Inside Story of the Lincoln Continental
“Father made the most popular car in the world. I want to make the best car in the world.” With those words, Edsel Ford, President of the Lincoln Motor Company, stated its operating mission. In October of 1939, the Lincoln Zephyr Continental was introduced and in many ways fulfilled Edsel’s statement. The Continental was an immediate design icon and was even selected and displayed by the Museum of Modern Art in 1946 as one of the eight cars epitomizing design excellence. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright considered it “the most beautiful car in the world” and bought two. So what were the origins of the vehicle?
While the Ford Motor Company was known more for dependable transportation and the power of the V-8 engine than stylistic automobile design, Edsel wanted Lincoln to be different. In 1932, Edsel met Bob Gregorie, whose background had actually been designing yachts until the depression drove him to find work in the Detroit auto industry. Edsel, Gregorie and John Crawford, Edsel’s executive assistant and shopmaster formed a three-person design team for the Ford Motor Company and Lincoln. The inspiration of the Continental began with a trip by Edsel and Eleanor Ford to Europe in 1938. Edsel was impressed by the design and elegance of the European automobiles he saw. When he returned from the trip, he challenged Gregorie to work with him to create a new and stylish Lincoln.