Cromo Classico – Lincoln Continental

22 Mar 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Cromo Classico – Lincoln Continental
Lincoln Continental

Lincoln vs Cadillac

The name Lincoln is more close to Cadillac than you may imagine. It may seem strange but these two car-making companies were really founded by the same person, Henry Martin Leland.

In 1902, Leland founded Cadillac that later came under control of General Motors. When, at the beginning of the First World War, the American government asked various designers to help it with the production of aeronautical engines, Leland accepted the job. But the general manager of General Motors refused to finance the production for pacifistic reasons (was this the only motive?), creating a dispute with Leland.

Leland, determined in his choice, decided to leave the management of Cadillac and created a new company specialized in production of airlpane engines. This is how Lincoln Motor Company was born, choosing its name in famous president’s honour.

Lincoln was producing the Liberty airlane engines and it was converted at the end of the war into car production company. what a coincidence! Subsequently, Lincoln came under control of Ford group and became its most prestigious brand, hence ending up as the biggest rival of Cadillac, the GM’s prestigious mark.

The great Lincoln of the 50’s

1952: The first Continental

The Continental, attributed to Edsel Ford’s will, was to be inspired by concepts of beauty, technology and dynamism that Edsel saw in the best cars of European continent (the “continental” cars). There is no doubt he reached his goal and even if not everybody likes to hear it, the Continental was a successful car, that had at this period only very few competitors in terms of design, refinement and constructional quality. It was a real success!

The first Lincoln Continental is from 1940. It had a V12 engine of 4785 cc. In 1946, after the wartime break, the second version was born, that has practically consecrated the name Continental to the car-making history. Why?

It is enough to know that one of the greatest architects ever, Frank Lloyd Wright, has described it as the most elegant car so far made, while in 1951 it was selected as one of the eight cars-“art works” worthy to enter the Museum of Modern Art of New York.

This car has been constructed with such care that in spite of its price of 4500 dollars (in the 40’s!), the company lost about 600 dollars on each delivered car.

The name Continental had become a part of most valued “status symbols” in the United States and its concurrent Cadillac could not ignore this fact. Besides it is well known that a healthy competition brings a continuous improvement of products. In fact, this is what happened to the two most prestigious American car companies and what happens nowadays to two producers of reference, Mercedes and BMW.

In the 50’s, the Lincoln people understood that in order to keep the high prestige of the company and resist the Cadillac’s domination in the field of luxury cars it will be necessary to design a new Continental: a coupe of the highest class that would be as close as possible to the expression “personal car”. This is how the Continental MKII was born in 1955.

The perfection: Continental MkII

When pride and desire to create something exceptional overcome the vulgar demands of the market, then cars like this are born.

It was estimated that Ford lost about 1000 dollars for each produced car despite its extremely high selling price of 10000 dollars (three and half times the price of Porsche 356). It was for simple reasons: the 1955’s Continental was constructed in accordance with very high quality standards and without making compromises.

For instance the engines were being selected among these made for the more “common” Capri and Premiere in an unusual and admirable process. Only engines with the best benchmark results were chosen. They were then completely dissasembled, carefully examined, checked and in the end again reassembled.

All the bodies were first assembled from raw parts just to verify that thay match perfectly together. Then they were dissasembled and all parts were perfectly painted before being finaly assembled again. By the way, three layers of paint were usualy applied during the painting process.

The whole interior was made of refine calfskin imported from England. The care for details during the assemblage of the interior was at the edge of insanity. For example each of the screws that surround the chassis of the windscreen had to have its slot aligned with all the others.

This car has been made in only 3000 exemplars.

Today, it is one of the cars most sought-after by the collectionists as it is considered being one of the best post-war luxury cars.

The years of success

With a clean and consistent design, flat flanks and the face free of showy juts, the Continental ‘61 was far too sober compared to its direct competitor.

However it was very successful as it sold in tens of thousand exemplars in the two available options, sedan and convertible.Both versions had 4 doors, which means, that the convertible was really a 4-door sedan cabriolet.

Lincoln Continental

The constructional quality of this series was very high, far above the average, even if it didn’t reach the same level as in MKII.

Both sedans and convertibles were subject to a series of rigorous controls before leaving the factory. Each car was exposed for three minutes to a “shower” under the high-pressure water jets, to check the perfect imperviousness of the sealing of its doors and windows.

A particular fluorescent substance used to be dissolved in the engine oil, just to verify that, after all the tests, there wasn’t any oil-leakage under the bodywork that was “scanned” by a special light beam.

Each car had a warranty of two years or 24000 miles (about 38000km), while the industrial standard was 90 days or 4000 miles.

Maybe not everyone can imagine what it really means to build a 4-door cabriolet (doors opening in the middle) without the centre pillar and keep the window sealing perfectly fitting and water resistant. Just for your information, when Jaguar removed the centre pillar on its XJC for the first time, it was a real disaster.

But it is not really ending here: the Continental has a totally foldaway soft-hood that is completely power-controlled and it all fits into a slot under the automatically opened trunk. The mechanism was made of no less then 11 engines. And to conclude, here is a real treat: front windows automatically lower a few centimetres each time the doors open and return to its place once they are closed! Actually, to guarantee the imperviousness, they are internally tacked to the soft-hood.

All this, 30 years in advance over the most sophisticated European solutions!

1966-1971: the confirmation

Once well estabilished, the name Continental continues to be highly successful during the 60’s and 70’s, stealing a nice market share from its ethernal opponent Cadillac.

The 1966 restiling turns out to be an excelent move as it bestows more sinuous and elegant lines to the car without harming its complex sobriety.

From 1968 on, there are no more cabriolets among the standard models of Continental. The remaining 2- or 4-door sedans are interesting, but have a lower value then the 1968-71 coupè Mark III.

The Continental MKIII from 1968 is perhaps the most well-known Lincoln. It is known even by the laics. Its particularly elegant lines and famous trunk with the silhouette of the spare wheel made the history.

In the film “The french connection” from 1972, starring excellent Gene Hackman, the MKIII plays so important part, that it could be counted among the film protagonists.

Born as a competitor of Cadillac Eldorado of ’67, the MKIII has proved to be an excellent rival. It relied mainly on the quality of the internal finishings and on the traditional affidability assured by the name Continental as well as by the classical set-up with the rear traction. Right in these two points the MKIII reveals to be superior over its opponent that on the other hand excels with its innovative front traction and a generaly better behaviour on the road.

Just for the record, we must add that in the past there existed another MKIII, produced in 1958. We didn’t examine it as we find it less interesting then the other models.

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