The Lincoln Motor Company was started by Henry Leland in 1917, and named after his favorite U.S. president. Leland was the same founder of Cadillac . After Leland was removed from Cadillac, he went on to found Lincoln, which quickly became a stiff competitor to Cadillac and Packard , the leading high end automotive brands at that time’. Lincoln targeted the higher end auto market, but quickly ran into financial problems, and was bought by Ford Motor Company in 1922.
Lincoln gave Ford a chance to get involved in the higher end automobile market, an area where they were missing from earlier. Ford was having a huge success with the cheap mass produced Model T’s. GM was having success by having multiple tiered brands from the cheaper models from Chevrolet to Buick , to the high end models of Cadillac. Ford created the brand Mercury in 1939 to have a mid to high level brand, creating a full spectrum of different priced model for every car buyer.
One of Lincoln’s first classics was the Lincoln Zephyr released in 1936. The model was so successful, that Lincoln’s sales increased by 9 that year, and the legendary Lincoln Continental was derived from the Zephyr platform in 1938. By the end of the run for the Continental in 1948, over 5,200 models were built, all nearly hand built. The Continental had a signature tale of having the spare tire on the back side of the car, and many aftermarket kits today for mounting the spare tire on the back side of the car are named “Continental Kits”.
The Continental did continue in 1949, but under a new name, using the Mark series. The Continental Mark I had a drastically high price compared to the previous Continentals, and had a European look and feel to the models. The Mark series would go through 8 generations (I through VIII), but eventually was outdone by the new SUV craze that hit America in the 1990’s. The Continental was Lincoln’s flagship model until the Town Car was released in 1981. Before 1981, the term Town car was the top trim level for a Continental Mark series, but it eventually became it’s own model.
Lincoln has been the main supplier of presidential limousines for the US government. Cadillac supplied the cars for a few years in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and now since 2004. Every other year it has been Lincoln. Franklin Roosevelt had the first presidential car, a V12 convertible known as the Sunshine Special. After Kennedy’s assassination in a Lincoln, the presidential models were reinforced with armor plating.