Lincoln Continental First generation
|Designer||Eugene T. "Bob" Gregorie|
|Body and chassis|
|Body style||2-door coupe 2-door convertible|
|Related||Lincoln-Zephyr (1940) Lincoln Zephyr (1941–42) Lincoln H-series (post-war)|
|Engine||292 cu in (4.8 L) Lincoln-Zephyr V12|
|Wheelbase||125.0 in (3,175 mm)|
|Length||1940–41: 209.8 in (5,329 mm) 1942–48: 218.1 in (5,540 mm)|
|Width||1940–41: 75.0 in (1,905 mm) 1942–48: 77.8 in (1,976 mm)|
|Height||1940–41: 62.0 in (1,575 mm) 1942–48: 63.1 in (1,603 mm)|
|Curb weight||4,000–4,300 lb (1,800–2,000 kg)|
The first Lincoln Continental was developed as Edsel Ford's one-off personal vehicle, though it is believed he planned all along to put the model into production if successful. In 1938, he commissioned a custom design from the chief stylist, Eugene T. "Bob" Gregorie, ready for Edsel's March 1939 vacation. The design, allegedly sketched out in an hour by Gregorie working from the Lincoln-Zephyr blueprints and making changes, was an elegant convertible with a long hood covering the Lincoln V12 and long front fenders, and a short trunk with what became the Continental series' trademark, the externally mounted, covered spare tire. They had front and rear transverse leaf springs and hydraulic drum brakes.
The result could be considered a channeled and sectioned Zephyr, with all traces of the running-boards removed. The decrease in height meant that the hood was much closer to fender-level, and the trim was minimal. When compared to other American cars of the period, it seemed long and low, with sleek "clean" lines. The first model Continental is often rated as one of the most beautiful automobile designs from the pre-world war II era.
The customized one-off prototype was duly produced, on time, and Edsel had the vehicle delivered to Florida for his spring vacation. Interest from well-off friends was high, and Edsel sent a telegram back that he could sell a thousand of them. Lincoln craftsmen immediately began production on the Continental "Cabriolet" convertible, and even a rare few hardtop models. They were extensively hand-built; the two dozen 1939 models and 400 1940-built examples even had hand-hammered body panels, since dies for machine-pressing were not constructed until 1941. The limited number of 1939 models produced are commonly referred to as '1940 Continentals'.
The 1939, 1940, and 1941 models were essentially the same design, with only slight modifications from year to year. For the 1942 model year, which was cut short by the beginning of direct American involvement in World War II, all Lincoln models were given squared up fenders, and a revised grill. The result was a boxier, somewhat heavier look in keeping with then-current design trends, but perhaps less graceful in retrospect.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor US civilian-use automobile production was suspended, to be restarted in 1945–1946. Ford's Lincoln division would continue to produce the Continental for model years 1946 to 1948. Like all other post-war Lincolns it received updated trim, including a new grill, to refresh the design. Walnut interior trim was added in 1947. The 1939–1948 Continental is recognized as a "Full Classic" by the Classic Car Club of America, one of the last-built cars to be so recognized. To date, the 1948 lincolns were the last V-12 engined cars to be produced and sold by a major U.S. automaker.