In the late 1930s, Edsel Ford conceived the idea of creating an upscale, exclusive Lincoln model to rival the impressive European counterparts produced by companies like Delahaye and Alfa Romeo. This vision materialized in the form of the prototype Continental, a unique vehicle initially crafted for Edsel Ford’s personal use.
Designed by the renowned chief stylist Eugene T. “Bob” Gregorie, the prototype showcased an elegant convertible, or “cabriolet,” featuring a gracefully extended hood and fenders that concealed its powerful 12-cylinder engine.
Unveiled to the public in 1940, the new luxury sedan became the pinnacle of Dearborn’s lineup and garnered widespread acclaim. The 1940-41 Continentals shared design elements with the contemporary Lincoln Zephyr, displaying pointed prow and curvaceous fender shapes. A redesign in 1942 introduced more squared-off fenders.
Following the hiatus during World War II, the 1946 Continental retained the 1942 styling. These post-war models, unique for being the only American cars with a twelve-cylinder engine, commanded a high price tag – the 1948 Continental Cabriolets were listed at $4,746, over two and a half times the cost of a Ford V-8 Convertible.
In 1951, the Museum of Modern Art showcased a first-generation Continental as part of an eight-car exhibit celebrating automotive design excellence. Collectors have long recognized the 1940-1948 Continentals as prized collector cars, acknowledging their significance in the early days of the hobby.