The Art of Saying Goodbye

Some words are harder to say than others.

It’s been emotional. (c) Ford Motor Company

So long, farewell, adieu: This week has seen a lot of fervid happenings in the land of the free / home of the brave, but one which perhaps got lost amid the signal and noise of that election was the official cessation of Lincoln Continental production – which has either already ceased or is scheduled to do so later this month – depending on where one obtains one’s news.

The current model ended up as something of a damp squib, victim it seems of the US customer’s disillusionment with the sedan format. Debate continues around the validity of that latter statement. Some suggest the customer migration to trucks and SUVs was an inevitability, while others believe it was consequence of the deliberate action of the carmakers themselves. But in this, as with so much else nowadays, a range of (strongly held and often heated) opinions are available.

What’s perhaps easier to coalesce around is the assertion that Ford and its rival US carmakers have for too long built saloons which failed to enthuse the customer over the past number of decades – some of whom happened to be graced with the Continental nameplate. So when Dearborn elected to resurrect the model line in 2016 (after a lengthy hiatus), not only had that particular quadruped already bolted, but in order to make the attempt stick in the first place, a more convincing proposition really ought to have been proffered.

Instead, the 2016 ‘Conti not only bore a mildly embarrassing resemblance to a number of other imported luxury saloons, (although it’s unclear as to whether this helped or hindered) it also failed to adequately mask its Fusion/ Mondeo genes. And while a sizeable number of previous Continental incumbents were also derived from lowlier model architectures from within the blue oval firmament, such a half-hearted attempt was asking for trouble when sales of saloons were already dropping like mayflies.

It’s something of a catch-22 really. Ford couldn’t justify the expense of developing a credible stand-alone Continental-branded offering, (2019’s somewhat pointless anniversary Coach Door LWB edition notwithstanding), but its failure to do so, along with the eventual car’s perception of not being  worth the outlay, leads us somewhat inevitably to this regrettable state of affairs. Sorry, what business case?

But this is hardly a problem facing Ford alone; the entire concept of an aspirational vehicle, which at one time doffed its proverbial hat to European and in particular French nostrums of perceived class and sophistication has long been upended in favour of, on the one hand, something more homegrown; more blue collar in spirit, more perhaps authentically American, while on the other, something more technology-laden and almost austere in its hyperfuturist sheen.

A lot has happened since the American sedan (itself something of an old world term) represented the ACME, and one gets a pungent sense that the traditional US automakers (and the blue oval in particular) remain at something of a loss to understand, not just this reversal, but their own broader loss of relevance* amid a changed and constantly shifting landscape.

One they made earlier. Image: carstyling

The Continental nameplate has rested upon a number of quite disparate offerings over the course of its 80-odd year lifespan, and since FoMoCo seems increasingly reluctant to place the corporate badge upon its US offerings, perhaps we won’t have to wait all that long to witness its return. However, should this come to pass, it seems likely to grace the most profound change in architecture, format and (most likely) mode of propulsion in the nameplate’s long history.

A fully electric Lincoln-branded crossover remains a distinct likelihood we are told, so it isn’t beyond the bounds of possibility that the Continental might yet stage yet another return. But…

It’s worth reminding ourselves that there can be dignity in defeat. The art is knowing when to depart the stage. Now is good. Close the door on your way out.

*Not entirely a matter exclusive to US automakers, I hasten to add.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

20 thoughts on “The Art of Saying Goodbye”

  1. It’s sad that Ford couldn’t make a success of the reinvented Lincoln Continental. In its 1960’s heyday, the Continental espoused the perfect blend of elegance, restraint and quiet dignity:

    If only another shortly departing the US stage could demonstrate those qualities.

    1. I have to say Daniel – that is some truly lovely bodywork on the convertible. Those flanks are just flawless – the way the waistline catches the light, the integration of the bumpers into the front and rear side panels, those clean shut-lines, and all helped by a lustrous shade of green metallic.

    2. Hi Martin, yes the fourth generation Continental really was a classic, and unusually long-lived for a 1960’s American car. The basic shape continued for eight years from 1961 to 1969, with two significant updates to the front and rear ends. The second update introduced a superfluous crease along the flanks below the waistline but wasn’t too disfiguring. The DLO side glasses were changed from curved to flat and back to curved again. The wheelbase was even extended by three inches to increase rear legroom, but the basic design remained intact.

      Here’s another photo of an early example:

    3. Yep, great shots of an elegant car Daniel. Can’t get Oddjob out of my mind though…..

  2. I received this Matchbox version for my sixth birthday which meant this model car lead a pampered life…but I wondered why I never saw one on the roads around me. Even at that age the car made me feel revered as every Ford around was usually, old, battered, rusty but most of all much smaller than this.
    I certainly see your point though, Eoin. Bowing out with dignity appears almost impossible to achieve. Au revoir Continental


    Sorry, I’ve been watching too much TV.

    A very thought-provoking article – as you imply, saloon sales aren’t dead, but require a new USP, as with the Model 3 and it’s that ‘sense of mission’ which has been lacking among traditional automakers.

    On a related note, I read that Bentley is going all-electric by 2030. I wonder how that will work out.

    1. Probably quite well. Bentleys have prodigious thirst and torque with their V8s and in a way an electric motor is much the same. Bentley owners won´t have any worse range anxiety than they do now.
      At some point I calculated a Bentley Continental circa 2002 would only go about 100 miles on a tank at top speed (roughly – it was a long time ago) making the top speed of 200+ mph somewhat theoretical.

    1. Well that all depends, Laurent. It’s capitalised in the Loony Tunes’ Road Runner cartoons, which quite naturally was my reference point. In fact all my articles contain coded references to the work of Chuck Jones…

  4. To my younger self, the word ‘Continental’ sounded as quintessentially American as ‘Schadenfreude’ defines German to some Anglo-Saxons. There was not just the line of Lincoln vehicles most famous for having provided JFK with his last means of transportation (and Alain Charnier with sufficient space to smuggle a substantial quantity of cocaine), but also Continental Airlines and the Intercontinental chain of hotels. For years, I therefore believed the word was pronounced ‘cawn-nen’l’.

    1. ‘Continental’ has an aura of exotic glamour for those who live on islands off the edge of a land mass, but what does it mean for those at the heat of a continent?

      I’m put in mind of this:

      The poster was habitually defaced with “Frinton for the Incontinent”, referring to a genteel nearby coastal town favoured by affluent retirees.

    2. My standard association with ‚Lincoln‘ is ‘stretch limo’.
      I remember looking out of my hotel room’s window in Oakland, CA, one evening when a veteran convention held there. The parking area was full of white stretch limos of all kinds but the king of the evening was one of those:

      I always thought that ‘Town Car’ was a sick joke, at least for Continental Euraopean ears and eyes.

  5. The Continental in its last incarnation followed the footsteps of the Peugeot 604, Opel Senator “A” and Citroen C6 – being a supposedly top-drawer car based on a smaller, lesser one. At least the 604 set benchmarks in steering, ride and alround comfiness; the C6 hid its roots well and the Senator “A” had handling that challenged BMW. The Continental´s immediate flaw law in it awful proportions.

    1. I had no idea that the Continental had been made available with a coach-door option. I’ve now added it to my list of cars that I want to buy.

  6. Mondeo platform
    4WD (disappointingly only optional)
    Transverse V6-only engine line-up

    It’s the X-Type de nos jours!

    The argument rather falls apart with the Continental’s enormously long wheelbase, as the X400 Halewood Cortina Mark.X had the first generation Mondeo’s shorter than ideal wheelbase.

    I’m shocked to find that that the current Mondeo / Fusion / Mark Zee have a 112″ wheelbase, the standard for full-size Australian sedans in the early ’70s.

  7. I’m weirdly saddened by this article. Perhaps precisely because I have relatively little interest in or knowledge about American cars, the death of an iconic name that I do recognise seems a shame, however inevitable it might be.

  8. About the ‘town car’ name, once I read an explanation of it’s use as an ‘upmarket’ meaning adjective:
    In the early 20th century USA, cars developed faster than roads, I mean, most properly paved roads where inside cities.
    The inter-cities mean of transport was the train.
    So, a ‘town car’ would be the choice of the rich to travel in properly paved, clean streets inside their cities. They where equiped with powerful engines to accelerate fast from standstill and to climb confortably higher gradient streets.
    You travel fast from the upper east side to brooklyn and back, for example – stopping on crossings and accelerating between them.
    Your car would never put a wheel on a dusty road, and when in need to travel abroad you would pick up the train in Grand Central Station or the Titanic in pier 17 (ok, that was just to waken you up).
    On the opposite side of the social spectrum, you wold have, say, the model T: It was conceived and built to go anywhere, inside or outside cities, in rural unpaved areas all over america. Or off road, as FoMoCo comercials illustrated.
    Hence their higher ground clearence – they where in a sense the first off-roaders. Beaten, abbused, go-everywhere vehicles.
    Town cars were like pampered pets: never getting dirty, well fed and assisted all allways sleeping dry under the roof.

    1. Hi Gustavo. I believe your explanation of the ‘Town Car’ name is correct, the corollary bring the ‘Shooting Brake’ for hunting, shooting and fishing on the country estate!

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