When the Lincoln division of the Ford Motor Company introduced the Lincoln Zephyr Continental in October of 1939, the luxury car became an immediate design icon.
The newly released Continental model line followed the construction of Edsel Ford’s personal coach-built convertible designed as a vacation vehicle and marketed to potential Lincoln buyers. The model line’s name derived from exterior European “continental” styling elements, including a rear-mounted spare tire.
The Lincoln was so revered, in 1947, the full-sized car was displayed at the Museum of Modern Art and chosen as one of eight vehicles exemplifying automotive design excellence.
The Lincoln Continental has a long and successful history, but perhaps the car is best known as the limousine and official vehicle of choice for several U.S. presidents.
Both Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman used a 1942 Lincoln Custom. Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy also drove in a 1950 Lincoln Cosmopolitan. In 1954 a “bubbletop” canopy was added to the vehicle, and it remained in service until 1967. The car is currently on display at the Henry Ford Museum.
Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon used 1960s Lincoln Continentals, and a 1972 Lincoln Continental was employed by Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan. George H.W. Bush rode in 1989 Lincoln Town Car, the replacement model for the Continental.
Today the Lincoln Continental is offered in three trim levels: Standard, Reserve, and Black Label. Here is a detailed look at the Lincoln Black Label Continental.
The Lincoln Continental Has A Storied History
The Lincoln Continental introduced in 1939 featured a long, elegant hood covering a powerful but quiet V12, a short trunk, and the spare tire mounted on the back, typical of European designs. Frank Lloyd Wright bought two 1940 models, calling it “the most beautiful car ever designed.”
Ten generations of the Continental have been produced over a span of 55 years, covering nine decades.
Lincoln sold the Continental as its exclusive line from 1961 to 1976, and the model has contributed to several roles ranging from its base-trim sedan to its top-of-the-line flagship offering.
During its long history, the Continental disappeared from the Lincoln lineup on three different occasions and even retired from 1949 to 1955. The model came out of retirement as the Continental Mark II model in 1956, equipped with a 368 cubic-inch Y-block V8 producing 285 horsepower mated to a 3-speed Turbo-Drive automatic transmission.
While the first-generation Continental was the precursor of a new automotive segment (the personal luxury car), the model evolved after World War II. The line was composed of coupes and convertibles larger than most grand touring cars and sports cars. The Continental featured contemporary styling, performance, handling, and comfort.
The 1956 second-generation luxurious Continental Mark II boasted a new grille, a magnificent hood that still covered the V12, and a $10,000 price tag, becoming one of the world’s most expensive cars.
Celebrities loved the car. Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra drove one, and Warner Bros. Studio gave Elizabeth Taylor a Mark II in a custom color that matched her eyes after the production of the movie Giant. In the same year, the 1946 Continental was selected as the Indy 500 pace car.
In 1961, Lincoln introduced the all-new Continental with a revolutionary design. Critics claimed the “luxury compact” was the greatest looking model of the decade. Lincoln sent a fleet of cars, named Presidential Lincolns, to the White House for President John F. Kennedy.
When he was assassinated in 1963, Kennedy was riding in a custom 1961 Lincoln Continental (code-named “X-100”) with rear-opening “suicide doors.” The vehicle was equipped with a rear seat that could be raised 10 inches and a telephone (rare for the 1960s). Surprisingly, the car was not armored. The infamous model remained in Presidential service until 1977.
In the 1980s, the Continental evolved into a more run-of-the-mill vehicle, smaller and less angular. By 1992 its rounded design no longer distinguished it from other luxury sedans, including the Lincoln Town Car. In 2002, the Continental was discontinued.
In 2015, Lincoln attempted to bring back some of the original glamour to the Continental design unveiling a concept car in New York. Remarkably similar to the Bentley, the British manufacturer accused Ford of copying its design. Bentley’s chief designer Luc Donckerwolke stated, “I would have called it Flying Spur concept.” Ford’s styling chief, David Woodhouse, responded: “I like our car better.”
In 2017, the tenth-generation Continental replaced the MKS, and in 2020 Lincoln restored the model to its rightful place among luxury cars with the introduction of the “Black Label” trim.
2020 Lincoln Continental Standard, Reserve, And Black Label
All three 2020 Lincoln Continental trims offer luxury in a car at a reasonable price. According to The Car Connection, “The 2020 Lincoln Continental offers timeless style and plenty of value.”
Front-wheel drive is standard; however, many buyers opt for the all-wheel-drive option.
Three V6 engines are offered from the base 300 horsepower version to the top-end 400 horsepower mill, each matched to a 6-speed automatic transmission.
As expected from a luxury vehicle the Continental offers a comfortable and composed ride. The active torque vectoring on the all-wheel-drive model gives the Continental excellent handling on twisty roads.
A host of the new safety equipment and features come standard for 2020, giving the Continental excellent crash test scores. Also, standard are the adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking, while those buyers looking for the ultimate in luxury and service need to purchase the Black Label model.
Black Label Membership Has Its Privileges
Lincoln offers the Black Label as an option on the 2020 Nautilus, 2020 Continental, 2021 Navigator, and the 2021 Aviator. Several themes are available for Lincoln’s luxury models with three for the Continental:
Rhapsody Theme: Based on the world of music and sound, the arrangement features Venetian leather seats, a soothingly smooth Alcantara® cloth-wrapped interior, and aluminized silver mesh accents.
Chalet Theme: A warm and comforting welcome is offered by Venetian leather seats, star perforation-pattern inserts, Sparkling Silverwood inlays, and Alpine leathers.
Thoroughbred Theme: Inspired by the distinguished lifestyle of elite horse racing, the theme is a contemporary reflection of American history. A Jet-Black interior with rich Chestnut leather and Chilean Maple wood accents, the instrument panel, and center armrest evoke an image of a saddle.
All Black Label vehicles include Lincoln’s Premium Maintenance: 50,000 miles, four years, or four service visits, whichever comes first. The program features complimentary, anytime car washes, and annual detailing.
Scheduling service with a local dealer includes vehicle pickup, a loaner vehicle, and drop off at the owner’s convenience.
Points are earned via the Lincoln Access Rewards program and may be redeemed for additional maintenance, premium services, exclusive offers, and more. The Black Label club provides other perks such as dining at partner restaurants.
The Black Label option was created for the discerning buyer, and it does not come cheap. While the standard 2020 Lincoln Continental starts at an MSRP of $46,305 (one of the lowest base prices in the large luxury car market), the midrange Reserve starts at $59,870, but the top-of-the-line Black Label retails for $70,205.
Sources: caranddriver.com, cars.usnews.com, lincoln.com, thecarconnection.com
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