Lincoln was founded in August 1915 by Henry Leyland, one of the founders of Cadillac (originally the Henry Ford Company). When Henry Ford acquired Lincoln, it quickly became one of America's top selling luxury brands alongside Cadillac, Pierce-Arrow, Marmon, Peerless, Duesenberg and Packard.
The story of the Lincoln Motor Car Company begins with Henry M. Leland, who, with his son, Wilfred, founded the company shortly after World War One. Leland designed a new chassis, highlighted by a new 60 degree V-8 with its characteristic fork and blade connecting rods. The first Lincoln was produced in September 1920, but by late 1921 the company was in financial difficulties.
The company was plagued by three problems: delays getting to the marketplace, legal problems with the U. S. government over alleged war profit taxes and the conservative design of the early Lincoln bodies. Before everything could be resolved, the company found itself in receivership in early 1922 and the company was purchased by Henry Ford for approximately $8 million. Although they hoped to remain with the new company, the Lelands were gone within a few months. Edsel Ford became head of the Lincoln Motor Car Company.
Under Edsel's patronage, the Lincoln motor car became everything the Lelands had hoped for. Beautifully-styled bodies from nearly every American coachbuilder now complemented the magnificently-engineered Lincoln chassis. Sales increased significantly. In 1925, the Gorham-designed greyhound appeared for the first time. The Model L, as it was known, would remain in production for several more years before a major change took place.
In 1931, the venerable Model L gave way to the gracefully-designed Model K, which featured an updated, more powerful version of the Leland-inspired V-8 and--to the great satisfaction of coachbuilders--a longer (145-inch) wheelbase. In truth, the newly-designed chassis, with its numerous new mechanical features, had been engineered for an even more spectacular Lincoln engine.
A year later--1932--the legendary Model KB with its massive V-12 powerplant was introduced. It was arguably the most magnificent of all the classic Lincoln engines. Concurrent with the KB, Lincoln also offered the V-8 engine in a shorter wheelbase chassis, the Model KA. Unfortunately, the KB was introduced just as the Great Depression was unfolding.
The KB and KA models were in production approximately two years before Lincoln moved to a new engine, a smaller, but equally powerful V-12 engine. That engine and chassis, known as the Model K, remained in production with various improvements until the last of the classic Lincolns was built in early 1940.
As the Depression deepened, sales of luxury cars declined. Custom body firms were closing their doors. President Roosevelt used a Lincoln K--the famous "Sunshine Special." Refinements continued, but in 1939-40 only 120 Lincoln K's were produced--and these were spread over 21 different body styles!
The medium-price Lincoln-Zephyr--the first successful aerodynamically-designed car, had been introduced in 1936. The stunning Lincoln Continental followed in 1939. In 1940, the last "big Lincoln" was produced. Times had changed. As Edsel Ford said shortly thereafter, "We didn't stop making luxury cars, people simply stopped buying them." Sadly, Edsel Ford, Lincoln's guiding light, died in 1943 at 49.
For close to a century, the name Lincoln has been synonymous with luxury, comfort and design. Take a walk with Lincoln through its celebrated past, beginning with the inspiration of a name, the introduction of a classic favorite, the war years and on through to the new millennium.
THE ROARING 20s
The 1920s marked the era in which Lincoln would distinguish itself as the premier American luxury automobile. One of the most famous custom-built cars that came out of Edsel Ford's leadership was the 1922 Lincoln Town Car, which was built for Henry Ford himself. Town Car derived its name from its body styling, which featured an open chauffeur's compartment and enclosed passenger compartment. This configuration elevated the vehicle from mere transportation to a bona fide status symbol. In 1924, Lincoln was on its way to becoming the car of choice for the rich and famous, such as Thomas Edison, W.C. Fields and Herbert Hoover.
STREAMLINE SUCCESS - 1930s
By the 1930s, Lincoln had become well known for its luxury and prestige, but it wasn't until the Zephyr came out that Lincoln truly became financially successful. Zephyr followed the "streamlined" look of the day, and was one of the first to consider aerodynamics in design. Around 1938 Edsel Ford decided to bring a new vehicle to market - the Continental. Edsel drove the first prototype himself, and generated a tremendous desire for the vehicle. The Continental created a dynamic new image for Lincoln thanks to its clean flowing lines. Frank Lloyd Wright called the Continental "the most beautiful car ever made."
THE WAR YEARS - 1940s
With the onset of World War II, all Lincoln vehicle production stopped to focus on the war effort. True to its heritage, Lincoln facilities helped Ford in the production of tank engines, bodies for amphibious vehicles and over 140,000 jeep bodies. Like most American cars in the years following the war, vehicle designs were just restyled versions of pre-war cars.
THE FABULOUS 50s
The 1950s brought many dramatic changes to Lincoln. At the time, there were new advancements in all vehicles. Power steering, power brakes, power windows, wraparound windshields, tubeless tires and automatic seats started with the Lincoln Premier. The 1950s also prompted Lincoln's chief stylist to start thinking of ideas for the future. In turn, the Continental received a complete overhaul. The Continental Mark II became the new look of Lincoln and was one of the most beautiful and influential cars of the decade.
TIE-DYE AND LINCOLN'S - 1960s
By 1961 the new Continental would be much more than an "all-new car." In contrast to the garishness of the times, the focus was on simplicity and refinement. In 1961 Continental was available in either a 4-door hardtop or convertible, both with center-opening doors. Just like the original 1939 Continental, this car changed the image of Lincoln overnight. In fact, it was the first automobile to be named Design of the Year by the prestigious Industrial Designers Institute.
THE SWINGING 70s
The 1970s reversed the trend of the 60s and Lincolns once again became larger and plusher. The vehicles established themselves as the ultimate in room and luxury. The sportier Mark IV coupe went after the younger, "new rich" consumers of the early 70s. In 1974 Lincoln introduced the first rear-window defrost system. In addition, Lincolns started a fashion trend. In keeping with the times of over-the-top styles, Lincoln signed on designers like Givenchy, Gucci, Cartier and Bill Blass to put their marks on a Lincoln.
LINCOLN TOPS THE CHARTS - 1980s
The 1980s brought about new landmarks for Lincoln. In 1984 Lincoln achieved supremacy in the personal luxury coupe segment with the Mark VII. In addition, the new Lincoln Continental garnered its own press by being Lincoln's first front-wheel drive car. With the continued success of the Town Car and the rest of the vehicle line, Lincoln rounded out the decade by hitting a record high of 280,659 in total vehicle sales, proving once again that Lincoln was at the top of its game.
TAKING ON THE COMPETITION - 1990s
In the 1990s, Japanese and European brands entered the picture and started competing with the American manufacturers. Again, Lincoln responded with a winner. The 1990 Town Car was named Motor Trend "Car of the Year." Lincoln launched another star performer in 1993 with the Mark VIII, offering a dramatic exterior design coupled with a driver-oriented interior. However, these cars attracted a slightly older clientele, and Lincoln wanted to broaden its appeal. Enter the 1998 Lincoln Navigator, the first true full-sized ultra-luxury SUV. Like the traditional Lincoln, it was big and luxurious. Its first-in-class, "King-of-the-Road" persona attracted a new set of younger buyers.
A TIME OF CHANGE – 2000s
For Lincoln customers, these are exciting times — sophisticated, new vehicles featuring the latest in technology. From hands-free amenities and "Active Comfort" seats that contour to the body to available articulating headlamps that turn with your steering wheel angle and speed, Lincoln is creating a new vision. Leading the way is the striking 2009 Lincoln MKS (coming summer 2008) with the voice-activated SYNC System,* available turn-by-turn voice-activated Navigation System with SIRIUS Travel Link,™† and industry-exclusive invisible next generation exterior keypad. Taking versatility a step higher is the Lincoln MKX crossover, featuring abundant passenger room and configurable cargo space. Lincoln MKZ is creating plenty of buzz with its award-winning performance and accommodating, ultraquiet environment. And the world's first luxury SUV — Navigator — continues to elevate comfort and capability.
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