The Lincoln Continental, one of Ford Motor Co.'s most revered nameplates, is introduced Oct. 2, 1939, with a price of $2,840.
The genesis of the Continental began in fall 1938 when Ford President Edsel Ford returned from a trip to Europe. While overseas, Ford was struck by the look of European sports cars with their long hoods, short trunks and rear-mounted spare tires.
He approached Lincoln designer Bob Gregorie and asked him to create a custom car with a "continental" look. Using the Lincoln Zephyr as a base, Gregorie produced an automobile with clean, pure lines free of extra chrome ornaments or common running boards.
It featured a long hood, pontoon fenders and a high trunk punctuated by a spare tire -- a feature soon adopted by other cars and commonly referred to as a "Continental kit."
The Continental prototype was shipped to Hobe Sound, Fla., to a vacationing Edsel Ford in March 1939. Ford turned heads wherever he drove the car and, according to Lincoln lore, received no fewer than 200 requests to purchase the stylish new automobile. Edsel Ford, convinced there was a market for the car, called Ford's headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., and instructed Gregorie, a one-time yacht designer, and company to put the Continental into production.
While sales never were particularly high -- it was an expensive automobile, after all -- the Continental's impact was enormous. Critics were quick to praise it, and Hollywood celebrities such as Clark Gable, Rita Hayworth and Mickey Rooney soon were driving it.
In 1951, the Museum of Modern Art called it one of the eight most important cars before World War II.
Architect Frank Lloyd Wright considered Gregorie's Continental "the most beautiful car in the world."
Gregorie later told biographers that the initial Continental sketch took less than an hour to execute; to others, he said it took just 30 minutes to flesh out.
Still, Lincoln suddenly had a "halo car" that cast a glow of style and sophistication on its entire product line. After a hiatus during World War II, the Continental returned for 1946, then disappeared after the 1948 model year. But it proved too great a nameplate to vanish permanently. Edsel's youngest son, William Clay Ford, revived the Continental in 1956, and seven more generations of the car came and went through 2002.
It was revived again for the 2017 model year as a four-door sedan, and Lincoln says it plans to reintroduce suicide doors on future Continental models.