Some are said to have been born with a silver spoon in their mouths; however, Henry Leland, born February 16, 1843, must have come into this world with a golden wrench in his. Leland was an inventor, engineer, and a machinist who studied Metrology (the theoretical and practical aspects of measurement) along with precision machining and tool making, he created and supplied engines to Oldsmobile, invented the electric barber clippers, the Leland-Detroit Monorail toy train, and oh - he also invented the Cadillac and the Lincoln.
Leland admired Abraham Lincoln so much that he not only cast his first ever presidetial vote for him in 1864, he also named his company The Lincoln Motor Company after him. Leland contracted with the American government during World War I and began making money for his company by manufacturing the Liberty Aircraft engines for them and Ford Motor Company supplied cylinders for the engines.
When the war ended the Lincoln factories began manufacturing the luxury line of Lincoln L-Series Town Cars in 1917. Due to financial problems from the loss of the government contract work, Henry Ford purchased Lincoln Motor Company in 1922, but the company continued to operate separately from Ford up until 1940 and the Lincoln L-Series remained in production until 1930. Shortly after Ford purchased Lincoln, Leland and his son were fired, and Henry Ford's son, Edsel Ford, took over the design of the L-Series.
In 1930 Lincoln introduced the Model K Town Car that replaced the L-Series and this luxury vehicle was in direct competition with the Rolls Royce Phantom I, the Packard, Cadillac Type 51 and Mercedes Benz 630. Quite an impressive line up, wouldn't you say? It remained in production until 1940. In 1936 the Lincoln Zephyr became the marque's most popular limousine that seated 7 passengers and sported a redesigned front grille and pressed steel wheels. In 1939 a convertible limousine called "The Sunshine Special" was custom-built for President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The Lincoln Continental emerged in 1940 and quickly gained popularity due to the fact that it was Edsel Ford's personal favorite model. Although it was said to have been a scaled down version of the previous Zephyr, the trademark externally mounted covered spare tire would go on to become the lasting trademark of the Continental. The Lincoln Continental was in production for 49 years beginning in 1939 to 1948 (46-48 were the Lincoln H-Series full size luxury car) and again from 1958-2002.
Ford's Continental division brought back production of the Continental in form of the Mark II in 1956 with a newly remodeled look and tire-shaped hump trunk lid instead of the traditional externally mounted covered spare tire. It became the flagship car of the Ford Motor Company. The Mark II was the most expensive car produced in America and was hand built. At the time, the Mark II was comparable in price to the Rolls Royce Silver Cloud. Production of this model Mark II was between the years of 1955-1957. In 1958 the hand built Mark II was replaced by machine built Mark III at a reduced cost.
In 1958 Mercury, Edsel and Lincoln "MEL" integrated to produce all Lincoln and Continental models in Wixom, Michigan and a new V8 430 cubic inch engine was used in all the vehicles. Between 1958-1960 due to a unibody chassis change, this time period signifies the largest production of the longest wheelbase cars that Ford Motor Company ever produced.
In 1961, the Continental was reduced by a whopping 15" and the '61 four door convertible was the last of its kind. In 1977, due to the gas crisis, the Lincoln Versailles was introduced. It was 30" shorter than the Continental and 1,500 pounds lighter. Although the Versailles was short-lived, it set the stage for some cutting edge technology that would move forward to other future models such as halogen lights and clear coat paint.
In 1981, the Town Car gained in popularity and in 1984, the Mark VII was reconfigured to three feet shorter than the Mark V. The Mark VII was the first American car manufactured with 4-channel ABS and 4-wheel air suspension. In 1993 the Mark VIII, along with the Ford Thunderbird and Mercury Cougar were the only U.S. produced 4 passenger cars with rear-wheel drive and independent rear suspension during this time. The 2014 Mark series is the last of its kind.
The Lincoln Town Car has always been the car of choice for the Presidential Fleet line up until George H.W. Bush left office in 1993. The powertrain of the 1989 Lincoln Town Car was comprised of a Ford F-250 three-quarter ton pickup, 460 cubic inch (7.5L), EFI V8 to compensate for added weight due to added safety features to the limousine.
Beginning in 2007, Lincoln chose to rename its automobiles, with the exception of the Navigator, with its new "MK" nomenclature; however, limousines and livery models continue to use the Town Car name. As of 2016, the Lincoln line up consists of the MKS and MKZ sedans; the MKC, MKT and MKX Crossover Utility Vehicles; and the Lincoln Navigator and Navigator L Sport Utilities. If you are in the market for one, you can also purchase the Lincoln Limousine or Livery vehicles that are based on the MKT model.
Side Note: If you have always loved the Lincoln Continental and were sorry to see it go, there is good news: During the 2015 New York Motor Show it was announced that the Lincoln Continental will be making a comeback - in 2017. If you can't wait that long, come and visit us at Angela Krause Lincoln where we always have something for everyone.References: