The first Lincoln Continental was a pet project by Edsel Ford, developed after returning from a trip to Europe as his one-off personal vehicle; though it is believed he planned all along to put the model into production if it was successful. Successful it was, and soon Lincoln Continentals became one of the most luxurious American owner-driver automobiles in existence. Based on a Lincoln-Zephyr, Edsel Ford’s head designer began drawing up a new design which was to be known as the Continental. Most noticeable changes were the lengthening of the bonnet and fenders, and the whole car was sectioned horizontally by four inches. The spare was rear-mounted (the origin of the term ‘Continental spare’) as a finishing touch. Rumor has it that the first car was built and shipped directly to Edsel’s home in Florida in March 1939, at which point he and his friends fell in love with the car and immediately placed an order for a further 200 cars.
The first Continentals were produced from 1939 to 1948 and the Club Coupe went into production in 1940. These early cars have now been recognized by the Museum of Modern Art as one of eight automotive ‘works of art’, and by Time magazine, as one of the top ten best-designed commercial products. It is frequently cited as one of the most beautiful automobile designs of the pre-world war II era. The 1939–1948 Continental is also recognized as a “Full Classic” by the Classic Car Club of America, one of the last-built cars to be so recognized. In 1946 Mark 1’s received an updated grill.
The Club Coupes had modest production numbers (with only 1,650 produced in the first two production years), but held a prestigious yet fashionable image. Celebrity owners of the Club Coupe included Jackie Cooper, legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright and the great automotive designer Raymond Loewy.
This remarkable 1948 Lincoln Continental dates from the Mark I’s final production year, and incidentally is one of the last V-12 engined cars to be produced by a major U.S. automaker. Appropriately finished in Valley Green with a brown interior, this car really is a mobile sculpture. Ever since it was purchased by its current owner from California, this Club Coupe Continental has been in a much loved collection, and consequently has seen occasional and sparing use, so that it remains a well preserved specimen.