If there were ever two cars produced by the same brand in the same year that were on complete opposite ends of the styling and beauty spectrum, the 1957 offerings from Lincoln were them. Yes, the 1957 Lincolns were kind of manic.
On the great side there was the low-production Continental Mark II in its second year. On the disaster side there were the Premier and Capri models. These were handsome sedans in 1956, but with the addition of two more headlights (technically called “auxiliary” lights due to some states not allowing four headlights), the cars were transformed into automotive Quasimodos.
Sales tanked for the 1957 sedans, dropping off more than 10,000 units over 1956. What didn’t help was the iconic styling being put forth by GM which was gobbling up market share from everyone.
The Mark II, meanwhile, one of the most elegant, beautiful, and exclusive American cars of the late 1950s. Production records show that only 446 of these cars moved off showroom floors in 1957 and with a price tag of $10,000 in an economy actually in a recession, that should not have been a surprise. For the record, that $10,000 in 1957 is $87,000 in today’s money. In 1957 money it was priced on the level of a Mercedes-Benz. Even crazier is that you could pretty much buy TWO Cadillacs for the price of this single car. Famously, Ford claimed that they lost $1,000 per Mark II they sold, even with the astronomical price.
The Mark II is one of those cars that really gets lost in the mix, probably because of it’s limited production numbers. If the 1957 Chevy is remembered as being bold and flashy with it’s chrome trim and agressive front end, the Lincoln should be remembered as it’s demure, sophisticated, well to do cousin.
The Capri and Premier are the weird uncles. Yuck.
The Continental had a massive and concerted effort behind its development. The idea was to recapture some of the grandiose luxury that the great pre-WWII cars had but wrap it all up in a contemporary package. Amazingly the car had a single option to select if the buyer wanted: air conditioning. Everything else was part of a very expensive package. In many ways this would be the zenith of the “Mark” series in both styling and attitude. For 1958 the car became a glorified Premier and lost its graceful looks, expanding to porcine dimensions.The 300hp 368ci motor was used in both models and actually marketed as a “safety feature” in the Capri. We think that rules.
From 1955-1957 about 3000 Continental Mark IIs were sold. Only 444 of them were moved in the 1957 model year before the car was discontinued. While it was a loser for Ford financially, it certainly raised the rent and profile at Lincoln, re-establishing the brand as a legit luxury and glamour stalwart in the market. Today, Lincoln is in big trouble. They need another Continental and since they have tried that and failed, we’re not sure what they’ll do next.