New & Used Lincoln Continental: In Depth
2001 Lincoln ContinentalEnlarge Photo
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The Lincoln Continental was one of the most respected--even revered--nameplates in the Ford Motor Company stable. At least, that was the case for the first few generations; the name was applied to smaller, less distinguished cars throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and in the modern era, it was essentially a long-wheelbase Ford Taurus, between the 1988 and 2002 model years, after which it was discontinued.
The Continental name at first was a brand until itself, christened in the World War II era as a personal car for Edsel Ford, and later produced in limited numbers. After the war, Ford revived the name and applied it to a stunning, expensive two-seat roadster dubbed the Mark II. The Continental brand was absorbed into Lincoln, and ran through Roman numerals as it grew ever larger, becoming a more direct rival for more popularly priced Cadillacs of the day.
The design heights for the brand were reached again with the 1961-1967 Continental, which was offered as a four-door sedan with suicide doors, a two-door coupe, and a four-door convertible. This Continental was the one converted for presidential use; one became the limousine that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in. By the end of the decade, the pricey Continental was due for a redesign--which it received in rather unglorious form, starting a downward trend in appeal and in construction quality that continued until it was discontinued. The hopelessly baroque Town Cars of the early 1980s were a grim sight, for any fan of the 1966 two-door or the Mark II.
With its 1988 redesign, the Continental found a new niche, as a spin-off of the wildly successful Taurus. Given its own smooth but less radical shape distinct from the Taurus, the longer, long-wheelbase Continental also came with front-wheel drive and, pointedly, no V-8 engine. Ford's 3.8-liter V-6 did the honors, through a four-speed automatic transmission. This well-received edition was sold through the 1994 model year.
In 1995, the Continental was revamped, riding on the same platform. The V-8 was back in the form of a 4.6-liter engine coupled to a four-speed automatic, but the Continental still was driven by the front wheels. The major innovations in this era were an air suspension and airbags.
The Continental still was perceived, though, as a car for older drivers. And as Ford began to absorb European luxury brands in the late 1990s, the business case for the Continental was made to make less sense. Ford announced the end of Continental production in 2002, and the final models rolled off the assembly line in that year.