1972-1976 Lincoln Continental Mark IV

The Legacy of the Lincoln Continental Mark IV Program

Wes Dahlberg lead the team that designed the Lincoln Continental Mark IV.
Wes Dahlberg lead the team that designed the Lincoln Continental Mark IV.

Veteran stylist Wes Dahlberg set up Ford's British and German design studios in 1958. Nine years later, he returned to the U.S. to work on what became the 1971 Pinto subcompact.

His next assignment was the Lincoln Continental Mark IV which -- in typical Lee lacocca fashion -- was a five-way intramural design competition. Dahlberg headed the team from Advanced Styling.

Now retired and living in La Mesa, California (near San Diego), Dahlberg reflected on the Mark IV program in a 1986 interview with Continental Comments, the national publication of the Lincoln and Continental Owners Club. What follows are excerpts from that conversation:

"There were five different areas and they were all pretty secret. We were in competitive studios. It was really a crash program. I had two designers under me and six modelers.

"It was a designer's dream as far as the package was concerned. The proportion of this car was so superb. It was a treat for me, because after having done [small] European cars for so long, here, all of a sudden, was this huge car.

"We had this particular model semi-prepared for a show, and were working toward another one when [then-Ford president Semon] "Bunky" Knudsen came in one day unexpectedly with his crew of men and saw this model. We were supposed to have it covered, but he came in without our knowing it.

He said, 'Gentlemen, this is going to be the next Mark, the Mark IV Don't change anything except for manufacturing and engineering feasibility.' He said it without consulting Henry Ford or anybody, and you just don't do that in a large company like Ford.

"But it turned out, and from then on we just worked with the engineers and worked with the feasibility problems and we changed as little as we had to. The oval windows were added later, but except for those, there were very few details that were changed.

"The grille was sort of like the Rolls-Royce, but we did not copy it directly. We were trying for the look of many of the great classics if they were to be built in 1972 -- not necessarily the Duesenberg, but all of them. We wanted a clean look and simplicity.

"And here's something else I'd like to point out: The Mark III had very flat sides. The Mark IV sides are rounded. There's a deep crease through the body and you will see a shadow below. That's very important to the overall effect we were after. We did the Mark IV first, and [the Ford studio] patterned the [1972] Thunderbird after it."

For more information on cars, see: