17 artifacts in this set
Henry Leland learned the importance of precision manufacturing in the state-of-the-art factories of his native New England. His superbly engineered Cadillac motorcars earned a reputation for quality, and that status continued with Lincoln. When the first Lincoln automobiles debuted in 1920, they proudly carried the designation "Leland-built" -- a phrase synonymous with skilled engineering and assembly.
Leland-built Lincolns had just one fault, but it was significant. The cars looked stodgy and old fashioned at a time when automobile styling was becoming increasingly important in driving sales. The Lelands recognized the problem and turned to experienced coachbuilders like Brunn, Fleetwood and Judkins for new body designs. Lincoln styling improved even before the Ford takeover.
Unfortunately, the Lincoln automobile debuted during a post-World War I recession. Forced into receivership, Henry and Wilfred Leland sold their company to Henry Ford in 1922, intending to stay on to manage Lincoln under the new owner. It was not a happy marriage, and the Lelands left within months. Nevertheless, the quality of the Ford-built Lincoln motorcar remained high.
Henry Ford's son, Edsel, largely enjoyed free rein in managing Lincoln Motor Company, and Lincoln styling was the better for it. One of Edsel Ford's first tasks was to contract with additional custom coachbuilders like Holbrook and Le Baron, to give Lincoln a sophisticated look that matched its luxury status. This 1929 convertible features a body by Dietrich.
The Great Depression decimated luxury carmakers. Only Cadillac, Packard and Lincoln survived the economic catastrophe. Lincoln met the challenge by adding a mid-priced model to its lineup: the Lincoln Zephyr. Designed by John Tjaarda and championed by Edsel Ford, Zephyr featured a cutting-edge (but not off-putting) streamlined shape, unit-body construction, and a V-12 engine adapted from Ford’s popular V-8.
Lincoln's Depression-era flagship was its Model K, produced from 1931 through 1939. Body styles were numerous, with no fewer than 24 options available for 1931 alone. Customers could select standard or custom bodies directly from Lincoln, or purchase a chassis only and have a custom body built elsewhere. This 1937 Model K features a cabriolet body by Brunn & Company.
Lincoln's Model K was available with either a 136-inch or 145-inch wheelbase. The wheelbase on "Sunshine Special," the presidential limousine custom-built for Franklin D. Roosevelt, was stretched to an even grander 161 inches. "Sunshine Special" was a 1939 model but, when the car was armored after Pearl Harbor, its front end was updated to match Lincoln's 1942 look.
Inspired after a 1938 trip to Europe, Edsel Ford collaborated with Lincoln stylists on a custom car with a sophisticated "continental" look. Reaction was so positive that Lincoln put the car into production. The beautiful 1940-1948 Lincoln Continentals that followed arguably represent Edsel Ford's most important contribution to the automotive industry. This 1941 model was Edsel Ford's personal car.
When it debuted for 1949, the first all-new postwar Lincoln looked much like Mercury, its corporate cousin. The Continental name was retired and the Cosmopolitan became Lincoln's top-of-the-line model. This Cosmopolitan -- built for presidential service -- is fitted with an automatic transmission. Automatic gearboxes became standard equipment on all Lincolns starting with the 1952 model year.
William Clay Ford, Edsel Ford's youngest son, revived his father's storied model for 1956 with the Continental Mark II. Elegant and understated, Mark II avoided the excessive chrome brightwork typical of the era. Like Lincoln and Mercury, Continental initially was its own separate division under the Ford umbrella, but the Mark II's V-8 engine and drivetrain were standard Lincoln components.
Lincoln, like other American luxury cars, grew bigger, heavier and shinier throughout the 1950s. But the company made a major about-face with its 1961 Continental. Designer Elwood Engel produced a clean, tasteful car more than a foot shorter than its 1960 predecessor. The center-opening doors -- inspired by the practical need to improve backseat legroom -- were particularly striking on the convertible.
The White House selected the redesigned Lincoln Continental as the official parade car for the President of the United States. Engel's fresh design was the perfect match for a charismatic young leader like John F. Kennedy. The parade car was stretched to 21 feet for presidential service, though Kennedy occasionally used standard 17 1/2-foot Lincoln convertibles, too.
The basic look of the 1961 Lincoln persisted through 1969. Lincoln's 1970 redesign retained the prominent trim line perched atop the body sides, but deleted the center-opening doors. The front end received hidden headlamps. This 1972 model was custom-built for presidential parade service, and later updated with Lincoln's 1979 front end treatment -- including a grille reminiscent of Rolls-Royce.
After being available as a trim package in the 1970s, the Town Car was made a model in its own right for 1981. It became Lincoln's full-size offering, while Continental was slimmed down to a mid-size model. The Town Car continued over three styling generations, and found a particularly successful niche in hired car service, before production ended in 2011.
The Lincoln Continental received the "aero look" treatment, exemplified by the 1986 Ford Taurus, staring with the 1988-1994 styling generation. Continental also was given a front-wheel drive layout and a V-6 engine (both appearing in a Lincoln for the first time) as the car was reworked to compete with increasingly popular German luxury sport sedans from Audi, BMW and Mercedes.
Advertising Proof, 1994 Lincoln Mark VIII, "It Not Only Says You've Arrived, It Says You Beat Everyone Else There"
Lincoln's "Mark" series, inaugurated with the Continental Division’s Mark II in 1956, always stood at the top of the company’s product line. The vehicles showcased advanced styling and technology, with unique exterior and interior appointments that set them apart from other Lincolns. Mark series cars generally were built in the two-door coupe style of Edsel Ford's original Continental.
The Lincoln Sentinel, which premiered at the 1996 North American International Auto Show, successfully blended forward-looking design with traditional styling cues drawn from the company's proud history. The vertical "waterfall" grille was taken from Edsel Ford's original 1939 Continental, while the high beltline and center-opening doors recalled the beloved 1960s Continentals.