The 1961 Lincoln Continental Convertible holds a prestigious place in automotive history. Born out of a custom design by Eugene Gregorieto for Edsel Ford’s Florida vacation, this luxury car captivated the hearts of the affluent and sparked the birth of the iconic Continental brand. With its sleek design, powerful engine, and opulent features, the 1961 Continental Convertible became an instant classic, winning the admiration of car enthusiasts around the world.

The Birth of the Continental

The lineage of the Lincoln Continental can be traced back to 1939 when Edsel Ford commissioned Eugene Gregorieto to create a unique automobile for his Florida vacations. Gregorieto’s design, based on the Lincoln Zephyr, featured distinctive elements like a swept-back grille, a long hood, a short trunk, a covered rear-mounted spare tire, a folding full cabriolet top, and a powerful V12 engine. Impressed by the one-off custom car, Edsel ordered 1,000 examples to be built, giving birth to the Continental brand. From 1939 to 1948, the Continental remained a part of the Lincoln lineup until it re-emerged in 1958 as a standalone brand. However, the experiment with the Continental brand came to an end after two years due to sluggish sales.

The Return of the Continental

In 1958, the Continental name made its comeback as the Mark III, now integrated into the Lincoln marque. These new Continental models were built on the regular Lincoln line, allowing for cost reduction. They were available as large, four-door luxury sedans or two-door convertibles. Notably, these models featured unibody construction, making them the largest unibody cars ever produced at the time. The design showcased modern aesthetics with perpendicular sculpting. However, by 1960, the design started to feel outdated.

The Redesigned 1961 Lincoln Continental

The 1961 Continental marked a significant departure from the previous Mark III series. Renowned stylist Elwood Engel, along with a team of talented designers, developed a more conservative yet elegant design for the car. Originally intended for the Thunderbird, this new design was chosen by Robert McNamara, Ford’s general manager, for the Lincoln Continental instead. The sleek and low slab-sided sedan or four-door convertible body styles featured rear suicide-hinged doors, capturing attention with their timeless appeal.

Despite being smaller than its predecessor, the 1961 Continental retained its spaciousness and grandeur. The design alterations removed over 14 inches from the previous model, including 8 inches from the wheelbase. The car’s proportions and overall aesthetic were well-received by buyers, leading to the sale of over 360,000 examples between 1961 and 1969. The 1961 Continental boasted impressive sales figures, including 2,857 Continental convertibles and 22,303 four-door sedans in its debut year.

Powerful Performance and Luxurious Features

Under the hood, the 1961 Continental Convertible was equipped with a formidable 430 cubic-inch MEL overhead valve V8 engine. Powering the car was a Carter two-barrel carburetor, delivering 300 horsepower at 4,100 RPM. Although this represented a slight decrease in power compared to the previous year’s model, the Continental still offered exhilarating performance on the road.

The 1961 Continental Convertible came with an array of luxurious features as standard. It included an automatic transmission, heater, power steering, power brakes, power windows, power door locks, carpeting, and a radio with a rear speaker. The interior boasted elegant details like walnut applique or a padded instrument panel, adding a touch of refinement to the driving experience. Additionally, over seventy percent of the 1961 Continentals were equipped with air conditioning, available as a $504 option. Optional equipment further enhanced the car’s appeal, with features like tinted glass, a directed power differential, a six-way power seat, and speed control.


The 1961 Lincoln Continental Convertible remains a symbol of timeless elegance and luxury. From its humble beginnings as a custom car for Edsel Ford’s vacations to its remarkable sales success, this classic automobile holds a special place in automotive history. The sleek design, powerful engine, and opulent features continue to captivate enthusiasts, ensuring the 1961 Continental Convertible’s enduring legacy. Whether cruising along scenic roads or turning heads at car shows, this iconic luxury car exemplifies the pinnacle of automotive craftsmanship and style.