Lincoln Continental was first developed in 1939 as Edsel Ford’s one-off personal vehicle. 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.
But when the 1961 Continental was introduced the automotive trade press was stunned. The car’s look was a dramatic departure from the styling of the 1960 Lincoln - in fact, it was a complete break from the fins, fat chrome trim and dog-legged windshields which were so characteristic of all cars of the prior five years. It did show some hints of fine cars of the past - the Continental Mark II influence could be seen in the mesh grille, the wraparound taillight design and the rise in beltline just ahead of the rear wheel cutout.
More than just a pretty face, the 1961 Continental influenced design for later models like: ’63 Pontiac Grand Prix, ’63 Buick Riviera and ’64 Imperia l. The design turned out to be absolutely brilliant, with clean, uncluttered lines, perfect proportions, and no extraneous decoration. That such a masterpiece ever made it past the committees, politics, and egos then battling for position at Ford was tantamount to a miracle. The new design was a little smaller with the overall length dropping to 212.4 inches from 227 and the wheelbase being reduced from 131 inches to 123.
The rear doors were hung from the rear and opened from the front. This "suicide door" style was to become the best-known feature of 1960s Lincolns.
The model was availeble in two options: 4-door sedan and 4-door convertible. The Lincoln Continental sedan shown in the sketch was manufactured at the Wixom, Michigan assembly plant - where Lincolns are still made today. It originally sold for $6,067 and weighed almost 5,000 pounds. The car was powered by a big 430 cubic inch V-8 and traveled down the highways of 1961 in a stately fashion transporting its occupants in luxury and quiet.
The Kennedy White House purchased a convertible which was stretched into a limousine for the President by Hess & Eisenhart. It was the car which President Kennedy was riding in when he was assassinated.