There's A Reason Why the New Lincoln Continental Concept Looked Familiar to Me

Ronnie Schreiber
by Ronnie Schreiber
theres a reason why the new lincoln continental concept looked familiar to me

Full gallery here

I was at the press conference in Chicago a few years back when Lincoln announced that they had decided to jettison billions of dollars worth of brand equity and go with alphanumeric model names (well, the announcement didn’t quite go like that, but that’s a pretty close approximation of what it meant). Around that time Ford was still trying to sell luxury F-150 pickups under the Lincoln brand, first the Lincoln Blackwood and then the Mark LT, before they realized the margins were greater on Platinum F-150s. When the sedan model now known as the MKS was introduced as a concept, the press kit referred to it as the Mark S, with Mk S badging, just like Mk IIIs and Mk IVs of yore – alphanumeric badging but the model name was spoken as “Mark x”. By the time it reached production, though, the new large Lincoln was simply the MKS. I asked a Lincoln rep what happened to “Mark” and was told that customers associated the name with old fashioned land yachts, not contemporary cars. With the new Lincoln Continental concept it’s clear that Ford Motor Company’s luxury brand has decided to embrace their inner land yacht.

Some of the brightwork includes taillights that look like chrome when unlit. Full gallery here.

The throwback name is one indicator, and so is the rhetoric, “elegant, effortlessly powerful and serene”. Lincoln even chose a signature color from the Continental nameplate’s history, what they are today calling Rhapsody Blue, a not quite dark blue that has a lot of warmth and richness. Of course the modern version has some pearl in the finish, but it’s clearly a nod to the brand’s history. Another way the Conti concept embraces its heritage is with the lavish use of chrome. For a long time, car designers have avoided lots of brightwork, a reaction to the prior use of chromium plated trim. What worked in the 1950s and 1960s started looking dated and gaudy in the 1970s as designers struggled to make good looking cars in the new regulatory era of 5 mph bumpers. Today we have fascias, not chrome plated bumpers, and trim is more likely to be body colored or some shade of grey than chrome. A lot of metal and metal looking trim these days has a brushed or satin look. Glossy, shiny chrome just has been out of fashion for a while.

Full gallery here

While contemplating the Continental concept, taking in the long expanses of blue paint and all that shiny chrome, particularly the broad chrome strip that circles the car at rocker panel level, I was reminded of another blue Continental, one of the two 1956 Continental Mark II convertibles made for Ford Motor Company to test the feasibility of a Mk II ragtop. I guess you could call it a Mk II convertible concept. We ran a post on TTAC about that specific car, which is owned by Barry Wolk, a Detroit area car enthusiast and restorer (disclaimer: Barry’s wife is my mother’s cousin).

Full gallery here

David Woodhouse, Lincoln’s head of styling, happened to be on the stand while I was thinking about all that chrome and rich blue paint, so I walked over and told him that the color and the chrome reminded me of a 1956 Continental Mark II convertible that I’d photographed. Woodhouse replied, “Barry’s car? It was in the studio as an inspiration while we worked on this.” Besides the color and the chrome, it appears to me that the rear fender line of the new concept echoes the way the fender line of the Mark II dips near the door.

Full gallery here

In introducing the new Continental, Lincoln Motor president Kumar Galhotra, who not quite coincidentally was wearing a blue suit that matched the concept car, said that the project really took off once they told the design team that Lincoln was going to call the project they were working on a Continental. Normally I might be skeptical of the just-so nature of that story, but the fact that they had at least one classic Continental on hand to give the stylists a sense of what the brand has meant, makes me believe that working on such a historic nameplate had to have jazzed up the designers.

Can you count the Lincoln logos in the front end (check the headlamps too). Though the retail Continental will be close to the concept, Lincoln has given two different reasons why the lighted Lincoln star in the grille won’t make it to production: it’s not compliant with some government regulations and the technology isn’t production ready. I hope they figure out how to do it, it would be an even better nighttime brand identifier than Audi’s LED eyebrows.

To be honest, I feel a little vindicated since I’ve said more than once that what Lincoln had to do was sit their design team down with a 1940 Continental, a 1956 Mk II, a suicide door Conti from the early 1960s and then an early 1970s Mk IV (before the battering ram bumpers ruined its lines) so they could get a sense of Lincoln’s true brand identity. Even cooler than vindication, though, was finding out that there was a good reason why the new Continental concept reminded me of an older Continental concept.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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4 of 74 comments
  • Pheanix Pheanix on Apr 18, 2015

    This is not a bad looking car, so count me cautiously optimistic. Definitely better than anything else in Lincoln's stable right now. We'll see what the street version looks like. A lot will depend on what colors they're sold in, IMO. I sure hope they will offer a good selection of classy, interesting colors and that the majority of them are not just going to be running around in white, black or grey. Suicide doors were a must here, shame they didn't go all the way with this car. Maybe on the mid-cycle redesign if they sell well? There's a 60s suicide door Continental that gets serviced in the same Chicago shop as my cars, the suicide door design just looks so good even after all these years. No wonder Rolls has brought it back (if, in fact, they ever stopped offering it, I'm not sure).

    • See 1 previous
    • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Apr 20, 2015

      @Ronnie Schreiber On the debut day of this car those three or so weeks ago, I saw MSN report that they didn't do suicide doors because their lawyers wouldn't let them.

  • Voyager Voyager on Apr 20, 2015

    I think it looks spectacular. Not too sure about the front. Here is a more Lincoln-type ' quick fix'. If ever a big American luxury car has a chance of making it in Europe as well, then it is this one. Think about it: Flying Spur-like looks, only better, and probably for less than half the price of the Bentley F.S.

  • Lou_BC Murilee is basically correct on the trim levels. People tend to refer to Ford's full-sized cars as "Galaxie 500" or "Galaxie's" even though that's just the mid level trim. I was never a fan of the '69 snout or any of the subsequent models. The vacuum controlled headlight covers typically failed. It was a heavy clunky system also found on the Mercury's like the Cougar. The XL's and LTD's could be purchased with factory bucket seats and a center console with a large shifter, similar to the type of throttle on an airplane. The late 60's era Ford cars had coil springs in the rear which rode nice. The shape of the fender wells did not lend themselves to fitting larger tires. The frame layout carried on to become the underpinnings of the Panther platform. I noticed that this car came with disc brakes in the front. There was a time when disc's were an upgrade option from drum brakes. Ford's engines of similar displacement are often assumed as being from the same engine families. In '69 the 429 was the biggest engine which was in the same family as the 460 (385 series). It was a true big block. In 1968 and earlier, the 428, 427, 390's typically found in these cars were FE block engines. The 427 side oiler has always been the most desired option.
  • Drew8MR Minivans are expensive new if you are just buying them for utility. Used minivans are often superfund sites in back compared to the typical barely used backseats in a lot of other vehicles and you aren't going to get a deal just because everything is filthy, broken and covered in spilled food and drink.
  • Arthur Dailey This is still the only 'car' show that our entire family enjoys. This is not Willie Mays with the Mets style of decline. More like Gretzky with the Blues. It may not be their 'best' work but when it works the magic is still there.
  • Cprescott Are there any actual minvans left? Honduh and Toyoduh are bloated messes - the Kia Carnival as well. These vehicles are within inches of a 1960's short wheelbase Ford Econoline in size. Hardly mini.
  • Arthur Dailey Ford was on a roll with these large cars. The preferred colours being either green or brown. The brown was particularly 'brougham'. Chrysler vehicles also seemed particularly popular in green during that era. Ford's 'aircraft' inspired instrument 'pod' for the driver rather than the 'flat' instrument panel was deemed 'futuristic' at the time. Note that this vehicle does not have the clock. The hands and numbers are missing. Having the radio controls on the left side of the driver could however be infuriating. Although I admire pop-up/hideaway headlights, Ford's vacuum powered system was indeed an issue. If I left my '78 T-Bird parked for more than about 12 hours, there was a good chance that when I returned the headlight covers had retracted. The first few times this happened it gave me a 'start' as I feared that I may have left the lights on and drained the battery.