Lincoln Continental

One of Lincoln’s most famous flagship models, the Lincoln Continental luxury sedan was manufactured during two separate production periods for a total of 55 years after Ford bought Lincoln. After many evolutions, it ended its run in 2002 as a four-door midsize luxury sedan.

More on the Lincoln Continental
Lincoln Continental Origins

Based on a commission by Edsel Ford, the first-generation Lincoln Continental debuted in 1939 as an elegant two-door convertible with a long hood and gracefully rounded fenders. Early cars were built by hand and powered by V-12 engines. After a 1948 retirement, the Continental was revived for the 1956 model year.

Continental models throughout the 1950s and early 1960s were recognized for its highly styled bodies, luxury amenities, exclusive availability, and high price tags. 1961 brought a sedan version and a four-door convertible. Redesigns throughout the 1960s shortened the car’s exterior dimensions, created a more formal body, and added the model’s iconic suicide doors.

By the 1980s, fuel and emissions regulations prompted Ford to improve fuel economy, offer front-wheel drive, and alter the Lincoln Continental’s build. New models shared a platform with the midsize Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable. Continentals built between 1988 and 1994 had fewer of the luxury amenities that earlier models were known for.

In 1995, Ford remodeled the Continental with a sleeker, more modern design and began adding back popular premium amenities. However, with traditional large luxury sedans sagging in popularity, it may have been too little too late. Ford retired the Lincoln Continental in 2002.

About the Lincoln Continental

Early Lincoln Continentals were prized for classic beauty, while later models were considered status symbols. However, the Lincoln Continental remains best known to many as the original large luxury sedan.

Though most modern Continentals were offered in just one trim level, it typically came with standard features such as leather upholstery, keyless entry, and power accessories. Options often included a power sunroof, heated seats, and CD changers. The car’s performance was luxurious as well. In the most recent Lincoln Continental models, a 4.6-liter V-8 engine made for quick acceleration while an air-spring suspension provided a characteristically smooth ride.

Lincoln Continental Features

The last Lincoln Continental was produced for the 2002 model year. The front-wheel drive midsize 2002 Lincoln Continental was available in a base trim, which could be enhanced with three packages. Each model was outfitted with a 4.6-liter 275-horsepower V-8, a four-speed automatic transmission, and a fully independent suspension.

Standard features on the base model included 16-inch alloy wheels, leather seats, a leather steering wheel, six-way adjustable split-bench front seats, a power sunroof, reverse tilt mirrors, a tilt-adjustable steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, an Alpine audio system, digital keypad door locks, climate control, and a universal remote transmitter. Front side-mounted airbags, tire pressure monitoring, a middle rear three-point seatbelt, and stability and traction control were also standard.

Upgrading to the Driver Select package added an optional Driver Select system with adjustable shock damping, allowing drivers to switch between normal, firm, or plush driving modes. The system also added a unique memory setting feature that memorized seat and mirror settings for two drivers.

A Luxury Appearance package added distinctive trim pieces and polished alloy wheels, while a Personal Security package provided a low tire-pressure notification system and run-flat tires. An optional Vehicle Communication System offered trip guidance, access to safety and security assistance, and a voice-activated Motorola cell phone.

Lincoln Continental Evolution

Early Lincoln Continental models were hand-built full-size luxury convertibles featuring a long body and exaggerated fenders. Initial Continentals had few trim pieces. Ford added walnut trim in 1947 and a V-12 engine in 1948.

Ford revived the Continental nameplate in 1955 as a separate Ford brand featuring one model, the Continental Mark II. With a unique chassis, hand assembly, and luxurious appointments, the Mark II was one of the most expensive cars available at the time. In size, the1958-1960 Continentals were the longest convertibles ever produced.

Two new body styles, a town car and a limousine, were added in 1959. By 1961, the Continental brand was dropped. The four-door Lincoln Continental now shared a build with the Ford Thunderbird. Designers shortened the car by nearly 15 inches and added distinctive front opening rear doors, also known as suicide doors. A 7.6-liter engine was added. A two-door hardtop was included in 1965.

A 1970 facelift removed the Lincoln Continental’s signature suicide doors. The car now shared a platform with the full-size Ford LTD. New Town Car and Town Coupe models featured vinyl tops and more standard amenities. In 1975, the Continental became one of the first U.S. cars with four-wheel disc brakes. In 1977, a radiator-style grille became standard. Engine displacement shrank from a 7.5-liter V-8 to a 6.6-liter amid new efficiency standards.

The Continental continued to shrink throughout the 1980s, losing over 14 inches in length. Engine size was reduced to a 3.8-liter 160-horsepower V-6 by the late 1980s. Continentals during this time shared design elements with the Ford Taurus.

The ninth and final generation of the Lincoln Continental existed between 1995 and 2002. Ford redesigned the sedan with curvier lines, added a 4.6-liter V-8, and restored some of the sedan’s classic luxury amenities.

Select a Lincoln Continental Year

2019 Lincoln Continental

Luxury, Sedan

2018 Lincoln Continental

Luxury, Sedan

2017 Lincoln Continental

Luxury, Sedan

2002 Lincoln Continental

Luxury, Sedan

The 2002 Lincoln Continental represents the end of the road for a storied classic that was very much a part of American automotive history.

2001 Lincoln Continental

Luxury, Sedan

The Lincoln Continental is a model that has helped define the American luxury car for decades, similar to the Cadillac DeVille.

2000 Lincoln Continental

Luxury, Sedan

The Lincoln Continental is a rare, front-drive, luxury sedan.

1999 Lincoln Continental

Luxury, Sedan

The 1999 Lincoln Continental is a classic luxury car with understated styling and design.

1998 Lincoln Continental

Luxury, Sedan

The 1998 Lincoln Continental is a front-wheel-drive, four-door sedan designed to offer high levels of luxury and comfort, while maintaining a distinctive style that has made them popular cars in America since the pre-WW II era.

1997 Lincoln Continental

Luxury, Sedan

The Continental remains one of the most well-known vehicles in the Lincoln lineup, even after the model line stopped production in 2002.

1996 Lincoln Continental

Luxury, Sedan

The 1996 Lincoln Continental is one of the automaker's best known models, even after it was discontinued in 2002.

1995 Lincoln Continental

Luxury, Sedan

Lincoln debuts the ninth and final generation of the long-lived Continental in 1995.