A longtime admirer of European design, Edsel Ford returned from a trip to Europe in the fall of 1938 with an inspiration. He asked chief designer Eugene T. "Bob" Gregorie to come up with a Lincoln that was "strictly continental." (In that day, "continental" was a common reference to the continent of Europe.)
Gregorie roughly sketched the initial design on a transparent overlay of a Lincoln Zephyr, and Edsel gave him the go-ahead. Though the request was ostensibly for a one-off design for Edsel’s personal use during his winter holidays in Florida, many suspect he saw the market potential for this extraordinary design early on.
In March of 1939, the custom prototype was shipped to Edsel at his Florida vacation home. As the story goes, after being spotted around town driving this beautiful, unique automobile, Edsel received some 200 blank checks from friends and well-to-do associates, requesting one for themselves.
Later that year, production began on the officially named "Lincoln-Zephyr Continental Cabriolet". It would soon become known simply as the Lincoln Continental, and as one of the most enduring designs of the American auto industry.