Edsel Ford's "Continental"

"Continental" was the name Edsel Ford gave to Lincoln's luxurious, custom-made coupes and cabriolets of the 1940s. In 1939, when the first prototype was built, Edsel felt the name "Continental" emphasized the sporty, European-inspired design of the Lincoln. The cars were an immediate success and, being hand built, they were a costly and exclusive model for Ford’s luxury car division.

In the post World War II era the "Lincoln Continental" coupes and cabriolets were reprised from 1946 through 1948, (the '46 Continental was also the Official Pace Car for the first postwar running of the Indianapolis 500). From 1956 to 1957, the name "Lincoln Mark II" was again complemented with "Continental" and has remained a Lincoln trademark ever since. However, there was a brief time in 1955, a period between Lincolns, when the name "Continental" was proudly worn on the fenders of 356 Porsche cabriolets and coupes.


Max Hoffman's marketing idea

At the end of 1955, shortly before the launch of the 356 A "Type 1" when the last original 356 (known today as the "Pre-A") was built, US Porsche importer Max Hoffman came up with the following marketing idea: He suggested that Porsche complement the 356 with the prestigious appellation "Continental". Hoffman was confident that this distinguished European-inspired name that stood for comfortable, high-performance overland vehicles was exactly what was needed to provide a lasting boost to sales of the Zuffenhausen sports car on the US market.

As a result, the last 356s from the Pre-A series were outfitted with an extra luxurious configuration and sported the remarkable "Continental" script on their fenders – with Porsche's time-tested typography. The "Porsche 356 Continental" became one of the first special editions from the sports car manufacturer, of which a total of 860 coupes and 69 cabriolets were shipped. What set them apart in particular from standard vehicles were special features such as the radio in the middle of the dashboard, the fuel gauge or oil thermometer and the ring for activating the high beams on the bottom third of the steering wheel, which would have otherwise only been fitted for a premium. But in the end, the Continental model series would only be given one year (October 1954 to October 1955) for no sooner had these cars begun to cruise down American roads did the Ford Motor Company, holding the older name rights to "Continental", come calling and "suggest" that Porsche withdraw this name due to the upcoming launch of the Ford "Continental Mark II" in 1956.

The short-lived "European"

By the time the Ford Motor Company objected to the name, Karosserie Reutter had already punched a lot of sets of front fenders and the first 356A models had already been introduced in America. The need for the swift, uncomplicated replacement of these fenders led the golden Continental script of the models from October 1955 to January 1956 to be promptly replaced by the name "European" so that the pre-punched fenders could still be used.

Likely due to this more or less hasty reaction and after the pre-punched fenders had been reworked, the use of the "European" script was discontinued at some point in January 1956 long before the end of the production year.


Only a handful of "Europeans" survived

Apart from their badging, the "Continentals" and "Europeans" were cars standardized for the US market, which meant that they were fitted with speedometers calibrated in miles and sealed-beam headlights. After January 1956, apart from the Speedster and Carrera, no further 356 models were given names and instead merely received letters as model designations. The models shipped to Europe back then bore only the designation Porsche 356.

Porsche had provided each car with a chassis number, which was consecutive within their respective series (also see "Data").

According to the book by Dr. Brett Johnson, the last "Europeans" that were shipped had the chassis numbers 55154 for the coupe and 61064 for the cabriolet. However, the earliest European coupe model known to us bears the number 55068 and the latest vehicle bears the number 55558. Bruce Coen owns a cabriolet 61066 and has proof that it sported the script. "Optional configuration" – "European type" is documented on his car's certificate of authenticity from Porsche. The information in Brett's book is unfortunately no longer up to date. According to our vehicle list, the last current coupé has VIN number 55583 and cabriolet VIN number 61117.

One can only speculate as to exactly how many vehicles were manufactured and shipped. However, there are two possibilities: If production had been continuous from October 1955 to the beginning of February 1956 and exclusively for the US market, around 400 vehicles (coupes and cabriolets) with the "European" script were shipped to Max Hofmann in the USA. If, however, vehicles were manufactured for both the USA and Europe at the same time, then the number of manufactured Europeans is much lower. In this scenario, the 55068 would be a "European" chassis number and the 55069 would not. The last scenario appears to be more plausible as it is quite certain that vehicles were shipped to Europe between October 1955 and January 1956.

Presently, 42 "European" type vehicles are known worldwide and registered here.