Lincoln Continental – 1961

The first Lincoln Continental appeared before World War II, with postwar production resuming until this big and exclusive automobile was discontinued in 1948.

Then the Continental reappeared in 1956 as a separate one-model Ford-owned marque, but it was not until 1961 that the Lincoln and Continental names were reunited in an iconic design by the great Elwood Engel — a design considered by many to be his great masterpiece. The car’s understated elegance won design awards and was soon copied by envious rivals such as Buick and Cadillac.

The Lincoln Continental was smaller than previous versions, but still very much at the luxury end of the Ford family spectrum. If there was one distinctive design feature, it was that the back doors were rear hinged and opened from the front — the so-called ‘suicide doors’ common on prewar cars but hardly seen after 1945. With a few minor internal and external changes, the rectilinear design would last until the next Continental generation was launched in 1970, though it was stretched slightly in 1964 to give more rear-seat legroom.

The initial Continental offering was restricted to a pair of four-door models — the sedan and convertible — though a two-door coupe appeared subsequently in 1966, at which point a larger engine was introduced. In 1968 the Lincoln Continental Mark III coupe appeared but this famous car (as a result of being used on film to smuggle heroin in The French Connection) was sufficiently altered to be considered a completely different model. It was discontinued in 1971.

Despite enjoying great success throughout the 1960s, the Lincoln Continental nearly didn’t happen — Elwood Engel’s splendid design was originally intended for a new Ford Thunderbird, until an inspired decision was made to tweak and enlarge the car to create a revived Lincoln Continental.




1961 (until 1969)


7.0 l (430 cid), 7.5 I (460 cid) or 7.6 l (462 cid) V8


Top speed of 110 mph (177 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 12.4 secs


The open-top parade limousine in which John F Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 was custom built from a Lincoln Continental convertible – codenamed SS-100-X, it was subsequently armour-plated and fitted with a bulletproof roof, after which it continued in White House service for many years.


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