Saint Louis, MO
Unlike his extremely pragmatic father Edsel Ford had a firm grasp on the importance of style and fine design when it came to selling cars. The younger Ford would often have special one-off cars built for his own personal use; casually showing them off to his wealthy influential friends to gauge their reaction. Late in 1938 Edsel Ford partnered with stylist Eugene T. Bob Gregorie to create a one-off personal car based on the V12 Lincoln Zephyr. Lincoln needed a new car at the top of its lineup and the one-off car created for Edsel proved to be a huge hit with his friends. From his vacation home he sent a telegram back to Dearborn proclaiming he could sell thousands of the new car and thus the Continental was born.Having bridged the pre-war and post-war years successfully the Continental was discontinued in 1948. But by the early 1950s under the guidance of Edsel s son William Clay Ford Ford Motor Company began working on a new brand that would could not only compete with but surpass Packard and Cadillac. This would be a car comparable to the likes of Rolls-Royce and Mercedes-Benz an American luxury car to take on the best the world had to offer and the name Continental was the perfect moniker for this European flavored personal luxury car.For the Continental s second incarnation Ford created The Continental Motor Division which was a separate stand-alone division independent from Lincoln. Their first model the Mark II was designed from the ground up with the goal of being the finest on the market. An all new chassis was designed with outboard frame rails which allowed the body to be mounted very low. Suspension was conventional with some parts sourced from other Ford divisions. Power came via a Lincoln-derived 368 cubic inch (6.0 liter) Y-block V8. What differed however was that each Continental engine was balanced blueprinted and rigorously tested to ensure it met the quoted 285 horsepower output. The new chassis was clothed in a body penned by John Reinhart and engineered by the great Gordon Buehrig. At 18-feet long and just 4-feet 8-inches tall it was no doubt imposing but Ford took bold step to buck the popular trend of chrome and fins in favor of a look that was elegant understated and minimally adorned. It was a model of sophistication and in many ways well ahead of its time; judged today as one of the most beautiful American cars of the era - and perhaps of all time. Aside from its graceful style the two-door coupe was built with the finest materials such as Bridge of Weir leather and hand finished paintwork. Every car had electric windows and seats along with power steering power brakes tachometer and automatic transmission. The only option available was air conditioning which cost a staggering $595 (more than $5000 today). Each car was road tested and delivered in a special fleece-lined cover. Given the meticulous nature of the Mk II s assembly and despite its $10000 price tag (the most expensive American car at the time) it is said that Continental lost money on every car sold and the division was folded into Lincoln after 1957. Regardless the Continental Mk II made a bold statement that Ford was not afraid to take on the best the world had to offer and they did so with a most breathtaking automobile that was embraced by celebrities and business moguls the world over.Our featured 1956 Continental Mk II is a very fine example that has covered just over 61000 miles from new and has been lovingly maintained and cosmetically restored to a very high standard. This car is finished in its original and desirable color scheme of black over a two-tone white and red interior the same as what appeared in many of Continental s original promotional materials. According to a copy of the original invoice it was delivered via L&W Motors in Canton Illinois to Robert J. Burst. It appears to have spent much of its life in that state before being sold to a buyer from Sweden in approximately 2008. While in Sweden it was treated to a high quality bare metal respray all body rubbers were replaced and a new exhaust system fitted using parts sourced from American specialists.Today this Continental presents in beautiful condition with an exceptionally straight body and consistent panel fit. The black paint remains in superb order accented by high quality chrome bumpers and trim most of which appear to be outstanding originals. Given the cost and complexity of restoring a Mk II many have been mistreated or neglected so it is rare to find such a handsome and well-presented example as this.The luxurious interior is trimmed in supple leather as original with white bolsters accented with red inserts as per the original invoice. The seats and soft trim are in fine condition showing only light use. Door panels dash and carpets are excellent and all original switches and chrome fittings remain in good condition. The beauty of a Mk II can be found in the details such as the quality of the ash trays and the simple but elegantly styled instruments; details that reveal just how hard Ford worked to ensure the Continental would be a true world-class luxury car.Mechanically these cars are known for their refinement and robust build quality and of course this example is no exception. The big Y-block V8 is beautifully detailed and correctly presented with proper fittings 1094 carburetor and factory correct paint finishes. It of course runs strong and delivers excellent performance. The chassis and undercarriage are tidy and well detailed showing this as a car that has been sympathetically restored but also carefully used and enjoyed.The Continental Mk II is one of our very favorite post-war American classics. Bold and brash in concept yet subtle and sophisticated in the metal it was a true showpiece of what American car makers can do when brimming with confidence. With only 3000 built the Mk II is also relatively rare with fine examples such as this proving very difficult to come by. This car comes complete with the original hardbound book that accompanied every Mk II as well as restoration receipts invoice original brochures and period sales training literature. It is a fine example of what may be the ultimate personal luxury car.