Unquestionably, Henry Ford was one of the greatest pioneers in automotive history. Henry was able to build highly successful cars for a low price; yet he didn’t have much of an eye for style. It was his son Edsel that saw the importance of automotive styling. Edsel, a man of impeccable taste and style, was able to turn around the well-engineered but stodgy Lincoln into a beautiful designed automobile after Ford took ownership from Henry Leland. After Henry’s Model T was still on the market well past its expiry date
, it was Edsel’s classic Model A design that help turned around the Ford Motor Company.
Edsel had a vision to make Ford a leader in automotive design and searched for the talent to execute his vision. He had noticed the highly talented E.T. “Bob” Gregorie, who at only 22 years old already had experience designing yachts and had briefly worked under Harley Earl at General Motors. Edsel hired him in 1931, and by 1935, when Edsel created a styling department, he named Gregorie its head.
Edsel and Gregorie hit it off and worked very well together. As early as 1932, the two worked on several special projects to create a sporty car. Edsel was well traveled and frequented Europe where he made an effort to note styling trends. Edsel had been influenced by some of the sporty offerings in Europe and wanted to create his own sporty car influenced by what he had seen “on the continent.” Edsel told Gregorie that he wanted the car to be “long, low and rakish.”
1932 Ford Model 18 Speedster in present day
Their first creation was the 1932 Ford Model 18 Speedster based on a Ford Model B. The car was noted to have a longer than stock hood, a custom grille, a low rakish windshield, custom fenders and a boat tail. Edsel drove the car as personal transportation for a short time but he was never entirely satisfied with the styling. He wanted something lower and racier.
1934 Ford Model 40 Special Speedster as originally created
Edsel gave Gregorie carte blanche to use the Ford’s idled aircraft plant. There, Gregorie created the 1934 Ford Model 40 Special Speedster, which was a racier custom car based on a 1934 Ford chassis (Model 40). Although the speedster only stretched the stock wheelbase 1” to 113”, it appeared much longer and lower than the stock Ford. Some of the long look was because chassis modifications, but much was created by Gregorie’s styling. Edsel ended up keeping this Speedster until his death. He even had Gregorie update the front end in 1940 when the engine was replaced with a 239 Mercury Flathead V8.
1934 Ford Model 40 Special Speedster with updated styling
Although the speedsters were creations that Edsel enjoyed, they weren’t very practical. Both he and Gregorie were partial to the concept of Ford having a limited production sporty car, and consequently another special car was created. Working at the Ford aircraft plant, a four seat roadster with cut down doors, an elongated hood and an angled 1935 Ford radiator shell was created.
Edsel had hoped to put this vehicle into limited production; however, this would disrupt the regular production lines. So, Gregorie drove the car to New York to show it to John S. Inskip, the builder of Brewster-bodied town cars. They were unable to make a deal, but Edsel persisted.
Through Ford of England he was able to make a deal with Jensen Motors Ltd. Jensen ended up producing a number of Jensen-Fords that used Ford engines and running gear, along with a Columbia 2-speed axle. The cars used a variety of coach work, some of which appeared similar to Ford’s. One variation with a 1936 Ford grille was sold in limited numbers in California.
The original 1/10 scale clay model
Edsel returned from another trip from Europe in September 1938. Inspired by what he had seen in Europe, he sketched out a drawing for Gregorie of the type of car he envisioned, a car with the “Continental look.” Initially Edsel had wanted to use a Ford chassis, but Gregorie suggested using the longer wheelbase Zephyr chassis with the more powerful flathead V12. Furthermore, at this time the aircraft plant was no longer available for use. However, the Lincoln factory at West Warren and Livernois Avenues would have an unused bay soon due to the planned discontinuation of the Model K. This would be an ideal location to build this new car. There is some debate about whether Edsel intended on making another one off, or if he always had intentions of a sporty limited production car. I tend to think that it was the latter, especially based on his prior experience with the Jensen-Ford.
1/10 Scale Clay model, note the lack of external spare, which Edsel insisted be added on
Using a ’39 Zephyr as a starting point, Gregorie had completed the final drawings by October 1938. A 1/10 scale clay was created for Edsel’s approval in November 1938. Compared to the Zephyr, the hood was lowered and lengthened, the cowl and drive line were moved back, and the running boards were removed. At one point during the creation of the clay, Gregorie decided to move the spare tire inside the trunk. When Edsel saw this, he insisted that Gregorie put a rear mounted spare on the car, commenting “It’s very nice, but I want something strictly continental.”
The first prototype, H-74750. Note the 1939 Zephry grille and headlights
After the final clay was approved by Edsel, a fullsize body draft was completed and a prototype was scheduled to be ready for February 1939. This prototype was made from a standard ’39 Zephyr convertible, with the use of Ford, Mercury and Lincoln production parts. To lengthen the hood, special panels were fabricated which added 12” of length over a stock Zephyr. This resulted in the windshield being pushed back, and the deck lid being shortened and squared off. The doors were cut horizontally and 4” were removed, and the hood was lowered. A standard Zephyr dash board was used although the seats and steering column had to be repositioned. Many of the body panels were hammered by hand over wooden forms in the Lincoln Body shop. The end result was essentially a factory made custom, and this caused significant use of lead filler.
The first prototype before it was shipped to Edsel in Florida
The first prototype, serial number H-74750, was painted Eagle gray, Edsel’s favourite colour, and it had a gray leather interior. It was completed while Edsel was on vacation in Florida. He had left instruction to ship the car to the Ford Estate at Hobe Sound, Florida, after it was completed. On March 1, 1939 the car was shipped to Florida. When it arrived, it garnered quite the attention from the upper crust in the area. Legend has it that Edsel was able to secure 200 orders. Whether that actually happened or not, one thing is certain, the car drew lots of attention. And whether or not Edsel had been thinking about limited production prior to the trip, this interest gathered certainly reassured Edsel that the car was production worthy.
Note the different proportions on the prototype car compared to the production models
While in Florida, Edsel advised Gregorie about the interest in the car had generated. However, he also reported that the car rode like a tank, leaked like a sieve and had excessive cowl shake. This first prototype had so much lead filler in it, water leaked through some of the seams, and this lead filler was said to have caused it to weigh over 5000lbs. The heavy weight certainly resulted in sedate performance from the stock 110-hp 267cid Zephyr V12. Nevertheless, with all the interest, Edsel ordered a second prototype to be built. This car was to be used by engineering, and eventually lead to a production car.
The second prototype, H-82410, which was used initially as an engineering test vehicle
The second prototype was completed in June of 1939. This car was black with a tan interior, and was serialized as H-82410. There were a number of changes incorporated into this car over the original prototype. The hood and fenders were only lengthened by 8”, which mean the cowl was moved forward. The resultant extra space went to increasing the rear seat space. The trunk height was increased slightly to improve luggage space. This car used a Zephyr dashboard, door handles, hubcaps and teardrop taillights. However, unlike the first prototype, this car had a column shifted transmission (the first used a floor shifter).
During the summer of 1939, the second prototype was driven by engineering staff for testing and to refine the car for production. In September of 1939, Edsel gave Gregorie the car for his personal use. Cowl shake remained a problem. Gregorie had driven it on a trip to New York, and the cowl shake was so bad he used two 2 x 4’s to make an “X brace” under the dash to quell the vibrations. When he returned a steel x-brace was installed. Gergorie drove this car until 1941 when he sold it for a mere $800 to a used car dealer.
H-82410 in present day after being restored back to original specification
The original prototype, H-74750, was ordered to be destroyed in October of 1939. According to the Ford documentation it was determined to be “of no further use.” The second car, H-82410, in the years since it was sold by Gregorie went through a several owners, had many modifications made and was damaged in a collision. It still exists today and has been restored to its original specification.
The first full size clay, which wasn’t made until after the prototype cars
There has long been speculation that Edsel actually ordered two prototypes built, one for each of his sons, Henry II and Benson. However, it has since been shown that these were simply rumours and that the only two prototypes produced were H-74750 and H-82410. Nevertheless, there were two documented pre-production models completed in October of 1939. These were H-85825 and J-86025, also rumored to have gone to the sons. In actuality, these cars were displayed at both the New York and Los Angeles car shows. They had only minor differences compared to production models, unlike the two prototypes.
Like the photo above, this is the first full size clay, in July 1939.
There were no further Lincoln Continentals made until December 1939. On the 13th of December 1939, the first production car rolled off the assembly line, with serial number H-91688. This car went to the actor Jackie Cooper in Long Beach California.
Mickey Rooney receiving his Continental as a gift
It is often said that Mickey Rooney was given the first production Continental, but this is another legend that has grown over the years. Mickey Rooney did indeed get a Continental as a gift from Henry Ford, however, it was the Continental with serial H-98800. This car wasn’t completed until February 29, 1940 and was shipped to Long Beach California on March 7, 1940, considerably later than the first production Continentals. Other celebrities that drove 1940-41 Continentals included Randolph Scott, Frank Lloyd Wright, Babe Ruth, Kate Spreckles and Rita Hayworth.
Note the differences in proportions compared to a Zephyr convertible
This brochure illustration is an early production model, lacking a spare tire cover, bottom moldings and gravel guards
There were approximately 25 Continentals built before the end of 1939. While these early cars did have a few minor differences from later production models, these were simply running changes. The early cars built in late 1939 and early 1940, did not have a spare tire cover, bottom moldings, rear splash guard and gravel guards. That said, Continentals produced during this time are designated 1940 model year cars and used 1940 model year Zephyr parts.
1940 Lincoln Continental, photo by JP Cavanaugh
The production Continentals had a number of differences from the two prototypes. The grille from the 1940 Zephyr was used along with new sealed beam headlights. Production cars ended up with a 7” longer hood and a 3” overall reduction in hood height compared to a Zephyr. The revised 1940 instrument panel was used but modified to have two pods instead one that the Zephyr used. Also new, the Lincoln flathead V12 was enlarged with a 1/8” bore increase resulting in 292 cid displacement and an increase to 120hp, 10 more than the previous engine. There was an optional Columbia two-speed axle which reduced the final drive by 28%. That said, due to the rush to production, the 1940 models were still mostly hand fabricated from Zephyr parts.
Not long after the Continental cabriolet made its debut, work began on a Continental coupe. This car was created by starting with a convertible body, then adding a steel roof which was welded in place. While it had a B-pillar with window frames around the glass, it was similar in concept to the hardtops that GM would introduce at the end of the decade. It had a roof line closer to a convertible than the typical coupe of the era and looks decidedly more modern than other coupes of its time. The first production coupe rolled off the line on April 3, 1940. As a result of the limited production and the late introduction of the coupe, only 350 cabriolets and 54 coupes were made for the 1940 model year.
1940 Lincoln Continental Coupe
1941 models were introduced in September 1940 and saw minor changes and refinements from the 1940 model year. This included new bumpers, grille, and headlight bezels, while the parking lights moved to the top of the front fenders. Though all 1940 Continentals were simply labeled Lincoln Zephyr without any “Continental “nameplates, the 1941s used “Lincoln Continental” emblems. The hood released moved inside, whereas 1940s models used the hood ornament for its release.
There were some mechanical changes as well. The convertible tops went from vacuum operation to electric. The door latches switched to a push button, while the wheels also increased in width from 4 1/2” to 5”. The transverse leaf spring suspension was revised for a smoother ride, using a 2” longer front spring and a 2 ½” longer rear spring. In addition to the Columbia two speed axle, an electric Borg-Warner overdrive became optional, which offered 30% reduction in engine speed.
Note the centre mounted stop lamp, a new feature for 1941
By 1941, the production line was up and running properly, and no longer were the cars being essentially hand built. Dies for machine pressing parts had been produced, resulting in much less custom work and lead filler being used in the 1941 models. Production increased to 400 cabriolets and 850 coupes. The Continental was heavily revised in 1942, and continued until 1948. While these were nice looking cars, in my eyes something was lost from the originals, and they just didn’t have the elegance of the early cars.
I came across this dilapidated 1941 Continental Coupe behind a tow company’s yard. I can say I was quite surprised to come across such a rare car, seemingly hidden in plain sight. The poor old car would require a complete restoration to save, nonetheless, despite the exposure to the elements it still looks very elegant. There is something about finding an old junkyard find like this that just resonates with me. Maybe it’s all the years of untold stories that lay within. I can only imagine the proud first owner was when it was new and the many other people this car has touched over its years.
This particular example looked to be stock and unmodified. Under the hood remained a stock V12 flathead. The Continental’s had an unmodified Zephyr engine, save for a different air cleaner for additional hood clearance. This V12 looks like it hasn’t been touched in years, other than a new solenoid on the firewall.
The interior was weathered past recognition and certainly the deterioration was aided by the exposure of the elements from the passenger door left ajar.
The trunk floor was completely gone, and the car’s undercarriage was very rusted. It appears as if this car had been sitting at this location for years.
Despite the fact that Continental was in such poor condition, I have to say this has to be one of my best finds out on the street. I have never had much interest in pre-war cars, but to me this car will always represent Edsel Ford. It was everything he was, stylish, elegant and forever remembered as one of the greats of its time.
…and not to forget that most iconic one…
I finally saw the Godfather for the first time a couple of months ago. (IKR?!?! – My wife aghast by this said, “Who did I marry?” when I told her I’d never seen it. ;o)
When Sonny gets whacked in that Lincoln at the toll booth, I thought, ‘I can’t believe they filled that beautiful car full of lead! I sure hope that was special effects!’
After reading the article however, I see that the car was already filled with lead. LOL.
Great Article Vince!
I saw what was purported to be the Godfather Continental being auctioned at Auburn back in the mid 70s. It was a rough car (not tons better than this one) and given a shitty black respray to cover the small explosive charges in all the “bullet” holes they drilled in it. It was only shown from a pretty good distance and worked in the film. I don’t remember what it brought but it was more of a curiosity than a car.
Now for Godfather Part II?
I watched Part II the following weekend with my wife… I have yet to see III. The cars in II were great as well.
I did notice that they were very period accurate regarding the cars. I didn’t see any slip-ups regarding the years in which the films were set, and the cars shown. I thought I caught an aviation faux pas, regarding a too modern tail on a Cessna, but upon further review (Wikipedia article) they got that detail right as well. Most people don’t notice planes, but I do. It drives me nuts when the blatantly screw that up in a film.
Don’t take any criticism of III too literally, not as good as the first two but still a very good film with its own key moments. It’s a great coda for the series; overblown as per the finest tradition in Italian opera. Maserati Quattroporte in this one.
+1 with Don’s assessment of part III. The Godfather movies have been among my favourite for many years. If you like the movie, read the book. It’s an excellent read.
Thanks guys. I’m actually looking forward to III. A coworker said it’s just fine, and while not as good as I & II, a good movie nonetheless. His only criticism was the acting/overacting of Coppola’s girlfriend? – I said if I could put up with years of Shattner as a fan of Star Trek, I think I can handle a little overacting. I’ll have to read the book(s?) when I have time. I believe my wife has them (or it, if it’s just one book for the whole trilogy).
The music from these movies is awesome. I’ve heard it for years (long before seeing the movie recently), and it was nice to finally put the soundtrack with the pictures.
Godfather III is about the same come down of a movie as The Two Jakes, the sequal to Chinatown. Neither are as bad as people make them out to be, but both are pretty unnecessary and visibly lower quality than their predecessors. Godfather III feels like a 90s movie set in the 1970s, but the first two don’t feel like 70s movies set in the various periods they took place. They seem more real, as if you’re a fly in the wall witnessing real life events.
Plus no Tom Hagan (Robert Duvall).
I haven’t seen the Godfather movies either, which considering my love of Mafia media is a crime, but I will get on it at some point.
Although, to clarify Retro Rick’s question mark, the woman you’re coworker was talking about is Coppola’s daughter, not girlfriend, Sofia Coppola, who would later go on to direct Lost in Translation, (The movie that has Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson acting opposite of one another).
Update to this discussion… I still haven’t seen Godfather III yet… 😉
(It was fun rereading this.)
See 18:18 for another Godfather Continental story – or if you’ve not seen this video watch the whole thing – fantastic collection of cars with great stories behind them.
Ya’ll beat me to it – the first thing that popped up in my mind when I saw 1940 Continental was The Godfather and Sonny (and the car) getting perforated.
”This car was to be used by engineering, and eventually lead to a production car.”
I saw what you did there…nice play on words.
I’m not a troll, really, but I have to confess I never found these Continentals beautiful.
Especially seen from the side, and especially the coupe model, they lack (to me) some harmony, looking almost like a heap of poorly integrated components. For example, the hood protrudes far too much: a 10″ shorter front end (while keeping the original fenders in place) would have looked much more harmonious. The coupe roofline doesn’t flow well with the rest of the car either, and the coupe rear side windows look just plain ugly with that improvised vertical bar in them. And in both coupe and convertible, the squareness of the front side windows does not really agree with the rounder forms of the rest.
An impressive car? Sure. But beautiful? Not really, at least not to me. To name just one example (and I admit, they’re not quite the same kind of car) a 1935 Auburn Speedster is a far more beautiful design.
I don’t find your comment troll-y, at all (speaking as one who is not enamored by the Avanti). From some angles I find the Continental’s proportions to be a bit awkward, and appearing to sag between the front and rear wheels (which, given the weight, may not be mere appearance).
In the context of the times, I would argue that these were stunning in appearance for a production car, let alone a product of the Ford Motor Company.
You’re not alone, and you’ve said exactly my thoughts. The lack of running boards gives an unfinished look too. And transverse springs? Really, when IFS was available in a basic Chev?
That was Ford for you. The Lincoln-Zephyr had the same basic design layout as standard Fords, which were simply refined developments of the Model T. Transverse leaf springs front and rear, flathead engines, way behind the competition in engineering. But still top sellers for their simplicity and V8 performance.
1949 changed everything. The first postwar Ford, Mercury or Lincoln (1946-48 models were essentially 1942 reissues) was an entirely up-to-date design save for carryover engines.
Some interesting and thoughtful points. I would respond that the world of auto styling moved quite far between 1935 and 1939-40 and this car became predictave of the “3 box” style that would come to predominate in automotive styling. Really long hoods like these are challenging to modern eyes, I agree. But in the heyday of the straight eight long hoods and expensive cars seemed to go together even when they were not strictly necessary.
I suspect that the 2 piece rear quarter window was necessary in order for glass to roll all the way down. It is interesting to contemplate the look of a thicker C pillar and a smaller single piece of glass.
On a related heretical thought, I’ve always thought the early Mustang notchback would’ve looked good with a full B pillar and *much* thinner C pillar with a large fixed or flipper quarter window.
Your comments did not read as those of a troll. I applaud your post.
Honest critiques are at their base subjective, and yours is greatly bolstered by your giving exact reasons why you found it less than harmonious in its design. It is truly a product of the times and the taste of Edsel. When considering that it really was required to use Ford parts, it makes more sense, but that does have an adverse effect on the overall design.
Personally, I do like these, and having seen ones in the flesh, they do work a bit better than pictures show.
Everyone has their own taste and there is nothing wrong with disliking these cars. They are not perfect designs, but I like them. The long low hood and short deck are very appealing to me. I can see Edsel’s vision of a long, low, sleek ride. It looks much nicer than a Zephry in my eyes. While the Coupe doesn’t seem to be liked as much as the convertible, I like that the coupe roofline is very close to that of the converible. I suppose if it had no quarter windows, it might look closer to the convertible. However, the visibility with the top up on these cars was terrible, so I don’t think that was ever a consideration.
Keep in mind in the context of the times, these cars were thought of almost as instant classics. The Lincoln Continental Owner Club was formed in 1954.
What a find!
Thanks for this CC or Automotive History. These Continentals are dramatic cars coming out of a contentious father-son relationship.
“I can’t forgive Henry how he treated Edsel.” I am paraphrasing the owner of the Hemken Collection in Williams, Iowa.
What a great piece Vince. I love that you featured the original version of Edsel’s 34 Speedster; both look nice but that V grille is the better version. Fantastic to see all those clays as well, and those original headlights on the prototypes are something I never noticed before. I really enjoyed this. Cheers.
Thanks Don. I had to carefully scan some of my older books for some of those clays. I agree that hte original 34 Speester was better looking. It was difficult to track the photo of the original, most on the internet are the revised design.
Somewhere I have a photo of the scale model prepared for the original. To have that on my desk…
An excellent find, although it breaks my heart to see a car like this decomposing. It looks to have been a decent original when it was parked, which someone cared enough about to shoe it with wide whites. And an excellent pre-history on the design.
For a long time I didn’t really care for the coupe but have been coming to appreciate it more. I don’t think we can deny the influence of the 1938 Cadillac Sixty Special (credited to the real Bill Mitchell, as I recall) with its delicate greenhouse and squared-off roofline. The coupe has a little extra formality when compared with the more rakish cabriolet.
I agree that the Continental did not come off as nicely with the more macho shape of the 42-48 models, and the elegant coupe made the transition less gracefully than its droptop brother.
I agree with you JP. I have always seen the Series 60 in the Continetal coupes. While fastback rooflines seemed to be a blip in the radar during the 40’s, this roofline was the one that would be around for sometime.
While the 60 Special may have had some influence, Edsel’s European trips not only exposed him to the best of sporting custom coach-building on all the high-end marques but likely returned with him were dozens of brochures for Gregorie to peruse when developing Edsel’s special in the “continental’ style. E.T. did a marvelous job given what Zephyr ‘bones’ he had to work with.
It was fortuitous the Continental came along when it did. The Zephyr saved Lincoln from demise but did so only as an upper-medium priced car, competing affectively versus Roadmaster, LaSalle, Chrysler eights and Packard 120. But it was not a full-fledged luxury car, the Continental added a lustre to the Lincoln name just when it was badly needed.
Really a shame they didn’t design the coupe as a true pillar-less hardtop as it was possible given the convertible platform.
Great post! As a Detroit native I can offer one correction, the Lincoln plant would have been at West Warren and “Livernois”.
Thanks; it’s fixed now. We wouldn’t want anyone to get lost trying to find it. 🙂
As much as I’d love to see this car restored, the fact is that it isn’t likely to happen. The generation that remembers them new is mostly dead and most younger people want something more of their time. So if anyone wants to hot rod it or mount it on a 4×4 chassis or whatever I would wish them luck. It’s going to lose the battle against time and the elements anyway.
It’s kind of sad, as the car actually looks fairly complete and original despite its deteriorated condition. With that said, it looks like the rust monster has a pretty good hold on it, and making it road-worthy again doesn’t look easy. Though given the rarity of these cars, it isn’t totally out of the question.
For those interested in this subject I highly recommend two books by the prolific Ford author Henry Dominguez.
There is a 1999 book more on point about this car on the relationship between Edsel and Bob Gregorie. And there is a 2002 biography of Edsel. Any Henry Dominguez book is well worth buying and these two are particularly satisfying.
Great read, Vince, including some new details.
I agree with some others that it’s not quite perfect in some respects, undoubtedly due to the fact that it was essentially a chopped and channeled and hood-lengthened Zephyr rather than a truly original design. Hence I find it’s not as organic as it might be.
It’s kind of the ultimate and proto “lead sled” custom, which became a huge thing in the US in the 40s and early-mid 50s. Of course customizing had been around for quite some time, but the Conti clearly gave it a direction. Wow many “Carson top” cars that were lowered and channeled and had conti spares on the back were there? And of course the conti spare has just finally petered out.
When I look at one of these in profile, I see the mother of all lead sleds.
I agree with you Paul. These cars weren’t prefect being modified from a Zephry which was more oragnaic overall. That said, there is beuaty in imperfection, atleast in my eyes. While the Zephry was a handsome car, it’s not a stand out design for me. These early Continentals in the context of their times were very beautiful cars, despite its flaws. While I am not really a big fan of cars of this era, these cars have always stood out for me. When seeing one in the flesh, it’s undeniable how stunning these cars are, even an old relic like this one.
I like your tie in with the lead sleds, there is strong similarities.
I’ve read several biographies of the fascinating Ford family and Edsel comes off as a quiet, kind, generous and decent man, quite the contrast with his nasty and insufferable father. Edsel was often demeaned, berated and humiliated by the old man, who considered him pampered and not tough enough to run the company. Henry was far more comfortable with pugnacious Harry Bennett, former boxer, street thug and head of the infamous Ford Service Department.
Edsel had a fine eye for styling, something Henry disdained. He never really got a chance to run the company, succumbing to cancer at age 49 in 1943. After his death the now senile Henry returned as president and immediately began running the company to the brink of bankruptcy. It wasn’t until wife Clara threatened to sell her stock outside the family that the old man relinquished control to grandson Henry II. Young Hank the Deuce proved a quick study. He immediately fired Harry Bennett, hired Ernie Breech and the Whiz Kids and the company was saved.
Agreed, Henry I’s treatment of Edsel is classic flipping of Freudian behaviour in which the father is jealous of the son and does everything in his power to defeat the son, even though the son was nothing but loyal and good to his father. Henry was cruel and paranoid.
No person deserves to be treated they Edsel Ford was by his father. Henry was, in my opinion, a despicable savant. He was really a one trick pony: the Model T and buggy springs mated to mass production. He wasn’t remotely interested in anything else in mechanical engineering. Instead, he wanted to make America a corporatist state, like fascist Italy. He was a disgusting anti-Semite, and he sent all Ford car buyers a free copy of his lovely Dearborn Independent.
I could rant about Henry Ford for days, but other than using the methods of Charles Taylor, he didn’t accomplish a lot after the Model T.
Yes. After Henry 1 adopted the assembly line from Oldsmobile and had the idea of making cars available to the masses, the rest of his ideas were a rancid cesspool, to say the best. The 5 dollar a day idea was created only to keep people from running away from the tortuous assembly lines and keep them from forming unions. It was only granted after a long and difficult vetting process. Henry 1;was a nasty thing.
Yes these Continentals are elegant etc. but IMO the 1942 Packard Clippers with their fenders flowing effortlessly into the doors instantly made these cars look “old” by comparison.
I like these Continentals, especially the 1941 with its chrome-edged grille. The 1942 facelift was unfortunate. Worse things were proposed for a new 1949 Continental, but fortunately cooler and wiser heads prevailed.
It’s a unique sight seeing the Continental in this condition, for however dilapidated it is it’s totally original, it’s exactly how you’d find one in a wrecking yard in the 1960s. This captures my interest and and attention more than a mint restored example, in fact I’m spotting more details than I ever noticed before because the rusty edges are highlighting them for me. Plus, to channel Syke, so many people make them look immaculate on the outside but repower them with anything but the original flathead V12. I’m ok with that on some stuff but this is one of those cars where engine swaps are way more common than original, and it’s flaws are a big part of the character for these Continentals, the combination perfectly captures that duality between Edsel and Henry between the style minded son and the stubborn mechanical minded father.
But I still think the coupe is ugly. I appreciate it, I respect it, but I just can’t help but find the rear glass treatment and large B pillar clunky looking. It looks like a 2 door sedan, in fact it looks exactly like a door is designed to be there. I’m glad it essentially created the 3-box shape, I’m glad it helped usher in long and low styling, but otherwise it looks like a mutilated Zephyr. The convertible roofline was better looking though, original configuration almost always wins, visibility be damned. In fact the convertible top looks so good the whole appearance of the Continental looks better with it up than down.
What’s the purpose of the lead filler?
Custom bodies are made up of many small hand-beaten panels. The gaps where panels meet are invariably not smooth, so lead is applied as a body filler. Bondo and other modern fillers have taken the place of lead.
Also for a long time lead filler was used on the assembly lines for mass production, to blend sheetmetal joints like the roof to quarters, quarters to rockers, pillars to cowl, etc.
By 1939-40, the Lincoln body plant was largely idle as the Model K production trickled to almost nothing. There were dozens of skilled body craftsmen in metal shaping and leadwork on the payroll. It’s been written that Edsel gladly instituted Continental production so some of these long-time skilled craftsmen would continue to have employment. Old Henry cared little about how Lincoln was run, left that domain to Edsel, who was essentially its patron throughout the 1930’s subsidizing its operational losses.
I agree the car, especially the Coupe, can look bulky and slightly ill-proportioned from some angles, but put it against the base Zephyr convertible and it’s no contest.
From here it looks to be one of America’s most stylish and elegant cars of the period, and I for one would love to heart that this example was to be saved.
I’ve come late across this article. I’d like to offer a sincere Thank you to Bill for a history lesson on the creation of a Lincoln Continental.
“This car wasn’t completed until February 29, 1939 and was shipped to Long Beach California on March 7, 1940”
One minor correction, there was no February 29 in 1939. I think it should read February 29, 1940.
The top photo alarms me. Such a significant vehicle in US auto development.
Hopefully, someone can resort it or use it as a donor car. But leaving it in the snow is soooo cruel!!
The movie Continental most iconic to me is the one from Baby Jane.
“What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?” is an excellent movie. I’d highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it. It starts off a little slow. Give it a chance. It gets really good.
Brilliant film. I watched it after finishing Feud: Bette and Joan, which I also highly recommend. Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange were amazing.
I had an opportunity to take a long ride in a ’41 Cabriolet a few years ago, through the back roads of new Hampshire, during the early fall. If the purpose of a car like this is to elevate that spirits of those inside, it worked! The changing colors of the trees, the autumnal light, the purr of the V-12, the long hood, a good friend driving, it was like a time machine. This car is iconic and it fulfilled its primary function, it made you feel…special.