Think "classic," and one of the cars you're likely to envision is the original 1941 Lincoln Continental. Dozens of other models have been assigned that designation by the Classic Car Club of America, of course, but nearly all are from the 1920s and '30s. Most classic cars are rarely seen, but despite their relatively small numbers, plenty of people have spotted a Continental on the street, as well as in movies from the Forties.

1941 Lincoln Continental
The Lincoln Continental's subtle style and and clean lines
persisted even after World War II halted auto production.
See more pictures of classic convertible cars.

Continentals were produced in coupe and convertible form from 1940 to 1948, extending into the start of the postwar era. Yet, they earned -- and deserve -- full classic status on the basis of their trend-setting, timeless design.

Styling was conceived by Edsel Ford, based on the Lincoln Zephyr and executed by E.T. "Bob" Gregorie. Edsel wanted his one-off convertible to be "thoroughly continental," including the use of an externally mounted spare tire. In the 1950s, when outside spares became popular add-ons for more prosaic makes, they were called "Continental kits," borrowing their name from this Lincoln.

Each year, Edsel Ford wintered in Palm Beach, Florida. For the 1938-39 vacation season, he wanted a one-off convertible to drive around the area. Response of his neighbors and friends was immediate and enthusiastic. Just about everyone who saw the car thought it sensational.

1941 Lincoln Continental, Interior
The Lincoln Continental's interior featured a vast array of
dashboard options and smooth, comfortable seating.

So did the folks who saw the production version, which arrived for 1940. Reaching beyond stylish, this car turned heads wherever it went.

Only 404 Continentals were built in 1940, but the total rose to 1250 in 1941. Just 400 Cabriolets went on sale that year, priced at $2865. The rest were closed club coupes.

New pushbutton door releases for 1941 added to the car's distinctive allure. Continentals held a 292-cid V-12 engine, rated at 120 horsepower. Many were equipped with the new Borg-Warner overdrive unit.

Lincoln also offered an attractive regular convertible, but only the Continental deserves to stand among the finest automotive designs of the Twentieth Century.

For more classic convertibles of the 1930s and 1940s, see:

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