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Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

1956 Continental Mark II Sedan: “The Excitement of Being Conservative”

December 27, 2020 Archive Insight
Black car with long hood and whitewall tires

THF90723

In an era of extreme automotive styling, the Mark II was elegantly understated. Its advertising slogan, “the excitement of being conservative,” confirmed that Mark II’s appeal depended not on chrome, but rather on flawless quality control, extensive road testing, shocks that adjusted to speed, and power steering, brakes, windows, and seats. Not understated was the $10,000 price. Owned by VIPs like Frank Sinatra and Nelson Rockefeller, it was the most expensive American car you could--or couldn’t--buy.

Three men standing around clay model of car on table
William Clay Ford (left) reviews a clay model of the Mark II in 1953. He inherited a passion for styling from his father, Edsel Ford, and directed the Mark II’s design and development. / THF112905

Car dashboard with large steering wheel
The dashboard--luxurious in 1956--featured an instrument panel inspired by airplanes, with a pushbutton radio, watch-dial gauges, and throttle-style climate control levers. / THF113250

Two-page spread with a photo of a long blue car with a woman leaning on the hood and a concrete balustrade behind; contains text and smaller car detail images at bottom
Like the car, advertising was understated. This Vogue magazine ad links the car with classic design in architecture and fashion. / THF83341


This post was adapted from an exhibit label in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.

Henry Ford Museum, Driving America, luxury cars, cars

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