1956 Continental Mark II Convertible

The unique chassis of the Mark II allowed for upright seating with a low convertible roofline.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Great cars are never forgotten, and the 1956-1957 Continental Mark II is one of them; dignified without being stuffy and -- most important -- thoroughly evocative of the first "Mark," with a similarly close-coupled cabin, sporty long-hood/short-deck proportions, and a decklid hump styled to resemble a "continental" spare tire.

Though offered only as a two-door hardtop, Ford commissioned the famed Derham coachworks in July 1956 to build a prototype Mark II convertible. It was painted pearlescent white and the top had very wide rear quarters. Shown extensively, it was given to Bill Ford for his wife's personal use. Later, the car, then sky blue, was bought by an Iowa collector. Another ragtop was cobbled up from a coupe by a private party in Florida, but the Derham car is the only one that's "factory."

But there's more. The Mark II soft top seen here was created about 22 years ago. Collins Trim & Auto, of Marion, Indiana, built it for the late Eldon Anson. After Anson sold the car, it was offered at a Kruse Auction in Auburn, Indiana, where it quickly found a new owner. The Mark II was virtually handcrafted on a unique "cowbelly" chassis, permitting upright seating with a low roofline.

Classic Cars Image Gallery

The 1956 Continental Mark II earned its reputation as a timeless beauty. See more classic car pictures.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Power came from individually selected and balanced Lincoln 368-cid V-8s; the 285 horsepower rating was upped to 300 for 1957. Though the Mark II earned design plaudits, its towering $10,000 price tag kept two-year sales to just 3012 units. Ford then abandoned the super-luxury concept, but not before considering a retractable convertible top (later used on the 1957 Ford Skyliner).

Even the trunk was fully carpeted in the Continental Mark II convertible.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

But getting back to the convertible, Collins Trim and Auto completed six Mark II ragtop conversions in the 1990s. That means that at least eight Mark II soft tops have been built -- some people obviously think that the timeless beauty of the Mark II is even more elegant in topless form.

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