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The Lincoln Continental has always been the epitome of elegance and luxury. Its refined design and opulent features make it stand out from other vehicles in its segment.

Introduced in 1939, the first Lincoln Continental was initially conceived as a one-off concept. It was a customized vehicle made for Edsel Ford, the president of Ford Motor Company at the time.

But it didn’t take long for the Lincoln Continental to hit the streets. The first Lincoln Continental was available in coupe and convertible variants.

The Lincoln Continental quickly became popular because of its luxurious features and streamlined aesthetics. Today, the model is known to be one of the most iconic luxury sedans ever sold in the U.S. market.

If you’re a fan of the Lincoln brand, you might be interested in owning this iconic model. But which generations are more remarkable than the others? Let’s find out.

First Generation Lincoln Continental (1940-1948)

1941 lincoln continental lincoln media center
While the first versions looked different from the iconic Continental we all know today, there’s no doubt they were aesthetically appealing. Image credit: Lincoln Media Center.

The 1940 Continental was a collaboration between Edsel Ford and designer E.T. “Bob” Georgie. It had spacious and comfortable seating and a stylish elongated hood.

Coming from the lineage of the Lincoln Zephyr, the first generation Continental had not yet embraced the prominent dimensions and bold style that later made the model famous.

While the first versions looked different from the iconic Continental we all know today, there’s no doubt they were aesthetically appealing. Their design evolution took off after the Second World War.

Unfortunately, the model’s production stopped in 1948, following a directive that ordered Lincoln models out of the high-end luxury market.

  • Engine:  V 12 75-degree | L-Head
  • Power:  120 BHP (88.32 KW) @ 3500 RPM
  • Torque: 220 lb-fts

Second Generation Continental Mark II (1956-1957)

1956 lincoln continental mark ii lincoln media center
The Continental Mark II was the heaviest American vehicle made in 1956. Image credit: Lincoln Media Center.

The first Continental Mark II rolled out as a standalone model for the “Continental” brand.

For a time, Ford tried to make “Continental” a separate brand that could compete with Rolls-Royce, Bentley, and Mercedes Benz. However, it didn’t take long before the Continental nameplate was returned to the Lincoln lineup.

The Continental Mark II was the heaviest American vehicle made in 1956, weighing a total of 4,825 pounds. Another remarkable aspect of the second generation Continental is its price tag: $9,695. Its overall cost (sales taxes included) went over the $10,000 mark.

There’s a good reason for the expensive price tag: each Mark II produced during that time was handbuilt. The interior came with high-quality leather and fabrics. The model also had power windows, dual heaters, and power seats.

The production of the Mark II was soon halted after Ford realized that the American market wasn’t ready for it. Although Ford only produced less than 3,000 units, the Mark II left a legacy as an automotive classic that’s handbuilt for greatness.

  • Engine: 368-cubic-inch V-8 engine 
  • Power: 285 HP
  • Toque: 415 lb-ft

Fourth Generation Lincoln Continental (1961-1969)

1961 lincoln continental lincoln media center
One remarkable thing about the fourth Generation Continental is its suicide doors that complement the vehicle’s unique style. Image credit: Lincoln Media Center.

The fourth generation Lincoln Continental is the one everybody imagines when they think about this model. It’s the one responsible for making the Lincoln Continental one of the premier luxury vehicles in America.

One remarkable thing about the fourth Generation Continental is its suicide doors that complement the vehicle’s unique style. Unlike conventional car doors, suicide doors are hinged on the rear side.

Unfortunately, the fourth generation Lincoln is also associated with one of the greatest tragedies of the 1960s. President John F. Kennedy was riding in the rear of a 1961 Lincoln Continental Presidential Limousine when he was assassinated.

  • Engine: 430 cubic-inch (7.0-liter) V-8
  • Power: 300 HP
  • Torque: 465 lb-ft (1961 Lincoln Continental)

Ninth Generation Lincoln Continental (1995-2002)

1995 lincoln continental wikimedia
The ninth generation Continental features aero-friendly curves and an improved appearance both inside and out. Image credit: Wikimedia.

The ninth generation Continental features aero-friendly curves and an improved appearance both inside and out. It’s also packed with innovative features and technology.

The 1995 model featured child seat anchors, dual power front seats, power windows, and door locks. Cruise control also came as standard.

Unfortunately, the production of the ninth generation Continental stopped in 2002 due to strong competition posed by other luxury brands like Acura and Lexus.

  • Engine: 4.6-liter V8 engine
  • Power: 260 @ 5750 RPM
  • Torque: 265 lb-ft

Tenth Generation Lincoln Continental (2017-2020)

2017 lincoln continental parked lincoln media center
The last generation of the Continental is a great alternative to high-end Japanese luxury sedans. Image credit: Lincoln Media Center.

Finally, let’s talk about the most modern Continental. The last generation of Lincoln Continental is elegantly styled with a lot of rear legroom, making it comfortable for long rides. It also has a long list of standard and tech features common in large luxury sedans.

The last generation of the Continental is a great alternative to high-end Japanese luxury sedans. There’s a lot to love about the tenth Generation Continental.

The 2020 model, for example, came in three distinct trims: Standard, Reverse, and Black Label. It also came with a variety of opulent color options like Pristine White Metallic Tri-Coat, Red Carpet Metallic Tinted Clear Coat, and Silver Radiance Clear Coat.

If you’re after safety features, the 2020 Lincoln Continental doesn’t disappoint. It has inflatable seat belts, so if you get involved in a collision, the airbag mounted along the strap will inflate to reduce the risk and severity of injury.

The last Continental rolled off Ford’s Flat Rock assembly plant on October 30, 2020. The end of the Continental also signaled Ford’s shift to more profitable options like SUVs and crossovers.

  • Engine: V6 – 3.7 liter
  • Power: 305 @ 6500 RPM
  • Torque: 280 lb-ft
1978 Lincoln Continental Mark V Jubilee Edition wikimedia
Ford pulled out all the stops for the 1978 Diamond Jubilee Edition, which was released to commemorate the automaker’s 75th anniversary. Image credit: Wikimedia.

A special mention is needed for the Mark V, which was responsible for the golden age of the Mark series. The 1977-1979 models were the first Lincolns to come in designer-label special editions. The Pucci, Givenchy, and Cartier Editions remain some of the most sought-after models today.

Ford pulled out all the stops for the 1978 Diamond Jubilee Edition, which was released to commemorate the automaker’s 75th anniversary. They manufactured 5,159 units of this edition which came in two colors: Diamond Fire Blue and Jubilee Gold.

This model became the first Ford to come with a base price of over $20,000, and it is considered the best-selling model of the Mark series.

Despite being a hit, the success of the Mark V was cut short by the gas crisis of 1979. Big, gas-guzzling luxury cars quickly fell out of favor as government-imposed corporate fuel economy standards became stricter in the 80s.

Will Ford bring back the Continental anytime soon? With consumer preferences favoring more practical cars, high-end SUVs, and crossovers, it’s highly unlikely. But the future is always uncertain. We’ll never know what the future has in store for this iconic model.

About The Author
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

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Pat Masucci

Can we have a chat strictly on each of the distinctive Mark series cars? The Mark II’s thru VII’s? I’ve owned a few of these cars in each series over many years. All were great cars and quite successful on different levels in their own right and ahead of the competition. I’ve heard at times in conversation with owners of the original ’39-’48 cars as being considered the Mark I, although never labeled as such….

Manster12

Enjoyable article! If I may add I always thought the collector’s edition of The Mark V but sensational. I pretty much have had almost all the Lincolns you described and the only one that I thought fell a little short was the front wheel drive model of the late 90s early 2000s. It’s a nice car but it reminded me too much of a Taurus. Nice nonetheless. And like the other poster stated, a rundown of the Lincoln Mark series would be terrific to see as well.

Joseph Aiello

I owned a 1997 Lincoln Mk V111 for 24 years,loved that car.pearl white with light tan interior with dark brown highlights. I just recently sold this car,I wish Lincoln would bring back this classic series.

Tom keeton

Thanks for the history lesson, please bring back Continental 🙏

Douglas Felker

I bought and still have a 1984 mark VII with the BMW diesel. Three times coast to coast. What a great ride at 34+ mpg at freeway speeds. Wish some car maker would have the guts to bring in a diesel.

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