1956-1957 Lincoln Continental Mark II

Demise of the Lincoln Continental Mark II

By 1958, the future of the Lincoln Continental Mark II was clearly doomed. Bob Thomas neatly summarizes the situation in his candid autobiography, Confessions of an Automobile Stylist:

"We were working our asses off to make the car a success, and if management hadn't put so many stumbling blocks in our way, we might have succeeded. GM lost money every year on the Corvette, but they kept it going as a prestige plus. We at Continental had to make money on the car from the start, which was a ridiculous assumption."

1958 lincoln continental mark ii
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The 1958 Lincoln Continental Mark II never made it out of pre-production.

Predictably, cost experts went to work on making the Continental a money-maker. The result was the 1958 Mark III, a spiffier version of that year's new unit-body Lincoln, with boxy, undistinguished lines and the same king-size 131-inch wheelbase.

Left stillborn were several Mark II extensions to supplement the original hardtop, which would have continued in the 1958 lineup initially envisioned. Said Reinhart: "It was so perfect a design that we felt it could go as long as 10 years."

The additions considered were a hardtop sedan with Mark II lines and what Buehrig dubbed the "berline," a limousine-type variation designed to be chauffeur-driven. The former got as far as a full-scale clay created by Reinhart at management's direction.

lincoln continental mark iii
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The 1958 Lincoln Continental Mark III marked the demise of the Mark II line.

Also proposed were a convertible and a retractable hardtop-convertible. With these, said Reinhart, ". . . we felt we had a full line of cars. And we thought each would be a 'classic' in its own right. But we got stopped at the gate."

Ironically, Ford abandoned the super-luxury market just as Cadillac was entering it with the 1957-1958 Eldorado Brougham. This was another low-volume prestige leader that went nowhere, though GM was more able than Ford to indulge such whims.

With the Mark III, the separate Continental Division was dissolved, and its headquarters building was turned into a pilot production plant. The division then faded quietly into a reformed Lincoln-Mercury Division following the demise of the short-lived Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln structure.

While the III wasn't technically a Lincoln, the little-changed 1959-1960 Mark IV and V were. Continental wouldn't return as a separate marque until 1968, when Henry Ford II decreed a new Mark III as the lineal successor to the Lincoln Continental Mark II. Thus began the third chapter of the Continental saga, a story that's still unfolding.

Specifications of the 1956-1957 Lincoln Continental Mark II appear on the next page.

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