car. Nineteen-forty and forty-one saw two models of Edsel's 'Continental', under first the 'Lincoln-Zephyr Continental' banner, then the 'Lincoln Continental' badge.
The years between 1942 and 1948 saw a different 'Lincoln Continental' (except for wartime, of course).
In the early fifties, FoMoCo was getting requests for another Continental. Based on those requests, they decided to investigate the idea of a new Continental. William Clay Ford (son of Edsel) headed Special Products Operations for its development. The charge was simple but daunting: "Create the most luxurious, carefully crafted production car in the land—literally an American Rolls-Royce, on a cost-no-object basis".
In 1953, they asked five nationally renowned design firms to submit designs, including the FoMoCo team. Their entries were judged anonymously by the Ford board. Happily, the Ford team won. The designer in charge was John Reinhart. He took inspiration from the original design of Edsel's Continental. A 'modern formal' version resulted with the same basic tenets of the long hood, small greenhouse and short deck with spare tire, but he brought the car into the modern vernacular—stunningly! There are interesting stories about the design process and John himself.
After exhaustive design and engineering, the Continental Mark II was born, following the original clay mock-up without any design changes! To produce the Mark II, the Special Products Operations became the Continental Division—not under the Lincoln banner but a distinct division.
Stories abound about the marketing and public reaction. It was announced on October 16, 1954, at the national LincolnContinentalOwnersClub meeting by William Clay Ford himself. The car was unveiled at the Paris Auto Show on October 6, 1955.
Debuts were held in major cities. One dealer had to hide in his building overnight because the crowds got so whopping. Premiums were paid for the car. Each one was shipped in a lamb's wool wrapper.
Next, Further Development.