By on June 14, 2022

The Continental Division was in a very difficult place when it designed an all-new Mark III as the (sedan only) replacement for the slow-selling and super expensive Continental Mark II coupe. As we learned last time, shortly after the Mark II went on sale the Continental Division was already on its last legs. It continued to lose money hand over foot after Ford’s huge initial investment and was doomed to a quick closure.

And so it was the 1956 and 1957 Mark IIs became the only Continental Division product and the only Marks that were hand-assembled in a factory-built, especially for Continental. After Continental’s closure, Ford’s new VP of passenger vehicles Lewis Crusoe quickly dismantled the division and integrated its employees into Lincoln. The Continental factory became the Edsel factory, and the three extant Mark III prototypes became a burden.

A free-standing Mark III model in the Lincoln lineup was entirely out of the question, as Crusoe and upper management focused on saving money, cutting build costs, and making the Lincoln brand as profitable as possible in the shortest amount of time. Even though the Mark III was complete from a design perspective, the prototypes were disassembled and thrown in the bin.

The Continental name was spared, however, as was its crosshair logo, and both were put to good use for 1958. The Continental Division logo became Lincoln’s in 1958, across the lineup. The company used a greyhound hood ornament in the Twenties and Thirties, and then switched to a knight’s helmet until the early Forties. Around that time, Lincoln followed the “luxury” cue from other domestic manufacturers and added a heraldic coat of arms with a red cross.

After World War II was finished, Lincoln swapped to a rocket hood ornament. Once the four-pointed star replaced the rocket in ’58 it evolved slowly, and gradually morphed into the vertically-oriented crosshair style Lincoln buyers have enjoyed since the 1980 model year. Today the logo is available with its own lighting, as we head back toward the taste levels of 1978.

Continental’s name was applied to the 1958 Mark III, which was marketed as the Continental Mark III. Lincoln’s PR people attempted to sell the trim rework of the Premier as a legitimate Mark II coupe successor. On the interior of each new Mark III, the branding was a bit clearer, as a dash plaque stated “Mark III Continental by Lincoln.”

The Mark III presented Lincoln with an opportunity to field a “competitor” to the super expensive four-door Cadillac Eldorado Brougham in 1958, and to add a third offering to Lincoln’s skimpy lineup. The other ’58 Lincolns debuted new styling and continued in their base Capri and upscale Premiere model lines. As the Mark III was not related to the Mark II which it replaced, we’ll discuss the difference in Premieres at this juncture.

The Premiere debuted for 1956 as the full-size replacement for Lincoln’s Cosmopolitan. Unlike the coupe-exclusive Mark II of the same year, it was available in three different body styles. With two doors it was offered as a hardtop or convertible, and with four doors as a sedan. Though marketed as a separate model, the Premiere was the upscale trim take of the Lincoln Capri and looked very similar to its affordable sibling the Mercury Montclair.

The Premiere of 1956 and 1957 was notable for its stacked quad headlamps, which peeked out from angled front fenders. Lamps were encased in chrome much like the horizontal front grille, which was split into two sections by the bumper. Large driving lamps occupied much of the horizontal space of the top part of the bumper.

From the side, Premiere was very much “Fifties American sedan,” with an upright A-pillar, and a fast roofline that arced down to a wrap-around rear window. Chrome decorated the side of the body in a strip that split upward at the rear door in a boomerang flourish and headed toward the rear where it bent around the rear fender’s V8 badge. The rear end sported its own horizontal grille above the bumper, and a set of pointed tail lamps inset into very aggressive fins.

Compared to what happened to the Premiere with its new-for-’58 styling, the 1957’s aggressive fins and chrome accouterments seemed incredibly restrained. 1958 was not a great year for American car styling, and the Lincolns were among the worst of type.

Stacked headlamps of the old Premiere remained, but the upper pair tried to escape and were staggered outward. The overall effect was to give the ’58 Lincolns an angry appearance. Lamps exited from a chromed oval at the end of a more rounded fender. Between the lamps was a much larger grille, with a fine egg-crate design that was entirely coated in chrome.

The bumper that used to contain half the grille was revised into an arrangement with dual Dagmars, as Americans desired pointy boobies on the front of their cars that year. The protrusions in front of the grille were supported by large chrome spears on either side of the bumper. Said spears formed an “end cap” look for new squared-off wheel arches, which gained their own rounded and rectangular styling extensions that protruded from the body very notably.

Though the A-pillar of the 1958 Premiere was upright, it no longer canted forward like it did in 1957. Roof lines were more formal in 1958, with a C-pillar that was much thicker and taller than before. The pillar’s size meant less glass area at the rear, but the roof’s shape meant more headroom for rear passengers.

The character line was an indention rather than an extension in 1958 and created a crease in the metal down the side of the body. The crease ran just under the door handles (which were lower than before) and carried on to the rear where it formed the lower edge of a revised rear fin. Lincoln’s new crosshair logo from Continental was placed on the front door, ahead of a chrome spear that widened at the rear. It also appeared as a hood ornament, and on the fuel door.

Said spear traveled over the rear wheels, where the general shape of the front wheel well décor was repeated but did not extend out from the body. At the rear end, the spear extended downward to mold into a rear bumper that was pointed at its lower corners, and upward around the trunk lid to form a large hoop of chrome. Aside from the chrome points on either side of the bumper, there were additional pointed chrome caps at the end of the tail fins. The fins were more upright and less pointy than in 1957.

The chrome hoop formed by trim and the bumper contained a chromed horizontal grille made of several slats, which integrated the spear-shaped brake lamps at either side. There was also a central fuel door that was hidden by the faux rear grille.

As a halo vehicle, the new “Continental Mark III” was very slightly different from the Premiere. Mark III customers of 1958 enjoyed a grille that was a tight egg-crate rather than the horizontal sections of the Premiere, and the special grill was repeated within the rear fascia. Denoting its upmarket tastefulness, the Mark III went without the chrome side spear of the Premiere. Exterior badging read “Continental” in the grille, and “Continental III” on the front fender. Premiere’s namesake badging was at the rear fender.

As far as interiors were concerned, the Mark III and Premiere were separated only by color choices and options, as well as the aforementioned dash plaque. The Mark III Had the same gauges, steering wheel, and the same grille decor in front of the passenger’s side of the dash. Gauges were modernized for the Lincolns of 1958 and set into a silver panel with white lettering. Lettering was printed on the glass of the instrument panel cover instead of on the gauge face itself, which gave the text and numbers a floating look.

All controls were centralized within the driver’s pod and included the radio, clock, and HVAC. Unusually, the HVAC employed a circular gauge to convey information about the temperature setting of the climate control. It looked similar to a temperature gauge.

The thing customers likely noted is how all body panels between Capri, Premiere, and Mark III were identical; only trim differed slightly. In an effort to bring that Continental Division feeling to Mark III customers, it reserved one Lincoln feature just for them: A Breezeway window. In case you were unaware, Breezeway was the Ford company name for a rear window that rolled down and let copious exhaust fumes into the cabin whenever the car was at a standstill. And that was it, that was the Mark III difference.

With their minimal work finished, Lincoln put the ridiculous and identical-looking Capri, Premiere, and Mark III on sale at vastly different price points. We’ll pick up there next time to see how it went, as well as review the Lincoln lineup’s mechanicals for 1958.

[Images: Ford]

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24 Comments on “Rare Rides Icons: The Lincoln Mark Series Cars, Feeling Continental (Part VII)...”

  • avatar

    God forgive me, but I’ve always liked the 1958 Lincoln and Continental. More so than the 1957 (but way less than the 1956), to me this was always THE bad taste 50’s car, not the 1959 Cadillac. At least there was some design constraint here.

    • 0 avatar

      True, the competition from Cadillac was also in bad taste, but it was fun bad taste. There’s a reason Springsteen sang about Pink Cadillacs, not Pink Lincolns.

  • avatar

    No wonder Cadillac did so well in the ’50s – these cars look like something from ZiL.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    As a kid I liked the 58 thru 60 Lincolns but now as an older adult I prefer the 56-57 Mark II and the 61 thru 69 Lincoln Continentals for their cleaner minimalist classic styling which have held the test of time much better. I don’t hate the 58 thru 60 but they are over styled and dated.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    “Today the logo is available with its own lighting, as we head back toward the taste levels of 1978.”

    Yup, we’re in a new malaise era, despite the availability of 500hp cars. I guess the “malaise” of the ’70s wasn’t really about horsepower, it was about ugly.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff S

      No there were some nicely styled cars but peak Detroit styling was 1966 before bumper and pedestrian standards. Compared to many of the designs of today at least 1970 cars were more distinctive and had a style their own they did not look like round blobs or big boxes jacked up with large ugly grills.

  • avatar

    I lived through the malaise era, and believe me, it was about horsepower.

    • 0 avatar

      That, plus styling, overall performance, reliability, and quality.

      Cars back then just sucked in about every possible way.

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff S

        Not all the cars sucked. The styling of some of the 2 door GM intermediates were beautiful and the earlier Chrysler Cordobas were nice looking along with the 76 thru 79 Seville. I always thought the restyled downsized full sized GM cars from 1977 thru 84 were attractive and practical and they did not need to be elevated with large fish like grills. You could also buy a vehicle with interiors that were not just black and gray and you could get exterior colors besides white, black, and 50 shades of gray. You could get a split bench seat with an arm rest. I had a few 70s cars and liked them but I would have like them better with fuel injection and the safety features of today’s new vehicles.

        • 0 avatar

          The ’66 Toronado, and the ’68 two-door F 85/Cutlass. Two of my very favorites (among many) in the ’65 to ’70 period.

          Back on topic though, one word comes to mind looking at these Lincoln pictures. Awkward

  • avatar

    Just posting a comment to keep this series going until the next iteration, which is the one we’re all waiting for. This was one of Ford’s more forgettable products, ever.

  • avatar

    It appears that 1958 could use a Buy/Drive/Burn.

  • avatar

    I had a 63 Monterey with the breezeway window and it was fantastic. The exhaust exits pretty far aft of the window and that window is well behind the driver, so it’s possible there were fumes I didn’t notice, but I never had an issue. One of the best cars I ever had. $300. Stupid ex wife wrecked it.

  • avatar

    Don’t know if any of these figures are correct, but I’m seeing fuel tank capacity of 22 gallons and mpg of around 9, yielding a useable range of something like 180 miles. (Huh.)

    [~30 cents a gallon so a fillup was 6 bucks which might be $60 in 2022?]

    For the record, 1958 is 72 years after the Benz Patent Motor Car of 1886 and 64 years from 2022. (Viewed a different way, 1958 is exactly halfway between the 1908 Model T and the 2008 Toyota Camry.) Also 6 years after the first flight of the B-52. [Right, who cares.]

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Overall I never cared for the styling of most 1958 American cars they for the most part were overwrought with chrome and over sized fins. The 58 Impala and some of the Pontiacs were better. By 1959 the chrome was slightly tamed down but most cars were still too much. I preferred the 1961 Continentals and the 1961 full size GM cars which were more toned down yet still elegant. This is one reason the 56 thru 57 Continental is still a sought after collector car because it has a timeless understated yet elegant design. There are certain designs that just stand the test of time better than others.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    The breezeway option was gone after the 1960 model year plus it would have distracted from the nice clean and design of the all new 61-63 Continental. However it made a comeback and offered on full sized 1963–1968 Mercurys.
    I had a neighbor who owned a 64 Monterey or Montclair two door hardtop with the breezeway option. As a kid I thought it looked cool and inspired by the Ford Anglia.

    • 0 avatar

      My mother had a ’60 Anglia 105E. The long roof had the benefit for us kids of not roasting the backs of our heads off on a hot summer day from direct sunshine, compared to Dad’s regular sedan. Plus, the back window never got wet in the rain, so your interior rearview mirror worked at all times. Never iced up in sleet or freezing rain, either, or ever had a layer of snow to be brushed off after overnight snow. Reverse rear window — I thought it was pretty cool at the time.

      Plus, it had the first iteration of the Kent engine before they even thought up that name, had a stroke of just 1.9 inches, or 48 mm. Revvy little thing, bucket seats and four-on-the floor. Passed my driver’s license test in the perky little devil. No real power whatsoever, but somehow in high it just kept gathering speed until aero drag or a steep hill called a halt to the 39 hp proceedings. There was a peg that stuck out of the speedo to stop the needle from going past 80 mph. So the trick my mother taught me was to blast downhill and see how far you could get up the next steep hill before the needle came back off the peg. Mum got a bit of a local rep and kids used to kid me at our rural high school about her, as she was known to rush everywhere. Best woman driver by far I ever ran across personally. Made Dad look like an old coot who steered poorly and never seemed to be able to pull off a smooth shift. She ended up five years later with a brand new Volvo 544 and many an old six cylinder Chev driven by a young local hayseed found out that that old “Ford” passed and ran away from them, no sweat. Not your typical early/mid ’60s woman driver.

      Well, that was a tangent far more interesting for me than the ’58 Lincoln elephant featured here.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        I had another neighbor who was one of those folks who owned a number of odd imports. Vehicles like the Hillman Husky and a Morris Minor Woody. They also had a Ford Anglia 105E which I think they bought cheap. It must have been one of the few here in the states since I haven’t seen many around, only a couple in another area of the United States. I think Ford imported a fair number of them as an entry level smaller than the Falcon but their main captive import before the Capri was the Cortina.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          Canada being part of the Commonwealth had a great deal of British autos in the 1950’s, 1960’s and into the 1970’s. There was actually a Rootes Motors assembly plant in Scarborough at the south-west corner of Eglinton Avenue East and Warden. The building still exists and can be seen on Google Maps.

          Among my circle there were a Cortina, a Zephyr, a couple of Envoys (a GM brand specific to Canada in North America), a Firenza which was also actually a Vauxhall, some Triumphs, some Capris and some Minis. A neighbour and friend of My Old Man had a Roller. One of my uncles had multiple MGs and Jags. And one of my coaches had a Morgan. One of our high school auto shop teachers had a Jensen Interceptor but I never got the chance to drive/ride in it and from what I remember it was always in the shop or parked at the side of the school.

          With the exception of the prestige marques, generally these Brit cars were purchased by those for whom price was the primary (only) concern. Generally they also had abysmal performance and reliability.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Have quad stacked headlights, particularly when ‘offset’ ever looked good?

    Yes these Lincolns are more restrained than Cadillacs of the same era. But that is what makes the Cadillacs so interesting. They exemplified the ‘can do’, ‘progress is always better’, attitude of Ike’s America.

    There are some attributes that Malaise Era cars had that deserve a return. Split folding (60/40) front seats. Deep pile carpeting. Instrument panels/interior colours that match the upholstery and no not in black but in vibrant colours. And although it will not happen, I would like to see the return of ‘hide away’ headlights.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff S

      @Arthur–“There are some attributes that Malaise Era cars had that deserve a return. Split folding (60/40) front seats. Deep pile carpeting. Instrument panels/interior colours that match the upholstery and no not in black but in vibrant colours. And although it will not happen, I would like to see the return of ‘hide away’ headlights.”

      I miss those as well. Adam on Rare Classic Cars has a nice selection of those cars.

  • avatar

    “headed toward the rear where it bent around the rear fender’s V8 badge.”
    A 1957 Lincoln needed a V8 badge?

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