The name Lincoln Continental is synonymous with the phrase full-size luxury sedan, and it’s been that way in each incarnation since the Continental was presented to the public in 1939. The first Continentals were built on the Lincoln Zephyr chassis with stylistic upgrades that were considered European in design. Now, 80+ years later, the Continental is still in production and a popular luxury model.
10 Generations of The Lincoln Continental
Each version of the Continental, when body and technology changes are introduced, is referred to as a generation. Some generations spanned several years. Other generations were only in production for a year or two. There were also years when the Continental was out of production, such as 2003 through 2016; it was brought back in 2017 and remains in production as of 2019.
The first generation of the Continental ran from 1939 through 1948, though it went out of production a few months into 1942 and didn’t return until 1946 due to the country’s involvement in World War II. This Zephyr-based model was commissioned by Edsel Ford for use as his personal vehicle. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright described it as the world’s most beautiful car and bought two for himself.
After being out of production from 1949 through 1955, the Continental was revived as the Mark II in 1956. This incarnation abandoned the curved, fat-fendered lines of the first-generation Continentals and adopted a smooth, almost boxy silhouette. It also featured very little chrome, which stood in sharp contrast to many other cars from the 1950s. Under the hood, it had a 368 CID V8 engine that delivered 285 horsepower.
The third-generation Continental provided the company with the opportunity to introduce new comfort features like a retractable rear window that opened to let the breeze flow through and dash-mounted AC vents. At the same time, the roof lines, trim packages and grille were emphasized to enhance the car’s visual appeal.
Fourth-generation Continentals, such as the Lincoln convertible President Kennedy rode in, had unique features that included rear-hinged back doors, a grille with an egg-crate design and a rear seat that could be raised or lowered as much as ten inches.
The fifth-generation was built on the Mercury Marquis chassis and had a shorter wheelbase than earlier models. However, the huge bumpers used during these years added enough length to the models to make them the longest Continentals ever produced. This Lincoln also featured sharper lines, and some had an oval window in the rear pillars.
The sixth-generation featured the boxy body style of the previous version, but it was made smaller and lighter to reduce its fuel consumption.
In the seventh revamping of the Continental, the company opted to return the car to its luxury roots. Although still downsized, an aerodynamic bustle-back rear end was added to create body lines that directly competed with luxury models offered by other manufacturers.
Built on the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable chassis, the eighth-generation Lincoln Continental was the first of the front-wheel-drive models. It held true to the previous length, but its body lines were smoothed out and made more rounded. It also weighed 170 pounds less than previous generations, which helped to improve its fuel efficiency.
The Lincoln V8 engine was restored in the ninth-generation Continental after eight years of a six-cylinder engine being the only option available.
The tenth and current generation of the Continental has new body lines, overhead storage consoles and all-wheel drive available as an option.
The Lincoln Continental first went into production 80 years ago. While it has gone through many changes, it has remained a popular luxury car that has evolved to keep up with advancing technologies.