By on April 17, 2015

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.

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.

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).

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.

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. 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 that 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.

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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74 Comments on “There’s A Reason Why the New Lincoln Continental Concept Looked Familiar to Me...”


  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    I’ve seen that sort of transforming chrome/body color lighting system featured on concept autos since the mid 80s; hopefully that’ll finally make it into a regular production vehicle – and I can’t think of a more deserving nameplate for the treatment than the Continental.

    The heritage styling cues are right on; I wish I could see that thing up close and personal.

    For the umpteenth time, Lincoln needs to ditch the alphabet soup and return to real names, with a clear focus on what each one represents: Zephyrs and Town Cars for those who will be driving what they own; Continentals for those who will pass the driving duties to someone else.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Would this pass muster though for regulations? If it looks all chromed, it will be reflective in the sun, making the rear lamps very hard to see when lighted on bright days.

      • 0 avatar
        Felis Concolor

        It should be possible with careful selection of transmissive and reflective properties to create surfaces which appear opaque or even slightly reflective, yet allow most light striking its surface to pass through to a diffusive layer or perhaps a retroreflector panel.

    • 0 avatar
      Whatnext

      Cue some clueless millenial who wll tell us all alphabet soup names are fine.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        It’s not just millenials, but older car enthusiasts who don’t remember when cars were called ‘super’ and ‘deluxe’ before the late ’40s. Then numbers took over from Chevy to Cadillac, with chevy 150 and 210 models, and Cadillac 60 series, etc. It wasn’t until the late 50’s that model names took over. The letter-number regimen is yet another fad that will pass. You just have to live long enough.

    • 0 avatar

      ” I wish I could see that thing up close and personal.”

      Well, I do know where you can see it in 3D. ;-)

  • avatar
    danio3834

    If the production version wears the Continental name, it will be a win. While I’m not super enthused about the design (because the MKR concept existed and they didn’t build it) I can see the appeal and it looks like a credible luxury car.

  • avatar
    Carilloskis

    It almost looks like a 2015 mustang in the head on shot, Also Ford still sells the Lincoln Mark Lt in Mexico, its just an F150 Platinum with Lincoln badges, as south of the boarder the Brand has more equity, where as in the US and Canada More people want their Luxury truck to say F150 the Mark Lt so Ford has sold more F150 Platinum’s than they would have sold Mark Lts.

  • avatar
    jhefner

    This is a great example of paying homage to the past without resorting to tacking on styling clues from the past and ending up with something clumsy and chubby (like the Packard protoype and Rolls Royce Wraith.) It is close enough to it’s roots that you picked up the styling clues; but they did not resort to tacking on say the grill or tail lights to evoke the Continentals of the past.

    There is one car that did a great job of reviving an old design, and that is the eleventh generation Thunderbird of 2002. It is a totally different car, but the resemblance to the Thunderbird of 1956 is uncanny. You have to compare them side by side to see just how different they really are:

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/16156615102/

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I remember when those came out, and aside from the corny pastel colors, I thought now THAT is cool (age 16)!

      Until I went on Yahoo or Excite and found out how expensive they were – what was it, upper 40’s in early 00s money?

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        They also disinigrated. The AJ V8 and early 5R55 transmissions will eat your soul.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          That’s the S-type engine, yeah?

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Thunderbird used AJ30 which was a 3.9L derivative of the 4.0 AJ-V8. The block, crankshaft, pistons, and connecting rods were all unique to the 3.9 but the other components were shared with Jaguar.

          In hindsight it was probably foolish of Ford to spin up a variant for only its Ford-Lincoln products than to simply use the Jaguar AJ27.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaguar_AJ-V8_engine

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            They probably should have just designed those cars to take the 4V 4.6L.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Why not just use:

            -The SHO engine, or;
            -That Intech V8 from the Conti?

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I think the Intech V8/4.6L 4V that was in the Conti/Mark VIII didn’t fit or wasn’t compatible with other components. Danio, Scoutdude, or others may know for sure. I dunno about the SHO engine, but it was down on power compared to the AJ-V8, which certainly fit in any DEW vehicle.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I bet DEW98 can’t accept the Ford mod motor, hence the use of Jag AJ variant. Ford was foolish to use DEW98 for the T-bird, would have been better using SN-95 since the tooling was there and Mustang was about to go to D2C anyway.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            There was a whole big initiative by the then Premier Auto Group at Ford to make the Jaguar engines truly premium advanced designs with uber tight tolerances and such. It was a chance to showcase that in American cars with the LS and T-bird. It made sense from a cost sharing standpoint to try and utilize Jag stuff. They could’ve fitted the 4V, but it would have cost more to engineer it in, and power output wasn’t that much more. Afterall, the DEW derived Mustang had 3 and evenutally 4V mod motors.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Damn PAG. I understand the reasoning, but the 4.6L 4V and now the 5.0L is premium enough for a Ford or Lincoln.

            If I was running PAG at the time, Nasser would have fired me for stuffing the 4-valve mod motor in everything. Similarly, if I worked at Ford now, the Coyote would be in everything and MkFields would try to choke me out in a board meeting.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Thx for the engine details. Interesting stuff.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Nasser was a tool.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            Can’t say I’ve been under the hood of one of those generation Tbirds but I have been under it’s platform mate the LS and I’d say that it is very unlikely that you would be able to get a SOHC 4.6 in there let alone the DOHC version. The Mod motor is pretty tall so I find it hard to believe it would fit with that low of a hood line. That said I’d be very interested in one of those Tbirds if it came with a DOHC 4.6.

    • 0 avatar
      ellomdian

      I’ll be honest (and apparently blunt) – I find it hard to take your commentary on the styling of concepts seriously, especially with regard to the cut-and-paste style of retro integration, if your hallmark of reviving an old design is the 02 T-Bird. That car only ever existed because Ford thought they could cash in some of the last wistful-eyed chips of Boomers, and it is the Genesis of bad retro-futurism obsession that has poisoned mainstream design for the last decade. Ford took styling cues from pretty much every TBird to date, put them in a blender, and ended up with a car that looked dated just a few years after it’s release.

      That car was the automotive incarnation of ’50s Diner Chic, and that is not a compliment.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      So much for my bright idea of buying a T-Bird for a weekend trawler, I guess…

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        They go for stupid money last I checked.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Yep, they do. Most I’ve seen tend to be creampuffs, probably bought by older folks who trotted them out on weekends. Low miles, well maintained, garaged.

          That probably explains the high asking prices.

          A lightly used ’13 Mustang V-6 convertible might be a better answer.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I like the Thunderbird’s looks as well but 1. once I saw what they were doing wholesale and 2. realized they were using an oddball Jaguar derieved drive-train, I thought no thanks. Mustang Convertible is a much better long term choice.

  • avatar
    Undefinition

    Very cool insight. Now I find myself scrolling up and down the page to see the similarities. Any chance to get some side-by-side photos? :-)

  • avatar

    Mercedes-Benz has had a lit grille emblem available on certain models for a few years now. I believe it illuminates upon unlocking the car, but turns off once you start it. You’ll sacrifice adaptive cruise control for it, though…

    http://www.benzworld.org/forums/attachments/w166-m-class/496160d1360965148-illuminated-star-my-ml-img_1399.jpg

  • avatar
    bkrell

    My one problem with this car is the decision to put that center console in the position of the center seat in the back. I mean, let’s be honest, who’s going to buy this car to be chauffeured around? I’d honestly love this car as a daily driver but I’d also like to be able to carry my wife and three kids if need be. I’d love for there to be at least a console delete option as is offered on the Navigator.

    • 0 avatar
      mjz

      Rich Chinese, that’s who.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      When they turn a car that big into a 2+2, they’re doing it wrong. The sloping rear roofline takes away from its utility as a chauffeured limo too. If they’re going for American style luxury instead of competing with sporty euro premium, a formal roof line is needed for a comfortable upright seating position in the rear.

  • avatar
    jrmason

    I really like the body lines of the car but those wheels just kill it for me.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I’m sure they’ll offer more than one set of wheels.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        I was thinking that too, but look at the size of those wheel openings. A smaller wheel with the same diameter wheel-tire combo would look like cartoon balloon tires, and smaller tires would look like grocery cart wheels in those openings. You can try to change the wheel design to something more sedate, but the sizing is always going to be a problem.

  • avatar
    mjz

    I really think this is a striking design. I like this so much more than the new CT6, which looks like an ATS on steroids. The only thing that would make it better would be suicide doors. That could be a Lincoln design cue that would truly set it apart. Bur overall, nice job.

  • avatar

    My reaction to the first photo was “jaguar”

    To the second: I was thinking late ’50s Lincolns.

    To the ’56: “Yeah!”

  • avatar
    50merc

    Best thing I’ve read about the C concept. I hadn’t noticed the author’s name but when I got to the reference about the Mk II convertible, I thought to myself, “this must be by Ronnie Schreiber”. Putting things in historical context is his forte. Sure enough.

    Retro is good; glad to see Lincoln is remembering its heritage. To hell with Euro pocket-rockets designed for people 4 feet tall. A real Lincoln is a car fit for CEOs and Statesmen to make their arrivals in.

    Rich blue paint and FoMoCo cars have always gone together well.

  • avatar
    Jgwag1985

    The reason it looks familiar? Ford Interceptor concept from 2007. This is a toned down version.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      You are really fairly correct on that. Same shape.

      http://image.motortrend.com/f/auto_shows/coverage/detroit/9507048+w670+h419+cr1+ar0/112_2007_detroit_auto_show_40z%2Bford_interceptor_concept%2Bside_view.jpg

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    big, brash, and unabashedly American. i like it

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Almost like what a Cadillac is supposed to be…

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        I agree. I don’t even care that this Conti is probably FWD based. I like the design, and I like that it isn’t about lap times and skid pad numbers.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          How can be be called luxury car if it didn’t run on the Nürburgring? Pfft.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            The American luxury Nurburgring should be driving from Glass House or RenCen to a mansion in Bloomfield Hills or Grosse Pointe Shores. Most comfort wins.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Ok, bball, but don’t you think that some Master of the Universe type who just dropped $70,000 on this likes knowing that if he wanted to, he could drive this like Juan Fangio?

            The truly great flagship sedans have great road manners. Example: Mercedes S550 – yes, it’s comfortable, but if you put it on a racetrack or a winding back road, it would be right at home. We’re not talking Miata-style handling prowess, but it’ll acquit itself very nicely. So will an Audi A8, or a BMW 7-series, or even a Lexus LS. The CT6 will too.

            I think the idea of modern luxury today is comfort with some performance cred behind it. The fist in the velvet glove. If this car is FWD, it won’t be a player. I hope that’s not true, because I like this look and I like the concept and where it takes the brand.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            It’s a starting point done in a way that FoMoCo can actually produce it. Viable RWD platforms are three years away, and they’ll be SUV/CUV first. That’s where the money is at, and where Lincoln can actually win.

            I’m not saying that the Continental should be a wallowy boat. The MKS is not a terrible drive, it just has interior space issues and it’s too much like the Taurus. I would expect the Continental to be dynamically better than any current Lincoln, but still have the ability to cruise in comfort.

            Lincoln just needs to sweat the details like Audi did. They were able to be relavent with FWD cars. Heck Audi’s flagship is still FWD in some markets. I understand Lincoln will never have the German credibility, but they still have an opportunity.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            I dunno, a softer version of a MKS? Doesn’t sound all that great to me.

            We’ll see, I guess.

            But I think Lincoln would be better served by building on the current line for a few years and then doing a flagship properly, versus half-a**ing it like Cadillac did with the XTS.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I don’t think it’ll be softer than the MKS. It’ll be bigger, faster, more comfortable, and dynamically superior.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Can they produce it with a Continental Kit on the trunk? Then it will look like a Lincoln should.

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    This is a great car. Its nice to see unashamed use of chrome again. I just wish someone would bring back real chrome bumpers that don’t get scratched or gouged every time you park in the city!

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I want to like this. I really, really want to like this. And if they stripped out about 70% of the chrome, I’d be a huge fan of the design.

    But I fear it’s setting us up for a big dose of fail. It’s a FWD sedan, probably based on some Taurus derivative. And they’re going to try and retail this for upwards of $60,000? Ask Cadillac what happens when you try doing that with a platform shared with family sedan. You get (a better looking version of) XTS fail.

    I’m sorry, a sedan like this needs to be RWD to be a proper flagship sedan. Does it need to be something that you could toss around a racetrack? Not necessarily, but it’s good to know you can if you wanted to (I’m looking at you, S550). There’s a certain feel to a big RWD sedan that can’t be replicated by FWD. And folks who buy in this segment want something technologically superior.

    I sure hope for Ford’s sake this isn’t going to be their version of the XTS.

  • avatar
    pheanix

    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).

    • 0 avatar

      The Lincoln team said that they didn’t do suicide doors because they felt that a front hinged rear door gave better access to the rear seat. That rear seat is important because of China.

      What’s odd about this reason is that the conventional reason given for the 1961 Continental having suicide doors is that Ford executives didn’t like how their feet would hit front hinged doors when exiting the car.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        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.

  • avatar

    I think it looks spectacular. Not too sure about the front. Here is a more Lincoln-type ‘ quick fix’.
    http://www.zendoestudio.com/Fotos/Lincoln_Continental_2016.jpg

    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.

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