By Jim Farrell
Originally published in the Sept/Oct 2996 issue of Continental Comments (Issue # 199)
Over the years Continental Comments has, from time to time, featured articles about Mark IIs customized in one way or another. In Comments issue #134 there was a centerfold picture of a Mark II radically modified after Alex Dryer owned it. The customized Alex Dryer Mark II was first pictured in Comments #65 and resurfaced in Comments #190. Other Mark IIs have been customized over the years, but generally to lesser degrees than the Dryer car.
Most Lincoln and Continental enthusiasts rightly assume that it’s impossible to improve on the looks of the Mark II as built. That plus the rarity of the car and the high cost of acquisition have also acted to discourage too many “hot rod” Mark IIs. It should come as no surprise to us, however, that some hobbyists see things a little differently than we do. One of those people is Gary Meadors of Alamo, California. Gary has recently completed the ultimate “American Graffiti” car. You can tell from the picture it’s a Mark II, but a Mark II that has had all the modern tricks done to it that make it into the ultimate cruiser or street rod.
Before explaining what makes this Mark II so much different than the pristine, perfect restorations we usually see at our national meets and in the pages of this magazine, it helps to know a little about Gary Meadors. Gary grew up in a small farming community in central California in the 1950s. As a farm boy, he got his driver’s license at age 14. The movie, American Graffiti is about the California car culture Gary grew up in. The closest bigger cities when Gary was growing up were Visalia and Fresno, where “cruising the gut” was the ultimate participation and spectator sport every night of the week and especially on weekends. Gary’s “thing” is cruising and he believes that practice makes perfect. Over the years Gary has graduated from his first cruising vehicle, a ‘48 Plymouth, to a Tee bucket roadster, then to a “deuce sedan” (‘32 Ford) and now to a 1956 Continental Mark II.
The ultimate luxury car of the ‘50s to many became the ultimate street rod to the guy behind the Good Guys street and hot rod car shows.
In the ‘50s and ‘60s, cruising became an art form in California, and by the ‘70s, Gary, his wife Marilyn and their two sons were cruising from one end of the state to the other. By the ‘80s the Meadors family was cruising not only in California, but thousands of miles a year to Tulsa, St. Paul, Indianapolis, New York and every place in between. Pleasure soon transformed itself into a successful business and now Gary is the guy behind all of the very successful Goodguys street and hot rod car shows you see advertised in newspapers and street rod magazines all across the country.
Since Gary’s hobby has turned into a successful business career, he has now indulged himself in what he sees as the ultimate cruiser—a custom Mark II. Gary says that when it came time to replace the deuce sedan, which was first built in 1972, he was looking for something really unique and different from what other street rodders were building. The Mark II cost $8,000 to begin with, and from listening to everything that has been done to make Gary’s ultimate street rod and who did the work, we’re not sure even Gary wants to know what the final bill was. At the very least, it’s not polite to ask, but making a statement in today’s street rod culture is certainly not cheap!
The bottom six inches of the body were found to be almost rotted away when the car was disassembled and stripped. That was repaired, but then Gary took a path different than the one taken by most of us who restore old cars. A new frame was fabricated using the same cow belly principles employed when the original Mark II frame was designed. This one, however was made to accommodate a 460 cid. engine, a beefed up C-6 transmission, and the front and rear ends from a ‘77 Ford LTD station wagon. Disc brakes all around were used. The only non Ford, component taken from another manufacturer was a late Chevrolet tilt steering column.
The original dash was totally redone and BMW late model adjustable seats were installed. A new air-conditioning system
was installed and a modern stereo system was built in.
The inside doesn’t look much like the original, but Gary says that real efforts were made to preserve the timeless exterior
styling of the Mark II. Windwings were removed, as were the rocker panel moldings and the door handles. Other body
modifications include 17 inch custom made wheels, ‘52 Ford filled headlight rims, custom outside mirrors and a custom
grill. The bottom parts of both bumpers were also painted body color. The spare tire hump on the trunk was reworked and lowered slightly. The car was painted a deep blue and upholstered in medium gray. The car has no pin stripes, flames or other ornamentation on it. Gary says it rides and drives great, except that it wants to stop at every gas station.
This club is one that prides itself on the accurate restoration and preservation of all Lincolns and Continentals, but it also
makes room for and recognizes modified custom Lincolns and Continentals. It’s probably too much to hope that those who pride themselves on the authentic and accurate restoration and preservation of classic Lincolns can ever truly appreciate street rods and customized Lincolns no matter how well done they are. Maybe the converse is also true. There is a moral to this story, however, and in a strange way it reinforces the beliefs most of our members have.
Usually the cars that have been made into the most successful street rods are the ones that have been the most radically
modified. They have been chopped, channeled, sectioned and just about everything else to become expressions of their creator’s concept of what the car ought to look like. The emphasis with most street rods has been to change the original looks of the car as much as is consistent with modern practice and individual taste. Not so with the Meador’s Mark II. The emphasis was on keeping as much of the classic Mark II look as possible, even while creating a unique street rod. That’s about as high a compliment as can be made to the original designers of the Mark II and it reemphasizes what all of us have taken for granted for the last 40 years—the Mark II is one of the most beautiful car designs ever created and it looks as fresh today as it did 40 years ago. Purists and street rodders can at least agree on one thing—if cars looked as distinctive today as the Mark II still does, the American Automobile industry would be in overdrive.