Founded by American automobile pioneer Henry Leland in 1917, Lincoln would define the American luxury vehicle for decades to come. Leland was a master machinist who started out by making guns during the Civil War. He later moved on to creating micrometers and other machine tools that require low tolerances in size variation. His exposure to precision engineering enabled him to vastly improve existing car engines and for a time, his firm supplied the engines of Oldsmobiles. This same engine would power the Cadillac, a car he founded which he would later sell to General Motors to establish the Lincoln Motor Company. Deviating from the practice of naming cars after their creators, Leland christened his new venture Lincoln as a tribute to his hero and the first president he voted for - Abraham Lincoln. Ford acquired Lincoln in 1922 and has since become Ford's luxury automobile marque.
Lincoln initially built Liberty aircraft engines during World War 1 then shifted to car production after the war. The first vehicle to roll out of the assembly lines, the Lincoln L, displayed superb engineering with its precision built Lincoln parts. Although technically brilliant, the Lincoln L's appearance was rather behind the times. This was to change when Lincoln became a subsidiary of Ford. Edsel Ford wanted a prestige car to expand his company's lineup, one that would exhibit the streamlined looks of European models. Ford created a styling studio just for this purpose and he employed skilled coachbuilders to dress up his Lincolns. The Zephyr, which came out in 1936, was an instant success, beguiling the American public with its flowing lines. The Zephyr would later serve as basis for the original Lincoln Continental, considered by many critics to be one of the two most beautiful production cars ever manufactured in America. In the 1970s, Ford introduced the Town Car package to the Continental line, featuring amenities like leather seats and wood appliqués. In 1980 the Lincoln Town Car would be offered as a separate line. To attract younger buyers to the brand, Lincoln introduced the Navigator in 1998, the first true full-sized luxury sport-utility vehicle. It was huge success and helped Lincoln secure the title of best-selling luxury brand in the United States.
Lincoln shares with Cadillac the distinction of providing limousines for the Unites States presidents. The first Presidential Lincoln was a Lincoln V12 convertible for Franklin Roosevelt called the "Sunshine Special". Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson used a 1950 Lincoln Cosmopolitan nicknamed the "Bubble Top". Kennedy was assassinated while riding in a 1961 Lincoln Continental convertible and the car underwent a major security-related overhaul after the incident. Nixon used a 1969 Lincoln Continental while Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Bush rode in a 1972 Lincoln. The last Lincoln for presidential use as of 2004 was the Lincoln 1989; the current United States President's limousine is a Cadillac.