1976 Lincoln Continental Mark IV; courtesy MyCarBlog.org
1976 Lincoln Continental Mark IV; courtesy MyCarBlog.org. Click image to enlarge

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By Bill Vance

The 1972 to 1976 Lincoln Continental Mark IV had an impressive pedigree. It was descended from the original Lincoln Continental V12 that had been inspired by Ford Motor Co.’s president Edsel Ford’s custom-built personal car in 1939. This one-off special was based on the Lincoln Zephyr and proved so popular the Ford Motor Co. put it into production as the 1940 Lincoln Continental.

In 1941, Ford named it just the Continental to move it into a special niche apart from regular Lincolns. The Continental, later referred to as the Mark I, continued until 1948. Its purity of line, especially the early models, made it a styling benchmark.

Following the Second World War, after Ford had produced all-new Ford-Meteor and Mercury-Monarch car lines and created the F-series pickup, it revived the Continental with the ultra-luxurious, hand crafted 1956 Mark II. This grand return of a revered marquee looked classically clean beside regular Lincolns. But when a $10,000 price in a softening luxury car market prevented it from meeting sales expectations, it was discontinued in 1957.

In 1958, the Ford Motor Company began to confuse Lincoln nomenclature and trade on the Continental’s cachet. The 1958 Continental Mark III, 1959 Mark IV and 1960 Mark V were just top-of-the-line regular Lincolns, and were huge and somewhat ugly to boot.

Beginning in 1961, Lincoln called all its models Continentals, but without the “Mark” designation. When the Mark returned in 1969 it came with a twist; it was the Continental Mark III, a repeat of the 1958 Mark III’s label. It seemed the Ford Motor Company just wanted to forget those 1958, ’59 and ’60 Mark IIIs, IVs and Vs, and hoped everyone else would too.

The revived 1969 Continental (not Lincoln) Mark III’s long hood, short deck, two-door configuration recalled the style of the 1956-57 Continental Mark II. Rather than create another expensive hand-crafted new car like the Mark II, engineers used many Ford Thunderbird underbody parts in the Mark III. It was built until 1971, then replaced by our subject, the 1972 Mark IV.

The Mark IV was totally restyled, but with a subtlety that ensured a smooth transition from the Mark III. Again drawing heavily on Thunderbird innards, it carried over the long hood, short deck motif of the 1969-71 Mark III, with an even longer hood and deck. The exposed “Continental” spare tire, a trademark of the original Continental, was present in pseudo form as a tire-shaped bulge stamped into the trunk lid, as it had been in the new Mark III.

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