Generation gap: ranking of each Lincoln Continental

This flagship luxury sedan once stood out as its own brand – we trace the history of this premium Ford product

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The Lincoln Continental has seen more ups and downs than any luxury car in history. From the dizzying catastrophe of its beautiful but neglected Mark II phase; to the era-defining design of its’ 60s slab look; By the mile-long unease-soaked sheet metal of the next decade, the Continental was both praised and battered during its nearly 70 years of production.

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Which versions of the car deserved to be applauded, and which are best forgotten? Here’s our take on the best and worst generations of Lincoln Continental’s ever made.

1961-1969 Lincoln Continental

1961 Lincoln Continental
1961 Lincoln Continental Lincoln photo

It’s the Lincoln that almost every car fan imagines when they hear the name “Continental”. With its slab sides and the last four-door convertible to be produced outside of the SUV segment, the Lincoln Continental ’61 -’69 firmly established the model as one of America’s premier luxury vehicles.

Designed by Elwood Engel, its suicide doors erased memories of the clumsy third-generation Continental that came before it. The car also ended up in a starring role in one of the great tragedies of the 1960s following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy while in the back of the Lincoln limo in Dallas, TX. . One of the most beautiful cars to ever come out of a Detroit factory, it’s a true automotive icon.

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1956-1957 Continental Mark II

1956 Lincoln Continental
1956 Lincoln Continental Lincoln photo

For a brief and brilliant moment, Ford attempted to create “Continental” as its own brand, one that could support the best streaming of European factories of Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Mercedes-Benz. The phenomenal Continental Mark II was certainly a Continental but not so much a Lincoln, priced absurdly compared to cars of its day and produced almost entirely by hand in very small numbers.

Less than 3,000 two-door Mark IIs were built before Ford realized that the American public just weren’t interested in dreaming the same dream, and after losing money on every vehicle sold, the decision was taken to return the name Continental to the Lincoln Stable. It was decades before the Mark II was recognized for its grace and beauty by collectors who valued the car more than its target audience ever had.

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Lincoln Continental 2017-2020

Lincoln Continental 2017
Lincoln Continental 2017 Lincoln photo

Why is the most modern Lincoln Continental so high in our generational ranking? Because it was a good idea, well executed, and it happened just as the market was moving away from full-size cars to sport utility vehicles. Sleek, spacious inside, and packed with the kind of interior upgrades that were about to push Lincoln back into the luxury conversation, the latest Continental was an intriguing high-end alternative to the premium Japanese four-door.

It was also pretty quick: the 2017-2020 Lincoln Continental shared its platform with the Ford Fusion and benefited from the availability of a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 developing 400 horsepower. Coupled with all-wheel drive, this made the Continental the fastest car to bear that name.

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1940-1948 Lincoln Continental

Lincoln Continental 1939
Lincoln Continental 1939 Lincoln photo

The original Lincoln Continental was an intriguing offering from a company trying to find its feet during a tumultuous time for American industry. Originally a branch of the Lincoln Zephyr family tree, the Continental had yet to assume the towering proportions that would later define its heritage. Beautiful, but hampered by the outbreak of World War II, the Continental underwent a stylistic evolution after the end of the conflict which saw it gain momentum.

Oddly enough, the Continental was put on hiatus after 1948 following an edict from Ford that briefly removed Lincoln from the luxury car market. This explains the 10-year gap between the first Continental and the Mark II confusion that followed.

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1970-1979 Lincoln Continental

1970 Lincoln Continental
1970 Lincoln Continental Lincoln photo

The fifth-generation Lincoln Continental covered a lot of ground, and although it may have crashed towards the end of the decade (after enduring the slings and arrows of excess styling and the smog restrictions of the ‘EPA), the first half of the 1970s represented a latest trend in classic car styling. The move from suicide doors to conventional hinges heralded the move away from smooth sheet metal to more complicated trim, chrome, and covered headlights.

The redesigned Continental has grown over acres of outsized sheet metal every year. This was especially true after the 1975 refresh which introduced some of the biggest rollovers ever seen on a passenger car (both front and rear). The name “Town Car” first appeared since 1959 (as a vinyl headliner) with this edition of the Lincoln, and in addition to the personal Mark III luxury coupe, a two-door “Town Coupe” was also offered.

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1995-2002 Lincoln Continental

1995 Lincoln Continental
1995 Lincoln Continental Lincoln photo

Lincoln made the most of the pedestrian platform that had been raised in its general direction with the 1995-2002 Continental. The presence of a V8 engine, a 4.6-liter 32-valve 260-horsepower mill that was not offered with any other front-wheel drive model in the FoMoCo catalog. For the first time in ages, the Continental was actually fast. The appearance of the car had improved as well, with aero drives and a more premium appearance inside and out.

Sadly it has passed its welcome, and faced with highly competitive premium cars from Acura and Lexus, Lincoln has given up on building a midsize competitor and parked the Continental nameplate for a decade and a half after the start. model year 2002.

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1980 Lincoln Continental

1980 Lincoln Continental
1980 Lincoln Continental Lincoln photo

In many ways, the 1980 Lincoln Continental was a continuation of the car that came before it, but with a more streamlined design. Strangely, this would only last for one model year as Ford once again mixed the bridge in terms of what size car the Continental should be, ultimately renaming the vehicle as a “Town Car” and introducing a smaller Continental. for 1982. Coupe and sedan editions were offered, and the vehicle’s shorter wheelbase and massive 1,000-pound weight loss did it a lot of good to escape the worst of its Malaise Era style sins.

1958-1960 Lincoln Continental

The 1959 Lincoln Continental Mk IV
The 1959 Lincoln Continental Mk IV Ford Photo

The 1958-1960 Lincoln Continental was half-built under the failing Continental brand, with the last two years of production passed to the new Lincoln-Mercury division. Regardless, the car failed to improve the fortunes of the model, continuing to bleed money even with stronger sales thanks to its massive price drop compared to the Mark II (with the Mark III / IV / V naming convention for this generation).

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The Continental monohull just wasn’t as appealing as Cadillac or Imperial’s offerings at the time, whether it was a sedan, two-door coupe, or convertible, and customers stayed away until the stunning 1961 redesign fixed the ship for Lincoln.

1988-1994 Lincoln Continental

Lincoln Continental 1988
Lincoln Continental 1988 Lincoln photo

The best thing that can be said about the 1988-1994 Lincoln Continental is that it moved away from the dull-bodied Fox platform that had downsized its predecessor and introduced more advanced front-wheel drive. and more comfortable. monocoque configuration in the equation. Unfortunately, it was essentially a full-size Taurus, losing its V8 engine and adopting a forgettable styling that didn’t improve with age. It was the beginning of the end for the Continental nameplate as a significant contender in the luxury car competition.

1982-1987 Lincoln Continental

1982 Lincoln Continental
1982 Lincoln Continental Lincoln photo

The little Fox-based 1982 Lincoln Continental got lost in Ford’s confusing mix of midsize sedans. Aside from the interior, it was hard to see what set the Continental apart from its platform mates Blue Oval and Mercury, and other than the Mark VII Coupe (covered in more detail here), that one-car space aroused little interest. Note to fashionistas: the Continental ’82 -’87, otherwise milquetoast, was offered in both Givenchy and Valentino ‘Designer Series’ finishes.

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