1948 Lincoln Continental V12


1948 V12 Lincoln Continental one of a very few in Australia beautifully restored. The last American car to have a V12. There aren’t many cars that can claim the influence on the industry like the Lincoln Continental. Penned by Bob Gregorie after Edsel Ford returned from Europe and wanted a “continental” looking car, it became a cultural phenomenon. First-generation Continentals were Lincoln’s top-of-the-line, offering high style and luxury in an era when such things were quickly vanishing from the market. Following the war, the Continental was the only 12-cylinder American luxury car and became an icon for its dramatic styling and superlative road manners. In the years that would follow, the ubiquitous “continental kit” would appear on everything from Chevys to Cadillacs, and it was a styling trademark for every Continental that would follow, right into the 21st century.

The post-war Continentals were not much changed from the 1942 model, which was an all-new design introduced just a few months before America joined the war effort. Nevertheless, the post-war cars received a revised grille with integrated fog lamps that many believe was an improvement over the 1942 design. The rest remained very much the same, including the fender skirts and, of course, the continental kit spare tire mounted out back, creating one of the most handsome cars of the period. And despite its tidy proportions, the Continental remains a VERY big car, although it’s cleverly masked from every angle (even from behind the wheel) by clever design and engineering. The 292 cubic inch V12 engine was the only powerplant Lincoln built following the war, but it was a good one. The stories you’ve heard about them being prone to overheating and other maladies are due to neglected and poorly maintained examples being the rule rather than the exception, but when done right, it’s a wonderful machine. Thanks to a comprehensive rebuild when the car was restored and 10 years of light driving and careful sorting, this one runs superbly.

It starts easily with just a bit of choke and idles with a smooth V12 burble that’s difficult to quantify but immensely appealing. You should take heart in the fact that it was patterned aver the venerable Ford flathead V8, which means it’s durable, easy to service, and extremely smooth. There’s torque available all over the map, which makes the big Continental feel light on its feet, and it’s genuinely lovely to look at under the long, pointed hood. Ford Green engine enamel looks right on the block and heads, which flank an aluminium intake manifold with the generator on top, much like the V8 Fords. A large air cleaner helps make the Lincoln feel suitably silent and luxurious, and all the ancillary systems work properly—the generator generates, the cooling system doesn’t get flustered, even in traffic, and there’s an Optima battery that cranks it over with genuine vigour. The only transmission available was a 3-speed manual with synchromesh and a column-mounted shifter, and it makes the Continental easy to manage. In 1947, the options list included a Borg-Warner overdrive unit, such as the one found on this car, as well as a Columbia 2-speed rear end. You could order either or even both, although both might be considered overkill for the small-displacement V12. The overdrive combines with 4.44 gears in the rear end to make the Continental feel lively on city streets and confident on the highway. We’ve found that 2nd gear with overdrive is just about ideal for regular driving around town, minimizing shifting and letting the hardware do the work as intended.

The suspension and the long wheelbase absorb bumps with ease although Ford continued to insist on a solid front axle with a transverse leaf spring—they made it work quite well. Brakes are confident and it rolls on 7.00-15 wide whitewall tires that make it look extremely impressive. This car includes a full album of the restoration, some receipts. Ever since this car arrived, visitors have stopped to admire the big, red coupe more than almost any other car I have. That speaks to the Continental’s beautiful shape as well as the gorgeous colour that everyone seems to love. Add the spectacular interior and well-sorted driveline, and you have a car that’s ready for touring. First class elegance at a coach price, this Continental represents a lot of car for the money. And very rare in Australia.