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A Lincoln for Johnson, Nixon, Ford & Carter

The new presidential limousine is delivered to the White House and inspected by President Johnson.

Developed jointly by Lincoln, the U.S. secret service, and Lincoln coach-builder Lehmann-Peterson, the vehicle was more than 15 months in the making and cost $500,000 USD – the most expensive car ever made at the time. (Although Lincoln absorbed the costs and leased the vehicle to the government for only $1,000 a year.)

The custom 1968 Lincoln Continental limousine had more advanced security, communications and engineering features than any automobile ever used for official duties at the White House. That included more than two tons of armor, a transparent canopy and windows thicker than the glass used in U.S. Air Force fighter planes, and tires with rubber-rimmed steel disks inside that allowed the vehicle to travel with flat tires at top speeds for up to 50 miles.

In addition to other amenities and features, the Continental was equipped with a state-of-the-art communications center and a PA system that allowed the President to communicate with crowds from inside with all the windows up.

Its first use actually wasn't by LBJ, but by President-elect Richard Nixon, who used the vehicle throughout his presidency, as did Presidents Ford and Carter, before it was officially retired in April, 1978.

The Genius Behind The Genius.

Legendary Lincoln designer Eugene Turenne "Bob" Gregorie, Jr. is born in New York City.

Few individuals have ever had as singular and lasting an influence on car design as Lincoln’s Bob Gregorie.

“Although I did the design work – taking pencil in hand and sketching cars – Edsel Ford's innate design ability steered me towards those wonderful old Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln designs. We made a good team,” Gregorie once wrote.

He designed the 1936 Lincoln Zephyr, hailed by the Museum of Modern Art as the first successful streamlined car in the U.S. At just 27, he was made Ford and Lincoln’s first design chief. In 1938, Edsel commissioned Gregorie to design a touring sedan with the style and flair of those he saw on “the continent.” Using a crayon on a transparent overlay for a Lincoln Zephyr, in less than an hour Gregorie had sketched out a timeless design: a two-door cabriolet that would become the Continental, recognized by many the most beautiful automobile ever made.

Perfection Doesn’t Come Easily.

The 1956 Lincoln Continental Mark II is introduced to the public at the Paris Auto Show.

Like the original Continental, the Mark II is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful cars ever designed. Famous for its near-perfect proportions, incredibly high standards of quality and meticulous craftsmanship, the Continental Mark II sold for around $10,000 USD (an astronomical asking price in its day, about the same cost as a 1956 Rolls Royce).

The Continental Mark II was unmistakably the successor to the original – even the camouflaged prototypes stripped of all emblems couldn’t hide its Lincoln Continental DNA – yet at the same time it was a completely new look in car design. Its low, elongated profile bucked the flashy, big-fin conventions of the mid-Fifties and didn’t rely on trends like chrome, two-tone paint, or sharp styling cues to accentuate its beauty.

Essentially a handmade mass-production vehicle, the new Continental had a manufacturing facility specially built, with 14 quality control stations throughout. Inside, each Mark II was built with a compulsive attention to detail and uncompromising tolerances.

Every body was first preassembled to ensure an ideal fit. It was then disassembled, painted three times, double lacquered, hand-sanded, polished and buffed before the final assembly. In fact, the 60 hours devoted to metal finishing and painting alone was more than the time spent on the entire assembly of other "typical" luxury cars. Scotland’s Bridge of Weir leather was chosen for the interior because the ranch doesn’t use barbed-wire enclosures, ensuring hides free of scars and scratches. Even the cross-head screws securing the Mark II windshields were individually hand-tightened to line up vertically and horizontally.

All this perfectionism was done to create the most luxurious, carefully crafted production car possible. It’s a goal we still aspire to today here in China, not just in our cars, but in every store, and every moment you experience with Lincoln.

A True American Classic

The 1977 Lincoln Continental Mark V is introduced to the public.

In an homage to the first Lincoln Continental being recognized by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) as one of history’s eight automotive “works of art,” the 1977 Lincoln Continental Mark V was unveiled to the world at the illustrious museum itself.

Based on the same chassis of its Mark IV predecessor, the Mark V was the largest member of the Lincoln Mark series ever produced. It retained several of the brand’s key styling cues such as concealed headlights, radiator grille, and oval opera windows, along with a signature design element of the Continental Mark series: the spare tire “hump” of the trunk lid.

The ’77 Mark V also made some changes not just to the Lincoln Mark family, but to the luxury auto industry as well. While physically larger than the Mark IV before it, the Continental Mark V was 180 kilograms lighter. This streamlining marked Lincoln’s leadership in improving the fuel economy of its vehicles – another move from the brand to be replicated by other luxury carmakers that continues today. Probably not coincidentally, the Mark V remains the best-selling version of Lincoln’s entire Mark series.