Historic Car Brands
The Lincoln Motor Company was founded in August 1917 by Henry Leland and his son Wilfred. Leland named the company after Abraham Lincoln, stating that Lincoln was the first president for whom he ever voted, in 1864.
Originally one of the founders of Cadillac, Leland sold the company to General Motors in 1909, staying on as an executive. When exiled GM president, William Durant returned to GM in 1916 he and Leland had a falling out over engine production for World War I that the US entered in 1917.
Lincoln Liberty L-12
Leland left GM and founded the Lincoln Motor Company that was financed by securing a US$10 million contract for Liberty V12 aircraft engines. Lincoln assembled around 6500 V12 engines by War’s end and employed 6000 workers.
On September 16, 1920, Lincoln Motor Company produced its first automobile, the Lincoln Model L, but struggled with the transition from military engine to civilian automobile production. Lincoln had a healthy order bank, but some customers had to wait nearly a year for delivery.
1923 Lincoln Model L Brunn coupe
By 1922, the company was on the verge of bankruptcy and was placed in receivership. Edsel Ford persuaded his father Henry to purchase the ailing Lincoln Motor Company, to compete with luxury brands Cadillac and Packard.
Lincoln Motor Company was valued at US$16 million and was eventually purchased by Henry Ford for US$8 million, following an acrimonious court case that forced Ford to up the ante from its original US$5 million bid.
The two Fords were pictured in a Lincoln office with founder Henry Leland and his son Wilfred. Behind them, decorations pay homage to Henry Leland’s inspiration and the company’s namesake: Abraham Lincoln.
The purchase was sweet revenge for Henry Ford, because in 1902, Leland-led investors had forced him out of the original Henry Ford Company that had then become Cadillac.
With the purchase of Lincoln, Henry Ford had his up-market equivalent of GM’s Cadillac.
Unsurprisingly, Ford Motor Company and Lincoln management didn’t get on well and on June 10, 1922, the Lelands were forced to resign.
1924 Lincoln Model L Limousine
Due to the delays in getting the Lincoln Model L to market its appearance was seen as outdated, so Edsel Ford introduced the 1923 model with custom-bodywork, just as Duesenberg and Rolls-Royce were doing.
The new formula worked and the company produced nearly 8000 cars in 1923 – up 40-percent on 1922 figures – and made a profit.
In 1924, Calvin Coolidge’s Lincoln Model L became the first state limousine used by a US President on an official basis.
1937 Lincoln Model K Sedan – Greg Gjerdingen
By 1930, Lincoln was considered the equal of Duesenberg, Marmon, Packard, Peerless and Pierce-Arrow, but for the 1931 model year, the Model L was replaced by the Lincoln Model K.
An all-new design on a longer, lower chassis), the Model K introduced upgrades to the carburettor, brakes and suspension, and offered factory-designed bodies and coachbuilt designs.
Lincoln-Zephyr V12 engine – Autocar Handbook
For 1932, Lincoln introduced a V12 engine for the Model K and soon the V8 was retired, making Lincoln the first manufacturer in the world exclusively with V12 engines, sized from 6.3 litres to 7.3 litres. The final Model K was assembled during 1939.
In 1936, Edsel Ford introduced the Lincoln-Zephyr as a sub-marque competitor for the (Cadillac) LaSalle and Chrysler Airflow, priced between Ford models and the Model K, and powered by a smaller, 4.4-litre V12 engine.
The Lincoln-Zephyr was the first Ford Motor Company vehicle to utilise unibody construction and was a success in the marketplace, selling over 15,000 units in its first year.
1938 Lincoln-Zephyr Convertible – Mr Choppers
In late 1938, Edsel commissioned Ford chief stylist E T Gregorie to design a ‘continental’ body design, on the forthcoming1939 Lincoln Zephyr Convertible Coupe chassis. After sectioning the body 102mm, the running boards were deleted and a spare tire was mounted behind the trunk lid.
This originally one-off vehicle became known as the Lincoln Continental. For 1940 production, 404 vehicles were produced, with the first vehicle received by movie actor Mickey Rooney.
The Great Depression caused the failure of many car makers and by 1940, alongside Lincoln, the American luxury-car segment consisted mainly of Cadillacs, Chrysler Imperials and Packards.
To ensure the future for Lincoln, on April 30, 1940, it became the Lincoln Division of Ford Motor Company.
1938 Lincoln V12 Brunn Convertible – Ryan Frost
The Lincoln Continental was introduced as a production model; built on the assembly line, replacing hand-built construction.
As a replacement for the expensive Model K, an extended-wheelbase Lincoln Custom variant of the Lincoln Zephyr was developed. (The hyphen was dropped from Lincoln Zephyr.)
1941 Lincoln Continental Coupe – Thesupermat
Following the conclusion of the War in 1945, the Lincoln-Mercury Division was created, ending the use of the Zephyr name. Code-named the H-series, non-Continental Lincolns were identified by their body style and continued the use of the Zephyr chassis.
The Zephyr chassis and V12 engine bit the dust in 1948 and Lincoln ended production of the Continental.
1948 Lincoln Continental Cabriolet – Charles01
For 1949, all three Ford Motor Company divisions debuted their first postwar designs. Sharing its body structure with the Mercury Eight, the redesigned Lincoln model line, code-named the EL-series, marked the first use of a V8 in a Lincoln since 1932.
As with the previous Lincoln Continental, the 1949 Lincoln dispensed with running boards and adopted a low hood line and straight fender line from headlamp to taillamp.
1953 Lincoln Capri – John Lloyd
For 1952, Lincoln returned to model names, so the Lincoln Cosmopolitan became the standard Lincoln and the Lincoln Capri was the flagship model line. Lincolns shared a body with the Mercury Monterey, including its front-hinged rear doors.
1956 Continental Mark II V8 – Valder137
Henry Leland’s original Lincoln Motor Company Plant, in Detroit, Michigan, was closed and subsequent Lincolns were produced alongside Mercury Montereys and Mercury Montclairs.
Mechanically, Lincoln differed from Mercury, as the Ford truck V8 was replaced by the Lincoln Y-block V8, plus a Hydramatic transmission.
1956 Lincoln Continental Mark II – Elvis Presley Museum
In 1956, Ford Motor Company created the Continental Division, slotted above Lincoln, as the flagship marque of Ford Motor Company and the Continental Mark II was the successor to the 1940–1948 Lincoln Continental personal luxury car.
Offered as a two-door hardtop coupe, the Mark II had whitewall tires, minimal chrome trim on the body sides and tailfins were absent. In place of the bumper-mounted spare tyre of the original Lincoln Continental, the boot lid had an imitation spare tyre bulge.
1956 Continental Mark II – Rex Gray
The Mark II was largely hand-built, with extensive quality testing done to each engine and transmission before leaving the factory. At US$10,000 in 1956, the Mark II was the most expensive car produced by an American automaker at the time, rivalling the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud in price.
Slotted above the Lincoln Capri, the Lincoln Premiere adapted features of the Continental Mark II, including its ducted air conditioning.
During 1957, the Mark II was withdrawn, because each unit was sold at a loss of over $1000. For 1958, Continental adopted Lincoln body styles, to achieve a US$4000 price cut for the Mark III model.
Taking a feature from the Mercury Turnpike Cruiser, Continental adopted a retractable rear window on every body style (including convertibles) with a reverse-slant rear roofline. For 1959, the Mark III was renamed the Mark IV, becoming the Mark V Lincoln Continental in 1960.
1958 Continental Mk III – BuchT
For the 1958 model year, Lincoln and Continental adopted a common body structure, shifting to unibody construction. With a 131-inch wheelbase, the new platform was among the largest ever built by Ford Motor Company.
As a replacement for the Y-block V8, Ford developed a 430 cu in (seven-litre) Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln (MEL) V8 that was also available in Ford Thunderbirds and some Mercury vehicles.
By 1958, the future of Lincoln-Mercury was at risk, so Ford President Robert McNamara required the Lincoln model line to undergo a reduction in size and the Lincoln model cycle was extended from three years to nine years.
For 1959, Continental developed Town Car and Limousine variants of the standard four-door sedan that were available in black only.
1965 Lincoln Continental Convertible – Sicnag
For 1961, the Lincoln Continental replaced the Lincoln Capri and Lincoln Premiere and the Continental Mark V saw no successor.
The Lincoln Continental shed 15 inches in length and eight inches in wheelbase. In an effort to streamline production, only four-door body styles were produced, including the convertible and Lincoln returned to the use of rear suicide doors.
For 1966, Lincoln added a two-door hardtop to the Continental model line.
After the 1967 model year, Lincoln ended production of the Continental four-door convertible. At 2600kg, the 1967 Lincoln Continental Convertible was the heaviest non-limousine ever produced by Ford Motor Company.
1969 Lincoln Continental Mk III – Stavo1
In April 1968, the Continental Mark III was released; powered by the new 460 cu in (7.5 -litre) Ford FE-series V8, rated at 365bhp (272kW) and 500lbft (678Nm) of torque. It was the first Ford vehicle to be fitted with anti-lock brakes and was fitted with power door locks, power seats and power windows.
The Mark III was a two-door hardtop, derived from the four-door Ford Thunderbird. The Continental Mark III had hidden headlights and a redesigned trunk lid with a simulated spare-tire indentation.
Most noticeable was an upright chrome grille that imitated the Rolls-Royce design, as well as a centrally-mounted Cartier electric clock on the dashboard.
For the 1970 model year, the Continental grew in size, on the chassis of the Ford LTD/Mercury Marquis and shifting to body-on-frame construction for the first time since 1957. In 1975, the roofline was redesigned to differentiate the Continental from the Mercury Marquis.
Also for 1970, the Town Car nameplate was revived as a sub-model of the Lincoln Continental.
For 1972, the Continental Mark IV made its debut, redesigned alongside the Ford Thunderbird. While sharing a common roofline with the Thunderbird, from the window line down, the Mark IV wore distinct exterior sheet metal, with the return of a radiator-style grille, hidden headlights and a redesigned spare-tire trunk lid.
The 1973 fuel crisis played a significant role in the engineering of American automobiles, forcing Lincoln to develop a compact-size sedan and redesign smaller full-size sedans for the 1980s. When Chrysler withdrew its Imperial brand after 1975, Cadillac became the sole domestic Lincoln competitor.
1980 Lincoln Versailles – 55allegro
Lincoln introduced the for the 1977 model year. A whopping 30 inches shorter and 740kg lighter than a Lincoln Continental, the Versailles was based on the Ford Granada/Mercury Monarch. Outsold by the Cadillac Seville by a significant margin, the Versailles was discontinued in early 1980.
Also for 1977, Lincoln-Mercury replaced the Continental Mark IV with the 19 feet long Continental Mark V coupe. It became the most successful of all the Mark series vehicles, with over 228,000 sold across three model years.
As Lincoln entered the 1980s, the American auto industry struggled to balance fuel efficiency, emissions controls and downsizing; while competing against European and Japanese manufacturers.
The Lincoln Continental downsized for the first time, becoming the lightest Lincoln since World War II and sharing chassis underpinnings with Mercury Marquis and Ford LTD. With a shift to a 302 cu in (4.9-litre) V8, the fuel economy of the Lincoln model line rose nearly 40-percent.
1980 Lincoln Continental Coupe – Mr Choppers
By the end of 1980, Lincoln was marketing three versions of one vehicle and the Continental become the Lincoln Town Car. For 1982, the Lincoln Continental shifted size into the mid-size segment, using the Ford Fox platform.
For 1984, the Continental Mark VII replaced the Mark VI, sharing its chassis with the Ford Thunderbird and Lincoln Continental.
For 1986, the Mark VII adopted the Lincoln brand name (in an effort to end the Continental branding confusion over the Mark series). The last generation of the Mark series sold with a Designer Series option, the Mark VII was produced through the 1992 model year.
For 1988, the Lincoln Continental adopted a front-wheel drive platform, based on an extended-wheelbase version of the Ford Taurus. The 3.8-litre V6 engine also marked the first time that a Lincoln did not even offer an eight-cylinder engine.
The 1989 Lincoln Continental became the first domestic brand sedan sold in the United States equipped with standard dual airbags. Average annual sales for the new Continental were more than double that of the previous generation model and helped the Lincoln brand to achieve record total sales in 1989 and again in 1990.
1991 Lincoln Continental – JGrex1
For 1990, the Town Car adopted many styling elements from the Mark VII and in 1991 was powered by the 210bhp 4.6-litre Ford Modular V8 engine – the first overhead-cam, eight-cylinder engine in an American car since the Duesenberg Model J.
For the 1993 model year, the Lincoln Mark VII was replaced by the Lincoln Mark VIII that remained a variant of the Ford Thunderbird/Mercury Cougar. The Mark VIII retained rear-wheel drive and adopted four-wheel independent suspension.
Alongside standard trim, the LSC (Luxury Sports Coupe) made its return as the flagship Mark VIII model, but sales of mid-size luxury coupes were in overall decline during the 1990s.
The Continental underwent a redesign for 1995, on a new version of the Ford Taurus chassis. Styled closer to the Mark VIII, the Continental dropped its V6 in favour of a 4.6-litre V8 engine from the Mark VIII.
The Lincoln model line underwent a significant transition for the 1998 model year. Alongside a mid-cycle revision of the Continental, the Town Car became the tallest Lincoln sedan in 40 years, adopting a completely new interior and the rounded exterior of the Mark VIII and Continental.
The Lincoln Navigator made its debut as the first Lincoln SUV, as the division fielded four model lines for the first time. The Navigator helped make 1998 the first year Lincoln outranked Cadillac in vehicle sales.
After the 1998 model year, the Mark VIII was withdrawn, marking the final generation of the Lincoln Mark series.