Lincoln Continental

Lincoln Continental

Infobox Automobile

name=Lincoln Continental
manufacturer=Ford Motor Company
class=Full-size luxury car (1939-1981)
Mid-size luxury car (1982-2002)
successor=Lincoln Town Car (For Full-size version)
Lincoln LS (For mid-size version)
This article is part of the Lincoln Automobile Series.

The Lincoln Continental, an automobile produced by the Lincoln division of Ford Motor Company, began for the 1939 model year. Over the next 63 years, despite these cars sharing under-pinnings with less expensive Ford automobiles, Continental was usually a distinguishly-styled, highly-equipped luxury car. In the Lincoln line, the Continental nameplate was commonly reserved for its flagship model. When the nameplate was moved to a smaller platform, the largest cars became the Lincoln Town Car. At the close of the 2002 model year, the Continental ended production, largely replaced by the Lincoln LS.


Infobox Automobile generation

name =First generation
production =1939–1948
body_style =2-door sedan
layout =FR layout
The first Lincoln Continental was developed as Edsel Ford's one-off personal vehicle, 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.

The car could be considered a channeled and sectioned Zephyr that did not even have the bulge that in the Zephyr (and in some other cars) replaced the running-board at the bottom of the doors. This decrease in height meant that the height of the hood was much closer to that of the fenders. There was hardly any trim on it at all, making its lines superb. This car is often rated as one of the most beautiful in the world.

The custom car for the boss was duly produced on time, and Edsel had it 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 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.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Continental production was suspended, to be re-started in 1946 to 1948. Like the other post-war Lincolns, however, the Continental had similar bits of trim added to make it look improved. 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.

The 1939 Continental is commonly called a '1940 Continental.'


Infobox Automobile generation

name =Second generation
production =1956–1957
body_style =2-door sedan
layout =FR layout
engine =368 in³ Y-block V8

The Continental name was revived in 1955 as a separate Ford brand, with its sole model being the Continental Mark II. This version was a unique design with the highest quality control ever seen in the automobile industry. High-class luxury abound in the new Continental - and with very limited availability, it appeared even more exclusive than the original.

Continental for '56 was one of the most expensive cars in the world -- with a cost of $10,000, it rivaled Rolls-Royce. But despite its astronomical price tag, Ford Motor Company actually lost money on each one sold. On a side note, Cadillac suffered a similar financial loss with its own Continental rival, the four-door Eldorado Brougham. Vehicles such as these were image builders for the two companies, as well as test beds for new ideas and concepts. The Continental Mark II was sold for just two model years, with about 3,000 total units built. Between the tales of dealers turning potential buyers away because they were not deemed to be the right kind of people to own Continental, and its sticker price found affordable by only the world's wealthiest, the Continental became almost mythical. The celebrity-riddled owner's list for the original Continental read like a who's-who - including Elvis Presley, the Shah of Iran, Nelson Rockefeller and Henry Kissinger among others.

1958–60 Mark III, IV, and V

The Continental division was dissolved after 1957, but in an attempt to retain some of the cachet of the Mark II, Lincoln named its top-of-the-line 1958 model the "Continental Mark III". This differed from the lower-model full-size Lincolns only in trim level and in its roof treatment, featuring a reverse-angle power rear "breezeway" window that retracted down behind the back seat. That year's full-size Lincoln sold poorly in all models; 1958 was a recession year in the United States. The new Lincoln was one of the largest cars ever made, larger than that year's Cadillac, and had styling considered by many to be excessive even in that decade of styling excess. 1959's range contained a "Continental Mark IV" model, and the 1960 range had a "Continental Mark V", with more restrained styling than the 1958.


Infobox Automobile generation

name =Third generation
production =1961–1969
assembly =Wixom, Michigan, USA
layout =FR layout
wheelbase = Auto in|123.0|0
body_style =4-door convertible
4-door pillared sedan
2-door hardtop coupe
engine =430 in³ Super Marauder V8
460 in³ 385-series V8
462 in³ MEL V8
length =1961-65: auto in|215.9|0
1966-69: auto in|220.9|0
width =1961-65: auto in|78.7|0
1966-69: auto in|79.7|0
height =auto in|55.0|0

In 1961, the Continental was completely redesigned by Elwood Engel. For the first time, the names Lincoln and Continental would be paired on a car other than one in the Mark series. The design was originally intended to be the new 1961 Ford Thunderbird, but the concept 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 two feet 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 doors, was a purely practical decision. The new Continental rode a wheelbase of 123", and the rear hinged doors were hinged from the rear to ease ingress and egress. When the Lincoln engineers were examaning the seating buck that styling had made up, the engineers kept hitting the front hinged door of the buck with their feet. The rear hinged doors solved the problem. To simplify production (in the beginning, anyway), all cars were to be four-door models, and only two body styles were offered, sedan or convertible. Therefore, the rear doors were hung from the rear and opened from the front. This "suicide door" style was to become the best-known feature of 1960s Lincolns. The 1961 model was the first car manufactured in America to be sold with a convert|24000|mi|km|-3 or 2-year bumper-to-bumper warranty. Harold W. Johnson was head of Lincoln Continental division at the time. Efforts to find a new longer-life tire were conducted by Jacques Bajer at his asking.

The 1961 Lincoln Continental was really Engel's design masterpiece, considered by many to be pinnacle of Lincoln style. ["Lincoln MKS" Autobile Magazine March 2008 p. 24 Robert Cumberford] Even the dashboard was his design. This may have been the last time a single individual was responsible for the complete design of a production car. The 1961 Lincoln's striking, understated elegance immediately won a major design award and was widely copied by other manufacturers -- note the similarity of the 1963 Cadillac and the 1963 Buick Electra.

Continentals of this generation are favored by collectors, and have appeared in movies such as The Last Action Hero, and Inspector Gadget movies, and recently it shows in the opening sequence of the TV series Entourage. Ford produced several concept cars which recalled this design. In 2007, Lincoln's 2007 SUV line adopted massive chrome grilles in the style of these classic Continentals.

Kennedy Limousine SS-100-X

For the Kennedy White House, the Secret Service purchased a convertible parade limousine custom built by Hess & Eisenhart of Cincinnati, Ohio from a 1961 Lincoln 4-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 & Eisenhart, 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.


This slab-sided distinctive design ran from 1961 through 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.


Due to customer requests, for 1963 the front seat was redesigned to provide a little more leg room to back seat passengers. 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.


The car was stretched 3 inches (76 mm) in 1964 to give more rear-seat legroom, and the roofline was squared off at the same time. The dash was also redesigned, doing away with the pod concept. Side glass was now flat to provide more interior room. 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 and the exterior "Continental" script was changed and the rear grille deleted and replaced by a simple horizontally elongated Continental star on the rear deck lid.


The convex 1961–64 grille was replaced by a flatter, squared-off one for 1965–69. The car was given front disc brakes for the 1965 model year to improve stopping time. This is the first time that the parking lamps and front turn signals were integrated into the front quarterpanels, and not in the bumper. The rear tail lights were fitted with a ribbed chrome grille on each side.


). The car was given all-new exterior sheet metal and a new interior. The parking lights and front turn signals went back into the front bumper, and the tailights were in the rear bumper for the first time. [ Cars of the Sizzling '60s, by the auto editors of Consumer Guide. Publications International, Ltd., Lincolnwood, IL, 1997. Page 269.] The length was increased by five inches to 220.9, the width by an inch to 79.7, and the height by almost an inch to 55.0 (on the sedan). Curved side glass returned.

The convertible saw a few technical changes related to how the lowering and raising the top was implemented. Lincoln engineers separated the hydraulics for the top and the rear decklid (trunk) by adding a second pump and eliminating the hydraulic solenoids. A glass rear window replaced the previous years' plastic windows.

Sales increased to 54,755 units for the model year, considered a success by Ford. This was a 36% increase over 1965. Product breakdown for the year consisted of 65% sedans, 29% coupes, and just under 6% for the four-door convertible.


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. 1967 was the last year customers could choose a four-door convertible Continental. 1967 production was 45,667 cars built. [ Ibid., page 307.]


1968 brought some exterior changes. The parking lights and front turn signals were once again a wraparound design at the front edge of the fender. The taillights were also wraparound again. But these wraparound parking lights and tailights looked very different from those of the 1965 model. The new Ford 385 engine in a 460 in³ (7.5 L) model was to be available initially, but because there were so many of the old 462 engines in process during production, the 462 was used until the 460 was phased in later that year. [ Ibid., page 348.]

Mark III

Lincoln Continental Mark III was introduced in early 1968 as a 1969 model. The reason for the "III" designation was that this car was seen as the true successor to the Mark II of 1956-57. Although it shared the Continental name with other Lincoln models, it was a completely different car. Based on the Ford Thunderbird sedan platform, the Mark III was the first body-on-frame Lincoln since 1957. The new Continental Mark III was available only in a coupe body style. This model was made famousFact|date=September 2007 in the 1971 movie "The French Connection", when this model was used as a means for smuggling vast quantities of heroin concealed in its rocker panels. Built from 1968 to 1971, only few changes were made to the original model (1968). The Mark III had a 460 in³ engine with Auto bhp|365|0 and a compression ratio of 10.5:1. The 1970 model featured an available (Sure-Track) anti-lock system stopping the rear wheels. Continental was originally equipped with Michelin radials.


The last production year of the Continental with suicide rear doors (Ford called them "Continental doors") saw few changes from 1968. [ Ibid., page 393.] The most obvious difference is that every 1969 model had standard head restraints, in compliance with new Federal safety standards.

uicide Door Lincolns in Movies, Music, and Television

*Perhaps the most famous movie appearance of this model of Continental was when a brand new 1964 model was mercilessly crushed into a cube in a junkyard compactor in the James Bond film "Goldfinger", to the horror of many moviegoers. (The filmmakers were not so wasteful: the moving car is a new 1964, but after a cutaway, the car picked up by the crane to be destroyed is a 1963 without an engine). Near the end of the movie, Bond (Sean Connery) rides in the rear seat of a Continental 4-door convertible to the airplane that is supposed to take him to Washington, D.C. for lunch with the president.
*Actor Sean Connery drove a dark gray Continental 4-door sedan in the Alfred Hitchcock movie "Marnie". Connery began work on "Goldfinger" as soon as he finished his part in "Marnie".
*A white Continental 4-door convertible played a major role in the movie "Topkapi".
*A 1965 Continental was featured prominently in the American television series Green Acres, and in The Matrix Trilogy. The 1965 Continental Convertible is also featured in the opening credits scene of the television show Entourage [] .
*In the pilot episode of the American television series Get Smart, agent 99 (Barbara Feldon) is dressed as a chauffeur and drives Maxwell Smart (Don Adams) around in a black stretch limousine version of the 1965 Continental.
*Actor Steven Hill played Dan Briggs, the leader of the I.M. Force, during the first season (1966-1967) of . Three different Continental 4-door convertibles served as Briggs' personal car in various episodes: a black 1965, a black 1966, and a white 1967. A light blue 1966 Continental 4-door convertible played a major role in the episode 'Fakeout' (first aired December 3, 1966). Lloyd Bridges (in one of his few roles as a villain) drove the car wildly in a futile attempt to escape from Briggs and Barney Collier, who were impersonating police officers. [ DVD set. Mission:Impossible The Complete First TV Season. Paramount Pictures and CBS Studios Inc., 2006.]
*In Crash (1996 film), the character, Vaughan, owns a beat up '60s Lincoln Continental 4-door convertible and uses it as a crash car for an unusual fetish involving automotive collisions. The elaborate convertible top mechanism, which automatically detaches itself from the windshield and hides itself in the trunk, is heavily featured in one scene that eroticizes the mechanical movements and motor sounds involved in the operation.
*In Hair (film) from 1979, a '66 or '67 Lincoln Continental 4-door convertible is used during a road trip sequence. It provides a full variety of camera angles to observe the car's design and styling as it travels down the road. Something of interest to notice is that neither of the rear door window mechanisms function properly on this particular car. Since the front and rear doors each close toward the middle, and since there is no center pillar for the windows to mesh against, the rear door windows were originally designed to automatically lower a few inches when the door was opened and then raise back to the closed position when the door was closed. This allowed the rear door window to mesh behind the front door window and provide a weatherproof seal. One scene in the film shows the rear door on the driver's side being opened as the window lowers all the way down. Another scene shows the rear door on the passenger's side being abruptly closed with the window in the fully raised position (the lowering mechanism obviously does not function at all). The rear window slams against the outside of the front window, bends outward, and clearly does not mesh with the front window.
*In The Flying Nun TV series that originally aired from 1967 to 1970, a '66 or '67 Lincoln Continental 4-door convertible is sometimes featured as belonging to Alejandro Rey's character, Carlos Ramirez.
*In the film, Terms of Endearment, from 1983, a '60s Lincoln Continental 4-door is shown parked in the driveway of Jack Nicholson's character, Garrett Breedlove.
*Two Tom Waits songs released on his "Orphans" CD set - "Puttin' on the Dog" and "First Kiss" - both include virtually the same line about a "big ol' Lincoln with suicide doors."

1970 - 1979

Infobox Automobile generation

name =Fourth Generation
production =1970–1979
body_style =2-door & 4-door full-size luxury car
engine =400 in³ Cleveland V8
460 in³ 385-series V8
transmission = 3-speed C6 automatic
assembly = Wixom, Michigan, USA
layout = FR layout
length = auto in|233.4|0
weight = 4500-5300 lb (ca. 2050-2400 kg)
The 1970 Continental continued the slab-sided design with blade-like fenders of the previous model, but the suicide doors were gone as was unibody construction. Changes included headlamps which were hidden behind retractable flaps (a characteristic introduced on the Lincoln Continental Mark III), federally-mandated bumpers in 1973, grille changes in 1971 and 1977, and progressive introduction of pollution controls. Nevertheless, from 1972 to 1975 the Lincoln Continental Mark IV successfully fought over the title "King of the Hill" with the Cadillac Eldorado in the personal luxury car category. Standard luxury features gradually became optional over the decade, and the 460 in³ (7.5 L) engine became an option in 1977, the 400 in³ (6.6 L) small-block replacing it as the standard engine. From 1975 to 1980 a Continental Town Coupé was also sold alongside the four-door Continental Town Car and the Continental Mark V. Town Coupé and Town Car were option packages for the Continental.The car measured 233.4 inches, about 19.4 feet (5.92 m), and weighed between 4500-5300 lb (ca. 2050-2400 kg) depending on the year. After General Motors downsized its big cars for 1977, these Lincolns were some of the largest cars on the market, surpassed only by Cadillac's Fleetwood 75 limousine. These Continentals were powered by Ford's 460 cid V8, which was the largest engine in any production car worldwide from 1977 to 1979. The EPA rated the Lincolns at 10-12 MPG. In 1975 the Lincoln Continentals, Town Cars and Town Coupés received the Opera-Window and in 1977 the Rolls-Royce-style grille of the Continental Mark IV / Continental Mark V. The new grille was both higher and less wide than it had been in the previous years, but the position of the headlamps remained unchanged. In 1979 a "Collector's Series" package was added. This option added virtually every feature available from Lincoln with the exception of a moonroof, an engine block heater, and the decision of either velour or leather seating. Naturally, this optional package was very expensive pushing the price of the standard Town Car or Mark V to almost $22,000.00 US dollars; an astronomical sum for a domestic automobile in 1979. There were only 3 colors available-dark blue, white, and a limited-issue medium blue with a dark blue vinyl top.

1980 - 1981

Infobox Automobile generation

name =Fifth generation
production =1980–1981
platform =Ford Panther platform
layout = FR layout
assembly = Wixom, Michigan, USA
wheelbase = Sedan: Auto in|117.3|0
Coupe: Auto in|114.0|0
length = Auto in|211.4|0
body_style =2-door coupe
4-door sedan
engine =302 in³ Windsor V8
351 in³ Windsor V8
transmission =4-speed AOD automatic
By 1980, Ford could not continue to produce the old models in their current form. These giant 70's-era cars, although still selling at a healthy pace, could not meet the fuel economy and emissions regulations any longer. Much smaller and more economical vehicles were required, so Ford chose to downsize the Continental onto the Ford Panther platform designed for the 1979 Ford LTD and Mercury Marquis. The 1980 Continental Mark VI, as compared to its 1979 predecessor Mark V, was 800 lb lighter and 20 inches (508 mm) shorter in overall length, and was fitted with a 302 in³ (5.0 L) V8. A 351 in³ (5.8 L) engine was briefly optional. Fuel efficiency was about a third better than the 1979 model. The line up got a little confusing, as there were now four models, on two different wheelbases, all under the Continental badge - including a body style new to the Continental name plate, the four-door Mark VI. To differentiate, standard Continental sedans and coupes (both styles available in base and Town Car/Town Coupé editions) rode on a 117" wheelbase and featured exposed quad rectangular headlamps and narrow vertical tail lamps with a full-width three-section reflector panel below the trunk lid. Sedans had tall, narrow opera windows, while the coupes had large, square opera windows. The upper-rung model, the Continental Mark VI, again featured oval opera windows - a Mark styling feature going back to 1972, four round headlamps behind vacuum-control doors, and angled tail lamps with the Continental spare-tire "bulge" on the deck lid. The Mark VI sedan (which appeared only for 1980 - 1983) was on the 117" wheelbase, while the Mark VI coupe utilized a shorter 114" wheelbase (shared directly with Ford LTD and Mercury Marquis). Mark VI coupes and sedans were available in standard, Signature, and designer editions. Bill Blass, Emilio Pucci, Cartier, and Givenchy all had their unique say on color and fabric choices for their designer models.

The new Continental carried over as many styling cues as possible from the previous, larger cars, modified somewhat to match the new, more sensible package. Lincoln management knew that keeping the family resemblance going was critical; sales depended on the car being instantly recognizable as a Lincoln.In 1981, what was formerly known as the full-size (117" w.b.) Continental sedan and coupe were replaced (in name only) by the Town Car and Town Coupé designation (a former option package name for Continental models). With the 1981 Town Car/Coupe now the entry-level Lincoln, the upper rung models (formerly referred to as Continental Town Car/Coupe in 1980) were replaced with the "Signature Series" designation. While the Town Car (available exclusively in 4-door form after 1982) enjoyed rising sales, the Mark VI model started to slide. Part of the sales slump for the Mark VI was the redundancy of the new-for-1982 Continental 4-door competing for sales against the Mark VI sedan in the same market. Mark VI coupe sales slowed while buyers awaited the dynamic Mark VII (based on a stretched Ford 'Fox' platform shared with the '82 Continental) for 1984.

1982 - 1987

Infobox Automobile generation

name =Sixth generation
production =1982–1987
platform =Ford Fox platform
body_style =4-door sedan
engine =2.4 L M21 turbo diesel I6
5.0 L Windsor V8
assembly =Wixom, Michigan, USA
layout =FR layout
wheelbase =auto in|108.5|0
transmission =4-speed AOD automatic

1982 saw the Continental name applied to a new, smaller Lincoln. Intended to compete with the Cadillac Seville (priced in 1982 at $23,433), the new Continental - priced at $21,302 - was given a Daimler-esque, bustle-backed body built on a modified Ford Fox platform. Unlike the Seville, which went to a front-wheel drive chassis for 1980, the '82 Continental remained rear-wheel drive. The standard powertrain was a 5.0 L Windsor V8 backed by Ford's new "AOD" automatic transmission. This combination put out Convert|150|hp|kW|0|abbr=on and convert|275|ft|m|0|sing=on-pounds of torque. Throughout the 1982 - 1987 run, models were available in base, Signature, and designer (Valentino and Givenchy) form.

While the Mark VI was still available (through 1983) in coupe and 4-door styles, the Continental for 1982 was now strictly a sedan. Continental's 2-door coupe variation, a foot shorter and some 400 pounds lighter than the Mark VI, was introduced for 1984. It was of a decidedly different style from the sedan. It was 2" longer than the Continental sedan, while sharing the same wheelbase. The coupe version, called the Lincoln Mark VII, was introduced in 1984 as a competitor to the Cadillac Eldorado. The $21,707 Mark VII was very different than the glamorous 1979 - 1985 Eldorado, and a departure from the Mark VI from 1980 - 1983. Another Mark VI competitor, the Chrysler Imperial (1981 - 1983), closed a disappointing sales run the same time the Mark VI ended production. Mark VII, in its clean design and straight-forward function (especially in LSC form), appeared closer to compete with the likes of the BMW 6-Series coupes and the Mercedes SEC than the front-wheel drive Eldorado. The Mark VII remained rear-wheel drive longer that its sedan mate, ending its run in 1992, and was replaced by another rear-wheel incarnation, the Mark VIII for 1993.

Continental's exterior styling was modeled along the lines of rival Cadillac's Seville. Although the Continental was more sedate in style and much less trouble-proneFact|date=February 2008 than its Cadillac competitor, it came along two years too late, as Seville had already established a sales force from its introduction in 1980. Continental's focus groups "discovered" - too far along the pre-production process - that Seville's bustle-back design was fast becoming past its prime. An eleventh-hour change was the addition of a horizontal brushed-chome strip that ran along each side of Continental. This added trim, along with plentiful two-tone color combinations, somewhat disguised Continental's Seville-like design, and made the Lincoln appear slightly more coventional looking.

The standard engine for 1982 was a carbureted version of Ford's proven 302 cid V8, with a fuel-injected version arriving the next year, upgraded to sequential injection a few years later (and remaining through 1987). Also available for 1984 and 1985 was the rarely-ordered BMW-Steyr 2.4 L turbodiesel six-cylinder engine.

For '84 (to keep in line with the new Mark VII), the $21,769 Continental got freshened styling with a 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.

The '82 - '87 Continental was a 'spiritual successor' to the Lincoln Versailles intermediate of the 1970s. Like the earlier Versailles (which shared most of its sheet metal, drivetrain, and chassis with the Ford Granada and Mercury Monarch), this new Continental - serving as the brand's premium model - was based on a lower-rung Ford model using Ford's Fox platform. This new platform was originally introduced for the 1978 Ford Fairmont and Mercury Zephyr. Fairmont's 105.5" wheelbase was stretched 3" for the Continental. In a parallel, the '76 Seville shared GM's X-platform alongside the Chevrolet Nova - a compact vehicle that competed directly with Fairmont. But the '82 - '87 Continental differed greatly than Versailles in that Continental wasn't a lesser car dressed with luxury add-ons. Instead, the 1982 Continental had a unique body and interior - both giving a feeling of luxury true to Lincoln's image. The Continental succeeded where Versailles had failed - in the sales race.

Continentals featured in Hollywood movies include a 1987 Continental Givenchy driven by realtor Jane Butterfield (Annie McEnroe) in the Tim Burton film, "Beetlejuice". A light-blue 1987 Continental with a dark-blue carriage roof, is featured (and later, destroyed in a mob shoot-out) in the Jonathan Demme film, "Married to the Mob".

Continental, in four-door form from 1982 onwards, was rarely sold for its sedan capability. Buyers would rarely use the back seat for passengers. The sedan's shorter and lighter front doors aided in entry and exit in garages and parking lots. Continental became more of a four-door luxury coupe, leaving the full-size 6-passenger luxury sedan market to the Town Car. Despite a high standard equipment list, including four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, sales were down. By 1987, the $26,402 Continental, which just five years earlier introduced two industry firsts - gas-pressurized shock absorbers and self-sealing tires - looked old-fashioned in comparison to contemporary "personal luxury" vehicles. Plans were in the works for 1988 to replace the existing model. The front-drive Ford Taurus (which replaced the mid-size Ford LTD) platform was just the spring board for a new concept in Lincoln luxury.

1988 - 1994

Infobox Automobile generation

name =Seventh Generation
related =Ford Taurus
Mercury Sable
production =1988–1994
platform =Ford D186 platform
layout =FF layout
assembly =Wixom, Michigan, USA
body_style =4-door sedan
engine =3.8 L Essex V6, 140 hp (1988–90), 151 hp (1991), 160 hp (1992–94)
transmission =4-speed AXOD-E automatic
wheelbase =auto in|109.0|0
length =1988-1991: auto in|205.1|0
1992-94: auto in|205.6|0
width =1988-1991: auto in|72.7|0
1992-94: auto in|72.3|0
height =1988-1991: auto in|55.6|0
1992-94: auto in|55.4|0

The 1988 Continental introduced Lincoln buyers to V6 power, and it was the first Lincoln with a driver's side air bag restraint system. The following year, it was also the first U.S.-made vehicle with both driver and passenger airbags. The new Continental was now based on an extended Ford Taurus / Mercury Sable platform. The 6-passenger interior (compared to 5-passenger last year) with glints of chrome and wood-tone accents appealed to fans of the prior year's model, while front wheel drive, a contemporary 'euro' exterior look, and new-found V6 economy would win over potential customers. Interior room was up from 1987, and the new Continental now boasted the largest interior of any front-wheel drive car (although the re-designed 1989 Cadillac Deville grabbed that title next year).

The longer 109" wheelbase was a slight increase over last year's 108.5". The better use of space allowed true 6-passenger capability - not seen since the 1981 model. Cargo capacity was up to 19 cubic feet, compared to under 15' in least year's trunk. The power steering had been improved upon with the addition of variable-assist, which reacted differently depending on speed - more power assist at low speeds (for ease in parking), less assist at highway speeds (for better road feel). The 1988 Continental was four inches longer yet 170 pounds lighter than the 1987 and was set to compete against the front-wheel drive Cadillac Deville and Fleetwood, which had been downsized in 1985. From 1988, the designer editions were gone - only base (later named "Executive") and Signature models were available. The Continental was on "Car and Driver" magazine's Ten Best list for 1989. While the root of Continental's platform was the Taurus, it had its own distinctive body and standard leather interior (velour was available as a no-cost option). The $26,078 price tag was $324 less than the 1987 base model. In comparison, a 1987 Givenchy edition was $28,902; $2,500 more than the standard '87 Continental. The 1988 Signature Series, which served as the designer model replacement, was $1,866 over the base model.

Pricing for 1989 - with a new dashboard design featuring dual airbags - climbed to $28,032 (base), and $29,910 (Signature). The 1990 Continental, with a re-designed grille, hood ornament, and tail lamps, was $29,258 (base), and $31,181 (Signature). By 1992 the base "Executive" model was priced at $32,263, and the Signature model was $34,253. The 1993 models arrived with 'remote' keyless entry (standard on Signature, available on Executive), and prices rose slightly to $33,328 (Executive) and $35,319 (Signature). Throughout its '88 - '94 run, the option list remained very small. Options included a compact disc player, InstaClear heated windshield, JBL sound system, anti-theft alarm system, and a 3-position memory seat.

A 1993 attempt to compete with the imports was the available "individual seats" group (available only on Signature in '93, and only on Executive in '94), 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 a single cup holder. The $556 option proved un-popular with '93 Continental buyers. At this point in time, the average owner was not the youthful buyer Lincoln was so desperately seeking, but rather, someone who would have otherwise bought a Town Car, but for regional purposes (living in a snow-belt area, for example), chose the benefits of Continental's front-wheel drive.

In 1994, one last try at moving Continental was a mild revamp, including a redesigned front bumper and grille, body-color side skirts (in place of the previous wide chrome strip underneath the doors), and revised tail lamps, decklid-lock cover and trim, and a rear bumper with aerodynamic spats. A new font appeared for the "Lincoln" nameplate on the front grille and rear tail lamps (moved off the decklid from last year). Inside, a new steering wheel design - borrowed from the Mark VIII, was included with the bucket seat option. Also new to the option list for '94 was a unique trunk storage system with adjustable partitions. This available feature was carried over to the next generation Continental as well.

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 3.8L Essex V6. Horsepower grew from 140 in 1988, to 155 in 1991, and then to 160. Today, due to trouble-prone air suspension systems and powertrain issues, these cars haven't held their value, making them relatively inexpensive to buy used. Head gasket failures were a problem on Ford's 3.8L V6 as noted in Ford bulletin TSB# 98-4-9 [] .


Infobox Automobile generation

name =Eighth generation
related =Ford Taurus
Mercury Sable
production =1995–1997
body_style =4-door sedan
length =auto in|206.3|0
width =auto in|73.6|0
wheelbase =auto in|109.0|0
height =auto in|56.0|0
engine =4.6 L Modular V8, Convert|260|hp|kW|0|abbr=on Auto ft.lbf|265|0
platform =Ford D186 platform
layout =FF layout
assembly =Wixom, Michigan, USA
transmission =4-speed AX4N automatic
The Continental was substantially updated in the mid-1990s, with more rounded lines. The 1995 Continental was ridded of the many design features that had previously reminded onlookers of the lesser Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable. A substantial change from the previous V6 car, though, was the addition of the a DOHC Modular V8 similar to that powered the rear wheel drive Lincoln Mark VIII. The most noticeable differences being its FWD all aluminum block (different bolt pattern for the transmission bell housing) and it being rated at Convert|20|hp|kW|0|abbr=on and 20 ft·lbf tq. less than the base Mark VIII.


Infobox Automobile generation

name =Ninth generation
related =Ford Taurus
Ford Windstar
Mercury Sable
production =1998–2002
body_style =4-door sedan
length =auto in|208.5|0
width =auto in|73.6|0
wheelbase =auto in|109.0|0
height =auto in|56.0|0
engine =4.6 L Modular DOHC V8, Convert|275|hp|kW|0|abbr=on Auto ft.lbf|275|0
transmission =4-speed AX4N automatic
platform =Ford D186 platform
layout =FF layout
assembly =Wixom, Michigan, USA
The Continental was updated again in 1998 with a mildly freshened exterior. The front-end 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 '97 model. In 1999, it was too soon to change anything outside, so Continental gained seat-mounted side airbags and even more power (now up to 275 horsepower).

For 1999, the Continental held an M.S.R.P. of $38,325 - the same price as its rear-wheel drive sister, the '99 Town Car. 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 '99 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).

After a few slow-selling years, the 2002 Continental was discontinued. 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 on July 26, 2002. The Wixom plant continued to manufacture the Town Car and LS, the limited production Ford Thunderbird convertible, as well as Ford's niche sports car, the Ford GT.


Lincoln upgraded the LS in 2005-2006 to attract more of the mid-size luxury market in the Continental class. The LS was cancelled in April 2006 due to slowing sales, following the release of the mid-size 2006 Lincoln Zephyr, and its upgraded replacement, the 2007 Lincoln MKZ. A larger, more luxurious Lincoln flagship sedan, the Lincoln MKS, has been launched in mid-2008 for the 2009 model year. Based on the same platform as the renamed Ford Taurus, it would be a proper replacement for the Lincoln Continental class vehicle.

A concept vehicle was created in 2002, complete with suicide doors and a 5.9L (5935 cc/362.2in³) V12 engine producing 414 bhp (309 kW) at 6000 rpm and 413 ft·lbf (560 Nm) of torque at 5270 rpm.


External links

* [ Lincoln & Continental Club Europa LCCE]

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