One of my favorite big cars, and I mean big, is the Lincoln Continental Mark II. These cars are usually referred to as 1956 models, but actually they were built over two model years (1956 and 1957) without an official model year designation.
The lines of the Continental Mark II are fairly simple, with a long hood and a short rear deck providing a long, low design. The front grille is not over done. It is a very attractive design. But it is a big car! The length was 218.5 inches sitting on a 126-inch wheelbase, while having a height of only 56 inches, which was rather low for that era.
The Simple Lines of the Continental Mark II
The signature design feature of the Continental Mark II was the “spare tire” design at the back of the car. This has become such a well-known design feature that other cars with the spare tire at the back are commonly referred to as having a “Continental” rear end.
The Tire At The Rear of the Continental Is The Signature Styling Cue
The interior of the Continental Mark II is understated for that era. I like the four large dials with a rather small dose of chrome. The under-dash air conditioning/heater controls are however a little too large. The seats in these cars look to be very comfortable bench seats, but large somewhat bucket-style seats would have been preferable.
The photo below shows the column mounted three-speed automatic transmission that was provided on all of these cars.
Continental Mark II Interior Is Not Overly Gaudy
Powering the big Continental was a 368 cubic inch overhead valve V8 engine with a single four-barrel carburetor which produced a reported 285 horsepower; however the official horsepower rating of this engine in the Continental was never released. This engine was strong enough to power the 5,100 pound Continental Mark II from 0 – 60 miles per hour in 11.5 seconds.
The Big Continental V8 Engine
The Continental Division’s goal was to sell 2,000 units of the Mark II per year for 5 years. In the first year, 1956, they accomplished their goal by selling about 2,556 units. These were not cheap cars, in fact, they were more than expensive, they were very expensive. The selling price was just under $10,000, which about twice as expensive as any Lincoln car and very nice cars could be bought for less than $3,000. For example, for the same money as a Continental Mark II, a person could buy three Ford Thunderbirds! However during the second year, 1957, sales fell to about 450 units which caused Ford to drop the model and merge the Continental Division into the Lincoln Division. The total production of the Continental Mark II is thought to be 2,989 units.
One of the reasons for the sluggish sales of the Continental Mark II, in addition to the high cost, could have been some of the advertising that the Continental people used. See the advertisement below. What were they thinking! The “excitement of being conservative”! What does that mean, when trying to get someone to spend $10,000 for a car when you could buy a Cadillac for $5,000! Not very inspiring advertising. It would take more than “the excitement of being conservative” to convince me to buy one Continental Mark II instead of three Thunderbirds!
Huh? “The Excitement of Being Conservative”? With Advertising Like That No Wonder Sales Were Low
However, if anyone is considering buying a big luxury car from the 1950s, then I think that the shopping short list should include a Continental Mark II.