1956 Lincoln Continental Mark II Interior

The Lincoln Continental Mark II was known for its sober but elegant design, and matching the understated exterior of the Lincoln Continental Mark II was an equally low-key interior.

1957 lincoln continental mark ii instrument panel
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The Lincoln Continental Mark II's low-key instrument panel housed complete instrumentation ahead of a big, dished steering wheel.

Designers resisted the metallic threads and bright colors that were then all the rage, opting for good old-fashioned broadcloth, a "cross-checked" nylon, and a new fabric called "Matelasse" with an embroidered thread pattern, all in conservative hues.

Leather upholstery was available, and came from Bridge of Weir in Scotland. A few U.S. leathers looked just as good, but they were spray-dyed, not vat-dyed, and thus not good enough for Ford's finest.

The instrument panel was similarly restrained and rather modest dimensionally. An upright pod ahead of the steering wheel presented four round dials with brushed-finish faces housing complete instrumentation, including tachometer and chronometer.

Lights, wiper, ignition, and radio were arrayed below on a sub-panel stretching either side of the wheel. Five vertical-sliding levers with large chrome handles looked after heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, mounted low in the center just above the transmission tunnel.

lincoln continental mark ii trunk
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The humped trunklid of the Mark II served a purpose, even if the spare was awkwardly placed.

With all this, the Lincoln Continental Mark II was the closest America had come to a hand-crafted custom since the last coach-built Classics of the 1940s, though it was technically a series-production model. Its assembly plant was shared with no other car in the Ford stable, and included a half-mile road course and various test stations.

After undergoing an exhaustive round of tests and inspections, each car was prepared for shipment like a priceless painting, protected by a full-size fleece-lined cloth cover, then wrapped in a big plastic bag. The cars arrived customer-ready. All the dealer had to do was remove the distinctive radial-vane wheel covers from the trunk, put them on the wheels, bolt on the license plates, and hand over the keys.

Befitting its lofty position, the Lincoln Continental Mark II was given one of the 1950s biggest publicity pump-ups, at least before the Edsel. First word that a new Continental was in the works came from William Clay Ford at the first national meet of the Lincoln Continental Owners Club, held at Dearborn's historic Greenfield Village in October 1954.

Details leaked out over the next year, and suspense mounted until the car's formal unveiling at the Paris Auto Show on October 6, 1955.

Go to the next page to read about the Mark II's 1956 debut.

For more information on cars, see: