After successfully bridging the pre-war and post-war eras, Lincoln’s flagship V12-powered Continental was discontinued in 1948, and the name briefly retired. But within a few years, Ford Motor Company charged Edsel Ford’s 28-year-old son William Clay Ford with developing a new division above Lincoln that could surpass the likes of Packard and Cadillac. The team envisioned an American luxury car to take on the best the world had to offer, and Continental was the perfect moniker for this new European-inspired personal luxury car.
The Mark II was the first model from Ford’s new Continental Division – a separate, stand-alone company independent from Lincoln, tasked with creating America’s finest automobile. The new car was based on a unique chassis design with outboard frame rails, allowing the body to sit much lower and provide “step-down” footwells that a traditional X-frame could not. Power came via a 368 cubic-inch (6.0 liter) Y-block V8 shared with Lincoln, tuned to produce 285 horsepower (300 in later models) and dressed in unique Continental valve covers. Continentals were built on a slow-moving assembly line by veteran Ford workers to ensure quality, and each car was finished to a high standard, trimmed in the finest Bridge of Weir leather upholstery, and fully equipped with the latest power accessories.
What set the new Continental apart from its contemporaries was its understated yet arresting design, created by team of stylists led by John Reinhart. It measured 18 feet long but was only 4 feet, 8-inches tall, and was notably devoid of the excessive flash that pervaded mid-century American car design. The Mark II is a model of sophistication and restrained elegance and is judged today as one of the most beautiful American cars of all time. The Continental Mark II hit showrooms with a $10,000 price tag (the most expensive American car at the time), but the division never turned a profit, and declining luxury car sales meant it was dissolved after 1957. Despite its short existence and low production (3,013 coupes, three official coachbuilt convertibles), the Continental Mark II made a lasting impression in history, and it remains one of the most desirable and distinctive American motorcars of the post-war era.
The superb 1956 Continental Mark II presented here is of the finest we’ve had the pleasure to offer. It is the subject of a concours-quality body-off restoration, exquisitely presented in the fetching shade of Dark Red over a two-tone white and dark red interior. According to registry information provided by marque experts, Walker Motor Sales of Dayton, Ohio, sold it new in the spring of 1956. The first owner’s details are unknown, though, by 1965, it was in the care of Mr. John M. Studebaker of Ohio, who owned it for nearly twenty years. It resurfaced around 2011 while in the care of Mr. Tony Castelleno of Palmdale, California. Mr. Castelleno oversaw its superlative restoration and showed the car at numerous West Coast events, winning best in class at the San Marino, La Jolla, and Rancho Mirage concours. It also won its class and was awarded Most Elegant Post War Car at the Dana Point Concours. Since then, it has traded hands once more and has been lovingly maintained in concours-ready condition.
The understated dark red color neatly highlights the Mark II’s elegant lines, which are remarkably crisp and well defined on this car. Body and paintwork are impeccable, with laser-straight panels, excellent fit, and a gorgeous glass-smooth finish. The bumpers, intricate egg-crate grille, and subtle rocker trims are all restored to concours standards and superb in every respect.
Swinging open the substantial door reveals a beautifully restored, leather-trimmed cabin. Like the exterior, the interior design is elegantly restrained and a refreshing contrast to its contemporaries. This car was restored with the optional-style two-tone trim, with white seats accented with burgundy inserts, piping, door panels, and a leather-covered dash. The gold-faced instruments convey a modern, high-end character, and power windows, power seat, pushbutton radio, and power steering are standard fitments. The superb fit and finish reflect the cost-no-object nature of this restoration and extraordinary attention to detail.
Beneath the impossibly long hood sits the 368 cubic-inch OHV Y-block V8. It is appropriately dressed with Continental-specific parts such as the ribbed valve covers and high-routed exhaust manifolds required to run the exhaust outside the frame rails. Paint quality under the hood is as fine as the exterior, with authentically refinished engine and ancillaries, detailed with faithfully reproduced labels and markings. It runs and drives as it should, with effortless torque, slick-shifting automatic transmission, and a refined, “hewn from solid” feel on the road.
Considering the cost and skill required to restore a Continental Mark II to this level, few have received such lavish treatment. While it has been several years since this car was completed, it has been impeccably maintained in a world-class collection and remains in concours-ready condition. A timeless American classic, this stunning Continental’s presence will undoubtedly be welcome at any prestigious event.
Offers welcome and trades considered