Note: This post was written by Carmine, a friend of mine, for another site several years ago. In keeping with the appearance earlier this week of a similar-vintage Cadillac, I thought this would be a good time to add this Continental to Riverside Green. Enjoy!
I photographed this laid-low 1958 Continental a few months ago, but had forgotten about the pictures until recently. It was spotted with a group of other cars in a warehouse parking lot in an industrial area. I had seen them from the interstate several times, and made note of the cars, meaning to get back to them.
Finally, when I was in the area again and with a camera handy, I ventured into the deserted industrial park on a quiet Sunday afternoon, on the scope for this Continental. I knew it was a Continental even from the highway, but I couldn’t place the exact year, other than it was a Lincoln from the “Leviathan” 1958-1960 era.
I rounded the end of one empty parking lot and there she was, a 1958 Continental Mark III hardtop sedan. These were the largest unibody cars ever made at the time, and in an attempt to one up Cadillac, Ford had launched a separate Continental Division, exclusively selling the Mark II at first.
The line up expanded for 1958, when the Continentals sort of became upscale “regular” Lincolns with Breezway windows and more equipment. I use the term in quotation marks because there really isn’t much about these Lincolns that is regular.
I would tell you I don’t find them massively attractive, but I don’t hate them. They are interesting in an “out there” sort of way which you might not find likeable in a car, but as architecture is pretty interesting.
If there ever was a Googie car, this vintage Continental would be it. The Continental has more cantilevers and breezeways than a Tomorrowland dream house. Denting the pavement with 5000lbs and casting a shadow 229 inches long, these Marks were massive cars.
The 1958-1960 Lincolns represent a “jumping of the shark” for Lincoln from which they almost never recovered. The mildly good looking previous standard Lincoln models and the very elegant Mark II’s were pretty nice, but not making the impact on the market that Lincoln wanted, so they turned it up to 11.
Lincoln spiked the punchbowl at the Christmas party in a hopes of good times, but what they really ended up with the was equivalent of a fat Carl from sales wearing a lampshade on his head and puking in the plastic plant.
The sobering up was never more evident than in the clean, “we’ll have none of that screwing around,” McNamara-approved 1961 Lincoln Continental.
For now, let’s reflect on this space age leviathan from the last years of the “I like Ike era.” While the Mark convertibles from this era are actually considered milestone cars, the more common sedan (5891 produced) is not as desired and ignored, as much as you can ignore a 229 inch long car that can be seen from space.
There are reverse angles and cantilevers all over this car, similar to lots of the late ’50s mid century modern architecture that is thankfully starting to garner appreciation. The interior is also interesting, with a glass covered pod that looks like it’s semi-floating against a finned grilled panel.
With an interior so big you can use it as storage!
We got fins going up and down: beat that, Cadillac! Interestingly though, even though we were nearing fin zenith, the Connies’ aren’t all that big. This big Connie is sizable enough to be visible from space, she used to be visible from Google earth, which is how I found her location the first time, but since then she has disappeared from her berth. I wonder where she went off to and hope that she is being lovingly restored somewhere, but I fear that’s not the case. Wherever you’ve gone Continental, I wish you Godspeed.
My father bought one of the early examples in the fall of ’57, a Premiere in cream with gold upholstery. “Jumping the shark” is a good way to put it. As a rolling depiction of what one could accomplish, yes, it was impressive. But…my God. My mother was speechless when he brought it home. Apparently there were problems with the car, and I think it was gone by the spring. And then the reaction set in. Dad bought himself a straightforward ’58 Ford sedan, three on the tree with the Mileage Maker six. Never again would he own a full house luxury car. Some nice top of the line Dodges, yes, but nothing that shouted “look at me”. I really believe the sheer excess revolted him.
Some of the ugliest American cars ever made were produced in the very late 1950s.
By the way, the ’61 Continental started out as a model by Howard Payne and John Orfe. Elwood Engel, who was in charge of Ford styling, had it turned into two door proposal for what was going to be the 1961 Thunderbird. That concept was rejected in favor of the “rocketbird” but Robert Macnamara, then Ford president, saw the Tbird concept and suggested adding two doors and selling it as a Lincoln.
I remember reading that in an issue of Collectible automobile many years ago. I kind of have a soft spot for the 1958-60 Lincolns just because they are so insane, but they nearly killed the marque.
Thank God McNamara did that, because the beautiful ’61 Lincoln rinsed away the bad taste left by these battle cruisers. When the ’61 models came out, our local dealer, Courtesy Lincoln-Mercury, loaned one to Dad for a weekend. We all loved it, but Dad just couldn’t make the jump. After his ’58 Premiere, true luxury cars were just too rich for the blood of a self made farm boy. Instead, he bought a ’61 Bel Air with 283 and Powerglide, a really nice car as it turned out.
Oddly, I like this car and hope it survived as it looks to be in VGC .
1958 seemed to be a very bad year for car styling. With the exception of the Forward look Mopars, the Vette and the 4 place T-Bird it seemed auto stylists went out of their way to define ugly. LM, had a penchant for hippos on wheels for ’58. The Mercs of the era were gaudy old lady matron-mobiles. The General really scraped the bottom with their one year model run. Ford and GM seemed to have a race to see who’s land yacht had shock value. There was a 1950’s (late trend) of sweeping windshields and putrid reverse angle front vent windows. The Buick and Olds sedans and wagons looked like bloated tubas on wheels. A lot of round with laughable results IMHO. Interesting when watching old shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents and the Twilight Zone these rolling manatees (Lincolns of 58-60) were the cars of choice for the upper crust bad guys and gals. The styling difference between the ’60 and JFK era Lincolns was like night and day.