Tuesday, January 23, 2007

1956 Continental Mark II Convertible

(from owner Barry Wolk) This is the first of two known Ford authorized Mark II convertibles.

The Mark II was originally conceived as a convertible as early as 1953 as drawn by Charley Phaneuf. These drawings would inspire some later artful modifications to my car.

1956 Continental Mark II Convertible1956 Continental Mark II Convertible 21956 Continental Mark II Convertible 31956 Continental Mark II Convertible 41956 Continental Mark II Convertible 5Hess & Eisenhardt, of Kennedy limousine fame, had a long history with Ford Motor Company. The Chicago District of Ford Marketing ordered two prototype convertibles from them in September of 1955. This car was designated as an "Introductory Unit" on its Production Order. It was shipped to a distributor in Chicago where it was supposed to reside in a dealership showroom as a demonstrator, not to be sold until Continental filled the supply pipeline. These were very early production cars and were owned by Ford so that the dealership didn№t have to carry the burden of a $10,000 car they couldn№t sell. The serial number of this car is C5681126 and its Production Order number is 137.

This Mark II convertible was originally built as a dealer demonstrator to show wealthy clients in the Chicago area what a convertible would look and drive like. Ford Marketing in the Chicago District ordered two convertibles. Hess & Eisenhardt took a stock black 1956 Continental Mark II and took the
body off the frame after welding in temporary supports that would compensate for removing the roof. This black car was C5681126.

The frame was flipped over and 1/4" plate steel was artfully cut and stitch-welded to the serpentine "cowbelly" frame. There are tubular cross-braces welded in an "X" to further support the "A" and "B" pillars. The floor pan was neatly hammered to clear the tubular supports below. A substantial sub-structure was built to support the convertible top. This structure is independent of the body, transferring the weight and stress of the convertible top to the frame. The stock Continental іcowbellyІ frame was designed with a convertible body in mind. A third cross-member was removed
for the 1957 frame since plans for a production convertible had been scrapped.

The body was fitted back to the frame and the roof was removed. Hess & Eisenhardt fabricated a power top mechanism that was driven by a power pack in the trunk. The top fittings on my car are period-correct Mercedes bits and pieces commonly used in H & E convertibles. The end product was very similar to the Derham made convertible produced almost a year later for the Texas State Fair in October of 1956. That car was originally white while on the show car circuit. When Ford was finished with that car it came back and was repainted by Ford Styling. It was eventually painted Honolulu Blue, a favorite color of William Clay Ford and was driven by his wife as a daily driver. Paul Wagner, whose job it became to dispose of cars like this, fought for the car with other Ford executives. He kept the car for a few years but eventually sold it to the Goeppinger family of Boone, Iowa.

My car changed hands several times and ended up in the possession of a real estate developer in Georgia. He took pictures of the car with the original H & E top when he got it. He envisioned a sleeker design to the fabric boot that covered the convertible top when stowed. Possibly he was inspired by the Charley Phaneuf drawings. He was inspired by the SL Mercedes of the late 1960s and fashioned a crude mechanism that flipped the new metal boot backward, just like the Mercedes. Through the magic of lead a beautiful finish was put on the exposed surfaces making the finished product a sleek statement of quiet elegance.

The top was extended rearward and a fastening system identical to the period SL was installed. This changed the roofline to closely match that of the original Continental convertible. The finishing touch was added in the restoration that took place in №93. The beautiful fiberglass bow covers replaced the fabric snap on covers installed in Њ69. This Mark II convertible most closely duplicates the original design penned in 1953.

Concours Elegance and other shows:
Centennial Circle representing 1956 at the Ford 100th
"Automotive Design of Exceptional Merit" at Eyes on Design 2003
"Award of Excellence" Cranbrook Concours 2003
"Best of Class" at Willistead 2003
"Roush Choice" The Great Race 2003
"Amelia Award" Amelia Island 2004
"Best of Class" Glenmoor Gathering of Significant Automobiles 2004
"Best of Class" Meadow Brook 2004
"Most Elegant Motorcar" Bay Harbor 2004
"Willard Hess Award for Design Excellence" Ault Park 2004
"Best of Class" Radnor Hunt Concours 2004
"Best of Class" Keels and Wheels Texas Concours 2005
"Award of Excellence" Greenwich Concours 2005
"Best of Class" Hilton Head Concours 2005

© Source: article on seriouswheels.com

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