Understated Luxury: 1956 Continental Mark II

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In contrast to the fireworks emanating from the studios of Virgil Exner over at Chrysler and Harley Earl at GM, Ford organized its Continental division in 1952 to produce an understated but exclusive car for a well-heeled few. The new car would cast a favorable halo over the entirety of Ford, drawing customers to its lesser brands. Unfortunately, the “well-heeled few” turned out to be too few: over its 1956-1957 production time frame, only about 3000 were made. Reportedly, Ford lost around $1000 on each handbuilt example – equivalent to more than $12,000 today. Though the company had planned to make at least three body styles, only a two-door coupe made it to production. With details like 40 fins per hubcap individually bolted to a substructure, and an engine from Lincoln that was disassembled and checked for tolerances before rebuild and installation, it’s easy to understand how Ford’s financial commitment became overwhelming. Mitchell G spotted this rare 1956 Continental Mark II coupe in baby blue with white walls – thanks, Mitchell!

Lincoln first developed its Y-block OHV V8 engine in 1952. By the time the Continental arrived, the engine displaced 368 cu. in.; decked with a four-barrel carburetor, output is 285 hp. A TurboDrive three-speed automatic by Borg Warner brings power to the rear wheels. Special finned valve covers help brand the engine as exclusively Continental. The car is heavy, so performance is merely adequate: zero to sixty takes at least 16 seconds. But the car handles well despite its 4825 lbs. The seller notes that the tires, water pump, battery, and exhaust have been replaced, and the carburetor was rebuilt. The car is said to run and drive “beautifully”. Despite a tidy appearance under-hood, I spy corrosion on the air cleaner assembly which should be black, and some components wear silver paint.

The driver’s side of the interior is unfortunately obscured in the listing’s interior photographs, and that’s where trouble lies: the seat leather is cracked, and the carpet is faded. The rear seats look decent, and the headliner is clean. Note the aero-inspired throttle-shaped climate controls. The curved windshield was set far from the driver for a sense of interior spaciousness, and of course, the car came with power everything. The only significant option was air conditioning.

Criticisms of the car revolved around the tight entry into the cabin thanks to short doors and the cramped trunk compartment where the spare was housed. The Continental Mark II debuted the four-point star emblem we all associate with Lincoln now, showcased here on the trunk lid, and “Continental” was spelled out in individual letters affixed separately to the sheet metal. The graceful coupe’s lines are wearing well as the years pass: prices have been rising steadily for these rare cars. This one is advertised here on craigslist for $29,000. Your pick-up location is Chittenango, New York. While new paint and interior repair are on the menu here, there’s headroom to spend money on this car. A restored ’56 recently sold for over $92k, and even driver-quality Mark IIs are bringing strong money.

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. Malcolm Boyes

    That seems like a great deal to me for such an amazing car that set out to”out luxury” the best of Europe and the USA…and they probably succeeded..I’d jump if I had the room ..

    Like 14
  2. tompdx

    My preference for styling – and nearly all of my purchases – has/have been European cars. But I’ve always thought these were gorgeous.

    Like 9
  3. Poppy

    Were the cloth inserts on the rear seats and side panels factory installed? I thought every seating surface in these was leather (?)

    Like 4
    • Michelle RandAuthor

      There were something like 19 or 20 exterior colors for this car, and interiors could be almost anything you wanted. For a dose of vertigo take a look at this:


      Like 12
      • Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TNMember

        That’s amazing.

        Like 4
  4. Joe Haska

    Definitely a bucket list car and I would like to put this one I’m my bucket.

    Like 6
  5. Eric_13cars Eric_13carsMember

    This is a beautiful car for sure…tres elegante. I’ve mostly seen them in black but love this color. When they first hit the showrooms, they were priced at $10,000. That was when a Chrysler, Lincoln, or Cadillac were priced in the $5,000 range. Only the Rolls and Bentleys were more, as I recall (other than the real specialty exotics).

    Like 9
  6. Gary D. Oliver

    Bought one of these models in 1956. A white one. Played with it for a year then blew it up with a firecracker. You could smell the burned plastic.

    Like 5
  7. TomD

    A beautiful automobile. Some non-original goings on under the hood. Modern brake booster and dual master cylinder along with paint mismatches as mentioned.

    Like 5
  8. Norm Matter

    Love this style, all hand make.

    Like 3
  9. Heck DodsonMember

    This Mark11 is sure a dreamy car. Hope it’s not a bondo bucket under that fresh looking, paint. The engine compartment surely cleaned up nicely. Am I’m glad it’s all the way up in NY.

    Like 3
    • mike

      this beauty is up in my childhood hometown. Saw it at Tuesday in the Park car show during 50th class reunion. Better in person than pictures show for sure

      Like 0
  10. Allan Smith

    I am a GM Gentleman through and through, but these Mark II’s have always been a favorite of mine. Before being drafted (Viet Nam), I worked as the “Oil Change Guy” at a local Lincoln-Mercury dealer. We actually had a 56 and 57 Mark II on our lot. One of the salesman gave me a hard time for driving a 55 Chevy. So I bought a 66 Cyclone, big block 4 speed off the lot…Nice car, but I Loved my 55.

    Like 1
  11. Gary

    Always a bit odd to see a Mark II without a/c. If someone could afford one of these cars, seems that could have afforded the optional a/c too. Wasn’t a/c standard on the Eldorado Brougham?

    Like 3
    • HCMember

      Gary, most Mark11 buyers did buy the option for AC back then, and most Mark 11s you find with the oem AC systems are inoperative. Some of its AC system was in trunk and had clear plastic vent tubes which deteriorated. Opting to install a more serviceable, Vintage Air AC system would be what I would do.

      Like 5
  12. MLM

    My favorite car of the ’50s and have always thought these were beautiful cars. Too bad I don’t have the money for this gem because it would be in my driveway if I did. This is my dream car from the 1950s

    Like 2
  13. Christopher Webster

    Well, at least it’s prettier than the Continental Mk 1. It’s a clean design, but if I’m going ’50s, I demand fins ‘n’ chrome.

    Like 0
  14. scottymac

    Shift supervisor where I worked in the early Seventies (Gambrinus Steel Mill, Timken Roller Bearing Co.) had two of these. Had never seen one before, thought they were some kind of customized baby bird (1955-57 T-Bird). Only later did I appreciate them for the beautiful automobiles they were.

    Like 0

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