Live Auctions

Factory Air: 1956 Continental Mark II

When I saw the listing for this 1956 Continental Mark II, it made me wonder whether there are any manufacturers that haven’t produced a “halo” model. Okay, maybe Trabant is a candidate, but the list will be short. The Mark II was Ford’s exercise in perfection, with the company’s aim to build America’s, and possibly the planet’s, best production car. It featured the most rigorous inspection and quality control process imaginable and cost its first owner around 85% of the price of the average American home in 1956. This Mark II is a complete vehicle that needs a total restoration. Unlike many of its siblings, it hasn’t succumbed to significant rust issues. It could also be the cheapest Continental Mark II project in the current classic market. It is listed here on eBay in Unionville, Michigan. With a BIN of $5,900, it might be a great project build for the right person.

The Continental Division was Ford’s attempt to create the world’s best car, and whether they achieved that goal is always debatable. Certainly, the attention to detail, inspection process, and quality control system was unlike anything seen before. The company attached all hanging panels to each “body in white” to ensure a perfect fit. They removed the panels before the car entered the paint shop and reassembled it once it emerged. There was no genuine moving production line, with each vehicle wheeled from station to station on a trolley. During the build, the Mark II was subjected to fourteen different inspections, and failure at any point saw that car removed from the line until the production staff rectified the fault. This car wears matte black, but it is unclear what color graced its panels when it rolled out of the factory. There are some suggestions that it may have been Code 05 Deep Green. The buyer will probably elect to strip the panels as part of a high-end restoration, but they won’t face any significant dent or rust repairs. The car is rock-solid, with the floors and frame carrying little beyond surface corrosion. Most of the trim is present, including a replated front bumper. The bad news for potential buyers is the missing original hubcaps. Finding replacements will be challenging due to their rarity, and it isn’t unusual for spotless caps to fetch $150 each.

The sticker price for a 1956 Continental Mark II was an eyewatering $9,966. Considering the average house price was $11,700, the Mark II was not a cheap investment. However, it came loaded to the brim with standard features. The seats wore beautiful Scottish “Bridge of Weir” leather, although cloth was a no-cost option. Other features included power windows (including the vent windows), a power front seat, wool carpet, comprehensive gauges to monitor the vehicle’s mechanical health, and a Travel-Tuner AM radio with a power antenna. If a buyer felt particularly well-heeled, they could drop an additional $595 on factory air conditioning. The original owner of this classic is one of around five hundred who did so in 1956, and the system remains intact. The interior is essentially complete, but the buyer faces a total restoration. This process won’t be cheap, because Mark II trim kits don’t grow on trees. An insight is provided by the availability of reproduction wool carpet sets. They retail for slightly less than $1,000, but that is the tip of the iceberg. When you add seat foam and covers, door trims, a headliner, and a dash cap to the equation, this aspect of the build will consume plenty of cash.

It is true that the Continental Mark II utilized Lincoln’s Y-Block V8, but there were some significant differences worth noting. In its bid for perfection, Continental dismantled and blueprinted each 368ci V8 and the three-speed Turbo-Drive automatic transmission. Once it completed the process, each unit ran on a dyno to ensure it was in good health and produced its claimed 285hp. The result was that although the Mark II driver had less power under their right foot than a ’56 Coupe de Ville owner, performance between the two vehicles was line-ball. The seller indicates this Continntal’s engine ran on an external fuel source last year, which is reassuring. The car isn’t roadworthy, and it will take an in-person inspection to compile a list of tasks to achieve that goal.

There will always be a question hanging over the potential fate of Ford’s Continental Division. It emerged in 1956, and William Clay Ford was passionate about it and the pursuit of automotive perfection. However, the family’s decision to float the Ford empire on the Stock Market sealed the fate of Continental. For all his failings in later life, Henry Ford II recognized that “mum and dad” investors would not accept a car that lost 20% on each sale that would eat into potential profits and their dividends. Therefore, the Continental Division disappeared within Lincoln after a mere two years. Today, a spotless Continental Mark II can fetch $50,000 in the classic market, although higher figures are possible if the vehicle is perfect. Our feature car is far from perfect, but its lack of the typical rust that can afflict these cars is positive news. Eighty-one people are watching the listing, and it will be interesting to see if one hits the BIN button. Would you?

Comments

  1. That Guy

    Aaaand it’s gone.

    Like 3
  2. Chris In Australia

    While I’m not a fan of the styling, at least this comes across as a cohesive design, unlike it’s 1940s ancestors.

    Like 3
  3. Ron Denny Ron Denny Staff

    Another well-written, informative read, Adam. It’ll take deep pockets, but hopefully this landmark car will be driven, enjoyed, and drooled over again…

    Like 6
  4. matthew grant

    great descriptives. and how I wish money did grow on trees for I would love to redo this car. and drive it on Sundays. assuming I could negate corners successfully. love this news letter, I look for it every day. great article!

  5. HC Member

    Not surprised that it’s already gone for that BIN price. Someone’s gonna spend alot of coin but have a great time doing it. Love these models, great find.

    Like 2
  6. Corvair Jim

    I’ve always been a Chevy guy, and as such, never really cared for Ford products. Having said that, the Continental Mark II is VERY high on my “100 Car Bucket List” that kicks in after we win the PowerBar or MegaMillions jackpot! I readily admit that I’m to unskilled to do a restoration of the quality that this car deserves, but hey, I just won the lottery, right? I’ll either buy one ready to go or pay a top-level restoration shop to do it for me!

    Like 2
  7. RalphP

    We’ll most likely see the fully restored car at Barrett-Jackson sometime down the road.

  8. Patrick Curran

    Can’t help but notice the Chrysler TC next to the Mark II. The Mark is on my bucket list though.

    Like 3
    • That Guy

      That caught my eye as well. I don’t think they will ever have their day in the sun, but they are fascinating oddballs that deserved to do better than they did. If they had made it to market in 1985-6 or so as originally planned, the story might have been different. As it is, they sat in showrooms alongside the very similar looking and far cheaper LeBaron, and sold like liver-flavored ice cream.

      Like 3
      • HC Member

        Indeed, this 56 body style looks much better than the Lincoln Mark series in 1986 did. Would have surpassed the Halo Thunderbird series they did, IMO.

    • stillrunners stillrunners Member

      Yep….and don’t see many TC’s in that color….my buddy is trying to get his in that color going again….

      Like 1
  9. John Prill

    I’m thinking rat rod…it’s already got the requisite primer paint job. It would be one classy rat rod (???)

  10. Gtoforever

    Great read, and by the time I was done reading, pooof, it’s gone!!
    Guess I’ll have to look before I read from now on.
    Lol

  11. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

    Last time I checked, a set of 4 complete and not dented Continental Mark II wheel covers will set you back around $10,000. If you can even find a set.

    Like 1
    • HC Member

      For $10k on hubcaps, I would look for an period correct set of rims if it were my car

      • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

        HC,

        The rims are standard Lincoln Premier wheels. It’s the special wheel covers for the Continental Mark II that are so damn expensive. When I restored one 25 years ago those wheel covers were upwards of $1,000 each for mint restored or NOS examples, and $250 for complete ones requiring restoration or missing only a few parts. One of the problems is the intricate design of the cover; It’s got over FOURTY parts per wheel cover!

        Currently there is only one for sale anywhere, it’s on ebay and looks like it was run over by a truck, and is missing all of it’s turbine blades. The price is still $150.

        In 2006 the guys over at Hubcap City, who buy thousands of vintage hubcaps and wheel covers every year, mentioned in their monthly blog that they had actually found and bought one of these Mark II wheel covers, and it’s so rare they said they were keeping it for their collection, that it wasn’t for sale! They said in over 22 years of buying hubcaps & wheel covers, they had never even seen one in the collections they bought, much less had the chance to buy one.

        There is a local guy who owns a ’56 Mark II, and he drives it around on regular Lincoln wheel covers, only putting the correct covers on the car when it’s on display at car shows. Even then he has them locked on with special locks attached to the valve stems, so they can’t be popped off the car.

        It’s my belief that these are the most valuable factory produced automobile wheel covers in the world.

        Like 1
  12. HC Member

    Yeah Bill, just saying I wouldn’t pay that much for just hubcaps to be original and a purist. If it were my car that I was driving I would get age appropriate rims and tires, 15″ and over to fit if I updated to disc barkes. If it were my car I wouldn’t care if someone didn’t like choice in rims instead of the hubcaps

    Like 1
    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

      HC,
      I hear ya, I agree with your comments. Back in the 1970s I had a Dodge Sport Van at a time when installing the white “spoked” rims with red & blue pinstripes was all the rage, and I simply installed a set of 1950s Packard 15″ wheel covers instead.

      Like 1
  13. HC Member

    You’d need a minimum of 15″ rims for disc brakes anyway and they make some great rims and wheel packages that would look great on this Mark 11. And wouldn’t have to fool with cray oem Continental hubcaps

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