Lincoln has fallen on hard times the past couple of decades, but plans for a new Continental flagship sedan are fueling excitement among fans of the storied luxury brand — just in time for the Woodward Dream Cruise.
“I’ve got parking spots for 45 Lincolns, and I’ve got requests for 75,” said Dennis Garrett, director of the Michigan Chapter of the Lincoln & Continental Owners Club, which has a parking lot reserved Saturday on Woodward in Berkley, just south of 12 Mile.
The club has more than 3,000 members worldwide, including around 100 in the Michigan chapter, established in 1955, Garrett said.
Garrett, who has sold Lincolns in the Metro Detroit area for 45 years, said buzz has rippled among Lincoln lovers since the July 15 announcement that the new Continental will be built at Ford Motor Co.’s Flat Rock plant.
The Continental, one of the most legendary models in Lincoln’s history, was first produced in 1939 and discontinued after 2002.
“When we hear our iconic names that are coming back, it starts to re-establish our brand again,” said Garrett, 68. “The chatter on the street with this 2017 that’s coming along, it seems like every customer that walks through the door is hoping the car shows up next month, but we’ve got another year to wait.”
Garrett said he expects the new model to hit his showroom floor at Hines Park Lincoln in Plymouth Township by September 2016.
The announcement last month followed a year in which Lincoln sales rose 15.6 percent in the U.S. to more than 94,000, its best year since 2008, according to Autodata Corp. Lincoln sales through the first seven months of 2015 are up 8.1 percent to 56,648.
Garrett said the new car’s debut may signal a resurgence for the brand.
“It is absolutely breathtaking. I have sold these cars for 45 years, and I don’t believe that there’s ever been a car that has these kinds of looks and features,” he said. “I guess what we could say is we’re going to shed our traditional clothes and put on a new suit with this 2017 Lincoln.”
Vaughn Koshkarian, a former Ford executive and car buff whose collection includes a black 1956 Lincoln Continental Mark II, said he is excited about the new Continental.
Koshkarian, 74, said building the Continental in Flat Rock showcases the carmaker’s commitment to the Lincoln brand.
“It’s wonderful evidence and a signal of what Lincoln is going to be doing,” said Koshkarian, who was a vice president at Ford and president of Ford Asia-Pacific and Africa before retiring in 2002.
Koshkarian, a Milford resident, said his interest in cars began when he was a child. “I always loved cars, as long as I can remember,” he said.
Koshkarian’s collection now stands around 20 Ford vehicles, he said.
He bought his classic Continental from a fellow Ford executive. “I knew they had it and I always told them if you want to sell it, call me,” Koshkarian said of the car.
“It was just a real stylish, beautiful car, and still is,” he said. “I think it was introduced at the Paris Auto Show. It’s just something I’ve always greatly admired from a styling point of view.”
Unlike Koshkarian, Garrett said he became an accidental Lincoln enthusiast after years of selling the cars.
“It just gets into your blood and next thing you know, you’ve got a career and then it grows into a hobby,” Garrett said.
Garrett said he bought one of his three Lincolns — a ginger brown 1974 Town Car — through a series of happy coincidences.
“It was just a happenstance, I was at a local car event and I was approached by somebody asking if I would be interested,” he said. “It had been in dry storage for 31.5 years, from the original owner. The family gave me all the paperwork that came along with the car, and (the owner) even kept a log on every drop of gas he put in his car and his oil changes.”
Asked if the Lincoln brand has one agreed-upon classic, Garrett said “every decade has its icon.”
“The 1920s and 1930s are very nostalgic automobiles, with the big hoop fenders and big round headlights. I’m talking that Hollywood look to an automobile,” he said. “And of course the 1961-1969 Continental with the center opening doors is just a piece of art.”
Both Garrett and Koshkarian said they plan to share their Lincoln enthusiasm at the Dream Cruise this weekend.
“It’s a real national event, an international event for that matter,” Koshkarian said. “You see people that you sometimes only see at the Cruise because they’re from out of state.”