1958 Lincoln Mark II Designs
When Ford discontinued the Continental Mark II after 1957, the company left behind 1958 Lincoln Mark II designs that show plans for a three-model line anchored by the familiar hardtop coupe. Only one styling change was contemplated: a mild frontal update with stacked quad headlamps (then all the rage), no vertical grille bars, and a mildly reshaped bumper.
Not that there was reason to tamper. As designer John Reinhart said later, the Mark II "was so perfect a design that we felt it could go as long as 10 years."
More intriguing was fellow designer Buehrig's suggestion for a long-wheel-base four-door hardtop called Berline ("sedan" in French). Evolved through numerous renderings and clay models, this used basic Mark II styling but looked sufficiently more "important" to be chauffeur-driven should the occasion demand.
Differences began with a slightly taller grille flanked by stacked quad headlights, as planned for the coupe, but with the lower lights nestled in the front bumper. Bodysides bore no decoration save ribbed rocker-panel accents, a coupe-style "character line" running full-length just below the belt, and matching lower-body crease that started as a vertical line just behind the headlamps.
The third model contemplated was a two-door retractable-hardtop convertible that was not inspired by the 1957 Ford Skyliner. The "retrac" was actually engineered at Special Products in 1954 as the sole Mark II model, only to be rejected when program costs threatened to spiral out of sight. The idea wasn't passed on to Ford Division until after the decision to go with cheaper Lincoln-based 1958 Continentals.
Reinhart and other designers believed each of the planned 1958 Mark IIs would become "a 'classic' in its own right. But we got stopped at the gate."
What stopped them was a Mercury cost expert sent in to make the Mark profitable. As a result, the production 1958s were downgraded far below the proposed trio of Mark II "line extensions."
However, the "Lincolnize" decision wasn't made for six months, during which time management considered holding for a while with just the Mark II coupe to see how sales would fare. Sadly, the Berline and retrac were shelved along the way.
Meanwhile, Continental Division commissioned a custom Mark II convertible coupe as a gift for Mrs. W. C. Ford. Built in 1957 by the famed Derham Body Company of Rosemont, Pennsylvania, it had a soft top with very wide rear quarters as on the original Continental cabriolets. A second convertible was later cobbled out of a Mark II coupe by a private party in Florida.
The Derham car, at least, still exists, and testifies that an open Mark II would have looked great. Regrettably, Ford never thought of selling copies.
What it did sell for 1958 was the giant Mark III, a mildly restyled version of that year's blocky new unibody Lincoln on the same 131-inch wheelbase.
Styling was nowhere near as graceful as the Mark II's -- the "slant-eye" face was particularly jarring -- but buyers liked it well enough given vastly reduced prices: around $6,000 for a choice of convertible, two- and four-door hardtop, or four-door sedan.
The Mark III turned a small profit on sales of 12,550, but Dearborn's expansive "divisionalization" dream was dead, a victim of the 1958 recession and Edsel's abject failure. With that Continental ceased to be a separate make, and Continental Division was folded into a short-lived Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln unit, which then became just Lincoln-Mercury (again).
After 1960, all Lincolns were Continentals until the new Mark III hardtop coupe of 1968. Never again would Ford consider anything quite like the Mark II Berline or retractable. A pity, for they would have been glorious.