An Affair to Forget

An Affair to Forget

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!

The Lincoln Sentinel

The Lincoln Sentinel

The Lincoln Sentinel – At the Cutting Edge of Innovation

From Carolyn Burke, Lincoln-Mercury Public Relations. Introduction by Jim Farrell.

Originally published in the May/June 1996 issue of Continental Comments (Issue # 210).

Prologue: The Green Hornet Rides Again

Last year, sources with ties to Ford’s Design Center reported that the aero/elliptical look of current Ford products was about spent and that new styling directions were on the horizon. What are future Lincolns going to look like? Planes are still one of the major influences on car design. The latest look in airplane design is the Stealth. Stylists at Ford’s Design Center describe their translation of the stealth look as “new edge” design.

The newest Lincoln concept car is the 1996 Sentinel. It was introduced to the public January 8, 1996, at the Detroit Auto Show. From its angular lines, it appears to have been heavily influenced by the F-117A Stealth fighter. To old car  enthusiasts, the Sentinel may also evoke memories of “Black Beauty”, the modified 1937 Lincoln Zephyr used by the Green Hornet in the 1940 movie of the same name.

In March, 1996, after the Sentinel was shown at several east coast auto shows, the color was changed from black to charcoal gray. The stylists apparently felt that in black, the Sentinel looked too sinister. In present form, the Sentinel is a fiberglass “workout”. It has no drivetrain and no interior except for a steering wheel, the tops of the seats and the top of the dash. The doors, hood and trunk do not open. It is, however, designed to have suicide doors, (stylists call them “French doors”) Currently a new 7/8 size Sentinel is being built for display at the Pebble Beach Concours. The stylists also apparently felt that the sizing of the Sentinel as originally designed was too big. The new 7/8 Sentinel will be a fully operational vehicle. It will be built on a Jaguar platform and it will have “French doors” like the 1961-69 Lincoln Continentals.

A word of caution; just because a particular look is being considered for one of the Ford products in our future, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will come to pass.

Public reaction to the Lincoln Sentinel will be gauged carefully and in a couple of years, when we see the new Lincoln look—whatever it is—we’ll then know if Ford’s stylists have been able to translate the Stealth look into something the car buying public will take to.  Jim Farrell.

*** *** ***


The Lincoln Sentinel, a full-size, four-door, rear-wheel-drive luxury concept car, embodies what may be the wave of the future in automotive design.

Ford’s latest example of New Edge design, Sentinel makes its world debut at the 1996 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Sentinel blends classic Lincoln styling themes with the Ford-inspired New Edge approach.

Sentinel retains the recognizable elements of traditional Lincoln exterior styling, such as classic proportions, a crisp silhouette, simple, unadorned body sides and high, linear belt lines. But New Edge’s “shape-upon-shape” technique results in edge highlights where curved planes intersect.

“The result is a strong, almost brutal shape that suggests strength,” said Jack Telnak, vice president, Corporate Design. “In this way, form contains function. The skin is wrapped tightly over the mechanicals, almost like shrink-wrap. The result is not only improved aerodynamics, but also improved fuel economy as well as head-turning styling,” Telnack said.

New Edge is not a new concept for Ford. The GT90 sports car, which was introduced last year, is one of the first applications of Edge design in a car seen by the public.

“The GT90 captured the feel of the original GT40, but with a distinct difference,” Telnack said. “It is a contemporary iteration that uses styling cues from the ‘60s in a whole new way—a three-dimensional ‘90s interpretation.

“So, New Edge is not a retro style. It is a true forward application, but one that pays homage to the past. New Edge is but one of several emerging design concepts. It is a harbinger of things to come, but it is not the only path.

“Like the breadth of our car and truck lines, we have a similar breadth in our design philosophies. There are other equally exciting design avenues we are pursuing,” said Telnack.

Lincoln enthusiasts will recognize a new interpretation of a 1940s-style Continental grill set into the Sentinel’s metallic black exterior. The clean side profile, blade fenders and high belt line with minimal chrome trim are typical Lincoln design themes that are reminiscent of early 1960s Lincolns and still are clearly visible in today’s Town Car.

Flush glass all around and compact, vertically stacked projector headlamps add to the uncluttered look of the exterior. The placement of the flush-to-the-body, massive, 20-inch wheels ensures a minimum of body overhang and adds to Sentinel’s clean lines. The car’s overall length of 218 inches is just one inch shorter than a 1996 Lincoln Town Car.

“The Lincoln Sentinel is an exploratory look at keeping Lincoln’s traditional styling themes fresh for future generations,” said Claude Lobo, Ford’s director of Advanced Design. “But the Sentinel also is helping us to identify important issues in auto design, such as determining the benefits of a New Edge approach. Improved road holding and interior space are two more areas that may benefit from this kind of design approach in the future,” Lobo said.


1940 Lincoln Continental

1940 Lincoln Continental

1940 Lincoln Continental

Originally published in the First Quarter 1995 issue of Continental Comments (Issue # 203).

In 1965 Jesse H. Haines wrote a complete history of the early Lincoln Continental. Reprinted here (with editing plus additions, insights and corrections) are Part IV, Continental Comments #77 and Part V, Continental Comments #78, which cover the 1940 models.

In going over Jesse Haines original article, Dave Cole notes that Jesse’s articles were written before the factory records were found and checked by competent scholars, including the late Jim Baker, The Jesse Haines articles, which appeared in a series over several issues of Continental Comments, contain a number of details later proven to be wrong, although it was the most definitive work on the subject up to the time he wrote them. Therefore, in this article we are including Dave Cole’s notations on a number of statements made by Haines in 1965.

Part IV, from Continental Comments #77.
Edsel Ford had work begun on the first Lincoln Continental in September, 1938. It was completed in February, 1939, and immediately work was started on the second 1939 Lincoln Continental, which served as the prototype for a possible production model.

In April, 1939, before the second car was completed, Edsel Ford decided to produce 1940 Lincoln Continentals and introduce them in October, 1939, along with the rest of the Lincoln-Zephyr line. The second Lincoln Continental was completed in June, 1939.

Martin Regitko, who worked for E.T. Gregorie in the Design Department was responsible for transforming the styling drawings and full-size clay models into full-size body drawings. Regitko has written, “In April, 1939, the 1940 Lincoln-Zephr engineering was practically completed. Mr. Ford and Mr. Crecelius (in charge of Lincoln body engineering) talked about building 50 jobs. Several days late  we received orders to proceed with styling drafting based on the 1940 Lincoln-Zephyr sheet metal using as many parts as possible. Around the last of May, 1939 we had all the styling drawings completed and turned into Production Engineering.”

The Design Department headed by Gregorie styled the Ford passenger cars, trucks, Mercurys and Lincoln-Zephyrs. All clay models were produced in the same area. Since these models had no chassis, the wheels did not support the cars, and thus blocks and stands were needed to support the body and bumpers.

The “Continental Cabriolet” body style was aptly named. The name suggests European flair, sophistication, style and luxury. The car was intended as the style leader of the line, and a means of attracting customers into the show rooms. It would also be the most expensive 1940 Lincoln-Zephyr.

Work rushed forward on the 1940 Lincoln Continental Cabriolets. Both Gregorie and Regitko note that the first Lincoln Continental moved forward toward production through the usual Lincoln Zephyr organizational structure; thus no single individual was responsible for development.

In Dearborn on September 15, 1939, the General Sales Manager of Ford, J.R. Davis, gave the dealers an advance viewing of the 1940 models. Before World War II, there were no separate Ford, Mercury or Lincoln dealers. Perhaps the first 1940 Lincoln Continental was seen then. (Editor’s note from Dave Cole: No 1940 Lincoln Continental had been completed at this date.)

The 1940 Lincoln-Zephyrs went on sale October 2. The race to produce the 1940 Lincoln Continental missed by only a few days. The first production Lincoln Continental, serial H-86268, was assembled and photographed October 3, and shipped October 6 to Chester, Pennsylvania. (Note from Dave Cole: It was later learned that the first car finished was not completed until October 3, and it was a show car, not a production model. H-86268 was not this car. The Lincoln Continental displayed at the Astor Hotel Ford show was H-85825, a Sand Tan prototype car that Jim Baker owned in the mid Sixties. The ownership o f this car started Baker on all o f the research which uncovered so much new information.)

Automotive Industries, October 15, 1939 described the Lincoln Zephyr changes as follows: “Bodies are entirely new and more roomy. There is 22% more glass area in the bodies. The windshield is deeper and has 104 square inches more glass area. Windows are wider and deeper and the large rear window is of one-piece, tempered glass and conforms to the curvature of the body rear panel. The V-12 L-head has a bore of 27/s” and a stroke of 33/ 4” , giving 292 cubic inches displacement. (1939 was 267) It is rated at 120 hp. @ 3,900 rpm. and uses aluminum heads with a compression ratio of 6.7:1. A lower hood, extending farther forward, and a new grille and ornament markedly change the frontal appearance . The grille is that pioneered by Lincoln-Zephyr two years ago. Interiors are completely restyled. Seats are chair height and running boards have been eliminated . A club coupe and Continental Cabriolet have been added to the line. Tops which operate automatically are supplied in the convertible coupe and Continental Cabriolet. Leather in a choice of five colors, or a combination of leather and whipcord, in the convertibles, is available . In the new Continental Cabriolet the hood is seven inches longer, and three inches lower, which changes the styling materially. In the coupe, two opera seats may be factory installed.

Compared to 1939, the Lincoln-Zephyr line added two models, the Club Coupe and the Continental Cabriolet, and discontinued the Convertible Sedan. The factory delivered prices and weights were:

Coupe $1,360 3,375#
Club Coupe $1,400 3,465#
Convertible Coupe $1,770 3,635#
Sedan $1,400 3,565#
Town Limousine $1,740 3,575#
Continental Cabriolet $2,840 3,615#

Part V, from Continental Comments #78.
1940 Ford, Mercury and L in co ln – Zephyr models were formally introduced by Edsel Ford on October 2, 1939 at the Ford Rotunda in Dearborn and at dealers everywhere. The National Automobile Show was held in New York from October 15 to 22. Not yet a member o f the Automobile Manufacturers Association, Ford exhibited separately at a lavish display , designed by Walter Dorwin Teague, at the nearby ballroom of the Astor Hotel. Edsel Ford visited the showing on October 17. A Lincoln Continental Cabriolet was prominently displayed against a background based on the “Road of Tomorrow”, a dominant feature of the Ford exhibit at the New York World’s Fair.

For the 1940 auto industry models, the two outstanding developments were the introduction of sealed beam headlights and improved safety glass. In general, bodies were longer, wider and roomier. Running boards disappeared on some cars, were optional on others. Hoods were broader and lower, and headlamps were mounted in the fenders. More radiator grilles were diecast. Front fenders were more massive. Bodies were lower, seats were wider. Practically all cars had the shift lever on the steering column. Directional signals were standard on some, optional on others, but not available on Lincoln-Zephyr. The Borg-Warner transmission overdrive was optional on many cars, while Oldsmobile continued with Hydramatic, the first mass produced automatic transmission. Lincoln-Zephyr offered the optional Columbia overdrive rear end. Suspension improvements continued, with almost all having independent front suspension, except Ford, Mercury and Lincoln Zephyr which continued with conventional leaf springs.

In styling, the 1940 Lincoln-Zephyr had the first completely new body since 1936. The styling was graceful, and a logical development o f the 1938-39 models. The rest of the industry had generally swung to a more massive frontend look, with the major exception of LaSalle and Cadillac.

At $2,840, the Lincoln-Zephyr Continental Cabriolet was one of the highest priced cars available for 1940. The only cars  more expensive were a few Cadillac models, the Packard 180, and the Darrin Convertible Victoria, for $3,800, built on the Packard 120 chassis.

During the 1940 model year, numerous minor changes were made in the Lincoln Continental. In exterior features, these in included the license light assembly, bottom moldings, tire cover, gravel guards, and rear splash shield. While much information can be gained from photographs available from Ford Photographic Department, it is not completely reliable in regard to dating. Often the negatives were filed and dated the same day the pictures were developed. But occasionally they were filed months later. Therefore the follow in g analysis on the Lincoln Continental production changes is based partly on factual records and partly on speculative deductions. (Note from Dave Cole: On October 3, photographs were filed, not of the first production model but of the prototype that went to the Astor Hotel. These pictures were retouched, filed on October 10, and quickly released to the press. Two cars were hand-built for the auto shows in October, 1939. Actual production of Lincoln Continentals did not begin until December. 23 more were built between December 13 and December 29, 1939 giving us a total of 25 Lincoln Continentals built in 1939. All were Cabriolets.)

The early 1940 Lincoln Continentals lacked a number of features used in later production. Missing were bottom moldings, tire cover, rear splash shield, and gravel guards. Shortly after production began bottom moldings were added. These were not the type finally used, but were narrower and not bent to follow the contour of the fender as well as the later moldings. By the middle of December the tire cover had been added. The early style bottom moldings were retained.

During January, 1940 the bottom moldings were changed to the wider and contoured type. Also, a splash shield was added at the rear bumper. (According to Dave Cole this paragraph is entirely erroneous in view of what we have learned since mid 1965.)

(Dave Cole adds this to the above two paragraphs: Stainless steel trim along the bottom edge of the body and fenders was absent when 06H56-1 (same car as serial number H-85825) was photographed in early October on the front porch at the Lincoln factory, but by the time it was displayed at the Astor Hotel later that month, the narrow trim had been added. The first production 1940 Lincoln Continental, Body #3, was bought by movie star Jackie Cooper. It is pictured on the cover [reproduced at bottom of this article] from striking the back fenders and chipping the paint, are the only items on Jesse Haines list that have not yet been pinned down as to date.)

Shortly after Lincoln Continental Cabriolet production began, work was started on the Lincoln Continental Coupe. The chief designer of the Lincoln Continental, E.T. Gregorie, recalls that the clay model of the Coupe was a production Cabriolet body to which the Coupe roof was added above the belt line. Thus, the Coupe may be properly considered to be a “hardtop convertible” since it did, in fact, replace the soft top with a hard top on a convertible body. Although the Lincoln Continental was not the first hardtop, it was certainly the most influential predecessor of the popular hardtop of the ’50s and ’60s.

The differences between the Cabriolet and Coupe were relatively minor. Other than the top, the most obvious differences were in the windshield and doors. The attractive stainless steel framing of the doors has an interesting history. This style was used on the Cadillac 60 Special from 1938, and the Mercury Club Coupe from 1939. In a recent letter E.T. Gregorie observed, “The Lincoln Continental Coupe was an adaption of the convertible, and logically the channel frame windows sent along with it. Where production was small the channel frame was less costly than a full door stamping as used on the high volume sedans.

It also provided a sporty custom effect as well. The use of the channel frame window was probably more of a production convenience than a styling effect and, lacking the rigidity of the full stamped door, required careful fitting to eliminate leaks and rattles. The use of channel frame windows on the Cadillac 60 was probably for the same reason as it, too, was more or less a limited production job.”

In regard to rigidity, the Lincoln Continental Coupe has the advantage of retaining the center post behind the door, as well is the full door frame, which are absent in the hardtop style introduced in the 1949 Buick, Oldsmobile and Cadillac.

The license light was changed in March, 1940. The support for the early type attached to the body, did not touch the rear bumper. These were apparently the same as used on the two 1939 Continentals. The later type bolted directly to the bumper. The heads were the same. (Note from Dave Cole: The speculation about the license light is not accurate in all details. It is true that the early 1940 bracket does not touch the bumper and is fastened to the underside of the body instead, but it is not like the 1939 as a hinged joint was added. The production 1940 used a different design from that seen on the two pre-production cars, too. This later type DID bolt to the bumper, as stated, but some of the other statements made there are incorrect.)

An important milestone in Lincoln-Zephyr history arrived on March 13, 1940, when the 100,000th was produced. A Lincoln Continental Cabriolet was chosen for the publicity honor.

A few weeks later, rubber gravel guards were added, and the 1940 Lincoln Continental was in the final form as seen in most existing specimens. (Dave Cole noted earlier that the dates that the gravel guards were added has never been pinned down.)

(Notes from Dave Cole: The 1940 Lincoln Continental Coupe went on sale in May, 1940, and it was in production for only about six weeks, May 23 to July 10. Yet, in that time, 54 Coupes were built as opposed to 25 Cabriolets, so even in the last six weeks of 1940 production Coupes outnumbered Cabriolets by about two to one!)

Because of the late start in producing them, only 54 of the Coupes were made. Production of the Cabriolets was 350. Note that the Lincoln Continental continued to be considered as a special bodied Lincoln-Zephyr. Nowhere on any 1940 Lincoln Continental does the world “Continental” appear.

Editor’s note: It has been suggested by some members that we reprint old articles and Tech Tips from Continental Comments in the Sixties, the so called “Golden Age” of collecting early Lincoln Continentals. The preceding article with all the notes from Dave Cole shows why we are so reluctant to do this. At the time these articles were written it was the best knowledge we had. But so much has been learned since that these are now very dated, and unless carefully post scripted as Dave Cole has done here, tend to give our members erroneous information.

The original Lincoln Continental Advertisement

On the following page [below] we are reprinting the first ad for the Lincoln Continental. It appeared in magazines in May, 1940. The exquisite painting is by the legendary vintage-auto illustrator Leslie Saalburg who worked for Lincoln throughout the  Thirties and later freelanced. The premier issue of Automobile Quarterly featured eight of his paintings.

This particular advertisement is one of the most beautiful color presentations of the early Lincoln Continental. It would seem that the setting for the car is on the West Coast, probably at or near Pebble Beach, California. It is interesting to note that nowhere does the ad’s copy refer to the new Continental nor is the car called a Lincoln Continental.

We thank Ken Goode of Bennington, Vermont for sharing this historic Lincoln ad with us.

The Continental Mark VII.  Coming of Age.

The Continental Mark VII. Coming of Age.

The Continental Mark VII.  Coming of Age.

By Tim Howley

Originally published in the September/October 1995 issue of Continental Comments (Issue # 205).

In June, 1983, Continental Comments previewed the forthcoming Continental Mark VII at the Sears Point Race Race Track near Sonoma, California. We were invited there as part of the general press. Motoring magazines saw the car several months later. Most of the Third Quarter, 1983 issue, Continental Comments #153 was devoted to the new 1984 Mark which we called the most changed Lincoln-built car since the 1936 Lincoln-Zephyr.

A lot has happened to Lincoln-built automobiles since this author and his wife previewed the 1984 Mark VII 12 years ago. A lot has happened in LCOC, too. Since that time we have published more than 50 issues of Continental Comments covering the very broad spectrum of cars that this club recognizes.

With the 1984 Continental Mark VII, Lincoln went after two distinct markets, the Mercedes 380 SEL type of buyer with the LSC model and the traditional Lincoln buyer with the Designer Series. The LSC model had high-performance suspension, quick-ratio power steering, high-performance axle ratio, high-performance tires with racing type wheels and a sporty interior. Only the LSC cars, as I recall two of them, were presented to the press at Sears Point. These were hand built prototypes which I am sure have long since been destroyed by the factory. None of the Designer Series models were available at the time. In fact, almost none existed at the time except for mules that were used in the advertising.

So this was the Mark of the future that is now a Mark of the past, and it could well become in the very near future the fastest growing segment of Lincoln and Continental collecting.

In 1984 these cars took some getting used to. Aerodynamic design was only beginning to come out of Detroit at that time. A lot of Lincoln buyers were not used to it; hence Lincoln kept their Town Cars in the classic styling mode for the remainder of the decade. As the decade wore on, the Continental Mark VII, later renamed the Lincoln Mark VII, became more and more popular, especially the LSC series. Slowly Lincoln began to attract a younger type of buyer, not really the died -in-the-wool Mercedes buyer, but certainly the “Yuppie”who was moving up from the Toyota Celica and Honda Accord. The Marks of the Eighties defined for a whole new generation of Americans what Lincoln quality, craftsmanship and distinctive motoring personality were all about.

The new Mark’s single most advanced feature was EAS (Electronic Air Suspension). The singularly least innovative feature was the Ford 302 V-8 with throttle-body fuel injection coupled to a four-speed overdrive automatic transmission with a locking torque converter.

Later in the model year, all Mark VIIs were available with a 2.4 liter six-cylinder turbo diesel engine. This was a completely new engine designed to overcome the problems that GM had been having with its automobile diesel engines. We do not know how many Mark VIIs were equipped with these diesels and wonder if any of our members have Mark VIIs so equipped or know anything about them. The flush-fitted European style halogen headlamps were the first ever on any U.S. car. The coefficient of drag on the Mark VII was down to .38. On the Mark VIII it is down to .32.

EAS was controversial in 1984 and remained so for several years. The fear was that it would eventually wear out and be prohibitively expensive to repair/replace. The mechanical air suspension of 1958 was highly unreliable, so much so that Ford never put it on a single Lincoln or Thunderbird, but a few hundred 1958 Fords and Mercurys were so equipped. The GM system, which was sold on all GM makes in some numbers, was forever deflating in the poor owner’s garage or driveway. EAS, introduced on the 1984 Mark VII was a much more encouraging story. It was developed over a four-year period in cooperation with Goodyear. The system is similar to that used by NASA for the space shuttle’s launch platform. As it was explained in Continental Comments #153, “Four rubber air canisters replace the standard coil springs. There is an electronic air compressor, two height sensors in the front and one in the rear, plus an open-door sensor, a brake sensor and a microcomputer in the trunk. With air springs, Lincoln-Mercury engineers were able to develop a ride that is soft enough on the boulevards, yet stiffens up in the turns. There is also automatic load leveling at all four corners so the car is always at the same level.”

It is interesting and reassuring to note that in the 11 years that the Mark VII has been on the road, Continental Comments has only received one letter from an LCOC member complaining about EAS failure. From what we can determine, EAS is as durable as the total car, engineered to last 200,000 miles or more. Indeed, there are now quite a few Mark VIIs out there with 200,000 miles on them.

The Designer Series models were originally, in 1984, offered in the Bill Blass and the Versace. If there were originally more Designer Series than that, the 1984 brochure did not mention them. The Bill Blass models were gold on the exterior with wire spoke aluminum wheels (not wire spoke type wheel covers). Interiors repeated the gold theme. For 1984, the classic white and blue Bill Blass models with the nautical theme were no longer available. The Versace models, inspired by the young Italian designer, Gianni Versace, had dark walnut exteriors, again with wire spoke aluminum wheels. Interiors were desert tan. In addition to the LSC and Designer Series, there was a standard Mark VII offered in a variety of colors and with an assortment of styled wheels available. Here is specifically what the 1984 catalog had to say about wheels: “(A) Special cast aluminum wheels for the optional special handling package have wider rims than standard wheels and unique centers with exposed bright lug nuts. These wheels are standard on the LSC. (B) Cast aluminum road wheels are standard on the Mark VII. (C) Wire spoke aluminum wheels are standard on Bill Blass and Versace, and (D) Forged aluminum wheels are optional on all models, except with the handling package and LSC.”

If you’re buying an early Mark VII to collect, 1984-86, it will not be easy to find a low mileage car. The original owners bought them to be driven. It is very rare to find any example today with less than 100,000 miles. But don’t be discouraged, the low mileage examples are out there. Also, consider that miles really don’t mean a lot on a Mark VII if the car has been cared for. The LSC models are still the most popular and consequently command the highest prices. The Designer Series models are really not in demand like the LSCs, consequently you may be able to strike a real bargain. Original owners of these cars tended to be older, more conservative people, and you just may find one of these with low miles. The least collectible, but probably the most plentiful are the standard Mark VIIs. Any Mark VII with all the goodies, especially the moonroof option, is especially collectible.

When interviewing Lincoln-Mercury stylist Dave Turner on the Mark VIII (see the next issue of Continental Comments) the subject of the Mark VII quickly came up because this was the car that bridged the enormous gap between the classic Mark VI and the very futuristic Mark VIII. Rating the Mark VII in terms of styling, Turner commented thus: “I think what the Mark VII is is a real classic in the series. What the Mark VII has is superb trendiness. There is this sense of wheels and tires, and the road and stability and competence and all of these things. They are the mark of the Mark VII, and I think that’s one of the things that’s going to go down in the history as to what the Mark VII was. It’s competent, it’s trendy, it’s straightforward, it’s disciplined, it’s a really good car. And when I look back on them, every once in awhile you see a really nice one driving on the road, and I say, ‘Wow, that was a nice car’. I think that anyone who owns a Mark VII can be proud of that.”

Our feature car is a 1984 Bill Blass Mark VII owned by Ed and Joan Harants of Brunswick, Ohio. This is a 60,000 mile all original car. Harants bought the car when it was only one year old and had 11,000 miles. He has maintained it in like new condition ever since. Last year they entered the Mid-America National Meet in Itasca, Illinois and the Eastern National Meet in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania. At both meets they took a Primary First. While Ed bought his car when almost new, others are finding that there are some real advantages in buying an early Mark VII now. First, it is possible today to buy such a car for $5,000 or less. All you really need to do is a lot of detailing in order to be highly competitive in the Primary Class. You really don’t need to worry about restoring. A Mark VII has yet to win a Ford Trophy and enter the Senior Class for even bigger hardware. And surely there must be one or two of them out there with only a few hundred miles, just waiting  or some loving collector and Elliston H. Bell potential.



Stainless Steel Lincoln Continental Convertible at Williamsburg, 1993

Stainless Steel Lincoln Continental Convertible at Williamsburg, 1993

Stainless Steel Lincoln Continental Convertible at Williamsburg, 1993

By Tim Howley

Originally published in the July/August 1995 issue of Continental Comments (Issue # 204).

One of the most most unusual cars displayed at the 1993 Eastern National Meet in Williamsburg, Virginia was a 1966 Lincoln Continental convertible sedan brought to the event by Bill Westfall on behalf of the owner, Allegheny Ludlum Steel, a pioneer in stainless steel development. This car has 190,000 miles, the engine has never been gone through, and was just starting to use oil in 1993, only proving how long these engines can go. The car is a 1966 with a 1967 grille and some 1967 trim. It has both 1966 and 1967 parts.

Originally three of these Lincoln Continental convertibles were built. This one and one other are are in daily use. The other was in Dearborn at the time of the meet. This one is kept in the Philadelphia area. Allegheny Ludlum uses these cars for sales purposes and they take their clients out in them.

These cars were hand assembled at a cost of approximately $300,000 each. Two were built for Allegheny Ludlum’s promotional use and a third one was built for the Ford Motor Company, Lincoln- Mercury Division. Two were built very late in 1966 accounting for the combination of 1966 and 1967 trim. The third one was all 1967. Later Ford decided to dispose of this third car but it had been in an accident at Ford and was almost demolished. Eventually it was almost given (free) to Allegheny Ludlum who restored it. It is now in the Thompson Museum in Cleveland.

These are not the only Allegheny Ludlum stainless steel cars. The whole story goes back to the late ’20s when Henry Ford dreamed of a stainless steel car that would last forever. The first stainless steel cars to appear were Model A Fords back in 1930. Three of them were built. They had a conventional Ford chassis and running gear, wooden floorboards and stainless  steel bodies—or “Allegheny Metal” as it was called then. Two of these cars were scrapped during world War II; the third one may survive.

In 1936, six 1936 Ford stainless steel two-door sedans were made by Allegheny Ludlum. This time the floorpans were made of high carbon steel rather than wood. At least four of these Fords survive. One is in the Thompson Museum. Two still belong to Allegheny Ludlum and a fourth may be in the hands of a private owner.

In 1960, two stainless steel Thunderbird hardtops were built. Allegheny Ludlum still retains both of them, and both are regularly driven.

All of these cars were used for advertising and promotional purposes by both Ford and Allegheny Ludlum. None of them were easy to build because stainless steel cannot be stamped into shape like other types of steel, one reason why there have never been any stainless steel production cars other than the DeLorean. How these cars were built is a story in itself. The most difficult task in building them was shaping the roof panels, hence it was somewhat easier to build the Lincoln Continental convertibles than the others. The Thunderbirds and the Lincoln Continentals have stainless steel exhaust systems which have never been replaced.

1968 Continental Mark III Press Release

1968 Continental Mark III Press Release

1968 Continental Mark III Press Release

Originally published in the First Quarter 1995 issue of Continental Comments (Issue # 203).

From Patrick J. Kelly of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania comes this 1968 press release on the Continental Mark III found in the library and research center of the Antique Automobile Club of America in Hershey, Pennsylvania:

Dearborn, Michigan, February 12, 1968. Diplomats, royalty, entertainers, classic car admirers and “carriage trade” buyers throughout the world have placed more than 1,000 orders for Ford Motor Company’s new Continental Mark III, the luxury personal car scheduled for introduction at Lincoln-Mercury dealerships in April.

E.F. (Gar) Laux, Ford vice president and Lincoln-Mercury Division general manager, said today that although few persons have seen the new motorcar and initially production will be limited, the company expects to sell between 13,000 and 15,000 Mark Ills in the first full calendar year.

Mr. Laux, addressing newsmen attending the national press-radio-television preview of the Continental Mark III, said the new car will continue the “momentum toward excellence” began by the Lincoln Continental and derived from a heritage that includes Henry Leland ’s original Lincoln and the first Lincoln Continental and the Continental Mark II.

“The momentum toward excellence, once achieved, is yours as long as you value it and protect it,” Mr. Laux said. “And that’s what we propose to do.”

The Continental Mark III will enter a steadily growing market of luxury and luxury/personal cars that annually accounts for about 440,000 units, a retail business worth about $2.5 billion. The present Lincoln Continental participates in this market to the extent of more than $250 million annually, Mr. Laux noted.”

The Mark III is a luxury car, a personal car and a two-door hardtop,” Mr. Laux said. “In other words, the Mark III is placed squarely in the center of the three most affluent and fastest growing areas of the market.”

Influencing the momentum toward excellence , Mr. Laux added, are the highest standards of design, manufacture, advertising , customer and supplier relations.

The new 460-cubic-inch engine which powers the Mark III, Mr. Laux said, is one example of the high standards of design accorded the new car. The 365-horsepower V-8, with a design background deeply rooted in the company’s performance engine program, is ideally suited to the Mark III, he added. The new engine also features advanced emission control.

Pointing out that January car sales by Lincoln-Mercury dealers were up 19% over Jan u a ry , 1967, Mr. Laux was optimistic about the balance of this year.”

Many of the new car purchases which were deferred last fall by the Ford strike will be made in this quarter of 1968,” he said. “Consumer reaction to the new models has been excellent, and we expect 1968 to become a banner year in the history of the industry.

“There seems to be no lessening in the American’s reliance on cars for his personal transportation .” He cited a steadily increasing car population, buoyed up by a scrappage rate of about seven million cars a year.

Mr. Laux also said that he expects Lincoln-Mercury sales to get an added boost this spring with a pair of new Mercury models—a hardtop and a convertible—with “yacht deck” simulated woodgrain side paneling and a new Cougar XR7-G, featuring a special handling package and power-operated sun panel in the roof.