Ultimate Luxury: 1956 Lincoln Continental

The owner refers to this car as a Lincoln Continental, but it is actually a Continental Mark II. Regardless of that, we have seen a few project grade Mark IIs come through in recent times, and this particular car seems to be one of the better and more promising of them. A big thank you has to go out to Barn Finder Wayne A for referring the Mark II through to us. The car is located in Reno, Nevada, and is listed for sale here on Craigslist.

The outward signs on the Continental seem to be quite encouraging. This car hasn’t been consumed by rust, and the panels look to be very straight. Apart from some of the letters missing off the front of the hood, all of the exterior trim and chrome certainly looks like it could be restored, and all of the glass also appears to be in good condition. It’s amazing to consider how tight the quality control was on the Mark II. Each body was hand assembled to check panel fit. They were then dismantled and all of the components were painted, then baked, and then hand sanded before being repainted. This process was repeated with every step in the painting process until a flawless finish was achieved. One item that I can’t see is the hubcaps. Those alone are a story in themselves. It would have been very easy for Continental to use something relatively simple, but the standard finned hubcaps for a Continental were each hand assembled, with the inner and outer rings joined by fitting each of the fins individually.

Under the hood are the 368ci Y-Block Lincoln V8 engine, and the Turbo-Drive automatic transmission. In keeping with the exclusivity and quality that Ford was attempting to establish with the Continental, the engine in the Mark II was something a bit special. Standard engines were randomly removed from the Lincoln production line. They were then completely disassembled and reassembled as fully blueprinted and balanced engine, thus ensuring the best levels of power, smoothness, and refinement were obtained from them. So meticulous was this attention to detail that even the generator was balanced to ensure that it didn’t introduce any form of vibration into the drive-train. Being a Continental, life was designed to be that bit easier, so you also get power steering and power brakes. While it all looks quite clean under the hood, we don’t get any indication about the state of the engine.

The leather-clad interior trim is going to require restoration, but its appearance is a bit confusing. It almost looks like it might be comprised of pieces from two separate cars, as there is a lot of color mismatch in there. Once again, in keeping with its prestige reputation, you wanted for nothing in a Mark II. Power windows, a power front seat, a Travelmaster AM radio, and even power vent windows were all part of the package. The leather was sourced from Scotland but was dyed in the USA, and it covered almost every surface, from seats to door trims, and the dash pad. The only optional extra that you could specify in a Mark II was air conditioning, which was a $595 optional extra. Unfortunately, that box wasn’t ticked on this car. One of the features of the interior that I’ve always liked is the gauges and their pod. The gauges themselves ooze luxury, while the aluminum fascia looks positively space-age.

If this Continental Mark II is a solid and complete on personal inspection as it appears to be in the photos, then it really is a solid candidate for restoration. With a really nice example, you can expect to pay a bare minimum of $35,000, but I have seen them sell for six-figure sums. My only real concern with this car may be the price. The owner has set it at $18,900. It might make it a bit expensive for a restoration project, but only a thorough inspection would confirm this. Given the “money is no object” approach that was taken in the development and building of the Mark II, it might just be worth it.

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  1. J_Paul Member

    Considering how rare and unique these cars were, I always thought they were undervalued as collectables….which probably explains why there seems to be a lot of rough ones out there. Just not enough upside for proper restorations, which is weird considering that people will drag VW Bus carcasses out of lakes in order to fix them.

    I remember seeing one of these in a San Francisco tow/impound yard about a decade ago. It had been abandoned, and was in rough shape, but still a magnificent car. I shudder to think that it was turned into scrap, but there’s a really good chance that’s exactly what happened.

  2. Bob C.

    That same engine was used in the Mercury Turnpike Cruiser for 1957. This should have 285 HP for this year and 300 for 57. Performance wasn’t that good for these, 0-60 in 12 to 14 seconds. But hey, they were heavy and certainly not for meant for drag racing.

  3. DRV

    It’s heavy hand made Ford essentially. Probably the most luxurious ’50s “personal” vehicle and a milestone car. I’ve always thought of them as a daddy Tbird. With only 1300 of them built that year they were a loss leader.
    It would be such a great driver to have restored to driver condition. I would use it every day if I could.

  4. al8apex

    The car pictured DOES have factory air conditioning and is an early 56 with the a/c intake slots on the top of the quarter panels …

    • Ralph

      I was about to say, it looks like there are a/c components on the passenger side of the engine compartment.

    • George

      The duct openings on the rear fender were intended as intakes for the trunk-mounted system, but in hot weather testing, this proved a bad idea and the actual a/c intakes are behind the grille.

      The expensive cast parts were used until the stock was exhausted but they never actually functioned and the presence of those ducts does not indicate an a/c equipped car.

      Just learned that this year.

      • al8apex

        The presence of those ducts DOES indicate an a/c car – and an early 56 at that. My father, Elmer Rohn, was the a/c engineer on the Mark II. You possibly read his notes last year on this thatBarry Wolk had posted/shared.

  5. Beatnik Bedouin

    Assuming there aren’t any major rust issues, this MkII would be worth a look for someone with good restoration skills.

    It’s far and away my favourite US-made car of the 1950s.

  6. Dolphin Dolphin Member

    Heavily hand made as DRV said, and Ford lost money on every one they sold because of it…that, and only 3000 Mk II continentals made.

  7. Russell

    I know of another one for sale (no ad) in Anacortes, WA. I’ve been driving by it for weeks and haven’t stopped to check it out yet. I might stop later today and check out the price and condition. From 50 ft, driving by, it looks straight and decent, but you never know what lurks below.

  8. skibum2

    Bought this one from the Scripts empire… Was never so happy to sell this, while a beautiful car, parts are not available.. I actually traded for a
    57 XK140 Roadster, Yeah, I know.. should have kept that one..

  9. Brian

    This car was a/c equipped because the air intakes on the top of the quarter panels are on a/c only care.

    • George

      Actually, not true. See my note above

      Those intakes didn’t function

  10. al8apex

    actually true, they did not use them on cars without a/c

    See my reply above, Jim Rohn

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