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.

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