Confessions of a Mark II Owner after 35 Years

By Robert Lawton, San Gabriel, California

Originally published in the July/August 1997 issue of Continental Comments (Issue # 217).

Way back in 1962 I was a happy young man, deeply in love with my 1948 Lincoln Continental coupe, which I had acquired in 1955. I had been a member of LCOC since that year, had made a lot of friends and the forseeable future looked rosy.

But then, like many a misguided young man, I left my true love for a tantalizing hussy with a gorgeous jet black paint job, an immaculate gray and white leather interior and a big V-8 engine you could have eaten off of. As it turned out, I had met the vixen from hell.

Bob Cowgill was a long-time LCOC member who lived in Pasadena and had owned a very beautiful 1941 Lincoln Continental coupe. But more recently he had purchased a 1956 Continental Mark II. When some personal reason prompted him to sell the Mark II who should he first offer it to but his old buddy-me. As I recall, he wanted $4,500 for it. I didn’t come close to having that kind of money, but Bob agreed to finance the deal for me. So I sold my lovely 1948 coupe to Tom Powels of the Classic Car Club and drove my new love home.

I never suspected that my happy motoring life was about to come to a rude end.

The next morning I decided to drive my new beauty to work and show her off to my envious co-workers. It was a cold morning, so I turned on the heater, and was immediately greeted by a blast of frigid air on my ankles. The drive to work was 20 miles, and not a breath of warmth could I coax from the heater. On the way home that evening I did get it to work for about 10 minutes, and then it was back to icy ankles. The flip side of this, as you may have guessed, was that when summer arrived the heater worked fine, but the air conditioner refused to even think about cooling the car.

I should state that I have never been one of those mechanically gifted people who do their own automotive work. I will pump gas and check the oil, but everything else gets worked on by people who know what they’re doing. Since the power antenna also was non-operative, I ran to my local Lincoln-Mercury dealer to see about getting warmed, cooled and  serenaded by my radio.

For the heater and air-conditioner he wanted something like three months of my salary. The antenna, I was informed, could only be reached by removing the right front fender, a job that would take two men half a day or more of labor in order that they might then re-attach a vacuum hose. I declined gracefully and headed home in tears.

From that time on I put the antenna up and down by hand, wore warm clothes on cold days and opened all the windows on hot days. But my new lover was just getting started.

A couple of weeks later the motor that controlled the power wind wing on the driver’s door died. It took an entire weekend, but I did manage to replace it myself. But within a week a terrible grinding noise whenever I applied the brake pedal informed me that it was time to reline the brakes. I lived on beans for a month, but my brake shop got me back on the road. The weak smile on my face lasted only a few days, however, then the radio died.

In the trunk of my mean-spirited beauty was a shop repair manual, so I decided to follow the instructions for removing the radio. For those of you who have missed the experience, just let me say that first you have to remove that counter-balanced glove box, and then try and get the radio out of the hole formerly occupied by said glove box. I am living proof that it can be done, but I do not recommend the procedure to anyone with a short fuse. (When I took the radio to the repair shop, the owner informed me admiringly that he charged $75.00 labor just to remove the radio – and this was in 1962 dollars!)

To celebrate my victory over the radio, I decided to treat myself to an expensive dinner. Mindful of parking lot attendants, I parked on the street. Two martinis and half a filet mignon later the loudspeaker in the restaurant announced that smoke was pouring out from under the hood of a black Continental in front of the restaurant. My darling had struck again!

A large gas station on the corner had a night mechanic who managed to get the fire in my generator out. As I recall, some sort of Orwellian nightmare in the electrical system had caused the battery to run the generator—or to try to. Since such a  thing is apparently impossible, the generator had burned itself to death. I told the guy to fix the problem and went back to the restaurant, where I found that they had thrown out my steak, given my table to someone else and had been considering having me arrested for leaving without paying the check. Thanks again, baby.

Mercifully, a short time later a man I knew only slightly mentioned that a friend of his, a doctor in Beverly Hills, was looking for a good clean Mark II. I murmured that, for the right amount I could be persuaded to part with the love of my life. The deal was made and I paid off Bob Cowgill.

I have spent the last 30-35 years hoping to God that doctor never finds me!

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