1939 Lincoln Continental Prototype

Liberty airplane engines were the goal when Henry and Wilford LeLand founded the Lincoln Motor Company in 1917. But within a few short years luxury automobiles began rolling off their assembly line. Unfortunately, the company faced insurmountable financial difficulties and Lincoln was acquired by Ford Motor Company in 1922. Edsel Ford was tapped to lead Lincoln and he brought Lincoln out of its doldrums and into the future with his vision and design sense. Under Edsel’s direction, Lincoln became one of America’s premier luxury car companies.

In November 1938 Edsel Ford asked designer Eugene T ‘Bob’ Gregorie to deliver the first Lincoln Continental prototype to his winter vacation home in Florida. Edsel knew he had something special on his hands as soon he started driving the prototype around and eyewitnesses asked how soon they could drive one of their own. He phoned Gregorie and told him to start work on the second prototype immediately.

From a production standpoint, Gregorie’s stroke of genius was to start with the 1936 Lincoln-Zephyr chassis; minimal new engineering or retooling would be required. From a design standpoint, Edsel and Gregorie shared a clear vision: a “long, low and rakish” car that would hold its own next to the “continental-type” cars they both admired on their trips to Europe.

Renowned architect, Frank Lloyd Wright considered Gregorie’s Continental ‘the most beautiful car in the world.’ Initially one car was built for Edsel along with another with another engineering prototype. Although Edsel Ford’s personal Continental was later disassembled by Lincoln, the second prototype still exists today.

This car was given to Bob Gregorie by Edsel Ford in the fall of 1939. Mr. Gregorie updated the car with modifications. Somehow, the car ended up in Beverly Hills, California providing transportation to clients of an aircraft company. The next owner used it to haul construction materials for a house he was building. While under the stewardship of still another owner, the car was badly hit on its left side rendering the car a total loss.

After a series of several owners who intended to restore the car, it was purchased by Mr. Anderson in 1977, but he did not begin its restoration for another 20 years. The restoration of this remarkable car was completed in 2002. The current owners immediately took the car to show the then 94-year-old Bob Gregorie, who was thrilled to have a ride in it once again.

We think this car is absolutely stunning, from the minimalist lines to the shiny surfaces of 1930s modern art. Within a year, the dream car set a benchmark in American automotive design for decades to come.

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