Continental Mark II—Finish Recreation
By Jim and Cheryl Farrell
Launched in late 1955, the Continental Mark II was one of the vital lovely and stylish vehicles ever constructed. The top for the Mark II got here on the finish of the 1957 mannequin 12 months. It began when Ford Motor Co. determined to transform from a family-owned firm to at least one that was publicly owned. By promoting inventory, Ford, the Ford household and the Ford Basis (which obtained many of the Ford frequent inventory when Henry and Edsel died) would supposedly have additional cash to work with. As a result of Ford administration was reluctant to have a money-loosing division on its very public books, it was determined Continental Division needed to present a revenue although that wasn’t the case when it was first began. The small print of what really occurred and the way Continental Division died have all the time been considerably of a thriller. With the passage of time and the deaths of all of those that have been concerned with the Mark II, extra information are actually obtainable. We’ll most likely by no means know the entire story of the loss of life of Continental Division as a result of not all dealings between events have been written down. However new information launched in April 2022 inform a lot concerning the sequence and the explanations Continental Division was terminated.
The Mark II story obtained its begin in 1951, when Ford govt vice chairman Ernie Breech requested Invoice Ford if he was serious about constructing a successor to his father’s Continental. Breech stated he had been receiving letters from individuals who needed to know when Ford was going to construct one other Continental, and he thought the time was ripe to take action. On the time, Invoice Ford was in his final 12 months of a four-year internship at Ford, and his full-time place on the firm was within the strategy of being decided. For sure, he jumped on the alternative to resurrect his father’s Continental, and by mid-1952, the Mark II challenge was underway.
On June 9, 1952, the Davis Committee really useful that Ford construct a “halo” automobile that will be one of the best automobile cash might fairly purchase. It was to be a continuation of Edsel Ford’s authentic Continental, and it was really useful it promote for $7,500–$8,000. This new “halo” automobile was not anticipated to make a revenue, however quite was to be a loss-leader, a type of commercial for all Ford merchandise, and a automobile that would scale back Cadillac’s present “status place” within the business. The suggestions of the Davis Committee have been rapidly adopted by Ford’s board of administrators, and on July 17, 1952, the brand new Continental challenge obtained underway as Particular Merchandise Operations (later modified to Continental Division).
On the time Ford determined to “go public” in 1956, Henry Ford II and Breech, because the leaders of Ford Motor Co., determined that when Ford did go public, all Ford divisions needed to present a revenue, together with Continental Division. That “excuse” for altering the principles in mid-game has by no means rung fully true. Lincoln, as an example, was by no means worthwhile from no less than 1941 by means of and together with 1960.
Invoice Ford, who died in 2014, lengthy maintained that Ford’s 1956 public inventory providing was the straw that broke the camel’s again, and that if the Mark II had solely been began a number of years earlier it most likely would have survived. He additionally acknowledged that it was most likely a mistake to first construct the Mark II as a two-door as a result of the market had modified for the reason that first Continental to favor four-door vehicles—however he stated he didn’t determine that out till later. These statements are solely a part of the story. What follows is the remainder of the story as we now understand it.
In October 1955, the Mark II was launched first in Paris, France, and some weeks later on the Ford Rotunda in Dearborn, Michigan, and elsewhere. A four-year cycle was initially deliberate for the Mark II earlier than styling modifications have been thought obligatory. A four-door mannequin Mark II was not initially deliberate. But even earlier than its introduction and possibly in early 1955, information present that Continental Division designed a four-door Mark II. By that point, Continental Division had clearly realized the four-door was prone to promote higher than the two-door Mark II—and moreover, Continental Division had not too long ago been advised it now needed to present a revenue.
The four-door Mark II was deliberate with rear-opening (suicide) again doorways that closed on shortened “B” pillars. Wheelbase for the Mark II four-door was elevated by six inches to 132 inches. The rise in weight for the four-door Mark II was 163 lbs., however enhancements already deliberate for the Lincoln engine the Mark II was to make use of in ‘57 have been thought enough to care for any efficiency points. It was deliberate to construct the Mark II four-door through the use of body extenders in the course of the Mark II chassis with minimal new physique elements, all in a plan to make the two- and four-door Mark IIs look as comparable to one another as attainable. Any improve from the preliminary $9,695 listing worth of the Mark II two-door for a four-door Mark II was not disclosed, however the improve most likely would have been in keeping with different Ford merchandise.
The Mark II obtained most of its main mechanical elements (engine, transmission, differential, brakes and suspension.) from the present 12 months Lincoln. When it was determined to construct the ‘58 Lincoln with a unitized physique and the 430 CID engine, the Mark II four-door, which Continental Division deliberate to introduce and promote starting in March 1957, was not viable—nor was a Mark II two-door going to be after the 1957 mannequin 12 months. Thus, by late spring 1955, Continental Division started designing a brand new Mark III four-door (No two-door Mark III was designed).
Two various full-sized clay fashions of the proposed Mark III have been completed, di-noced, and able to be proven to Ford’s Product Planning Committee by June 20, 1955. A brand new merchandizing plan was additionally developed for the aim of accelerating gross sales. Apparently, of the 2 Mark III design proposals, the favored one, in accordance with its designers, was not the one proven to the Product Planning Committee, however by the point the proposed Mark III die mannequin was constructed at Continental Division so tooling may very well be made out of it, it displayed many of the options of the favored automobile. Designers additionally point out they have been advised, when designing the Mark III, that they have been designing a automobile anticipated to promote for about $6,800.
Continental Division’s price range for the fiscal 12 months 1956–7 (July 1-June 30) was due for approval someday in January 1956. In response to Invoice Ford, he knew Continental Division was in monetary jeopardy. What Mark IIs had been bought have been now promoting at discounted costs. The automobile was universally acknowledged as lovely, however it was too costly, and there simply didn’t appear to be a large enough marketplace for a automobile that costly. Invoice Ford determined that if Continental Division was going to die, it wasn’t going to be and not using a combat, so he pushed laborious for Continental Division’s new Mark III.
At Ford there was a multi-step course of every division needed to undergo to achieve approval for manufacturing of a brand new mannequin, and each division’s price range needed to be accepted yearly by Ford’s Government Committee. New mannequin proposals needed to acquire approvals from Ford’s Product Planning and Administrative Committees earlier than going earlier than the Government Committee for approval of a division’s price range. Every committee supposedly had completely different capabilities and their approvals have been made primarily based on differing points. On November 13, 1955, Continental Division made the primary of its displays for its proposed Mark III with its value estimates and its new advertising plan to Ford’s Product Planning Committee. The displays have been comparable for all of the committees and included the next highlights:
• The Mark III would have the identical wheelbase because the ‘58 Lincoln, however could be five-inches shorter in size.
• Profitability was primarily based on Continental Division’s estimate of 4,000 Mark III gross sales per 12 months, with a break even level of three,825 gross sales per 12 months.
• The brand new gross sales program being instituted included supplier reclassification, extra coaching for gross sales folks and higher promoting. Continental Division stated it might take a number of months earlier than it knew if its new gross sales program was profitable.
• Continental Division acknowledged Cadillac deliberate to market a brand new Eldorado Brougham in competitors with the Mark III. Continental Division advised the committees that they had proven pictures of the proposed Mark III and Eldorado Brougham to potential patrons of the Brougham, and most stated they might cancel their Cadillac orders and order a Mark III.
• Within the price range, Continental Division included a $335 per automobile determine for proposed Mark III enhancements earlier than manufacturing if possible, together with a pillarless four-door Mark III with rear hinged rear doorways, gasoline injection (an early proposal was for a supercharger), push-button computerized transmission controls, retracting backlight, and/or temperature management.
• Physique meeting of the Mark III could be at Continental Division, and never by an off premises sub-contractor because it had been with the Mark II.
• The Mark III would use extra interchangeable elements with the ‘58 Lincoln, together with exhaust, most home windows and mechanisms, floorpans, entrance inside fenders and helps, and so forth.
• The deliberate sale worth of the Mark III was estimated to be $9,800.
• A revised two-year cycle for the Mark II and a three-year cycle for the brand new Mark III have been proposed.
The Produce Planning Committee accepted manufacturing of the Mark III, however really useful that Continental Division think about using extra frequent elements with present 12 months Lincolns and by some means cut back the Mark III’s gross sales worth by $2,800. After that, the Administrative Committee additionally accepted manufacturing of the Mark III.
After the Mark III made it by means of Ford’s Product Planning and Administrative Committees, with somewhat luck and elevated gross sales, it seemed like Invoice Ford may simply be capable to save Continental Division. From what had been stated, issues seemed hopeful the proposed Mark III’s price range would additionally sail by means of Ford’s Government Committee, which was made up of most of the identical executives who have been additionally on the opposite two committees. The brand new Mark III was scheduled to start out manufacturing on September 16, 1957. And it was deliberate to have the automobile in supplier showrooms starting November 15, 1957, however there have been no plans to proceed the Mark II after the ‘57 mannequin 12 months.
Then the roof fell in. After postponement of a number of Government Committee conferences, on Might 4, 1956, it lastly met to evaluate Continental Division’s proposed price range. The minutes from that assembly point out that Crusoe, who had not too long ago develop into Ford’s vice chairman accountable for all truck and vehicles, had performed his personal unbiased investigation of Continental Division’s funds. (Crusoe was additionally a member of Ford’s Product Planning and Administrative Committees.)
Earlier than he got here to Ford, Crusoe had retired from GM’s Fisher Physique, the place he had been controller after which treasurer. Throughout his time at Ford, Crusoe had already been accountable for:
• Eradicating Benson Ford as head of Lincoln-Mercury Division
• Splitting L-M into separate divisions
• Putting in his protege, Jack Reith, as the pinnacle of Mercury Division; and the appointment of Ben Mills, (a Whiz Child accountant /statistician who had beforehand been assigned to Continental Division to attempt to squeeze extra out of Continental Division’s greenback) as the pinnacle of Lincoln Division.
• Crusoe was additionally the individual most accountable for pushing by means of the Edsel program he and Reith proposed instead of the Davis Committee suggestions already adopted. The Crusoe-Reith plan included substitution of the Mercury Turnpike Cruiser present automobile as the idea for brand spanking new ‘57 Mercury as an alternative of Benson Ford’s Mercury Monterey (XM-800 Mercury present automobile), which had beforehand been accepted for manufacturing as a brand new mannequin from L-M Division beginning in fall 1956.
Crusoe questioned the effectiveness of Continental Division’s new advertising program. He had decided there was no method Continental Division might promote even 3,825 vehicles (break-even level) per 12 months, and really useful that Continental Division be merged into Lincoln Division. He did say, nonetheless, that in his opinion there was worth in having a Mark III as a status automobile for the corporate, however that Continental Division’s proposed Mark III wouldn’t make a revenue. The top consequence was that on the Might 4, 1956, Government Committee assembly, with Invoice Ford dissenting, the remainder of the members voted to right away cease all work and cash spent on Continental Division’s Mark III. The duty for “organizational relationships and personnel necessities as to Continental Division and Lincoln Division” was assigned to Crusoe. Consequently, the Mark II and its advertising have been transferred by Crusoe to Lincoln Division. (Continental Division itself was shut down on the finish of June 1956, when its fiscal 12 months ended.)
On July 25, 1956, it was determined the brand new 1958 Continental Mark III could be a clone of the ‘58 Lincoln. On September 16, 1956, Ford’s Government Committee additionally determined that Lincoln Division would proceed promoting new ‘57 Mark IIs till they reached a complete manufacturing of three,000 or till June 29, 1957. After that there could be no extra Mark IIs produced.
It wasn’t a contented ending for a fantastic automobile. After the adoption of the Crusoe-Reith plan, there was no room at Ford Motor Co. for each the deliberate E-car (Edsel) and the Continental Mark II or III. By the point the mud settled, Continental Division was shuttered and it was full steam forward with the Edsel. Including insult to harm, after Continental Division vacated its premises, Edsel Division moved in.
Photographs: Ford Design