Our Lincoln Mark Series coverage continues today, and we pick up at the end of 1958. After Ford dumped many millions into the Continental Division and quickly shut it down, the company then spent a lot more money to develop an all-new unibody platform for Lincoln’s usage. In an attempt to woo customers away from Cadillac, the new Lincolns for 1958 wore some of the most shocking styling ever to come from Detroit.
All three of Lincoln’s new “models” were really just trim levels of the same car. Said models included Capri, Premier, and the top-tier Continental Mark III, which was not a Continental except in trim badges. At least it had a Breezeway window! At the 1958 launch of Lincoln’s new unibody line there was a steep recession across the globe, as lots of Americans decided they didn’t actually need a new car every year or two. Nevertheless, the Continental Mark III made up 62 percent of Lincoln’s sales that year. Lincoln veered off on a revised course in 1959, hoping to improve its lot with some more “new” models.
With the Continental Division dead, a cost-weary and (newly) publicly traded Ford Motor Company headed into the 1958 model year determined to unveil a solid luxury car showing against its primary rival, Cadillac. However, the “Continental Mark III by Lincoln” was a Continental in name only: It wore the same metal and was produced at the same new factory, Wixom Assembly, as the rest of the Lincoln models (Capri, Premiere) that year.
Brass at Ford hoped the Continental name on the Mark III would make customers believe it was something special, like the Cadillac Eldorado with which it competed. As mentioned last time, aside from its Continental name, the Mark III for 1958 used One Simple Trick to lure buyers into its leather seats: a Breezeway window. First up today, pricing problems.
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.
We pick up the story of Lincoln’s Mark series cars once again today, at a low point in the coupe’s history. The intensely expensive development and launch of the new Continental marque arrived at exactly the wrong time for Ford.
Shortly after the family-owned company spent $21 million ($227 million adj.) on the launch of its new super-luxury brand, the company had its IPO. That meant the big money poured into the black hole that was Continental was visible to everyone who cared to see, including shareholders. The pressure was just too much, and the Continental brand was canceled in 1956 by Henry Ford II, just a year after the Mark II entered production.
But let’s back up a year, right as the Mark II went on sale. Management of the Continental Division knew the singular, hand-assembled model was not enough to keep the company going. They needed to save and make more money, and fast.
We arrive today at the fifth installment of our Rare Rides Icons coverage on the Lincoln Mark series cars. Thus far we covered the first Continental of the late Thirties, and Ford’s desire to go ultra luxury with the Mark II sold under the newly minted Continental Division. The Mark that debuted for the 1956 model year was Mid-century in its styling, built of top quality components, and constructed in a methodically controlled manner via a QC program that consisted of seven initiatives.
It was time to put the new Continental Mark II coupe on sale.
We return to our Lincoln Mark series coverage today, in the midst of learning about the first Mark of the line, the Continental Mark II. The Mark II aimed to carry on the tradition set by the gracious Continental of the Forties, and take Ford to new heights of luxury, desirability, price (and thus exclusivity), and quality. The latter adjective is where we’ll focus today; it was certainly the focus of the folks at the Continental Division prior to the Mark II’s release.
Today finds us at the third installment in our coverage of the Lincoln Mark series cars. So far we’ve covered the original Continental that ran from 1939 to 1948 and learned about the styling decisions that made for the most excellent Midcentury Continental Mark II. The Mark II arrived to herald the birth of the new Continental luxury division at Ford. A division of Ford and not Lincoln-Mercury, Continental was established as the flagship of the Ford enterprise. We pick up circa 1952, with Cadillac.
We pick up our Lincoln Mark series again today, at a point where Ford’s executives were really not interested in selling a personal luxury coupe. The original Continental was developed as a concept at the request of Edsel Ford, who wanted a car to take on his spring vacation in 1939. After an informal debut in Florida, Edsel came back with 200 orders and the Continental entered production.
Halted by World War II, the Continental picked up where it left off and underwent a light reworking at the hands of Virgil Exner. But the end of the Forties were not kind to the likes of the V12 engine, nor did Ford want to create a new Continental to replace the decade-old one circa 1948. Continental went away, its name unused. Instead, Lincoln foisted reworked Mercurys as the Cosmopolitan and ignored personal luxury. The brand generally lowered the bar of exclusivity set by Continental and the K-Series cars, and made things more affordable to the upper-middle portion of the American consumer base. Things stayed that way at Lincoln for some time.
Rare Rides Icons concluded its 22-part series on the Imperial recently, as the long-running luxury model-brand-model exercise by Chrysler came to its timely end in 1993. Today we embark on a new luxury car series. It’s one you’ve asked for, and it’s also about luxury cars and will be an extensive series. Come along, as we consider the life and times of Lincoln’s Mark series cars.
In the last installment of our Studebaker Avanti series, it seemed after four decades the Avanti was finally deceased. Stretched and pulled beyond recognition, the Avanti ended up as a Camaro and then a Mustang, and suddenly wrapped its Mexican production in 2006.
But there’s more!
In our last entry of the Studebaker Avanti series, things were at a low point. In the late Eighties, Avanti Motors Corporation was renamed AAC Inc., and the oft-edited Avanti coupe and convertible models were joined by a new luxury sedan. After the sedan failed to bring new customers to Youngstown-based AAC, operations shut down in 1991.
But after a few years, a familiar face returned to rescue Avanti.
We return with more Studebaker Avanti history today after the first three chapters brought us through the mid-Eighties and the first bankruptcy of the Avanti Motors Corporation. AMC built the Avanti as a standalone model since Studebaker ended its production in 1964.
We rejoin the action in a darkened room somewhere in South Bend, Indiana. A questionable new owner enters, stage left.
When we concluded last time it was the dawn of the Eighties, and that’s where we pick up today.
In Part I of the Avanti story (which received some great comments) we reviewed the coupe’s design and very short original production timeline at Studebaker. But the car was so unique and so modern that two enterprising Studebaker dealers knew they couldn’t let Avanti die after just two years.
Today we take a walk through the next couple of decades, as the Avanti strayed further and further from its true self, ravaged by the passage of time.
Today’s Rare Ride is a design legend that was built for a very short while by Studebaker in South Bend, Indiana. One of those cars which just wouldn’t die, its two-year history of original manufacture was followed by about 43 years of sporadic independent production.
Onward, to Avanti!
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