Striking in its appearance when it first appeared on the scene, as well as more than five decades later, the design for the 1956 Lincoln Continental Mark II developed over a long period of time.
The Continental line started in 1940 as an alternative to Lincoln's upscale Zephyr (some reports say Edsel Ford, upon returning from Europe, wanted a car that was "strictly continental" in its appearance), and it was a lower (by 3 inches) and longer (by 7 inches) than its Zephyr brother. The two vehicles continued to be produced side by side by Lincoln up until World War II, with only the Continental surviving the conflict.
Postwar Continentals were produced in low numbers (less than 1,600 of them in 1947) and the body line was killed in 1949 in favor of a new, albeit less flattering, Cosmopolitan.
In 1956, Ford created another category of their company, the Continental Division, for their next vehicle. Debuted at the Paris Auto Show the previous October, the second generation of Continentals, the Mark II, would soon be ready for U.S. showrooms. Elegant and refined, the Mark II had now moved into the "instant classic" phase of its existence, but would only be produced in 1956 and 1957 before being replaced by the larger Mark III in 1958 and the soulless Mark IV in 1959.
Ronnie Koonce and Tim McGee...
Ronnie Koonce and Tim McGee created the custom dash and console, filling the latter with the Kenwood stereo head unit and Hot Rod Air controls and the former with Classic Instrument gauges mounted in a milled aluminum insert. HushMat insulation was used throughout the interior, and Chuck Bennett and Sandra Gregory covered the Lincoln Mark VIII seats (plus the custom rear buckets) and nearly everything else in red leather. The steering wheel is from Billet Specialties and mounts to an ididit column.
Less than 3,000 Mark IIs were ever produced (possibly because of its $10,000 price tag-about $78,000 in today's inflated times), which makes customizing one a decision not for the faint of heart. Calvin and Leon Moore, a pair of 60-year-old-plus brothers from Nashville, had always liked the Mark II's lines, as they were teenagers when the car hit the showrooms in 1956, and they always believed that one day they'd own one.
Decades rolled by before they would have their chance, but three years ago Calvin started looking for an acceptable candidate to purchase and found one in West Covina, a suburb of Los Angeles. Their first intention was to restore the car to its original condition but, while they were finishing up a Tri-Five Chevy build, they decided the car would benefit from new underpinnings (steering and suspension) and an updated engine while keeping much of the exterior stock.
With that, work on the 126-inch wheelbase chassis began with the installation of a Kugel Komponents 4.11:1 independent rear suspension system. The chassis had to be reworked out back to accept this rearend, and A-arms had to be fabricated for the front to complete the custom IFS setup. Rack-and-pinion steering also went in, along with Wilwood disc brakes for each corner of the car. In keeping with the look of the original, 52-spoke, 17-inch, Tru-Spoke chrome wire spoke wheels were wrapped with Michelin MXV4 235/55R17 rubber.
The Mark IIs were originally equipped with the 368 Lincoln Y-block, which had a different production run than the similar Ford Y-blocks. But the brothers weren't interested in the stock engine and turned to Robert Pond Motorsports for a unique choice of engine for the Continental: the 427.
Robert Pond began casting his own version of the Ford FE engine block a few years back and, from the outside, it looks original (except Pond's is all aluminum) but internally he improved on the design. Bored and stroked to 482 cubes, the big V-8 was assembled with a SCAT crank and rods, and uses a COMP Cams camshaft and CP pistons. The water pump and aluminum heads came from Edelbrock, and ignition is delivered via MSD controls. The headers and exhaust (made by Ronnie Koonce with polished stainless steel) were also custom fabbed for this car.
That's 482 ci of big FE fun!...
That's 482 ci of big FE fun! Robert Pond Motorsports assembled the all-aluminum motor with their aftermarket FE block, boring and stroking the beast to get the required cubes. A SCAT crank and rods were used, and it's topped off with a set of aluminum Edelbrock heads and a Dynatek injection system (those IDAs are really throttle bodies). The V-8 mates to a 4L80E transmission with the aid of a Wilcap adaptor and shifts with a Compushift computer-controlled system from Phoenix Transmission in Weatherford, TX.
For a truly inspired method of fuel delivery, the Moores chose a Dynatek classic fuel injection system-eight wonderful stacks feeding four Weber IDA-style throttle bodies. Considering the weight of the car (about 4,800 pounds) the Moores wanted a low-ratio gear out back to work with the 4L80E transmission that was hooked up to the FE with the help of an adaptor from Wilcap. The 482 produced 642 hp on the dyno before being installed.
The car's body was rust-free for the most part, but Calvin wanted new smooth floorpans so the old ones were replaced and, in addition, custom inner fenderwells were designed and fabricated to help conceal some of the car's wiring. (The custom fuel tank is also concealed along with its wiring and lines.)
Not wanting to cut corners anywhere on the car, Calvin had the body chemically stripped, the original joints releaded, then the body electro-plated before Dan Stacey and Brian Hatton completed the bodywork. Once done, Hatton sprayed the car using DuPont paint.
Inside the car the master power brake cylinder and booster were hidden under the dash in order to clean up the clutter. And though power brakes were in 98 percent of the Mark IIs built in 1956, they didn't have what was added here: a power-activated emergency brake. A custom-built metal console (to accommodate the floor shift) and custom dash update the interior without making it look too "new."
Bucket seats from a Mark VIII Continental were covered in red leather by Sandra Gregory and Chuck Bennett and the same material was used on the dash, headliner, and custom rear buckets. Controls for the Hot Rod Air system are in the console just below the Kenwood head unit, and Classic Instrument gauges fit neatly in front of a Billet Specialties steering wheel attached to an ididit column. American Autowire supplied the wiring kit to get the hardtop's basic electrics up and running.
Since there are two of them, the brothers decided Leon should have this particular Mark II, but another '56 Continental (a little more radical) is being built for Calvin. It's a chopped roof version, with a lot more custom features done to the exterior, and with polished 18- and 20-inch Salt Flat wheels and an SOHC 427 under the hood.
It may be hard to compete with or argue the elegance of Leon's Continental. With the stock bumpers tucked in a little and the original grille left alone, this two-door hardtop Lincoln makes the same impact with onlookers as it must have back in Paris in 1955: tres magnifique!
Dan Stacey and Brian Hatton...
Dan Stacey and Brian Hatton did most of the sheetmetal work on the car before rolling it into the paint booth where Hatton sprayed the inky black DuPont paint. Wanting to keep a near-factory appearance, 52-spoke, 17-inch wire wheels from Tru-Spoke were used on each corner. Chrome work was capably handled by S&H Chrome in Madison, TN.
It's just as nice under the...
It's just as nice under the car as it is on the upside. A Kugel Komponents independent rear was used out back while the front is a custom unit designed and built with custom stainless steel A-arms.