Lincoln Motor Company
Lincoln (formally the Lincoln Motor Company) is the luxury vehicle division of American automobile manufacturer Ford. Marketed among the top luxury vehicle brands in the United States for nearly its entire existence, Lincoln has competed closely against its General Motors counterpart Cadillac. The division has the distinction of establishing the personal luxury car segment with the 1940 Lincoln Continental; more recently, the 1998 Lincoln Navigator would be the first full-size luxury SUV.
|Private (1917–22) |
|Fate||Acquired by Ford in 1922, becoming a division of it|
|Founded||August 1917 (as "Lincoln Motor Company")|
Dearborn, Michigan, U.S.:4
|Joy Falotico (Group Vice President)|
|Parent||Ford Motor Company|
(February 4, 1922–present)
Lincoln Motor Company was founded in 1917 by Henry M. Leland, naming it after Abraham Lincoln. In February 1922, the company was acquired by Ford, its parent company to this day. Following World War II, Ford formed the Lincoln-Mercury Division, pairing Lincoln with its mid-range Mercury brand; the pairing lasted through the 2010 closure of Mercury. At the end of 2012, Lincoln reverted to its original name, Lincoln Motor Company. Following the divestiture of Premier Automotive Group (Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin and Volvo) and the closure of Mercury, Lincoln remains the sole luxury nameplate of Ford Motor Company.
Originally founded as a freestanding division above Lincoln, Continental was integrated within Lincoln in 1959. For 1969, the Continental-branded Mark series was marketed through Lincoln, adopting the Lincoln name for 1986. The Lincoln four-point star emblem is derived from a badge introduced on the 1956 Continental Mark II; the current version was introduced in 1980.
The current product range of Lincoln consists of luxury sedans, crossovers, and sport-utility vehicles. Throughout its entire existence, Lincoln has also produced vehicles for limousine and livery use; several examples have served as official state limousines for Presidents of the United States.
In 2017, Lincoln sold 188,383 vehicles globally. Outside of North America, Lincoln vehicles are officially sold in the Middle East (except Iran and Syria), China, and South Korea.
Early years (1917–1930)Edit
The Lincoln Motor Company was founded in August 1917 by Henry Leland and his son Wilfred. Among the founders of Cadillac, Leland had sold the company to General Motors in 1909; staying on as an executive, he left in 1917 over a dispute with GM President William Durant regarding war production.
Leland named Lincoln Motor Company after Abraham Lincoln, stating that Lincoln was the first President for whom he ever voted (1864). The company was financed by securing a $10 million contract to Liberty V12 aircraft engines; the Lelands break ground on the Lincoln Motor Company Plant in Detroit. Lincoln Motor Company acted as final assembly point for the engines, with the company securing parts from other manufacturers; cylinders were produced by Ford, with other parts were sourced from Buick, Cadillac, Marmon, and Packard.:4:163–164
In total, Lincoln Motor Company would assemble 6,500 Liberty V12 engines with the end of World War I concluding production; by the end of the war, Lincoln would employ 6,000 workers.
On January 26, 1920, Lincoln Motor Company was reorganized as an automobile manufacturer, retooling its Detroit factory to produce automobiles. On September 16, 1920, Lincoln Motor Company produced its first automobile, the Lincoln Model L.
Lincoln Motor Company had struggled with the transition from military to automobile production, with some customers having to wait nearly a year for their vehicles to be completed from the time of purchase. By 1922, the company was on the verge of bankruptcy and was placed in receivership.
Under the influence of Edsel Ford, Lincoln Motor Company was purchased by Henry Ford for $8 million on February 4, 1922. While Lincoln was valued at $16 million, a $5 million bid by Ford was the sole bid received for the company (forced to be increased by the court).
Purchase by Ford Motor CompanyEdit
Following the purchase of Lincoln Motor Company by Ford Motor Company, Henry and Wilfred Leland remained at the company, with Edsel Ford given responsibility over it. While Ford had sought to expand its model range beyond the Ford Model T, the purchase of Lincoln held a degree of personal value, as the owners of Lincoln developed an automobile company from one that Henry Ford had been forced from. In 1902, a group of investors (led by Leland):52–57 forced Henry Ford from his second company, the Henry Ford Company; the company was reorganized as Cadillac (deriving its name from the founder of Detroit). With the exception of the engine, the 1903 Ford Model A and the 1903 Cadillac Model A share nearly the same design.
Prior to the introduction of the Model T, Ford designed several higher-price vehicles, including the 1904 Ford Model B, the 1905 Ford Model F, and the 1906 Ford Model K. Following its organization in 1908, General Motors began a rapid expansion of its automotive brands; by 1920, GM would outnumber Ford five to one. The purchase of Lincoln created a stand-alone luxury vehicle brand for Ford as Cadillac did for GM.
Within the first few months, relations between Ford Motor Company and Lincoln management began to break down; on June 10, 1922, the Lelands were forced to resign. As Edsel Ford began to take a larger role in the management of Lincoln, multiple changes were made to both the Model L and its production. The Lincoln factory was redesigned and expanded (to nearly 1,000,000 square feet), with the components of the engine upgraded for increased reliability and performance.
At its introduction, the Lincoln Model L gained a reputation for conservative (to the point of outdated) design. As a response, Edsel Ford introduced the Model L for 1923 in custom-bodied form directly from Lincoln; in line with a Duesenberg or a Rolls-Royce, customers could also purchase a Model L with coachbuilt bodywork.
For 1923, Lincoln produced 7,875 cars (nearly 45% higher than 1922). After struggling to deliver cars before 1922, Lincoln was operating at a profit by the end of 1923.
In 1924, a Lincoln Model L became the first state limousine used by a U.S. President on an official basis, supplied for Calvin Coolidge.
By 1930, Lincoln had succeeded in only a decade in what its chief competitors had taken 30 years to accomplish. Serving as a direct competitor to Cadillac, the Model L had become the equal to vehicles from established American brands including Duesenberg, Marmon, Packard, Peerless, and Pierce-Arrow.
1925 Lincoln Model L sedan (of Greta Garbo)
During the production of the Model L, Lincoln did not adopt the common American automotive industry practice of yearly model changes. While the company had made minor revisions and upgrades to the model line to the chassis and powertrain, the body was largely left alone over its 10-year production. Lincoln found that customer interest was accommodated by the purchase of multiple Lincolns (or other luxury vehicles) in different bodystyles; as many Lincolns were custom-bodied from the factory or coachbuilt, yearly styling changes would not properly accommodate its customer base.
For the 1931 model year, the Model L was replaced by the Lincoln Model K. An all-new design (on a longer, lower chassis), the Model K introduced upgrades to the carburetor, brakes, and suspension. Competing against the Cadillac 355, Chrysler Imperial, Duesenberg Model J, and Packard Eight, the Model K offered both factory-designed bodies and coachbuilt designs.
For 1932, Lincoln introduced its first "multi-cylinder" engine, introducing a V12 engine for the Model K. The next year, the V8 was retired, making Lincoln the first manufacturer in the world to produce vehicles exclusively with V12 engines.
For 1935, Lincoln was positioned upward in price. While limiting sales, the move increases profitability per vehicle; at over $4,000 (for a factory body), the Model K competed against the Rolls-Royce Phantom II, Duesenberg Model J, and the Cadillac V-12 (and V-16).
Largely overshadowed by the Lincoln-Zephyr, the final Model K was assembled during 1939. To this day, the company has not developed a direct successor to the model line.
During the 1930s, Lincoln expanded to two model lines for the first time. Coinciding with the shift in market position for the Model K, Edsel Ford introduced the Lincoln-Zephyr as a sub-marque within Lincoln for 1936.:155 Designed as a competitor for the (Cadillac) LaSalle and Chrysler Airstream, the Lincoln-Zephyr was priced between Ford and the Model K.
The Lincoln-Zephyr was the first Ford Motor Company vehicle to utilize unibody construction; while designed with a prow-style front-fascia, the model line was sleeker than the Chrysler Airflow. In contrast to its competitors, the Lincoln-Zephyr was powered by a V12 engine (a design separate from the Model K).
The model line was a success in the marketplace, selling over 15,000 units in its first year, amounting to a nine-fold increase over the previous model year..:1196–1197
Lincoln Continental (1939)Edit
In the late 1930s, Edsel Ford began to consider American cars too boxy. In late 1938, to develop a European-style ("Continental") car for his next Florida vacation, he commissioned Ford Chief Stylist E. T. Gregorie to design a one-off body design, using a 1939 Lincoln Zephyr Convertible Coupe chassis. After sectioning the body 4 inches (102 mm), the running boards were deleted and a spare tire was mounted behind the trunklid.
Upon his use of the one-off vehicle in Florida in 1939, Edsel Ford attracted a high amount of interest from potential buyers, often referring to its "European" or "Continental" exterior design. From the latter term, the one-off vehicle became known as the Lincoln Continental. For 1940 production, 404 vehicles were produced, with the first vehicle received by Mickey Rooney.
Following the Great Depression, a number of American luxury car manufacturers were either forced into closure or reorganization; by 1940, alongside Lincoln, the American luxury-car segment largely consisted of Cadillac (who ended production of the LaSalle and V16 in 1940), the Chrysler Imperial (reduced to 8-passenger sedans and limousines), and Packard. To further secure the future for Lincoln, on April 30, 1940, Ford Motor Company reorganized Lincoln Motor Company as the Lincoln Division of Ford Motor Company.:199 While previously operating as an autonomous entity, as a division, Lincoln structurally became similar to its major competitor Cadillac (within General Motors).
As part of the change, several changes were made to the Lincoln model line. Following the positive feedback of the 1939 Lincoln Continental one-off convertible built for Edsel Ford, the Lincoln Continental was introduced as a Lincoln-Zephyr production model for 1940. For 1941, Lincoln revised its branding; the hyphen was removed from Lincoln-Zephyr, making it a Lincoln.:206 As a replacement for the expensive Model K, an extended-wheelbase Lincoln Custom variant of the Lincoln Zephyr was developed. Following the development of proper tooling, the Lincoln Continental began production on the assembly line, replacing hand-built construction.
After the entry of the United States into World War II, as with all U.S. auto manufacturers, Lincoln ended automobile production as Ford Motor Company concentrated on wartime manufacturing. Following the conclusion of the war in 1945, the structure of Lincoln within Ford changed again, as the Lincoln-Mercury Division was created, pairing Mercury and Lincoln together; from 1945 to the 2010 closure of Mercury, the two divisions were paired together within Ford.
For 1946, Lincoln returned to production, ending the use of the Zephyr name. Code-named the H-series, non-Continental Lincolns were identified by their body style. Using slightly updated exteriors from 1942, the 1946 Lincolns continued the use of the Zephyr chassis. 1948 marked the final year of the Zephyr chassis (dating to 1936) and (as of 2018) the use of a V12 engine in an American mass-produced automobile. After 5,322 were produced (as both a Lincoln-Zephyr and Lincoln), Lincoln ended production of the Continental.
For 1949, all three Ford Motor Company divisions debuted their first postwar designs. Sharing its body structure with the Mercury Eight, the redesigned Lincoln model line (code-named the EL-series) marked the first use of a V8 in a Lincoln since 1932. An all-new V12 intended for Lincoln was stillborn in development, leading the division to adapt a Ford flathead V8 (from the Ford F-8 conventional truck). As with the previous Lincoln Continental, the 1949 Lincoln dispensed with running boards completely, moving on to abandon pontoon styling entirely, with a straight fender line (and low hoodline) from headlamp to taillamp. In a carryover from Zephyr-based Lincolns, the 1949 Lincolns retained rear-hinged passenger doors. As a flagship model of Lincoln, the Lincoln Cosmopolitan was styled with its own rear roofline.
As Lincoln entered the 1950s, Ford Motor Company sought to increase the differentiation between the Mercury and Lincoln model lines. For 1952, to add interest to the brand, Lincoln returned to model names for the first time since 1942, with the Lincoln Cosmopolitan becoming the standard Lincoln model, with the Lincoln Capri becoming the flagship model line. In a return to (small) pontoon rear fenders, Lincolns shared a body with the Mercury Monterey. Mechanically, Lincoln differed from Mercury, as the Ford truck V8 was replaced by the Lincoln Y-block V8 with a Hydramatic transmission. For the first time since the discontinuation of the Model K, Lincolns were produced with front-hinged rear doors.
For 1956, the shared Lincoln-Mercury body underwent a redesign for the final time, with Lincoln adopting elements from the Mercury XM-800 and Lincoln Futura concept cars. Slotted above the Lincoln Capri, the Lincoln Premiere adapted features of the Continental Mark II, including its ducted air conditioning.
During 1956, Lincoln-Mercury was reorganized slightly, following the creation of the free-standing Edsel and Continental divisions, Lincoln-Mercury was changed to Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln (MEL), with Edsel slotted alongside/below Mercury and Continental above Lincoln, as the flagship of all of Ford Motor Company. By the end of 1959, Continental was integrated into Lincoln and Edsel was withdrawn.
The Lincoln Motor Company Plant, built in Detroit, Michigan, by Henry Leland in 1917, was closed after 1952; subsequent Lincolns were produced alongside Mercury Montereys and Mercury Montclairs. For the 1957 model year, Ford opened Wixom Assembly in Wixom, Michigan, as a facility to specialize in Lincoln production. From 1957 to 2007, the facility produced Lincoln vehicles nearly exclusively, along with the Ford GT and several generations of the Ford Thunderbird.
Continental Division (1956–1959)Edit
For the 1956 model year, Ford Motor Company created the Continental Division, slotted above Lincoln as the flagship marque of Ford Motor Company. At its launch, Continental introduced the Continental Mark II as its model line, intended as a successor to the 1940–1948 Lincoln Continental personal luxury car. Offered as a two-door hardtop coupe, the Mark II broke from a number of American styling precedents of the time. While fitted with whitewall tires, the exterior was fitted with minimal chrome trim on the body sides; tailfins were left off of the body completely. In place of the bumper-mounted spare tire of the original Lincoln Continental, the trunklid of the Mark II showcased the design element, with a large imitation spare tire bulge (which fit over the actual spare tire inside the trunk). The Mark II was largely hand-built, with extensive quality testing done to each engine and transmission before leaving the factory.
In place of establishing a separate sales and service network for Continental, the Mark II was marketed through Lincoln (the Mark II used a Lincoln engine and transmission). At $10,000 in 1956 (equivalent to $94,039 in 2019), the Mark II was the most expensive car produced by an American automaker at the time, rivaling the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud in price.
On July 18, 1956, the Continental Division was integrated into Lincoln which continued to manage the Continental brand as a separate marque.:281 During the 1957 model year, the Mark II was withdrawn, largely as a consequence of its hand-built construction; each unit was sold at a loss of over $1,000. Subsequently, the 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham overtook the Mark II as the most expensive American-produced vehicle.
For 1958, as part of a mandated $4000 reduction in price, Continental adopted the body of Lincoln, expanding into multiple body styles for the Mark III (the nomenclature indicating the transition). Adding a feature of the Mercury Turnpike Cruiser, Continental adopted a retractable rear window across every bodystyle (including convertibles) with a reverse-slant rear roofline. For 1959, the Mark III was renamed the Mark IV, becoming the Mark V for 1960.:331,337,414, 582–583
In 1959, the Continental marque was formally brought to an end within Lincoln; for 1960, the Mark V was brought to production as the Lincoln Continental Mark V, ending the model cycle alongside the standard Lincoln model line.
For the 1958 model year, the Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln (M-E-L) division adapted new bodies across its vehicle lines. In addition to Mercury sharing its bodies with the premium Edsels (prior to the latter's demise), Lincoln and Continental adopted a common body structure, shifting to unibody construction. With a 131-inch wheelbase, the new platform would be among the largest vehicles ever built by Ford Motor Company; they are the longest Lincolns ever built without 5 mph bumpers, a regulatory mandate which went into effect in September 1972.
As a replacement for the Y-block V8, Ford developed a 430 cubic-inch "MEL" V8 as standard equipment for Lincolns (which was also available in Ford Thunderbirds and some Mercury vehicles).
For 1959, Continental developed Town Car and Limousine variants of the standard four-door sedan. In place of extending the wheelbase, the reverse-slant roofline was replaced by a formal notchback configuration, allowing the rear seat to be moved rearward several inches. Among the rarest Lincoln vehicles ever produced, the Town Car and Limousines were only offered painted in black.
From 1958 to 1960, Lincoln would lose over $60 million. Following the recession economy of the late 1950s (a factor that would play into the demise of Edsel), Ford Motor Company was forced to recoup the development costs of a vehicle platform that Lincoln shared with neither Ford nor Mercury (with the lone exception of the engine and transmission). By 1958, the future of Lincoln-Mercury was at risk, with Ford President Robert McNamara considering the reduction of Ford to its namesake brand. As a condition of allowing Lincoln to continue production, McNamara required the Lincoln model line to undergo a reduction in size.
For 1961, Lincoln consolidated its model lineup to a single model line, with the Lincoln Continental replacing the Lincoln Capri and Lincoln Premiere; as the Continental marque was withdrawn, the Mark V saw no successor. While only nominally lighter than the 1960 Lincoln, the 1961 Lincoln Continental adapted a far smaller exterior footprint, shedding 15 inches in length and 8 inches of wheelbase. In an effort to streamline production, only four-door body styles were produced, with the Continental becoming the sole mass-produced four-door convertible sold in North America; to maximize rear-seat egress, Lincoln returned to the use of rear suicide doors.
In another requirement to ensure its survival, the model cycle of Lincoln was extended from three years to nine years. While largely dispensing with major yearly model changes, the decision established design consistency and shifting resources towards quality control. For 1966, to better compete with the Cadillac Coupe de Ville and the Imperial Crown/LeBaron Coupe, Lincoln added a two-door hardtop to the Continental model line. After the 1967 model year, Lincoln ended production of the Continental 4-door convertible. At 5,712 pounds, the 1967 Lincoln Continental Convertible is the heaviest non-limousine car ever produced by Ford Motor Company; as of 2018, it is the final factory-produced four-door convertible sold in North America.
Continental Mark IIIEdit
During the 1960s, Ford sought to develop a new flagship vehicle as a successor for the Continental Mark II. While the Lincoln Continental served as a close competitor to the Cadillac de Ville series and Chrysler Imperial, as Cadillac shifted the Cadillac Eldorado to the personal luxury segment in 1967, a segment that Ford exited in 1957 after the withdrawal of the Continental Mark II. As a response, in April 1968, the Continental Mark III was released as a 1969 model. While not officially a Lincoln, the Continental Mark III was marketed through the Lincoln-Mercury dealer network, who would service the vehicle. Over a number of various names considered for the vehicle, Continental Mark III was chosen, as Henry Ford II felt the Continental Mark II did not have a proper successor (thus restarting the nomenclature).
Alongside the 1968 Lincoln Continental, the Continental Mark III marked the debut of the (then-new) 460 cubic-inch V8 and became the first Ford vehicle to be fitted with anti-lock brakes. As standard equipment, the Mark III was fitted with power door locks, power seats, and power windows. In an effort to control its development and production costs, the Mark III was offered only as a two-door hardtop derived from the chassis underpinnings of the four door Ford Thunderbird. While sharing many styling elements from Lincoln, the Continental Mark III debuted many elements of its own, including hidden headlights and a redesigned spare-tire trunklid (the spare tire laid flat in the front of the trunk).
While the Continental Mark III would bring Lincoln into the decade on a high note, for the American luxury car segment, the 1970s would prove tumultuous. Along with the introduction of federal safety regulations for American-market automobiles (which brought features such as 5-mph bumpers and the end of hardtop body styles), the 1973 fuel crisis would play a significant role in the engineering of American automobiles, forcing Lincoln to develop a compact-size sedan and redesign smaller full-size sedans for the 1980s. As Chrysler withdrew its Imperial brand after 1975, Cadillac became the sole domestic competitor of Lincoln.
For the 1970 model year, Lincoln made good on its 1958 plan to commit to a nine-year design cycle, giving the Continental its first complete redesign for the first time since 1961. During the 1960s, while sales of the Continental had remained relatively steady throughout its production, the engineering of luxury cars had begun to change among its competitors; to increase design commonality (and lower production costs), Cadillac and Imperial shifted away from brand-specific platforms (with the latter adapting to shared bodyshells with Chrysler). For the redesign of the Lincoln model line, the Continental grew in size. While sharing no visible body panels, Lincoln adapted the chassis of the Ford LTD/Mercury Marquis (shifting to body-on-frame construction for the first time since 1957). In another effort to maintain design consistency, the 1970 Continental was produced through 1979 with only gradual updates. Along with the mandated addition of 5-mph bumpers, in 1975, the roofline was redesigned (to visually differentiate the Continental from the Mercury Marquis).
The 1970s saw the introduction of several naming traditions within Lincoln. For 1970, the Town Car nameplate was revived on a permanent basis as a submodel of the Lincoln Continental. Following the use of a Cartier-brand clock on the Continental Mark III, in 1976, the Continental Mark IV began the use of Designer Editions, which saw use on subsequent Continental Mark series models and Lincolns.
Developed as a response to the popularity of the 1976 Cadillac Seville, Lincoln introduced the Lincoln Versailles for the 1977 model year. Thirty inches shorter and 1500 pounds lighter than a Lincoln Continental, the Versailles was based on the Ford Granada/Mercury Monarch (as the Seville was based on the Chevrolet Nova). Outsold by the Seville by a significant margin, the Versailles was discontinued in early 1980.
With a smaller design and engineering budget than General Motors, Lincoln stylists were unable to give the Versailles the distinct body that was given to the Cadillac Seville. Adopting many features from the 1975–1976 Mercury Grand Monarch Ghia, the Lincoln Versailles was given a Continental-style "radiator" grille, quad rectangular headlights (the first Lincoln since 1969 with exposed headlights), and a Continental Mark-style trunklid with simulated spare tire bulge. The Versailles introduced two notable features to American-market cars: halogen headlights and clearcoat paint. The Versailles was later criticized for being one of the worst examples of badge engineering.
Continental Mark IV and Mark VEdit
Following the success of the Continental Mark III, Ford chose to develop a successor personal luxury coupe. For 1972, the Continental Mark IV made its debut, redesigned alongside the Ford Thunderbird. While sharing a common roofline with the Thunderbird, from the window line down, the Mark IV wore distinct exterior sheetmetal, with the return of a radiator-style grille, hidden headlights, and a redesigned spare-tire trunklid. To distinguish itself from the Lincoln Continental, the Continental Mark IV wore full-height rear-wheel openings, precluding the use of fender skirts.
For 1976, the Continental Mark IV debuted a new tradition, called the Designer Editions, which later spread to other models in the Lincoln model range. Introduced as four special-edition models, each edition was an option package with color, trim, and interior choices specified by notable fashion designers (Bill Blass, Cartier, Givenchy, and Pucci). Each edition carried the designer's signature on the opera windows and were fitted with a 22 karat (92%) gold-plated plaque on the instrument panel which could be engraved with the original owner's name. The concept was successful and would continue on other Lincolns until the end of the 2003 model year.
For 1977, Lincoln-Mercury replaced the Continental Mark IV with the Continental Mark V, a substantial exterior and interior revision of the Mark IV. At over 19 feet long, Mark V is one of the largest "coupes" ever sold in North America. In what would become a design theme for Lincolns into the 1990s, the Mark V used sharp-edged exterior styling with a center radiator grille. Following their 1976 success, the Mark IV adopted the Designer Editions option packages.
While introduced following the beginning of downsizing among American vehicles, the Continental Mark V would go on to become the most successful of all the Mark series vehicles, with over 228,000 sold across three model years.
As Lincoln entered the 1980s, the American auto industry remained in the "Malaise era", struggling to balance fuel efficiency, emissions controls, and downsizing; the industry also found itself competing against European and Japanese manufacturers entering segments once dominated by Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler.
The entry of the Lincoln into the 1980s was marked with struggle. As a high point, after a ten-year model cycle, the Lincoln Continental underwent a complete redesign (downsizing for the first time), becoming the lightest Lincoln since World War II. Again sharing chassis underpinnings with Mercury and Ford, the Continental used the Panther platform of the Ford LTD and Mercury Marquis. Coupled with a shift to a 302 cubic-inch V8, the fuel economy of the Lincoln model line rose nearly 40% in a single year. In contrast, the Lincoln Versailles was withdrawn early in the 1980 model year. As a result, by the end of 1980, Lincoln was marketing three versions of one vehicle. As a response, Lincoln split its two product lines, with the Continental becoming the Lincoln Town Car. After a short hiatus, for 1982, the Lincoln Continental shifted size into the mid-size segment (using the Ford Fox platform). While Lincoln would again compete against the Cadillac Seville (and to a lesser extent, Mercedes-Benz), the division completely erased any visual evidence of badge engineering.
Initially planned for withdrawal in the mid-1980s until stabilization of fuel prices mitigated fuel-economy concerns, the Lincoln Town Car progressed through the decade largely unchanged. As its design began to age, the model line began to increase in sales, as transitions of Cadillac to front-wheel drive and further downsizing of its full-size model lines were poorly received by both buyers and automotive industry critics. While the Town Car retained its traditional layout and large size, fuel prices dropped to a contemporary new low at the time, and operating economy became less of a concern to buyers than a decade prior. Lincoln introduced a series of advertisements in late 1985 titled "The Valet" which depicted parking attendants having trouble distinguishing Cadillacs from lesser Buicks (Electras) and Oldsmobiles (Ninety-Eights), with the question "Is that a Cadillac?" answered by the response "No, it's an Oldsmobile...or Buick." At the end, the owner of a Lincoln would appear with the line "The Lincoln Town Car please." The commercial campaign saw the emergence of the new advertising line for the brand, "Lincoln. What a Luxury Car Should Be." which was used into the 1990s.
For 1988, the Lincoln Continental underwent a second redesign. Splitting from the Mark VII, the Continental became the first front-wheel drive Lincoln, as it became an extended-wheelbase version of the Ford Taurus; the 3.8L V6 engine also marked the first time in a Lincoln that no 8-cylinder (or V12) engine was offered. In an effort to further reduce model overlap, the front-wheel drive Continental was developed for vehicles that neither Cadillac nor the Lincoln Town Car were marketed against: European and Japanese-produced luxury sedans. Following the debut of a driver-side airbag in the Ford Tempo, the 1989 Lincoln Continental became the first sedan sold in the United States equipped with standard dual airbags.
Continental Mark VI and Mark VIIEdit
For 1980, the Continental Mark VI made its debut, replacing the Mark V. Originally slated to adopt the Ford Thunderbird chassis as part of downsizing, the Mark VI remained a full-size car, adopting the Ford Panther platform. Following the departure of Lee Iaccoca from Ford, the development of the Mark VI shifted from stand-alone model range to a four-door sedan and two-door coupe. Following its marketplace success, many design elements of the Mark V were carried onto the Mark VI, including its sharp-edged sheetmetal, hidden headlamps, opera windows, and fender louvers (now non-functional). The Mark VI coupe shared the same exact 114” Ford/Mercury wheelbase of the Panther chassis, with its own distinct roofline, while the four-door Mark VI shared its body with the Lincoln Continental/Town Car-Town Coupé, on a 3” longer wheelbase (at 117”).
The Mark VI continued the use of the Designer Series (for coupes); in 1982, the option packages began a revision, as the Cartier Edition was moved to the Town Car and the Givenchy Edition was moved to the Continental. In early-1982, the Givenchy Edition was re-introduced to the Mark VI lineup, (via a single-page insert to the showroom brochure) but would last only that year. In another tradition, in 1980, the Mark VI launched the Signature Series trim level. Initially intended as a direct replacement for the 1979 Collector's Series, the Signature Series designation would also be utilized by the Town Car beginning in 1981; in various forms, it would be used to its 2011 discontinuation...as well as the mid-size bustle-back Continental (for 1982 only). The heavily feature-equipped 1980–1981 Mark VI Signature Series (padded vinyl trunk lid tire bulge, color-keyed bumper guards and rub strips, color-keyed trunk carpeting, color-keyed turbine wheels, tool kit, etc.), received a de-contenting of many of these exclusive features for 1982-on, but now offered more colors and options. This ultimately became more of a parallel replacement of the former (1976–1981) “Luxury Group” offerings, which was absent from the option list for 1982-on.
For 1984, the Continental Mark VII replaced the Mark VI, again becoming a counterpart of the Ford Thunderbird. The most technically advanced vehicle sold by Lincoln-Mercury at the time, the Mark VII represented a major market shift, becoming the smallest version of the Mark series. From the 1979 Mark V to the 1984 Mark VII, Ford engineers shed 27 inches of length and over 1,200 pounds of curb weight. While slightly less performance-oriented than a grand-touring car, in its development, the Mark VII placed a far greater emphasis on handling capability than any previous Mark-series vehicle, with four-wheel disc brakes, anti-lock brakes, four-wheel air suspension; its 5.0L V8 was shared with the Ford Mustang.
For 1986, to eliminate the long-running nameplate confusion, the Continental Mark VII (marketed, sold and serviced by Lincoln) was renamed the Lincoln Mark VII, dropping the Continental nameplate. The Mark VII would be the final generation of the Mark series sold with a Designer Series name, with a Bill Blass Edition being sold through its production (a Gianni Versace edition was sold from 1984 to 1985), eventually becoming the standard model. As a sport-oriented model, Lincoln sold the Mark VII LSC (Luxury Sports Coupe) from 1984 to 1992.
While Lincoln exited the struggles of the Malaise era by 1990, the division found itself in a different struggle. While largely catching up to rival Cadillac in sales, the brand did so with only three model lines (in place of the seven of Cadillac and four of Mercedes-Benz). After following the traditional Lincoln model cycle, the Town Car underwent a full redesign. While mandated by both passive-restraint requirements and fuel-economy improvements, a redesign to the Town Car proved risky, as the model line itself accounted for over half of all Lincoln sales.
To meet federal requirements, Lincoln marked the debut of several safety features within Ford Motor Company and within the American luxury segment. Following the 1989 debut of dual airbags in the Lincoln Continental (1990 in the Town Car), antilock brakes (ABS) made their return on the Continental (1988) and on the Town Car (1992).
In line with the Lincoln Mark VII, the exterior of the Lincoln Town Car shed many of its sharp-edged lines to allow for a far sleeker body design; other elements remained, including a formal rear roofline, chrome trim, radiator-style grille, and C-pillar quarter windows. In line with the Lincoln Continental, the 1990 Town Car adopted dual airbags. Delayed to 1991, the Lincoln Town Car marked the debut of the 210 hp 4.6L Ford Modular V8 engine, the first overhead-cam eight-cylinder used in an American car since the Duesenberg Model J. Built on a revision of the Panther platform, the 1990 Lincoln Town Car shared its underpinnings (but no exterior panels) with the 1992 Ford Crown Victoria (dropping the LTD prefix) and Mercury Grand Marquis.
Following the introduction of the Mark VIII (see below), for 1995, the Lincoln Continental underwent a redesign, introducing a new version of the Ford Taurus chassis. Retaining the use of front-wheel drive, to better compete with Japanese-produced luxury sedans, the Continental was equipped with a 4.6L V8 engine (shared with the Mark VIII, tuned for front-wheel drive).
1998 marked a significant transition for the Lincoln model line. The Lincoln Navigator (see below) made its debut as the first Lincoln SUV; the Mark VIII ended its production run (becoming the final Mark-series vehicle). While the Continental underwent a mid-cycle update, the Town Car received an extensive redesign. The tallest Lincoln sedan in 40 years, the 1998 Town Car adopted the rounded exterior of the Mark VIII and the Continental with a completely redesigned interior. Following the success of the Navigator in the marketplace, 1998 marked the first year Lincoln outsold Cadillac (by over 4,500 vehicles).
Lincoln Mark VIIIEdit
After a nine-year production run (matching the Mark IV and Mark V combined), the Lincoln Mark VII was replaced by the Lincoln Mark VIII, remaining a variant of the Ford Thunderbird/Mercury Cougar. This was the first generation of the Mark series originally branded as a Lincoln. Further emphasis was placed on handling, with the Mark VIII (and Thunderbird/Cougar) becoming the only American-produced four-seat cars of the time with rear-wheel drive and four-wheel independent suspension. While the Mark VIII adopted the coupe profile of its predecessor, in an effort to modernize its styling, much of the body was radically streamlined (relegating the spare-tire hump to vestigial status). In massive contrast from its 1970s predecessors, the Mark VIII was given a cockpit-style interior, with all controls oriented towards the driver. In various forms, elements of the Mark VIII would be featured in other Lincoln models (the 1995 Lincoln Continental and the 1995 Town Car interior), and other Ford Motor Company products (the interior of the Ford Windstar minivan).
While Designer Editions were discontinued, the LSC (Luxury Sports Coupe) made its return as the flagship Mark VIII model. During the 1990s, the Mark VIII competed in the mid-size luxury coupe segment, which was in overall decline. Though positively received by critics and buyers, the Mark VIII was withdrawn after the 1998 model year, outliving the Thunderbird and Cougar by a year. As of the 2019 model year, the 1998 Lincoln Mark VIII is currently the final version of Lincoln Mark series.
For 1998, Lincoln introduced the Lincoln Navigator full-size SUV, its first new nameplate since the Versailles (outside of the Mark series). While sharing no common bodywork forward of the windshield, the Navigator was a counterpart of the Ford Expedition; both model lines were mechanically derived from the Ford F-Series. Developed as a competitor to the Range Rover, Mercedes-Benz M-Class, and Toyota Land Cruiser/Lexus LX450, the truck-based design offered increased cargo and towing capability (raised to 8,500 pounds in 1999) over its competitors. The Navigator also offered standard third-row seating (offered only on the Land Cruiser/LX)
To distinguish its exterior from the Expedition, stylists adopted several design elements from the 1998 Town Car, including its use of body-color bumpers, chrome license-plate surround (the only chrome on the rear liftgate) and reduced use of chrome window trim (largely to distinguish it from the Expedition); the grille design would later be used on the 2000 Lincoln LS.
In an extended debut model year, the Navigator became the second-most popular Lincoln behind the Town Car, selling 71,000 examples. In response, General Motors launched two full-size luxury SUVs marketed against the Navigator, both derived from the Chevrolet Tahoe: the GMC Yukon Denali and the Cadillac Escalade; both model lines introduced third-row seating in 2001.
As the division entered the 21st century, Lincoln began a period of major transition. In addition to ending production of the long-running Mark series, the Lincoln Navigator SUV had entered production, nearly unchallenged by European and Japanese manufacturers. As buyers of mid-size coupes in the luxury segments had shifted towards sports sedans, Lincoln developed an entry for the segment in the place of the Mark VIII. For 2000, Lincoln introduced the Lincoln LS mid-size sports sedan; coinciding with Premier Automotive Group (see below), the LS was developed alongside the Jaguar S-Type. Though the two vehicles shared a common chassis and related powertrain, no body panels were common between the two vehicles. The shortest Lincoln ever produced at the time, the LS was developed to compete with European and Japanese-produced counterparts, in line with the Cadillac Catera. While the Catera was imported from Germany (as a rebadged Opel Omega), the LS was produced alongside the Town Car and Continental in Wixom Assembly.
For 2002, Lincoln introduced the Lincoln Blackwood, the first pickup truck produced by the brand and the first Lincoln manufactured outside of Michigan since 1958 (along with the Versailles). Derived from the Ford F-150 SuperCrew, the Blackwood was fitted with the front bodywork of the Lincoln Navigator and a model-specific pickup bed (with imitation wood exterior trim). In line with its name, all examples were painted black. The Lincoln Blackwood met with poor reception, due to its limited cargo capability (its pickup bed was effectively a carpeted trunk) and lack of four-wheel drive, leading Lincoln to discontinue the model after a single year of production.
2003 marked a period of transition of the Lincoln model line, as both the Town Car and LS underwent mid-cycle updates (with the Town Car receiving a full chassis redesign), with Lincoln introducing the second generation of the Navigator. As a complement to the Navigator, Lincoln introduced the Lincoln Aviator mid-size SUV. Sharing the body of the Ford Explorer with the Mercury Mountaineer, the Aviator adopted many styling elements from the Navigator, with a nearly identical interior design. While priced higher than its Mercury Mountaineer counterpart to avoid model overlap, the Aviator struggled to sell, as it competed closely against the Navigator sold in the same showroom. After 52 years of production, the Continental was discontinued for 2003.
For 2005, Lincoln introduced a second pickup truck model line, the Lincoln Mark LT. Again based on the Ford F-150 SuperCrew, the design of the Mark LT was partially derived from the poor reception to the Lincoln Blackwood. While still fitted with Lincoln Navigator bodywork and interior trim, the Mark LT was fitted with a standard pickup bed; all wheel drive was available as an option. Following lower than expected sales, the Mark LT was withdrawn from the United States (in favor of Ford adding additional content to the Ford F-Series) in 2008; in Mexico (where the Mark LT was the highest-selling vehicle of the brand) Lincoln continued sales of the Mark LT through 2014.
During 2006, The Way Forward restructuring plan (see below) began to take effect on Ford Motor Company, with the Lincoln LS ending production. To replace the LS, Lincoln introduced the Lincoln Zephyr for 2006. In what would be the smallest Lincoln sedan ever, the Zephyr was derived from the Ford Fusion mid-size sedan. In an effort to distinguish itself from its Ford and Mercury counterparts, the Lincoln Zephyr adapted styling elements from Lincoln vehicles of the past, including a wide rectangular grille (1960s and 1970s Continentals), wraparound headlamps (late 1960s Continentals), and a twin-pod dashboard (early 1960s Continental).
In 2007, as another part of The Way Forward, Lincoln began a rebranding of its model line. As Ford considered the Lincoln Mark series to have high nameplate recognition, Lincoln began to introduce similar "MK" branding across the model lineup. For 2007, the Lincoln Zephyr was rebranded as the Lincoln MKZ ("em-kay-zee"), with the 2007 Lincoln MKX ("em-kay-ex") crossover SUV introduced. Originally slated to become the second-generation Lincoln Aviator, the MKX was the Lincoln counterpart of the Ford Edge. Alongside the Lincoln Town Car, the Lincoln Navigator was not included with the MK rebranding; for 2007, it was redesigned alongside the Ford Expedition, marking the debut of the extended-length Navigator L. For the last time, a Designer Series Lincoln was produced, as Lincoln discontinued the trim on the Town Car after 2007. Produced only as a concept car, the 2007 Lincoln MKR marked the debut of the Ford EcoBoost V6.
For 2009, Lincoln introduced its first all-new full-size sedan since 1980, the Lincoln MKS. Intended to be phased in as the replacement for the Lincoln Town Car, the MKS was the Lincoln counterpart of the Ford Taurus. Built on a Volvo-derived chassis, the MKS was the first full-size Lincoln with front-wheel drive (or optional all-wheel drive); shared with the Ford Taurus SHO, a 3.5L twin-turbocharged V6 was an option. Derived from the 2007 MKR concept, the MKS marked the production debut of the "split-wing" grille, a design element similar to the 1930s Lincoln Zephyr. A year later, the division introduced the Lincoln MKT crossover SUV, a counterpart of the Ford Flex. Sharing its chassis with the MKS, the MKT was sized between the MKX and standard-wheelbase Navigator.
Premier Automotive Group & The Way ForwardEdit
As Lincoln entered the 21st century, the brand underwent a major transition within the structure of Ford Motor Company. As Ford expanded its global automotive holdings during the 1980s and 1990s, it acquired Jaguar, Aston Martin, Land Rover, and Volvo Cars. To collectively manage its global luxury-vehicle holdings, in 1999, Ford organized Premier Automotive Group (PAG). The same year, the management of Lincoln-Mercury was shifted to the American headquarters of PAG, largely in an effort to engineer and market more competitive vehicles for the brand.
The integration of Lincoln into PAG would lead to several product changes within the division. Following the 2000 debut of the LS sports sedan, the Lincoln Continental was withdrawn in 2002. To avoid the model overlap that plagued the division two decades before, Lincoln chose to focus production on the Lincoln Town Car, one of the highest-profit vehicles of Ford Motor Company. During 2002, as part of a change of management, Lincoln-Mercury was removed from PAG and relocated within Ford Motor Company headquarters.
In 2005, Ford developed The Way Forward restructuring plan in an effort to return to profitability. Among the seven vehicle assembly facilities slated for closure, Wixom Assembly (home to all Lincoln assembly since 1957, with the exception of the Versailles, Navigator, Blackwood, and Mark LT) was placed third, with an announced June 2007 closure. After a shortened 2006 model year, the Lincoln LS ended production. Initially slated for discontinuation after 2007, production of the Lincoln Town Car was shifted to St. Thomas Assembly in Ontario, consolidated with the Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis. In 2011, all three vehicles ended production, coinciding with the closure of that facility.
For the Lincoln division, the beginning of the 2010s introduced a number of structural changes. While Lincoln and Mercury were spared by The Way Forward, in 2010, Ford announced the closure of Mercury at the end of the year, with the final Mercury vehicle produced on January 4, 2011. After 30 years of production as a distinct model line (and 41 years as a Lincoln nameplate), the Lincoln Town Car ended its production run in 2011, coinciding with the closure of St. Thomas Assembly in Ontario. In contrast to the V8-engined Lincoln Town Car, for 2011, Lincoln introduced the MKZ Hybrid, a counterpart of the Ford Fusion Hybrid. The first Lincoln hybrid vehicle, the MKZ Hybrid was the first Lincoln equipped with a four-cylinder engine. Following the discontinuation of the Town Car sedan, Lincoln continued use of the Town Car nameplate, adding it to limousine and livery variants of the Lincoln MKT. Along with chassis modifications for heavy-duty use, the MKT Town Car features modified rear seating, with the third-row seat removed to create additional luggage space and second-row seat legroom.
To reflect the end of the Lincoln-Mercury division pairing (from 1945 to 2010), in December 2012, the formal name of Lincoln was changed to The Lincoln Motor Company (its name prior to 1940). To help differentiate Lincoln vehicles from Ford counterparts, Ford established separate design, product development, and sales teams for Lincoln. In a marketing shift, Lincoln began to target "progressive luxury customers". luxury buyers seeking a vehicle solely for their own interests and avoiding ostentation altogether.
As part of the 2012 rebranding, for 2013, the Lincoln model line underwent several design revisions, headed by the release of the second-generation MKZ. Retaining commonality with the Ford Fusion (a rebadged Ford Mondeo), the MKZ adapted a distinct exterior from its Fusion/Mondeo counterparts (nearly unchanged from a Lincoln concept car released in 2012). The MKS and MKT underwent exterior and interior revisions, adopting the "bow-wing" grille design of the MKZ. Also during this time, Lincoln introduced new trim level nomenclatures Premiere, Select and Reserve on the MKZ. Use of these trim names would eventually be expanded to other Lincoln models.
Since 2014, Lincoln has enlisted Matthew McConaughey as a brand spokesman; McConaughey has appeared in commercials for several Lincoln products in the past six years.
For 2015, Lincoln introduced two new SUVs, with the all-new Lincoln MKC compact crossover SUV (derived from the Ford Kuga/Ford Escape) becoming the first Lincoln produced solely with four-cylinder engines. The Lincoln Navigator underwent an extensive revision, largely to preview buyers of its 2018 redesign. Along with extensive exterior and interior updates, the Navigator adopted the 3.5L twin-turbocharged V6 of the Ford F-150 as its standard engine, becoming the first version of the Navigator offered without a V8 engine.
Following the positive reception to a 2015 concept car of the same name, Lincoln revived the Lincoln Continental nameplate for the 2017 model year (after a 15-year hiatus). Slotted as a replacement for the Lincoln MKS, the Continental was adapted from a version of the Ford Taurus designed for China. While slightly shorter than the MKS, the Continental is the longest-wheelbase Lincoln since the Town Car. The revived model line introduced a new design language for Lincoln; shifting away from the split-wing grille, the Continental introduced a recessed rectangular grille. The revived Continental marked the debut of the Lincoln "Black Label" program for all Lincoln vehicles. As a flagship trim line, Black Label vehicles feature specially coordinated exterior and interior design themes (similar to the Designer Editions of the Mark series), along with highly personalized customer service.
For 2018, after an eleven-year production run of its predecessor, Lincoln released the fourth generation of the Navigator. Integrating the recessed rectangular grille of the Continental into its exterior, the Navigator is distinguished from the Ford Expedition largely from its taillamps and its blacked-out roof pillars (sharing the "floating roof" design of the Ford Flex and Ford Explorer). At a base price of $95,000, the Lincoln Navigator L Black Label is the most expensive vehicle ever sold by Ford Motor Company (with the exception of the Ford GT supercars). The Lincoln MKZ underwent a mid-cycle redesign, adopting the grille design and twin-turbocharged V6 engine of the Lincoln Continental.
For 2019, the retirement of the "MK" naming scheme was expanded, as the MKX underwent a mid-cycle update, becoming the Lincoln Nautilus. To commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Continental nameplate, Lincoln unveiled the 80th Anniversary Coach Door Edition, marking the debut of a long-wheelbase Lincoln Continental. The first factory produced Lincoln sold with a base price over $100,000, the variant marked the revival of the rear-hinged door configuration (after a 40-year absence). The MKT (including the MKT Town Car livery version) was discontinued in 2019, marking the final use of the Town Car nameplate.
For 2020, the Lincoln model line underwent further expansion, with the return of the Aviator mid-size SUV (again a counterpart of the Ford Explorer); the revived Aviator offers the first hybrid-electric system in a Lincoln SUV. The long-wheelbase coach-door Continental is now offered as a regular production model only in Black Label trim. The MKC was replaced by the Lincoln Corsair, remaining a counterpart of the Ford Escape/Kuga. On July 1, 2020, Lincoln announced that it is ending production of the Continental sedan at the end of 2020 due to the popularity of SUVs and slow sales of the Continental.
Lincoln vehicles are available in South Korea; most of the product line is sold but the Lincoln Navigator has not been introduced to the country. Lincoln was marketed in Japan prior to 2016, when Ford ended its operations in Japan.
Australia & New ZealandEdit
The Lincoln marque never existed in Australia and New Zealand. Instead the region was serviced entirely by locally designed and manufactured cars, including luxury segment models, by Ford Australia.
In the 1990s and 2000s, Hongqi produced a license-built version of the Lincoln Town Car, based on knock-down kits imported from the United States. In an effort to develop a successor to the Hongqi CA770, the Town Car kits were given an exterior redesign with different front fenders, headlamps, taillamps, and grille. Along with a standard-wheelbase sedan, three lengths of limousines were produced, along with the Hongqi CA7400 prototype.
In 2014, Ford Motor Company brought the Lincoln brand to China, launching the brand with the mid-size MKZ sedan and MKC small SUV. By the end of 2016, Lincoln intended to establish a network of 60 dealerships in 50 cities, selling the MKZ, Continental, MKC, MKX, and Navigator. 2016 sales increased 180% over the previous year, with Lincoln planning to produce vehicles in China by 2019. To attract Chinese consumers, Lincoln introduced "The Lincoln Way", a car purchase and ownership model which provides highly personalized services to customers.
Ford of Europe does not market the Lincoln brand. To compete against luxury-brand automobiles, the Italian coachbuilder Vignale (acquired by Ford in 1973) is marketed by Ford of Europe as a sub-brand as the highest trim of the Fiesta, Focus, Mondeo, Kuga, Edge, and S-Max.
Lincoln vehicles are also available in several Middle East countries, including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain.
Lincoln vehicles are sold in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
Lincoln achieved its two best U.S. sales years to date in 1989 (200,315) and 1990 (231,660), thanks largely to the popularity of the redesigned Continental, introduced in December 1987, and of the redesigned Town Car introduced in October 1989.
Since 1958, Lincoln has used a framed four-pointed star as its brand logo. Introduced on the Continental Mark II in 1956, the four-point star has undergone various modifications in appearance, but has remained nearly unchanged since 1980.
In 1927, Lincoln adopted a greyhound as a hood ornament, used into the 1930s. As a replacement for the greyhound, Lincoln adopted a knight's helmet hood ornament, used before World War II. On the front fascia, Lincoln adopted a coat of arms with a red cross. Following the war, Lincolns adopted a rocket-style hood ornament until the adoption of the four-point star from the Mark II.
An illuminated front grille star badge was first offered on the 2018 Navigator.
Current model lineEdit
|Lincoln Navigator||Full-size SUV||1998–present|
|Lincoln Continental||Full-size sedan||2017–2020|
|Lincoln Nautilus||Mid-size two-row crossover SUV||2019–present|
|Lincoln Aviator||Mid-size three-row crossover SUV||2020–present|
|Lincoln Corsair||Compact crossover SUV||2020–present|
Although a luxury division, Lincoln has not been absent from motorsports. Like all American brands of the 1950s, Lincoln participated in NASCAR's Grand National Stock Car series, winning the first race in that series. They would continue in NASCAR through 1953. The Lincoln Mark VIII was tested at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1996 as a potential replacement for the discontinued Ford Thunderbird, but the car was rejected by NASCAR due to a lack of wind tunnel testing and not getting the serial numbers of the parts to ensure they were stock components, as well as Ford not wanting to give Lincoln a racing image; Ford ultimately replaced the Thunderbird with the Ford Taurus.
During the 20th century, Lincoln produced several official state limousines for Presidents of the United States, from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George H. W. Bush. Along with producing the first purpose-built presidential limousine, Lincoln produced two of the first armored vehicles for presidential use.
A 1939 Lincoln Model K V12 convertible (with a Brunn body) was acquired by the government for the use of Franklin D. Roosevelt. As a result of its convertible top (to allow the president to appear in crowds without exiting the vehicle), the Lincoln adapted the name "Sunshine Special". In 1942, as a response to the beginning of World War II, the Sunshine Special adapted armor plating and bullet-proof glass; the retractable roof remained in use. Following the result of the security upgrades, the Sunshine Special expanded to 9,300 pounds. After traveling across the United States for the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, the Sunshine Special was retired in 1948. Today, the Sunshine Special is on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
As a replacement for the Sunshine Special, in 1950, the White House leased 10 1950 Lincoln Cosmopolitans (9 sedans and one convertible), bodied by Henney Motor Company with security upgrades from Hess & Eisenhardt. For 1954, President Eisenhower ordered a removable Plexiglas roof fitted to the 20-foot-long Cosmopolitan convertible, with the vehicle adapting the "Bubble Top" nickname. Along with the Truman and Eisenhower administrations, Lincoln Cosmopolitans would see use by Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson (once), with the "Bubble Top" retired in 1965.
In 1961, President Kennedy began use of a modified 1961 Lincoln Continental convertible, bodied by Hess & Eisenhardt of Cincinnati, Ohio. Code-named SS-100-X, the Lincoln was an open car, designed with a set of interchangeable tops, including a black formal-profile top, plexiglass roof sections and a stainless-steel targa top for the driver's compartment. In presidential parades and motorcades, the limousine was often used as an open car (to avoid stress on the cooling system). In the open configuration, John F. Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963. Following the Kennedy assassination, SS-100X was initially investigated for evidence; in early 1964, the vehicle was released to Hess & Eisenhardt, effectively becoming remanufactured. Distinguished by a shift from navy blue to black paint and the permanent fitment of a roof, SS-100X underwent extensive security modifications, adding armor plating and bulletproof glass. Retired from front-line service in 1967, the 1961 limousine remained in service until 1977, used by Presidents Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, and Jimmy Carter. SS-100X is on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, along with the Sunshine Special.
During the 1960s, alongside SS-100X, the Johnson administration used several Lincolns: including three 1965 Lincoln Continental Executive limousines (two used by the President; one was used by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara) and a 1968 Lincoln stretch limousine, the latter is on display at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum in Austin, Texas.
For the Richard Nixon administration, the White House commissioned a state limousine based upon a 1969 Lincoln Continental, bodied by Lehman-Peterson of Chicago, Illinois. While again adopting the armor plating and bulletproof glass and other security features of SS-100X, to allow the President to stand upright and greet constituents from the motorcade, a sunroof was added to the vehicle above the rear passenger compartment. Used by President Nixon until 1974, the car is located at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, California.
Developed for the second term of the Nixon administration, in 1974, the Gerald Ford administration replaced the 1969 Continental with an armored 1972 Lincoln Continental limousine. As a result of armor plating and security upgrades, the 1972 Continental was stretched to 22 feet in length, weighing nearly 13,000 pounds. Used by Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan, the 1972 Continental has notoriety similar to the SS-100X, with its presence at two presidential assassination attempts. In 1975, the limousine rushed Gerald Ford away during the assassination attempt against him from Sarah Jane Moore. In 1981, Ronald Reagan was wounded in John Hinckley, Jr.'s assassination attempt. While not directly hit by a bullet from Hinckley, Reagan was wounded by a bullet that had struck the armor plating on the side of the car, ricocheting off of the vehicle. Today, the car is on display at the Henry Ford Museum alongside the Sunshine Special and SS-100-X.
The last Lincoln used as a Presidential state car is a 1989 Lincoln Town Car commissioned for George H. W. Bush. In line with its 1983 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham predecessor, the roofline of the Town Car was raised several inches to accommodate for the thickness of bulletproof glass (while preserving outward visibility). To better handle the weight of armor plating and security upgrades, the powertrain was upgraded to that of an F-250 pickup truck, receiving a 7.5L V8 and an E4OD 4-speed automatic transmission. Today, the car is on display at the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas. Since 1993, the Secret Service has used limousines derived from Cadillac vehicles as a presidential state car.
"Sunshine Special", 1939 Lincoln Model K convertible/Brunn body
SS-100X, 1961 Lincoln Continental convertible, shown after permanent top conversion
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