Saturday, October 25, 2014

It's Not a F@cking Lincoln

The Continental Mark II is an icon in the postwar industry- a Classic from the day it first saw the roads, with timeless styling, unmatched appointments, supreme build quality, movie-star status and remarkable roadability- especially for a car that was introduced in the middle of the fifth decade.

It was the crowning achievement of William Clay Ford, who oversaw the creation of an entire Continental Division to develop, produce, and market what he hoped would be an entire line of upscale cars to bear the proud Continental name. 

Yes, the proud Continental name.

In other words, It's not a f@cking Lincoln. 

Yes, I do understand that Ford Motor Company is more than a bit obtuse and inconsistent in the application of the Continental name, but that was AFTER the Mark II left the marketplace. And yes, the Continental was preceded by the Zephyr-based Lincoln Continental, but that car at its pinnacle sold for HALF of the Mark II's $10,000 price tag- from a branding point of view, the Continental carried a price tag twice as high, and the Lincoln name wasn't presigious enough. Continental had to be a cut above, and it was.

The Continental Division had its own President, its own Management Staff, even its own factory where Continental Mark IIs were produced by dedicated Continental Division employees. And the Continental name that it bore was registered as a separate make with the AMA in 1955.  It launched at the Paris Auto in October of 1955 with great plans, including a four-door companion to the called the Continental Berline. 

Alas, success was not on Continental's side. Faced with slumping sales in 1957, the Division was merged with Lincoln-Mercury who were then themselves joined by Edsel- although Continental remained a separate make through 1958. After 1958, Lincoln treated the Continental as an implied brand- the Mark IV of 1959 bore a Lincoln data plate but carried the Lincoln name nowhere else, and the 1960 Mark V had a Lincoln Continental Mark V script on the dash, both were sold alongside nearly identical Lincoln models. 

It not until the utterly brilliant Lincoln Continental of 1961, an iconic car that was the first worthy successor to the Mark II, that the Lincoln and Continental names were successfully reunited. But that was four years after the last Continental Mark II (for which I have a copy of the invoice from Continental Division) left the dedicated Oakwood Boulevard facility. 

The classic Continental Mark II is many things- dashing, glamorous, prestigious, expensive, and exclusive. The Mark II represents the pinnacle of American automotive design of in the fall of 1955.

But it's not a f@cking Lincoln. 

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