- Henry Ford’s son, Edsel, was inspired by continental designs he saw in Europe, which resulted in the Lincoln Continental.
- The spare tire mounted outside the rear deck, the long hood and relatively short passenger compartment distinguished it from other American-built cars.
- It was intended as Edsel’s personal car, but went into production after the public’s enthusiasm over its design.
In September 1938, following Edsel Ford’s trip to Europe, he was excited by continental automotive designs he has seen and presented his stylists with sketches for an automobile unlike anything then produced in the United States. The stylists liked the design, but suggested that the spare tire be placed inside the trunk compartment. Edsel Ford insisted that it remain mounted outside the rear deck. It was this feature, along with a long hood and relatively short passenger compartment that distinguished this car from others built in America. It led to the use of the name “Continental,” suggestive of certain European styling characteristics.
Edsel originally intended that the Lincoln Continental be his personal car, with no thought of producing the car in quantity, but public enthusiasm evoked by this styling concept was tremendous. With orders streaming in for an automobile that was not even being made for public sale, Edsel decided the car was worthy of production. The new car was formally introduced in October 1939 as the Continental model of the Lincoln-Zephyr, the top of the Zephyr line. It first appeared at the Ford Rotunda in Dearborn, Michigan, and two weeks later during the New York and Los Angeles auto shows.
Because each car was virtually handmade, only 25 were produced during 1939 and 350 in 1940. The 1941 Continentals were dropped from the Lincoln-Zephyr line and “Lincoln Continental” appeared on the side of the hood and on the spare tire hubcap. Lincoln Continental’s production number was 1,250 for 1941, the last full year of production before America entered WWII. The Continental was revived after the war. Because Edsel Ford died in 1943 and Ford executives were generally not in favor of producing a car with such a small production run, the company ceased Lincoln Continental production in March 1948.