This Continental cruiser was Auburn’s best bargain

1956 Continental Mark II

When the final hammer fell on this 1956 Continental Mark II at RM’s 2019 Auburn Fall auction, the lucky new owner coughed up just $10,500. That price could make this Continental one of the best buys at the entire auction, as the current #4 (Fair) value for a 1956 Continental Mark II is $28,600; this example even appears to have its original interior and perhaps its original paint.

Hagerty valuation data analyst John Wiley noted that the #3-condition (Good) value for Mark IIs has increased 29.7 percent over the past five years—from $39,700 to $51,500. He also pointed out that this car has registration records from 21 and 23 years ago that seem to coincide with the photos presented, hinting at long-term ownership.

What makes a Continental Mark II so special? The almost-5000-pound coupes were the pinnacle of mid-’50s Ford engineering and coachbuilding and took twice as many man-hours to build as contemporary Lincolns did. But this wasn’t a Lincoln, mind you, unlike the original Continental based on the Zephyr; this time, Continental was its own brand, and the Mark II was its only product. Just 2250 were built in 1956 and each one could be custom-tailored to its buyer with more than a dozen exterior colors and nearly 50 upholstery options. The Continental was Ford Motor Company’s halo—volume was never the plan. Its price was nearly $10,000 at a time when a Corvette stickered for $2800.

1956 Continental Mark II
1956 Continental Mark II
1956 Continental Mark II
RM Sotheby's
1956 Continental Mark II

Unlike a run-of-the-mill Ford, the Continental Mark II used a perimeter frame to keep the roofline low, helping its proportions seem more like a sleek coachbuilt custom. In an era in which chrome and fins were slathered on proudly, the Mark II’s elegant flanks are left unadorned, with no unnecessary chrome gewgaws or greebles, though the body does use brightwork on the bumpers and grille. Even the Continental’s signature hood ornament is simple—a crosshair partially encased in a tall octagon, clean-cut and industrial, and the perfect reticle for sighting down the open road.

Powering the Mark II is the largest of Lincoln’s Y-block V-8s. The Lincoln version of the Y-block was Ford’s first overhead-valve V-8 when it debuted in 1952 and is the big-block brother to Ford’s Y-block introduced in 1954. At 368 cubic-inches and 285 horsepower it’s no hot rod, especially when hauling 18 feet of American iron, but as Elmore Leonard’s Chili Palmer once said, “If you’re important, people will wait.”

Few contemporary American cars have aged as well, and the lasting style of the tasteful lines paired with the exclusivity of the low production numbers (especially coming from a huge company such as Ford), makes the Mark II unique. A price barely above four figures on such a complete and seemingly original car has got to make this Continental the best buy at 2019’s Auburn fall sale, even if the Continental Mark II weren’t a sure way to score the spotlight at any show.