Specifications: 300bhp, 368 cu.in.V8 engine, four-barrel Carter carburetor, Turbo-Drive automatic three-speed transmission, and four-wheel hydraulic brakes. Wheelbase: 126"
In terms of styling, the Continental Mark II was a departure from what Americans were accustomed to from a luxury car in the 1950s. With excellent proportions and lines penned by Ford’s newly formed and independent Continental Division, the car possessed an understated beauty, striving for elegance in place of flamboyance.
Americans expected a car weighed down by chrome, set off by a high contrast two-tone paint scheme and space age inspired styling elements. What they saw in the Mark II was a long and low car with proportions similar to the Thunderbird but enlarged, all the while paying homage to the Continental of the 1940s with the trunk lid molded to the shape of the spare tire concealed within. Under the four-pointed star mounted on the hood, which would later become the Lincoln emblem, rested a 300 horsepower 368 cubic-inch V8 engine mated to a three-speed automatic transmission.
Mostly hand-made, the Mark II was a rolling piece of art and a product of exceptional craftsmanship. The paint was wet sanded, double-lacquered and polished to a shine industrial painting techniques could simply not achieve. Only the very finest materials were used throughout and the instrumentation displayed the precision of a finely crafted watch. These amenities and more did not come cheaply and even with a sticker price of $10,000 Ford lost an estimated $1,000 per car sold. With a price tag equaling a Rolls-Royce and far exceeding the Lincoln Premiere Series of the same year, the Mark II only attracted clients of considerable wealth – the rich and famous. Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Nelson Rockefeller, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower were all proud owners of a Mark II, as was the Shah of Iran.
Conceived as the height of automotive fashion, its public debut at the Paris Motor Show of 1955 was fitting. Before the car had been publicly released, 1,300 examples were sold with only another 1,300 sold during its first year of production. In 1957, only 450 were produced, making the total production of the Mark II only 3,000 examples strong. At present, it is believed that the number of surviving examples is far lower.
This particular 1956 Continental Mark II has undergone a complete, professional, and very thorough frame-off restoration. Its exterior, benefiting from a unique wraparound windshield, is finished in rare and factory-correct Naiad Green while the interior features matching, two-tone green and white leather upholstery. In addition to a smart dashboard with four-dial gold-trimmed instrumentation, this Mark II is fully equipped with a host of typical Continental extras – power brakes, power steering, power seat, radio, white wall tires, heater, and air conditioning, the only available factory option.
In no way was the Continental Mark II a typical Lincoln. In fact, its development by the Continental Division and the virtual omission of the Lincoln name signaled a certain degree of autonomy for the super-luxurious two-door. With such marques as Duesenberg, Cord, and Peerlees relegated to the annals of history, Ford’s project was aimed from the outset at luxury strongholds Packard and Cadillac. The Division’s goal of crafting “the finest automobiles in America” was lofty but, by all accounts, a stylistic success, even if Ford lost money on each example produced. To this day, the Continental Mark II remains a vehicle of great distinction, a timeless American classic, and a welcome presence at any show event.