Continental Convention

Continental Convention

ABOVE: Cavalcade of Lincoln Continentals parades past the Lincoln-Mercury plant under threatening skies.  166 cars turned out.

By Warner Hopkins, Jr.
Reprinted from Motor Life, January 1955, in the 2nd Quarter 1993 edition of Continental Comments (Issue # 192).

For those who have an eye for something special in automobiles, the official announcement of the new Continental by the Ford Motor Company was a double-barreled event.

Confirmation of the rumors took place, appropriately enough, at Greenfield Village, a spot Henry the First set aside (next to the Dearborn test track) for the preservation of as much American history as he was able to move.

Occasion for the historical moment was the national reunion of the Lincoln Continental Owners Club, October 15-16, 1954. This group consists of enthusiasts whose appreciation for the “last of the classics” led them to organize in 1953. Thus, there was a nostalgic air about the rosy promise of a bright future.

On hand were 166 of the 5,324 Lincoln Continentals built in the six years (1940-42, 1946-48) of production. The rare 1942 models, with horizontal-bar grilles, were present in surprising numbers.

William Clay Ford, youngest of the Ford brothers and boss of the new Continental Division, broke the news to club members in a talk that confirmed rumors more than it revealed additional details.

So great their affection for the Classic Lincoln Continental, scores of owners convened in Detroit to catch First Word (no glimpse) of the “new” one.

Lincoln Continental owners driving by the half-finished Ford plant which will be devoted to construction of new Continentals.

Elliston H. Bell presents a lifetime Honorary Membership to William Clay Ford.

Elliston H. and Henrietta Bell at the 1954 Dearborn Rallye.

The youngest Ford—he is 29—is also a Continental owner. However, he splattered up to the soggy tents during the persistent drizzle driving a $2,700 Thunderbird. To those who met him for the first time, this proved he was as smart as everyone said he was. For while the weighty Continentals spun tires on the grassy mud, the agile Thunderbird flitted about with ease.

The long rows of gleaming Continentals, sheltered by circus-type tents, undoubtedly gladdened the heart of many a purist. About one-third were pretty close to their original condition, except for tires and minor accessories.


Since no Continental enthusiast in his right mind would alter the body lines, the modified cars had all reworking confined to under-hood areas and interiors. Where engine conversions had taken place, Cadillacs were the popular choice. And the taste of a good many owners seemed to include lavish use of chrome, plus as much speed and power equipment as the cramped compartment would allow. One ingenious owner, clearly up against it, made an air cleaner fashioned out of two pie tins.

The precious collectors’ items, almost without exception, were in good-to-superb condition. A gentleman from New Jersey admitted it was only the third time he’d been caught out in the rain with his 1940 model. Another concluded that “most of us try to make them last as long as we can.”

William Clay Ford reputedly has inherited his father’s talent, that which produced the first Lincoln Continental. He already has supervised design of the New Continental which will cost about $10,000 delivered with the normal extras. ”It will be recognizable,” he said, “as a very modem version of the Continental.”

Although he did not elaborate on the styling, Ford did make some other interesting points: the name “Lincoln” will not be associated with the new car; it will be built in a plant now nearing completion devoted to its exclusive manufacture.

The Continental is not the first automobile to be reborn after a lapse of several years. As a name with an enthusiastic following, however, it stands alone. If it is built with the perfection and attention to detail the youngest Ford indicates, the new Continental may become the “first Classic of the Atomic Age.”

The Cavalcade parades through downtown Detroit during the early morning hours.

The cars assembled on the soggy grass at Greenfield Village.  Circus type tents protected many of them from the rain which came on and off throughout the day.

Putting our Money Where our Mouths Are

Putting our Money Where our Mouths Are

By Jeff Shively
Originally published in the November/December 2023 Lincoln and Continental Comments magazine (Issue # 375)

Many of us lament that nothing is being done to get younger people interested in the old car hobby. “Young people don’t want to work with their hands,” we say. “Where do I find somebody to work on my old Lincoln?” we ask. In despair, we resign ourselves to the inevitability that our cars will someday become, at best, immobile museum pieces. What if there was something we could do to change all that?

LCOC member Gene Epstein recently used his charity, the Gene & Marlene Epstein Humanitarian Fund, to sponsor a scholarship program at Bucks County Community College in Pennsylvania. To do this, he sold off part of his remarkable car collection, including an all-original 1969 Mercedes Benz Limousine that belonged to Elvis Presley and a 1972 Mercedes-Benz once owned by Roy Orbison.

While it is true that many of us don’t have our own personal philanthropic organization, we can still help. There is probably an auto mechanics program at a high school or community college near you. Because these aren’t “glamour” programs, you can bet your bottom dollar that they aren’t well-funded. Make an appointment to talk to the department head. Find out what the needs are, big or small. If you can help financially, do it. Even a small gift of $500 or $1,000 will go further than you think. If you are handy with a wrench, see if they need an instructor. As a former community college professor, I can tell you that you’ll get as much out of the experience as the students will. Do you have a shop in your area that does a great job for you? Odds are, they are short on good mechanics and can’t find them. Serve as an intermediary to see if the school can funnel students to that shop once they complete their training. What student wouldn’t want a job waiting for him when he graduates? These are but a few suggestions, but the possibilities are limitless.

Mr. Epstein still has a stable of wonderful cars, including the legendary “Rhapsody in Blue,” a gorgeous 1940 Lincoln-Zephyr Continental Cabriolet. You might have seen this remarkable first-year Continental at Hershey this year or gracing the cover of the September-October 2023 issue of The Way of the Zephyr. Regarding the sale of his celebrity-owned Mercedes-Benz limousines, Gene noted, “As much as I loved the cars, it didn’t change anyone’s life. But the proceeds have and will continue to make a difference.” That is a great attitude. Gene always closes his emails with a great quote: “Never worry that you are doing too much to help others. You are doing too little if you can do more.”

Jeff Shively, Lincoln and Continental Comments Editor, lives in Kokomo, Indiana.

Our members write…
Originally published in the January/February 2024 Lincoln and Continental Comments magazine (Issue # 376)

To the editor:

I read with interest Jeff Shively’s article in the November-December issue of the Lincoln and Continental Comments, “Putting our Money Where Our Mouths Are.” This concerned providing scholarships to students who are studying in the automobile field. Thank you, Gene and Marlene Epstein!

Most of you are aware of McPherson College, which has a four-year degree program in auto restoration. One of the other car clubs I belong to is The H.H. Franklin Club. To ensure our club’s future and encourage interest in collecting and maintaining air-cooled Franklins, the club has a scholarship program.

We invite students to our annual Franklin Trek gathering at no cost to them. We also fund scholarships for auto restoration courses and contribute to McPherson College. Many of our young members who attended the Trek now have Franklins of their own. The H.H. Franklin Club has a presence at The Gilmore, as does The Lincoln Motor Car Heritage Museum.

John Harris is the proud owner of a recently purchased 1939 Lincoln Zephyr Town Limousine and a 1941 Lincoln Continental Cabriolet.